Monday, November 21, 2011

Bluster Bombs:
Israel's Empty Iran Threats Continue


"An arms deal with the United States that will give Israel 25 of the most sophisticated fighter-bombers in the world, with a range of 3,600 miles, has slid through Congress with no objections by legislators and virtually no comment in the American media," says a report from The Independent (UK) before elaborating that the "twin-engined aircraft would enable the Israelis to carry out strikes deep into...Iran without refueling." The article continues, "The US, which is known to be worried about the development of weapons of mass destruction in the region, particularly weapons of a nuclear capability by Iran, appears to be reappointing Israel as local deputy sheriff, a role which ended with the disappearance of the communist threat in the Middle East."

That report was written in 1994.

Three years later, a story in the London Times, entitled "Israel Steps Up Plans for Air Attacks on Iran," revealed, "As part of a plan to neutralize Iran's nuclear and missile programs, Israel receives the first of 25 advanced F-15I fighter planes. There are two options to the reported plan: one is to target Iranian missile plants in the cities of Shiraz, Kuramabad, Farhin, and Semnan or to target foreign scientists rather than the buildings at the sites."

Indeed, for nearly three decades, the looming specter of bearded baddies in Tehran taking the world hostage with nuclear bombs has been trotted out time and again by government officials in the United States, Europe, and Israel. In addition to the repetition of strikingly similar sounding lies used to sell the invasion and occupation of Iraq, over the years, Israel has repeatedly threatened Iran with an unprovoked attack, conducted war games planning for such an operation, and has often boasted of its ability to carry out such an attack. And now, in the wake of the latest, thoroughly-overhyped IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear program, rumors of an impending Israeli attack on Iran are once again circulating.

Accompanying the recycled allegations and renewed threats this time around are reports of the United States acquiring new 30,000-pound bunker buster bombs from Boeing capable of penetrating "hardened and deeply buried targets," such as Iranian military and nuclear installations, a totally absurd Iranian-Mexican-Saudi assassination plot, and a new bogus claim that "Iran supplied the Libyan government of Moammar Gadhafi with hundreds of special artillery shells for chemical weapons."

There's also the recent revelation that "Israel has been assembling a multibillion-dollar array of high-tech weapons that would allow it to jam, blind, and deafen Tehran's defenses in the case of a pre-emptive [sic] aerial strike" and which are designed to paralyze "Iran’s electric grid, Internet, cellphone network, and emergency frequencies for firemen and police officers." This type of electronic warfare against first responders, coupled with a bombing campaign, would purposefully increase Iranian civilian casualties and constitute war crimes against the Iranian people. Indeed, the judgment of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg following World War II determined that "[t]o initiate a war of aggression...is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

Meanwhile, Israel and the United States have engaged in numerous acts of industrial sabotage, espionage, and assassination in Iran; acts of lethal aggression that, were they carried out against any country other than Iran and by any other countries others than the Israel and the U.S., would be immediately and uncontroversially condemned as clear cases of international state-sponsored terrorism, if not outright warfare.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On Al Jazeera's "The Stream" with Kambiz Hosseini and Saman Arbabi, co-creators of Voice of America's "Parazit"

I was on Al Jazeera's "The Stream" today along with Kambiz Hosseini and Saman Arbabi, the co-creators/hosts/producers of Parazit, a satirical political commentary program which has been broadcast on the U.S. government-funded Voice of America since late 2010. The discussion was lively and there was a lot more that I had wanted to say but didn't get the chance.

I could certainly dissect what they said and what I said, where we agree and where we differ. But rather than do all that, I'll just post the video. And below it, show some of the classy comments from the Parazit Facebook page. But that's all. For now.






*****

UPDATE:

November 19, 2011- The comments on the Parazit Facebook page (and also over at YouTube) keep getting classier. My favorites are the ones that (1) accuse me of being a paid agent of the Islamic Republic and (2) tell me to shut the fuck up/go fuck myself/go to hell/set fire to myself/blow myself up and other assorted activities.

One of the more interesting things I've learned since doing this show is that, unless you think Parazit is the greatest thing ever and don't care at all that they are funded by the U.S. government, you are not only an apologist for the Iranian government but also a fundamentalist Muslim. I didn't realize the choices were that stark, but luckily some Parazit fans have clued me in. Thanks guys.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Propaganda Revisited:
Iraq, Iran, and the Rhyming of History


"It is perfectly possible for a man to be out of prison, and yet not free. To be under no physical constraint and yet to be psychological captive, compelled to think, feel and act as the representatives of the national state or some private interest within the nation wants him to think feel and act."

- Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (1958)

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

- George W. Bush, Greece, NY (May 24, 2005)

Last night's GOP debate in South Carolina proved a few things (beyond revealing widespread Republican support for torture and the permanent military occupation of Middle Eastern countries): Republican candidates - with the notable exception of Ron Paul - are really scared of an Iranian nuclear weapons program that doesn't exist. In fact, some of them - not Herman Cain - would really like to see the Islamic Republic bombed by the United States or Israel or both as soon as possible.

Mitt Romney declared, "If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon." He added that, if harsh sanctions and continued sabotage and assassinations don't curb Iran's uranium enrichment, he would "absolutely" support a military assault to prevent an "unacceptable" Iranian nuclear weapon.

