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The Race for Iran

IS IRAN NOW A NUCLEAR TARGET FOR THE UNITED STATES?

Tomorrow—Tuesday, April 6, 2010—the Obama Administration will proclaim, as a matter of declaratory policy, that the United States claims the prerogative to use nuclear weapons against the Islamic Republic of Iran, even as Iran remains a non-nuclear-weapons state.  The Administration will make this declaration as part of its much anticipated Nuclear Posture Review, which will be issued two days before President Obama and Russian President Medvedev sign a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). 

We welcome the conclusion of the new START agreement, a long-overdue step in reducing the role of nuclear weapons in America’s military posture.  Such a shift is, of course, critical to any chance of progress toward President Obama’s goal, defined in the historic speech he delivered one year ago today in Prague, of a world without nuclear weapons. 

In principle, the Nuclear Posture Review should constitute another initial, concrete step toward the ultimate realization of the President’s worthy vision.  To its credit, the Obama Administration will issue the final text of the Review online, for all to see.  Unfortunately, though, the Administration will flinch from taking the most important step that it could take in the context of the Nuclear Posture Review—namely, to declare that, as a matter of policy, the United States possesses nuclear weapons for the sole purpose of deterring the use of nuclear weapons against the United States and its allies. 

Instead, the Obama Administration will advance a declaratory position that, while the primary purpose of America’s nuclear arsenal is to deter nuclear use against the United States and its allies, deterrence is not its only purpose.  More specifically, the Administration will reserve the prerogative for the United States to use nuclear weapons first, at its discretion, against non-nuclear-weapons states that are not, in Washington’s view, in full compliance with their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).  In that context, recent statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other senior Administration officials that Iran is not in compliance with its NPT obligations seem quite ominous. 

Of course, the George W. Bush Administration and the Obama Administration have both noted that the Islamic Republic has not complied with United Nations Security Council resolutions calling on it to suspend uranium enrichment.  These administrations have also called on Tehran to improve its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.  But the motive behind the recent shift in the Obama Administration’s rhetoric to highlight Tehran’s alleged noncompliance with the NPT was unclear, at least until now.  The Administration has painted a nuclear target on Iran’s back (and, to be fair, on North Korea and perhaps Syria as well). 

We believe that this is a bad decision with regard to U.S. nuclear weapons policy, but will leave it to others to discuss those dimensions of the matter.  We are absolutely certain that it is a horrible decision with regard to America’s Iran policy.  We have said and written on many occasions that we believe Iran is establishing the foundations for what some analysts call a nuclear weapons “option”, but, in our assessment, has not taken a decision to move all the way to overt weaponization.  (And, Iranian officials at the highest levels, including Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have said repeatedly that the Islamic Republic does not seek and does not want nuclear weapons.)  One of the several reasons we oppose U.S. military action against Iran over the nuclear issue is because we believe such action would increase the chances that Tehran would decide to weaponize its nuclear capabilities.  In the same vein, making Iran a potential U.S. nuclear target will remove at least some of Tehran’s incentives for restraint in developing its own nuclear capabilities.  If Iran, as a non-nuclear-weapons state, will face the threat of nuclear “first use” by the United States, why shouldn’t Tehran proceed to the actual acquisition of nuclear weapons?   

–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett

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68 Responses to “IS IRAN NOW A NUCLEAR TARGET FOR THE UNITED STATES?”

  1. Dan Cooper says:

    Turkey: World is turning a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear weapons

    Turkey’s prime minister said Sunday that the world is turning a blind eye to Israel’s nuclear program and that he intends to raise the issue at the nuclear summit in Washington.

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan remarked that Iran’s nuclear program is being scrutinized because of its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency whereas Israel, which has not signed a nonproliferation treaty, is free to do what it wants.

    “We are disturbed by this and will say so,” Erdogan told reporters before his departure for Washington on Sunday.

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1162220.html

  2. James Canning says:

    Fiorangela,

    Great post! Not having Netanyahu back in Washington for the conference is a good thing indeed. Permanent absence would be even more welcome.

    Bravo for Erdogan, absolutely. He is doing the Israelis a big favor, by telling them to stop their idiotic, murderous rampages. And to get out of the Golan Heights, and the West Bank.

  3. James Canning says:

    Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, said today there had been a “tidal wave” of condemnation in Iran, for the new Obama policy on not using nukes on a first-strike basis (except for North Korea and Iran).

    I continue to think it was foolish on Obama’s part to exclude Iran, and even North Korea for that matter. Perhaps he was keeping his eye on the loony Rebublicans in the Senate.

  4. Dan Cooper says:

    when Israel attends any international forum, it is very happy to take the floor and talk about Iran’s nuclear programme, and warn the world about what it sees as the ‘Iranian nuclear threat’”, she said.

    Israel has never confirmed or denied that it has developed nuclear weapons [EPA]

    “But when other countries discuss Israel’s nuclear capabilities and how they see it as a problem, it could be embarrassing for the prime minister to be present, which is possibly why he has decided to stay away.

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/04/2010490224513329.html

  5. Fiorangela Leone says:

    Kathleen: “Wonder if anyone in the Obama administration will demonstrate any chutzpah and bring up Israel’s nukes and continuing refusal to sign the NPT. You know that treaty that they demand that their neighbors abide by. Millions tired of this hypocrisy”

    Ergdogan’s the man, again: first, called Shimon Peres to task at Davos in Jan 2010, now, once again from an European podium points out the illogic of Israel acting without restrain BECAUSE it is not an NPT signatory, while Iran is punished for functioning under the treaty.

    Netanyahu’s peevish withdrawal from US nuclear talks is the best news I’ve heard in weeks. It’s an act that nearly hits the same point on the StupidMeter as the US’s refusal to invite Iran to the talks; thus, Israel is now in the same category in the west’s/MSM vision of nuclear rogues as North Korea and Iran. Of that roguish triumvirate, Israel maintains the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world, N Korea the smallest, Iran none. Ya, that all makes perfect sense.

