By once again blowing the chance to close a nuclear deal with Iran, the U.S. and its western partners have set themselves up for escalating the conflict with the Islamic republic
The most recent round of nuclear talks between the P5+1 were, by any meaningful measure, a failure. Even as she sought to put the best face possible on the non-outcome in Almaty, Kazakhstan last month, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton had to acknowledge that western members of the P5+1 and Iran “remain far apart on substance.”
Western officials blame the failure either on the Islamic Republic’s upcoming presidential election or on that old fallback, Iranian “intransigence.” In reality, talks failed because America and its western partners remain unwilling to recognise Iran’s right to enrich uranium under international safeguards.
U.S. strategic culture
As a sovereign state, Iran is entitled to enrich, if it chooses; as a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it is entitled to do so under safeguards. The NPT explicitly recognises signatories’ “inalienable right” to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. That this inalienable right includes the right to enrich is clear from the NPT itself, its negotiating history, and decades of state practice, with at least a dozen non-weapons state parties having developed safeguarded fuel-cycle infrastructures potentially able to support weapons programmes.
If Washington recognised Iran’s right to enrich, a nuclear deal with Tehran could be reached in a matter of weeks. As long as Washington refuses to acknowledge Tehran’s nuclear rights, no substantial agreement will be possible.
Yet the Obama administration is no closer than its processor to accepting safeguarded enrichment in Iran. This is partly due to pressure from various allies — Israel, Saudi Arabia, Britain, France — and their American supporters, who expect Washington somehow to defy legal principle along with political reality and compel Tehran to surrender its indigenous fuel-cycle capabilities.
But the real reason for U.S. obstinacy is that recognising Iran’s nuclear rights would mean accepting the Islamic Republic as a legitimate entity representing legitimate national interests. No American administration since the Iranian Revolution — not even that of Barack Hussein Obama — has been willing to do this.
Washington’s unwillingness is grounded in some unattractive, but fundamental, aspects of American strategic culture: difficulty in coming to terms with independent power centres (whether globally or in vital regions like the Middle East); hostility to non-liberal states, unless they subordinate their foreign policies to U.S. preferences (as Egypt did under Sadat and Mubarak); and an unreflective but deeply rooted sense that U.S.-backed norms, legal rules, and transnational decision-making processes are meant to constrain others, not America itself.
Because these attitudes are so fundamental, it is unlikely that Obama will invest the political capital required to bring America’s Iran policy in line with strategic reality before his presidency ends. And so the controversy over Iran’s nuclear activities will grind on.
The world has experienced such diplomatic stasis before. In 2003-2005, Britain, France, and Germany worked (ostensibly) to prepare a nuclear settlement with Tehran; Iran suspended enrichment for nearly two years to encourage diplomatic progress. The initiative failed because the George W. Bush administration refused to join the talks unless Tehran was willing to abandon pursuit of indigenous fuel-cycle capabilities.
In 2009-2010, efforts to negotiate the exchange of most of Iran’s then-stockpile of enriched uranium for fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor collapsed for similar reasons. In the May 2010 Tehran Declaration brokered by Brazil and Turkey, Iran accepted all of Washington’s terms for a fuel swap, yet the Obama administration rejected the Declaration because it openly recognised Iran’s right to enrich. Three years later, the administration is once again undermining chances for diplomatic success with its inflexibility regarding Iran’s nuclear rights.
The world has also seen what happens when America and its European partners demonstrate such bad faith in nuclear diplomacy with Tehran — Iran expands its nuclear infrastructure and capabilities. When Iran broke its nearly two-year suspension of enrichment in 2005, it could run less than a thousand centrifuges; today, it has installed 12,000 centrifuges, more than 9,000 of which process uranium gas to produce enriched uranium. In February 2010, Iran began enriching uranium to the near-20 per cent level needed to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) after the U.S. and its partners refused to sell the fuel; Iran consistently offered to suspend near-20 per cent enrichment if it could obtain an adequate fuel supply for the TRR. After the Obama administration torpedoed the Tehran Declaration, Iran accelerated its production of near-20 per cent uranium and began indigenously manufacturing fuel plates for the TRR.
With America and its European partners once again blowing an opening to accept Tehran’s nuclear rights and close a nuclear deal, we are likely to see another surge of expansion in Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Certainly, Iran will continue enriching, at the three to four per cent level needed for power reactors and at the near-20 per cent level needed for the TRR, and installing more efficient second-generation centrifuges. Iran also appears to be on track to commission a heavy water reactor at Arak next year.
Although the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) consistently certifies that no nuclear materials have been diverted from Iran’s safeguarded nuclear facilities, all of these steps will be cited by Israel, the pro-Israel lobby in Washington, and other constituencies in the U.S. hankering for military action as evidence that time for diplomacy with Tehran has run out. Additionally, it is possible that the Islamic Republic will find legitimate reasons to begin enriching above the 20 per cent level. While such higher-level enrichment would be done under IAEA safeguards, this would also be interpreted in the U.S. and Israel as provocative Iranian “escalation.”
Pressure on Obama
Obama would prefer to avoid another U.S.-initiated war in the Middle East. But his unwillingness to revive America’s deteriorating regional position through serious nuclear diplomacy with Tehran will increase pressure on him to order U.S. military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities before the end of his presidency.
