The U.S. secretary of defense and secretary of state talk tough on Iran’s non-operational facility for uranium low-enrichment near Qum (also spelled “Qom”) that will be open to the appropriate international weapons inspectors.
“The disclosure of a new nuclear enrichment site in Iran places the government ‘in a very bad spot’ and raises the prospect of ‘severe additional sanctions,’ Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview broadcast Sunday,” Brian Knowlton at The New York Times reports. Paul Richter at the Chicago Tribune adds that Mr. Gates looks to exploit Iran’s “severe economic distress” with the “unemployment rate for Iran’s young people [at] 40%” and—didn’t display any proof of positive causation, but merely—“asserted that past economic sanctions ‘are having an impact’ ” (my emphasis).
Mr. Richter later remarks: “The threat of Israeli military strikes on Iran”—conditionally supported by Western diplomats—“hangs over the discussion of the nuclear program.”
What’s at issue is the construction of the plant near Qum without notifying the U.N. nuclear watchdogs at the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (N.P.T.)—the third pillar of which is ‘the right to peaceful the use of nuclear energy’ from low-enriched uranium, monitored by the I.A.E.A. “Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Saturday that the [I.A.E.A.] would be invited to visit the site near Qum,” Mr. Knowlton reports. “In Geneva, Iran will be told that to avoid sanctions, it must adhere to an agreement with the international atomic agency that would allow inspectors to go virtually anywhere in the country to follow suspicions of nuclear work, and to abide by agency rules requiring it to announce in advance any plans to build nuclear facilities,” adding that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “emphasized that Iran now faces a considerably heavier burden of proof”.
“Congress can’t have it both ways on taxpayer-funded sanctions and rewards,” Grant Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, wrote June 28. “If gasoline imports indirectly support Iran’s nuclear ambitions, then $2.775 billion in cash for conventional U.S. weapons and military technology clearly allows Israel to focus on development and deployment of its illicit nuclear arsenal.”
“When Neo-Cons say ‘sanctions’,” Ludwig von Mises Institute President Lew Rockwell, Jr. comments. “They actually mean impoverishment, sickness, starvation, and death. As an act of war intentionally directed at civilians (including women, children, old people, and non-combatant men), sanctions are war crimes—and those who implement them are war criminals. Those who propagandize for them are accessories to murder.”
Scott Ritter, a U.N. weapons inspector from 1991-98 and vocal critic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, wrote at the London Guardian:
In March 2007, Iran suspended the implementation of the modified text of Code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements General Part concerning the early provisions of design information. As such, Iran was reverting back to its legally-binding requirements of the original safeguards agreement, which did not require early declaration of nuclear-capable facilities prior to the introduction of nuclear material….
[W]hen Obama announced that “Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow”, he is technically and legally wrong.
There are many ways to interpret Iran’s decision of March 2007, especially in light of today’s revelations. It should be underscored that what the Qom facility Obama is referring to is not a nuclear weapons plant, but simply a nuclear enrichment plant similar to that found at the declared (and inspected) facility in Natanz.
The Qom plant, if current descriptions are accurate, cannot manufacture the basic feed-stock (uranium hexaflouride, or UF6) used in the centrifuge-based enrichment process. It is simply another plant in which the UF6 can be enriched.
Why is this distinction important? Because the I.A.E.A. has underscored, again and again, that it has a full accounting of Iran’s nuclear material stockpile. There has been no diversion of nuclear material to the Qom plant (since it is under construction). The existence of the alleged enrichment plant at Qom in no way changes the nuclear material balance inside Iran today.
Simply put, Iran is no closer to producing a hypothetical nuclear weapon today than it was prior to Obama’s announcement concerning the Qom facility….
Calls for “crippling” sanctions on Iran by Obama and Brown are certainly not the most productive policy options available to these two world leaders. Both have indicated a desire to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Iran’s action, in declaring the existence of the Qom facility, has created a window of opportunity for doing just that, and should be fully exploited within the framework of I.A.E.A. negotiations and inspections, and not more bluster and threats form the leaders of the western world.
Nuclear physicist and former nuclear policy adviser Gordon Prather—a go-to guy of mine on Iranian nuclear geopolitics—wrote this weekend at AntiWar.com:
In particular, Iran’s principal N.P.T. obligation is to not “manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons,” and to conclude a Safeguards Agreement with the [I.A.E.A.], covering certain N.P.T.-proscribed “nuclear materials” in Iran and all activities involving their chemical or physical transformation, “with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons.”
As a result of exhaustive on-the-ground inspections and on-site monitoring of Iranian Safeguarded activities, I.A.E.A. Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei continues to “verify” the non-diversion of all Iranian N.P.T.-proscribed materials.
Furthermore, ElBaradei has – pursuant to requests made of him in several of the U.N. Security Council Resolutions cited in [Resolution 1887]—also conducted exhaustive inspections of Iran’s import records, going back several decades, as well as inspections of certain military and commercial sites, alleged to have been somehow connected to an attempt by Iran to “manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons.” As of this writing, ElBaradei has been unable to find any evidence of any such attempt….