  6. R.d. says:

    This may be an opportune time for the NAM countries to consider a new Atomic Agency. Where all the member countries;

    provide equal percentage of their GDP to support the agency.
    provide man power to manage the agency
    All members can inspect all other members nuclear related operations
    etc..

    To continue with the current regime, the nuclear haves will maintain their status quo. However, if a number of NAM countries where to consider withdraw from the NPT in favor of a new approach, it could have the effect of non-nuclear countries exercising their own nuclear option, in a manner of speaking. Perhaps it is the time for the NAM to consider challenging the legitimacy of IAEA as cover to protect the nuclear haves. After all, there are far more non-nuclear countries than otherwise.

  7. kooshy says:

    So much for the hype ! Hypocrisy at its best
    “Leave aside that the question of who may or may not be “in compliance with the NPT” today is far from universally agreed-upon. Nor is the question of who decides. The International Atomic Energy Agency? The UN Security Council? The current occupants of the White House in Washington D.C. — be it the Obama Administration or the Palin Administration? Leave aside too that for most non-nuclear-weapon states it is the nuclear-weapon states who perpetrate the greatest violation of the NPT, because of their failure to comply with their 40-year old Article VI obligation to eliminate their entire nuclear arsenals. “
    When the treaty was originally under negotiation in the 1960s, the non-nuclear weapon states asked — in return for their promise to remain non-nuclear — that the nuclear weapon states promise never to attack or threaten them with nuclear weapons. This, said the late Robert McNamara and Thomas Graham, Jr., “could be the most reasonable request in the history of international relations

    All Options, Still, on the Table
    by Tad Daley, April 09, 2010

    http://original.antiwar.com/tad-daley/2010/04/08/all-options-still-on-the-table/

  8. Eric A. Brill says:

    Kooshy,

    Thanks for the link (http://www.counterpunch.org/mercile04072010.html). The article did interest me greatly. Sound analysis, with one apparent gap: When he assessed the option of purchasing medical isotopes on the open market, he did not address the “half-life” issue raised by Norden in his long piece discussed on this website several weeks back. In the present article, “medical isotopes” may have meant Mo-99 (the longer half-life form) rather than Technetium-99 (the shorter half-life form), which implies that Iran would have to do further enrichment at the TRR (certainly feasible).

    One point in the article reminded me of an observation by Norden: refining LEU from 3.5% to 19.5% in Iran is problematic because Iran’s uranium has impurities that, I gather, become more of a problem as the uranium gets more and more refined. That, I understand, is why the proposed swap contemplates sending Iran’s LEU first to Russia, to get rid of some impurities, and then to France, to concentrate it to 19.5%. If this “impurities” concern is significant, it strikes me that Iran may not, as a practical matter, be able to rely on internal refinement to 19.5%. It will need to cut some deal involving Russia/France.

    Hard to imagine that anyone who really understands the current fuel swap proposal (as described in the article) could have any sensible objection to it. Remove “sensible” from the preceding sentence, however, and I can well understand why many are balking.

    Matthew Sutton:

    You might find this article interesting, along with the Norden piece (whose location I can’t now recall, but you should be able to find it without much effort). The two pieces will give you a pretty good understanding of some of the technical issues.

  9. Kathleen says:

    “You cannot simultaneously advocate for nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and threaten to use them on non-nuclear states.”

    The Obama administration just did. Wonder if anyone in the Obama administration will demonstrate any chutzpah and bring up Israel’s nukes and continuing refusal to sign the NPT. You know that treaty that they demand that their neighbors abide by. Millions tired of this hypocrisy

  10. Dan Cooper says:

    “Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu” ‘s standing in the international public opinion is growing rapidly.

    I for one, admire the way they publicly condemned the criminal leaders of Israel for slaughtering innocent and defenseless Palestinian women and children in Gaza.

    As you know, the Israel lobby and its corrupt media have brainwashed the American people into believing that:

    The victims (the Palestinians) are guilty of the war crimes but the perpetrators of the crimes (Israelis) are heroes.

    AIPAC is also the mastermind and the architect of demonization of Ahmadinejad in the international public arena.

    They have used all sort of lies and propaganda such as “Election fraud”, “Nuclear Weapon”, “Israel must be wiped off the map “and “Holocaust” to achieve their objective.

  11. kooshy says:

    This is today’s story by AP regarding Ahmadinijad’s speech in N.W. Iran referenced to the nuclear announcement of yesterday by US.

    Since I cannot underline in RFI, I put the related words in prentices,

    From the way, the story is putout the reader should understand that, the hardliner president of Iran is ridiculing president Obama for his efforts and aims to stop the spread of atomic weapons to rouge states or terrorist.

    Supposedly if the story is factual, why the US aim is not doubtful for the AP, and it presents the US’s supposed aim “which turns the U.S. focus” as a fact that it will turns the threats if it was not for Ahmadinijad’s Iran.

    Iran ridicules Obama’s “cowboy” nuclear strategy
    AP
    TEHRAN, Iran – (Iran’s hard-line president) on Wednesday (ridiculed President Barack Obama’s) new nuclear strategy, (which turns the U.S. focus away from the Cold War threats and instead (aims to stop the spread of atomic weapons to rogue states or terrorists.)
    Obama on Tuesday announced the new strategy, including a vow not to use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them. Iran, however, was pointedly excepted from that pledge, along with North Korea, because (Washington accuses them of not cooperating with the international community on nonproliferation standards)

  12. James Canning says:

    Dan Cooper,

    Great post. Ahmadinejad says many things that should be reported in American newspapers, but of course are not. He makes much better sense than G W Bush. But Bush “protected” Israel, so Bush got much better treatment than he deserved, and just the opposite obtains for Ahmadinejad. Essentially, Bush was the dupe of the warmongers, who easily bamboozled the moron. Ahamdinejad rightly makes comments about US hypocrisy, and wanton prosecution of idiotic wars, but of course these comments will not get much play in US newspapers (or network TV news).

