Yes To India, No To Iran: Bush Administration Sends Contradictory Message On Nuclear Programs

Iran and India are making nearly identical arguments to justify pushing ahead with their respective nuclear programs.

Reuters, 8/19/06:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insists that nuclear power is Iran’s right and “no one will stop us” developing the country. “¦ “They are trying to deny our right to develop nuclear power. But no one can impose anything on the Iranian people.” “¦ “Our main task is to develop and build the Iranian nation. No one will stop us.” Iran has insisted it is enriching uranium to generate electricity from nuclear power.

AP, 8/23/06:

India’s prime minister said Wednesday the country would retain its right to carry out future nuclear tests despite a civilian nuclear deal with the United States, a news report said. “There is no scope for capping of our strategic (nuclear) program. It will be decided by the people, government and Parliament of the country and not by any outside power,” Press Trust of India quoted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as saying in a statement in Parliament.

While Iran’s refusal to guarantee that it will not proceed with a nuclear weapons program has elicited calls from Bush for tough sanctions against that country, India’s refusal to make a similar guarantee has not elicited a response from the administration.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the destruction of Israel, is undoubtedly a greater immediate security threat to the world than the Indian government. But the U.S.’s contradictory message undermines the argument against the Iranian threat.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton heralded the extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, stating:

The nuclear danger has not ended. The capability to build nuclear weapons cannot be unlearned, nor will evil ambition disappear. But the overwhelming consensus in favor of the treaty and its future attests to a deep and abiding international commitment to confront the nuclear danger by rejecting nuclear proliferation. This decision says to our children and all who follow: The community of nations will remain steadfast in opposing the dangerous spread of nuclear weapons.

Clinton had a policy based on a clear principle: preventing the dangerous spread of nuclear weapons. The Bush administration’s principle has been to dismantle the NPT and pick and choose states to provide nuclear arms. That policy only makes dangerous states — Iran and North Korea — more determined to get the bomb.

UPDATE: Several commentators wrote in to say that Ahmadinejad’s quote does not actually translate into wiping Israel off the map. Juan Cole wrote, “This idiom does not exist in Persian, and that what Ahmadinejad actually said was, ‘This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.'”