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Another contributing factor to the upcoming arms race is Iran’s desire to share its technology with its allies. Ayatollah Khamenei was in Khartoum when he said in 2006 that Iran would be willing to share its nuclear technology with Islamic countries. Sudan is now hoping to open a nuclear reactor by 2020 while President Bashir transforms it into a full-fledged Sharia-based state. Agents of Sudan have contacted those that belonged to the Abdul-Qadeer Khan nuclear trafficking ring, as have representatives of Iran, North Korea, Syria, Nigeria and Burma. A U.S. official said “they have propositioned them to get them to come out of retirement.”
Iran’s closest ally, Syria, also has a nuclear program and is likely to be a recipient of Iranian assistance. Its North Korean-designed nuclear reactor that was destroyed by Israel in September 2007 would have been able to make enough plutonium for one or two nuclear bombs per year once fully operational. The Syrian government continues to obstruct the IAEA’s investigation into the purpose of the site and has not provided an adequate explanation for traces of uranium discovered by the agency. Last month, Syria finally agreed to allow the IAEA to visit a fertilizer plant in Homs suspected of being connected to the nuclear program but access is still being denied to other sites. Another site has just been discovered near Damascus that is thought to be related to uranium conversion.
Another possible beneficiary of Iran’s nuclear weapons program is Venezuela. Hugo Chavez has been secretly assisting the Iranian nuclear program, openly discussing the possibility of opening up a “nuclear village” and signing deals related to uranium exploration. In November 2008, an Iranian government company was given permission to mine for gold in Venezuela in an area that also holds one of the largest deposits of uranium on the planet. An Israeli intelligence report alleges that Venezuela is already providing Iran with much-needed raw uranium. Hugo Chavez has talked openly about his desire to start his own “civilian” nuclear program. This would cause immense fear in countries threatened by him like Colombia that could result in a similar domino effect.
The nuclear arms race will even extend into Asia. North Korea is believed to be helping the Burmese junta pursue nuclear weapons and the country could provide Iran with uranium in return for nuclear technology. The Democratic Voice of Burma has obtained a pile of secret documents and photographs exposing the secret nuclear program that is believed to have cost Burma $3.5 billion since 2001. One Burmese defector claims he met with an Iranian nuclear scientist and intelligence officer in February 2004 to discuss transfers of uranium yellowcake. As with Venezuela, this development could also spark a regional nuclear arms race as neighbors like Thailand feel vulnerable.
The affects of a nuclear Iran are hard to fathom. Its Arab enemies are ready to develop, at the least, the capacity for nuclear break-out that enables them to quickly produce weapons. The Iranian regime is unlikely to hold its technology from its allies, broadening the nuclear arms race to other continents. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons or even the capacity to quickly produce them, it won’t change just the Middle East. It will change the world.
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