  13. Dan Cooper says:

    “I never thought I’d ever write favorably of an Iranian leader in my entire life; but then, in the last three years, everything I thought I knew about life has been changed by the internet. So now that I’ve discovered the truth, and have de-programmed myself as much as possible, I find myself saying things that still sound strange to my own ears. But the truth is like that sometimes: it can be stranger than fiction.

    Take the case of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I’m actually finding this man more impressive than any other world leader.”

    http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/cgi-bin/blogs/voices.php/2006/09/21/p10938

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke these words before the United Nations:

    “Today, humanity passionately craves commitment to the Truth, devotion to God, quest for Justice and respect for the dignity of human beings. Rejection of domination and aggression, defense of the oppressed, and longing for peace, constitute the legitimate demand of the peoples of the world; particularly the new generations and the spirited youth, who aspire a world free from decadence, aggression and injustice, and replete with love and compassion. The youth have a right to seek justice and the Truth; and they have a right to build their own future on the foundations of love, compassion and tranquility. And I praise the Almighty for this immense blessing.”

    Those are truly Catholic sentiments. You’d think the Pope had spoken them, but you’d be wrong. A man who is not under the control of the Jews spoke these beautiful words.

  14. James Canning says:

    Fiorangela,

    Great post. Erdogan wants Israel to get out of the Golan Heights, and the West Bank. He also wants the US to treat Iran with respect, and to have normal relations with Iran. Obama would do well to follow Erdogan’s advice.

  15. James Canning says:

    Yesterday, Ahmadinejad took Obama to task for emulating G W Bush in his hostility toward Iran, as evidenced by foolish polcy to exclude Iran from countries that would not be subject to a nuclear first-strike from the US. Ahmadinejad correctly identified the Israel lobby as the impetus for this latest bit of stupdity from the US.

  16. Fiorangela Leone says:

    Breaking News: RARE BACKBONE SIGHTED IN MIDDLE EAST: Turkey’s Erdogan says Israel is Main Threat to Middle East Peace

    snips:

    “”If a country uses disproportionate force in Palestine, in Gaza — uses phosphorous shells — we’re not going to say ‘bravo’,” he declared, referring to Israel’s January 2009 offensive against Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

    and

    “”It’s Israel that is the principal threat to regional peace,” said Erdogan speaking in Turkish, through a French interpreter.”

    and the knockout, 1-2 punch:

    “At the Paris meeting, Erdogan pointed the finger at Israel’s undeclared stock of nuclear warheads, arguing that the fact that it had not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) should not exempt it from international safeguards.

    “Is this situation logical?” he demanded. “Should not being a member of the NPT mean you can do whatever you like every day?”

    He repeated his opposition to sanctions against Iran, which Western capitals accuse of secretly seeking a nuclear bomb, insisting the International Atomic Energy Agency has found no hard proof of Tehran cheating.”

  17. sakineh Bagoom says:

    James Canning,

    Did Russia tell US not to bomb Iran?
    After all, it is US that is going to be sucked in to any war that is started between Iran and any country in it’s neighborhood. US forces have now surrounded Iran and will not have any of it’s aggression.
    Iran has not attacked any country in centuries and is not planning any such foolishness. US and Israel, on the other hand, well, don’t get me started.

    With regards to SA/Russia wanting to stabilize Oil prices, I have this to say: the alternatives that you talk about will take years to materialize, and if the oil companies have anything to say about it, never will. So, in the meantime, both SA/Russia stand to benefit from any fiasco.

  18. Fiorangela Leone says:

    James Canning – the Jewish liberal community is extremely worried about people like Ross, and AIPAC’s disproportionate influence on US foreign policy. see this recent article: The Strange Love affair of the US and AIPAC

    It is mind-boggling that Ross, who chaired the JPPPI and oversaw its implementation of a strategy to replace the US with China, should be holding a similar position of influence in the governance of another nation. JPPPI foresaw that US power was on the wane, likely to be replaced globally by Chinese prosperity, economic dominance, and, I might add, the ability to make better friends and geostrategic decisions than has the US.

  19. Fiorangela Leone says:

    Jon Harrison – I hope you are well and that you are at least lurking here, and also that you will rejoin the conversation soon. Your perspective is valuable. If you are dismayed at some attitudes expressed here that are contrary to your own, that’s all the more reason to participate.

  20. James Canning says:

    sakineh,

    Saudi Arabia and Russia recognize that oil prices cannot go too high without causing alternatives to be developed, that could cause oil prices to end up much lower. Also, stability is sought by both countries.

    I do not think Russia would welcome another war in the Middle East, and in fact Russia has told Israel not to attack Iran, and Russia told Iran not to attack Israel.

  21. James Canning says:

    Fiorangela,

    Dennis Ross has the Iran desk at the National Security Council, and he advised Hillary Clinto during the campaign. Is Ross essentially an Aipac representative on the NSC? I think a fair answer is “yes”. Ross worked for Bill Clinton and tried to arrange for Israel to keep East Jerusalem and important portions of the West Bank. During the campaign, Ross argued that the way foward was for the US to pretend to seek engagement with Iran, to provide cover (and obtain international support) for more pressure intended to reinforce the Israele effort to steal largee tracts of the West Bank.

  22. James Canning says:

    Dan Cooper,

    The neocons and fellow travellers who duped the American people to set up the insane invasion of Iraq, were indeed seeking to “secure” the future of Israel, meaning to enable the continuing oppression of the Palestinians, and the insane effort to keep part or even all of the Golan Heights. The neocons and fellow travelers subverted the national security of the US in their pursuit of an insane “Greater Israel” that James Baker, twenty years ago, told the Israelis needed to be consigned to the rubbish bin.