Newt Gingrich agreed, saying, "you have to take whatever steps are necessary." Rick Santorum was really hopeful that the United States is engaged in international terrorism by murdering Iranian scientists and encouraged the U.S. and Israel to "take out" Iran's "nuclear capability" with air strikes.

Herman Cain and Rick Perry, meanwhile, suggested that economic warfare is the way to go. Cain advocated further sanctions and financial support to Iranian terrorist groups like the MEK in order to foment violent regime change. Perry said, "This country can sanction the Iranian central bank right now and shut down that country's economy, and that's what the president needs to do," which would undoubtedly be an act of war.

Only Ron Paul dissented, stating that "it isn't worthwhile" to start a war with Iran. "I'm afraid what's going on right now," Paul reminded the crowd, "is similar to the war propaganda that went on against Iraq and, you know, they didn't have weapons of mass destruction."

He's not wrong. By taking a trip down the memory hole, it's clear that what we've been hearing about Iran for the past three decades bears a striking resemblance to the lies we were told about Iraq in the years leading up to the invasion, occupation, and devastation of that country. The record demonstrates, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that fear-mongering and propagandizing about "weapons of mass destruction" was not solely a Republican pastime. Lying about evil Muslim nukes was, and continues to be, a bipartisan affair.

Away we go!

On November 29, 1990, veteran New York Times columnist William Safire rebuked "so-called experts" in their confident assessment "that Saddam Hussein would not have a complete nuclear weapons system for at least 5 to 10 years" and quoted President George H.W. Bush as telling an assembly of U.S. troops, "Those who would measure the timetable for Saddam's atomic program in years may be seriously underestimating the reality of that situation and the gravity of the threat." Safire added, "His press spokesman defined that timetable as "'within months.'" He also reported that Senator Ted Kennedy, who he described as "privy to new intelligence data similar to that given the President," had recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "the best estimates, I imagine, are eight or nine months, possibly, under the best of circumstances."

Safire continued, "This tells us that Mr. Hussein will probably be able to set off the largest truck bomb or land mine ever made next summer, with at least a deleterious effect on the local environment," and concluded:
[T]he new estimate also tells us this: Iraq's all-out nuclear weapons quest is a fact, not a theory -- and autonomous, not subject to blockade. If he can explode a test device by one means in months, it would be dangerously foolish to think he could not explode a weapon built by another means within a few years.
In his State of the Union address on January 27, 1998, Bill Clinton said, "Together we must also confront the new hazards of chemical and biological weapons and the outlaw states, terrorists and organized criminals seeking to acquire them. Saddam Hussein has spent the better part of this decade and much of his nation's wealth not on providing for the Iraqi people, but on developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the missiles to deliver them." Directing his remarks to the Iraqi leader he added, "We are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again."

The next month, on February 4, 1998, Clinton declared that "one way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction. That is our bottom line." Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott concurred and called for regime change in Iraq: "We should do everything we can to get this resolved and find a way to have him removed from office, one way or the other." Also in agreement was House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who explained, "My hope is that military planning will be designed to coerce him or replace him and will not simply punish him and leave him in charge of building the weapons. That's not a victory. That's a defeat."

On February 12, 1998, Delaware Senator Joe Biden stated, "Fateful decisions will be made in the days and weeks ahead. At issue is nothing less than the fundamental question of whether or not we can keep the most lethal weapons known to mankind out of the hands of an unreconstructed tyrant and aggressor who is in the same league as the most brutal dictators of this century." His colleague Senator Tom Daschle added, "It is essential that a dictator like Saddam not be allowed to evade international strictures and wield frightening weapons of mass destruction...Neither the United States nor the global community can afford to allow Saddam Hussein to continue on this path."

On February 17, 1998, while addressing the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an assembly of Defense Department employees, President Clinton insisted that "meeting the threat posed by Saddam Hussein is important to our security," and added, "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. We want to seriously reduce his capacity to threaten his neighbors."

The next day, on February 18, 1998, discussing Iraq, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned on CNN "that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."

In a letter to Bill Clinton, sent on October 9, 1998, twenty-seven members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Daschle, Carl Levin, Chris Dodd, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, Jon Kyl, Dianne Feinstein, Strom Thurmond, John Kerry, and Rick Santorum, called upon the president "to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs."

On December 16, 1998, California Representative Nancy Pelosi told Congress, "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process. The responsibility of the United States in this conflict is to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, to minimize the danger to our troops and to diminish the suffering of the Iraqi people."

On November 10, 1999, Madeleine Albright informed a gathering in Chicago that Saddam Hussein "has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction, and palaces for his cronies."

On December 5, 2001, nine Congressmen, including Senators John McCain, Trent Lott, Jesse Helms, and Joe Lieberman, sent a letter to George W. Bush appealing for military action against Iraq: "The threat from Iraq is real, and it cannot be permanently contained. For as long as Saddam Hussein is in power in Baghdad, he will seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. We have no doubt that these deadly weapons are intended for use against the United States and its allies. Consequently, we believe we must directly confront Saddam, sooner rather than later."