Rather than openly abandon the delusion of U.S. hegemony in the Middle East, Obama will try to placate more hawkish elements by escalating America’s ongoing “dirty war” against the Islamic Republic — including economic warfare against civilians, threatening secondary sanctions against third countries in violation of U.S. WTO commitments, cyber-attacks, and support for groups doing things inside Iran that Washington elsewhere condemns as “terrorism,” stoking sectarian tensions, and fuelling further violence in Syria to prevent Tehran from “winning” there. But that, too, will only further destabilise the Middle East and bring American and Iran ever closer to the brink of overt confrontation.
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett are authors of Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran, New York: Metropolitan, 2013. They teach international relations, he at Penn State, she at American University.
- Nuclear Iran: What’s at Stake for the BRICS (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Flynt Leverett: U.S. Is Engaged in A Dirty War against Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
It could take 30 to 40 years to fully decommission the devastated Fukushima nuclear plant due to complexity of the task, UN nuclear watchdog IAEA has reported. However, the plant’s infrastructure may not last that long.
An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection last week of the ruined Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma has exposed certain bottlenecks in the plan to clean up the nuclear disaster. A statement by the IAEA released Monday criticized TEPCO’s progress on the cleanup.
Experts of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology believe that a chain of equipment failures of the plant’s essential systems that took place over the last few weeks could become a serious problem in the future. The IAEA called on to TEPCO to maintain plant’s equipment properly to avoid potentially hazardous situations, especially disconnections of the cooling systems of the shutoff reactors and fuel storage pools.
“As for the duration of the decommissioning project, it will be nearly impossible to ensure the time for decommissioning such a complex facility in less than 30 to 40 years as it is currently established in the roadmap,” said Juan Carlos Lentijo, the IAEA’s Director of the Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology (NEFW).
The IAEA statement stressed that Japan must still develop technology and equipment to locate and remove melted uranium fuel, given the harsh conditions and strong radiation levels at the Fukushima facility.
Fukushima saw a chain of incidents over the last five weeks, at least three of which were caused by rats that damaged wires in critically important electrical equipment. And on Monday, TEPCO personnel conducted an emergency shutdown of the cooling system of one of the fuel storage pools after two dead rats were found inside a transformer box.
Lentijo, who headed the IAEA delegation to Fukushima, explained that water management is “probably the most challenging” task for the plant at the moment.
Another issue was the multiple leakages of radioactive water from storage tanks and cooling systems, which are not only further contaminating the area around the plant, but may also be expelling radioactive pollution deep underground, where it could pollute underground water tables.
Earlier, TEPCO reported that a steady inflow of groundwater in the basements of the damaged reactor buildings resulted in about 400 tons of contaminated water daily. With the Fukushima nuclear plant’s storage tanks already housing 280,000 tons of liquid radioactive waste, this means the amount of contaminated water would double within just a few years.
Lentijo urged TEPCO to “implement additional countermeasures to regain confidence.” IAEA experts also noted that TEPCO needs to step up protections against “external hazards” similar to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that followed it, which devastated the plant on March11, 2011. “It is important to have a very good capability to identify as promptly as possible failures and to establish compensatory measures,” he said.
“You have to adopt a very cautious position to ensure that you always are working on the safe side,” Lentijo added.
A final report by the 12-member IAEA delegation to Fukushima is expected to be published in May.
Peter Oborne writes in the Telegraph about how the EU3 violated the Paris Agreement with Iran under US pressure in 2005, and thus missed a chance to make peace with Tehran:
One witness puts the problem like this: “There was not the faintest chance that President George W Bush’s Republican advisers and Israeli allies would allow him to look benignly on such a deal. On the contrary, if the Europeans were to defy American wishes, they would be letting themselves in for a transatlantic row to end all rows…
So the peace proposal from the Iranian negotiators was killed stone dead even though the European negotiating team realised that it was both very well judged and in full conformity with international law.
Of course when Iran then ended the 3 year voluntary suspension of enrichment that accompanied the talks, the EU3 accused Iran of “violating the Paris Agreement.”
Oh and incidentally, earlier in 2003 an Iranian peace offer made to the US was similarly spurned.
So what does Peter Osborn think was really going on?
The answer is that a different agenda is at work, which we believe has little or nothing to do with Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons. The US and its European clients are driven by a different compulsion: the humiliation and eventual destruction of Iran’s Islamic regime.
And this also corresponds to former IAEA head ElBaradei’s conclusions:
They weren’t interested in a compromise with the government in Tehran, but regime change – by any means necessary.
So remember that the next time the corporate media matter-of-factly declares “The goal of these sanctions is to support diplomatic efforts to peacefully resolve the disagreements with Iran without having to resort to violent means.”
The New York Times (4/7/13) reports that progress on the Iran nuclear negotiations appears rather bleak. But the piece, by David Herszenhorn, passes off a key fact as if it were a mere Iranian claim.
The article presents one take from Iran’s top negotiator, Saeed Jalili–along with a curt response from the U.S.:
“Of course, there is some distance in the position of the two sides,” Mr. Jalili said. But he said Iran’s proposals, which required recognizing “our right to enrich and ending behaviors which have every indication of enmity toward the Iranian people,” were designed “to help us move toward a constructive road.”
A senior American official called Iran’s demands unreasonable and “disproportionate.”