  23. Cyrus says:

    Matthew – the UN resolutions that demand Iran give up enrichment are ultra vires and therefore non-binding. As far as IAEA requirements go, Iran is in full complaince with those REQUIREMENTS — meaning it has allowed all the inspections that it is legally required to permit (on occasion more) and the IAEA has stated consistently that all of Iran’s nuclear material has been accounted for and none has been diverted to non-peaceful uses. The Feb 2008 IAEA report gave Iran a clean bill of health regarding past undisclosed activities too. The demands on Iran to provide information beyond its legal obligations are similarly ultra vires and non-binding. I suggest you recognize the distinction between SPIN and what the real REQUIREMENTs on Iran are. You can start by reading Michael Spies of the Lawyer’s Comittee for Nuclear Policy:

    For some it is tempting to declare, based on the inability of the IAEA to presently draw a conclusion on the absence of nuclear activities, that Iran continues to operate concealed facilities and that any such facilities must be for a military program. But the IAEA has cautioned that the lack of a conclusion does not imply suspicion of undeclared nuclear materials and activities, as the matter is frequently spun in the media and by some governments.

  24. Cyrus says:

    The best evidence that the Iranian leadership is sincere in its ethnical/religious opposition to WMDs is in the fact that during the Iran-IRaq war, despite the fact that Iran suffered 80,000 casualties as a result of the US-backed deployment of chemical weapons by Saddam, the Iranians did not respond in kind (even though under then-existing international law, they would have been legally entitled to do so, since the chemical weapons convention then only prohibited the first-use of chemical weapons) and they specifically ruled out that option.

    Of course, one can argue that there are distictions that apply to this comparison, but that’s some pretty solid evidence of past conduct nonetheless.

  25. Matthew Sutton says:

    I am sorry you all, but respectfully the “proving a negative” line is a cop out.

    The utility of analyzing and addressing whether Iran is in fact in compliance with applicable UN Resolutions and IAEA requirements is obvious. Taking a pass on this is utter foolishness.

  26. Iranian@Iran says:

    The interesting thing is that this will not change anything, except to make ordinary Iranians more angry towards the United States. It’s as if the American government is intentionally trying to alienate the Iranian people.

  27. kooshy says:

    Eric, this might interest you if I remember correctly
    Clarifying the Iranian Nuclear Swap Deal
    Is Iran Producing Medical Isotopes?
    By JULIEN MERCILE
    http://www.counterpunch.org/mercile04072010.html

  28. kooshy says:

    Interesting intelligence views from inside Iran

    Iran unmoved on nuclear scientist
    By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LD07Ak03.html

  29. Dan Cooper says:

    Warning to Iran

    The US invasion, occupation and destruction of a modern, scientific-cultural civilization, such as existed in Iraq, is a prelude of what the people of Iran can expect if and when a US-Israeli military attack occurs.

    The imperial threat to the cultural-scientific foundations of the Iranian nation
    has been totally absent from the narrative among the affluent Iranian student protesters and their US funded NGO’s during their post-election ‘Lipstick Revolution’ protests.

    They should bear in mind that in 2004 educated, sophisticated Iraqis in Baghdad consoled themselves with a fatally misplaced optimism that ‘at least we are not like Afghanistan’.

    The same elite are now in squalid refugee camps in Syria and Jordan and their country more closely resembles Afghanistan than anywhere else in the Middle East.

    The chilling promise of President Bush in April 2003 to transform Iraq in the
    image of ‘our newly liberated Afghanistan’ has been fulfilled.

    And reports that the US Administration advisers had reviewed the Israeli Mossad policy of selective assassination of Iranian scientists should cause the pro-Western liberal intellectuals of Teheran to seriously ponder the lesson of the murderous campaign that has virtually eliminated Iraqi scientists and academics during 2006-
    2007.

    The Iraq war was driven by an influential group of neo-conservative and neo-liberal
    ideologues with strong ties to Israel.

    They viewed the success of the Iraq war(by success they meant the totaldismemberment of the country) as the first ‘domino’ in a series of war to ‘re-colonize’ the
    Middle East (in their words: “to re-draw the map”). They disguised their imperial ideology with a thin veneer of rhetoric about ‘promoting democracies’ in the Middle East (excluding, of course, the un-democratic policies of their ‘homeland’ Israel over its subjugated Palestinians).

    Conflating Israeli regional hegemonic ambitions with the US imperial interests, the neo-conservatives and their neo-liberal fellow travelers in the Democratic Party first backed President Bush and later President Obama in their escalation of the wars against Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    They unanimously supported Israel’s savage bombing campaign against Lebanon, the land and air assault and massacre of thousands of civilians trapped in Gaza, the bombing of Syrian facilities and the big push (from Israel) for a pre-emptive, full-scale military attack against Iran.

    http://www.lahaine.org/petras/b2-img/petras_iraq.pdf

  30. Eric A. Brill says:

    Matthew,

    Sakineh wrote:

    “You can’t prove a negative. You can’t prove that you don’t have a secret under-ground nuclear site that is not being monitored, because it’s secret. US will use that to bash Iran with regardless what the Iranians/IAEA say. Remember the non-existent WMDs Iraq couldn’t prove weren’t there.”

    I agree completely. This seemed so obvious to me, and you seem bright and informed enough that the other alternative (unfamiliarity with the mind-numbing debate) seemed possible but unlikely to me. As a result, I naturally wondered whether you were merely baiting us. I accept your word that you were not, and so I apologize for having considered that to be a possibility.

  31. Fiorangela Leone says:

    to Matthew Sutton, the heart of the matter is that Iran’s nuclear intentions are NOT the heart of the matter, they are the PRETEXT that the US and its fellow imperialist predators require to set in motion the shock-and-awe campaign that will allow then to reform the Iranian economy and polity in their image and likeness.

