by Zafar Bangash (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 36, No. 1, Safar, 1428)
While members of the UN Security Council were preparing to meet in London on February 26 to discuss what further steps they could take against Iran after the expiry of the UN’s illegal demand for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, Western diplomats in Vienna revealed on February 22 that US intelligence about Iran’s nuclear facilities had turned out to be false.
Observers were quick to make comparisons with the US’s allegations in 2002-2003 against Iraq about its alleged weapons of mass destruction, which were used as a pretext for invasion. The occupation of Iraq has turned into an unmitigated disaster, but the warlords in Washington are not deterred from inflicting suffering on other people or even their own. This explains why they are so keen to lock horns with Islamic Iran on an equally spurious pretext, despite US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice claiming on February 22 on CNN that “the United Stateshas no desire to lock horns with Iran and is still ready for talks if Tehran halts its controversial nuclear activities.”
What is so controversial about Iran’s nuclear programme Ms Rice did not explain. Iran is operating within its rights under the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) to enrich uranium. Nobody has proved otherwise; the US’s demand that Iran abandon uranium enrichment amounts to unilateral rewriting of NPT’s rules. This is motivated by the US agenda for domination of the region to prevent any regional state from emerging to challenge Israel’s hegemony. The US alleges that Iran is using its nuclear programme to make nuclear weapons. Tehran strenuously denies these allegations and insists that its programme is strictly peaceful—to generate electricity—and is carried out within the terms of the NPT, which it signed in 1968.
US-Tehran relations have been in the deep freeze since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. The US intensified its anti-Iran propaganda in 2003 after its invasion and occupation ofIraq. The Iraqi adventure was supposed to be a launch-pad for the invasion of Iran to bring about “regime change”—the new mantra of America’s warlords (better known as neocons). They have arrogated to themselves the right to determine who should be in power in other countries, and are doing their impose their preferences on peoples who refuse to cooperate.
In order to assuage international concerns, Iran entered into negotiations with Britain, France and Germany to find a negotiated solution to the West’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear capabilities. To demonstrate its good faith, Iran not only voluntarily halted all enrichment activity in October 2003 but also agreed to additional safety protocols, with the clear proviso that these were temporary measures and that the Europeans must negotiate in good faith and find a solution to Iran’s legitimate concerns. The Europeans began to string Iran along, insisting that it must not resume enrichment otherwise negotiations would be terminated. For more than two years they failed to produce any genuine proposals, only putting forward take-it-or-leave-it type demands. Tired of these tactics, Iran announced that it would resume its uranium-enrichment activities, but still did not go ahead until IAEA inspectors had turned on surveillance cameras at its nuclear facilities in January 2006.
Iran’s legitimate activity sent the West into a frenzy of anger. How could any country dare defy their demands, no matter how ridiculous? It was such bullying and the West’s arrogance that led to the Security Council resolution of December 23, 2006, threatening sanctions against Iran if it did not give up enrichment within two months. The council has no authority to prohibit Iran from doing so, and the IAEA has not been able to provide any evidence of Iran’s wrongdoing or violation of its treaty obligations. The report submitted by the IAEA to the council on February 21 stated that Iran had “not stopped enrichment” activity as demanded by the “international community”. The Americans fumed that Iran was thumbing its nose at the international community, and threatened further dire consequences. The moves clearly expose the true nature of the security council, as well as of the IAEA, as tools of the West (in particular the US), which pompously calls itself the “international community” as if the rest of humanity does not matter.
What do the Americans and their Western allies think about the latest IAEA revelations that most of the information about secret weapon-sites provided by the CIA and other American intelligence agencies had led to dead ends when investigated by IAEA inspectors, and were therefore clearly bogus?
“Most of it [intelligence] has turned out to be incorrect,” said a diplomat at the IAEA with detailed knowledge of the agency’s investigations. “They [US intelligence operatives] gave us a paper with a list of sites. [The inspectors] did some follow-up, they went to some military sites, but there was no sign of [banned nuclear] activities”, according to a report in the Guardian of London on February 23. The US and its allies are obviously not constrained or abashed by the lies they are caught telling; these are an essential part of their policy, repeated endlessly to hoodwink their own gullible people into believing their propaganda.
“Now [the inspectors] don’t go in blindly. Only if it passes a credibility test,” one IAEA official was quoted as saying. One particularly laughable allegation related to Iran’s plans to build a nuclear warhead, which the CIA said it found on a stolen laptop computer supplied by an informant inside Iran. In July 2005, US intelligence officials showed printed versions of the material to IAEA officials, who took up the matter with Tehran. The latter vigorously denied the allegation and said the material was forged. IAEA officials have now admitted that the alleged clandestine-warhead programme could not be real since it would not be “put on laptops which can walk away,” to quote one IAEA official. Besides, “the data is all in English, which may be reasonable for some of the technical matters, but at some point you’d have thought there would be at least some notes in Farsi. So there is some doubt over the provenance of the computer.”
Members of the Security Council are divided over what to do next, despite the US pushing for tougher sanctions. “We should not lose sight of the goal, and the goal is not to have a [security council] resolution or to impose sanctions,” Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the UN, said. “The goal is to accomplish a political outcome to this problem.” This is not what the Americans have in mind; their real problem is that Iran is defying them, no matter how ludicrous or illegitimate their demands. “The Iranian nation has resisted all bullies and corrupt powers, and it will fully defend all its rights,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said in response to US threats.
Whether the US will succeed in pushing tougher sanctions through the Security Council, and whether it will then use these as a basis to attack Iran are moot points. One thing is certain: while the US has enormous capacity for inflicting damage on other countries, it does not have much stomach for taking punishment itself. Unlike Iraq, which had been weakened by many years of sanctions, Iran has the capability to strike back at US interests. Should the US make the mistake of attacking Iran, it would find itself confronted by a formidable opponent that not only has the capacity to absorb punishment but also to deliver it in large doses.
Uncle Sam would be well advised not to push his luck too far, or he will be driven right out of the Middle East. Besides, people in the US and Europe would have to say goodbye to their comfortable lifestyles, which are derived from resources plundered from other countries for decades. George W. Bush stupidly wishes to destroy all this because he believes he has a messianic right to set the world’s agenda.