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ISSUE 118 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/24/2004

A nuclear error, but fear not: Despite nations attaining weapons, hope still remains

By Ishanaa Rambachan
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 24, 2004

The year 2004 has not gone particularly well for the global community in terms of nuclear security. But before one explores this past year, one must examine previous years of how this issue has dominated world affairs.

The eve of 2003 brought to the worlds attention the revelation of leading Pakistani scientist, A. Q. Khans global nuclear mail-order service. In the early 1990s, Khan authorized the sales of nuclear-related parts, plans and designs to Iran, North Korea and Libya. This included the shipment of integral centrifuges to Libya in October 2003 and the assistance in the construction of a uranium-enriching plant in Iran in August 2002, both of which greatly accelerated the nuclear programs of these countries.

The most terrifying part of this ordeal, however, was not necessarily the discovery of this nuclear black market, but the fact that these transactions eluded detection. U.S. Intelligence officials merely stumbled over this information in talks with Libya. The idea that, if it were not for sheer luck such trade could still continue, is one that is too mind-boggling to contemplate.

The shock of the Khan episode was soon followed by the announcement of Irans own nuclear ambitions. While claiming that it is only trying to generate nuclear energy, Iran has crept dangerously closer to making the fissile material necessary for a nuclear bomb (also while possessing the worlds sixth largest oil reserves).

In the past few months, Iran has gone back and forth, stringing the International Atomic Energy Association along with soon-forgotten words of compliance. Then there is North Korea, and its notorious leader, Kim Jong Il. While we can all agree that Kim Jong Il would make a better Loreal spokesmodel than leader, he too has escalated his threat of nuclear weapons against the United States.

Last week, the man who claimed in an interview that if he was not a dictator he would be Hollywoods top movie producer, scared the world when an ominous mushroom cloud appeared over North Korea, near the border with China. This was later found to be a non-nuclear explosion.

However, in the Sept. 15 issue of the Christian Science Monitor, Peter Grier explains this incident only reminded the world of North Koreas steady nuclear progress. North Korea now has enough material for six or eight nuclear devices. It is entirely possible that a real mushroom cloud could appear within the next few years.

To add to our worries, there is of course the domino effect of these programs already occurring in many parts of the world. South Korea and Japan have hinted at their desires to join the nuclear club. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have done the same in response to Iran.

We also cannot forget Russia and its nuclear programs left over from the Cold War. The warning systems for detecting these programs are deteriorating; the security system has numerous loopholes and the command of these lie in the hands of untested military personnel.

In the midst of such gloomy possibilities, it is difficult to profess hope. Yet nuclear containment is one of the few areas about which much of the world actually agrees. In the search for solutions the United States will always have a significant role. We can focus on multilateral solutions to negotiate with the governments of Iran and North Korea, as we have been doing. We can also rely on regional powers, like China in the case of North Korea, or Europe for Iran. By doing so, not only would we be more likely to solve the nuclear weapons problem, but also improve weakened relationships with allies.

The United States could also work with Russia and Pakistan to develop greater controls on their nuclear systems, while agreeing to limit our own. Most importantly, the United States should seek to offer incentives to these nations to drop their programs.

The benefits of open economic trade with the global superpower will have more clout than the threat of military air strikes. While the threat of terrorism remains ever-present, the United States must rise to its responsibilities in the face of this ultimate threat to all humanity.

Contributing writer Ishanaa Rambachan is a first year from Apple Valley, Minn. She majors in political science and economics.

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