    Absolutely agree that this website, of all places, should muster the best possible arguments to push back against the deception the Obama administration is conducting. But it is an exercise in beating your head against a wall: Ahmadinejad says, “Let’s talk,” Hillary Clinton says, “Iran won’t talk.” US says, “send your uranium to France to be enriched.” Iran says, sending it off is agreed, but how about Japan?” US responds, “Iran did not respond to our proposal to send uranium out of the country to be enriched.” The US admin is insane. How can it be possible that I read and hear what the Iranian government is saying, but Hillary Clinton can’t — or won’t.

  32. sakineh Bagoom says:

    James Canning,

    While I agree that Russia did try to stop the Iraq war insanity, the dynamics of things have changed since the Russian Bear is now waking up from it’s long hibernation, with its vast oil/gas riches making it a power to be reckoned with.
    Russia needs energy prices to soar even more and to see US mired even in more wars and waste.

    Mathew Sutton,

    You can’t prove a negative. You can’t prove that you don’t have a secret under-ground nuclear site that is not being monitored, because it’s secret. US will use that to bash Iran with regardless what the Iranians/IAEA say. Remember the non-existent WMDs Iraq couldn’t prove weren’t there.

  33. Matthew Sutton says:

    Eric, I am not baiting anyone. Its an honest question and it goes to the heart of this matter. Who cares if it is complex. If the question was going to be tackled, I would expect it to be done here on this website.

    If the President and others in his administration are going to talk ad nauseum about Iran not being in “compliance”, why isn’t anyone on this Board rebutting that? Don’t you think that is a pretty critical issue? Or is everyone conceding that Iran is not in compliance? If not, there should be a point by point public rebuttal. Without that, we drift into the fog of war.

    I am in favor of genuine engagement and against US military actions and threats against Iran. I really want to see our two countries forge a new and peaceful relationship. But the administration’s vague accusations seem to be going completely unrebutted. And that sends us down a dangerous path.

  34. James Canning says:

    The arrogance and stupidity the Obama administration is showing just now, is reflected in the fact the US is trying to discourage diplomats, nuclear experts, et al from attending the Iranian conference on seeking ways to eliminate nuclear weapons (to be held later this month).

  35. James Canning says:

    Eric A. Brill,

    The best information I have is that the CIA do not believe Iran is secretly developing nuclear weapons at this time. The IAEA continues to confirm there has been no diversion of nuclear materials from Iran’s civilian nuclear power program. The real issue presented is whether the Israel lobby/neocons/war lobby can deceive the American public into believing Iran poses a threat. A rerun of the gross dishonesty etc etc etc that set up the insane Iraq War.

  36. James Canning says:

    sakineh,

    The Russians tried to prevent the insane US/UK invasion of Iraq. They do not want another war in the Middle East. Back in 1973, Leonid Brezhnev pleaded with Nixon and Kissinger to tell the Israelis to get out of the Sinai, to avoid another war. Kissinger worried the Soviets would get too much credit, so he refused to do anything and, of course, another avoidable war was the result. Extemely dangerous, even reckless, behavior by the US.

  37. James Canning says:

    kooshy,

    I enjoyed the article by Kourosh Ziabari. Since I think Iran is a natural ally of the US, his point of view obviously has merit. The Reagan administration had a fear of contagion spreading from Iran that was much like the neurosis of so many American leaders back in the 1960s when they thought the Vietnamese communists had to be stopped or they would go on to conquer the rest of Southeast Asia, and more. Lunacy.

  38. Eric A. Brill says:

    Matthew,

    I’m not sure whether you’re baiting me and others, or you’re just not familiar with the mass of complex material that’s out there on this. Either way, I don’t think this is the place to launch into this.

  39. Matthew Sutton says:

    Eric, then we need an analysis of whether Iran is in compliance with UN resolutions and IAEA requirements. Perhaps someone can post a link or our esteemed webmasters can provide us with an article on this.

    If indeed Iran is in compliance, then why aren’t its advocates beating the Obama administration about the head and ears with this information?

    I would expect a website such as this to publicize proof of any such compliance.

  40. sakineh Bagoom says:

    Eric,

    I don’t think the Russians will care much. When oil is at $500/barrel they’d be loaning US money for its’ next war.

  41. Eric A. Brill says:

    Sakineh,

    You’re right.

    I should mention, though, that it would surprise me if Bushehr would be on the attack list. In the case of all-out war, of course, but I suspect our Russian friends probably would feel that was inappropriate.

  42. sakineh Bagoom says:

    Eric,

    Any attack on Iran’s nuclear sites will be devastating, Nuclear or not. Iran’s nuclear facilities are not like Syria and Osiraq in Iraq. These facilities were dry when bombed by Israel. By contrast Iran’s facilities have nuclear material introduced into them, so any bombing would have nuclear fallout and many in the vicinity would die. Studies show that the fallout from Natanz will travel as far as Pakistan, and the Bushehr facility would cover much of the Gulf (yes. Persian Gulf since antiquity) and Gulf countries. So US/Israel bombs are nuclear whether they are nuclear or not (conventional), if dropped on nuclear sites.

  43. Eric A. Brill says:

    Sakineh,

    Valid point. I’m assuming, more realistically, that any attack on Iran would be non-nuclear, targeted (initially, at least) on some real or suspected nuclear sites.

  44. sakineh Bagoom says:

    Eric, Et-al,

    Do you really think it matters much if the Strait of Hormuz is open or closed, as avnery wants you to believe, when a multi-megaton nuclear bomb has just exploded in the middle of Tehran and killed millions? The government will not be functioning to keep it closed anyway. My first reaction to the news was, it’s Amalek (see my post below), as in Biblical:
    “2 have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Sam. 15:2-3)
    This is what a Netanyahu advisor uttered when asked about Iran. He said: “Think Amalek”. Do you see the hand of The Lobby at work here?

