Monday, October 22, 2012

What We Won't Hear in Boca:
Nine Things to Remember During the Iran Section of the Presidential Debate Tonight

"How could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?"

- George W. Bush, in his 2010 memoir Decision Points
"There's room at the top they're telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill"

- John Lennon, Working Class Hero

On October 12, Politico posted a copy of the predetermined topics of discussion for this evening's third and final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida, the focus of which will be foreign policy.

One of the topics is, naturally, "Red Lines - Israel and Iran."


You'd be forgiven for thinking this might mean that the two candidates will discuss what sort of limitations - identified by non-negotiable trigger points and definable events - the United States would set on Israeli war crimes, colonization, human rights violations and warmongering, but that would just mean you're a logical, thinking person who doesn't pay attention to the world in which we actually live.


No, instead, two grown men vying to be the most powerful person on the planet, will trip all over themselves to prostrate themselves at the altar of Israeli fear-mongering, gloating about how much Iranians are suffering because of US-imposed sanctions, cyberattacks, sidewalk executions, covert operations, industrial sabotage, economic hardship and hyperinflation and threatening to launch an unprovoked military attack if Iran doesn't do as its told by the United States.  These actions are intended, we will hear from President Obama, to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon; or, in Romney's case, to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability - that is, the point at which Iran will have the technical, technological and scientific ability to theoretically begin the process of assembling a single atomic bomb, if the leader of the country were to ever make that decision, which at this point everyone agrees he hasn't done and probably won't ever do.


We will hear Romney clam that "Iran is now four years closer to a nuclear weapon" and watch Obama insist that "all options are on the table" when it comes to confronting Iran over its national rights.  We'll hear that Iran's nuclear program poses a great - if not the greatest - threat to not only Israel and its neighbors in the region, but to Europe, the United States and the entire world.

So, as you're watching the show tonight, it might be best to keep some things in mind:

1. Iran has no nuclear weapons program.

United States intelligence community and its allies have long assessed that Iran is not and never has been in possession of nuclear weapons, is not building nuclear weapons, and its leadership has not made any decision to build nuclear weapons. Iranian officials have consistently maintained they will never pursue such weapons on religious, strategic, political, moral and legal grounds.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Brigadier General Martin Dempsey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Ronald Burgess, CIA Director David Petraeus, President Barack Obama, his National Security Council, and Vice President Joe Biden have all agreed Iran isn't actively building nuclear weapons.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and Military Intelligence Director Aviv Kochavi have also said the same thing, as have other foreign intelligence agencies.  A number of former Mossad and Shin Bet chiefs have repeatedly warned against warmongering about the Iranian nuclear program, let alone an unprovoked military attack.

Furthermore, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continually confirms - that Iran has no active nuclear weapons program and has stated it has "no concrete proof that Iran has or has ever had a nuclear weapons program." (emphasis added) In November 2011, a spokesman for the Obama White House concurred, "The IAEA does not assert that Iran has resumed a full scale nuclear weapons program."

2. Iran has never violated its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iran is a signatory, and charter member, to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which affirms (not grants, merely acknowledges) the "inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty."

Under the terms of the treaty, non-nuclear weapons states such as Iran are fully entitled to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and must have a safeguards agreement in place with the autonomous IAEA, the "exclusive purpose" of which is the "verification of the fulfillment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."

Iran has never been found to have breached its NPT obligations as such a violation could only occur if Iran began "to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons."

With regard to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA, Iran - while in the past had been found in non-compliance for its "failure to report" otherwise totally legal activities due to the deliberate policy of obstructionism of the United States - has never been found to have diverted any nuclear material to weaponization.  

"Claims of an imminent Iranian nuclear bomb are without foundation," IAEA spokesman Georges Delcoigne stated on May 9, 1984.  In 1991, then-IAEA Director-General Hans Blix explained that Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear technology was "no cause for concern" while the following year, IAEA inspections in Iran found no evidence of illegal nuclear activity.

Years later, in November 2003, the IAEA affirmed that "to date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme." And the following year, after extensive inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities were conducted under the auspices of the IAEA's intrusive Additional Protocol (implemented voluntarily by Iran for two years) the IAEA again concluded that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities."

In 2007, then-IAEA Director-General Mohammad ElBaradei confirmed, "I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now," adding, "Have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weapons program? No."

After agreeing on a "Work Plan" to "clarify the outstanding issues" between Iran and the IAEA, by February 2008, ElBaradei was able to report, "We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran's enrichment programme" and the IAEA continued "to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran."

"As long as we are monitoring their facilities, they cannot develop nuclear weapons," ElBaradei said. "And they still do not have the ingredients to make a bomb overnight."

In September 2009, ElBaradei told the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that "the idea that we'll wake up tomorrow and Iran will have a nuclear weapon is an idea that isn't supported by the facts as we have seen them so far," continuing, "Nobody is sitting in Iran today developing nuclear weapons. Tehran doesn't have an ongoing nuclear weapons program," adding that "the threat has been hyped."

The following month, ElBaradei stated:
"The only time we found Iran in breach of its obligations not to use undeclared nuclear material was when they had experimented in 2003 and 2004 at Kalaye. Those were experiments. And I have been making it very clear that with regard to these alleged studies, we have not seen any use of nuclear material, we have not received any information that Iran has manufactured any part of a nuclear weapon or component. That’s why I say, to present the Iran threat as imminent is hype."
The "alleged studies" ElBaradei referred to are alleged documents supposedly obtained from a mysterious stolen Iranian Laptop of Death, the authenticity of which has long been known to rest somewhere on the spectrum of dubious to fabricated, and which was provided to the IAEA by the United States by way of the MEK by way of the Mossad and has never been made fully available to the IAEA itself, the press, the public or even Iran itself to investigate, authenticate or assess. In fact, reportedly, the laptop's "information does not contain any words such as nuclear or nuclear warhead."

Furthermore, a 2007 report from The Los Angeles Times revealed that, according to IAEA officials, "most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate, and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran" and confirmed that its inspectors "have found no proof that nuclear material has been diverted for use in weapons." A senior diplomat at the IAEA was quoted as saying, "Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that's come to us has proved to be wrong."

Despite the appointment of Yukiya Amano, America's man in Vienna (and self-declared as "solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision"), as IAEA Director-General, the agency has continued to verify Iran's safeguard commitments.

3. The IAEA safeguards and inspects all nuclear facilities in Iran.  

Iran's nuclear sites, facilities, and centrifuges are all under 24-hour video surveillance by the IAEA, subject to IAEA monitoring and bimonthly inspections, and material seal application.  Though not required or authorized under Iran's Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, since March 2007 the IAEA has conducted dozens of unannounced and snap inspections of Iran's facilities.

"There is no truth to media reports claiming that the IAEA was not able to get access" to Iran's nuclear facilities, IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire affirmed in 2007. "We have not been denied access at any time."

The IAEA has consistently confirmed - often four times a year for nearly a decade - that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities."