Now, surely Obama is not as dumb as Dubya. Surely he realizes what we have been doing to Iran for the past twenty years because it insists on exercising its inalienable rights under the N.P.T. and the I.A.E.A. Statute and the U.N. Charter is not only illegal but immoral.
According to a Newsweek “Web Exclusive” report last week, “U.S. intelligence agencies” have just informed “the White House” that the status of the Iranian alleged program to develop a nuclear bomb has not changed since their formal National Intelligence Estimate of 2007. That N.I.E. stated—with “moderate confidence”—that Iran had made no attempt to resurrect it.
“Officially, both the United States and Israel now agree that Iran is unlikely to be able to produce a bomb until about 2013 or 2014″—were Iran to, first, disallow I.A.E.A. inspections right now—”the same five-year window that was being predicted seventeen years ago in 1992,” Gary Sick, who served on the National Security Staff of the Ford, Carter and Reagan Administrations, wrote at The Daily Beast this week. “The perpetual plea for U.S. foreign policy to ‘do something’ needs to be changed; we would be better served by adopting the physicians creed: ‘First, do no harm.’ “
Mr. Gates stated a preference against militarized reaction. “While you don’t take options off the table, I think there’s still room left for diplomacy,” Mr. Gates said. “There is no military option that does anything more than buy time.”
In a post of mine on July 17—after the Times of London reported that “Western diplomats are offering support for an Israeli strike on Iran”—I wrote about what I called “doublethink diplomacy” regarding Iran:
President Obama campaigned that he would negotiate with Iran and acknowledges Iran’s “legitimate aspirations” toward its civilian nuclear energy program. The leaders of the G-8 released a statement after their summit in Italy last week stating: “We remain committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the issue of Iran’s nuclear program… We recognize that Iran has the right to a civilian nuclear programme, but that comes with the responsibility to restore confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear activities.”…
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling for countries to impose “even stricter sanctions on Iran to try to change the behavior of the regime”. Sanctions would hurt the Iranian people first, in an effort to starve, impoverish the people into overthrowing the regime — a violent act on the people of a foreign nation to change its politics. Never mind that this borders on “international terrorism”….
In March, former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski said that a method the U.S. could employ with Iran is to “design the negotiation to fail, and to make Iran appear to blame. This would be achieved by setting preconditions, threatening with sanctions and force, calling for regime change and labeling the Iranian government as a ‘terrorist entity’” and that timetables for negotiations, as the one stated by the G-8 last week, “create a sense of urgency and pressure which (prevents) serious exploration of the issues.” Mr. Brzezinski implied in an interview this last May that the U.S. was currently employing this method.
As for “designing the negotiations to fail”, the “design” was drawn by the Obama Administration’s top adviser on Iran policy:
The AIPAC-funded Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) co-founder and Mrs. Clinton’s then-special advisor on the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia Dennis Ross co-authored a book released June 11, Myths, Illusions, and Peace – Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East, with David Makovsky. Mr. Ross and Mr. Makovsky—not only raised the possibility of military action against Iran, but—clearly state in this book that diplomacy by the Obama Administration would be nothing more than a dog-and-pony show to the American people and the international community to make military action “easier to sell”.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly was asked on June 15 whether or not Mrs. Clinton had “full confidence in Dennis Ross to continue in his present role”; to which Mr. Kelly replied, “Absolutely.”
“It’s a very good book, by the way…. It probably was inappropriate, but there it is. It’s out there,” Mr. Kelly added with an awkward grin on his face after continuing to be pressed on the topic. “He is a very close advisor of the Secretary on a number of issues related to Iran and the region. But he also came out of the academic community, and he’s entitled — he was entitled to his opinion. He wrote the book before he came on board here.”
On June 25, Mr. Ross was removed from his post as special advisor to Mrs. Clinton “on a number of issues related to Iran” in the State Department and was promoted to the White House by the anti-war [sic] U.S. president in what the AFP reported as: “a key job overseeing policy in a vast region encompassing the Middle East, the Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia.”
The Newspeak from the poli-intellectual class is thick—to say the least. This weekend, constitutional lawyer and Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald writes in a post titled, “Should Any Iraq Lessons Be Applied to Iran?“:
With people like that at the center of American power—and with recent history demonstrating how literally crazed and bloodthirsty our political establishment is—nothing is more vital than aggressive media scrutiny and skepticism towards war-fueling accusations against our Enemy Du Jour, the latest Hitlers. But we have the opposite. Nothing excites them like the smell of aggressive American confrontation with the bad people. As a result, all of the genuine questions raised by this latest Iran episode are completely obscured, and the most inflammatory and hysteria-generating assertions are assumed to be true and disseminated as such by our “journalists”.