  45. Eric A. Brill says:

    Matthew:

    “If indeed Iran is indeed in compliance with the Nuclear-Non-Proliferation Treaty, then Iran is not a target, correct?”

    What matters is whether the US believes Iran is in compliance, not whether Iran is in fact in compliance.

  46. Matthew Sutton says:

    The answer to the sensationalistic question posed in the title to this thread is “No”.

    “The United States is declaring that we will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations.”
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/04/06/fulfilling-a-promise-prague

    If indeed Iran is indeed in compliance with the Nuclear-Non-Proliferation Treaty, then Iran is not a target, correct?

  47. Dan Cooper says:

    The US has overthrown democratic governments in the past and supported dictators when this was thought to advance its interests – it has good relations with a number of dictatorships today.

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/john-mearsheimer/the-israel-lobby

  48. Eric A. Brill says:

    Uri Avnery writes:

    “The narrow Hormuz Strait at the entrance of the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf, through which a huge part of the world’s oil flows, would be sealed at once.”

    This is the conventional wisdom, and no doubt the Strait will be closed in the short run. In the middle run and longer run, though, it strikes me as a lot more complicated.

    Unless the US is confident it can open the Hormuz Strait without Iran’s consent –– in which case it will simply do so ASAP (within weeks) and Iran’s name won’t be on the “approved” list for oil shipments through the Strait — it strikes me that Iran’s Abadan refinery could quickly become a huge bargaining chip.

    If the US just blows it up, Iran’s reasons for cooperating to keep the Strait open would decrease substantially, since Iran would be left with little or no way to get its own oil to market whether the Strait is open or closed. If the US instead seeks to take over the Abadan refinery, Iran might blow it up. Regardless of which side blows it up, oil prices will probably rise because a great deal of Iranian oil won’t find its way to market any time soon.

    If, instead, the US just leaves the refinery there but threatens to blow it up if Iran either blocks the Strait or tries to ship Iranian oil through the Strait, Iran might soon find it difficult to understand exactly why it should let everybody’s oil except its own move through the Strait. It might threaten to block the Strait unless it is allowed to ship a substantial portion of its own oil through the Strait. Since that prospect would appeal to US politicians and voters about as much as a case of leprosy, the US would probably respond by threatening to up the ante (or by actually doing so), in which case the confrontation might soon escalate into a very big and ugly war. (In the meantime, of course, Iran will be talking daily with its large neighbors to the north and east — Russia and China — about long-term solutions to Iran’s vulnerability to US control of the Persian Gulf oil-shipping lanes; I’m sure they’ll come up with something, and the longer the US/Iran blinking match lasts, the more likely that will be and the less leverage the US will have.)

    Keeping the Abadan refinery around as long as possible could prevent, or at least delay, this narrowing of the options, but keeping it around without ever letting Iran benefit from it would diminish its usefulness as a bargaining chip, ensuring that the parties’ options indeed get narrowed.

    In short, though I understand the US has “war gamed” this to death, and I understand the reported result of those war games is that the Strait of Hormuz would remain closed for a very long time, I’m willing to bet those war games haven’t reached such a confident conclusion.

  49. James Canning says:

    Dan Cooper,

    I think you do not give sufficient credit to the Iranian leadership for religious sincerity. If they oppose nuclear weapons on religious grounds, with deep sincerity, they do not see it as following logically and morally that they would develop them anyway.

    Iran is much safer keeping to the moral high road, and continuing to advocate eliminating nuclear weapons from the Middle East.

  50. James Canning says:

    Eric A. Brill,

    Ahmadinejad continues to be outspoken against nuclear weapons, and the fallacious thinking on the part of neocons and others in the US, that regime change is needed in order to “thwart” a non-existent nuclear weapons program, should be only too obvious.

  51. James Canning says:

    What utter lunacy on the part of Obama, if he claims a pre-emptive right to use nuclear weapons against Iran! Or any other country! Utter lunacy. Is this what Aipac and its stooges in the US Congress are bringing the American people?

  52. Eric A. Brill says:

    Uri Avnery writes:

    “According to all reports, even the most extreme Iranian opponents of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad support the acquisition of the bomb and would rally behind him if attacked.”

    It appears I’ve somehow overlooked all of these reports. I’m not aware that Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, Mousavi or any other prominent Iranian politician has ever expressed support for an Iranian bomb. Possibly in private, but certainly not in public.

    It’s surprising what passes for incontestable fact in some places — even for a commentator such as Avnery, who normally maintains a healthy skepticism about such assertions.

  53. kooshy says:

    Fiorangela

    I agree, in no way I endorse his language , tone and some of his views , I just posted the article since I thought his opening was funny.
    To me it did resemble the current altitude of the Israel and her parents especially concerning an attack on Iran.

    In my endeavor to learn the tactics used by western press (Left and Right), by viewing and reading them carefully on daily bases, since my collage days of KU, and since the Watergate. I have learned how to laugh on a good humorous article.

    Now days as an Iranian, I no longer personally feel insulted, or frighten, the daily serial articles and opinions they put out, if you know what their aim is, will serves as good satire to hummer the day. Just like today with US’s announcement of the first strike off the table except for Iran and NK I wasn’t frighten or angry, see hypocrisy at first, will disappoint, and angers one, but when you become constantly subject to hypocrisy, it becomes hummer. God bless his sole the late George Carlin was the one I learned how to laugh from a good hypocrisy.

    Cheers

  54. Fiorangela Leone says:

    quite so, Cyrus.

    kooshy, on closer reading, there are several serious flaws in Avnery’s article.

    He writes that the child threatens to “kill” the bully unless someone else holds him back.
    That’s not really the situation: Israel is threatening to “kill” Iran, but it is NOT doing nothing to the “bully,” it is pinching, ‘biting,’ kicking, and slandering, all the while demanding not that the ‘world’ “hold him back,” but that the world join him in pinching, biting, kicking, and slandering, and also in attempting to kill the purported bully.