Parchin is not a nuclear facility.  It is a military facility not safeguarded by the IAEA and therefore off-limits legally to its inspectors.  Iran voluntarily allowed two rounds of inspections of Parchin by IAEA personnel in 2005.  No traces of nuclear weapons work were found.

4. Iran, by default, already has "nuclear weapons capability."

Iran, with its operational enrichment facilities and a functioning power plant, theoretically already has such "capability," as do at least 140 other countries that "currently have the basic technical capacity to produce nuclear weapons.” Additionally, according to Green Peace, "[o]ver 40 countries have the materials and knowhow to build nuclear weapons quickly, a capacity that is referred to as 'rapid break-out.'"

Nevertheless, Iran has consistently offered curbing and capping their enrichment program, accepting international cooperation, and has actually taken serious scientific and technological steps to reduce its medium-enriched uranium stockpile, thus decreasing the perceived threat of any nascent Iranian "breakout" capacity.

5. Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons.  It is not a member of the NPT.

Unlike Iran, which doesn't have a single nuclear bomb, Israel maintains a massive, undeclared and unmonitored arsenal of hundreds of deliverable nuclear weapons. Additionally, Israel has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and consistently refuses when repeatedly called upon to do so by the international community. The hypocrisy is staggering.

Meanwhile, Iran has long supported the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East.

In May 2010, the 189 member nations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - including Iran - agreed to "the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction." In response, Israel denounced the accord, describing it as "deeply flawed and hypocritical," and declared, "As a nonsignatory state of the NPT, Israel is not obligated by the decisions of this Conference, which has no authority over Israel. Given the distorted nature of this resolution, Israel will not be able to take part in its implementation."

The document called upon Pakistan, India, and Israel (the only three states never to have signed to NPT, each of which has a nuclear arsenal unmonitored by the IAEA) to all sign the treaty and abide by its protocols "without further delay and without any preconditions," and demanded that North Korea (which withdrew from the NPT in 2003) abandon "all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs."

Nevertheless, both President Obama and National Security Adviser General James Jones condemned the resolution (which the U.S. signed) as unfairly "singl[ing] out Israel."  Obama added that the U.S. would "oppose actions that jeopardize Israel's national security."  Considering Obama's alleged determination to address the issue of global nuclear proliferation, this statement and the absence of any high-level U.S. government personnel at the summit speaks volumes.

Early in his presidency, in April 2009, Obama delivered a major speech in Prague about nuclear weapons and proliferation.  In it he declared, "clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons," shortly thereafter reaffirming that "the United States will take concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons."

While Obama set out parameters to strengthen the NPT, stating his vision that "countries with nuclear weapons will move toward disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them; and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy," he name-checked both North Korea and Iran, while never once mentioning Israel's stockpile of hundreds of deliverable nuclear warheads.

In October of that year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize would be "awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," continuing that, "[t]he Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."

After Obama convened and presided over a Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010, he gave a press conference in which he noted that "[w]hen the United States improves our own nuclear security and transparency, it encourages others to do the same," adding, "When the United States fulfills our responsibilities as a nuclear power committed to the NPT, we strengthen our global efforts to ensure that other nations fulfill their responsibilities."

Scott Wilson of the Washington Post asked Obama whether, in his effort "to bring U.S. policy in line with its treaty obligations internationally" and "eliminate the perception of hypocrisy that some of the world sees toward the United States and its allies," he would "call on Israel to declare its nuclear program and sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and if not, why wouldn't other countries see that as an incentive not to sign on to the treaty that you say is important to strengthen?"  Obama replied,
Well, Scott, initially you were talking about U.S. behavior and then suddenly we’re talking about Israel... 
And as far as Israel goes, I'm not going to comment on their program.  What I'm going to point to is the fact that consistently we have urged all countries to become members of the NPT. 
So there’s no contradiction there.
This non-answer harkens back to the president's very first White House press conference in February 2009, when veteran correspondent Helen Thomas asked Obama a painfully simple question: "Mr. President, do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?"

In response, the new commander-in-chief responded, "With respect to nuclear weapons, I don't want to speculate. What I know is this: that if we see a nuclear arms race in a region as volatile as the Middle East, everyone will be in danger. And one of my goals is to prevent nuclear proliferation generally."

Clearly, though a world without nuclear weapons may be a goal of Obama, maintaining Israel's posture of "nuclear ambiguity" appears to be a presidential obligation.

Exactly a week before the Nobel Committee announced Obama as its Peace Prize laureate, it was reported on October 2, 2009 by Eli Lake of the Washington Times that, in May of that year, Obama had "reaffirmed a 4-decade-old secret understanding that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening it to international inspections."  Lake explained, "Under the understanding, the U.S. has not pressured Israel to disclose its nuclear weapons or to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which could require Israel to give up its estimated several hundred nuclear bombs."

A Senate staffer familiar with the secret agreement told Lake:
What this means is that the president gave commitments that politically he had no choice but to give regarding Israel's nuclear program. However, it calls into question virtually every part of the president’s nonproliferation agenda.  The president gave Israel an NPT treaty get out of jail free card.
6. Sanctions are the West's other weapon of mass destruction.

Tonight, Obama will praise his policy of collective punishment of a civilian population over a nuclear weapons program he has admitted doesn't even exist while Romney will call for even more destructive measures to hurt the Iranian people.  Sanctions target Iran's citizens with the hope of causing enough suffering to instigate regime change.  That won't happen.  In the meantime, the Iranian people suffer for a crime their government isn't even committing.

During the vice presidential debate, Joe Biden boasted, "These are the most crippling sanctions in the history of sanctions, period, period."

While Mitt Romney will surely scold the president for "not supporting" the so-called Iranian opposition following the election in 2009 (even though no dissident or reformist leader or group asked for "help" from the U.S.; quite the contrary), we won't hear that Iranians across the political spectrum uniformly oppose sanctions and wholly support their country's indigenous nuclear energy program.

Just today, AFP reports, "Some six million patients in Iran are affected by Western economic sanctions as import of medicine is becoming increasingly difficult" because restrictions on Iran's banking sector "severely" curtail "the import of drugs and pharmaceutical devices for treatment of complex illnesses."

As sanctions mount and more are promised, thought should be given to the lethal effects of a decade of similarly draconian measures on Iraq following the Gulf War.

In 1995, The New York Times reported, "As many as 576,000 Iraqi children may have died since the end of the Persian Gulf war because of economic sanctions imposed by the Security Council."  When, the following year, Leslie Stahl interviewed Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes about these tragic and genocidal effects of brutal economic U.S. sanctions against Iraq and asked, "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" Nonplussed, Albright immediately replied, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it."

Despite the uninformed lip-service both candidates pay to caring about the welfare of the Iranian people, there is no doubt both Obama and Romney believe the current sanctions on Iran are also worth it.

"In many ways, the sanctions on the Iraqi people were worse than the war because the economy was taken back decades and the health service deteriorated massively," Carne Ross, former British Foreign Office diplomat and the UK's Iraq expert at the United Nations Security Council, has said.

But deliberately causing a humanitarian disaster that destroys the lives of an entire civilian population isn't an alternative to war.  It is one.