In his very first State of the Union address, on January 2002, George W. Bush said, "Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror," before also claiming that "Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror" and insisting that "the Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade." He then referred to both, along with North Korea, as constituting "an axis of evil," which "threaten[s] the peace of the world." Bush continued, "By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger" and warned that "time is not on our side." Nevertheless, Bush declared, "I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

In a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations on February 12, 2002, former Vice President Al Gore described the government in Iraq as "a virulent threat in a class by itself" which "could bring us great harm."  He As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table.

In his April 22, 2002 column in The Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer wrote that, following the Gulf War, "Saddam survived, rearmed, defeated the inspections regime, and is now back building weapons of mass destruction." He added, "Time is running short. Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. He is working on nuclear weapons. And he has every incentive to pass them on to terrorists who will use them against us."

Speaking to the press from Qatar on June 11, 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld responded to a question about a recent comment he had made doubting Iraqi claims:
I was asked a question about Iraq announcing the day before that they do not have weapons of mass destruction, and they asked me what I thought about that. I said, "That's a lie," and I may have even said, "That's a world class lie."

Now that's true; it is a lie. They do have weapons of mass destruction. They've used chemical weapons on their people, they have had an aggressive program to develop nuclear weapons, and there is no question that they are developing biological weapons.

Now why did I say that? I said that because it is true. The truth has a certain virtue it seems to me. What I said didn't raise tensions, what raises tensions in the region is Saddam Hussein developing weapons of mass destruction and threatening neighbors.
Arch-neoconservative Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, told James Rubin in a July 11, 2002 interview on PBS' "Wide Angle" program that Saddam Hussein "is working feverishly to acquire nuclear weapons." Perle added, "[W]e have no time to lose, and I think the president understands that and it’s probably taken too long already, but I don’t think it’ll be much longer."

Speaking on Meet the Press to Tim Russert on August 4, 2002, then-Delaware Senator Joe Biden said, "We know he continues to attempt to gain access to additional capability, including nuclear capability."

Addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars 103rd National Convention on August 26, 2002, Dick Cheney said, "But we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons...Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon...Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

Speaking with former Jerusalem Post correspondent and AIPAC newsletter editor Wolf Blitzer on CNN on September 8, 2002, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said, "We know that [Saddam Hussein] has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon. And we know that when the inspectors assessed this after the Gulf War, he was far, far closer to a crude nuclear device than anybody thought, maybe six months from a crude nuclear device." She famously continued, "The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't what the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reality Withdrawal:
The Iran Nuclear Scare™ Cycle Continues


A report from the semi-official Fars News Agency in Iran is sure to send the Bomb Iran crowd into a frenzy. But it shouldn't.

"Parliamentary sources revealed on Saturday that Iran's legislature is due to discuss the country's withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director-general released a biased report against Iran," Fars reported. The Vice-Chairman of the Iranian Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Mohammad Kowsari said a commission would consider withdrawing from the NPT in response to "a relevant demand by a major political faction of the Iranian university students."

This news will surely be seized on by some in the foreign policy community as evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons capability. However, this is not the first time that conservative Iranian officials, as a result of politicized IAEA reports, sanctions, and continued military threats from Israel and the United States, have spoken of withdrawing from the treaty and ceasing its cooperation with the IAEA. As far back as 1994, in fact, Iranian officials have suggested withdrawing from the NPT in response to international obstruction and denial of cooperation over its nuclear program led by the United States.

On July 24, 2003, Ali Larijani, who was then head of the state media outlet Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and member Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told a university audience, "Because we have obtained the essential (nuclear) technology, if they attack our facilities, we will withdraw from the NPT." Larijani is currently the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, the Majlis.

In late September 2004, Larijani was again quoted as saying, "If the Europeans and the United States exert excessive pressure on us, we will have no other choice" but to pull out of the NPT.

At the same time, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that "[l]eading conservative parliamentarian Hassan Kamran has prepared a bill for submission to parliament that would force the government to set a November deadline for the U.N. nuclear watchdog to take Iran off the agency's agenda," and quoted Kamran, who is a member of the parliament's Foreign Affairs and National Security commission, as saying, "The bill obliges the government to pull out of the NPT if the International Atomic Energy Agency does not meet the deadline."

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi told CNN that Iran had no intention of leaving the Treaty. "No that is not our policy," he said. "We are sticking to NPT". Similarly, reformist politicians in the Majlis openly opposed the proposal.

In May 2005, senior Iranian officials, including Kharazzi and Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations, affirmed Iran's commitment to the treaty. In concluding his address at the 2005 NPT Review Conference, Zarif emphasized "that the NPT must be preserved and strengthened. Its longevity must be guaranteed. No consideration is worth undermining the Treaty. Iran is committed to the NPT and the non-proliferation regime and will spare no effort in this regard."

At an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors, Iranian nuclear negotiator Sirus Naseri addressed claims that Iran was "threatening to leave the NPT or agency safeguards," by declaring, "Never. We have repeatedly stated our firm commitment remain a member of the NPT and of agency safeguards in good standing."

On October 31, 2005, speaking before the UN General Assembly, Iranian Foreign Ministry official Hamid Baeidi-Nejad ensured that "Iran is determined to exercise its inalienable right under the NPT to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes within the framework of the country's overall economic plan," adding, "To that end, Iran is also committed to operating its programme under the IAEA verification system and with increased transparency, in conformity with its basic NPT obligations."  The following day, however, he said that "membership at the NPT and the IAEA safeguard agreements not only facilitates nuclear cooperation among member states but is also an obstacle in the way of developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." Pointing to the double standard of Western countries with regard to nuclear energy issues, Baeidi-Nejad noted that "countries which are not members of the NPT enjoy better nuclear cooperation."

