The Complete Idiots Guide To Iran And The Bomb, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Facts
As our Nobel laureate President ascended to the podium on September 25 at the United Nations for his last international speech before the election, we again were the recipients of fine oratory and rhetorical flourish about Americas problems in the world. Focusing on the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africawhats often misleadingly termed, the Muslim worldObama singled out Irans treaty-entitled uranium enrichment activities, saying make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained.
Obamas remarks were dutifully transcribed by our stenographer class, as can be expected, despite intelligence-community conclusions to the contrary and the historical precedent of containment as Cold War policy. This follows the latest media scare concerning Irans nuclear capabilities, and the recent tiff between the U.S. and Israel over it. Like Obamas speech (and because of similarly unchallenged statements by politicians), many media reports are awash in misleading narratives, incomplete histories, and outright fiction about Iran and its nuclear program.
Given how easily the American public and media were manipulated into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, this moment should give us some pause. The disastrous effects of that $3 Trillion Dollar War are still being felt across the world. For those not interested in seeing a much-bloodier, costlier sequel, I offer this introductory course in intellectual self-defense. The only way to rebuff and dismantle propaganda is to be aware of the truth on which it claims to comment.
Lesson #1: Iran is not building nuclear weapons
National Intelligence Estimate: We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program. (2007 National Intelligence Estimate Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities; November 2007)
Several senior Israeli officials who spoke in recent days to The Associated Press said Israel has come around to the U.S. view that no final decision to build a bomb has been made by Iran. (Associated Press, Israel shifts views on Iran; March 18, 2012)
The 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a synthesized compilation of data evaluated by Americas 17 intelligence agencies, declared that there were no serious revisions to the controversial (for war hawks) 2007 NIEwhich stated Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. While the 2011 estimate did include updated progress on Irans civilian nuclear program, such as an increased number of operative centrifuges, it still could not muster any evidence to indicate the program was being weaponized.
These findings echo reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has also concluded that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. The IAEA accounts are typically pored over for the slightest hint of ambiguity or malevolence, which are then promulgated as the most important takeaways in Western news summaries.
A recent example of such deliberate obfuscation was the IAEA report on Iran from August 30, 2012. Typical American media accounts highlighted the increase in Irans nuclear infrastructure (underground centrifuge production, etc.), while failing to mention that their stockpile of 20%-enriched uraniumthe only material capable of being enriched further to 85% or weapons gradehad actually diminished as a result of conversion to fuel plates for use in the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Thus nuclear development is highlighted, under the false premise that that equals progress toward a weapon, while exculpatory evidence is discarded: a case study in how news and propaganda function.
A civilian nuclear program is not easily converted into a weapons program. Before a country can begin the latter, it must break the IAEA monitoring seals on its uranium stockpile, which is also under constant camera detection. It must also kick out international inspectors, who currently have unfettered access to all of Irans nuclear sites. Completing those very public steps would be the first true warning indicators that Iran was building nuclear weapons.
As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is entitled to enrich uranium to low levels for domestic power consumption and medical treatment, such as radiation therapy for cancer patients.
Lesson #2: Iran is not a threat to the US
The United States military is the largest, most sophisticated machine of force and violence the world has ever seen. After factoring in foreign military aid and nuclear weapons maintenance, the U.S. spends over an estimated $1 trillion (thats >$1,000 billion) on defense annually.
By contrast, Iran spends somewhere between $10-12 billion on defense annually, after factoring in foreign and domestic paramilitary units such as the Revolutionary Guards and BasijIrans domestic volunteer militia. This is less than the United Arab Emirates, and only between 25% to 33% of Saudi defense spending, notes Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It spends approximately 1/5 of the amount allocated by the six sheikdoms of the Gulf Cooperation CouncilAmericas staunchest regional allies (save for Israel) and the guardians of Western access to crude.