7. Attacking Iran is not only immoral, it is incontrovertibly illegal. 

Any military campaign against Iran would result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iranians.

As journalist Marsha Cohen pointed out earlier this year, a 2009 study produced for the Center for International and Strategic Studies briefly addressed "the human and environmental human catastrophe that would result just from an attack on the Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr," and determined:
Any strike on the Bushehr Nuclear Reactor will cause the immediate death of thousands of people living in or adjacent to the site, and thousands of subsequent cancer deaths or even up to hundreds of thousands depending on the population density along the contamination plume.
A devastating new analysis on "The Human Cost of Military Strikes Against Iran's Nuclear Facilities" has determined "it is highly likely that the casualty rate at the physical sites will be close to 100 percent" and continues:
Assuming an average two-shift operation, between 3,500 and 5,500 people would be present at the time of the strikes, most of whom would be killed or injured as a result of the physical and thermal impact of the blasts. If one were to include casualties at other targets, one could extrapolate to other facilities, in which case the total number of people killed and injured could exceed 10,000.
David Isenberg, in a Time article on the report, writes that "attacks at Isfahan and Natanz would release existing stocks of fluorine and fluorine compounds which would turn into hydrofluoric acid — a highly-reactive agent that, when inhaled, would make people 'drown in their lungs.' Fluorine gases are more corrosive and toxic than the chlorine gas used in World War I. Once airborne, at lethal concentrations, these toxic plumes could kill virtually all life forms in their path."

He adds:
Aside from the fluorine, the uranium hexafluoride itself also poses dire consequences. The report estimates that if only 5% of 371 metric tons of uranium hexafluoride produced at the Isfahan facility becomes airborne during or after an attack, the toxic plumes could travel five miles with the Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) level of 25 milligrams per cubic liter spreading over 13 square miles:
With prevailing wind directions and speeds at 9.4 miles/hour moving towards the city, in about one hour, this plume could expose some of the 240,000 residents in Isfahan municipality’s eastern districts, particularly districts 4 and 6. At a 20% release, the IDLH plume will travel 9 miles covering 41 square miles and could expose some of the 352,000 residents, mainly in districts 13, 4, and 6, as well as residents in the region north of district 4. If we assume a conservative casualty rate of 5 to 20% among these populations, we can expect casualties in the range of 12,000-70,000 people. [emphasis in original]
Not only would such an attack by unconscionable for moral reasons, an assault on Iranian nuclear facilities, military installments and civilian infrastructure would in no be considered legal.

All so-called "preemptive" military attacks are illegal and explicitly forbidden by Chapter I, Article 2.4 of the United Nations Charter. The Charter also makes clear that it recognizes the "inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations," (Chapter VII, Article 51), which undoubtedly rules out any and all "preemptive," "precautionary," "anticipatory self-defense," or "preventative" military actions of one State against another.

Moreover, following World War II, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg described the willful initiation of a "war of aggression" as "the supreme international crime," a defining tenet of current international law.

"Preemptive self-defense is clearly unlawful under international law," law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell wrote in 2002.  In her extensive analysis, "The Myth of Preemptive Self-Defense," O'Connell explains, "The right of self-defense is limited to the right to use force to repel an attack in progress, to prevent future enemy attacks following an initial attack, or to reverse the consequences of an enemy attack, such as ending an occupation" and also points out that "the United States as a government has consistently supported the prohibition on such preemptive use of force."

O'Connell continues, "the reality is that the United States has no right to use force to prevent possible, as distinct from actual, armed attacks. The further reality is that the United States does not advance its security or its moral standing in the world by doing so." Throughout her paper, O'Connell stresses that all nations are bound by these same rules.

"There is no self-appointed right to attack another state because of fear that the state is making plans or developing weapons usable in a hypothetical campaign," she states, elaborating that "a state may not take military action against another state when an attack is only a hypothetical possibility, and not yet in progress—even in the case of weapons of mass destruction" since even "possession of such weapons without more does not amount to an armed attack."

Also, the simple act of attacking any nation's nuclear facilities is in itself unquestionably illegal.

On September 21, 1990, the IAEA General Conference adopted a resolution during its 332nd plenary meeting which addressed "measures to strengthen international co-operations in matters relating to nuclear safety and radiological protection."

The resolution specifically and unconditionally called for the "Prohibition of all armed attacks against nuclear installations devoted to peaceful purposes whether under construction or in operation."

The resolution refers to an earlier IAEA document which maintains that "any armed attack on and threat against nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes constitutes a violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and the Statute of the Agency" and that warns that "an armed attack on a nuclear installation could result in radioactive releases with grave consequences within and beyond the boundaries of the State which has been attacked."

Furthermore, the resolution "[r]ecognizes that attacks or threats of attack on nuclear facilities devoted to peaceful purposes could jeopardize the development of nuclear energy; [c]onsiders that the safeguards system of the Agency is a reliable means of verifying the peaceful uses of nuclear energy; [r]ecognizes that an armed attack or a threat of armed attack on a safeguarded nuclear facility, in operation or under construction, would create a situation in which the United Nations Security Council would have to act immediately in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Charter; [and e]ncourages all Member States to be ready to provide - if requested - immediate peaceful assistance in accordance with international law to any State whose safeguarded nuclear facilities have been subjected to an armed attack."

It is important to note that while Israel is not a signatory of the NPT, it has however been a member of the IAEA since 1957 and therefore such a resolution is just as binding upon Israel as it is upon all other member states.

The illegality of any Israeli or American attack on Iran is clear.  It would not only be a war crime in the truest sense of the term as articulated by the Nuremberg Tribunal, but it would also constitute a grave crime against humanity due to the inevitable and unavoidable cost of human lives and suffering such an attack would cause.  That both Israel and the United States are naturally aware of such consequences would make any attack all the more despicable and its crimes deliberate.

8. This is really about maintaining unchallenged American and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.

The scariest thing for proponents of American empire and Israeli impunity is the prospect of the U.S. and Israel not being able to invade, occupy, overthrow bomb, blockade and murder at will.  Glenn Greenwald recently pointed out that the real fear over the Iranian program is that "Iranian nuclear weapons would prevent the US from attacking Iran at will, and that is what is intolerable."

Dan Meridor, Israel's Minister for Intelligence and Nuclear Energy as well as a Deputy Prime Minister, revealed the problem in perfectly simple - and excruciatingly patronizing and imperial terms - in April 2011. "No more the responsible adults tell the kids what to do," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "When everybody has the bomb you can't contain or control or interfere as America could do."

In his December 2011 call for the United States to soon launch an unprovoked attack on Iran, Matthew Kroenig wrote in Foreign Affairs that a "nuclear-armed Iran would immediately limit U.S. freedom of action in the Middle East. With atomic power behind it, Iran could threaten any U.S. political or military initiative in the Middle East with nuclear war, forcing Washington to think twice before acting in the region."

The same month, hawkish American Enterprise Institute maven Danielle Pletka admitted, "The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it. It's Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it."