Then, on April 24, 2006, The Jerusalem Post reported Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying, in response to the possibility of UN Security Council action against Iran, "Working in the framework of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the agency is our concrete policy, [but] if we see that they are violating our rights, or they don't want to accept (our rights), well, we will reconsider."

Two weeks later, in May 7, 2006, a letter signed by at least 160 Iranian MPs was sent to the United Nations warning that, if issues related to Iran's nuclear and uranium enrichment programs were not settled in a peaceful manner, "there will be no choice for the Majlis but to demand the government withdraw the ratification of the additional protocol and put on its agenda a review of Article 10 of the NPT." Article 10 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty maintains that, in the interest of "national sovereignty," member states "have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country."

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told the press, "We will not accept any resolution that is against our rights. Any action by the Security Council will have a negative influence on our cooperation with the agency. The involvement of the Security Council will direct the path of cooperation towards confrontation. It's obvious that the Security Council should not take any action that it is not capable of dealing with later because we will not refrain from our rights." Asefi also stated, "Suspension and pause is not on the agenda at all, and the Security Council should not do something that will get it into trouble later on," and "intervention by the Security Council in this issue is completely illegal."

Ahmadinejad reiterated, "If the signature of an international treaty threatens the rights of a nation, it will be of no value for that nation." A Tehran correspondent for the BBC deemed that leaving the NPT "is the ultimate threat of non-cooperation by Iran."

A few months later, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1696 which illegally called upon Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program. Four months after that, the Security Council passed its first round of sanctions against Iran, banning "the supply, sale or transfer, for the use by or benefit of Iran, of [nuclear-]related equipment and technology" and froze "the funds, other financial assets and economic resources" of key individuals and companies related to the enrichment program.

"Following the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1737 against Iran's nuclear activities, the Islamic Consultative Assembly discussed many possible options to show a proper reaction to the resolution, including a withdrawal from the NPT," said Kazem Jalali, Rapporteur of the Majlis' National Security and Foreign Policy Commission in early 2007. According to Fars News, Jalali added, "But a majority of the MPs supported a proposal on revising the country's attitude towards the International Atomic Energy Agency and accelerating the nuclear activities," continuing "Now that it is time for us to make use of our NPT rights, withdrawal from the treaty does not at all serve Iran's interests. Rather, we would like to view it as an option."

On September 29, 2009, Reuters reported that, in advance of renewed negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 in Geneva, "conservative hard-liner" Mohammad Karamirad, another member of the Foreign Affairs and National Security commission, declared, "If the Zionists and America continue their pressure on Iran and if the talks...do not reach a conclusion, then parliament will take a clear and transparent position, such as Iran's withdrawal from the NPT." Nevertheless, Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's atomic energy organization, told reporters, "We are acting in the framework of the NPT. We are committed to our commitments."

Two months later, in late November 2009, after the IAEA passed a resolution censuring Iran, Karamirad repeated his warning: "The parliament, in its first reaction to this illegal and politically motivated resolution, can consider the issue of withdrawing from the NPT."

On June 17, 2010, despite another round of UN sanctions, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani stated, "The western countries' reactions should not make us angry and cause our withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)," adding that, at this time, "I think we should not withdraw from the IAEA or the NPT. We must provide the grounds for implementing the rules by strengthening them instead."

And now, another year, another IAEA report, more Israeli threats and American concern, a repeated Iranian call to withdraw from the NPT and frenzied hand-wringing and finger-wagging from the media.

Pretty boring, huh?

*****

UPDATE:

November 13, 2011 - A report from PressTV quotes another Majlis minister, a member of the parliament's presiding board, Mohammad-Hossein Farhangi as saying, "withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty seems to be more advantageous than remaining an NPT signatory and an International Atomic Energy Agency member," according to the official Majlis news agency, ICANA.

Due to the politicized nature of the IAEA and especially the recent report on Iran's nuclear program, Farhangi wondered, "Under such circumstances, what benefit does IAEA membership have for member states which have become signatories to the NPT? Isn't withdrawing from the NPT more beneficial?”

*****

UPDATE II:

January 29, 2012 - In anticipation of a visit to Iran by high-level IAEA officials and inspectors, including IAEA Deputy Director General and head of its Department of Safeguards Herman Nackaerts, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani has once again chimed in on Iran's relationship with the agency. According to Reuters, Larijani "warned the IAEA team to carry out a 'logical, professional and technical' job or suffer the consequences."

"This visit is a test for the IAEA. The route for further cooperation will be open if the team carries out its duties professionally," Larijani said. "Otherwise, if the IAEA turns into a tool (for major powers to pressure Iran), then Iran will have no choice but to consider a new framework in its ties with the agency."

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by the Mehr News Agency as saying, "We are very optimistic about the outcome of the IAEA delegation's visit to Iran...The nuclear issue has taken the right course and our interaction with the agency has been good, and the cooperation has been close and extensive."

