Why Would U.S. Urge U.N. to Allow Iraq a Nuclear Energy Program?

From the Department of You-Can’t-Make-This-Stuff-Up . . . in the National Interest Paul Pillar reports that on Wednesday, “At the urging of the United States, the United Nations Security Council passed . . . a resolution permitting Iraq to have a civilian nuclear program [which] also lifted prohibitions on exports to Iraq of certain materials that could be used to develop nuclear and other unconventional weapons.”

Even more worrisome, he writes: “The Council’s action represented a retreat from its earlier position that it would not lift the nuclear restrictions unless Baghdad accepted . . . more intrusive international inspections.”

He then points out how ironic the “Council’s action in affirming Iraq’s right to a peaceful nuclear program is . . . in view of the obsessive campaign to deny the country on its eastern border the same right.”

Hmm, what country could that be? (Actually the campaign isn’t to deny Iran a peaceful nuclear program, but nuclear arms.) Further irony accrues to the United States “in view of the obsessive campaign” on its part to ferret out imaginary nuclear weapons in Iraq before the War. Pillar himself was a former CIA official who later criticized the Bush administration for adjusting intelligence (or the lack thereof) to justify the Iraq War.

He elaborates:

This is one more demonstration of the hypocrisy and inconsistency that characterize much nonproliferation policy, especially as it relates to the Middle East. [It's not so much] a concern about nuclear-armed regimes throwing their weight around and handling neighbors roughly; if it were, then we ought to be paying far more attention than we do to . . . Israel’s sizable nuclear arsenal. [In fact, what] ostensibly is a concern about [nuclear weapons is] much more a concern about the . . . regimes that might get those weapons.

A further irony [the third here -- not that we're counting -- RW] is that one of the most commonly voiced worries about Iran possibly acquiring a nuclear weapon is that it might touch off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, with Arab countries trying to acquire their own nuclear weapons. In any inventory of candidates to wage an arms race with Iran, Iraq—which fought a highly destructive war with Iran in the 1980s—should be at or near the top of the list. [Especially since] Iraq is a very unstable country, to the point of substantial and seemingly unending violence.

Why then would Washington’s seek to facilitate an Iraqi nuclear energy program?

The current administration has an interest in showing that Iraq is not failing on its watch and that it will be safe for U.S. troops to complete their withdrawal by the end of 2011.