The Obama Administration Should Stop Lying About Iran

Iran has not been seeking a nuclear bomb.


Paolo Contri /IAEA/Flickr

Barack Obama and John Kerry are playing with fire. They presumably want Congress and the American public to accept the nuclear agreement they and four other governments struck with Iran, but they work against their own objective by accepting the false premise of their opponents: namely, that Iran's regime is untrustworthy, dangerous, bent on becoming a nuclear power, and containable only by a U.S. readiness to wage war.

Who knows if the president and secretary of state really believe this? But they ought to know that this premise is wrong.

Their incentive to accept the false premise is obvious. Neither wants his obituary to declare that his greatest achievement was to persuade Iran not to develop a weapon it had no intention of developing.

On announcing the deal Obama said, "Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region. Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon."

Likewise in remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Kerry said, "So this isn't a question of giving them [Iran] what they want. I mean it's a question of how do you hold their program back, how do you dismantle their weapons program…."

Hence, Obama and Kerry endorse the claim that Iran was seeking to build nuclear weapons. The long negotiating process was based on that premise. So they must now insist that the agreement contains leak-proof verification, because like their opponents, Obama and Kerry say the Iranians cannot be trusted. But the hawks demagogically ignore that part of the administration's case and claim the agreement does depend on trust; Iran can and will cheat, the hawks say, no matter what verification measures are in place. They can even quote Wendy Sherman, leader of the U.S. negotiating team, who once told a Senate committee, "We know that deception is part of the [Iranian] DNA."

That's some great way for Obama and Kerry to sell their agreement. 

It would be better for Obama and Kerry to tell the truth for once: Iran has not been seeking a nuclear bomb. This has long been well-understood by American and Israeli intelligence and military agencies. As former CIA analyst Ray McGovern points out, George W. Bush had to give up plans to attack Iran in 2007 because a National Intelligence Estimate signed by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies found that Iran had stopped (alleged) research on nukes four years earlier. This conclusion was renewed regularly in subsequent years. In fact, as Gareth Porter notes, "US national intelligence estimates during the Bush administration concluding that Iran had run such a program, including the most famous estimate issued in November 2007, were based on inference, not on hard intelligence."

We have many other indications of Iran's non-interest in nukes, all of which are documented by Porter, the man who literally wrote the book on the case. (See Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.)

We know, for example, that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, issued a religious edit (fatwa) against nuclear weapons. We know that when Iran could have bought weapons-related equipment from an illegal Pakistani network, it did not. We know that for years Iran tried every way to avoid having to enrich uranium for its power plants but was thwarted each time by the U.S. government.

Finally, we know that when the Iranian government could have made chemical weapons to retaliate for Iraq's U.S.-backed chemical warfare against Iran in the 1980s, then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini forbade it on religious grounds. 

Despite this, it is open season on Iran. Most everyone feels he can level any charge against it without providing a scintilla of evidence. Most common is the charge that Iran is the "chief state sponsor of terrorism." But does anyone bother to prove it? It requires no proof. It's the Big Lie, and it serves the war party's agenda. (For evidence to the contrary see these two pieces by Ted Snider.) 

The P5+1 agreement, though unnecessary, is preferable to war. Obama and Kerry should stop thinking about their legacies and start leveling with us. 

This piece originally appeared at Richman's "Free Association" blog. 

NEXT: The Negative Consequences of Raising D.C.'s Minimum Wage

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Nurse! Hihn’s escaped from his restraints again!

  2. Of course. Iran, one of the most oil-rich countries on earth, simply wants nuclear capacity to produce energy. It’s f-ing obvious. Nuclear weapons would add nothing to their pledge to wipe Israel off the map. Or to dominate the Sunni nations nearby. Nope. Iran is a nation of peace.

    1. Having nuclear energy allows them to sell more oil outside of Iran.

      Plus they can even sell nuclear power material and technology.

      1. The economics do not in any way add up.

    2. Iran never threatened to “wipe Israel off the map,” but I suppose if you repeat the lie often enough some people will believe it.

