Friday, 25 April 2014

US needs to be more even-handed in diplomatic excoriation

The Independent newspaper report on US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the Ukraine (“Russia is running of time to end crisis, warns Biden,” 23 April, omitted one important assertion made by Biden in Kiev in his joint press conference with  acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk:

“No nation has the right to simply grab land from another nation. We will never recognize Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea.”

Americans are oft said to lack a sense of irony, and this looks to be true in this case, if you compare Biden’s mild tempered statements on Israel’s land grabbing on Palestinian territories, during his vist to Jerusalem for former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s funeral in January this year, when Biden  merely indicated to current Israeli premier, Benyamin Netanyahu that the building  by Israel of  settlements on occupied land was "not constructive" to the peace process between Israel and PalestineIn another unreported revelation on US-Israeli  security relations last month, the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), the US’s highest classification authority, released a number of top level Governmental memos that shed  light on the so-called “NUMEC Affair”, the curious case of how Israel stole around 330 kilogrammes weapons-grade uranium (enough to make around a dozen Hiroshima-yield  bombs) from a US nuclear fuel processing plant, called Apollo, operated by the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC).

Writing in a co-authored piece in the respected monthly, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) commissioner Dr Victor Gilinsky, reveals that the newly released documents expose US government efforts, notably during the Carter Administration, to keep the NUMEC story under wraps, an ironic twist in view of President  Jimmy Carter’s identification with opposition to nuclear proliferation.(

Carter’s presidential predecessor, Gerald Ford, had himself taken an interest in the case, with his Attorney General, Edward Levi, discovering that the Federal agency, the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) - the NRC’s predecessor nuclear licensing agency -  had previously convinced the FBI not to open a criminal investigation into the material’s disappearance. The AEC was allegedly concerned that the public revelation of the NUMEC case would draw attention to its lack of control over nuclear bomb materials in the hands of private firms, and thus undermine the AEC’s efforts to promote commercial nuclear power programmes.  

Gilinsky writes that “NUMEC’s owners and executives had extremely close ties to Israel, including to high Israeli intelligence and nuclear officials. Israel had strong motives to obtain the highly enriched uranium before it was producing enough plutonium for weapons. High-level Israeli intelligence operatives visited the NUMEC plant.”

When the US takes to the high horse in telling other states how to behave, as it is doing again this week with Russia’s annexation of Crimea  and over Iran’s alleged attempts to join the elite atomic-armed club (“How to dismantle a nuclear programme: Iran and the West make progress on deal,”  23 April,, the Obama Administration should try to be  more even-handed.

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