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September 23, 2004

Memo to Rick Santorum Re: Iran


by Jude Wanniski

Dear Senator Santorum,

I see that you are sponsoring legislation supporting "regime change" in Iran, which suggests you have had the neocons whispering in your ears again about the "axis of evil." You are probably going to get support for your bill for the same reason the neocons led us into the unnecessary war in Iraq, which is the propaganda that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. You should be careful, senator, especially about what you read in the newspapers, including the NY Times, as most general assignment reporters covering these issues don't know the difference between a nuclear power plant and a nuclear weapons program. I'm afraid our secretary of state does not, either.

In Tuesday's Times, Steve Weisman makes a crucial error in his report on how Bush officials are divided on how to handle Iran: "Like Iraq in its final years under Saddam Hussein, Iran is believed by experts to be on the verge of developing a nuclear bomb. In Iraq, that proved to be untrue, though this time the consensus is much stronger among Western experts."

The fact is, senator, that no nuclear "experts" believe Iran is on the verge of developing a nuclear bomb, least of all the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). As I wrote to Weisman, a reporter whose work I admire when he is not covering topics outside his realm of expertise:

"The problem is John Bolton, the undersecretary of State for non-proliferation, who broadcasts this kind of stuff all over the world in the service of his real boss, Richard Perle, the neocon loony who cooked up the war with Iraq and now would like to do Iran. In his plan to run the world via his neocon network, Perle made sure Bolton, a fellow 'fellow' at the American Enterprise Institute, got the job at State in order to poison the mind of Colin Powell. How does Powell know Iran has a nuke program? The IAEA doesn't know that. And Senator Kerry's position is exactly the same, as I understand it, as the Russians, Germans and Brits, who propose guaranteeing Iran the fissile material it needs to run its power plants. The Bush (Bolton) position seems to be that Iraq must waive the rights it is supposed to have as an NPT signatory (or maybe the Israelis will have to bomb the Iranian power plant at Bushehr)."

As a matter of fact, Dr. Gordon Prather, a nuclear physicist who was the top scientist for the Army in the Reagan years, tells me that Iran has not only been living up to the letter of its commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but going beyond the commitment in order to satisfy international concerns.

Prather points to another piece in Tuesday's NY Times by Craig Smith, which has an ominous headline, "Iran Advances Move to Nuclear Fuel, Defying UN," but which includes the following:

"Iran has offered to accept any safeguards imposed by the United Nations agency to ensure its enrichment activities do not go beyond the 3.5 percent concentration of the uranium-235 isotope needed for its power plant.

"But some American analysts warn that the international community has only a year or so left to stop the Iranian program from achieving self-sufficiency. After that, they warn, the country will have the means to create a nuclear arsenal without outside help, forever altering the Middle East balance of power.
The atomic energy agency is trying to force the country to voluntarily accept limits to its rights under the nonproliferation treaty without setting off an Iranian withdrawal from the accord.

"Iran, however, says it is reluctant to accept such limits, arguing that such discrimination is specifically prohibited under the treaty and that accepting any such limits would set a dangerous precedent for other treaties that it has signed.

"'We are determined to obtain peaceful atomic technology even if it causes a halt to international supervision,' President Mohammad Khatami of Iran said in Tehran today. He reiterated the country's claim that it has no interest in developing nuclear weapons and wants a nuclear capability only for peaceful purposes, such as power generation. The country is nearing completion of a 1,000-megawatt light-water nuclear reactor and plans to build seven more."

In other words, Iran is willing to do anything it is required to do under the terms of the NPT, to which it is a signatory, but that it will not submit to international pressure that it "voluntarily" give up its right to enrich uranium to a rate suitable for use in a power plant, but not nearly enriched to a point where it becomes suitable for a nuke.

You've known me for many years, Rick, and know I am not a man who plays fast and loose with the facts. Before I take a position on a matter of this great importance, I spend as much time as I need to satisfy myself that I am on solid ground. It was because of this due diligence on my part that I concluded before the preemptive war decision by President Bush that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, that he had in fact destroyed what he had in 1991 and did not reconstitute them, and that he had not operational ties to al-Qaeda. You were snookered by the Perle cabal at the time and came to believe that the war was justified, and now must admit you were wrong. Don't make the same mistake a second time. Before you proceed, please ask a lot more questions than you have so far. In fact, give Dr. Prather a call if you are really serious about getting to the bottom of things.


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Jude Wanniski runs the financial/political advisory service Wanniski.com. (If you subscribe, and check Antiwar.com in the referring website pull-down, we get 10%).

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