Anti-Iran propaganda seems increasingly popular today, even among some SCSU professors who needn’t be named. The main thrust of their argument is that Iran is developing nuclear weapons in an apparent attempt to attack the U.S. or Israel. This is merely propaganda that parrots the Bush White House, which was in splendid isolation on its position on Iran. This doesn’t stop the media, a few confused intellectuals, or the current Obama administration from entertaining this idea. Let’s explore it in more detail.
We already know the hawks’ position, because we see it on the news all the time. (It’s the same argument President Bush used in 2002: “Iraq has WMDs”; only this time one letter has changed.) But does it have any merit? The answer, plainly, is no.
There is no question, first of all, that Iran has a nuclear energy program. However, it is a complete non-sequitur to translate that into the statement that Iran is therefore developing nuclear weapons. Let’s be abundantly clear about one fact: Iran is legally permitted to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which it is a signatory. Article IV states:
1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of this Treaty.
2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also cooperate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.
So, when Iran resumed its uranium enrichment program, it was fully allowed to, which is completely contrary to what you’ve probably been hearing. In fact, the treaty implores that the U.S. and other nations help facilitate the use of peaceful nuclear programs, namely in places like Iran. But opponents claim Iran’s program constitutes a grave and imminent threat to security, which is clearly manifested in their attempts build a nuclear bomb.
My response is, show me the evidence. The onus is on those who make the positive claim that Iran is developing nuclear weapons (or is attempting to). The onus cannot possibly be on the people who make the negative claim, if we are to take anything away from the principle of negative proof. But this doesn’t mean people have not investigated the issue at all. Quite to the contrary, all eyes are on Iran and its nuclear energy program. So what are the conclusions that have been made regarding Iran and nuclear weapons?
Contrary to popular belief, Iran has not kicked out the inspectors. Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that leads the inspections, concluded in 2007 that Iran posses no nuclear weapons program or even any material that could be used for a weapon. ElBaradei is very concerned about the U.S. rhetoric towards Iran, stating, “I’m very much concerned about confrontation, building confrontation, because that would lead absolutely to a disaster. I see no military solution. The only durable solution is through negotiation and inspection.”
Okay, that’s what the independent and autonomous U.N. agency says. What does U.S. intelligence say? Well, as it happens, the National Intelligence Council released a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) in 2007, aggregating the judgments of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, stating unambiguously that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program. In fact, we know the Iranians can’t create a nuclear bomb. All their centrifuges are blowing apart because they lack the technical capabilities to extract the molybdenum from their uranium. Yet Bush calls this a grave and imminent threat. Just read the 2006 NSS for the U.S. and listen to Bush’s State of Unions to see the type of warmongering and saber rattling that was going on, calling Iran the number one threat to the United States.
So, let’s quickly summarize: Iran is in full compliance with the IAEA and the NPT. No one, absolutely no one, has demonstrated Iran has a nuclear weapons program. They do not even have the capabilities to produce a nuclear weapon if they wanted to.
They don’t want to though. But president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has stated all sorts of crazy things about blowing up Israel, right? First of all, Ahmadinejad never said anything of the sort. Now, I don’t understand Persian, but Juan Cole of the University of Michigan does; he sates Ahmadinejad stated something very different. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad has, in fact, stressed Iran’s nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes. However, this is completely irrelevant. As president, he retains little power on foreign or domestic issues and absolutely none over the military. Who, then, retains all this power? Of course, it is the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran. Neither the media nor the White House will tell you this, but it’s absolutely critical if you are to understand anything about Iran. Ayatollah Khamenei issued a fatwa, robustly declaring “the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons.” That’s something you simply don’t hear.
What about something substantive? Well, Iran has agreed to additional safeguards and increased inspectors under the condition that the U.S. respect Iran’s legal right to enrich uranium for nuclear energy, but the U.S refuses to do this. Iran went so far as to send a two page report in 2003 in attempts to normalize relations with the U.S.–to suspend its enrichment program, to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and to reign in Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups–so long as the United States recognized Iran’s right to exist, lifted the embargo, and guaranteed it would not pursue regime change. So what was the White House’s response to the most important diplomatic initiative to come out of the Middle East in over half a century? They completely rebuffed it. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice actually lied about never hearing about this document. The White House censured the Swiss diplomat who introduced this document to the White House! Simply amazing.
How did we get into this predicament? Part of it had to do with the neoconservative policy concocted by Paul Wolfowitz that essentially stated what’s good for Israel is good for the United States. That is to say, to the United States has gone against its own interests to pursue the interests of Israel. This includes the very overt threats against Iran (something neither Obama nor Clinton have stated they’re willing to terminate), which are very much illegal under international law. President Bush’s rhetoric on regime change in Iran blatantly violated Article 2 of the UN Charter. Let’s just imagine: the Iranian government suggests to Israel, as the U.S. has suggested to Iran, that it stop its many war crimes and commit to a nuclear arms-free Middle East (which Iran supports), and then maybe it will think about not pursuing regime change and overthrowing the Israeli government. Who would possibly accept this? So why do we accept it from the U.S.? Because we own the world?