Should Change Course
and Hold Talks With Iran
proposal is one good place to begin. The
current double standard must be abandoned. War over
Iran's nuclear enrichment is not an acceptable option.
Iran clearly has the right to do its own enrichment.
June 8, 2008
Although saying that he would at first try diplomacy, even Barack Obama, in speaking to AIPAC on June 4, threatened Iran with war.
There is no greater threat to Israel - or to the peace and stability of the region - than Iran…. The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race, and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists…. Iran has strengthened its position. Iran is now enriching uranium, and has reportedly stockpiled 150 kilos of low enriched uranium. Its support for terrorism and threats toward Israel have increased. Those are the facts, they cannot be denied, and I refuse to continue a policy that has made the United States and Israel less secure….We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power [presumably including use of nuclear weapons] to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon…. Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. – Barack Obama to AIPAC, June 4, 2008
It boggles my mind how so many folk are ready to follow the same path, a path of lies and misinformation, to war with Iran that the U.S. government followed in going to war against Iraq.
Here are some important facts related to Iran and its nuclear program.
Under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a party, Iran is legally entitled to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
By most counts, there are 195 countries in the world if you count Kosovo and the Vatican. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), presently consisting of 119 countries, recently unanimously supported Iran in its right to do its own uranium enrichment rather than depend on foreign governments to supply nuclear fuel.
On May 13, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, presented a proposal to the UN which suggested six months of negotiations on regional security, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, energy cooperation, and narcotics trafficking, as well as ways to improve international nuclear safeguards and monitoring and prevent the diversion of nuclear material. Ambassador Khazaee indicated that Iran might be willing to accept the “Pickering Proposal.”
Let’s look at the so-called Pickering Proposal (as made by Thomas Pickering, William Luers, and Jim Walsh in the March 20, 2008 issue of the New York Review of Books), and the person after whom it’s named. The proposal is “that Iran's efforts to produce enriched uranium and other related nuclear activities be conducted on a multilateral basis, that is to say jointly managed and operated on Iranian soil by a consortium including Iran and other governments. This proposal provides a realistic, workable solution to the U.S.-Iranian nuclear standoff. Turning Iran's sensitive nuclear activities into a multinational program will reduce the risk of proliferation and create the basis for a broader discussion not only of our disagreements but of our common interests as well.”
Tom Pickering and others like him who believe the U.S. ought to be talking with Iran are not pinko appeasers, as Bush’s May 15, 2008, Knesset speech tried to imply, nor is Pickering naive. He was the Reagan administration’s Ambassador to El Salvador in 1984-5 and Ambassador to Israel during the First Intifada. He's co-chair of the International Crisis Group, and Chairman of the American Academy of Diplomacy.
Bush has totally ignored Iran’s offer to discuss the “Pickering Proposal,” and still insists that Iran stop its fully legal enrichment activities before he will speak to the Iranians.
In truth, Bush appears exactly as eager to go to war against Iran as he was to go to war against Iraq in the earliest days of his first term, long before the 9/11 attacks. Many thanks are due to Paul O’Neill, Bush’s first Secretary of the Treasury, for revealing the truth in detail about Bush’s eagerness to go to war against Iraq in his book, The Price of Loyalty.
Iran’s leaders have said hundreds of times that they do not want nuclear weapons. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have not found any evidence that Iran’s nuclear program is intended to produce them.
The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released in December 2007 reported the findings from 16 U.S. spy agencies. That NIE concluded that “Iran's nuclear weapons development program has been halted since the fall of 2003 because of international pressure,” that “Iran's [nuclear] weapons program was still frozen, through at least mid-2007,” and that "Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005."
According to the May 26 report IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei sent to the IAEA Board of Governors, Iran’s centrifuges have been subjected to 14 unannounced inspections since March 2007. The centrifuges have been found to be operating within the parameters claimed by Iran, parameters suitable for low-grade enrichment for nuclear fuel but not for weapons-grade enrichment. Iran said it would enrich to 4.7% U-235, and the IAEA found up to 4%. Reprocessing-capable facilities have also been inspected, and the IAEA found “no indications of ongoing reprocessing related activities.”