Salehi, who was speaking to reporters during a trip to Addis Ababa, also remarked, “We have always tried to adopt transparency as one of our principles of cooperation with the agency, and during their visit, the agency's delegation will have some questions that will be answered appropriately."

"We have nothing to hide and Iran has no clandestine activities," he added.

*****

UPDATE III:

September 16, 2012 - Majlis speaker Ali Larijani is once again floating the idea of Iran withdrawing from the NPT due to the heavily-politicized nature of the IAEA and its recent resolution calling for Iran to allow inspectors access to the military site at Parchin, a facility not covered by Iran's safeguards agreement with the agency and therefore outside its purview.

Larijani, as he has in the past, said, "The recent resolution by the Board of Governors raises this question for the public: What is the benefit of the NPT and membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency for countries?," adding, "If Iran had not been committed to the NPT, would Western countries have taken other measures?"

Considering Larijani has used this line for nearly a decade now, it's repetition clearly expresses his frustration at the politics at play over his country's monitored nuclear energy program and the constant threats made against Iran rather than any real ultimatum about Iran's treaty obligations.

Speaking directly to such threats, as well as echoing Larijani's statement, Revolutionary Guard commander General Mohammad Ali Jafari told reporters today that, if attacked, Iran will no longer be committed to the NPT, explaining however that this does not mean Iran would actually build a nuclear weapon.

"If the world and international organizations fail to prevent such an attack, it's natural that Iran's commitments [under the NPT] would naturally change and the situation would be different from the past. These are the risks and consequences that such an attack will bring about, and these matters would be a deterrent," he said.

*****

UPDATE IV:

October 23, 2012 - Speaking in Quebec yesterday, an Iranian Majlis member who sits on the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Kazem Jalali, again affirmed Iran's commitment to its obligations under the NPT.

"Regarding the issue of nuclear energy, Iran has constantly emphasized two points at the same time," Jalali said. "One is that as an NPT signatory, Iran complies with all international laws, and the other is that Iran will not back down on its right under the NPT to achieve peaceful nuclear energy."

*****

UPDATE V:

November 30, 2012 - Reuters reports today that a high-level Iranian official has once again floated the idea of his country potentially pulling out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In an 11-page written statement submitted to the IAEA's 35-nation Board of Governors, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the agency, suggested that, in the event that Iran was attacked militarily, "there is a possibility that the parliament forces the government to stop the agency inspections or even in the worse scenario withdraw from the NPT." Such a move would also enable Iran to "kick out IAEA inspectors and install its uranium enrichment centrifuges in 'more secure' places," Reuters' Frederik Dahl reported.

Soltanieh said "the only way that encourages Iran to show more flexibility in taking voluntary steps" to curb elements of its legal nuclear program would be for the Iranian nuclear file, illegally referred to the UN Security Council by the IAEA in 2006, "to be closed immediately" and for IAEA inspections to follow the "routine" as laid out by its Safeguards Agreement, rather than the extralegal demands that exceed the agency's mandate.

Soltanieh reiterated the decades-old official Iranian position that "nuclear weapons have no use and [their possession] only creates vulnerability," adding that "any military action against Iran would not stop it from enriching uranium."

While this news will certainly induce the requisite hysterical finger-pointing and 'I-told-you-so'-ing among the usual Iran Nuclear Scare™ crowd, it is vital to remember the circumstances under which Soltanieh is noting this possibility of NPT withdrawal: that is, after an illegal, unprovoked, military assault on a sovereign nation; a country whose nuclear facilities are constantly monitored, regularly inspected; whose enrichment activities are wholly legal; and whose program all Western, Russian and Israeli intelligence agencies agree has no military component.

Soltanieh also made clear that any military attack on nuclear facilities would not have the desired effect of destroying Iran's entire nuclear program. "Iran is master of enrichment technology...it can easily replace damaged facilities," he said, adding that diplomacy is the only way forward and that Iran is "well prepared to find a negotiated face-saving solution and a breakthrough from the existing stalemate."

*****

UPDATE VI:

December 1, 2012 - Unsurprisingly, Majlis speaker Ali Larijani, in the wake of Soltanieh's statement, had some additional words for the IAEA.

"The International Atomic Energy Agency has adopted a political approach to Iran’s nuclear program," the lawmaker said, adding that both the IAEA and the P5+1 nations should abandon their fruitless "double-standard policies" if any progress toward a negotiated resolution to the current standoff over Iran's nuclear program is to be made.

*****

UPDATE VII:

January 10, 2013 - An interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who holds a degree in nuclear physics from MIT and was formerly Iran's ambassador to the IAEA and head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, which was conducted in the Fall of 2012, was recently published in World Policy Journal.

