Press TV has conducted an interview with Kaveh Afrasiabi, an author and political scientist from Boston, to further discuss the issue. Afrasiabi is joined by James H. Fetzer, Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, from Madison, and Kenneth Katzman, an advisor to US Congress from Washington. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: In one week, practically you have US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton coming out saying we’d like to have talks with Iran. Then you have the US imposing sanctions on Iran because of their civilian nuclear program that they claim Iran is weaponizing. Then you have a subcritical nuclear test all happening in the same week. What do you make of that?
Afrasiabi: This clearly reflects contradictory US policy because this subcritical test known as Pollux involves underground high-explosives experiments on plutonium that although it doesn’t reach the critical mass and nuclear chain reaction, never-the-less, it sends a wrong signal to the international community about the US nuclear intentions.
First of all, you don’t have any international inspectors to verify the fact that there are no low-yield nuclear explosives involved. This could be a cover for computer simulations for advancing new nuclear warheads. We don’t know that because the US program is shrouded in high secrecy.
It sends the wrong signals about proliferation risks involved in these tests and the fact that US President Obama has allowed this to happen four times during his administration. Despite his promises that he would push for an earlier ratification of the comprehensive test ban treaty, he has not done so. This is a direct stab at CTBD.
Press TV: The problem that I believe should be pointed out, of which perhaps you can expand more about, is the sincerity of the US and its current President Barack Obama. He talks about how there should be a world free from nuclear weapons, yet the US Nuclear Modernization Program clearly indicates otherwise.
The US nuclear delivery systems are undergoing continual modernization including refurbishing of the nuclear warheads, 1,707 in the last count, for the next 20 to 30 years or more to keep them safe, secure and reliable.
That goes counter to what the US president has said. In some respect, the basic question is, is the US planning to use these warheads?
Afrasiabi: There’s a huge gap between the rhetoric and the actual policies when it comes to the US’ nuclear weapons policies. Take the subcritical test involving several nuclear weapon labs. Recently we had the heads of some of these labs writing letters to the White House urging, earmarking more funds in order to conduct tests for new warheads.
President Obama has complied with that even though officially the US is not rebuilding any new warheads.
Nevertheless, these subcritical tests are a camouflage in order to advance that very purpose, in my opinion and the opinion of many critics of the US’ nuclear policy.
There is a big chasm between rhetoric and action that has not escaped the attention of the international community in light of the open condemnation of these critical tests by various pundits as well as people from Japan who are the victims of two nuclear explosions and so forth.
What needs to be done is for the international community to exert pressure on the US, as well as other members of the nuclear weapons club, to desist from such activities that pose a proliferation risk and the risk of a new nuclear arms race.
Press TV: There is a bit of hypocrisy and double-standards that is involved here when we look at, for example – we do keep coming back to Israel, you know, not signing the NPT and obviously we had the General Assembly coming out with 174 countries wanting Israel to open up its atomic arsenal program.
How is it that you have this type of double-standards especially when it comes to, for example, Iran’s civilian nuclear program?
Afrasiabi: Unfortunately, that happens to be the case and there’s a long-standing hypocrisy that, you know, dates back several decades.
Your other speaker in Washington omits the fact that although the US on the surface says we have no program with the civilian program, yet we heard Secretary Clinton pose the Russians completion of the Bushehr power plant that’s under full IAEA inspections, and there’s an agreement with the Russians for a return of the depleted uranium.
Now, even though there’s all these guarantees, the US has announced that it’s going to step-up surveillance of the Bushehr power plant despite the fact that there’s no concern whatsoever declared by the IAEA, repeatedly, of any proliferation risks.
Why is the US doing that? -Because the US’ ultimate intention is to dismantle all of Iran’s nuclear programs, civilian or not. The official rhetoric adopted at face value by Mr. Katzman really speaks for itself.
Press TV: Tell us, is this about Iran and its nuclear program or does it have to do with more in terms of Iran being and rising to the power that it is in the region? I mean, we can look at the different fabrications like the laptop case, like this nuclear trigger that was falsely, also, accounted for.
But to this day, the IAEA has said that Iran has not deviated or diverted from its civilian nuclear program, confirms that Iran has complied with all its obligations on the NPT. Some are saying that this is not about Iran and its nuclear program, but Iran rising up to be a power.
Afrasiabi: Exactly. Since the Islamic Revolution, the United States has been intent on checking the rising Iranian power in the region, and has used the excuse of the so-called Iranian nuclear threat in order to perpetuate the military and political dependency of Iran’s Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf and beyond.
Israel, for its own sake of diverting attention from the Palestinian and Arab problems, has deliberately focused on this make-believe threat.
There are functional opportunities to the nuclear issue for both the US and Israel as a result of which this crisis of choice has been perpetuated despite Iran’s earnest efforts to allow short, short notice inspection of the enrichment facilities, installation of the surveillance cameras at all the enrichment halls, and rigorous inspection of all the nuclear facilities and the IAEA’s repeated confirmation.