A fortnightly Green Bulletin of Peace News, Action and Analysis
— is the Green Party’s position on nuclear ship visits to NZ. Commenting that Defence Minister Phil Goff seemed to be all at sea on US nuclear ships visits on 24 April, Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said
“It is wishful thinking for Defence Minister Phil Goff to maintain that since American ships no longer carry nuclear weapons, this factor was, quote “no longer an issue, or an obstacle” to them docking at New Zealand ports.”
“If Phil has been told something new by Donald Rumsfeld, and the US are truly willing these days to show and tell whether particular ships are nuclear-armed, then New Zealanders should be told all about it.
“In fact, the Americans continue to operate a ‘neither confirm nor deny’ policy about the presence of nuclear weapons on their ships.”
“I refer Mr Goff to, for instance, the 6 November 2003 statement by Commander W. Scott Gureck, Fleet Public Affairs Officer, US Seventh Fleet, who explained : ‘It is general US policy not to deploy nuclear weapons aboard surface ships, attack submarines and naval aircraft. However, we do not discuss the presence or absence of nuclear weapons aboard specified ships, submarines, or aircraft.’
“This is the old ‘neither confirm nor deny’ policy, virtually unchanged. We can find no later statement that contradicts it. This policy would apply to any particular ship or submarine seeking permission to dock at a New Zealand port, regardless of the general deployment policy,” Ms Fitzsimons says.
“The Greens do not believe the only way forward is for New Zealand to change its legislation. It would be quite possible for the US to provide an assurance that any particular warship would not be carrying nuclear weapons, and then allow the New Zealand government to decide whether port access would be allowed for that ship.”
It is not at all beyond the bounds of possibility that some US warships — those stationed in or near the Persian Gulf – are currently nuclear-armed in readiness for a ‘pre-emptive’ missile strike on Iran. See Analysis, below, for informed comment on how likely this is, and what the impacts of it would be.
THREATS TO PEACE AND DISARMAMENT CONVENTION,WELLINGTON, MAY 13-14.
A weekend convention organised by the National Consultative Committee on Disarmament, with speakers including Dr Sue Wareham of MAPW Australia (Medical Association for the Prevention of War Australia, Sergio Duarte, former Brazilian Ambassador and President of the 2005 Non Proliferation Treaty Review conference, Leanne Minshull, anti-nuclear campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, Roland Oldham, a trade unionist from French Polynesia, and several other experts. There will also be workshops and panel discussions. The full programme is at
and you can register at
(Be quick as the convention is limited to 220 participants.)
HUMAN RIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL, MAY 2006
WELLINGTON, MAY 3-10; Paramount Theatre;
AUCKLAND, MAY 11-18, Academy Theatre;
CHRISTCHURCH, MAY 17 — 21, Regent Theatre
The programme includes the inspirational Breaking Bows and Arrows: Search for Reconciliation and Forgiveness; the frightening no holds barred documentary about California’s reproduction dream world Frozen Angels; and the true account of an Indian family who would rather drown than allow the destruction of their land, home and culture in Drowned Out. Get the details at
ATTACK ON IRAN?
Professor Stephen Zunes, a professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and the author of ‘Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism’ contributed an article on ‘The United States, Israel, and the Possible Attack on Iran’ to Foreign Policy in Focus on 28 April. The first half of the article is reproduced below, and the whole article may be read at
. Complementing Prof. Zunes’ article is ‘Iran: The Day After’ by Phyllis Bennis, who is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and an analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus. Her article, which considers the impacts and consequences of the US using nuclear weapons on Iran, is at
The United States, Israel, and the Possible Attack on Iran
With even mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post and The New Yorker publishing credible stories that the United States is seriously planning a military attack on Iran, increasing numbers of Americans are expressing concerns about the consequences of the United States launching another war that would once again place the United States in direct contravention of international law.
The latest National Security Strategy document published earlier this year labeled Iran as the most serious challenge to the United States posed by any country. This should be an indication of just how safe the United States is in the post-Cold War world, where the “most serious challenge” is no longer a rival superpower with thousands of nuclear weapons and sophisticated delivery systems capable of destroying the United States, but a Third World country on the far side of the planet which, according to the latest National Intelligence Estimate out of Washington, is at least 10 years away from actually producing a usable nuclear weapon. Furthermore, Iran has no capacity to develop any delivery system in the foreseeable future capable of landing a weapon within 10,000 miles of our shores.
However, despite the fact that there is no evidence that Iran is even developing nuclear weapons in the first place, the Bush administration and Congressional leaders of both parties argue that simply having the technology which would make it theoretically possible for Iran to manufacture a nuclear weapon at some point in the future is sufficient casus belli. As part of his desperate search for enemies, President Bush claimed in January that a nuclear-armed Iran would be “a grave threat to the security of the world,” words that echoed language he used in reference to Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion of that oil-rich country. Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney vowed “meaningful consequences” if Iran did not give up its nuclear program and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton claimed there would be “tangible and painful consequences” if Iran did not cooperate.