Lesson #3: Iran is not an existential threat to Israel
Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister: Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel. (Reuters, Report: Barak says Iran is not existential threat to Israel; September 17, 2009)
Dan Halutz, former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces and Commander of the Israeli Air Force: Iran poses a serious threat, but not an existential one. The use of this terminology is misleading. If it is intended to encourage a strike on Iran, its a mistake. Force should be exerted only as a last resort. (YNet, Former IDF Chief: Iran doesnt pose an existential threat; February 2, 2012)
Tamir Pardo, Director of the Mossad: Does Iran pose a threat to Israel? Absolutely. But if one said a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands was an existential threat, that would mean that we would have to close up shop and go home. Thats not the situation. The term existential threat is used too freely. (Haaretz, Mossad Chief: Nuclear Iran not necessarily existential threat to Israel; December 29, 2011)
Israel maintains a competitive advantage in total amount spent on munitions and assets, as well as a massive edge in terms of technological sophistication. Israel spends almost twice as much as Iran on defense appropriations and is able to buy the worlds most advanced weaponry from the United States (mostly with U.S. taxpayer money, laundered through foreign aid). Iran, by contrast, is heavily dependent on the dated munitions it received under the Shah and acquires rudimentary missile technology from China and North Korea with its own money.
Even if Iran were pursuing nuclear weapons, Israels own stockpileestimated at a several hundred high-yield warheadsensures that Tehran would not engage in a first-strike. Those familiar with the Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) know that when confronted with the possibility of your own annihilation, so the theory goes, youre incentivized to refrain from launching a first strike. Israels stationing of nukes on German-made Dolphin class submarines in the Mediterranean assures that even if a first strike were to be carried out on the Jewish state, the perpetrator would still be subject to a retaliatory strike.
However, much as America acts as Israels patron, so too Iran spends a good deal arming and supporting proxy armies in southern Lebanon and the Gaza StripHezbollah and Hamas, respectively. While these forces present a serious challenge to Israeli military incursions into said areas, their ability to project force within Israels borders is limited to indiscriminate rocket fire. While dangerous and psychologically terrifying for civilians, such tactics cannot be considered more than a nuisance when comparing capacities for state violence.
Israel is not a signatory to the NPT and repeatedly refuses propositions for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (MENWFZ) to be established as a means of ending the stand-off with Tehran, despite majority support from the Israeli public.
Lesson #4: Irans leadership is not fanatical or suicidal
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor. (Global Public Square, Martin Dempsey on Syria, Iran and China; February 17, 2012)
Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz: I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people. (CS Monitor, Israeli Army Chief says he doubts Iran will build a nuclear weapon; April 25, 2012)
Intellectual orthodoxy holds that even the most tepid criticism of Israeli and American policy vis-ŕ-vis Iran requires a disclaimer by all serious people that Iran is a vicious theocratic regime which oppresses its own people. While Irans governmental structure is religiously based and peaceful protests have been met with repression, such traits are hardly unique. Saudi Arabia, Americas most solid regional ally, enforces religious doctrine as viciously if not more so than Iran does (such as executing many for practicing freedom of speech and religion as witches or blasphemers). And, of course, violent government responses to non-violent demonstrations aimed at political change are hardly unknown in free societies (see: Occupy Wall Street).
Moreover, theres little correlation between the internal repression of a society and its external behavior. The United States, one of the freer societies on the planet, routinely engages in aggression and the use of brute force to accomplish geopolitical objectives. Conversely, Iran pummels domestic dissent while historically limiting its military involvement outside its borders. The only record of Iranian aggression since the 18th century was when the U.S.-backed Shah invaded and conquered a series of Arab islands in the early 1970s.
Despite contentions from the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu that Irans leadership is capable of pulling the temple down on their heads in a show of Samsonian martyrdom, Tehrans track record and statements indicate otherwise. The more judicious pundits at least acknowledge as much.
Lesson #5: Politicians and media stenographers have been claiming Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons since the mid-1980s
House Republican Research Committee in 1992: “98 percent certainty that Iran already had all (or virtually all) of the components required for two or three operational nuclear weapons.” (Christian Science Monitor, Imminent Iran nuclear threat? A timeline of warnings since 1979; November 8, 2011)
Iran began its nuclear program with help from the United States during the 1950s when it was run by Washingtons puppet-dictator Shah Reza Pahlavi, who was installed after the U.S. overthrew the democratically elected government in a 1953 CIA coup known as Operation Ajax. Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini condemned all nuclear and chemical weapons as un-Islamic, stopping the nascent nuclear program in its tracks. Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei reiterated his predecessors religious edict some 20 years later.
