January 28, 2007

Iran: The Growing Threat that Isn't

I doubt the following story will receive extensive coverage in U.S. media, but I wish to God that at least a few prominent members of our political establishment would try to cram these facts into their tiny little, warmongering brains:
Iran's efforts to produce highly enriched uranium, the material used to make nuclear bombs, are in chaos and the country is still years from mastering the required technology.

Iran's uranium enrichment programme has been plagued by constant technical problems, lack of access to outside technology and knowhow, and a failure to master the complex production-engineering processes involved. The country denies developing weapons, saying its pursuit of uranium enrichment is for energy purposes.

Despite Iran being presented as an urgent threat to nuclear non-proliferation and regional and world peace - in particular by an increasingly bellicose Israel and its closest ally, the US - a number of Western diplomats and technical experts close to the Iranian programme have told The Observer it is archaic, prone to breakdown and lacks the materials for industrial-scale production.

The disclosures come as Iran has told the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], that it plans to install a new 'cascade' of 3,000 high-speed centrifuges at its controversial underground facility at Natanz in central Iran next month.

The centrifuges were supposed to have been installed almost a year ago and many experts are extremely doubtful that Iran has yet mastered the skills to install and run it. Instead, they argue, the 'installation' will more probably be about propaganda than reality.

The detailed descriptions of Iran's problems in enriching more than a few grams of uranium using high-speed centrifuges - 50kg is required for two nuclear devices - comes in stark contrast to the apocalyptic picture being painted of Iran's imminent acquisition of a nuclear weapon with which to attack Israel. Instead, say experts, the break-up of the nuclear smuggling organisation of the Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadheer Khan has massively set back an Iran heavily dependent on his network.


The growing recognition, in expert circles at least, of how far Iran is from mastering centrifuge technology was underlined on Friday by comments by the head of the IAEA, whose inspectors have been attempting to monitor the Iranian nuclear programme.

Talking to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, Mohamed El Baradei appealed for all sides to take a 'time out' under which Iranian enrichment and UN sanctions would be suspended simultaneously, adding that the point at which Iran is able to produce a nuclear weapon is at least half a decade away. In pointed comments aimed at the US and Israel, the Nobel Peace prize winner warned that an attack on Iran would have 'catastrophic consequences'.
And I underscore the following at least ten times:
Recent months have seen leaks and background briefings reminiscent of the softening up of public opinion for the war against Iraq which have presented a series of allegations regarding Iran's meddling in Iraq and Lebanon, the 'genocidal' intentions of its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and its 'connections' with North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

It also emerged last week in the Israeli media that the country's private diplomatic efforts to convince the world of the need for tough action on Iran were being co-ordinated by Meir Dagan, the head of Israel's foreign intelligence service, Mossad.
That certain factions in Israel might want "tough action on Iran" does not, in even the smallest degree, mean that an attack would be in the interests of the United States. And given the many catastrophic ways in which the aftermath of such an attack might play out, an attack would not even be in Israel's interests. Always remember the critical point: we are talking about a threat, if it is one at all, that will not even begin to take shape for at least five years, and possibly longer.

We know that Iran has always been the ultimate target of the Bush administration. To use the loathsome phrase popular with many of the warmongers so bloodthirstily hungry for destruction on an unimaginable scale, Iraq supposedly represented "low-hanging fruit," easy to pick off -- which would then position us for the main course.

It is simply amazing to me, and it is a measure of the boundless stupidity of our governing elite and the pundit class, that people still do not begin to grasp how endlessly repeated propaganda acquires its own momentum. Or, which is probably more likely, it may be that many of them do understand that, which is precisely why they repeat it. People also ought to remember the surreal atmosphere surrounding the "debate" about the coming invasion of Iraq in the winter of 2002-2003. In the course of that national conversation, we all pretended that we were in the process of deciding whether to go ahead with our "war of choice," i.e., our war of aggression -- while simultaneously tens of thousands of U.S. troops were continuously deployed to the Middle East, and while our military positioned more and more of its forces in preparation for the coming war. It was absolutely inconceivable that, at the last minute, Bush would say: "Oh, there actually isn't any serious threat. Never mind" -- and simply order all those military personnel to make a U-turn and come home.

The troops and our military forces were put there for a reason. We all knew exactly what it was -- but most of us acted as if the decision hadn't already been made, when we knew, if we were honest about it, that the decision had been made long before. The troops were there -- and they were going to be used.

The Iran propaganda has been gathering the identical kind of momentum for some time. Here's a note to any Democrats who say they don't want to make the same mistake they made on Iraq again. If that is actually true, stop repeating the Bush administration's propaganda. You ought to aim higher than being cheap stenographers for this gang of criminals, dutifully taking down and then spitting out their lies, word for word.

Stop saying that an "Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable," and that the use of force hasn't "been taken off the table," as Steny Hoyer does. Stop saying that Iran is an "unprecedented threat" to the United States and Israel, and that "all options must remain on [the] table," as John Edwards does.

Instead, why don't you focus on the facts? A frighteningly radical proposal, I realize. Iran doesn't have any nuclear weapons. Iran is no serious threat of any kind -- not now, and not for at least five years. Moreover, I would argue, as I have argued, that even an Iran with nuclear weapons would not necessarily constitute a major threat and that, even if it did, such a threat could be contained.

Every single time Bush or some other administration official, or a Democrat, or anyone else repeats the notions that a nuclear Iran is "unacceptable" and that a military attack must "remain on the table," it accelerates the drive to war. In this case, exactly as in the case of Iraq, it would be a non-defensive war of aggression that we chose -- directed against an alleged enemy that was no serious threat at all. As I wrote in "Our Date with Armageddon":
Let us state the final conclusion boldly and unmistakably, so we may appreciate its full horror: the Bush administration has already decided, and probably decided some time ago, that it will attack Iran. They want a wider war. Everything that is now going on is simply the cover for the moment when the bombing begins, intended to provide what will be accepted as "justification" for the attack by the American public and the world.

And all of it is a lie from beginning to end.
I do not expect any prominent Democrat to follow the advice offered above. They are determined to show they can be "trusted" on national security, that they are "tough," and that their foreign policy is "muscular." Here's another note: starting unnecessary, unprovoked wars that will lead to catastrophic results, certainly on a regional and possibly even on a global scale, is not "trustworthy." Killing thousands or even millions of innocent people is not what it means to be "tough," not for any sane human being. Creating fury and hatred directed at the United States on the part of countless additional, new enemies is not in our interests.

But the Democrats wish to be seen as "tough." They don't want their political opponents to accuse them of being "soft" on terrorism. And so, the drive to war will continue to gain strength from day to day until, still once more, it reaches the point where war finally becomes inevitable.

Still, I hope to be surprised, and to be proven wrong. I hope and pray for that more than you will ever know.