Incredible though it is, George W Bush seems to be hell bent on launching a new war against Iran. And he is seriously considering using tactical nuclear weapons to destroy underground targets. According to insiders quoted by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, Bush believes his legacy will be as the man who did what no other Democrat or Republican President would dare do, to liberate Iran from the grip of the Mullahs. It doesn’t do to apply logic to the situation facing the Republican right. Bush’s ratings are around 30% and falling, his administration is drowning in a sea of corruption and mendacity, his armed forces are overstretched and taking a battering in Iraq and there are calls from senior figures within the armed forces for the resignation of his key lieutenant and warmonger-in-chief Donald Rumsfeld. A new war against Iran would send the price of oil through the roof and would seriously damage US interests around the world. The forces ranged against Bush even in the United States are formidable. Yet the president has executive power and has surrounded himself with a particular breed of deeply Zionist neo-conservatives whose delusions about reshaping the Middle East defy rational analysis and who are unable or unwilling to learn from their own mistakes.
The situation is remarkably similar to the build up to war in Iraq. As then, the media, including our own BBC, report uncritically every assertion from the US and British governments about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Yet according to the IAEA there is not a shred of evidence that Iran has a programme to develop nuclear weapons. Indeed, informed experts agree that, even if it did want to develop them, Iran would be 5-10 years away from producing its first atom bomb.
And herein lies the ultimate in hypocrisy. As the US and UK lambast Iran for its programme to produce nuclear power within the rules of the Non Proliferation Treaty, they themselves are secretly working on a new generation of nuclear weapons in clear breach of the Non Proliferation Treaty.
How do we know this? Two months ago Britain conducted a joint ‘subcritical’ nuclear test in the Nevada Desert which was partly about testing plutonium ‘pits’ for new nuclear weapons. Two weeks later the Sunday Times carried an article asserting that British scientists at Aldermaston(and their counterparts in the US) had been working on a new warhead for Trident for almost a year. Two weeks ago it was reported that the Bush administration had plans for a massive investment in America’s nuclear weapons laboratories and factories, with the aim of producing 125 nuclear warheads a year by 2022. Moreover, Aldermaston itself has been the subject of up to £5 billion of investment in the past few years, has recruited around 100 new nuclear scientists and is planning a new supercomputer and a huge new laser facility for testing nuclear weapons without breaking the Test Ban Treaty.
If we put all this together, then the implication is clear. Work is already well under way on both sides of the Atlantic to build a new generation of nuclear weapons - the so-called Reliable Replacement Warhead - despite the claim from our prime minister that no decision has yet been made.
Moreover, the replacement of Trident is being pushed through despite the radically changed international situation. The Cold War is history and no conceivable enemy nation threatens our shores. Nuclear weapons are worse than useless against the shadowy forces of international terrorism. And perhaps most of all, Britain’s ‘independent nuclear deterrent’ will not be independent at all. It is an American weapon and cannot be used without the say-so of the United States president. Replacing Trident, therefore, binds us ever closer to American foreign policy and makes it much more likely that the UK will be drawn into supporting the next US war.