Shades of a New Nuclear Race: Iran, N. Korea

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says that Iran and North Korea are ushering in a new era of nuclear proliferation.

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NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr has been listening closely to what's being said about Iran's nuclear program at the U.N. and elsewhere, and taken together with other events around the world, he says it may be time to mark the end of an era.

DANIEL SCHORR: It may be that with the continued defiance of Iran and North Korea, the world is witnessing the twilight of the era of nuclear arms control. By insisting on one on one negotiations, which he knows that President Bush won't give him without a suspension of nuclear development, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to be simply stalling for time while uranium enrichment goes ahead.

One reason the United States is having difficulty getting support for sanctions from Europe and Russia is the important trade deals that Iran has with several countries. In the case of North Korea, which is already believed to have nuclear weapons, efforts to engage the Pyongyang regime in a resumption of the six party talks seems to be getting nowhere.

Both Iran and North Korea appear to be operating on the assumption that the use of force against them is not in the cards and that they can ride out sanctions, which are likely to be fairly mild in any event.

This wasn't the way it was supposed to be. Since 1968, 188 countries have signed on to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and for a time, the treaty appeared to be effective. South Africa destroyed the small nuclear arsenal it had built. Argentina and Brazil eventually gave up their competitive nuclear plans.

But then Israel, Pakistan and India broke their way into the nuclear club, Pakistan creating an additional hazard that a nuclear device could fall into the hands of terrorists. And yesterday, Gamal Mubarak, the son of the Egyptian president, proposed in a speech that his country develop nuclear energy. He seemed to be unconcerned about reaction from the United States, which gives $2 billion a year in aid to Egypt.

The prospect of an increasingly nuclear world is chilling, but it seems to be that with the threat to nonproliferation, that is the way the world is headed.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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