The piece elaborates:
Western countries fear that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, while Iran has insisted that its program is for peaceful purposes, including atomic energy and medical research, to which it claims a right as a signer of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
We’re accustomed to “Iran says X, the West says Y” in Iran coverage. But despite the evident confidence of the U.S., there is still no evidence that Iran is actually pursuing a weapons program.
But what of this idea that Iran “claims” a right to enrich uranium? That is, as Steve Rendall wrote for Extra! (9/05), a fact:
Under the NPT, non-nuclear-weapons countries agree not to pursue or possess nuclear weapons, while nuclear-armed countries agree to pursue disarmament and to share nuclear energy technology with the non-nuclear countries. (See Extra!, 7-8/05.) Under the agreement, non-nuclear-weapons states may develop nuclear programs, enrich uranium, etc., as long the programs are for non-military purposes and they are disclosed to the IAEA.
Another fact about the NPT that goes mostly unmentioned is that it calls on countries that possess nuclear weapons “to facilitate the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles, and the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery.”
But to the New York Times, Iran’s appeals to the treaty are “claims,” which can be challenged by anonymous U.S. officials (the “official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity,” which has become the State Department’s standard practice at the talks).
And while we’re on the subject of Iran, here’s a pretty revealing exchange from ABC‘s This Week (4/7/13)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The nuclear talks with Iran basically failed again. And you have to believe Iran is watching this as well, and says, ‘He’s got nuclear weapons, he has a stronger hand.’
MARTHA RADDATZ: Not only watching it, but I think there’s cooperation between North Korea and Iran. In fact, that’s something else General Thurman and other U.S. officials have told me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What kind of cooperation?
RADDATZ: Cooperation on a nuclear program. Certainly North Korea wants money. And Iran wants nukes.
Huh. Anything else U.S. officials want you to share with the public, absent even a shred of skepticism?
An Iranian envoy to the UN has reiterated Tehran’s proposal for a Middle East free of nuclear arms, blaming the Israeli regime for hampering efforts to cleanse the entire region of all nuclear weapons.
Pointing to Israeli bids to oppose and obstruct an Iranian initiative to rid the Middle East of all atomic warheads, Iran’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Gholam-Hossein Dehqani said in a Monday address to the UN Disarmament Commission (UNDC) meeting that the Islamic Republic and all Arab nations have declared their willingness to partake in a conference on eliminating all nuclear arms in the region without preconditions.
Dehqani further pointed to Iran’s insistence that all UN amendments for freeing the Middle East and the world from nuclear arms must be implemented, emphasizing that the eradication of all atomic weapons across the globe is the only ultimate guarantee for removing this threat.
The Iranian official also stressed that since the US atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, nuclear disarmament has remained one of the greatest global priorities and the UN General Assembly called for the abolishment of atomic bombs in a resolution at its first meeting on January 24, 1946.
Dehqani expressed regret, however, that “the maintenance of thousands of nuclear arms in the weapon depots of nuclear powers” on their own soil as well as in the territories of their allies “threatens international peace and security and the existence of human civilization.”
He further pointed to major concerns about the continued allocation of billions of dollars by countries that possess nuclear weapons for the testing and development of a new generation of atomic arms, as well as constructing new facilities to manufacture such weapons of mass destruction.
The Iranian envoy also pointed to the massive annual expenditures for the production and development of nuclear arms by some of the countries that possess atomic warheads and said there are major concerns regarding the expansion of nuclear military programs by these countries.
Calling for the total eradication of such nuclear arms, Dehqani further expressed regret about the “slow progress” on the issue of nuclear disarmament at the United Nations, reiterating the Islamic Republic’s insistence on eliminating all atomic arms based on the nation’s core opposition to all weapons of mass destruction.
The Israeli regime is widely believed to be the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. The regime reportedly maintains between 200 and 400 atomic warheads, but under its policy of so-called nuclear ambiguity, it has never denied nor confirmed its possession of the weapons of mass destruction.
Furthermore, the Israeli regime has never allowed any international inspection of its nuclear facilities and has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It has also refused to join the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which limits members to civilian uses of the nuclear technology.
The UNDC meets annually in geographical working groups for three weeks in the spring, but over the years it has failed to agree on any substantial outcome. The commission, like most other UN bodies, is heavily influenced and manipulated by the US and its allies to ensure their global interests are served through the world body.
From talk of “red lines” and cartoon bombs to having “all options on the table”, an undeniably delusional logic emanates from leadership in Washington and Tel Aviv regarding the alleged threat posted by Iran’s nuclear program. When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu famously took to the stage of the UN General Assembly with his doodled explosive, he claimed that Iran would soon have the capability to enrich uranium to 90 percent, allowing them to construct a nuclear weapon by early-mid 2013. In his second administration, Obama, who recently said a nuclear-Iran would represent a danger to Israel and the world, appears to be seeing eye-to-eye with Netanyahu, despite previous reports of the two not being on the same page. For whatever its worth, these two world leaders have taken the conscious decision to entirely ignore evidence brought forward by the US intelligence community, as well as appeals from nuclear scientists, policy-advisers, and IAEA personnel who claim that the “threat” posed by Iran is exaggerated and politicized.