    Avnery glosses over the effects of sanctions, in effect saying that the pinches did not cause an arm to fall off and the bites did cause blood poisoning, so, hey, no problem.
    But the people of Iran have suffered from the pinches and bites of sanctions imposed on them at Israel’s insistence. Just as former AIPAC agent Keith Weissman has claimed–that sanctions did very little harm to Iran (tho they did harm US interests), Avnery says that sanctions may inflict “some marginal damage” on Iran. Tell the thousands of young people who have no work because Israel blackmailed foreign nations against investing in Iran that their problems are only “marginal.” Unlike Ahmadinejad’s reckless rhetoric, these actions were not harmless bloviating, they were actual deeds that caused actual suffering to actual people. And they were unwarranted. Civilized societies conduct themselves in accordance with a rule of law, the most fundamental of which is, Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

    Avnery uses childhood tales; fine. As a parent, I would not tolerate that my child would be pinched, bitten, kicked, and insulted, and be expected to be grateful that he was only pinched and kicked but not killed. Civilized societies do not raise their children that way (tho perhaps I should mention that my older son is a pretty fierce boxer, and that he beat the tar out of a mugger who stole his wallet. oops.) and mature societies do not conduct their relations with global neighbors based on principles of childish thuggery.

    I also take issue with Avnery’s blasé treatment of the campaign of demonization that Israel’s leaders have undertaken, deployed most intensely upon Jewish Israelis, as well as the rest of the world.
    What Israeli leaders have done is called lying. It is not an unserious act. James Madison wrote:

    ““A popular Government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.””

    Accurate knowledge and information is the sine quā nōn of democratic self-rule. To deliberately distort information is to threaten the foundation of the democratic process. To return to Avnery’s child’s tale, what is a child to think of his parent who has lied to him about his place in the world? If a parent would lie in that instance, what other lies has the parent told?

    In Israel’s case, the identity of the Jewish Israeli people is posited on the notions told to them in words, in deeds, in the very landscape of their territory and institutions. If those notions are lies, what is the nature of Jewish Israeli identity?

    Avnery takes a feather-duster to that question. He writes: “Some scholars believe that the Jewish religion was profoundly influenced by the ethical teachings of Zoroaster.” Wow. The people of the Book share the ethical foundations of the people of Zoroaster, whom Karen Armstrong has called the prototype for Jewish and Christian ethical standards. That should be cause for celebration, like finding a long-lost cousin. But because Israel’s ‘parents’ have lied to Israelis, they have been taught to despise and fear this people of the prototype.

    Avnery concludes that if Israel renounces some territorial claims and makes peace with Palestinians, peace can be achieved, the child will no longer threaten to kill the bully and the bully will be neutralized. It’s a good start — it keeps the ‘bully’ alive — but in the final analysis, it is a childish conclusion, because it avoids society’s demands for justice — that misdeeds be acknowledged and punished, and that lies be exposed and abjured; for restitution; for self-examination and reconsideration; and for a fundamental reframing of Jewish Israeli identity.

    Today President Obama once again ‘held back’ child Israel from “killing” bully Iran. In doing so, he enables the child to continue his childish tantrums, he validates the lies Israel’s leaders tell to Israelis, to Americans, and to the world about Iran, lies which threaten not only Israel’s self-identity but the very foundations of American democracy. He proposing sinking teeth even deeper into the Iranian body politic with the hope of drawing blood and sickening the body until its head falls off, and urges other antagonists to join him in pinching and kicking and insulting Iran.

    I can’t compose a closing sentence. It’s too horrible.

  55. acai says:

    Excellent assessment. This change in U.S. policy in conjunction with the recent comments by former Israeli defense minister Ephraim Sneh, who in an Op-Ed in Haaretz, says that “Israel will be compelled to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities by this November unless the US and its allies enact crippling sanctions that will undermine the regime in Tehran” is ominous.

  56. JohnH says:

    I wonder if Obama realizes that carving out exceptions to the NPT will justify other nuclear power making similar exceptions in their nuclear doctrines. Israel comes to mind.

  57. Cyrus says:

    The US threat to nuke Iran constitutes a violation of the US’s Negative Security Assurance, that was given in return for the indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, pursuant to which the US promised not to use nukes against NPT-signatories. Furthermore, it constitutes a violation of the advisory opinion delivered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 8 July 1996 which ruled that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law except in extreme circumstances of self-defense. It is also a violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 984, and also constitutes a war crime of Aggression, which is defined to even include “threatening” or “planning” to wage war against another country.

  58. Fiorangela Leone says:

    kooshy, thanks for the Counterpunch article by Uri Avnery. Is Iran’s cloning technology advanced far enough to make a hundred — or a thousand — more Uri Avnerys?

  59. sakineh Bagoom says:

    When you kill one it’s murder. When you kill a million it’s statistics.

  60. Reza Esfandiari says:

    @KOOSHY

    Really great insight from a 19 year old!

  61. Pirouz_2 says:

    Here is my two cents:

    Iran’s having 10-20 or even 30 nuclear war heads is by no means any threat to USA or Israel (or any of their allies) WHAT SO EVER. Even a child would see that any nuclear attack by Iran on Israel which already possesses hundreds of nuclear warheads(or any US bases in the region) would mean a full retaliation which would be the end of Iran as a country leaving only a radioactive desert behind.

    The best person who explained this situation was Jacques Chirac. When apparently under the influence of either medications or a slight extra dosage of wine, he once said (I am paraphrasing): “Iran having a few nuclear warheads is no threat to the west, because if they launch an attack, before their missile has landed their country will become a radio active wasteland in retaliation!”
    There is a saying in Persian: “Masti-o rasti!” which I would roughly translate it as: “Truth comes out of the mouth of the drunk!”.

