There’s obviously more than meets the eye to unproven allegations of late September from the United States and its allies that Iran’s nuclear program is really intended to result in the clandestine production of nuclear weapons, presumably to attack other countries.
As we proceed with our analysis, here are a few things that should be kept in mind.
* So far, there is no evidence Iran is going to “weaponize” its nuclear power program and build atomic bombs. So far, it has been abiding by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has pledged not to produce nuclear weapons, is under very close scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and obviously its program is the target of intensive surveillance by the · United States. There is no secret way in which it could construct nuclear weapons under such circumstances.
* Israel possesses an arsenal of up to 200 nuclear weapons and thumbs its nose at the IAEA and the NPT, with which it is notoriously non-compliant. If US President Barack Obama must sternly castigate Iran, which does not have nuclear weapons, for “breaking rules that all nations must follow … and threatening the stability and security of the region and the world”, why does he protect Israel from international sanctions and subsidize its military machine? Pakistan and India are also non-compliant, but they, too, are allies of Washington and thus have been granted immunity.
* In this connection, it must be noted that the far right-wing Tel Aviv government appears to be on the verge of launching an attack on Iran and has made this well known to the world. But it receives no censure for such threats from the US and its European allies, or for the horror it inflicted on Gaza a few months ago. Imagine the outcry if Iran threatened to attack Israel, or its army entered the territory of a neighboring society and inflicted cruelties largely on its civilian population for not submitting to national oppression.
And yet Tel Aviv calls Iran an “existential” threat, despite Israel’s nuclear weapons, its superior military force and its support from the entire American military apparatus, including 2,600 strategic nuclear warheads on hair-trigger readiness. But as we’ve noted before, the only concrete threat to Israel’s existence would be if the US government withdrew its political, military and financial support.
* Washington’s geopolitical interests are key to America’s relationship to Iran and the Middle East in general. The US desires to control – or at minimum to keep out of “unfriendly” hands – the immense oil reserves possessed by Iran and neighboring Iraq. It fears a future alliance between these resource-rich developing countries, which also happen to be the only two nations in the world governed by Shi’ite Muslims. The US invaded to overthrow the “unfriendly”, Sunni-backed Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. But it can neither rely totally on its selected successor regime in Baghdad, nor has it yet been able to remove the theocratic government in Tehran, which is conservative domestically but puts forward an anti-imperialist foreign policy that drives the world’s remaining superpower to distraction.
Washington’s objective at the talks beginning on October 1 in Geneva is to coerce Iran to accept extremely intrusive controls on its nuclear development, combining dire threats for refusal with small rewards for agreement. The Tehran government said it would reject demands that it halt uranium enrichment, a main concern of the five members of the Security Council plus Germany, but indicated without elaboration that “Iran is ready to … help ease joint international concerns over the nuclear issue.” (Enriched uranium is required to power nuclear plants for civilian uses. A much higher level of enriched uranium is required for weapons.)
Washington wants to confine the seven-party discussions to Tehran’s nuclear project, but the Iranian government put forward its own proposal in early September for “comprehensive, all-encompassing and constructive negotiations”. The US rejected the proposal, but accepted it with seeming reluctance the next day. (We don’t know what happened to change things.) The Iranian suggestions include hastening global nuclear disarmament, ending nuclear proliferation and working toward world peace. Theoretically, Washington agrees with these goals, but doesn’t really want to discuss them with Iran.
The White House knows that in a broader discussion of non-proliferation issues, Iran would draw attention to the three US allies presently defying the NPT and getting away with it, and also show that the US itself is non-compliant because it was supposed to have made more progress by now in reducing the Pentagon’s nuclear arsenal. Further, the US will hardly discuss an Iranian proposal for a comprehensive agreement to achieve “global peace and security based on justice” that includes an inquiry into America’s aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Israel’s disproportionate violence against Gaza and Lebanon.
The Obama administration wants at minimum to impose stringent sanctions on Iran if no progress is made to its satisfaction in the next few months, as demanded by US neo-conservatives, the right wing in general and those influenced by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which describes itself as “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”.
One reason for harsh sanctions would be to hasten the downfall of the Mahmud Ahmadinejad government, if possible, by creating a serious economic crisis, unemployment and suffering to exacerbate existing social tensions within the Islamic Republic. The last time Washington engaged in deep sanctions was from 1991-2003, when it was been verified that over a million Iraqis, including a huge number of children, died from various deprivations from hunger to unclean drinking water.
If sanctions are the minimum, the maximum response would be unleashing Israel to attack Iran – an action that would backfire as surely as there is water in the Hudson River.
After his Pittsburgh speech, Obama told the press he wasn’t “taking any options off the table”, a phrase he has used a number of times in relation to Iran. It means war remains an option for the US, even over the relatively petty issue of an empty building still under construction that’s probably intended to produce energy, not violence. This same statement was a favorite of George W Bush as well, and he used it repeatedly in relation to Iran. In April 2006, at a time when vice president Dick Cheney, the neo-conservatives and their supporters were pushing hard for war against Iran, the BBC reported, “Bush says all options, including the use of force, are on the table.” As they say, the more things change …
Although some in Washington are hopeful that Ahmadinejad will be weakened in the nuclear talks because of opposition claims that he “stole” the June 12 election in Iran, we don’t believe this is a factor. So far, more than three-and-a-half months later, there has not been any concrete evidence to support the opposition allegations of electoral fraud.
While the US mass media depict Ahmadinejad as being under virtual siege from the majority of Iranians, other information shows this is exaggerated. Inter Press Service reported the following in an article by Jim Lobe on September 19 headlined, “New Poll Finds Strong Domestic Support for Iran Regime”:
A new survey of Iranian public opinion released here suggests majority domestic support for both him [Ahmadinejad] and the country’s basic governing institutions. Four out of five of the 1,003 Iranian respondents interviewed in the survey released by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a project of the highly respected Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland, said they considered Ahmadinejad to be the legitimate president of Iran.
Sixty-two percent of respondents said they had “a lot of confidence” in the declared election results, which gave Ahmadinejad 62.6% of the vote within hours of the polls’ closing June 12 and which were swiftly endorsed by the Islamic Republic’s Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Three of four respondents said Khamenei had reacted correctly in his endorsement.
No mass demonstrations have taken place from early August until September 18, when thousands of protestors marched in Tehran in an attempt to rival much larger government-sponsored annual rallies in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle on what is called “Jerusalem Day” in Iran. Coming just two weeks before the opening of the nuclear talks, it was obviously intended to convey the impression internationally that Ahmadinejad did not really represent the will of the Iranian people. Police handled the dissenters with kid gloves.
A number of the demonstrators and signs seemed to oppose the Tehran government’s support for the Palestinians as well as Ahmadinejad’s re-election. The Economist reported chants of “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I’ll only give my life for Iran,” although Jerusalem Day observances never suggested Iranians should give their lives for either Gaza or Lebanon, both of which have been targets of Israeli military aggression. There were also chants of “Death to Russia” and “Death to China”, evidently a reference to their refusal to join the US and Israel in denunciations of the Tehran government.
In a speech that day, Ahmadinejad in effect pulled the rug from under his own feet in terms of international opinion by once again charging that the Holocaust was a “lie”. Wisely, the Iranian leader did not repeat the preposterous allegation during his 35-minute speech to the UN General Assembly in New York September 23. He mainly discussed building durable world peace and “elimination of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to pave the way for all nations to have access to advanced and peaceful technology”.
He criticized the US and Israel, but seemed somewhat subdued. According to Sarah Wheaton in the New York Times blog that evening, he “said the United States was aiding Israel in ‘racist ambitions’, called Israel’s attack on Gaza in December ‘barbaric’ and said the economic blockade of Palestinians amounts to ‘genocide’ ” – comments that provoked the US and 10 other delegations to walk out. Israel didn’t attend in the first place.
Soon after Ahmadinejad’s speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the General Assembly, “The most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” and urged the delegates to oppose Iranian “barbarism”.
Back in Israel on September 26, according to an Associated Press dispatch from Jerusalem, “Netanyahu spoke with House speaker Nancy Pelosi and a number of unidentified US senators and told them that now is the time to act on Iran. Israel maintains the Islamic Republic is seeking nuclear weapons. ‘If not now then when?’ the official quoted Netanyahu as saying. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak with the media. He did not disclose what kind of action Netanyahu recommended be taken.
“Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said earlier in the day that the Iranian nuclear facility proves ‘without a doubt’ the Islamic republic is pursuing nuclear weapons. ‘This removes the dispute whether Iran is developing military nuclear power or not and therefore the world powers need to draw conclusions’, Lieberman told Israel Radio. ‘Without a doubt it is a reactor for military purposes not peaceful purposes’.”