It’s common knowledge that Washington’s own National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, which reflects the intelligence assessments of America’s 16 spy agencies, confirmed that whatever nuclear weapons program Iran once had was dismantled in 2003. Mr. Netanyahu has not corrected his statements insinuating that Iran was nearing the red line of 90 percent enrichment, even when recent UN reports that show Tehran has in fact decreased its stockpiles of 20 percent fissile material, far below the enrichment level required to weaponize uranium. Hans Blix, former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has challenged previous IAEA reports on Iran’s nuclear activities, accusing the agency of relying on unverified intelligence from the US and Israel. Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, former Washington insiders and analysts in the Clinton and Bush administrations, recently authored a book titled “Going to Tehran”, arguing that Iran is a coherent actor and that evidence for the bomb is simply not there.
Clinton Bastin, former director of US nuclear weapons production programs, has commented on the status of Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear weapons, stating:
“The ultimate product of Iran’s gas centrifuge facilities would be highly enriched uranium hexafluoride, a gas that cannot be used to make a weapon. Converting the gas to metal, fabricating components and assembling them with high explosives using dangerous and difficult technology that has never been used in Iran would take many years after a diversion of three tons of low enriched uranium gas from fully safeguarded inventories. The resulting weapon, if intended for delivery by missile, would have a yield equivalent to that of a kiloton of conventional high explosives”.
Bastin’s assessments corroborate reports that show Iran’s nuclear program is for civilian purposes; he further emphasizes the impracticality of weaponizing the hexafluoride product of Tehran’s gas-centrifuges, as the resulting deterrent would yield a highly inefficient nuclear weapon.
The fact that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued several fatwas (a religious prohibition) against the production of nuclear weapons doesn’t seem to have helped much either. An unceasing combination of Islamophobia-propaganda, a repetitive insistence that Tehran is edging closer to the threshold, and devastatingly negligent misreporting of Iran and its pursuit of domestic nuclear power has created a situation where the country is viewed as an irrational actor. In the court of Western mainstream opinion, Iran is grouped in the same category as bellicose North Korea, despite the fact that it is a law-abiding signatory to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that has consistently cooperated with the IAEA while publically renouncing the use of nuclear weapons. This leads to the current scenario, where Iran and its people are punished under an unethical barrage of economic sanctions for possessing a weapon that they do not possess.
The severity of economic sanctions against Iran and the fabricated allegations of it possessing nuclear weapons serve as a disturbing parallel to the invasion and destruction of Iraq during the Bush administration. From the perspective of this observer, the US does not actually want to go to war with Iran – such an ordeal would bring about an array of overwhelmingly negative ramifications that Obama would probably want to avoid. What the US does want to do however, is to dismantle the foundations of the Islamic Republic by completely destroying its economy through sanctions, prompting the population to rise up and overthrow the regime – so basically, Obama is happy to conduct war by other means. Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent proclamations of the US holding a gun to the head of the Iranian nation can only be perceived as entirely accurate.
Its easy to see why the Supreme Leader has doubts over the prospect of negotiations with the US; the deal put forward at the most recent meeting of the P5+1 essentially argued that the US would roll back sanctions that prevent Iran from trading gold and precious metals in exchange for Iran completely shutting down its uranium enrichment plant at Fordo. The substance of this offer appears like it was deliberately drafted to be rejected by the Iranian side, given the fact that it would mandate Iran to shutdown one of its main facilities while keeping in place the most punishing sanctions that have destroyed the Iranian currency and made life-saving medications unaffordable for most – its more of an insult than an offer. For the average Iranian business owner and worker, US-led sanctions and currency devaluation have affected everyday transactions that provide paychecks and economic viability for millions of people.
From urban shopkeepers to rural restaurant owners, many have been forced to close their businesses because they are unable to profit from reselling imported goods purchased with dollars. Isolation from the global banking system has made it increasingly more difficult for Iranian students studying abroad to receive money from their families. Sanctions targeting Iran’s central bank aim to devastate the Iranian export economy, affecting everyone from oil exporters to carpet weavers and pistachio cultivators. By crippling Iranian people’s livelihoods and hindering their ability to pursue education and afford necessities, the Obama administration believes such measures will erode public confidence in the government and challenge its legitimacy. It is important to recognize that these sanctions are not only aimed against Iran’s government, but at its entire population, especially to the poor and merchant population. An unnamed US intelligence source cited by the Washington Post elaborates, “In addition to the direct pressure sanctions exert on the regime’s ability to finance its priorities, another option here is that they will create hate and discontent at the street level so that the Iranian leaders realize that they need to change their ways.”
These sanctions, which are Obama’s throwback to ham-fisted Bush-Cheney era policies, must be seen as part of a series of measures taken to coax widespread social discontent and unrest. US sanctions have broadened their focus, targeting large swaths of the country’s industrial infrastructure, causing the domestic automobile production to plummet by 40 percent, while many essential medical treatments have more than doubled in price. Patients suffering from hemophilia, thalassemia, and cancer have been adversely affected, as the foreign-made medicines they depend on are increasingly more difficult to get ahold of. Over the past two years, general supermarket goods have seen a price hike between 100 to 300 percent. For the first time in the world, a media ban has been imposed, on PressTV, Iran’s state-funded English language international news service. Ofcom, a UK-based communications regulator linked to the British government, spearheaded the prohibition. The European Union has also imposed a travel ban on Press TV CEO Mohammad Sarafraz and eight other officials.