The 1980s saw complex American-Iranian and Israeli-Iranian relations, whereby discreet deals were made among the antagonistic powers in an effort to accomplish other foreign policy goals. Yet by the early 1990s Irans growing military prowess and the near-destruction of the major Arab military presence to Israels east (Iraq) put Iran back on Tel Avivs agenda as a strategic competitor. In 1992, then-member of parliament Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset that Iran was 3 to 5 years from having a nuclear weaponand that the threat had to be uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S. Sound familiar?
American policymakers began to echo Israeli claims during the 1990s, largely in public and without evidence to back them up. These assertions continued in a steady drumbeat of increasingly hostile rhetoric (The Axis of Evil) all the way until 2007, when a declassified NIE was released disputing the fact that Iran continued its weapons program in any way beyond 2003. Despite the conclusions, as mentioned in lesson #1, hawks on the left and right continue to peddle demonstrably false claims to this very day.
Lesson #6: The American and Israeli security establishments are against it
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Were watching very carefully about what [Iran] do[es], because its always been more about their actions than their words
Were not setting red lines. (Haaretz, Clinton rejects Netanyahus call for red lines over Iran nuclear program; September 10, 2012)
Former Internal Security Chief Yuval Diskin:
attacking Iran will encourage them to develop a bomb all the faster. (Think Progress, Diskin says he has no faith in current leadership, April 27, 2012)
Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan: a future Israeli Air Force strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. (Haaretz, Former Mossad chief: Israel air strike on Iran stupidest thing I have ever heard, May 7, 2011)
Although the idea of nuclear weapons in the hands of an avowedly hostile regime is as upsetting to Washington as it is to Tel Aviv, the Pentagon brass is opposed to an attack, not because they suddenly favor the regime in Tehran, but because their own strike simulations predict a great deal of injurious blowback in exchange for, at most, a brief setback in Irans nuclear capability.
And despite war hysteria in Israel, fanned by political rhetoric, and legitimate conventional security concerns for the Jewish state, Israeli security and military officials recognize that they dont have anywhere near the overwhelming force required to take care of the problem. The only way to ensure that Iran doesnt develop a nuclear weapons capability would be to install a friendly puppet regime in Tehran, a task far beyond the capability of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) or the U.S. military at this point.
In lieu of direct military conflict, the U.S. and Israel have adopted a harsh policy of economic sanctions, cyberwarfare, and covert operationsdeclarations of war, by American standardsin an effort to delay Irans nuclear progress. But the consensus among knowledgeable players is that any resort to force will have far worse repercussions than benefits.
Read the rest of the article here
Latest News from our Front Page
Where the Islamic State Gets Its Weapons
Early one morning in late February, a European investigator working in Kobani, the northern Syrian city that for months had been a battleground between Kurdish fighters and militants from the Islamic State, stepped outside the building where he was staying and saw something unusual. A Kurd on the street was carrying a long black assault rifle that the investigator thought ...
Garland Shooter Elton Simpson âHandledâ By Paid FBI Informant
In our story released late last night, we posed this question to our readers:
âWere these supposed âdead gunmenâ part of the drill, or were they patsies handled by a counter-terrorism federal âinformantâ?â
We didnât know it at the time, but it turns out that we were right.
Image: âGarland Gunmanâ Elton Simpson, adjusting his CCTV camera at his apartment in Phoenix, AZ.
What is Sacred to Americans?
The free speech fest in Texas that resulted in the police shooting of two apparent terrorists at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland marks growing prominence and qualified support for the movement for free speech for anti-Muslim satire, led by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a well-financed New York group.
No similar type of organization in America dares to test ...
A Lesson for New York Cops: How to Subdue Brawlers Without Hurting Them
Every day in America police assault, injury and kill people who do not pose a threat to them.
âThe increase in police brutality in the U.S. is a frightening reality. In the last decade alone the number of people murdered by police has reached 5,000. While the number of soldiers killed since the inception of the Iraq war is 4,489,â The ...
Israel Is Preparing For Alien Invasion - Are The 'Tall White' Aliens Coming?
Earlier in the week, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted a training exercise for its Air Force cyber unit, the âOfekâ (Horizon). The training exercise was based on a scenario in which the world is under attack by alien invaders, and IDF tech forces are faced with the challenge of sabotaging the advanced technological systems of attacking alien spacecraft.
Although Lt. ...
|More News » |