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Don’t Fear Iranian Nukes – OpEd

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In his speech after the Iowa caucuses, Newt Gingrich warned that “an Iranian nuclear weapon is one of the most frightening things we have to confront.” He was criticizing the non-interventionist views of Ron Paul, but beyond the presidential campaign, we seem to have this bundle of assumptions overtaking the media and most political discourse: Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, and only an unreasonable person would think the U.S. should not do nearly anything to prevent Iran from achieving this goal.

The last wave of this hysteria began in response to the newest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran’s nuclear program released two months ago. Yet the new smoking gun in that document, as it was confusingly described in one media account after another, was based on questionable and old intelligence going back to 2003. There was nothing new. Seymour Hersh reports:

Robert Kelley, a retired I.A.E.A. director and nuclear engineer who previously spent more than thirty years with the Department of Energy’s nuclear-weapons program, told me that he could find very little new information in the I.A.E.A. report. He noted that hundreds of pages of material appears to come from a single source: a laptop computer, allegedly supplied to the I.A.E.A. by a Western intelligence agency, whose provenance could not be established. Those materials, and others, “were old news,” Kelley said, and known to many journalists. “I wonder why this same stuff is now considered ‘new information’ by the same reporters.

Indeed, the IAEA “continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material” as it has in its previous reports.

Some more important facts to keep in mind:

(1) Iran is reported to be attempting to enrich its uranium to 19.75% LEU —well below the 95% used for nuclear weapons, and there is no evidence Iran has the potential to reach such high enrichment any time soon;

(2) According to the relevant U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, agreed on by both the Bush and Obama administrations, Iran has not even sought nuclear weapons in nearly a decade;

(3) The Iranian military state is run by the clerics, not by President Ahmadinejad, whose statements about Israel have been taken out of context and have little bearing on actual Iranian policy;

(4) even if somehow Iran did get nuclear weapons, they would not be any more dangerous than the thousands of other nuclear weapons in the world, some of which have gone missing;

(5) even the head of Israel’s Mossad does not see Iran with nuclear weapons as an “existential threat” to Israel—and it certainly wouldn’t be such a threat to the United States;

(6) Indeed, attacking Iran, whether over alleged nuclear program or any other pretext, is a far greater threat to Israel to anything Iran is posing just being left alone (the linked interview between Scott Horton and Gareth Porter is well worth hearing in full);

(7) During the Cold War, the U.S. faced the Soviet Union, which was an existential threat, and was a much more belligerent and repressive regime than the one ruling Iran.

The Iranian regime is not particularly belligerent, either. Iran may be guilty of an extrajudicial conviction of an accused American-born spy, but this is hardly any worse than the U.S. government’s own show trials involving charges just as dubious and does not justify war. All this talk about Iran’s weapons testing and other transgressions against America’s sense of what’s right in the world does not negate the fact that the U.S. has been the greater instigator in all relations with Iran.

In 1953, the Eisenhower administration overthrew the democratically elected government and replaced it with the brutal Shah, whose torturers were later trained by the CIA. In the 1980s, the U.S. sided with Iraq’s aggressive war with Iran. In the last few years, the U.S. has been imposing sanctions on Iran and waging a covert war, most likely supporting such terrorist groups as Jundallah, itself possibly tied to al Qaeda, and the Marxist Mujahedeen-e Khalq.

Compared to America’s record in waging aggressive wars—indeed, compared to most of the world—Iran is a fairly peaceful country. Juan Cole writes:

Unlike Israel (Egypt 1956, 1967; Lebanon 1982, 2006) or the US (Iraq 2003), Iran has not unilaterally attacked a nation that had not attacked it, and Iran has not occupied other states’ territory. Both Israel and the US have stockpiles of nuclear warheads. Iran doesn’t have a single one and doesn’t even have a nuclear weapons program. Since Iran has not attacked anyone (and hasn’t done so for over a century), and since the UNSC has not authorized the use of force against Tehran, it would be illegal under the UN Charter for the US or Israel to attack Iran.

Moreover, the toxic and radioactive materials released on civilians in Isfahan as a result of an attack on the Natanz facilities would pose a significant hazard to civilian life in that city– another war crime.

So why all the U.S. saber rattling? The Obama administration’s latest assault on Iran, the new round of sanctions, is not targeting any sort of actual weapons program, but is instead designed to evoke “public discontent” among the Iranian people, in the words of one administration official. Is the goal regime change? It is simply to flex geopolitical muscle or to benefit Israel? Perhaps, but even in terms of realpolitik, war with Iran would be utterly disastrous.

Regardless of the precise reason behind the propaganda campaign, there is no reason to worry about Iranian nukes. There is no real evidence of a nuclear weapons program, despite every tiny thing being blown out of proportion in the media as proof of Iran’s nefariousness and impending development of such weapons. Even if the Iranians had such weapons, it would not be nearly the threat to Israel it’s made out to be, and it would be virtually no threat at all to the United States. War with Iran, however, would be a grand calamity, potentially far worse than the folly of the Iraq war, and would likely destabilize the whole region and make matters much worse for Israel anyway.