Salehi addresses the allegations over the Iranian nuclear program by noting Iran's continuing obligations to the NPT. When asked about the potential danger posed by Iranian "nuclear capability," Salehi stated:

To be very honest and open with you, Iran has already acquired nuclear technology in all its domains, from mining, conversion, turning it into fuel rods, nowadays fuel plates, designing reactors, research reactors, building, manufacturing centrifuges, enriching uranium, producing heavy water, and constructing our own heavy water reactor indigenously. So there’s nothing in the nuclear field that we have not really achieved, and the technology is within our reach.
Those who think that we may be using this technology for other purposes, this is their own, I would say, ill-thinking. What can we do? We have already stated over and over that we have not intended to do anything else. If we wanted to take that approach, we would have detached ourselves from the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty]. There is in the treaty an article which says whoever is in the NPT, if they wish, they can get out of it with three months notice, and then free of the NPT, we could do whatever we wanted to do.
But on the contrary, we are stressing the preservation of the integrity of the NPT, because we believe that the NPT is in our interest. The stronger the NPT becomes, the more immune we become to possible proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region and in other places in the world. And here our Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa, which says the production, accumulation, and the use of weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons is forbidden and is against religion. But you see, we have the right to enrich to any percentage we want under the NPT.
*****

UPDATE VIII:

April 8, 2013 - Alaeddin Boroujerdi, an Iranian parliamentarian who heads the Majlis Security and Foreign Policy committee, said today, "It's not acceptable that Iran respects NPT but the U.S. and the West ignore NPT's Article 6 — reducing nuclear weapons — and Article 4 — right to enrichment. Therefore, there is no reason for Iran to remain an NPT member under such circumstances."

"All options are on the parliament's table," he added.

Such a statement, as we have seen, is nothing new from Iranian lawmakers, often occurring after frustrating and fruitless negotiations or in anticipation of illegal sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program.

A week ago, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in Minsk, "Iran is after restoring its rights stated in the Non-Proliferation Treaty and believes that the framework of talks should be formed on these bases," demonstrating Iran's continued appeal to its - and the NPT's other signatories - treaty obligations and inalienable rights.

Associated Press correspondant Ali Akbar Dareini reported, "Boroujerdi said Iran cannot remain an NPT member while it is punished for exercising its nuclear rights, while offering terms for a deal at the same time — halting high-quality enrichment in exchange for cancellation of punishing Western sanctions."

"They say stop 20 percent enrichment. This is while such level of enrichment and even 20 and 50 percent is authorized on the basis of IAEA rules. The red line is nuclear bomb," Al-Alam, Iranian state television's website, quoted the parliament minister as saying. "If we are to cooperate in areas such as 20 percent enrichment, sanctions against Iran must definitely be lifted in return," he continued.

Boroujerdi also rejected the shuttering of Iran's Fordo enrichment facility, which is underground and heavily fortified. "Fordo is to protect our nuclear equipment from the danger of air attacks or missile strikes by the Zionist regime," he said. "No sane person would put its wealth at the disposal of the enemy's target."

*****

UPDATE IX:

April 22, 2013 - Like clockwork, despite certain comments made by Iranian parliamentarians that gain undue attention in the Western media, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has again affirmed its continued commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and it safeguard agreement with the IAEA.

In response to a recent statement by the five permanent, nuclear-armed members of the United Nations Security Council which claimed the Iranian nuclear program constituted a "serious challenge" to the treaty and called for the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East, on Saturday April 20, 2013, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast reiterated Iran's role as a "committed member" of NPT.

He said, "Iran has continued its completely peaceful nuclear program under the permanent monitoring of the IAEA inspectors," adding, "We are a committed member of the agency. We were one of the countries which signed the NPT first. We comply with our commitments under the treaty."

"The Iranian foreign ministry official also noted that the country will continue its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," reported the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).

Additionally, on Monday April 22, 2013, Iran and the 119 other members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) urged the total elimination of nuclear weapons, under the auspices of the NPT and its attendent obligations.

In a statement delivered by Mohammad-Reza Sajjadi, Iran's UN envoy to Geneva, NAM - which is currently chaired by Iran - "described Israel and its nuclear program as the main threat to regional peace and security and condemned Tel Aviv's move to develop its arsenals. It also urged a ban on nuclear cooperation with the regime," according to Iran's PressTV.

"The statement said that possession, use or threat to use nuclear weapons all violated the UN Charter and international law, adding total elimination of nukes was the only guarantee against the use or threat to use such arms," and also stressed NAM's support for "talks on the conclusion of a global, binding, unconditional, unbiased and irrevocable convention that would compel nuclear-armed countries to give assurances to non-nuclear states that they would not use or threat to use such weapons against them."

In a clear rebuke to the attempts to abrogate the inalienable national right to a civilian nuclear energy program, the statement also "backed the development of peaceful nuclear activities and the countries' right to use civilian nuclear technology."

*****

UPDATE X:

June 18, 2013 - Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Araqchi reaffirmed Iran's continued commitment to the NPT and to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday June 18, Araqchi said, "Iran adheres to its commitments within framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Safeguards Agreement, and will continue its cooperation with the Agency."

Addressing, demands made of Iran that exceed the IAEA's legal mandate, he added, "If the International Atomic Energy Agency's expectations are beyond Iran's obligations [under the NPT], this will require the definition of a new framework which we are currently negotiating."

*****

UPDATE XI:

July 25, 2013 - With a new administration in office in Iran, the nation's commitment to its international treaty obligations have not changed. Addressing the United Nations Security Council in New York City on July 23, Iran's Deputy Permanent Representative to the world body, Gholam Hossein Dehqani, declared, "The nature of Iran's nuclear program is completely peaceful and is fully compatible with the country's international undertakings."

"In addition to its membership in the NPT, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a member of all (the relevant) international treaty arrangements and is committed to all the undertakings resulting from the (NPT) rules," he added.

