by Zafar Bangash (World, Crescent International Vol. 35, No. 7, Sha'ban, 1427)
Four days after Iran sent a 21-page response to the Security Council about its nuclear programme, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad inaugurated a heavy-water plant at Arak on August 26. The following day, Dr Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, was quoted by the Islamic Students News Agency (ISNA) as saying that Iran would not abandon its right to enrich uranium as article 4 of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) allows it to do so. Iran also test-fired a new missile from a submarine the same day as part of its Zulfiqar war games got underway in the Persian Gulf in mid-August. These events have taken place against a backdrop of US-engineered plans to impose sanctions on Iran if it does not give up its enrichment of uranium by August 31, as demanded by Security Council resolution 1696 of July 31.
Although details of Iran's letter to the UN have not been revealed, Dr Larijani said that Iran's response was comprehensive and that the “permanent five plus Germany” (P5+1) should begin serious discussions with Iran to find a diplomatic solution to the issue, which the US has deliberately turned into a crisis. His claim appears to be genuine because Germany, Franceand Britain have said that they are studying Iran's response seriously. This impression is further reinforced by an announcement that the EU foreign minister Javier Solana and UN secretary general Kofi Annan are expected to visit Tehran (Annan is due in Tehran on September 2) for further discussions. China and Russia have both said that the issue should be resolved diplomatically and that there is no need to resort to threatening language, nor for the sanctions that the US is pushing for. Of all the UN's members, only the US appears out of step: John Bolton, its abrasive ambassador at the UN, is threatening to impose unilateral sanctions on Iran if the Security Council does not do so, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times (August 26, 2006).
What has emerged as a sticking-point is whether Iran should stop enrichment before the P5+1 start serious negotiations, or the other way round. The Americans want immediate compliance with their demands, despite the fact that legally they have no leg to stand on. Iran has also demanded clarification of a number of points in the proposals made to Tehranearlier by the P5+1. Among them is the issue of when the Europeans would start delivery of nuclear fuel and other material to Iran. Similarly, Tehran has also demanded clarification about whether the US will lift the sanctions imposed on Iran and release the assets (amounting to billions of dollars) that were frozen illegally in 1980.
Although Iran should be prepared for every eventuality, because American rulers are seemingly capable of every stupidity imaginable, the US's threats ring distinctly hollow: Iran has been under US sanctions since 1980; these were further reinforced in 1994. In addition, with American forces bogged down in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the US is in no position to attack Iraneven if it wants to. And, as the Israeli adventure in Lebanon against Hizbullah has shown, air-power alone is not enough. In fact, the consequences of an American attack on Iran would be catastrophic for the US: it would be driven out of the Persian Gulf; not a bad outcome for the long-suffering people of the region, although it is capable of causing death and destruction on a large scale in the process.
What exactly is the US's complaint against Iran? Like the now-exposed lies against Iraq about its possession of weapons of mass destruction before March 2003, the US alleges that Iran's intentions are malevolent and that it is surreptitiously building a nuclear bomb. Given US and zionist gangsterism, Islamic Iran would be well advised not to lower its guard, but after three years of intrusive inspections even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not found any evidence of wrongdoing by Iran. Apart from the media hysteria deliberately whipped up against Iran by the likes of US president George Bush, vice president Dick Cheney and defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, other US officials have been more cautious, at least in official briefings. For instance, John Negroponte, US Director of National Intelligence, testifying before the Senate intelligence committee on February 2, admitted that Iran probably has neither a nuclear weapon nor the necessary fissile material for a weapon. If Iran continues on its current path, it “will likely have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon within the next decade,” according to Negroponte, who is not known as a pacifist (David Albright: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2006 pp. 26-33; vol. 62, no. 4). Despite such admissions, some US officials, especially the ‘neo-conservatives', who really serve Israeli rather than American interests, are determined to take every opportunity to paint Iran as a threat.
Consider, for example, the IAEA's briefing of Security Council permanent members and Germany in mid-March about Iran's 164 centrifuges at its Natanz uranium-enrichment site. The IAEA had said that it is not surprised by Iran's actions, but these US officials began to distort what the IAEA said. They started telling journalists that Iran's actions are a significant acceleration of its enrichment programme. They alleged that the IAEA was “shocked”, “astonished” and “blown away” by Iran's progress on gas centrifuges. When informed of these statements, a senior IAEA official told the Associated Press that such statements come “from people who are seeking a crisis, not a solution” (George Jahn, “UN to Inspect Iran Enrichment Program,” Associated Press, March 25, 2006).
Such a damning indictment should have been enough to dissuade the cowboys in Washington from pursuing such a course, especially in view of the consequences of their disastrous policy in Iraq, but they are not driven by reason or truth. Their main aim is to initiate wars in order to keep the Middle East in turmoil that they hope will be a respite for Israel. This may be a poor hope; the zionists' crimes have forced many people, not only the Palestinians and Hizbullah, to decide to submit no longer to militarism, and to confront it head on instead. The 34-day war initiated by Israel (with the encouragement and full cooperation of the US) against Hizbullah has exposed the limits of military power to browbeat people into submission. Israel's defeat has brought the day closer when the zionism will be excised from Occupied Palestine just as apartheid has been from South Africa.
But before the Muslims can win through to that day, we will have to put up with a great deal of disinformation and saber rattling. Consider this example. On August 21 some 90 guests, who had been invited to the Unity Conference in Tehran, had a private meeting with the Rahbar, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei. This writer was present at the meeting and took copious notes of the Rahbar's speech. He spoke for about 20 minutes, and emphasised the importance of Muslim unity and chastised the Muslim rulers who, far from supporting fellow Muslims under attack, actually joined the enemies of Islam. He also referred to the West's hostility in depriving Iran of its right to acquire nuclear technology and expertise. That evening the BBC World Service alleged that Iran's leader had rejected dialogue with the West and that it insists on making nuclear weapons.