      1. Good point. Only Haifa and Tel Aviv have been named as targets for annihilation. Obviously they can’t wipe Jerusalem off the map. That’s one of the three holy cities.

        1. I think that wiping Jerusalem off the map might be a good thing. Think of the problems it would solve with all three religions.

      2. Death to America! Death to Israel! Blah Blah Blah!

      3. – “Iran never threatened to “wipe Israel off the map,” but I suppose if you repeat the lie often enough some people will believe it.”

        Well, to be precise, “Iran” is a political construct, not a person, so it could not have threatened to do anything. However, more than one of its top political and religious leaders (though the latter is a bit redundant here) have, on multiple occasions, declared that Israel should be “annihilate”, “wiped off the map”, etc. And although one could argue that these are simply suggestions, and don’t constitute overt threats that the Iranians themselves plan on taking care of the matter…the sentiment is pretty clear.

        In the face of that and Iran’s very real monetary and material (including weaponry) support of anti-Israel groups that launch attacks on the latter with some regularity, continuing to pretend that the Iranian government is composed of peace-loving individuals who don’t mean anyone any harm is the height of delusion.


        “As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map,” said Ahmadinejad, referring to the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini.

  3. this author is naive and gullible. the fatwa he touts DOES NOT EXIST;nobody can find and record of it,and fatwas get recorded. As for the various US agencies stating Iran isn’t working on nuclear weapons,their heads say what the leadership want said,or they lose their job.

    if Iran was not seeking nuclear weapons,they would not have run computer simulations for increasing the yield of a nuclear bomb,or tested neutron initiators and implosions of dummy pits at Parchin. (all violations of the NPT)
    If Iran only wanted a peaceful nuclear industry,they would not have constructed centrifuges and sites in secret,in violation of the NPT. They would have done it openly,with full knowledge and consent of the IAEA and UN,and avoided sanctions from the beginning.
    If Iran didn’t intend on attacking the US,they would not be testing SCUD launches from container ships. Nor building ICBMs.
    I’d think Iran has better things to do with their money and resources.

    1. Richman is not naive or gullible. He is just straight-up lying his ass off here.

    2. Are you suggesting that Sheldon Richman is basing his argument about Iran’s nuclear program — accusing the government of relying on nonexistent evidence and faulty information — on nonexistent evidence and faulty information? How ironic?

    3. You make some good points. I would like to apply them to Israel as well.

  4. ICBMS are only useful for delivering nuclear warheads,they’re very impractical (too expensive) for delivering conventional warheads. Iran -is- developing ICBMs.
    Also,it’s clear Iran was testing implosion explosives at Parchin,thus their TWO massive,extensive cleanups observed by satellites. Implosions have no peaceful nuclear use. Nor do neutron initiators.

    1. “”””TWO massive,extensive cleanups observed by satellites””

      And who were the photo interpreters, the same ones who said that Iraqi weather balloon trucks were biological warfare trucks?

      1. Keep in mind that USA has a track record that goes both ways: we also were completley caught off guard by the Pakistani nuclear test, for example.

        Also, regarding Iraq’s biological programs, you must go into this understanding that they at first claimed no such programs in the Full & Final Complete Declarations to the UN. (How’s that for clear cut document names.)

        Then in 1995 Kemal defected and we found out Iraq did indeed have a biological weapons program. Again, the FFCD were updated and they claimed they only had a defensive program, then they were caught lying and admitted to a offensive program but research only – nothing weaponized. Finally they came clean that they had weaponized anthrax etc.

        I know its all so dreary to review this stuff, and that while we may have made errors in intel, the Iraqis LIED over and over about their programs.

        The bigger problem with the Iraq situation was not realizing they were a religious powder-keg waiting to blow…Syria was never invaded by us, and they have not kept up their peaceful kite-flying ways.

        1. “””Syria was never invaded by us””

          The US are sending invaders into Syria right now, trained and armed by the US. The US also bombs them. The US also has seized Syrian assets and have embargoed its trade.

          The US is at war with Syria, the US just hasn’t bothered to go through the legal steps to make it open warfare.