*****

UPDATE X:

September 6, 2013 - Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, has said that Iran is ready to allay international concerns over Iran's nuclear program "using every treaty, regulation and mechanism at the international level."

*****

UPDATE XI:

September 8, 2013 - Today, President Hassan Rouhani affirmed the Iranian government's continuing commitment to the NPT and IAEA via Twitter:



*****

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Iran Attack That Will Never Happen:
Perennial Threats, Permanent Bluff


It's been rough month for Iran hawks.

After the Justice Department's recent sensationalized announcement of an outlandish Iranian plot to enlist a bumbling former used-car salesman in Texas to hire a notorious Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington D.C., seasoned Iran watchers alongside major news outlets viewed the allegations with suspicion and openly doubted the veracity of such claims due to the plot's Clouseauesque implausibility.

When no national outrage followed the ridiculous assassination plot story, pundits and politicians for a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic quickly turned their attention to hyping a new report on the Iranian nuclear program issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In advance of the report's release, The Washington Post's neoconservative, Likudnik blogger Jennifer Rubin quoted war-booster Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies as telling her that "[Iranian head of state] Ali Khamenei appears to have decided that a nuclear bomb is a guarantor of regime survival and seems in no mood to compromise," adding that the new IAEA report "suggests that Iran is now on the brink of nuclear capability." Rubin herself wrote that the United States is now "on the verge of a national-security calamity. Soon, it seems, we’ll be presented with a choice: Accept a nuclear-armed Iran or take military action."

Once the report was leaked to the public by a well-connected Washington think tank it became clear that IAEA had no new information with which to implicate an active Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Julian Borger of The Guardian wrote,

There is something a little phoney about all the sound and fury. There is nothing in the report that was not previously known by the major powers. The West and Israel supplied most of the original tip-offs for the annex on weapons development, while Russia was briefed and no doubt knew one of its own scientists had been lecturing the Iranians on how to make explosive implosion devices (ostensibly for making tiny diamonds).
Former CIA officer and Georgetown professor Paul Pillar called the report a "yawner." In an article, published on November 9 in The Christian Science Monitor, Scott Peterson explains that "much of the information is years old, inconclusive – and perhaps not entirely real," and quotes American nuclear engineer and former IAEA inspector Robert Kelley as saying, "It's very thin, I thought there would be a lot more there. It's certainly old news; it's really quite stunning how little new information is in there." Kelley describes the IAEA report as a "real mish-mash" that includes some "amateurish analysis," concluding that the agency's efforts to "misdirect opinion shows a bias towards their desired outcome...That is unprofessional."

Peterson also notes comments by Shannon Kile, head of the Nuclear Weapons Project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) who says, "there is no evidence [the Iranians] have a dedicated [nuclear weapons] program under way. It's not like they are driving toward nuclear weapons; it's like they're meandering toward capability."

But that hasn't stopped the Bomb Iran crowd from foaming at the mouth. Simon Henderson of the AIPAC-affiliated Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) believes "the IAEA report should serve to shift the public debate from whether Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, to how to stop it." Former Israeli army corporal and Iraq invasion booster Jeffrey Goldberg, writing for Bloomberg View, claimed the IAEA offered "further proof that the Iranian regime is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The New IAEA Report on Iran:
An Initial Response to the Explosive Reactions...of the Press


The leaking of the newest IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear program has predictably sent the media into a fear-mongering frenzy.

The Jerusalem Post giddily reports that the IAEA says "the Islamic Republic was working to develop a nuclear-weapon design and was conducting extensive research and tests that could only be relevant for such a weapon."

The New York Times' Sanger and Broad published a story entitled "U.N. Agency Says Iran Data Points to A-Bomb Work," The Washington Post's Joby Warrick noted the exposure of "secret nuclear research by Iran," Reuters' Fredrik Dahl and Sylvia Westall reported that "Iran appears to have worked on designing an atomic bomb and may still be conducting secret research," Ha'aretz's Yossi Melman declared that "Iran has been working toward building a nuclear weapon since 2003," and Associated Press' George Jahn wrote that "the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency is its most unequivocal yet suggesting that Iran is using the cover of a peaceful nuclear program to produce atomic weaponry."

The Guardian writes that Iran "may be researching nuclear warhead", the BBC said Iran is "studying nuclear weapons", the Financial Times got in on the action by stating that "Iran has sought to design a nuclear warhead and has continued to conduct research on an atomic weapons programme," the Los Angeles Times reported that "credible evidence indicates Iran may be secretly working to develop a nuclear weapon," while CNN posted headline "Iran developing nuclear bombs," despite going on to report that the IAEA has "found no evidence that Iran has made a strategic decision to actually build a bomb."

Even IPS, a wire service that rarely echoes the histrionics of other outlets, ran a piece by Barbara Slavin claiming that the new report "provides substantial evidence that Iran carried out extensive research into how to make a nuclear weapon prior to 2003," which provides a platform for the leaders of the hawkish Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations to insist that "[t]here can no longer be any doubt about the intent or direction of the Iran nuclear weapons effort, which is progressing rapidly."  They also claim that the "report leaves no room for ambiguity and demands a quick, comprehensive plan in which all options are included," code for an aggressive military attack.

