Iran in the Crosshairs
by Jeremy R. Hammond /
September 20th, 2008
latest report on Iran's
nuclear program was circulated to the Board of Governors this week. It has not
been released to the general public, but it is widely being hailed as a damning
condemnation of Iran
by the mainstream media.
The Washington Post headline
read, "U.N. Agency at `Dead End' as Iran Rejects Queries on Nuclear
Research." The article states, "The apparent standoff was detailed in
a report that also described substantial gains by Tehran in its efforts to make enriched
uranium, the fuel used in commercial nuclear reactors and nuclear
weapons." The Post fails to point out that the IAEA has also confirmed
has produced only low-enriched uranium, not the highly-enriched uranium
required for nuclear weapons.
The Post quotes Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's
ambassador to the IAEA, as saying, "After numerous inspections there was
no evidence on diversion of nuclear activities and materials for military
objectives." But it fails to point out that this is not only attributable
to Iranian denials, but to the IAEA report itself, which states that the IAEA
"has been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear
material in Iran."
That line is taken verbatim
from the IAEA's previous report last May.
Just before issuing that
report, IAEA Secretary General noted, "We haven't seen indications or any
concrete evidence that Iran
is building a nuclear weapon and I've been saying that consistently for the
last five years."
A CBS News headline
declared, "IAEA: Iran To Upgrade Missile For Nuke
Use," falsely suggesting that this is a conclusion drawn by the agency.
The subtitle more accurately notes, "U.N. Agency Presents Report Allegedly
Showing Iran's Plans To Redesign Weapons."
The U.S. Is known
to have been the principle nation responsible for supplying the reports to the
IAEA, although it is reported that other Western intelligence agencies have
also been involved. Iran
insists that the documents have been fabricated.
The documents, which have
come to be known as the "alleged studies" by the IAEA, have become a
key obstacle to the IAEA's efforts to verify the
peaceful nature of Iran's
nuclear program. The report in May noted significant progress in other areas,
leaving the "alleged studies" the key remaining outstanding issue. That
report also emphasized "that the Agency has not detected the actual use of
nuclear material in connection with the alleged studies."
After the latest report,
IAEA officials who have talked to the press have been widely quoted anonymously
as describing the agency's efforts in Iran as being at a "dead
end". One unnamed official said, "Iran has so far not been
forthcoming in replying to our questions and we seem to be at a dead end
there." Another press account quotes an unnamed official saying, "We
seem to have reached a dead end … Gridlock."
The report itself said that
the IAEA "regrettably has not been able to make any substantive progress
on the alleged studies and other associated key remaining issues which remain
of serious concern."
Iran has not even been allowed
to see the documents upon which the allegations accusing it of seeking a
nuclear weapon are founded.
Despite this, the IAEA has
apparently insisted on being allowed access beyond that required of Iran under the
nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
head of the Parliament's National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, said,
"We are against offering the agency an open door once more and that they
to respond to any claim." He also added, "We do not think there
should be an open forum so America
can bring up a new claim every day and pass it on to the agency, expecting Iran to address
Iran's envoy to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said, "We
continue cooperating with the IAEA but they should not expect us to apply the
Iran had previously voluntarily
allowed inspectors a greater level of access despite not having agreed to the
additional protocol and hence having no legal obligation to provide more
access. In response to the U.S. Referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council in
2006, resulting in sanctions, Iran
predictably stopped its voluntary effort to allow inspectors greater access
than mandated under the NPT.
Soltanieh also said, "No country
would give information about its conventional military activities."
"I said in this
briefing," Soltaniah explained, "`Who in
the world would believe there are a series of top secret documents U.S.
Intelligence found in a
laptop regarding a Manhattan Project-type
nuclear (bomb programme) in Iran and none
of these documents bore seals of `high confidential' or 'secret'? This is
This matter is over, as far as
we are concerned."
