Foreign Policy

Iran: Neither Threat Nor Menace

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So argues Scott Horton of Antiwar.com (a libertarian foreign policy website for which my wife works) in the Christian Science Monitor. Some of the reasons:

On September 6, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a new paper on the implementation of Iran's Safeguards Agreement which reported that the agency has "continued to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran to any military or other special purpose."

Yet despite the IAEA report and clear assertions to the contrary, news articles that followed were dishonest to the extreme, interpreting this clean bill of health as just another wisp of smoke indicating nuclear fire in a horrifying near-future.

A Washington Post article published the very same day led the way with the aggressive and misleading headline "UN Report: Iran stockpiling nuclear materials," "shorthanding" the facts right out of the narrative. The facts are that Iran's terrifying nuclear "stockpile" is a small amount of uranium enriched to industrial grade levels for use in its domestic energy and medical isotope programs, all of it "safeguarded" by the IAEA….

late last week a group of Marxist holy warrior exiles called the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq, working with the very same neoconservatives who sponsored Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress – which manufactured so much of the propaganda that convinced the American people to support the invasion of that country – accused the Iranian government of building a secret nuclear enrichment facility buried deep in tunnels near Qazvin….

Yet even US officials quickly admitted that they've known about these tunnels for years. "[T]here's no reason at this point to think it's nuclear," one US official said – a quote that appeared in Fox's article, but only after five paragraphs of breathless allegations. All day long, top-of-the-hour news updates on TV and radio let the false impression stand.

But is Iran fully cooperating with the IAEA? No, but that doesn't necessarily mean we need to take down Tehran to prevent a nuclear holocaust, Horton insists:

The IAEA's latest report does note that Iran has "not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the Agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities." Indeed, the agency's frequent mentions of Iran's "lack of full cooperation" is a big reason why US media reports portray Iran in ominous terms.

But here, too, US media frequently miss the point. Never mind that 118 nations around the world have signed a statement criticizing the IAEA's "peaceful activities" conclusion as a departure from standard verification language. More broadly, Iran's "lack of full cooperation" by itself is an outcome of Western bullying and propaganda.

The US and the UN, acting upon no legitimate authority whatsoever, have demanded that Iran submit to an Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement, which would ban any further enrichment on Iranian soil, as well as demanded they submit to an endless regime of IAEA inspections and questioning, based mostly on the "alleged studies" documents, which several sources have said are forgeries posing as a pilfered laptop of a dead Iranian nuclear scientist.

These separate, UN Security Council-mandated investigations have even demanded blueprints for Shahab 3 missiles – a subject far removed from hexafluoride gas or any legitimate IAEA function. In 2003, Iran voluntarily agreed to the extra burden of the unratified Additional Protocol during "good faith negotiations" with the so-called "E-3," Britain, France, and Germany, acting on behalf of the US. When those negotiations broke down, Iran withdrew in 2006….

What this all adds up to is that there is really nothing Iran can do that will clear its name in the particular game the U.S. insists on playing:

Washington continues to apply to Iran the outrageous standard it used in the run-up to the Iraq war: an unfriendly nation must "prove" it doesn't have dangerous weapons or a secret program to make them – or potentially face military action.