Yet even the mere "breakout capacity" is what worries Israel most.  Writing in Asia Times this past summer, Richard Javad Heydarian explained that "the Iranian nuclear issue is fundamentally about the balance of power in West Asia. Israel is essentially concerned with the emergence of a 'virtual' - possessing a 'break-out' capacity to develop a warhead on a short notice - nuclear-armed state in Tehran, eliminate Israel's regional nuclear monopoly. This would undermine Israel's four decades of strategic impunity to shape the regional environment to its own liking," adding, "Thus, it is crucial for Israel to prevent any Iran-West diplomatic compromise, which will give Tehran a free hand to enhance its regional influence and maintain a robust nuclear infrastructure."

Earlier this year, former CIA and NSA chief under George W. Bush, General Michael Hayden essentially confirmed that opposition to a nuclear-capable Iran has nothing to do with proliferation fears or international law, but rather regional hegemony and regime change. "It's not so much that we don't want Iran to have a nuclear capacity, it's that we don't want this Iran to have it," Hayden told a gathering of analysts, experts and journalists at the Center for the National Interest.  "Slow it down long enough and maybe the character [of the Iranian government] changes."

9. What we won't hear.

The reason we'll be subjected to a quarter-hour of Obama and Romney talking about our unbreakable, unshakeable, sacrosanct, unique special bond and unflinching commitment to Israel's security, how the United States will never allow Iran to threaten our "number one ally in the region," how bumblingbipolar used-car salesmen are deployed by an evil regime to assassinate our best friends' ambassadors and how Iranian leaders threaten Israel with genocidal destruction (something they've never actually done), is because, that way, we won't hear the words "Palestinian human rights," "Israeli war crimes," "apartheid," "occupation," "Gaza," "colonial settlements," "African migrants in internment camps," or "ethnic cleansing."

Get it?

Mission accomplished.


*****

UPDATE:

October 23, 2012 -  While the debate last night went pretty much as expected, one thing specifically caught my attention that perfectly illustrates the absurdity of the political narrative when it comes to Iran.

The Iran-Israel-US-nuclear issue was broached by moderator Bob Schieffer asking the candidates a question based on a hypothetical question:
"Would either of you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States, which, of course, is the same promise that we give to our close allies like Japan."
Both candidates naturally jumped on this opportunity to declare their undying fealty to Israel and boast of their willingness to come to its aid in such a dire circumstance.  Obama insisted, "I will stand with Israel if they are attacked," while Romney bizarrely stated, "If Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily."  Culturally?  Ok, then, but whatever, we know his thoughts on "Israeli culture" vs. "Arab/Muslim culture."

While this is all unsurprising, later in the debate Schieffer asked essentially the same question but from a different angle - this time around Israel was the aggressor, not the victim of an attack.  He asked Romney, "What if the prime minister of Israel called you on the phone and said, 'Our bombers are on the way. We're going to bomb Iran.'"

What was Romney's reply?  "Bob, let's not go into hypotheticals of that nature," he said, before taking the conversation in a totally different direction.

So, apparently, Israel unilaterally attacking Iran - a scenario we hear about daily from not only U.S. officials and media but also directly from the mouths of Israeli officials - is a silly "hypothetical" undeserving of consideration or serious reflection, while a unilateral Iranian attack on Israel - something that literally would never happen and which Iranian leaders have long insisted would never happen - is a reasonable subject worthy of a lengthy response.

Such is the shameful reality of our political discourse.

*****

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Constant Countdown:
Never-Ending Hype, Hysteria, and Hyperbole about Iran's Nuclear Program

The Flower Clock; Tehran, Iran

On Monday evening, the final presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will focus primarily on foreign policy.  Needless to say, the issue of the Iranian nuclear program will feature prominently.  While both the Democratic and Republican tickets are quick to employ bellicose rhetoric and myriad falsehoods regarding the issue, a quick review of the candidates' stated positions shows a slight difference between the two parties.

Taking into account the conclusions of U.S., European and Israeli intelligence agencies, President Obama explained earlier this year that "our assessment, which is shared by the Israelis, is that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and is not yet in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon without us having a pretty long lead time in which we will know that they are making that attempt."


Vice President Joe Biden made the same point during his debate with Romney running mate Paul Ryan.  "The Israelis and the United States," he said, "our military and intelligence communities are absolutely the same exact place in terms of how close the Iranians are to getting a nuclear weapon. They are a good way away. There is no difference between our view and theirs."  Biden went on: "There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know we’ll know if they start the process of building a weapon."


Meanwhile, both Republican candidates have repeated the claims that Iran is now closer than ever to having a nuclear weapon.  On October 11, 2012, Paul Ryan declared during the vice presidential debate, "When Barack Obama was elected, they had enough fissile material -- nuclear material to make one bomb. Now they have enough for five. They're racing toward a nuclear weapon. They're four years closer toward a nuclear weapons capability."


Five days later, on October 16, 2012, Mitt Romney repeated that formulation, warning the town hall debate audience in Hempstead, Long Island, "We have Iran four years closer to a nuclear bomb."


This talking point will surely be repeated on Monday in Boca Raton.


It should also be remembered when the Israeli Prime Minister stood before the Knesset and declared:

"Iran is in the initial stages of an effort to acquire non-conventional capability in general, and nuclear capability in particular. Our assessment is that Iran today has the appropriate manpower and sufficient resources to acquire nuclear arms within 10 years. Together with others in the international community, we are monitoring Iran's nuclear activity. They are not concealing the fact that the possibility that Iran will possess nuclear weapons is worrisome, and this is one of the reasons that we must take advantage of the window of opportunity and advance toward peace."
That address was given in January 1993 by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.  Just as Iran didn't have nuclear weapons ten years later, it still doesn't as 2013 approaches.

It has been nearly two years (22 months, really) since I published "The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran's Nuclear Program," a timeline of constant 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, none of which has ever come true.


Subsequently, over fifty updates - cataloging new alarmist claims and predictions - have been added to the original piece (they can be read here) and a more extensive follow-up was posted in November 2011.


With a renewed spate of relentless warmongering, regurgitated propaganda by U.S. and Israeli officials, and endless talk of red lines, deadlines, end zones, zones of immunity, windows of opportunity and points of no return, it's time for another update.


So, culled from the last eleven months, this never-ending saga continues:


Following a lengthy and thoroughly-overhyped IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear program in November 2011, the media was filled with howls of imminent Iranian atomic bombs and the need to carry out an illegal, unprovoked military attack on Iran.


A Washington Post opinion piece by members of the hawkish Bipartisan Policy Center on November 7, 2011 claimed that, "if it chooses, Iran could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear device in just 62 days using its existing stockpiles and current enrichment capability," but also stated the timeline could be even shorter.  "Once Iran acquires more than 150 kilograms of uranium enriched to 20 percent — which could happen by early 2013 if Iran’s announced plans are realized," Stephen Rademaker and Blaise Misztal wrote, "it would need only 12 days to produce enough fissile material for a bomb."