          1. The US are sending invaders into Syria right now, trained and armed by the US.

            You mean the 60 trained rebels? Those aren’t invaders.

            The US also bombs them.

            They bomb ISIS you idiot.

            The US is at war with Syria

            Lies. America also never embargoed Syria.

  5. There’s room for debate about what to do about a nuclear-armed Iran.

    But I’m more interested in the debate about what to do about Richman’s nuclear-level stupid.

    1. Send him to Tehran in an american flag t-shirt.

      1. I like you.

      2. Better yet, have him wear a big, bright Star of David on his t-shirt.

  6. “…the false premise of their opponents: namely, that Iran’s regime is untrustworthy, dangerous, bent on becoming a nuclear power, and containable only by a U.S. readiness to wage war.”

    The last one is debatable, the first three, not so much. This is Hillary-level lying.

    1. (untrustworthy) Iran has broken all of their treaties. They never do what they say they will do.
    2. (dangerous) They sponsor terrorism and fight proxy wars. They have killed numerous US soldiers in Iraq and supplies munitions to others who have killed US soldiers.
    3. (desire nukes) No one who sees what they are doing with regards to nuclear materials believes otherwise.

    Fuck you Richman.

    1. As for #2 (and arguably #1), in 2007 I picked up the debris from several 107mm Katusha rockets that landed on FOB Falcon just south of Baghdad. They all said “Made in Iran” and were stamped “2007”. Our S2 brought back one of the rocket casings (with a signed LTC exemption for “war trophy”).

      It’s not that our involvement in Iraq was righteous and good and wholesome. But let’s not pretend that Iran is innocent and sitting patiently on the sideline in all of this.

  7. So let me see if I understand this…

    I am supposed to believe Obama and Kerry when they tell us that this negotiated deal is good for our country and contains appropriate safeguards to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But I’m also supposed to believe that their argument in support of the agreement is based on an assertion of fact they both supposedly know to be false.

    And I am also supposed to believe that the intelligence agencies that were completely wrong about the Iraqi nuclear program are 100% reliable when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program.

    Well I don’t know about you guys, but I am convinced?

  8. I bet it was comical seeing Russia and China trying to 1-up Kerry constantly. Beyond that, the Iran “nuclear talks” meant about as much to me as the crap I took this morning.

    But if those crazy jihadists get any funny ideas we can send in Team America

  9. It seems that at least some Libertarians, like the scumbag Republicans and the scumbag Democrats, are perfectly willing to spin information as well as flat out lie if thay feel it will advance their policy goals.

    Richman’s not stupid but he must think Reason readers are.

  10. Richman is this stupid.I had read to many of his articles to think other wise.His bias leads him down the path of ignorance,oh, and the Jews!!!.Israel is the only prosperous nation in the middle eat with a democratic government .Take the oil away form the Saudis and the gulf states and you have a bunch of waring,goat hearding,bandit tribes.Oh,if you lose a war that you started ,you suffer the results.Right now though it seems some of the Israelis fromer enimies are on the same page and even sharing intelligence

    1. Those backward Muslims can’t get their act together and develop a culture whereby they acquire gazillions of aid in US dollars and weapons and aren’t constantly sanctioned and bombed by the US. I mean what is wrong with them.

      1. whereby they acquire gazillions of aid in US dollars and weapons and aren’t constantly sanctioned and bombed by the US.

        WTF are you talking about?

  11. I know exactly what this dipshit will write before I click on it. But I still click. Why? Why do I do this to myself? I mean, I admit to having a masochist streak, but that is usually only restricted to sex…….. YW for TMI!

    But, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The folks above have all posted the evidence FOR Iran trying to develop a nuke.
    The evidence AGAINST? Some guys book. A fatwa (1. Muslims have a religious duty to lie if it furthers the cause of Jihad, at least accoring to the Islamism that these folks believe in, 2. Where is this fatwa, anyway?) and relying on supposed intelligence estimates. Intelligence estimates believed Iraq had WMD programs (actually Hussein THOUGHT they did, and they apparently still had chemical weapons around. Now Syria has those weapons) and supposedly “Bush lied, people died”. Now intelligence estimates say Iran DOESN’T have a nuke program. So are they reliable or not?