Curiously, as of this writing, Commentary's Michael Rubin has so far stayed away from actually commenting on the report, posting only some excerpts from the document instead, and The Weekly Standard has yet to weigh in at all.

Anyone familiar with the history of IAEA reports on Iran will find very little in the way of revelation in the 13-page "bombshell" that everyone seems to be freaking out about. It's big on fluff, weak on substance.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rattling Sabers & Beating Drums:
Fear-Mongering over Nuclear Iran Reaches a Fever-Pitch


"Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

- Joseph C. Wilson IV, The New York Times, July 6, 2003

"Its failings notwithstanding, there is much to be said in favor of journalism in that by giving us the opinion of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community."

- Oscar Wilde

[NOTE: It has been over ten months since I wrote, "The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran's Nuclear Program", a timeline of false U.S., Israeli, and European assertions regarding the supposed inevitability and immediacy of a nuclear-armed Iran, hysterical allegations that have been made repeatedly for the past thirty years.

Whenever new predictions and claims about Iran's nuclear program are released, I have added updates to my original piece. To read all past updates, click here. Culled from the past few months, here are some the latest.]


On June 17, 2011, U.S.News & World Report published a lengthy article by Purdue professor Louis René Beres and retired Air Force Gen. John T. Chain with the title "Israel's Options for Dealing With a Nuclear Iran." The writers claim that "Iran is closing in rapidly on full membership in the 'nuclear club'" and that "probably in the next two years, such membership can be conclusively confirmed." They then outline the various ways Israel could protect itself from an Iranian assault, completely ignoring the fact that Iran has never threatened Israel with attack, rather it's the other way around.

On August 3, 2011, Council on Foreign Relations Ray Takeyh wrote in The Washington Post that "[a] dedicated corps of scientific nationalists is committed to providing its country with the capacity to reach the height of technological achievement and, in the process, provide the mullahs with the means of building the bomb." Citing no evidence or source for his claims, Takeyh concludes, "Exact estimates vary, but in the next few years Iran will be in position to detonate a nuclear device."

On August 22, 2011, speaking at a luncheon at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, Republican Senator and second-ranking member on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee James Inhofe declared, "We know - and it is not even classified for me to tell you today - that Iran will have the capability of delivering a weapon of mass destruction to western Europe and the eastern United States by 2015. I see that as the most imminent threat to this country right now. So that is a problem we are going to have deal with."

On August 28, 2011, Reuters, in an article quoting a senior Israeli defense official as saying that "Israel would not be able to halt Iran's reported quest for atomic weapons with a single strike," also reported, "Recent Israeli estimates do not show Iran developing nuclear weapons before 2015."

On September 6, 2011, the editors of The Washington Post claimed, "Iran has taken two more steps toward producing a nuclear weapon," before completely misrepresenting a new IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear program. The editorial says Iran has "begun to use a new, more advanced centrifuge to enrich uranium, which could allow it to produce bomb-grade material in a much shorter time period, should it choose to do so" and is "creating a stockpile for which Tehran has no plausible legitimate use." It warns that, despite ongoing illegal actions (though not using those terms, of course) like industrial sabotage and assassinations, "the danger that Iran will become a nuclear power is growing, not diminishing," before declaring that "the grim reality is that Iran’s leaders have not been deterred from their goal of producing a weapon, and the project is making steady progress."

The Post also noted a study [PDF] by the Bipartisan Policy Center (a think tank established by U.S. senators) that warned of Iran acquiring the ability to produce enough highly-enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in a mere 62 days, "a timeline that could fall to 12 days by the end of 2012."

Writing in The New Republic, Iran hysteric Greg Jones estimated "Iran can produce enough HEU for a nuclear weapon in about eight weeks from the time it decided to do so," a timeframe that would "shrink to only about four weeks by the end of next year, as Iran's enriched uranium stockpiles and enrichment capacity continue to increase." Jones concluded, "The international community has no choice but to already treat the Islamic Republic as a de facto nuclear state."

On September 14, 2011, Reuters reported that British Ambassador Simon Smith had told the IAEA's 35-nation governing board in Vienna, "The absence of a plausible economic or commercial rationale for so many of the nuclear activities now being carried out in Iran, and the growing body of evidence of a military dimension to these activities, give grounds for grave concern about Iran's intentions."

The same day, Jim Garamone of American Forces Press Service wrote that Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen told a gathering at the University of Miami, "Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons and wants regional hegemony in the Middle East."

On September 16, 2011, The New York Times published an editorial asserting that "Iran is still enriching uranium and refusing to come clean about its nuclear program." The editorial claimed, Iran has "greatly increased production of uranium to 20 percent purity instead of the 3.5 percent purity normally used to fuel nuclear power plants" which represents "a significant step closer to the 90 percent threshold required to make nuclear weapons fuel." The authors suggest the Obama administration should seek "even tougher punishments" than "sanctions and inducements" in order to get "Tehran's attention."

Barbara Slavin, writing for The Atlantic Council the same day in an article ominously entitled "As Iran Edges Closer to Nukes," states that although "Iran has not exactly been sprinting toward a bomb...the Iranian program – which Washington helped start in 1957 – is finally getting close to providing the wherewithal to make nuclear weapons." Slavin writes that Iran has amassed "enough material, if further enriched, for four or five nuclear weapons."