On November 8, 2011, Simon Henderson of the AIPAC-affiliated Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) suggested "the IAEA report should serve to shift the public debate from whether Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, to how to stop it," while career mouthpiece for the Israeli government Jeffrey Goldberg, wrote in Bloomberg View that the report offered "further proof that the Iranian regime is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons."


A November 9, 2011 editorial in The Guardian noted that, as usual, the latest "flurry of leaks" about the Iranian nuclear program "tend[s] to suggest, without being able to absolutely prove, that Tehran is working to acquire nuclear weapons capacity."  Undaunted by this absence of evidence, the British paper concluded that, not only is it "time to drop the pretence that Iran can be deflected from its nuclear path," but that "[i]t really is time for Iran to drop the pretence that it is not on that path."


Furthermore, editorials in both the The New York Times ("The Truth About Iran") and The Washington Post ("Running Out of Time") endorsed the IAEA's insinuations without the slightest hint of skepticism or scrutiny.  The Times claimed that without "a new round of even tougher sanctions...Iran will keep pushing its nuclear program forward," while the Post, drawing conclusions that are actually rejected by the IAEA itself, stated the latest report "ought to end serious debate about whether Tehran's program is for peaceful purposes," and warned that "the danger is growing, not diminishing," suggesting Iran is "at least a year or more away from completing" a bomb.


The same day, November 9, 2011, analysts for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments stated, "Iran might have both the technology and material to build a nuclear bomb in a matter of months" and recommended that "Obama should take out Iran's nuclear program...before it's too late."


Columnist Carlo Strenger, also writing on November 9, 2011 in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, claimed that the IAEA report "confirmed Israel's and the Western World's fears: there can be no reasonable doubt that Iran is working actively towards the atomic bomb."   Even Ha'aretz's most rational and articulate commentator Gideon Levy fell for the hype, lamenting in his column, "Iran will apparently have an atom bomb, and that is very bad news."


On November 10, 2011, a Ha'aretz editorial declared, "The [latest IAEA] report clearly shows that Iran carried out tests which cannot be interpreted in any way other than as signaling an intent to develop nuclear weapons," while t he same day, The Wall Street Journal ran an opinion piece by then-GOP nomination hopeful Mitt Romney (though certainly written by the war-crazy cabal known as his "foreign policy team") which stated, "Iran is making rapid headway toward its goal of obtaining nuclear weapons."


Also on November 10, 2011, former Director of Policy Planning in the Obama State Department and current Princeton University professor Anne-Marie Slaughter opined that the IAEA report "affirms what western governments already know or believe: that for all the sanctions and diplomacy, Iran continues to make steady progress toward producing a nuclear weapon."


On November 11, 2011, contributing columnist for The New York Times Magazine and ForeignPolicy.com James Traub lamented, "Neither Bush nor Obama has stopped Iran from pursuing a goal to which Iranian leaders are single-mindedly dedicated," adding that "Iran has been seeking for years to develop a nuclear warhead and is continuing to do so."  Traub continued: "Iran is still enriching uranium and is now estimated to have enough to produce four bombs." 


The Wall Street Journal published its own editorial on November 14, 2011, claiming that the new IAEA report "lays to rest the fantasies that an Iranian bomb is many years off" and insisted that "[t]he serious choice now before the Administration is between military strikes and more of the same. As the IAEA report makes painfully clear, more of the same means a nuclear Iran, possibly within a year."


In truth, as acknowledged by Greg Thielmann and Benjamin Loehrke in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:

Most analysts familiar with the report agree that there "is nothing in the report that was not previously known by the governments of the major powers" -- a nuclear Iran is "neither imminent nor inevitable." While it is clear that Iran's continuing research on nuclear weapons is a serious concern for international security, there "has been no smoking gun when it comes to Iran's nuclear weapons intentions."
Thielmann, who is a former State Department and Senate Intelligence Committee analyst, noted further that "there is nothing [in the report] that indicates that Iran is really building a bomb," adding, "Those who want to drum up support for a bombing attack on Iran sort of aggressively misrepresented the report."

Nevertheless, Jerusalem-based right-wing conspiracy theory website DEBKAfile released a new prediction in mid-November 2011. "According to the briefing given to a closed meeting of Jewish leaders in New York...the window of opportunity for stopping Iran attaining a nuclear weapon is closing fast" and "will shut down altogether after late March 2012," the report said.  Why?  Because "intelligence reaching US President Barak Obama is that by April, Iran will already have five nuclear bombs or warheads and military action then would generate a dangerous level of radioactive contamination across the Gulf region, the main source of the world's energy."


On November 20, 2011, CNN aired an interview in which Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Fareed Zakaria that Iran would reach a "zone of immunity" within six to nine months, at which point its nuclear infrastructure would be redundant, dispersed and protected enough to be invulnerable to an attack.  Misunderstanding Barak's allegation, Israeli media outlet Ha'aretz ran the alarming headline "Iran less than a year away from producing nuclear weapon" in anticipation of the broadcast.


Two days later, during a CNN debate between Republican presidential candidates sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and The Heritage Foundation, two neoconservative bellwether organizations, AEI's Danielle Pletka stated that "Iran is probably less than a year away from getting a nuclear weapon" before asking whether anything short of a military assault "could stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon."


Writing in The Washington Post on December 9, 2011, Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Iran Strategy Task Force, a neoconservative pressure group, declared, "The Islamic Republic perceives it can reclaim its international standing better with the bomb," adding that "Iran’s rulers sense that once they obtain the bomb, they can return to the international fold on their own terms."  He repeated this canard numerous times, never providing any evidence for his claims or explaining how Iran will "achieve[] the bomb" without having an active nuclear weapons program.

On December 19, 2011, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, when asked by CBS News anchor Scott Pelley whether "Iran can have a nuclear weapon in 2012," replied, "It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less," but added a "proviso" that, "if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel," the timeline to developing a nuclear weapon would be "on a faster track."  The Pentagon quickly walked back the assertion.

On December 31, 2011, The Wall Street Journal quoted Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti telling reporters, "There is strong concern on the advancement of Iran's nuclear program reaching a point of nonreturn and the strategy, which Italy agrees with, is the urgency to strengthen instruments of pressure on Iran."


In the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, Matthew Kroenig, a former defense and Iran policy strategist for U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, published a call for the United States to launch an unprovoked and wholly illegal attack on Iran, citing Institute for Science and International Security "estimates that Iran could now produce its first nuclear weapon within six months of deciding to do so."


On January 4 and January 6, 2012, Reuters reporter Fredrik Dahl wrote that "Western experts give different estimates of how quickly Iran could assemble a nuclear weapon if it decides to do so - ranging from as little as six months to a year or more."


On January 8, 2012, Defense Secretary Panetta told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation that the United States will take all necessary measures to make sure Iran "cannot continue to do what they're doing," adding, "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us."


On January 9, 2012, David Sanger of The New York Times noted, "Already Iran has produced enough fuel to manufacture about four weapons, but only if the fuel goes through further enrichment, nuclear experts say."


The following day, January 10, 2012, the Times of London claimed that a recent Israeli security report revealed "Israel is preparing for Iran to become a nuclear power and has accepted it may happen within a year."


