Four years after the Bush administration duped Americans into believing that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in the al Qaeda terrorist attacks that rocked the United States on 9/11, Bush administration officials -- prodded by Israel -- are now asking Americans to believe that Iran either has the bomb or is vigorously pursuing it.
As former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter put it in his recent book Target Iran, "the last thing the Bush administration wanted was to have the U.S. public pondering the possibility that Iran might not, after all, be pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but rather only a peaceful nuclear energy program." [p. 145]
But, thanks to lies and deceit by Iran, as well as unsubstantiated allegations by the Bush administration and Israel, Iran's very attempt to exercise its legal rights to the nuclear fuel cycle under Article 4 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is now viewed as proof of intent to build the bomb. Thus, for both Israel and the US, Iran's exercise of its Article 4 rights -- which has the overwhelming support of its citizens -- has become a reason for war.
Recall that the Bush administration "took the lead in arguing that Iran, as a leading producer of oil, had no justifiable economic explanation for its nuclear program, further reinforcing the conclusion by Washington D.C. that the program was a cover for nuclear weapons acquisition." [p. 71] Strangely, the Bush administration seems to have forgotten that both the Nixon and Ford administrations "approved the Shah's plans for both uranium-enrichment facilities and plutonium reprocessing plants." (Joseph Cirincione, "The Clock's Ticking: Stopping Iran Before It's Too Late," Arms Control Today, Nov. 2006)
Strangely? Yes, because "the approval process then included several officials who have advised President George W. Bush on Iran" [Ibid], Messrs. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Kissinger.
And, as Ray McGovern has recently written: "In 1976, Ford reluctantly signed a directive offering Iran a deal that would have brought at least $5.4 billion for U.S. corporations like Westinghouse and General electric, had not the Shah been unceremoniously ousted three years later. The offer included a reprocessing facility for a complete nuclear-fuels cycle -- essentially the same capability that the United States, Israel and other countries now insist Iran cannot be allowed to acquire." (Ray McGovern, "Wake Up! The Next War is Coming," TomPaine.com, Feb. 12, 2007)
In addition, John Bolton -- the obnoxious right-wing ideologue and anti-U.N. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., whose appointment Congress wisely refused to ratify -- lied, when he asserted: "There's no doubt that for close to 20 years, the Iranians have been pursuing nuclear weapons through a clandestine program that we've uncovered." [Ritter p. 188] In fact, there is plenty of doubt.
In fact, we are still awaiting conclusive evidence that Shah Reza Pahlavi began a secret nuclear weapons program, which was then continued by the leaders of Iran's Islamic Republic during the years of the Iran-Iraq war and which continues to this day. Instead, we have the 2005 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which not only concludes that "Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon," but also that there is "no information linking" clandestine work by Iran's military "directly to a nuclear weapons program." (Dafna Linzer, "Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb," Washington Post.com, Aug. 2, 2005)
And, instead, on February 27, 2006, we found Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reasserting conclusions he had reached in November 2004: (1) "All the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities," and (2) "The Agency is, however, not yet in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran." (Ritter, p. 158, p. 189)
Thus, when one considers that the IAEA's inspections in Iran constitute "some of the most intrusive inspections in the history of nuclear arms control," (Ibid, p. 102) there are plenty of reasons to doubt the assertions made by the Bush administration.
However, given the fact that Iran has frequently deceived and lied to the IAEA -- initially about the very existence of its nuclear program and subsequently about specific elements -- no prudent person would accept on faith Iranian claims about its peaceful nature. But neither does previous deceit prove US assertions "that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons capability, one that operates outside the bounds of the IAEA weapons inspections." (p, 199)
Thus, we must reject as unproven, claims made by John Bolton, "echoing similar charges made by Israel that Iran has already enriched enough uranium to make several nuclear weapons." [Ibid] Simply recall that it was Bolton, whom the Israeli Ambassador to the U.N., Dan Gillerman, called "the sixth Israeli diplomat assigned to the United Nations," (p. 208) He's joined at the hip with Israel.
Neither should we believe US Under Secretary of State, Nicholas Burns, when he makes the unsupported assertion that "there is no doubt that Iran is actively pursuing nuclear weapons."
Thus, lest the Bush administration dupe us into war yet again, Americans, the news media and the Congress must demand hard evidence. We must insist that the new NIE on Iran be completed expeditiously and critically examined. And, until it is, we should keep in mind that Senator Jay Rockefeller -- who now heads the Senate Intelligence Committee that will examine the anticipated NIE and who has access to classified intelligence -- recently asserted that there "is little evidence corroborating the accusations that Iran is proliferating nuclear weapons." (Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, "Debunking Iran's nuclear myth makers," Asia Times Jan. 27, 2007)
Israel's role in attempting to prod the US to attack Iran has been considerable and is a major theme of Ritter's book. Indeed, Israeli intelligence has provided both the United States and the IAEA with accurate intelligence about elements of Iran's nuclear program, but it has not found evidence to prove the existence of Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Moreover, there's more than an ounce of hypocrisy in Israel's behavior. For, as ElBaradei noted in August 2004, Iran has been "much more forthcoming and cooperative about its nuclear program than Israel ever had." (p. 133)
Yet, given the suspicions of Israel and the US, as well as the pressure they have exerted on the IAEA, Iran (like Iraq) increasingly faces demands to prove a negative -- prove that it is not pursuing an undisclosed nuclear weapons program. Such pressure by Israel and the US leads Ritter to suspect that a "disingenuous commitment to arms control and disarmament" is but a smokescreen for regime change. (p. xxvi)
A commitment to regime change would explain why the Bush administration dismissed significant overtures from Iran in 2003 and had Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, lie about such overtures just last week. According to Ari Berman, "In May 2003, Iran faxed a letter to the State Department, via the Swiss ambassador to Iran, proposing a sweeping realignment in US-Iranian relations. Iran offered 'full transparency' on its nuclear enrichment program, to take 'decisive action against any terrorists (above all Al Qaeda) on Iranian territory,' to help stabilize Iraq and establish democratic institutions there, to disarm Hezbollah, to stop 'material support to Palestinian opposition groups,' and accept a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In exchange, the Iranian government asked the US government to foreswear regime change, abolish sanctions, crack down on the terrorist group MEK and allow Iran to develop peaceful nuclear technology." (Ari Berman, "Is the Bush Administration Lying About Iran?" BLOG The Nation 2/14/2007)
A commitment to regime change also would explain why the US has been conducting secret operations inside Iran, why a second aircraft carrier group is sailing to the Persian Gulf, why minesweepers were sent there in late 2006, and why Bush has also ordered Patriot missile batteries to the region. Patriot missiles are of no use in Iraq, but could be employed against retaliatory strikes by Iranian ballistic missiles and aircraft.
Although the Bush administration denies that it plans to go to war, Israel is more candid. On February 12, 2007, an Israeli cabinet minister warned that Israel might decide on its own to confront Iran in order to halt its alleged nuclear weapons program. Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman said "Israel cannot remain with its arms folded, waiting patiently for Iran to develop non-conventional weapons." ("IAEA Chief El Baradei Warns Against Military Action Against Iran," Democracy Now, Feb. 13, 2007)
Granted, if any state can recognize lies and deceit when it comes to secret bomb making, it's probably Israel -- a state that obtained its bomb through such lies and deceit. Nevertheless, ElBaradei exposed both the warmongering and regime change nature of Lieberman's warning when he responded: "I don't see a military solution of the Iranian issue. First of all, as far as we know what Iran has now today is the knowledge. We do not know that Iran has the industrial capacity to enrich uranium. We don't know, we haven't seen indication or concrete proof of a nuclear weapons program. So I don't see that people talk about a military solution. I don't know what they mean by that. You cannot bomb knowledge, as I said before. I think it would also be completely counter productive." (Ibid)
Lost in all of this US-Israeli saber rattling is the gross hypocrisy of both countries. ElBaradei put his finger on it when he asserted: "We must abandon the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue weapons of mass destruction, yet morally acceptable for others to rely on them for security -- and indeed continue to refine their capacities and postulate plans for their use." (Ritter, p. 179)
Mikhail Gorbachev recently made a similar observation, when he called for the abolition of nuclear weapons. He noted that, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, "nations that are capable of making nuclear weapons shall forego that possibility in exchange for the promise by the members of the nuclear club to reduce and eventually abolish their nuclear arsenals. If this reciprocity is not observed, then the entire the structure of the treaty will collapse." (Mikhail Gorbachev, "The Nuclear Threat," Wall Street Journal, Jan. 31, 2007)
Would that collapse please the treaty-trashing Bush administration and the NPT-refusnik Israelis? Perhaps not. Both have shown a willingness to use the NPT to bind OTHER countries. Yet, when it comes to Iran's nuclear program, even the NPT -- especially its Article 4 provisions -- are viewed as far too permissive.
Moreover, precisely because the Bush administration and Israel respectively violate and ignore the NPT when they refine or build new nuclear weapons, their very plans to launch preventive military strikes (including nuclear strikes) against merely suspicious nuclear programs only amplify their hypocrisy. Simply recall how wrong both Israel and the Bush administration were about Iraq's suspicious nuclear weapons program -- before America's invasion.
Finally, not only do such plans for preventive attacks amplify the nuclear hypocrisy of Israel and the United States, such plans also suggest that regime change hides behind their phony nonproliferation rhetoric. But, worst of all, such plans guarantee that other states will seek to deter future preventive attacks by secretly developing their own nuclear weapons. As an Indian Army chief of staff once observed, "if you think you might someday be opposed by the United States, you'd better get a nuclear weapon."
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by Walter C. Uhler
Bomb, Iran's Pursuit of the Bomb and US War Preparations (Part Two)