This is not how most of the establishment is interpreting reality. But there is one final reason to be highly suspicious of all the warmongering out there. Most of the people in government and connected to the war party are known to play fast with the truth in fomenting wars. This same group was wrong about Iraq and misled the nation into a horrible war, either intentionally or with negligence rising to the level of gross criminality, and hundreds of thousands of people were killed as a result. We should never listen to what they have to say without a grain—make that a truckload—of salt. The cost of action is so much higher than the cost of inaction.

Don’t listen to the propagandists. They are flirting with an international cataclysm, and fudging the facts in the process.

Anthony Gregory

Anthony Gregory

Anthony Gregory is a Research Editor at The Independent Institute. His articles have appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune, East Valley Tribune (AZ), Contra Costa Times, The Star (Chicago, IL), Washington Times, Vacaville Reporter, Palo Verde Times, and other newspapers.

7 thoughts on “Don’t Fear Iranian Nukes – OpEd

  • Avatar
    January 14, 2012 at 4:29 am
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    Gregory
    Iran’s Geopolitical position means it is a very important country that is crucial to the economical development of the whole of Central Asia going up north all the way to Northern shores og Russia.
    This part of the world is in reality the last frontier in linking the world togather.
    Unfortunately Iran in its present status will not allow this to happen because the Ruling Mafia hiding behind the shroud of religion has other ambitions and no further vision other than destroying Israel.
    The only way out of this imbriglio is balcanisation of that part of the world into five or six countries and parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan comes into equation too.
    Afghanistan,Iran and Pakistan will be balkanised and the future History will record that. The time span is 25 years and no nation will officialy be recognised as the force behind the change. The whole proccess will be orchestrated by the populations themselves like what is happening in the Arab Countries initially looking as if the fundamentalists are taking over but the power of Internet and other communication factors will bring about the change without fail ultimately following the democratic path.
    The world’s MNCs will have a big part to play here.
    Like everything the ‘only if’factor applies here too and that is the Clergy of Iran if allowed to go on the Nuclear path will not only become instrumental in destroying the Middle East but the whole of the World History will go back to beyond the stone ages and a nuclear winter will be a certainity.
    The aim of the world now should be to promote peace in the region and encorage the populations to regenerate the democratic process and open up for trade and tourism.
    The sign post here is the Leadership of Israel.
    They have a great responsibility on their shoulders and make sure of not only the safety of the nation but also highly aggressive diplomatic peacemaking efforts through third channels with all the countries in that Area with th possible help of India.
    One last clue.Barack Obama is the official sign post that will be shown in the future history as the name that inspired people to try for the new change therefore in the interest of the whole world it is vital that he stays as the next president beyond the 2012.
    Regards and god bless
    viren naik

    Reply
  • Avatar
    December 31, 2017 at 3:00 pm
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    Ok Gregory
    Time to get ready
    The first shoots of the spring is due in beginning of 2018.
    The internet and other digital media will play their part along with the moderates raising their voices against the mafias ruling in the name of the religion.
    We are working on it that is all I will say for now:
    Next twenty five years will change the complete scenario as more and more exposure to unify with rest of the world eventualities.
    Regards and God bless

    Reply
  • Avatar
    January 2, 2018 at 4:55 am
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    A good article. Iran is not making bomb and it is time that economic sanction placed against this nation be lifted. Iran nuclear deal signed by Iran and six world powers – the US, UK, Russia, France, China, and Germany – was the signature foreign policy achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency and it must be honoured.
    Aleezah from Islamabad

    Reply
  • Avatar
    January 2, 2018 at 5:01 am
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    Accusation against Iran are exaggerated. Selective punishment to some nations because of nuclear weapons must end. This is dirty politics. A sincere efforts must be made to check/reduce the development of nuclear weapons all over the world including developed nations and blue eyed Israel.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    June 14, 2018 at 4:30 pm
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    Iran should be on the move from the first week of August onwards.
    Regime change is on the anvil and the world must unite to encourage this change peacefully

    Reply
  • Avatar
    August 9, 2018 at 7:41 pm
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    We are now heading for a very delicate situation in the whole of the region.
    With the elections over in Pakistan
    India will come into focus.
    Right wing fundamentalist forces shouldn’t be allowed free rule anymore in all three countries Iran,Pakistan and India
    Don please go slow in everything until Indian elections of 2019 are over.
    Modi will win but the fascist will have to be defeated
    Actually the people of all three countries will win
    Mark my words the dawn of a new era is not very far now.
    Next 25 years a long time in human life but a short time in the history of humanity.
    Regards
    Viren

    Reply
  • Avatar
    February 25, 2019 at 4:52 pm
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    We are moving into the most dangerous phase of the recent history of the world.
    On one side the world economy is about to go deep in recession.
    On the other side two nuclear nations are raising the war tempo.
    All I will say for now is that a lot of things and equations are about to change and will continue to do so for the next six months.
    P5 nations as the guardians of the world will be caught napping.

    Reply

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