    Finally, if Iran wanted to get rid of sanctions for program they didn’t have, why wouldn’t they simply say come on in and inspect. Whenever and wherever you want and you will see no nuke program. Why all the negotiations? They would get their money alot quicker. And even just the appearance of openness would allow Russia to openly side with Iran.

    1. When I pleasure myself I like to read one of Richman’s articles. It’s saved me a fortune on nipple clamps.

  12. Honestly Sheldon, it’s hard to get past “Death to America!” If Iran wants to be seen in better light, they should adopt a more friendly and positive slogan, and back it up with good deeds.

    And then there is the Islamic practice of lying to someone’s face to serve Allah’s agenda.

  13. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8596 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here…

  14. Our administration has a history of allowing arms to be put into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, resulting in the deaths of over 300 Mexican civilians. Then, it shipped arms to Syrian rebels, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans including our Ambassador to Libya. So now, by giving the Iranians the opportunity and ability to build nuclear weapons, they won’t build a nuclear weapon. Sorry – I’m not convinced.

    1. I thought guns didn’t kill people.

      1. No, but crazed Islamo-fascists do

      2. There is a big difference between a gun store selling guns to a population that a fraction of a percent will do something nefarious with it, and giving arms to known cartels or terrorists.

        1. So you support background checks?

          1. It depends what you mean. I don’t want to bore you with my nuanced position, so let me *attempt to summarize. (*Spoiler: I failed. In short, yes.)
            Do I think it’s good for dealers to screen selling arms?
            Yes. That is currently how the system works. I was screened every time I bought a firearm.
            Should this apply to Private sales between individuals – whether through family, friend, or acquaintance at gun show?
            No. The enforcement would be analogous to the abortion that is our drug enforcement.

            I am against new legislation to force background checks as it is either ineffective or redundant, but I do, for all intents and purposes, support background checks. It’s conjecture, but I would imagine this is why background checks are supported by the people, but legislation to that effect cannot seem to be passed.

  15. Sheldon Richman gobbles Imam cum. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but why have him on this site? If he was a Nazi lover you would run away from him.

  16. Lets be real and start addressing some real issues. ANY country holding american hostages – has PROVEN BY ALL REASON OF DOUBT that they CANNOT and SHOULD NOT be trusted with Nuclear power. Anyone claiming proof is needed to substantiate claims against Iran – that is my proof 4 American Hostages that have not been released. That’s all the evidence needed. It shows this nation is an ENEMY and you do NOT help your enemies – not in ways of nuclear power, not in ways of financial growth, not in ways of anything relating to peace.

    America wants to enter a treaty with Iran to give them nuclear powers? Fine. I agree. We should support this. First thing is first though – they should take out the entire existing government in Iran, the entire existing military in Iran, and free the american hostages first. Then we can TALK about this treaty.

    Until then, supporting an enemy of the United States is an act of treason.

    Article III Section 3 of the US constitution among other things says “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

    Aiding Iran (holding US hostages makes them an enemy) in the development of ANYTHING is an act of treason.

    1. hostages? LOL. how about detained for breaking the law in Iran and one guy disappeared.

      1. I assume youre not american? Or that youre ignorant of the rights granted to such? By being an american you entitled to certain rights granted by the constitution. They are not rights limited to “being in the US” they are rights for “being a US citizen”. They are constitutional rights.

        Do you believe their rights to due process have been followed? How about rights to speedy trail. In fact do you know ANYTHING about the rights of US citizens? There is a reason that the US FREQUENTLY tell other nations “no, a US citizen will be tried in a US court by a jury of their peers, please extradite our citizen”.

        There are times (more often than not) foreign diplomats areoverwhelmed and can’t get involved in legal issues, but it is still the policy of the US to bring all its citizens home trials for crimes committed.

