Monday, March 14, 2016

Putting A Lid On Clinton's Erroneous Iranian "Nuclear Weapons Program" Talking Point

Hillary Clinton walks onstage at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before the February 11, 2016 Democratic debate.

(Credit: AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Marco Rubio isn't the only presidential candidate who robotically regurgitates the same irritating sound bite over and over again.

In early July 2015, as negotiations over Iran's nuclear program and international sanctions entered their final stage, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was campaigning at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. "I so hope that we are able to get a deal in the next week that puts a lid on Iran's nuclear weapons program," she told the crowd.

On July 14, the day the deal was reached, she repeated the idiom twice, calling the agreement "an important step in putting the lid on Iran's nuclear program" and telling the press that while the accord "does put a lid on the nuclear program... we still have a lot of concern about the bad behavior and the actions by Iran."

Later that month, while stumping in Iowa, Clinton told a crowd of her supporters, "I don't trust the Iranians, nobody should trust the Iranians. We're not expecting some kind of transformation on their part. This is a hard-headed agreement to put a lid on their nuclear weapons program."

Back in New Hampshire that August, Clinton insisted, "We have a lot of other challenges posed by Iran. But personally as your future president, I'd rather be dealing with those challenges knowing that we have slowed down and put a lid on their nuclear weapons programs."

The following month, the Clinton campaign had returned to Iowa, where the presidential hopeful said, "I support the president's agreement with Iran," adding that "it's the best alternative we have to put a lid their nuclear weapons program."

On the January 17, 2016 edition of Meet The Press, Clinton told Chuck Todd, "Look, I have said for a long time that I'm very proud of the role that I played in getting us to the point where we could negotiate the agreement that puts a lid on Iran's nuclear weapons program."

During the February 4 Democratic debate, she again said the Iran deal "puts a lid on the nuclear weapons program."

At a debate in Wisconsin a week later, Clinton boasted (seemingly to the tune of "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly") that she "put together the coalition that imposed the sanctions on Iran that got us to the negotiating table to put a lid on their nuclear weapons program." She later said, "I think we have achieved a great deal with the Iranian nuclear agreement to put a lid on the Iranian nuclear weapons program."

During a Town Hall last night, Clinton laid out her version of Iranian nuclear history:
They had built covert fuel facilities. They had stocked them with centrifuges, all of that had happened while George W. Bush was president. And we had done, you know, sanctions, and everything that we could think of as the United States government and Congress, but it had not stopped them.

And there were a lot of other countries in the region who said they would take military action if necessary. So I led the effort to impose sanctions on Iran, to really bring them to the negotiating table, the negotiations started under my watch, ably concluded under Secretary Kerry, to put a lid on the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Clearly, Clinton thinks this particular idiom will resonate with a largely uninformed American public that has been trained to believe that, before her heroic sanctions and the eventual deal, Iran had been desperately trying to build a nuclear weapon. "By 2009," her campaign website reads, "Iran was racing toward its goal—and a lot of Western nations felt powerless to stop them."

But here's the thing: none of that is true.

Iran Doesn't and Didn't Have a Nuclear Weapons Program - and Never Has

International intelligence assessments have consistently affirmed that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. What Iran does have, however, is a nuclear energy program with uranium enrichment facilities, all of which are perfectly legal and protected under international law. All Iran's nuclear facilities and fissile material is under international safeguards, strictly monitored and routinely inspected by the IAEA. No move to divert nuclear material to military or weaponization purposes has ever been detected. These facts have been consistently affirmed by U.S., British, Russian, and even Israeli intelligence, as well as the IAEA. In fact, the IAEA itself has said in the past that there is "no concrete proof" Iran's nuclear program "has ever had" a military component.

Hysteria over an imaginary Iranian "race" toward a obtaining a nuclear bomb has been exploited over the past three decades to justify sanctions, threats and covert actions against Iran in the hopes of overthrowing the government that came to power after ousting the U.S.-backed Shah in 1979.

Even claims that Iran had a dedicated nuclear weapons program before 2003 are dubious at best, and rely on evidence that is most likely completely fabricated and whose authenticity was repeatedly questioned by the IAEA. As former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei noted in his 2011 memoir, "Age of Deception," U.S. intelligence officials "did not share the supposed evidence that had led them to confirm the existence of a past Iranian nuclear [weapons] program, other than to refer to the same unverified set of allegations about weaponization studies that had already been discussed with the Agency."

In fact, even the "Final Assessment" of Iran's alleged past weapons work, published last December by the IAEA, was a dud. The agency concluded that "a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place after 2003," and that "these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities." Moreover, the IAEA affirmed - as it has for the past decade - that there were "no credible indications of the diversion of nuclear material" from Iran's nuclear energy program to a possible parallel military effort.