While editorials and commentators in the New York Times and Washington Post regularly accuse Iran of violating international law, the editors of these papers have shown no willingness to scrutinize the US and Israel by holding them accountable when they violate international law, namely, a prohibition of “the threat or use of force” in international relations unless a nation is attacked or such force is authorized by the UNSC, as embodied in the United Nations Charter. It is undeniable that by failing to question the brutal tactics meted out by Washington and Tel Aviv, these papers and the commentators affiliated with them, endorse policies that intimidate and coerce civilian populations in addition to employing terrorist tactics such as targeted cyber-strikes and extrajudicial assassinations – all of which the Iranian nation has been subjected to in utter defiance of the standards and rules of international law and their fundamental bedrock of protecting civilians.
The facts have been proven time and time again, Iran seeks economic development, technological advancement, and energy independence – it wants domestic nuclear power and the freedom to enrich uranium to 20 percent for the medical development of radiopharmaceuticals and industrial isotopes, as it is entitled to as an NPT signatory. Washington’s threats to impose “secondary” sanctions against third-country entities doing business with the Islamic Republic represents a mafia-mentality so characteristic of the unipolar reality in which the US sees itself. Washington has recently threatened energy-hungry Pakistan with sanctions over its partnership with Tehran in a $7.5-billion gas pipeline between the two nations, a project that would do infinite good by promoting regional stability and delivering energy to poverty stricken regions in Pakistan. Washington’s sanctions regime will collapse if the US Congress insists that China sharply cut its energy trade and relations with Iran. China will not adhere to such stringent foreign interference into its trade relationships, and Washington is in no position to sanction China because it buys oil from Iran.
If Beijing calls Washington’s bluff, other growth-focused non-Western economies like India, Malaysia, and South Korea will be less fearful of conducting business and buying oil from Tehran. Obama has taken some cues from the revolutionary students of 1979 and his administration has come up with a hostage crisis of its own, involving holding captive the civilian population of Iran – and Washington looks keen to let the sanctions bite until either the regime bows down, or the people rise up. One of the best examples of the perverted logic behind the US position on Iran comes from Vice President Joe Biden, who recently stated, “We have also made clear that Iran’s leaders need not sentence their people to economic deprivation”. Such a statement embodies the upside-down logic of Washington policy-makers who claim the moral high ground while enabling terrorism and engaging in unethical campaigns of economic and military warfare – the present state of affairs simply cannot continue.
Nile Bowie is an independent political analyst and photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached at email@example.com
- Ever-Closing Windows and Biden Time on Iran at AIPAC (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- ‘Iran can’t covertly produce atomic bomb’ – US intelligence chief (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Massimo Calabresi’s ‘Path To War’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Did Somebody Blink?
On March 1, 2010, an essay in Haaretz titled “Who will blink first in Iran’s nuclear poker game?” stated that “Israel is on the verge of a preemptive war to try to foil Iran’s nuclear program.” So, the question was who would blink first? Would it be Iran that would give up its nuclear program? Would it be Israel that would be forced to withdraw its threat of military attack? Or would it be the US that would ratchet up the pressure on Iran to please Israel?
Similar arguments continued to appear in the next two years. For example, On March 2, 2012, in an interview titled “Between The U.S., Israel And Iran, Who Blinks First?” NPR asked Martin Indyk to elaborate on his comment in The New York Times that we “are now engaged in a three-way game of chicken, which makes blinking more dangerous than confrontation.” Indyk, the former executive director of the Israeli lobby group The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, advisor to President Clinton, and US Ambassador to Israel, answered:
Well, essentially we’re now in a vicious cycle. In order to calm the Israelis down and get them to back away from their intense interest in taking care of the [Iranian nuclear] program militarily, we are ratcheting up sanctions that essentially are aimed at Iran’s economic jugular. We are doing that on the theory that the more pressure we put on them, the more we bring their economy to its knees, the more likely the Iranians are to cry uncle, to blink, to say, OK, we’ll negotiate meaningful curbs on our nuclear program. . . And unless somebody blinks, I’m afraid it’s going to lead to a confrontation.
It seems that after many years of this “three-way game of chicken” somebody finally blinked; and that somebody was not Iran.
Last week, following a long hiatus and much anticipation, there was a meeting in Kazakhstan between Iran and the so-called P5+1, the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany. Such meetings are usually shrouded in secrecy and it is often difficult to get an accurate picture of what goes on behind closed doors. For example, on February 27, 2013, after the conclusion of the two-day meeting, a press release was issued by “EU High Representative Catherine Ashton,” the convener of these meetings, which basically stated: “We put what we call a confidence building proposal on the table.”
What the proposal stated remained secret. However, from various reports in the US, Israeli, and Iranian media one could surmise that the US, which is the main force behind these meetings, advanced the following proposal. In exchange for some so-called sanction relief, Iran would: 1) “significantly restrict” its accumulation of 20% enriched uranium, but would keep sufficient amount to fuel its Tehran Research Reactor that produces isotope for medical purposes; 2) suspend enrichment at Fordow underground facility and accept conditions that “constrain” the ability to quickly resume enrichment at Fordow; and 3) allow more regular and thorough monitoring of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
If what was reported were true, and if there were no deception involved, then the US had indeed blinked and had withdrawn its previous and punishing proposal, a proposal that is usually referred to as “stop, shut and ship.” The earlier proposal, as summarized by Ashton on June 19, 2012, demanded from Iran: “stopping 20 percent enrichment activities, shutting the Fordow nuclear facility and shipping out stockpiled 20 percent enriched nuclear materials.”
