While we’re raising a hue and cry about one radical, rogue-state Islamist dictator pursuing nukes, the United States has given a nod of approval to the nuclear ambitions of an even scarier radical, rogue-state Islamist dictator. Libya has made arrangements to rake in some serious nuclear technology from their new pal, Sarkozy’s France – which made a deliberate point of leaving its human rights minister at home while visiting Tripoli. And, citing Libya as an example of a nation returning to the fold of the civilized world, the US administration has given its blessing.
“In light of Libya’s historic decision in 2003 to rid itself of its WMD programs, we expect any cooperation with Libya on a peaceful secure and responsible use of nuclear power to be consistent with the highest standard of non-proliferation,” said Kurtis Cooper, a State Department spokesman.
France announced plans to sell nuclear reactors to Libya as well as 10 billion euros of trade deals, as President Nicolas Sarkozy welcomed Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi on Monday for a five-day visit.
The United States announced last year a full normalization of ties, lifting Libya from a State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism and raising diplomatic relations to the level of ambassadors.
For those not up to speed on the dealings of autocratic third world thugs, Libya is hardly the developing nation equivalent of a hardened con who finds Christ behind bars and goes on to rehabilitate inner city youth. When we needed to talk with Filipino Islamists back in 2002, we called Libya up as the interlocutor. Libya is prominent in the human trafficking trade. Its human rights record is rated absolute lowest, with torture and indefinite detentions not infrequent.
So why is the Bush administration letting this deal go through – even condoning it – while saying in the same breath of similarly savage Iran:
“Iran is dangerous, and they’ll be even more dangerous if they learn how to enrich uranium,” Bush said. “So I look forward to working with the president,” Bush said, referring to Napolitano, the Italian leader, “to explain our strategy and to figure out ways we can work together to prevent this from happening for the sake of world peace.”
Bush’s comments amounted to a renewed effort to keep pressure on Iran after the release of last week’s National Intelligence Estimate. That report found that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago, and administration officials worry it could weaken their ability to build global pressure on Tehran to stop its uranium enrichment program.
Here we have two “rogue nations” with similar draconian means of maintaining power. Both leaders say offensive and threatening things. Both nations are seeking nuclear technology, and both halted their nuclear weapons programs around the same time – though both have reason, means and tendency to conceal such programs. Why favor one over the other?
The answer is purely regional – a pattern simple and inevitable as a chessboard. In the case of Iran, its location next to Iraq and near Saudi Arabia, destines it to be our rival in the Middle East. In the case of Libya, it is relatively unopposed in North Africa: It is an economic powerhouse compared to overpopulated and underdeveloped Egypt, and rolls in resources and swanky geography compared to Morocco or Algeria. Iran has U.S. bases on its border to contend with. Libya is isolated in a sea of nations putatively neutral to the States. Iran is in a hot war with us. Libya just fences WMD and intelligence for terrorists.
So now, when you’re wondering why some in our political dialogue are gnashing their teeth over Ahmadinjad’s nuclear schemes – I even saw a comparison to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which an NIE in ’62 failed to predict – but ignoring or just shrugging at Khadafi’s, you know why. It’s not the stability of the leader. It’s not affection for America or our values. It certainly isn’t morality.
It’s who we can do business with, and who we need to put out of business.