        That aside do you know anything about the Iran Hostage Crisis? Perhaps you call it the “Conquest of the American Spy Den”? Iran had 52 american hostages. Iran claimed they violated Iranian law and conspired to overthrow the government,. So are you going to tell me those 52 hostages were also not hostages as Iran claimed at the time, instead they were just “being detained for breaking the law”.

        Get a fsckin clue

        1. I think you are exaggerating a bit. What about the hot killer chick in Italy?

      2. You mean like being gay?

  17. Mind, I don’t trust either Obama OR Kerry on foreign policy. They are both idiots. But you plan on ability, not intentions. That’s basic.

  18. where is your proof that Iran isn’t seeking a nuclear bomb.

    1. It centers on his faith that any country other than the U.S. or Israel is run by pacifistic saints.

      In short, he’s an idiot.

    2. When Iran withdraws from the NPT and diverts fuel from their civilian programme, then you should worry about nuclear weapons, maybe even build yourself a nice bomb shelter. Until then, take it easy. Join the smart Americans and figure out a way to take advantage of the warming relations with Iran. Given the situation in the ME these days, it’s a relation that is likely to continue.

      1. Read the comments.

        1. When Iran withdraws from the NPT and diverts fuel from their civilian programme, then you should worry about nuclear weapons, maybe even build yourself a nice bomb shelter.

  19. Well yeah, there has been so much theater here that Neil Patrick Harris should have hosted the talks. But could we have gotten the very real collective punishment (known as sanctions) lifted without pretending that we got a significant concession on nukes? The neocons, who shamelessly think they are still entitled to have opinions about things, have such a boner to bomb Iran right now that it is rather difficult to deal with Iran politically in a way that involves human sanity.

    If it requires a lie about Iran’s nuclear program to decrease the misery of human beings and hold the bloodthirsty warmongers at bay, I think that’s a good trade.

    1. “it is rather difficult to deal with Iran politically in a way that involves human sanity.”

      I think you overestimate the difficulty dealing with Iran. The US has been cooperating on the quiet since at least the Iranians provided an essential staging base for the US invasion of Afghanistan. This recent agreement also underscores the possibility successful cooperation with Iran. Any difficulties arise from the US domestic side of the equation, and they will continue as long as the administration muddles along in the ME and shies away from confronting the conservatives over the issue.

      1. Everything I need to know about Iran, I learn from Wiki

        “Iran, having viewed the Taliban as a bitter enemy, aided coalition forces in an uprising in Herat.”

        No mention of “essential staging base.”

        1. I remember reading about that somewhere, but I don’t seem to be able to find any reference to it. It may still be true as there are many mentions of Iran cooperating with US on the Afghan issue, and they are usually pretty vague wrt specifics. Cooperation took a few steps backwards after Bush declared Iran to be evil, but cooperation started up again as the mess in Iraq started to heat up. The US for example looked to Sistani, a Shia born in Iran, for guidance and blessing. It was on his advice that the Dawa party, whose cadres fled to (and even fought for) Iran during the Iran Iraq war, gained power.

          1. Iran didn’t allow us to operate a base, but they did allow us to fly through their airspace during the invasion of Afghanistan. They also provided some intelligence, & had long been assisting elements of the Northern Alliance fighters that provided most of the ‘boots on the ground’ against the Taliban.

  20. Just once it would be nice to acknowledge that since Iran overthrew the Shah, we have not liked them or anyone else in that region. To our way of thinking, no one is allowed to do anything unless we permit it. Which always takes us back to this ‘war of words’. Seems we only have one ‘friend’ in the region and that costs us $4 billion a year in foreign-aid.

    1. That’s true. Israel is our only friend there. All the more reason not to let their prime nemesis get a nuke.

  21. Come on Reason, stick to your strengths, exposing the violence inherent in the system and promoting increasing individual liberty for humanity.

    If I want to know how the Supreme Leader intends to support terrorists around the middle east, I’ll listen to his speeches:

    If I want to know about how we limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons, I’ll read

  22. One has to wonder why a nation floating on oil would be so determined to enrich radioactive materials if only for energy production purposes. There is that oddity.

