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Charles Laffiteau's Bigger Picture

Last update - Thursday, June 25, 2009, 16:15 By Charles Laffiteau

While I concluded last week by saying that erasing huge budget deficits will become the biggest political issue of the coming decade in the US and Europe, that doesn’t mean I believe this will be the biggest issue for the whole world – that, I believe, will be halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology.

But given the fact that no country has used a nuclear weapon to attack or defend itself in more than 60 years, I’m afraid that far too few people around the world share this concern. Granted, the vast majority of people living today have grown up in a world where the threat of nuclear war between ideological enemies like the US and Russia was always a distinct possibility. But all the nuclear nations, regardless of their political ideologies, were also keenly aware that using such weapons would also likely lead to their own destruction.
What has changed in the world since the Cold War days of ‘mutually assured destruction’ is the very real possibility that nuclear weapons could soon be used by countries or individuals to advance their pseudo-religious political beliefs. The reality of this new nuclear threat is that religious extremists, regardless of their particular religious faith, are unlikely to rationally consider the consequences of using such weapons.
These zealots believe that if they and/or millions of their fellow citizens were to die as the result of a nuclear holocaust they initiated, that is simply the price that must be paid to cleanse the world of those who don’t agree with their religious beliefs.
Until recently, nuclear weaponry and technology has been under the control of secular governments in the US, Russia and India that viewed them as a means of assuring their own security, rather than as a way to advance their respective political ideologies. Even though North Korea is also run by a secular regime, my concern is not that they would ever actually attack the US or any other country, but that they might sell their weaponry or technology to terrorist groups like the Taliban or al-Qaeda.
Farther to the west sits Israel, with a very sophisticated nuclear arsenal that is the worst kept secret in the world. My concern about Israel is not that their quasi-secular government would lose control of these nuclear weapons, but that Israel might feel it needs to use them to defend against future attacks by Islamic nations. Israel came very close to using them once before during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Then of course we have Iran, a religious theocracy sitting squarely in the middle of the world’s largest powder keg of religious-inspired violence. Despite their repeated denials of nuclear weapons ambitions, a recent slip of the tongue by Iran’s ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh is telling. He told reporters outside an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting in Vienna that: “There is no difference between any factions or groups of the Iranian nation on the inalienable right of nuclear weapons.”
This is the reason why the director general of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, states that: “[Iran] wants to send a message to its neighbours; it wants to send a message to the rest of the world: yes, don’t mess with us, we can have nuclear weapons if we want them.”
So what is there to prevent an Islamic religious theocracy from acquiring nuclear weapons? I’m afraid that if we don’t find a more effective way to deal with this issue of nuclear proliferation, the answer will be a pre-emptive nuclear attack on Iran.       

Charles Laffiteau is a lifelong US Republican from Dallas, Texas who is currently pursuing a PhD research programme in Environmental Studies at Dublin City University

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