The IAEA monitors key nuclear program facilities and operations via 24-hour camera surveillance. There is constant video surveillance of all nuclear material. All UF6 is under IAEA containment. Since February 2008, all fuel assemblies imported from the Russian Federation for use in the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant have remained under Agency seal. Design Information Verification (DIV) on all plants related to the nuclear industry is conducted by everything from site visits to expert examination of satellite imagery.
Iran answered every question it was required to answer for the last three-month IAEA reporting period. Every question, without a single exception.
As for the “alleged studies,” the IAEA report acknowledges that Iran provided some answers which were still being “assessed.”
Some other of the “alleged studies” referred to in the IAEA report as not having been fully and satisfactorily addressed by Iran were actually not required to be addressed. The U.S. always puts forth late (sometimes last minute) evidence, sometimes forged (remember the documents the U.S. and U.K. cited in the Niger “yellowcake” case, later proven beyond any doubt to be forgeries), before an IAEA report is due, and alleges that the evidence indicates Iran is working on some program or study related to nuclear weapons. Often the U.S. insists that copies of the “evidence” not be given to Iran.
The U.S. government employs the brand-new-evidence-too-sensitive-to-show tactic for two reasons: (1) so that the IAEA can never flatly say that all questions have been satisfactorily answered, and (2) to provoke Iran into revealing classified information on facilities for its legal and non-nuclear related operations which can be used in the future for targeting during a bombing campaign.
Iran is fully aware that some United Nations [UNSCOM] inspectors who inspected Iraq for WMDs in the 1990s illegally, and in violation of a written agreement with Iraq, shared information obtained during inspections with the U.S military. The information was later used in targeting during Operation Desert Fox, the intense bombing of Iraq on December 16-19, 1998. No country should be expected to subject itself to inspections which will provide targeting information to a likely foe. The UN recognized that principle in writing, but, in the case of Iraq, didn’t live up to it.
This time the “alleged studies” referred to in ElBaradei’s May 26 report included one that Iran was working on the design of missile re-entry vehicles. The IAEA’s report said a lot of information was provided to back up that allegation, but that the agency was not authorized to provide copies of all the evidence to Iran. Who in their right mind would expect Iran to address such a question, when it was not allowed to have copies of all the “evidence”? Yet Iran did not totally ignore even that charge.
According to the May 26 report: as for the “second” aspect of the “alleged studies,” that Iran is involved in the “development and testing of high voltage detonator firing equipment and exploding bridgewire (EBW) detonators including, inter alia, the simultaneous firing of multiple EBW detonators; an underground testing arrangement; and the testing of at least one full scale hemispherical, converging, explosively driven shock system that could be applicable to an implosion-type nuclear device,” and the “third” aspect of the “alleged studies” concerning “development work alleged to have been performed to redesign the inner cone of the Shahab-3 missile re-entry vehicle to accommodate a nuclear warhead,” Iran provided some answers. Iran stated that the documents “do not show any indication that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been working on [a] nuclear weapon.” Iran also stated that the documents were not authentic, that they were “forged” or “fabricated”. Iran did not dispute that some of the information contained in the documents was factually accurate, but said the events and activities concerned involved civil or conventional military applications. Iran said the documents contained numerous inconsistencies and many were based on publicly available information. Iran stated that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has not had and shall not have any nuclear weapon program.”
Here are a few more comments from ElBaradei’s May 26 report for the IAEA Board of Governors as related to the “alleged studies.”
[Quotation marks in the next four paragraphs indicate words taken directly from the May 26 report.]
“Concerning the alleged work to design and build an EBW detonator and a suitable detonator firing unit, Iran acknowledged that it had conducted simultaneous testing with two to three EBW detonators with a time precision of about one microsecond. Iran said, however, that this was intended for civil and conventional military applications. Iran further stated, inter alia, that there was no evidence in the documents presented to it to link them to Iran.”
“Concerning the documents purporting to show administrative interconnections between the alleged green salt project and a project to modify the Shahab-3 missile to carry a nuclear warhead, Iran stated that, since some of the documents were not shown to it by the Agency, it could not make an assessment of them. Although the Agency had been shown the documents that led it to these conclusions, it was not in possession of the documents and was therefore unfortunately unable to make them available to Iran.”