    If this is such an obvious fact, a fact that even a child would know, could we plausibly doubt that pretty much everyone in the US and Israeli government also knows about this? EVERYONE in the US (and Israeli) government knows that even a nuclear Iran would be no threat to either Israel or USA, just as everyone (very much including Collin Powel) knew fully well that Iraq had no WMDs and had no links to Al-Qeda, and still they attacked that country.

    Furthermore, Iran is ONLY after the “option” of having the nuclear capability and again everyone in the West knows this fully well too!

    If they know very well that Iran is not after obtaining a nuclear warhead and if they know fully well that even if they had a few warheads, that it would constitute no threat what-so-ever to the west, then why do they go as far as making SERIOUS threats about making a nuclear attack on a non-nuclear country which is fulfilling its NPT obligations? WHY DO THEY GO AS FAR AS THREATENING TO COMMIT SUCH A HEINOUS CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY?

    I think there are several reasons but the most important ones which come to my mind are the following:

    1) It is not the threat of Iran that they are afraid of, it is just the possibility of Iran to have a viable deterrent against an unprovoked military attack by USA or Israel which scares them. As a colonial power, USA wants to have the absolute hegemony on this region and as a result cannot tolerate any country in this region to have a meaningful deterrent which would significantly “complicate” any attack by USA/Israel. USA wants the ability to militarily attack any country in this region AT WILL AND WITH ABSOLUTE IMPUNITY. That is why they are so dead scared of Iran having the breakaway capability!

    2) Iran’s progress in the nuclear technology will undoubtedly have indirect effects in the other fields of technology. And this too is an extremely dangerous thing for the imperialistic goals of USA. There is nothing as scary as an independent nation who despite heavy “technological” sanctions, with a very limited budget could advance in technology and become self-sufficient and hence self-reliant. This would be an ABSOLUTE HORROR for the imperialism, it would be like the possibility of Native Americans developing the technology to make guns, cannons and ocean-going ships in the 18th century! No more possibility of plunder with impunity for the white immigrants!

    3) It is not just Iran! Eversince 1970′s the West has been trying very hard to make the third world believe that development and advancement in technology without the support of the West is IMPOSSIBLE. That has been their biggest weapon in forcing the peripheral countries into submission! What happens if Iran manages to make even MODEST advancements in technology against the will of the West? This would be a horrible example! All third world countries will be watching and will think: “If Iran despite the sanctions and a clerical regime could do it, so can we!”

  62. kooshy says:

    A sober head in Israel

    “Hold Me Back!”
    Israel’s Bellicose Threats Against Iran
    By URI AVNERY
    http://www.counterpunch.org/avnery04052010.html

  63. kooshy says:

    An interesting article by a 19-year-old Iranian student reporter based in Iran

    U.S. is Waging War against the Wrong Country
    By Kourosh Ziabari
    http://payvand.com/news/10/apr/1030.html

  64. Pirouz says:

    In the context of Iran, the US declaratory position is clearly provocative. It is another lever of pressure, another attempted prompt to get the Islamic Republic to withdraw from the NPT and an attempted takeaway of a potential Japan option.

    In the real world, however, it doesn’t mean much. US conventional military power is of such a magnitude, there really isn’t much need for nuclear strikes, and their use is complicated by the potential contamination of friendly neighboring states by radioactive fallout.

    One thing is certain: in this declatory position, the US is certainly living up to its Iranian bestowed title of “the world arrogance.”

  65. Dan Cooper says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Iran wanted a nuclear weapons capability.

    If anything, it would be irrational for them not to want one.

    What else would a rational Iranian leader conclude as they look at the U.S. military’s having destructively invaded and continuing to occupy two of its neighboring, non-nuclear countries (i.e., being surrounded by an invading American army on both its Eastern and Western borders)?

    Add to that the fact that barely a day goes by without Western media outlets and various Western elites threatening them with a bombing attack by the U.S. or the Israel (which itself has a huge stockpile of nuclear weapons and categorically refuses any inspections or other monitoring).

    If our goal were to create a world where Iran was incentivized to obtain nuclear weapons, we couldn’t do a better job than we’re doing now.

    There is 59% of America. 59 f*cking percent!!!!! Ready to trust this government that has looted their tax dollars. Killed off their sons and daughters in combat for years and years and literally millions of innocent civilians in other countries for questionable (a kind word), mega-corporate friendly agendas.

    Ready for war with another Mideast country? Really? Down the garden path to another hell … another quicksand …

    mass deaths that all these deciders will be safely away from in their comfortable and important high rise conference rooms, congress chambers, or in front of the cameras on Meet the Press, Fox News, Charlie Rose, et al.,

    playing their egotististical war games as innocent civilians in Iran this time,

    civilians btw whom they recently professed to admire and care about, die from or be devastated by (not to mention exponentially increasing global anti-Americanism and revenge terrorism) and again,

    these heartless power wielders risking the young soldier sons and daughters of this country, who will possibly be killed from such war or risk severe physical injury or at the very least psychological scarring for the rest of their lives if they make it through all those deployments now SOP.

    As Iraq soldiers are launching their FOURTH deployments!!!! Let’s play Russian roulette over and over and over with the same chamber with the same people, America.

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article25138.htm

  66. JohnH says:

    The logical sequel to preemptive war and to the torture doctrine. Bush declared that anyone could be tortured and locked away forever once Bush declared that person to be a terrorist. The Bush doctrine declared the US could invade and occupy anybody once it had trumped up enough evidence.

    Now the Obama doctrine asserts that the US can nuke anybody once it has trumped up enough evidence.

  67. sakineh Bagoom says:

    Amalek!

  68. Fiorangela Leone says:

    “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.” ~ Einstein

    You cannot simultaneously advocate for nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and threaten to use them on non-nuclear states.