The latest P5+1 proposal not only did not ask for shutting down Fordow and stopping 20 percent enrichment, but would let Iran retain some of its medium level enriched uranium to make fuel. More importantly, the proposal would implicitly recognize the right of Iran to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, something that Iran has been asking for years and the US and Israel have consistently denied.
Understandably, the Iranian side was pleased and stated that on some points the P5+1 got closer to the Iranian perspective. Indeed, the US had, to the chagrin of The Washington Post editorial piece on February 28, 2013, “kowtowed,” or more accurately, blinked. But what about Israel, the third party in the “three-way game of chicken,” did it also blink?
The “stop, shut and ship” proposal was originally manufactured in Israel. On April 4, 2012, The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak “has held discussions with American and European officials in recent weeks with the goal of convincing them to set clear goals for the planned talks with Iran.” The report went on to say that according to Barak, Israel’s demands are: “1) [the] transfer of all uranium enriched to 20 percent—approximately 120 kg.—out of Iran to a third party country; 2) the transfer of the majority of the 5 tons of uranium enriched to 3.5% out of Iran, leaving just enough needed for energy purposes; 3) the closure of the Fordow enrichment facility, buried under a mountain near the city of Qom; [and] 4) the transfer of fuel rods from a third party country to Iran for the purpose of activating the Tehran Research Reactor.” The US slightly modified these demands and presented them at the P5+1 and Iran meeting in June 2012.
After the June meeting, Ha’aretz reported that “representatives of the powers are expected to fly to Israel and update its leaders” (June 18, 2012). On the same day Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon tried to exert more pressure on the P5+1 by stating that Israel could find itself facing the dilemma of “a bomb, or to bomb” (Reuters). “Should that be the choice,” Yaalon, stated, “then bombing (Iran) is preferable to a bomb (in Iran’s hands). . . I hope we do not face that dilemma.”
Delivering the Israeli manufactured demands to Iran and then going to Israel to report on the Iranian reaction were not new. After the May meeting between Iran and the P5+1, Haaretz reported on May 25, 2012, that Wendy Sherman, the US representative at the meeting, went straight to Israel. As the report stated, Sherman was going to “update Israeli officials on the talks in Baghdad, and on preparations for the third round of talks in Moscow on June 18 and 19.” The report also stated that according to the State Department, Sherman will also “reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security.”
The following day, on May 26, Haaretz published a more extensive piece about Sherman’s visit. It quoted an unnamed US official as saying: “We updated the Israelis in detail before we updated our own government.” He was also quoted as saying: “There are no gaps between the U.S. and Israel in anything related to talks between Iran and the six world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program. . . Even if we do not have the patience, we need to give diplomacy a chance before military action.” In addition, the report stated that Sherman arrived in Israel “along with officials from the White House National Security Council working on the Iran nuclear issue—Gary Seymour and Puneet Talwar.” “The American team,” the report went on to say, “had a three-hour meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with National Security advisor Yaakov Amidror, and a number of other senior Israeli officials who deal with the Iran issue.” Not surprisingly, Gary Samore, President Obama’s Coordinator for Weapons of Mass Destruction Counter-Terrorism and Arms Control, was one of the original founders of the Israeli lobby group “United Against Nuclear Iran.”
The February 2013 meeting between the P5+1 and Iran was also followed by a similar visit to Israel. On February 26, 2013, Haaretz reported that the “American administration, along with the U.K., France and Germany, are in close contact with Israel and have been coordinating with it ahead of the [P5+1] talks in Kazakhstan. Immediately after the talks, an American negotiating team headed by Wendy Sherman, the under secretary for political affairs, is expected to come to Jerusalem.” “Sherman,” the report went on to add, “intends to meet with National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, Foreign Ministry Director General for Strategic Affairs Jeremy Issacharoff and other high-ranking officials to update them about the content of the talks with Iran.” The report also stated: “Last week, Amidror visited Washington and discussed the Iranian nuclear program with his American counterpart, Thomas E. Donilon.”
Given the close coordination between the US and Israel, one has to conclude that not only the US, but also Israel blinked at the February 2013 meeting. This, of course, comes as no surprise, since Israeli officials, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had bluffed and blinked many times before. After many years of crying wolf and threatening Iran, Netanyahu’s most public blinking came on September 27, 2012, when he appeared before the UN General Assembly and held up a diagram of a cartoonish-looking bomb with a fuse and drew a redline on it at 90% enriched uranium. The bizarre spectacle, which was mocked by some as “Bibi’s Wiley E. Coyote-style cartoon bomb,” was not only the proverbial “one too many times” that Mr. Netanyahu had cried wolf, but it was also the beginning of the end of Israel’s intense and unsuccessful campaign to make the US attack Iran or intensify the sanctions. The “decisive year” of 2012, as Israeli newspaper Maariv pointed out, was passing “without decisiveness” (Reuters, September 28, 2012).