On January 11, 2012, Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman issued a joint press release that stated, "Despite the increased sanctions put in place over the last several years, the American people should have no illusions: time is now quickly running out to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran."  The statement called upon Congress to officially rule out "containment" as a policy option "should economic and diplomatic pressure fail to force Iran to abandon its pursuit of acquiring nuclear weapons."


On January 12, 2012, retired U.S. General Barry McCaffrey delivered a briefing to senior executives and producers at NBC News in which he determined that Iran "will not under any circumstances actually be deterred from going nuclear" and predicted that it "will achieve initial nuclear capability within 36 months."  He also concluded that, not only will Iran instigate a major war against the United States, it will acquire "a nuclear capability of dozens of weapons within 60 months with the missile and fighter delivery systems required to strike targets in Israel, the GCC states, and regional US military forces."


On January 13, 2012, Fox News contributor Liz Cheney asserted on Fox and Friends that Iran (which she accidentally called "Iraq") was merely "months, not years, away" from enriching enough uranium needed for a nuclear weapon.


On January 16, 2012, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal published a dazzlingly Orientalist and bloodthirsty article entitled "The Intrigues of Persia," which praised the then-recent murder of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, claiming - without providing evidence, of course - he "was engaged in building a nuclear bomb in violation of four binding U.N. Security Council resolutions."  The piece also described the Iranian government as an "evil regime" and insisted "the mullahs...are building a bomb," the success of which is now "closer than ever."


On January 17, 2012, Jamie Fly, head of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative, co-authored (with AEI staffer Gary Schmitt) a call to arms for Foreign Affairs that opens by claiming Iran is "mov[ing] closer to achieving [its] goal" of acquiring nuclear weapons.  While commending Kroenig's suggestion that the United States immediately bomb Iranian nuclear infrastructure, Fly and Schmitt go even further, stating that "it would be better to plan an operation that not only strikes the nuclear program but aims to destabilize the regime, potentially resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis once and for all."  This would require, not only a "massive strike," but an "extended campaign" targeting "key command and control elements of the Republican Guard and the intelligence ministry, and facilities associated with other key government officials." In other words: war.

A blockbuster article by Ronen Bergman, senior political and military analyst for the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, published in The New York Times on January 25, 2012, quotes Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon (who is also Minister of Strategic Affairs) as saying, "Our policy is that in one way or another, Iran's nuclear program must be stopped. It is a matter of months before the Iranians will be able to attain military nuclear capability."  Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak tells Bergman that "no more than one year remains to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weaponry."


Bergman also writes, "According to latest intelligence, Iran now has some 10,000 functioning centrifuges, and they have streamlined the enrichment process. Iran today has five tons of low-grade fissile material, enough, when converted to high-grade material, to make about five to six bombs," and adds, "It is believed that Iran’s nuclear scientists estimate that it will take them nine months, from the moment they are given the order, to assemble their first explosive device and another six months to be able to reduce it to the dimensions of a payload for their Shahab-3 missiles, which are capable of reaching Israel."


As a result, Bergman concludes, "After speaking with many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of the military and the intelligence, I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012."

Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, stated on January 25, 2012, "Never has it been so clear Iran is seeking to build a nuclear weapon. Now is the time to act. Tomorrow is too late. The stakes are too high. The price of inaction is too great."  Prosor also declared that "Tehran’s efforts to enrich uranium to 20 percent-levels at its reactor in Qom could serve no other plausible aim other than to develop an atomic bomb," despite the fact that such enrichment is known to be used in the creation of medical isotopes that treat cancer patients.

On January 26, 2012, Reuters reporter Frederik Dahl wrote, "The IAEA issued a detailed report in November that laid bare a trove of intelligence suggesting Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability," and added that "some experts say" Iran "could have the potential to build at least one nuclear device as early as next year."


On the January 29, 2012 edition of 60 Minutes, Defense Secretary Panetta again addressed the Iranian nuclear program.  "The consensus is that, if they decided to do it, it would probably take them about a year to be able to produce a bomb," he said, "and then possibly another one to two years in order to put it on a deliverable vehicle of some sort in order to deliver that weapon."


At the same time, Israeli military chief Benny Gantz said he had "no doubt" Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons and Defense Minister Barak warned, "We must not waste time on this matter; the Iranians continue to advance, identifying every crack and squeezing through. Time is urgently running out."


On February 2, 2012, Director of Israeli Military Intelligence Major General Aviv Kochavi told a panel at the Herzliya Conference that "Iran is vigorously pursing military nuclear capabilities and today the intelligence community agrees with Israel on that" and assessed that "Iran has enough nuclear material for four bombs."  Kochavi said, "We have conclusive evidence that they are after nuclear weapons," adding, "When Khamenei gives the order to produce the first nuclear weapon – it will be done, we believe, within one year."  A year earlier, in late January 2011, Kochavi went on record saying Iran was not actively working on a nuclear weapon, but could build one in "a year or two" once "the leader decides to begin enriching at 90 percent."  Kochavi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, "At the moment, it's not in Iran's interest to move their programme ahead."


Disgraced war propagandist Judith Miller posted an article entitled, "5 Minutes to Midnight," on February 8, 2012, in which she warned, "The clock on Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon is ticking," before launching into a litany of Israeli talking points which reveal her deep commitment to warmongering, in addition to her complete misunderstanding of the historical facts and actual consequences of Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981 and the difference between Iran's Fordow enrichment facility and the Tehran Research Reactor.

On February 17, 2012, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom announced on MSNBC, "Everyone now knows most of the world, if not all the world, knows the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear bomb. It's out of the question. They have all the proof. Everyone knows the security and intelligence of the western world knows very well the Iranians are developing a nuclear bomb, and they should be stopped."

At the same time, Netanyahu's former chief of staff, the Zionist extremist Naftali Bennett, told Mike Huckabee on FoxNews that "Iran is racing towards acquiring a nuclear weapon; we're at the very last moment. This is going to be the first time in world history that a maniacal, radical Islamic regime will acquire a nuclear weapon. The day after they have a bomb will be a different day for the entire world...We have to stop them and, yes, it is imminent."  Naftali added, "A year from now it's going to be a whole different ballgame."

On February 19, 2012, Vienna-based George Jahn, the ever-willing conduit for Israeli propaganda, hysteria and disinformation regarding the Iranian nuclear program, claimed in the Associated Press that, according to anonymous "diplomats," Iranian advances in uranium enrichment "boost how quickly it could make nuclear warheads."

On February 23, 2012, The Los Angeles Times' Ken Dilanian wrote that, although "U.S. intelligence agencies don't believe Iran is actively trying to build an atomic bomb," David Albright's Institute for Science and International Security estimates Iran "could enrich uranium to sufficient purity to make a bomb in as little as six months, should it decide to do so."  The article also states that "Albright and many other experts believe that if it decides to proceed, the country has the scientific knowledge to design and build a crude working bomb in as little as a year" and that it would take three years "for Iran to build a warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile."