  23. Does Obama and Co speak truth about anything? I suspect not. I could be wrong, couldn’t I?.

  24. Iran has not been seeking a nuclear bomb.

    Sorry, Richman, but you’re completely full of shit. There’s boatloads of evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. They’ve been testing intermediate delivery systems for nuclear payloads, openly, for well over a decade.

    There’s certainly room for argument about whether or not Iran should have a right to pursue nukes (I’d argue they do), or whether or not they plan offensive actions if they obtain nuclear weapons (I tend to think not), but claiming that they’re not seeking nuclear weapons is flat-out delusional and dishonest.

  25. I fail to see what this “deal”,already acknowledges as a NON-binding agreement,accomplishes or does any better than the Nuclear Non-Proliferation TREATY that Iran has already signed.
    The evidence is clear that Iran IS working on nuclear weapons,they HAVE done NPT-prohibited nuclear weapons research and work,thus are in violation. Iran has already deceived the IAEA,and blocked their attempts to verify Iran IS in compliance with the NPT. This non-binding
    ‘agreement” isn’t going to change any of that.

    Either we enforce the NPT,or we consider the NPT inoperative and allow Iran to build nukes.

    1. “The evidence is clear that Iran IS working on nuclear weapons”

      You mean Iran has the highly enriched uranium necessary to build a bomb? And you have evidence for it? Don’t waste another minute chatting on the board here. Contact your superiors and let them know you have this evidence. The National Security is at stake.

      “Either we enforce the NPT,or we consider the NPT inoperative and allow Iran to build nukes.”

      You do know, don’t you that any country can withdraw from the NPT whenever it chooses to. That’s how North Korea developed its bomb and the US stood by and did nothing.

      1. Short version:

        Iran is not working on a bomb and even if it was it wouldn’t matter.

        1. “even if it was it wouldn’t matter”

          Going by the comments, it would matter a lot to some of the hand wringers here. It matters on the domestic front, largely, I imagine because Iran had an unpermitted revolution, and some of the events like the embassy business. Lots of Americans will have trouble adapting to shifting alliances, new friendships and change in general.

  26. I’ll come back when everyone decides to be calm and rational and actually present evidence instead of assertions.
    Iran may not be the nicest place in the world, but you’ve got to be kidding if you really think Iran is a major threat to the U.S.
    They’re just the latest excuse for warhawks desperate to defend and increase our massive military budget.

    In the meantime, What? A President lie? Shocking!!

    1. Iran may not be the nicest place in the world, but you’ve got to be kidding if you really think Iran is a major threat to the U.S.

      Just ignore all those bodies and all the evidence that contradicts your worldview. Typical peacenazi.

  27. Sheldon Richman is at least one of three things,

    1) Crazy

    2) Delusional

    3) Muslim

    I’m going with all three.

  28. Imagine if as many liberals took over these threads as neocons do. Or as many liberals as Christianists on various other topics. It would blow everyone’s mind.

  29. How about Sheldon stop lying about Iran?

    They are likely seeking a bomb, full stop.

  30. I don’t understand the problem – Iran hasn’t started a war or invaded another country since the late 1700s.

    1. Not counting their support of groups that have started a war. Of course. Proxy war is so deniable.

  31. In all probability, Iran has a nuclear weapon. Probably more than one. They just haven’t tested one yet. All of the drama over the recent “negotiation” was nothing more than an amateurish effort to salvage some degree of respect for the participants. The technology necessary to produce a nuclear weapon is well known. The Iranian scientists are world class. If they were attempting to build a nuclear weapon (and they were), then they have one by now. All the US has managed to do is undermine what little credibility they have left in the world. What an embarrassment.

  32. Burying your atomic energy program under a mountain is not trust inducing.

  33. Start making cash right now… Get more time with your family by doing jobs that only require for you to have a computer and an internet access and you can have that at your home. Start bringing up to $8596 a month. I’ve started this job and I’ve never been happier and now I am sharing it with you, so you can try it too. You can check it out here…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.