What made the US and Israel blink? The answer requires a detailed analysis of Obama Administration’s policy of “tough diplomacy,” an analysis that will appear in my forthcoming book. However, a short answer is that the US and Israel seem to have run out of options in overthrowing the current government in Iran and replacing it with a friendly regime. “Tough diplomacy”—which was formulated mostly by Dennis Ross, currently the counselor to The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and formerly special assistant to President Obama—threw at Iran everything the US had in terms of sanctions, sabotage, cyber-attacks and possibly assassinations of the Iranian nuclear scientists. Yet, the last step in this policy, which was supposed to be a naval blockade of Iran and military attack, could not be taken. Why? Because in order to wage a war against Iran the economic conditions in that country must become as dismal as they were in Iraq before it was invaded; and that, at the present, is not the case. Even though the accumulated result of 33 years of sanctions against Iran, particularly the most brutal and unprecedented ones in the last 4 years, have helped to create massive hardship in Iran, there is no sign that the Iranian economy is actually collapsing. There are also hardly any Iranian entities or individuals left to sanction. The US and Israel seem to be coming to terms with the reality and beginning to blink.
Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On February 22, 2012, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Iran considers the pursuit and possession of nuclear weapons “a grave sin” from every logical, religious and theoretical standpoint.
The Leader described the proliferation of nuclear weapons as “senseless, destructive and dangerous,” adding that the Iranian nation has never sought and will never seek atomic bombs as the country already has the conventional capacity to challenge the nuclear-backed powers.
A former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has dismissed as “overhyped” the Western propaganda over the ‘threat of nuclear-armed Iran,’ saying there is no evidence that Tehran is even interested in producing weapons of mass destruction.
“So far Iran has not violated the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) and there is no evidence right now that suggests that Iran is producing nuclear weapons,” Hans Blix said in Dubai.
He added that no action can be justified against Iran’s nuclear activities on “mere suspicions or intentions that may not exist.”
The former IAEA chief had previously said that Iran has been more open to international inspections than most other countries would be.
Iran has repeatedly expressed its strong opposition to any production, possession or use of nuclear weapons, saying such arms have no place in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear doctrine.
On February 22, 2012, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said Iran considers the pursuit and possession of nuclear weapons “a grave sin” from every logical, religious and theoretical standpoint.
The Leader described the proliferation of nuclear weapons as “senseless, destructive and dangerous,” adding that the Iranian nation has never sought and will never seek atomic bombs as the country already has the conventional capacity to challenge the nuclear-backed powers.
The US, Israel, and some of their allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the NPT and a member of the IAEA, it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Despite the IAEA’s numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, the UN nuclear agency has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
Despite what all the media are yammering at you, despite all the fear mongering about Iran’s “nuclear threat” (Iran has been fully verified by the IAEA and ALL the U.S. intelligence community agree and are on record that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons), despite talk that Iran is intolerant, despite the daily barrage of bad press and unpleasant innuendo, Iran is a great country, friendly, cultured, fun and spiritually-minded!
The “Powers That Were” are dead set on taking us to war against Iran, but “They lied about Vietnam… Iraq… Afghanistan…” and “Iran Is NOT Our Enemy ! “
In recent days, reports about an alleged Israeli-US bombing attack that would have allegedly destroyed a large portion of the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant in Qom were circulating in Western media. However, its falsehood was soon revealed by several sources.
The story first appeared on February 25th when an Iranian defector going by the pseudonym Reza Kahlili published an evidence-free article in the US site wnd.com, in which he claimed that the Fordo plant had been the target of a sabotage operation. The article claimed that a blast deep within Fordo had “destroyed much of the installation and trapped about 240 personnel deep underground”.
However, the first doubts came due to the personality of the author himself, as Kahlili, a defector, is widely considered as a liar because of his previous claims. He wrote some months ago that Iran actually had nuclear weapons.
Kahlili’s sole source was Hamid Reza Zakeri, another Iranian defector, who is also notorious for his lies against Iran. A US official has been quoted by some US media as saying that Zakeri was “a fabricator or monumental proportions”.
This is not the first time that defectors are used in order to launch false accusations against a country. In the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003, New York Times reporter Judith Miller (and some others) published several stories about Saddam Hussein´s non-existent weapons of mass destruction programs and these reports were used by the Bush administration as a pretext to launch the war. Later, all these allegations turned out to be false and the newspaper was forced to admit that Miller had based her reports on Iraqi defectors. In that sense, the case for the war on Iraq was built on a set of fabricated documents and deliberately manipulated intelligence that US media outlets uncritically reproduced.
Israel spreads the story
Shortly after the Fordo story appeared, Israeli sites and officials tried to make it pass as true. The website of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot repeated the claim and it was later echoed by the Times of London, which added that the story had been confirmed by Israeli intelligence officials. “We are still in the preliminary stages of understanding what happened and how significant it is,” one Israeli official told the London Times. “Israel believes the Iranians have not evacuated the (Fordo´s) surrounding area. It is unclear whether that is because no harmful substances have been released, or because Tehran is trying to avoid sparking panic among residents.”
For his part, Israeli acting Defense Minister, Avi Dichter, reacted to the story by saying that indeed any explosion in Iran was “good news”.
Of course, Israeli officials always knew that the story was false but it is clear that they wanted to feed the notion that they -with US help- were conducting a successful secret war against Iran in order to reinforce their own extremist stance. However, as these stories are revealed as lies, the effect is counterproductive to them because they expose themselves, once again, as liars before the international community, especially on the Iran nuclear issue.
However, two senior Iranian officials dismissed reports of the explosion. Deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency Seyyed Shamseddin Barbroudi said there had been no explosion at the Fordo facility, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). The chairman of the Iranian parliament’s Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said they were “baseless lies” meant to impact talks on Iran´s nuclear program, reported IRNA.