On March 5, 2012, David Albright's Institute for Science and International Security released a report claiming that "Iran is already capable of making weapon-grade uranium and a crude nuclear explosive device" and cataloging the different routes Iran might take to obtain a nuclear weapon by 2015.


The same day, in a Washington Post oped, Mitt Romney wrote that a "feckless" Obama had allowed Iran, with its "nuclear-bomb program," to make "rapid progress toward obtaining the most destructive weapons in the history of the world."

On March 6, 2012, Mark Fitzpatrick, Director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies wrote that "Iran already is nuclear capable" and "has everything it needs to be able to manufacture a nuclear weapon. All it would take is a political decision and time."


The next day, on March 7, 2012, Israeli Prime Minister was interviewed on Fox News by Greta van Susteren, who asked "What's the timeline? How much time do we have?"  Netanyahu replied, "Every day that passes makes it closer and closer."  When van Susteren pressed, "Is it weeks, months, or years?," the Israeli leader declared, "It was a lot further away 15 years ago when I started talking about it. It was a lot further away 10 years ago. It was a lot further away five years. It was a lot further away five months ago. They are getting there, and they are getting very, very close."


On March 18, 2012, an Associated Press report noted Israeli concerns that the Iranian nuclear program may be allowed "to reach the point where there is enough enriched weapons grade material that a bomb could quickly be assembled, within a year."


Five days later, on March 23, 2012, Reuters published a "Special Report" that laid bare the hysteria over the Iran nuclear program.  "The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran's nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead," Reuters stated plainly.  "Those conclusions, drawn from extensive interviews with current and former U.S. and European officials with access to intelligence on Iran, contrast starkly with the heated debate surrounding a possible Israeli strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities."


Nevertheless, on April 5, 2012, Ehud Barak told Fareed Zakaria on CNN that, with regard to the goal of stopping Iran's "nuclear military program," Israel has "limited time. We don't have to make a decision next week and we cannot wait years."


On May 7, 2012, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stated in an interview with CBC that Iran could "very quickly" produce a nuclear weapons if it so desired.  After compiling "all the ingredients" for a bomb, Baird suggested, "they could certainly dash to the end which could be done in as few as nine or as many as 18 months."


On May 10, 2012, career warmonger Marc Theissen insisted that "Iran is determined to obtain a nuclear weapon" and claimed that "made more progress toward this goal in the past three years under Obama than it has in the three decades since the Iranian Revolution."  He condemned the incumbent administration's handling of the Iranian nuclear issue, claiming, "Before Obama took office, Iran needed months to make a dash to a bomb. Today, it could make that dash in a matter of weeks." Theissen concluded that "the Iranian regime has developed a rapid nuclear weapons breakout capability on President Obama's watch" and that "Iran is closer than ever to building a nuclear bomb."


On May 25, 2012, David Albright and his staff at the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) calculated that Iran had already stockpiled enough 3.5% low enriched uranium that "if further enriched to weapon grade" could "make over five nuclear weapons."


In the May/June 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, USC professor Jacques E. C. Hymans pointed out that despite the "underlying assumption" that, unless challenged violently, Iran will soon acquired nuclear weapons, "there is another possibility."  Hymans explains, "The Iranians had to work for 25 years just to start accumulating uranium enriched to 20 percent, which is not even weapons grade. The slow pace of Iranian nuclear progress to date strongly suggests that Iran could still need a very long time to actually build a bomb -- or could even ultimately fail to do so."


A veritable who's-who of warmongering neocons including Elliott Abrams, Matthew Kroenig and Ray Takeyh published a monograph in June 2012 entitled, "Iran: The Nuclear Challenge," which states, "Nongovernment experts believe that if Iran made the decision to enrich to a higher level today, it could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb in four months. The same experts estimate that by the end of 2012 the time might be as little as one month...Extrapolating from these estimates leads to public estimates that it would take Iran about a year to produce such a nuclear weapon if it decided to do so."


On June 15, 2012, David Albright and crew were back with a new assessment of Iran's breakout capabilities, reporting that "Iran will have enough [19.75% low enriched uranium] by early next year, if further enriched to weapon-grade in a breakout, for a nuclear weapon," but adding that "it could have enough...for a nuclear weapon by the end of 2012."  Albright also concludes, "Production of enough for a second nuclear weapon would take many additional months," estimating Iran "would have enough for a second weapon in about October 2013. By November 2015, Iran would have enough for three to almost five nuclear weapons."


In late June 2012, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted by Foreign Policy as saying, "In my judgment...if nothing will be done about it, within several years Iran will turn nuclear."


On July 13, 2012, the British press quoted Sir John Sawers, the head of MI6, Britain's international espionage agency, as telling a gathering of civil servants that without risks taken by his intelligence operatives, "you'd have Iran as a nuclear weapons state in 2008, rather than still being two years away in 2012." Predictable hysteria ensued.


On August 3, 2012, RAND policy analyst Alireza Nader stated the obvious: "According to the U.S. intelligence community, the Iranian leadership hasn't even made the decision to weaponize their program.  They've been creating the technical know-how and the infrastructure, but they haven't made that decision, and there is much more time than the Israelis portray there to be. I don't think an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is inevitable or imminent."


On August 5, 2012, Israeli daily Ynet reported that Netanyahu estimates that "Iran is a few months away from becoming nuclear," quoting the Prime Minister as predicting, "The time frame isn't measured in days or weeks, but not in years either."


On August 9, 2012, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor confirmed, "We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon," in response to reports that Iran had made "significant and surprising progress toward military nuclear capability."


Nevertheless, on August 22, 2012, Jonathan Tobin of Commentary Magazine questioned the efficacy of "President Obama’s pledge to stop the Iranian threat," and warning that "time [is] running out before Iran's nuclear progress renders a strike impossible."

On August 24, 2012, The Los Angeles Times stated, "At its current pace, by next year Iran may be able produce enough fuel for a bomb within two months," according to timeline favorite David Albright.  The report continues, "Fairly soon after that, as Iran continues to add to its centrifuge capacity, the time will be reduced to one month, he said in an interview.  'You will see much shorter breakout times coming into play early next year or late this year,' he said, referring to the time Iran would need should it choose to rush to build a nuclear weapon. 'You have this growing enrichment capability that starts to get the breakout down to an order of a month.'"


On September 4, 2012, former director of the CIA Michael Hayden told Ha'aretz, ""While it is probably true that the so-called 'window' regarding effective action is closing, there is still some time, as real decisions are to be made in 2013 or 2014."


On September 7, 2012, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers revealed that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that if Iranian leaders "decide to do the dash" for nuclear weapons, it could take a s little as "four weeks to eight weeks" for Iran to acquire an atomic bomb.  Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence analysts believe it would "take a little longer than that," Rogers said. "But the problem is nobody really knows for sure."


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking on CBS' "This Morning" on September 11, 2012, said that, were Iran to make the decision to develop a nuclear weapon, the U.S. would have "roughly about a year right now" to take action to halt such a process. "A little more than a year. And so...we think we will have the opportunity once we know that they've made that decision, take the action necessary to stop [them]," Panetta revealed, adding that the U.S. has "pretty good intelligence" on Iran. "We know generally what they're up to," he said. "And so we keep a close track on them."


