As nuclear security scholar Rizwan Ladha correctly points out on Huffington Post, the whole world is a nuclear-free zone — south of the Equator. South America, in particular, eschewed nuclear weapons proliferation early in the game. Noriega, however, presents a series of arguments asserting that Venezuela has partnered with Iran to support the latter’s nuclear weapons program. Partially a response to Venezuelan Pres Hugo Chavez’s announcement that his country is nuclear power for civilian applications, the article comes across as pretty well-reasoned.
What I find so fascinating about Noriega’s argument is that it provides a forensic view of weapons program tracking. The evidence includes a PDF of a secret agreement in Farsi and Spanish. It includes the establishment in Venezuela of a bank with the same board of directors as an Iranian board sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for funneling money to terrorists, and the shipping of (non-nuclear) bomb making materials from Venezuela to Iran in crates labeled “tractor parts,” and a Venezuelan “cement plant” that really processes uranium ore. It all looks fishy.
Don’t forget to consider the messenger, though. Noriega is a former staffer for Jesse Helms and authored the 1996 Helms-Burton law that strengthened the US embargo against Cuba, an embargo U.S. conservatives have clung to somewhat fanatically if you ask me, more out of grudge than purpose. He’s a visiting fellow at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. He was an Assistant Secretary of State under George W. Bush. Hugo Chavez is a left-wing Latin American president who consistently stands in opposition to conservative U.S. policies in the region (and elsewhere). He called Bush the Devil.
I add this to the highly suspicious fact that it’s Venezuela the FBI chose to impersonate in the recent Los Alamos spy case in which FBI agents pretended to be Venezuelan agents. This isn’t a coincidence, of course; having credible information about Venezuelan nuclear military intentions makes them an appropriate country to impersonate in trying to sting an American spy, right? Except that the case had some pretty sketchy elements.
More importantly, why is this information being presented in the pages of Foreign Policy, rather than through a governmental source? When foreign governments conspire to break UN embargos with other foreign governments…doesn’t that become a governmental issue, not a matter for Conservatives to howl about in the pages of conservative journals? Sure it does…unless the conservatives are waging an extragovernmental ideological public relations war.
You’ll have to forgive me. Hugo Chavez may be the devil himself, and he may be pulling a Castro-style attempt to aim nuclear missiles down the maw of happy rosy-cheeked children playing in the green fields of suburban Houston. I haven’t got the foggiest.
But I get jumpy whenever I hear anyone with Bush credentials waving a smoking gun, because smoking guns have a way of going off, as they did in Iraq. Bush’s tough talk about military intervention in Iran only quieted once it became clear that Iraq would become a quagmire.
If Venezuela becomes the new conservative target, how long till Chavez becomes the nuclear Noriega? Oh, sorry — I’m thinking of a different Noriega, a different Bush, and a different country entirely.