The Washington Post quoted White House sources as reporting that “Bush views Tehran as a serious menace that must be dealt with before his presidency ends,” apparently out of concern that neither a Democratic nor Republican successor might be as willing to consider a military option. Not that he needs to worry about that. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, widely seen as the front-runner for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, accused the Bush administration in January of not taking the threat of a nuclear Iran seriously enough, criticized the Bush administration for allowing European nations to take the lead in pursuing a diplomatic solution, and insisted that the administration should make it clear that military options were being actively considered. Similarly, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, another likely contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, accused the Bush administration of “ignoring and then largely deferring management of this crisis to the Europeans.” Taking the diplomatic route, according to Bayh, “has certainly been damaging to our national security.”
Despite the hostility of these two Democratic senators toward diplomatic means of resolving the crisis and the similarity of their rhetoric to the false claims they made prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein’s government was a threat to global security and that diplomatic solutions were impossible, both Clinton and Bayh are widely respected by their fellow Democrats as leaders on security policy.
Indeed, in May of 2004, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution with only three dissenting votes calling on the Bush administration to “use all appropriate means” — presumably including military force — to “prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” As with the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, both Republican and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have tended to call witnesses before the relevant committees who would present the most alarmist perceptions as fact. Last month, for example, Patrick Clawson of the right-wing Washington Institute for Near East Policy testified before the Senate International Relations Committee that, “So long as Iran has an Islamic Republic, it will have a nuclear-weapons program, at least clandestinely.” None of the senators present, however, bothered to mention the inconvenient fact that under the secular regime of the Shah that preceded the Islamic Republic, Iran also had a nuclear program (which was actively supported and encouraged by the United States.) However, Clawson said that since a nuclear program was inevitable under the Islamic Republic, only by overthrowing the government — not through a negotiated settlement — would the United States be safe from the nuclear threat. He insisted, therefore, that “the key issue” was not whether an arms control agreement could be enforced, but “How long will the present Iranian regime last?”
The Risks from a U.S. Attack on Iran
With the ongoing debacle in Iraq, any kind of ground invasion of Iran by U.S. forces is out of the question. Iran is three times bigger than Iraq, both in terms of population and geography. It is a far more mountainous country that would increase the ability of the resistance to engage in guerrilla warfare and the intensity of the nationalist backlash against such a foreign invasion would likely be even stronger.
An attack by air and sea-launched missiles and bombing raids by fighter jets would be a more realistic scenario. However, even such a limited military operation would create serious problems for the United States.
The Washington Post, in a recent article about a possible U.S. strike against Iran, quoted Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA Middle East specialist, as noting how “The Pentagon is arguing forcefully against it because it is so constrained” by ongoing operations in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan. Similarly, the Post quoted a former Pentagon official in contact with his former colleagues as observing how “I don’t think anybody’s prepared to use the military option at this point.” Given that the growing opposition to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ‘s handling of the war in Iraq within the leadership of the armed services, as expressed by a number of prominent recently-retired generals, would make a major military operation without strong support from America’s military leadership particularly problematic.
Fears expressed by some opponents of possible U.S. military action against Iran that the Iranians would retaliate through terrorist attacks against American interests are probably not realistic. Indeed, Iran’s control over foreign terrorist groups and its role in terrorist operations has frequently been exaggerated by American analysts.
However, there are a number of areas in which the United States would be particularly vulnerable to Iranian retaliation:
One would be in the Persian Gulf, where U.S. Navy ships could become easy targets for Iranian missiles and torpedoes.
Perhaps more serious would be in Iraq, where American troops are currently operating against the Sunni-led insurgency alongside Iranian-backed pro-government militias. If these Iranian-backed militias also decided to turn their guns on American forces, the United States would be caught in a vise between both sides in the country’s simmering civil war with few places to hide. It would be difficult for the United States to label militias affiliated with the ruling parties of a democratically-elected government fighting foreign occupation forces in their own country as “terrorists” or to use such attacks as an excuse to launch further military operations against Iran. (Given that the Iraqi government is ruled by two pro-Iranian parties, recent charges by the Bush administration that Iran is aiding the anti-government Sunni insurgency are utterly ludicrous and have been rejected by the Iraqi government.)
A U.S. air strike would be a clear violation of the United Nations Charter and would be met by widespread condemnation in the international community. It would further isolate the United States as a rogue superpower at a time in which it needs to repair its damaged relations with its European and Middle Eastern allies. Even Great Britain has expressed its opposition to military action. Pro-Western Arab states, despite their unease at Iran’s nuclear program, would react quite negatively to a U.S. strike, particularly since it would likely strengthen anti-American extremists by allowing them to take advantage of popular opposition to the United States utilizing force against a Muslim nation in order to defend the U.S.-Israeli nuclear monopoly in the region.
As a result, the negative consequences of a U.S. attack may be strong enough to convince even the Bush administration not to proceed with the military option…Read on at
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