The same day, Associated Press' George Jahn reported, according to unnamed "diplomats," that the IAEA "has received new and significant intelligence over the past month that Iran has moved further toward the ability to build a nuclear weapon."  Jahn breathlessly repeated the allegations of these "diplomats," who told him that classified intelligence information "
from Israel, the United States and at least two other Western countries" demonstrates that "Iran has advanced its work on calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead through a series of computer models that it ran sometime within the past three years."

On September 11, 2012, Commentary Magazine's Jonathan Tobin wrote that without presenting Iran with deadlines and "red lines" as demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "time may soon run out on any chance for the West to stop Iran."

In mid-September 2012, a bipartisan report spearheaded by William Luers, Austin Long, Thomas Pickering and Colin Kahl and endorsed by over thirty former government officials and security experts, including General Anthony Zinni, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Brent Scowcroft, Dick Armitage, Leslie Gelb, Admiral James Fallon, Admiral Joe Sestak, Anne Marie Slaughter, Chuck Hagel, Paul Volcker, Lee Hamilton, Zbigniew Brezinski, Nicholas Burns, and Joe Cirincione, determined, "Conservatively, it would take Iran a year or more to build a military-grade weapon, with at least two years or more required to create a nuclear warhead that would be reliably deliverable by a missile."


On September 14, 2012, deputy speaker of the Knesset Danny Danon wrote an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times advocating an illegal military attack on Iran, claiming that Iran is "developing its nuclear program at an alarming rate."


On a September 16, 2012 Sunday morning panel, ABC News reporter Brian Ross claimed that Iran was "four to six weeks away" from acquiring a nuclear weapon, "if they made the decision to do it." Ross justified his assessment by adding, "That’s some of the intelligence."  In response, Christiane Amanpour countered, "That has been so vastly disproved. Others say that it could be a year. So, this is a guessing game that has gone on for years."


The same day, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk said on Face the Nation that, while "Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon," there is only "perhaps six months" before it achieves that capability, leading him to predict that "2013 is going to be a year in which we're going to have a military confrontation with Iran."


Also that day, September 16, 2012, Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared on CNN, warning that Iran "moving very rapidly to completing the enrichment of the uranium that they need to produce a nuclear bomb. In six months or so they'll be 90 percent of the way there."


On September 24, 2012, Israeli UN representative Ron Prosor issued a condemnatory statement about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad which read, in part, "Three thousand years of Jewish history illustrate the clear danger of ignoring fanatics like Iran’s president, especially as he inches closer to acquiring nuclear weapons."


On September 25, 2012, PBS correspondent Margaret Warner remarked that Iran has "so much uranium they can break out in a matter of weeks or months and make a weapon."


On September 26, 2012, Iran attack enthusiast John Bolton opined, "Tehran is perilously close to achieving nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for worldwide delivery," stating that the nuclear program is "far too advanced" to be stopped by anything other than a military assault. "And because the world's intelligence on Iran is imperfect," Bolton added, "Iran may be even closer to a nuclear bomb than we think."


The next day, September 27, 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu descended upon the United Nations General Assembly, cartoon bomb diagram in tow.  He bellowed that Iran is "70 percent of the way" to stockpiling enough enriched uranium needed for a nuclear bomb.  "And by next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb."


In response to Netanyahu's absurd performance, perennial alarmist Jeffrey Goldberg huffed and puffed, "Netanyahu's constant threats, and warnings, about Iran's nuclear program have undermined Israel's deterrent capability. Netanyahu spent much of this year arguing, privately and publicly, that soon it would be too late to stop the Iranians from moving their centrifuges fully underground. He knows full well that the Iranians could soon enter the so-called zone of immunity, by moving the bulk of their centrifuges into the Fordow facility, where Israeli bombs can't reach. But he's now kicked the can down the road until next spring."

On October 2, 2012, Reuters' Frederik Dahl posted an extensive run-down of current assessments regarding the Iranian nuclear program.  "Iran already has enough low-enriched uranium for several atomic bombs if refined to a high degree but it may still be a few years away from being able to build a nuclear-armed missile if it decided to go down that path," he begins.


"I still think that we are talking about several years...before Iran could develop a nuclear weapon and certainly before they could have a deliverable nuclear weapon," said Shannon Kile, head of the Nuclear Weapons Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.


Greg Jones, a senior researcher at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and world-class Iran hysteric, claimed that "Iran could refine uranium for a nuclear weapon in 10 weeks and produce the required non-nuclear components in six months or less, he said, adding this could be done simultaneously."


An anonymous Israeli official told Reuters reporter Dan Williams, "Once Iran gets its first device, no matter how rudimentary, it's a nuclear power and a nuclear menace. With that said, we have always noted that, from this threshold, it would take Iran another two years or so to make a deployable warhead."


On October 4, 2012, IISS' Mark Fitzpatrick wrote in Canada's Global Brief that "Iran continues to move closer to a virtual weapons status," suggesting that "by mid-2013, Iran will have enough low-enriched uranium (LEU), if further enriched, for perhaps six weapons."  He also noted, "As of late summer 2012, Iran was still several months away from being able to make a successful dash for nuclear weapons. Producing missile-deliverable weapons would take longer."  Nevertheless, "As Iran’s stockpile of enrichment uranium increases," Fitzpatrick hedged, "the timelines shorten."


On October 8, 2012, David Albright of ISIS issued a new report which found that it would take "at least two to four months" for Iran to enrich enough weapons-grade uranium to produce a single nuclear bomb, while Mitt Romney delivered a foreign policy stump speech at the Virginia Military Institute, in which he declared, "Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability. It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies, and to us."


On October 9, 2012, Jay Solomon wrote in The Wall Street Journal

On October 11, 2012, Oxford Analytica, a global corporate and governmental consulting firm, reported that Iran had already acquired enough "enriched uranium nuclear fuel to get breakout capability but the extra steps to produce a weapon [would] take months."


The fever-pitched predictions over just how imminent and inevitable an Iranian nuclear weapon will surely continue unabated, regardless of how many decades Iranian leaders consistently deny such intentions or how many IAEA reports affirm Iran has never diverted any nuclear material to a weapons program or even had a weapons program in the first place.

That's why Monday night, Mitt Romney will repeat the disingenuous claim that "Iran is four years closer to nuclear weapons" while Obama will praise his policy of collective punishment of a civilian population over a nuclear weapons program even he has admitted doesn't even exist.


It is no wonder that a Zogby poll from late February 2012 found that 78% of Americans "believe Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons production."  Quite simply, in our current debate, facts just don't matter.

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UPDATE:

October 30, 2012 - In an interview with The Telegraph, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that recent confirmation that over a third of Iran's stockpile of 20% enriched uranium has been converted to fuel plates, making the material virtually impossible to weaponize, "allows contemplating delaying the moment of truth by eight to 10 months."

So, everyone, get ready for a new round of Israeli hysteria and threats to bomb Iran around June 2013, if not before then.  Around and around we go.

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