After reviewing these findings, former weapons inspector Scott Ritter insisted, "There hasn't been a more meaningless conclusion of such an over-hyped issue since the CIA assessed that Iraq had 'dozens of WMD program-related activities' in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation of that country." Beyond this, Ritter adds that even the supposed "range of activities relevant" to a nuclear weapon "are far less threatening than the ominous description provided by the IAEA would lead one to believe. In every case, the IAEA was either forced to concede that their information was baseless (allegations concerning the manufacture of "uranium metal," for instance), or else could be explained through 'alternative applications' involving Iranian commercial and military activities unrelated to the Iranian nuclear program."

Reading even further between the lines, nonproliferation expert and international law professor Dan Joyner has noted that the IAEA assessment wholly vindicates Iran against allegations that its past activities violated its legal obligations. He wrote that the IAEA has "now given its opinion that Iran has not violated NPT Article II through any of the alleged PMD activities, because none of the assessed activities can be said to rise to the prohibited level of the manufacture or other acquisition of a nuclear explosive device." Also, because there was never any diversion of nuclear material from peaceful to military uses, the IAEA had effectively "determined that none of these activities constituted a violation of Iran’s safeguards obligations. As Article 1 of Iran's comprehensive safeguards agreement makes explicit, the IAEA's safeguards activities in Iran are implemented 'for the exclusive purpose of verifying that such material is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.'"

Bet you don't hear that in the press or shouted from podiums often.

Iran Didn't Build 'Covert Fuel Facilities'

Neither of Iran's two uranium enrichment facilities - at Natanz and Fordow - was ever operational without strict IAEA safeguards in place. Both of them were declared to the agency well in advance of opening and long before any nuclear material was introduced to the plants or the centrifuges installed in them. Since coming online, both facilities have been routinely and rigorously monitored and inspected by IAEA personnel. No diversion of nuclear material to weapons work has ever been found or suspected.

No One Was Going to Attack Iran

A common refrain heard consistently for decades now is that the "clock is ticking" and "time is running out" to end the nuclear impasse peacefully because Israel, or the U.S. itself, is on the verge of bombing Iran. This is all bluster and chest-thumping.

It was never actually going to happen - and still won't. Such threats lent credibility to and deflected criticism of successive administrations' negotiations with Iran, nothing more. If the American public thought an attack was imminent, the reasoning went, they'd support diplomacy over war and any negotiated outcome could be seen as a victory for the West. The supposed pending attack on Iran is the ultimate straw man. This is literally how propaganda works.

Clinton Was Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Hillary Clinton has long been touting her own role in kickstarting negotiations with Iran that eventually led to a multilateral deal. But Clinton did nearly nothing to advance the talks and, throughout her political career has done everything she could to threaten Iran, support confrontation and stall diplomacy.

It was Clinton who, during her time as Secretary of State, held fast to the Bush administration's (and Israeli government's) outrageous insistence that Iran forego its legal rights and curtail all domestic uranium enrichment. Iranian offers to negotiate a deal since 2005 were routinely rejected by the United States government, which long maintained the irrational position that Iran capitulate to the American demand of zero enrichment on Iranian soil.

Clinton also killed a potential deal over a nuclear fuel swap in 2009 because she refused to negotiate minor details with Iran, instead demanding that Iran "accept the agreement as proposed because we are not altering it." What a diplomat.

What made successful diplomacy with Iran possible was not, as so many like Clinton still erroneously claim, the devastating sanctions imposed on the Iranian people or even the 2013 election of Hassan Rouhani, it was the Obama administration's eventual abandonment of the "zero enrichment" demand.

Though Clinton did authorize (at the behest of President Obama) backchannel talks with Iran to proceed 2011 and 2012, no real progress was made toward a solution to the enrichment impasse. As Laura Rozen has revealed, it wasn't until early 2013, after John Kerry succeeded Clinton as Secretary of States, that talks bore fruit.

"At the March 2013 Oman meeting," Rozen reported in August 2015, "then-Deputy Secretary of State William Burns conveyed a message from Obama that he would be prepared to accept a limited domestic enrichment program in Iran as part of an otherwise acceptable final Iran nuclear deal."

This dropping of the "zero enrichment" demand effectively opened the door for acknowledging (albeit implicitly) Iran's right to enrich and for negotiations to move forward productively.

Clearly, the biggest obstacle Iranian negotiators had to deal with on their way to a deal was Clinton herself.

It's about time Clinton put a lid on her own lies.


No comments: