Since February 2003, Iran's nuclear program has
undergone what the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) itself admits
to be the most intrusive inspection in its entire history. After thousands
of hours of inspections by some of the most experienced IAEA experts, the Agency
has verified time and again that (1) there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons
program in Iran, and (2) all the declared nuclear materials have been accounted
for; there has been no diversion of such materials to non-peaceful purposes.
Iran has a clean bill of health, as far as its nuclear program is concerned.
This is not what Israel, its lobby in the United States, and its neoconservative
allies had expected. Such a clean bill of health deprives them of any justification
for advocating military attacks on Iran. The illegal act of sending Iran's
nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council and the subsequent,
highly dubious UNSC
resolutions against Iran have also not been effective. So what is the War
Party to do?
It has resorted to an international campaign of exaggerations, lies, and distortions.
This campaign involves planting lies in the major media and on the Internet,
making absurd interpretations of what the IAEA reports on Iran, and issuing
dire – but bogus – warnings about the speed at which Iran's uranium-enrichment
program is progressing. Such warnings have been around for over two decades.
In 1984, West German intelligence predicted that Iran would make a nuclear
bomb within two years.
The campaign uses all the instruments of the U.S. political establishment
to advance its agenda. The Bush administration routinely talked about "Iran's
nuclear weapon program" or "Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons,"
without ever bothering to present any credible evidence for their assertion.
Iran's drive for nuclear weapons has become an article of faith even to President
Obama, who, in my opinion, is not pro-war. Leon Panetta, the new CIA director,
"From all the information I've seen, I think there is no question that
they [Iranians] are seeking that [nuclear weapon] capability." What
information, Mr. Panetta? Enlighten us, please.
An important base for the campaign has been the U.S. Congress. Take, for example,
the report by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the then chairman of the House
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, issued on Aug. 23, 2006. The first
bullet on page four of the report stated, "Iran has conducted a clandestine
uranium enrichment program for nearly two decades in violation of its IAEA
safeguards agreement, and despite its claim to the contrary, Iran is seeking
Not a single word in this statement is true. Iran did not violate its Safeguards
Agreement, signed in 1974 with the IAEA, when it did not declare the construction
of the Natanz facility for uranium enrichment. The agreement stipulated that
Iran was only obligated to declare the existence of the facility 180 days prior
to introducing nuclear materials into the facility. Iran did just that in February
2003, and nuclear materials were brought into the facility during summer 2003.
The assertion that Iran is seeking nuclear weapon was a lie then, as it is
now. No evidence of a secret nuclear weapons program has been discovered. Although
the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released in early December 2007 stated
that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, it did not present any
evidence that the program existed prior to 2003.
A caption to a figure on page nine of Hoekstra's report stated that "Iran
is currently enriching uranium to weapons grade using a 164-machine centrifuge
cascade at this facility in Natanz." This was another lie. Neither then
nor now, when there are over 5,000 centrifuges at Natanz, has Iran enriched
uranium to weapons grade.
According to the bullet at the top of page 11, "Spent fuel from the LWR
[light water reactor] that Russia is building for Iran in the city of Bushehr
can produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for 30 weapons per year if the fuel
rods were diverted and reprocessed." First of all, according to
the Iran-Russia agreement, the spent fuel will be returned to Russia. Second,
the plutonium from LWR spent fuel is not suitable for making nuclear weapons.
Even if it were, it should not be labeled as "weapons grade," because
converting it to weapons grade is costly, laborious, and time-consuming. Third,
the IAEA monitors the Bushehr reactor operations. There is no possibility of
overtly or covertly diverting any nuclear materials.
Such lies and distortions forced the IAEA to take the unusual step of sending
an angry letter to Hoekstra. Signed by Vilmos Cserveny, a senior official at
the IAEA, the letter
took "strong exception to the incorrect and misleading assertion"
that the IAEA had removed a senior safeguards inspector for "allegedly
raising concerns about Iranian deception," and branded as "outrageous
and dishonest" the report's suggestion that he was removed for not adhering
"to an unstated IAEA policy barring IAEA officials from telling the truth"
The U.S. mainstream media, and in particular the New York Times, has
played a leading role in the campaign of lies and deceptions against Iran's
peaceful nuclear program. One would think that, after all the lies and exaggerations
that Judith Miller and Michael Gordon planted in the Times about Iraq's
nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, the Times would learn its lesson.
For example, after the Nov. 15, 2007, IAEA report on Iran, which, once again,
gave Iran a clean bill of health, Elaine Sciolino and William J. Broad of the
Times declared, "Nuclear report finds Iran's disclosures were inadequate."
This was while the IAEA report itself stated several times that the information
provided by Iran was "consistent" with the IAEA findings. The word
"inadequate" was not used even once in the report.
Why did Sciolino and Broad – the "top" interpreters of what the
IAEA really says in its reports – think that Iran's disclosures were "inadequate"?
Because, according to them, Iran had asked the IAEA for a meeting in December
2007 to provide information about its P-2 centrifuges, and, therefore, had
missed the November deadline. However, the December meeting was about Iran's
current activities on its P-2 centrifuge, whereas the November 2007
report was about Iran's past activities. In fact, regarding Iran's past
activities on the design of the P-2 centrifuge, the same November 2007
report stated, "Based on visits made by the Agency inspectors to the P-2
workshops in 2004, examination of the company's owner contract [the company
contracted to build the P-2 centrifuge], progress reports and logbooks, and
information available on procurement inquiries, the agency has concluded that
Iran's statements on the content of the declared P-2 R&D activities are
consistent with the agency's findings." So, the IAEA said one thing, but
Sciolino and Broad claimed a completely different thing. By the way, the article
has disappeared from the Times' archives! Even the Times
itself does not believe in it.
But Sciolino did not stop there. After the IAEA issued a new report on Iran
on May 26, 2008, Sciolino claimed in an article the next day that the IAEA
had expressed concerns about Iran's "willful lack of cooperation."
No such words or their equivalent can be found in the report. The report stated
that the IAEA was trying to understand the role of Iran's military in its nuclear
program. Sciolino did not ask any IAEA official why the agency was not concerned
about Brazil's navy controlling its uranium-enrichment program and limiting
IAEA access to its nuclear facilities (in violation of its obligations under
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). She did not ask any U.S. official why
the U.S. was not protesting Brazil's violations of its NPT obligations. Instead,
she fabricated nonexistent statements about Iran.
The campaign has an international dimension too. The Australian claimed
on Aug. 7, 2006, that Iran had tried to import uranium ore from Congo. Nothing
came out of this "report." The conservative British newspaper the
Daily Telegraph has made some of the most blatantly false claims. For
example, on Nov. 16, 2006, David
Blair reported in the Telegraph that Iran tried to get uranium
from Somalia's Islamic forces, in return for arms. To give his report credibility,
Blair quoted UN officials about Iran's military helping Somali forces. But
his claim that Iran wanted uranium in return included no direct quote. It was
just a lie. Even the Bushies did not buy it.
The Telegraph cooked up another falsehood about Iran's nuclear program,
which provoked an angry IAEA response. On Sept. 14, 2008, Con Coughlin, the
Telegraph's liar-in-chief, claimed that the IAEA could not account for
50-60 tons of uranium, which was supposed to be in Isfahan, where "Iran
enriches its uranium." As the Persian proverb goes, "a liar has a
short memory." Coughlin had apparently forgotten the simple and well-known
fact that Iran enriches uranium at Natanz, not Isfahan (where the yellowcake
is converted to uranium hexafluoride). The IAEA immediately issued a statement
through its spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, rejecting
the report. Two days earlier, in another article in the Telegraph,
Coughlin and Tim Butcher claimed that there were "fresh signs"
that Iran had renewed work on developing nuclear weapons.
Typically, Coughlin quoted unnamed sources, the existence of whom can never
be checked. In other articles in the Telegraph Coughlin claimed a link
between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence; alleged that North
Korea was helping Iran to prepare a nuclear weapon test, and said that Iran
bin Laden's successor, none of which turned out to be true.
Then there is the rabid anti-Iran "group" called United Against
Nuclear Iran. It is supposedly a "non-partisan, broad-based coalition"
from "diverse ethnicities, faith communities, [and] political and social
affiliations." But, the
group's Web site is registered to Henley MacIntyre, who was involved in
Republican National Committee/White House e-mail scandal during George W. Bush's
presidency. Its executive director is Mark Wallace, who worked with John "Bomb-Iran-for-Israel's-Sake"
Bolton when he was the U.S. ambassador at the UN. Others involved are Richard
Holbrooke, who is now President Obama's special representative to Afghanistan
and Pakistan, and Dennis Ross, a longtime instrument of the Israel lobby. The
group has produced a video asserting that Iran has produced highly enriched
uranium, a claim that has been debunked thoroughly not only by the IAEA, but
Another tactic of the War Party has been spreading rumors and innuendoes about
the existence of an internal row in the IAEA over Iran. For example, in February
2008, just as the IAEA was going to report that it had clarified Iran's past
nuclear activities, unnamed "senior Western officials" started being
quoted saying that some experts within the IAEA were not happy about the report
to be released. It forced the IAEA to depart from its routine mode of operation
and have a senior official call Reuters to deny
In yet another exaggeration of Iran's nuclear potential, much has been said
recently about the accumulation of low-enriched uranium (LEU) in Iran. The
suggestion is that Iran can enrich its stockpile of LEU to highly enriched
uranium (HEU) for bomb-making. This
claim has been thoroughly debunked. Briefly, all of Iran's LEU is safeguarded
by the IAEA. Its conversion to HEU would require extensive new designs, reconfiguration,
and reconnection of the centrifuges in Natanz, none of which can evade the
IAEA's watching eyes. Even if Iran could somehow do all of this, it would only
be enough HEU for one nuclear device, which would have to be detonated
in a test. Going from a device to a bomb is a difficult task by itself.
In the latest attempt to cast doubt on Iran's nuclear program, suddenly cyberspace
and the mainstream media are full of stories about Iran running out of uranium.
Up to now, Iran has been using the 600 tons of uranium oxide, or yellowcake,
it purchased in the 1970s from South Africa for conversion to uranium hexafluoride
and enrichment at Natanz. The stories are based on a report by Mark Hibbs in
Nuclear Fuel (Dec. 15, 2008). The Rupert Murdoch-owned Times of London,
another British newspaper in the business of fabricating stories on Iran's
nuclear program, picked
up the story and ran with it. Then there was a third report by the Institute
for Science and International Security to the same effect. The argument
is that if Iran does not have enough yellowcake and cannot import it, then
why does Iran bother to have a uranium-enrichment program, unless it is for
Iran has been constructing a facility in Ardakan, which will come online sometime
this year, for processing uranium ore into yellowcake. Clearly, had Iran thought
that it would not have enough uranium ore, it would not have undertaken the
construction of the Ardakan plant. In fact, in December 2006, Iran
announced that there are 1,400 uranium mines in Iran, and last month it
announced the discovery of uranium ore reserves at three
new sites in central Iran. While many sources put Iran's known reserves
of uranium ore at about 3,000 tons, the actual number is at least 30,000 tons.
The above is only a small part of all the lies, exaggerations, and distortions
of the facts about Iran's nuclear program. All the sound bites about the West
respecting Iran's right to peaceful nuclear technology are just that, sound
bites. The truth is, the West does not want Iran to have access to advanced
nuclear technology. Now that Iran has succeeded in setting up a domestic nuclear
fuel cycle, including designing new centrifuges, the West wants Iran to dismantle
them. Why should Iran give up its legal rights under the NPT and its sovereign
rights to develop its uranium resources and indigenous nuclear industry?