The threat that the U.S. or Israel
might engage in a targeted airstrikes against Iran has
continued to escalate. Israel
earlier this year conducted military exercises involving just such a strike in
what was widely interpreted as a warning to Iran.
USA Today reported this week
that "The Pentagon is expanding its arsenal of bunker-busting bombs to
knock out suspected programs to make weapons of mass destruction, such as Iran's,
interviews and military planning documents show."
In addition, Israel has
ordered 1,000 GBU-39 bunker-busting smart bombs from Boeing in a deal announced
by the U.S. Department of Defense last Friday. At the same time, the U.S. is
bolstering Israel's defenses, including by updating its arsenal of Patriot
missile interceptors and deploying a new radar installation on what will be
"the first American base on Israeli territory," as the Israeli paper Haaretz noted.
Haaretz also reported last week
that Israel had asked the U.S. for authorization to use Iraqi airspace for
an attack on Iran.
for now, appears to be drawing the line short of this, and reportedly responded
by telling the Israelis to coordinate with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
If true, the statement could
be interpreted as a clear, "no." Maliki has
assured Iran that Iraq would not be used for such an attack, and
the U.S. is unlikely to
threaten its relations with Iraq
by undermining its sovereignty in such a blatant demonstration of U.S.
hegemony over the country under the
ongoing military occupation.
The European Jewish Congress
in Brussels held a panel on the Iran issue that concluded, "Only military
action can stop Iran, or
will acquire nuclear weapons to the great detriment of regional and even global
The Congress, meanwhile, is
debating two resolutions this week that seek to "increase economic,
political and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear
enrichment activities" and call for "stringent inspection
requirements" of all goods into and out of Iran, which would effectively
amount to a naval blockade of the country — an action which would be widely
considered an act of war.
The U.S. also has increased its military presence in
the Persian Gulf.
Two carrier groups are there
and a third is on its way.
Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman claims in a new book, The Secret War with Iran, that the U.S.
and Israel have been engaged
in clandestine operations to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.
Another interpretation might
be that the U.S. is seeking
rather, or at least simultaneously, to sabotage the IAEA's
effort to verify the peaceful nature of Iran's program.
When the U.N. inspections
teams in Iraq threatened to
be near to declaring that Iraq
had been disarmed, the Clinton
administration intervened, launching a bombing campaign that forced the
inspectors to withdraw from the country and ensured that they would not be
allowed back. The U.N. inspections had also been further undermined with revelations
intelligence was "piggybacking" inspections.
Iraq allowed inspectors into the
country once again in 2002. By March, 2003, the U.N. was once again threatening
to find Iraq verifiably
disarmed, prompting the U.S.
to intervene once again with its military invasion to prevent this from
happening and to implement by force the official policy of "regime
change" that would be undermined were weapons inspectors to declare Iraq disarmed.
U.S. policy towards Iran has taken a similar course as it had
prior to the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.
escalating the tensions by demonizing the country, the claim that Iran has been
arming the Taliban has been resurrected yet again. A BBC headline this week stated,
'sending weapons to Taleban.'" While the
headline suggests a policy of the Iranian government, the report itself merely
suggests that the Taliban might be receiving Iranian-made arms on the black
market. The BBC cites Taliban members who say they "had received
Iranian-made arms from elements in the Iranian state and from smugglers".
The report does not clarify whether "elements" within "the
Iranian state" is meant to refer to elements of the Iranian government or
not, despite the obvious intention to imply just that.
Iran denied the claim that its
government has supported the Taliban, saying that it supported the government
of Aghanistan under Hamid Karzai.
Iran has historically
opposed the Taliban, instead supporting the Northern Alliance, while U.S. allies Pakistan
and Saudi Arabia
had been the Taliban's largest benefactors.
Jeremy R. Hammond is an
independent researcher and writer who examines the
facts and myths of US foreign policy, particularly with regard to
"war on terrorism." He currently lives with his wife in Taipei, Taiwan
and can be reached at: email@example.com.