Has Iran Stopped Nuking Its Wife?

Keystone Kondi Rice is back in the news. This time she's helping her boss make boo noise about what the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) calls Iran's "relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons."

On January 8, speaking at an AIPAC conference, Condi said that the Iranians, "continue to inch closer to a nuclear weapon." This despite the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate finding (.pdf here) that stated, "We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

Condi and AIPAC and the rest of the neoconservative universe have treated the November NIE the way it treats all inconvenient facts; they've ignored it. And once again, the mainstream media, most notably the New York Times, have been their willing partner in crime.

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That the NIE even grants Iran ever had a nuclear weapons program at all sounds like the doings of nefarious manipulation. We've seen time and again the consequences of Dick Cheney's influence. When the Cheney Gang goes to work in Washington I can hear fibulas cracking clear down here in Virginia Beach.

I've said this again and again but it demands repeating: The Russians didn't begin building Iran's first reactor until fall of 2002. If Iran halted its weapons program in fall of 2003, it had to have been the kind of weapons program a couple of Revolutionary Guard colonels drew up on a bar napkin at the Fort Farsi officers' club. I can imagine that the program halted when a senior mullah—perhaps Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself—called the colonels in for a private chat and made it clear that they would drop their weapons project like a bad habit or go through life trying to function with hooks at the ends of their arms.

Whatever happened, Iran doesn't have an active nuclear weapons program now, but recognizing that reality doesn't serve the neoconservative agenda. Desperate to create a global villain on whom they can lay fault for the failure of their ideology, the Cheney-centric Bush administration bounces back and forth between blaming Iran for American casualties in Iraq and accusing it of wanting to blast Israel to smithereens and of planning to give terrorists a suitcase bomb that can blow up New York City. When one line of demonizing gets derailed, they switch to the other.

Little Rascals

The latest campaign to convince the world that Iran is directly responsible for killing American G.I.s in Iraq started running out of steam in early May when allegedly Iranian weapons captured in the Iraqi city of Karbala turned out not to have come from Iran, and Iranian weapons supposedly captured in Basra never materialized. Then on June 6, historian and journalist Gareth Porter demonstrated in Salon magazine that the main supplier of weapons to Iraqi militants is none other than General David "Pushups" Petraeus.

It was time for the Bush administration to switch back to the mushroom cloud meme. For ammunition, they reached for the May 26 report on Iran by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency and for support they turned to their old propaganda ally from the Nigergate affair, the New York Times.

The NYT's May 27 headline read, "Atomic Monitor Signals Concern Over Iran’s Work," and the article, by Elaine Sciolino, was a compendium of distortions, out-of-context citations and bald faced fabulism. Sciolino's worst piece of dissembling was that the report "accused the Iranians of a willful lack of cooperation." The report said nothing of the kind.

Key statements in the report not cited by Sciolino include "All nuclear material at [Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant], as well as the cascade area, remains under Agency containment and surveillance" and "The results of the environmental samples taken at FEP and PFEP indicate that the plants have been operated as declared" and " The Agency has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran."

In addition, the IAEA report bears the distinct style of coerced language we've seen in U.S. intelligence reports since the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. There is little doubt that Cheney sideman John Bolton's main job at the UN was to bully everyone on the Security Council into parroting the neocons' Iran narrative. Bolton's successor Zalmay Khalilzad looks more presentable and has better social skills than Bolton, but who doesn't? Like Bolton, Khalilzad was a charter member of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century and is a Cheney liegeman, and he's up to no good at the UN. From the sound of things, the velvet knuckle diplomacy Khalilzad conducts in New York transmits directly to Vienna, where U.S. ambassador to the IAEA Gregory Schulte consistently dittos the administration's propaganda on Iran's nuclear program.

Thus the IAEA's May 26 report gave the administration's spin merchants just enough wiggle room to exploit its concerns about yet unresolved issues, and Condi once again stepped up and did her part to foment fear and loathing of Iran.

In her June 3 AIPAC speech, she asked, "Why has Iran rejected, thus far, Russia’s offer of uranium enrichment in Russia?" and " Why…is Iran continuing to enrich uranium, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions?"

"It’s just hard to imagine that there are innocent answers to these questions," she said, which gives you a fairly accurate idea of just how atrophied Condi's imagination is.

The UN Non-Proliferation Treaty grants its signatories, who include both Iran and the United States, the "inalienable right" to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful energy purposes. If Iran gives up its inalienable right to enrich uranium it will likely never get it back. If the Iranians accept an offer from Russia or the U.S. or anyone else to refine their nuclear fuel for them, they'll never have a truly independent energy industry. Having a nuclear energy industry in which you can't make your own fuel is like having an automobile industry in which you have to make your cars overseas and use overseas steel and overseas labor. All you can do with an auto industry like that is buy your own cars from somebody else.

And since the UN resolution forbids Iran to pursue an inalienable right, is the resolution itself not illegal?

At the end of the day, all the scare talk about Iran getting nuclear weapons is a red herring. Today's global power struggle today is about who gets to squeeze the last dime out of the last drop of oil in the planet, and who controls how much the rest of us have to pay for whatever replaces oil as the new energy source.

If, when the last oil well coughs up dust, Iran has a viable nuclear industry and is a full partner in an axis of energy that includes Russia and China, then Dick and Dubya's big oil buddies will be riding bicycles to work.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) is on sale now.

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Know what baffles me? Iran, an oil producing nation, is pursuing nuclear power. Rather than taking the hint that peak oil is rapidly approaching, there's this need to cling to outmoded beliefs from the 1980's. I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear Condoleezza Rice make one of her famous slips of the tongue and say Margaret Thatcher is still Prime Minister.