“Concerning six technical reports purportedly related to efforts to engineer a new payload chamber for the Shahab-3 missile re-entry vehicle, Iran stated that the files were in electronic form and could therefore have been easily manipulated. Iran also stated, inter alia, that the documents were not complete and that the report structures varied, which raised serious doubts about their authenticity.”
As for “the role of military related institutes, such as the Physics Research Center (PHRC), the Institute of Applied Physics (IAP) and the Education Research Institute (ERI),” “the fact that substantial parts of the centrifuge components were manufactured in the workshops of the Defense Industries Organization,” and the that military institutions have been employed in procurement and R&D, so what? That should be expected, just as very many U.S. companies, and also the U.S. military itself, are involved both in military and non-military projects.
The [often bogus, according to Iran] evidence provided by the U.S. is sometimes only shown briefly to the IAEA, with the IAEA not able to keep and examine the evidence thoroughly. Sometimes it is only shown electronically, precluding inspection of original documents. Sometimes the IAEA is not permitted to provide the evidence to Iran. And, incredibly, sometimes the U.S. claims to have evidence too dangerous even to show the IAEA. These are run-of-the-mill tactics used by the U.S on a daily basis as a way of provoking countries around the world into revealing information heretofore classified.
Claiming to have evidence too dangerous to show anyone has been a common tactic of the U.S. for decades. It’s a tactic calculated to instill fear. Older folk will remember when the David Greenglass drawings used to help convict the Rosenbergs in 1951 were impounded and kept secret. [A bad decision of the Rosenbergs’ defense was partly responsible for the misuse of the drawings at trial which led jurors to believe the drawings were really important.] After eventually being revealed in 1966, they were judged to have been crude and worthless, a judgment confirmed by Russian documents and former espionage agents & scientists following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The “transparency issues” not addressed by Iran for the May 26 IAEA report were issues either (1) that Iran was not required to address, or (2) that Iran was not required to address in time for ElBaradei’s May 26 report. It is routine for the IAEA to request Iran to voluntarily go beyond what is required, and sometimes Iran has done that. But the fact that Iran has often answered questions it was not required to answer is no reason to expect them to always do that.
No other country has ever answered all the questions it was not required to answer. It is widely accepted that governments need to have some secrets for security purposes. Let’s look at an example: The IAEA lists as a transparency issue its request for access to all the manufacturing facilities related to the production of centrifuge tube parts. Iran, however, is not required to provide that, and some of those facilities are likely involved in other projects besides centrifuge parts. Iran would probably be wise to never provide access to those facilities since the information learned would likely find its way to the U.S. military and be used in future targeting, just as the information UNSCOM obtained in the 1990s was used against Iraq during 1998’s Operation Desert Fox.
Finally, if Iran really wanted to build nuclear weapons, it could simply give its three-month notice it was pulling out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and then build them legally, just as North Korea did.
Morally, a double standard is unjustifiable. A short time ago the U.S. government unilaterally violated the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (not a surprise; the U.S. government has done so in about a dozen ways and on hundreds of occasions) by welcoming India into the “nuclear club,” or “nuclear haves,” and offering India aid in nuclear technology even though India (1) has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and (2) secretly developed nuclear weapons. The agreement Bush signed with India did not even require transparency in India’s weapons facilities, and only required limited transparency in India’s non-weapons-related facilities.
Why such a double standard? On the one hand, a country, India, is rewarded for (1) not joining the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, (2) secretly developing nuclear weapons, and (3) demanding to keep its weapons-related nuclear activities secret. On the other hand, a country, Iran, is placed under severe economic sanctions after (1) joining the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, (2) declaring, and providing tons of evidence to support its declaration, that it does not have either a desire or intention to build nuclear weapons, and (3) opening up all its facilities which could possible be used to make weapons-grade uranium to visits by inspectors and 24-hour video surveillance.
Thinking back to Obama’s AIPAC speech, it is not the place of any American (or Israeli, Ehud Olmert) to decide that Iran shall not have nuclear weapons. And it is not okay for an American president to do “everything in my power” (including nuclear attack) to stop Iran from having the ability to build them. Whether to have nuclear weapons is a decision for Iran to make. Even though at least six of Iran’s close neighbors - Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and the United States (every country’s close neighbor) - have them, Iran’s leadership has decided to not build them. We should be grateful for that, and stop treating Iran as a threat. Iran is a peaceful country, and not a threat to anyone.
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