Even when broke, thugs buy weapons

December 11, 2009

One would be tempted to believe that during a global economic recession and an Iranian budget catastrophe, that the Islamic Republic would cut back on lavish spending to develop a nuclear program.  That’s possible, but isn’t borne out by the recent history of the neighborhood.

Andrew and Patrick Cockburn’s Out of the Ashes, a political overview of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq during the 1980s and 90s, helps illustrate the point.  Even when Saddam’s regime had no money, it forked over heaps of cash—with no questions asked—to Saddam’s nuclear scientists:

No one knows precisely how many billions of dollars where lavished on the Iraqi bomb project.  Even during the darkest years of the Iran-Iraq war, work proceeded at full speed.  The scale of the project, the creation of a network of foreign contractors, and the success with which the program was kept out of the international public eye were a monument not only to the talents of Jafr [an Iraqi nuclear scientist] and the overall director of the scheme from 1987, Saddam’s cousin and son-in-law Hussein Kamel, but also to the insouciance of the Western powers.  It was not as if the veil of secrecy surrounding the project was complete.  Even when a close U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia, agreed to help finance the Iraqi bomb program on the promise of repayment in nuclear devices, Washington took no action.  (p. 89)

The parallel today is that Iran is also disregarding its economic woes in order to support expensive weapons programs and foreign intrigue.  Nobody really knows how much money Iran is spending to arm itself, eventually to nuke Israel or threaten the West.  The Cockburns’ book is dated but its lessons are fresh.

Read my full review of Out of the Ashes on Amazon here.

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