The Iranians´ statements were then confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which claimed that there were no signs of any explosion whatever in Fordo. The IAEA has live cameras at the site and its inspectors regularly visit it, and, therefore, they would have known if it had been “in ruins with hundreds trapped within”. “We understand that Iran has denied that there has been an incident at Fordo. This is consistent with our observations,” IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said.
The White House also rejected the report as unreliable. “We have no information to confirm the allegations in the report and we do not believe the report is credible,” spokesman Jay Carney said in a briefing with reporters. “We do not believe those are credible reports.”
The false diagram
The Fordo false explosion was not the only Israeli fabrication on the Iranian nuclear issue. On November 27th 2012, the Associated Press agency published a report claiming that it had discovered the existence of alleged evidence of “Iranian work on a nuclear bomb”. “Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima”, the agency said.
This evidence, according to AP, was a “graph” which the agency said was “leaked” to it by “officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program” to “bolster their arguments that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon”. Moreover, “an intelligence summary was provided with the drawing” claiming that “Iran is working not on isolated experiments, but rather on a single program aimed at mastering all aspects of nuclear arms development.”
Why did AP hide which country had delivered the diagram? It said that officials of that country wanted anonumity, so the agency gave it anonymity. However, everybody was certain it was Israel.
The author of the AP report, George Jahn is also notorious because every time there is a possibility of a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Iran´s nuclear program, he reports an “exclusive” anti-Iranian revelation, always provided to him by “an official of a country tracking Iran’s nuclear program,” or “an official of a country that has been severely critical of Iran´s nuclear program.”
Nevertheless, experts soon discovered that the diagram was fake and amateurish. According to the British newspaper The Guardian, it simply showed that “the bulk of the nuclear fission yield is produced in a short 0.1 microsecond pulse”, which is a common knowledge for any physics student. Later, it was equally discovered that it is widely available all over the Internet and in university textbooks. Even worse, the diagram contained huge errors, which were unlikely to have been made by research scientists who work in a state-run national program.
Scott Kemp, an assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), told IPS he suspects the graph leaked to AP was “adapted from the open literature”. He said he believed its authors “were told they ought to look into the literature and found that paper, copied (the graph) and made their own plot from it.”
After the hoax became exposed, Western diplomats privately accused Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, of being behind the leaks, which would be part of an effort to implicate a murdered Iranian in an alleged weapons program. The diplomats also said Mossad is becoming increasingly active in Austria, the home of the IAEA and the place where George Jahn works, in order to drive support for a war on Iran.
Therefore, what AP presented as a kind of highly specialized and very complex document was only a very common graph, which can be easily found on the internet. The agency helped create and spread a dangerous hoax and its credibility was severely damaged by this serious incident that demonstrated that it let itself be manipulated by officials “of an anonymous state” in order to incriminate Iran. The agency did not tell the public who gave it the false and misleading information with the evident goal of misleading the public into believing that Iran had a weapons programme.
Recently and after having scored a heavy defeat in the latest parliamentary elections, where he and his his right-wing partner Avigdor Lieberman lost 25% of their seats in the Knesset, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to hide his current political weakness by shifting the public´s attention to Iran. In his “victory speech”, he insisted that his first challenge would be “preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons”.
Of course, this rhetoric does not deceive anyone, as even the US and the IAEA reports recognize that Iran continues to use civilian enriched uranium only for civilian purposes. US officials have recently said that the assessment included in the 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, which claims that there is no evidence whatever of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, remains the consensus view of the US´s 16 intelligence agencies.
The international community is actually fed up with Israel’s false allegations and fabrications against Iran. Netanyahu and his Zionist supporters in the US probably know that the American and Western public cannot be manipulated into supporting an attack on Iran, as all the polls show.
Another for-Israel war in the Middle East would not benefit anyone but the far right in Israel, the pro-Israeli lobby in the US and its neocon agents. It would not only devastate the Middle East and kill hundreds of thousands, if not more, but it would also produce a decades-long conflict between the Muslim world and the West that would also destroy the West´s economy. Due to all this, the international community and the peoples of the world must confront these Zionist plots threatening the existence and hopes of humanity.
- IAEA Dismisses Reports of Explosion at Iran’s Fordo (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi says the next round of comprehensive talks between Iran and six world powers will be held in Kazakhstan on February 25, 2013.
Salehi made the announcement in his Sunday speech on the third day of the 49th annual Munich Security Conference in Germany.
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany — known as the P5+1 group — have held several rounds of talks with main focus on Iranian nuclear energy program. The last round of negotiations between the two sides was held in Moscow in June 2012.
The United States, Israel, and some of their allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it is entitled to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that the Iranian nuclear program has been diverted towards weapons production.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has dismissed Israeli and Western media reports claiming there had been an explosion at the Fordo uranium enrichment facility and stated that it had seen no sign of such an event at the Iranian nuclear site.
On Tuesday, IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor told The Associated Press that Iran’s denial of “an incident” at the Fordo plant is “consistent with our observations.”
On Monday, Iran categorically rejected the reports about an explosion at the Fordow nuclear facility.
MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi, who is the chairman of the Majlis (parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, described the news stories as Western propaganda designed to influence the upcoming round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 group (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany).