There have been a number of reports this year that Iran is not constructing weapons. For example, “Intelligence Agencies Say No New Nukes in Iran” was the headline on a Newsweek article Sept. 16 that read in part:
“The U.S. intelligence community is reporting to the White House that Iran has not restarted its nuclear-weapons development program, two counter-proliferation officials tell Newsweek. U.S. agencies had previously said that Tehran halted the program in 2003.
“The officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that U.S. intelligence agencies have informed policymakers at the White House and other agencies that the status of Iranian work on development and production of a nuclear bomb has not changed since the formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s ‘Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities’ in November 2007. Public portions of that report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies had ‘high confidence” that, as of early 2003, Iranian military units were pursuing development of a nuclear bomb, but that in the fall of that year Iran ‘halted its nuclear weapons program.’ The document said that while U.S. agencies believed the Iranian government ‘at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons,’ U.S. intelligence as of mid-2007 still had ‘moderate confidence’ that it had not restarted weapons-development efforts.
“One of the two officials said that the Obama administration has now worked out a system in which intelligence agencies provide top policymakers, including the president, with regular updates on intelligence judgments like the conclusions in the 2007 Iran NIE. According to the two officials, the latest update to policymakers has been that as of now — two years after the period covered by the 2007 NIE — U.S. intelligence agencies still believe Iran has not resumed nuclear-weapons development work. ‘That’s the conclusion, but it’s one that—like every other—is constantly checked and reassessed, both to take account of new information and to test old assumptions,’ one of the officials told Newsweek.”
In this connection, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair — the insider’s insider — testified before Congress in February that there was no evidence Iran is producing the highly enriched uranium required for nuclear weapons.
The September-October issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists contained an interview with Mohamed El Baradei, the retiring long time director of the IAEA, in which he declared: “We have not seen concrete evidence that Tehran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program …. But somehow, many people are talking about how Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest threat to the world….
“In many ways, I think the threat has been hyped. Yes, there’s concern about Iran’s future intentions and Iran needs to be more transparent with the IAEA and the international community …. But the idea that we’ll wake up tomorrow and Iran will have a nuclear weapon is an idea that isn’t supported by the facts as we have seen them so far.”
The Sept. 21 issue of Newsweek reported that “quarrels concerning the ultimate aim of Iran’s secretive nuke program have become so heated that some UN officials are making comparisons to the proliferation of misinformation in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.” The article continued:
In a private email sent last week to nuclear experts and obtained by Newsweek, Tariq Rauf, a senior official with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote that the mainstream media are repeating mistakes from 2003, when they ‘carried unsubstantiated stories on Iraq and WMD — the same mistakes are being repeated re IAEA and Iran.’ Rauf added that ‘the hype is likely originating from certain (known) sources.’ The message does not specify the sources, but U.S. and European officials have previously accused Israel of exaggerating Iran’s nuclear progress.
On Feb. 22, India’s mass circulation daily The Hindu reported:
Iran has not converted the low-grade uranium that it has produced into weapon-grade uranium, inspectors belonging to the International Atomic Energy Agency have said. The Austrian Press Agency quoted an IAEA expert as saying that the uranium substances that Iran has produced at its Natanz enrichment facility have been carefully recorded and remote cameras have been installed to supervise part of the stockpile. ‘If the Iranians intend to transport these uranium substances to a secret location for further processing, the agency’s inspectors will find out,‘ he said. The expert added that ‘so far, Iran has carried out good cooperation with us in relevant verifications.’
The French news agency AFP reported Sept. 20:
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today denied the West’s charge that Tehran aims to develop nuclear weapons under a covert program, insisting the Islamic Republic bans such activity. ‘They falsely accuse [Iran] of producing nuclear weapons. We fundamentally reject nuclear weapons and prohibit the production and the use of nuclear weapons,’ Khamenei said in a speech broadcast by state television. ‘They know themselves that it’s not true … but it is part of Iran-phobia policy that controls the behavior of these arrogant governments today.’
Iran is no danger to Israel, the United States, or the Sunni Arab world. It wants to protect its revolution, independence and what it considers its precious Islamic Republic. The Ahmadinejad government and Ayatollah Khamenei fully understand that heavy U.S. sanctions are capable of causing extreme agony for the masses of its people and would lead to a weakening of the state. Tehran is also aware that if it produces one nuclear weapon it may be mercilessly attacked.
Iran’s leadership is not suicidal, and is well aware that if Tehran not only produced a weapon but actually launched a nuclear missile toward Israel, the massive retaliation from the U.S. and Israel would obliterate most of Iranian society, whether or not its weapon was deflected by the U.S. anti-missile system that the Obama Administration is now going to place aboard Navy ships in the Mediterranean. (President Bush wanted to deploy the system to Poland and the Czech Republic to threaten Russia, not to defend Europe against an Iranian attack. By moving the ABMs south, Obama achieved two objectives: He got Russia off his back, while assuring Israel of yet another layer of U.S. protection.)
For all its fiery international rhetoric, Iran’s leadership is essentially cautious, and its military intentions are defensive. The country hasn’t started a war in almost 200 years, and the Iranian people have no desire to replicate the horror of the defensive war they waged against the Iraqi aggressor for most of the 1980s.
Developing nuclear weapons in today’s world makes a country a recognized power, and is a great defense against imperial aggression, particularly for a country that has long been on Washington’s hit list and narrowly avoided an invasion during the Bush years.
Iran — even if it knows how to produce a nuclear bomb — will not weaponize because it wishes to demonstrate its adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and because it desires to survive the hostility of America and Israel. At the same time, Iran does not intend to be humiliated and hampered by hugely excessive restrictions and intrusive surveillance that is not applied to other countries in compliance with the NPT. Nor does it intend to turn tail because of threats from those who object to its support of the Palestinian people and its opposition to imperialism.
If the United States genuinely wishes to resolve its dispute with Iran, it is possible to do so rationally and without violence. But this means President Obama must treat Iran as an equal, accept the reality that Tehran and Washington see the world differently, and negotiate in good faith.
Most Americans and virtually the rest of the world have high hopes about Obama, especially after the dreadful Bush Administration. We certainly recognize the improvement, but have doubts, not high hopes, when it comes to the direction of American foreign policy. We see little difference, other than the cosmetic, between the Obama Administration’s international strategy and the strategy of American global domination and hegemony based on military power that has prevailed in Washington in its present incarnation since the end of World War II.
We’d like nothing better than to be proven wrong. But that would take the development of a massive progressive movement in this country, focused in this instance on world peace, the equality of peoples, and justice for all, a not unreasonable goal worth struggling for, in our view. And as far as nuclear proliferation is concerned, the only true solution is total nuclear disarmament, a position, by the way, that Iran appears to be putting forth these days.