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March 17, 2009
SELECTIVE VISION: IRAN, ISRAEL AND NUCLEAR ARMS
Gullible’s (Endless) Travels
Have journalists learnt nothing from recent history? It truly is a wonder when a reporter can assert in public, on the BBC News no less, that “Tony Blair passionately believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and posed a grave threat." (BBC1, Six O’Clock News, February 24, 2009). When BBC reporter Reeta Chakrabarti was challenged on this remarkable display of naïveté, she compounded her grievous error by responding:
“I said Mr Blair passionately believed Iraq had wmd because he has consistently said so. When challenged he has stuck to his guns.” (Email posted on the Media Lens Message Board, March 2, 2009)
So when a demonstrably mendacious leader claims he “passionately believed” in a lie, the media has to take him at his word. This is the same brand of journalistic gullibility that has had such tragic consequences for the people of Iraq. This is the endless, uncritical obedience to power that boosted the warmongering agenda of London and Washington, allowing them to fit ‘facts’ to a pre-ordained policy of launching a war of aggression. Such an act, sold by the BBC as Blair’s “passionate belief”, is the supreme international crime, as judged by the 1946 Nuremberg Tribunal.
And a similar tragic fate may yet befall the people of Iran, if the corporate media portrayal of Iran as a rogue state lorded over by “ruling mullahs”, desperate to get their hands on nuclear weapons, goes unchallenged.
A Nuclear Programme Under Close Surveillance
At the end of 2007, a thorough assessment by the United States concluded that Iran’s nuclear weapons programme had already halted in 2003. The National Intelligence Estimate was the consensus view of all 16 US spy agencies. (Mark Mazzeti, ‘U.S. Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work,’ New York Times, December 3, 2007)
In its latest report on Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) strengthened this assessment when it stated it had “been able to continue to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material [for possible military purposes] in Iran.” (IAEA, ‘Introductory Statement to the Board of Governors by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei,’ March 2, 2009; http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/Statemen ... 9n002.html)
But under pressure from powerful Western countries, in particular the United States, the UN Security Council and the IAEA have been demanding that Iran suspend the enrichment of uranium “until Iran's peaceful intentions can be fully established.” (BBC online, ‘Q&A: Iran and the nuclear issue,’ 10:39 GMT, February 25, 2009; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle ... 031603.stm)
Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a country has the right to enrich uranium as fuel for civil nuclear power, although it must remain under inspection by the IAEA. The agency says in its latest report that although Iran is continuing to enrich uranium, it is doing so at a reduced rate.
The IAEA also reported that it had found an increase in Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to 1,010 kg. This figure was over one-third greater than the estimate that had been provided by Iran. However, the IAEA emphasised that “Iran is cooperating well with U.N. nuclear inspectors to help ensure it does not again understate the amount of uranium it has enriched.”
News agency Reuters made an important observation:
“The IAEA statement seemed aimed at quashing any impressions... that the accounting shortfall might have been deliberate evasion.”
According to IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming:
"The (IAEA) has no reason at all to believe that the estimates of LEU produced in the (Natanz) facility were an intentional error by Iran. They are inherent in the early commissioning phases of such a facility when it is not known in advance how it will perform in practice."
"Iran has provided good cooperation on this matter and will be working to improve its future estimates.
"No nuclear material could have been removed from the facility without the agency's knowledge since the facility is subject to video surveillance and the nuclear material has been kept under seal." (Mark Heinrich, ‘Iran cooperates after understating atom stocks-IAEA,’ Reuters, February 22, 2009; http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews ... 22?sp=true)
The IAEA stated that it is seeking improved transparency and further information about Iran’s nuclear programme. But it also noted that:
“[T]he apparent fresh approach by the international community to dialogue with Iran will give new impetus to the efforts to resolve this long-standing issue in a way that provides the required assurances about the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme, while assuring Iran of its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” (IAEA, op.cit.)
Scaremongers R Us
However, for many years, the corporate media has been amplifying supposed “fear” in the West about Iran becoming a nuclear-armed nation alongside the US, the UK, France, Russia – and Israel.
Compare the sane and sober IAEA analysis above with the Daily Telegraph’s reporting last month of “fears in Israel and the US that Iran is approaching the point of no return in its ability to build atom bomb.” Use of “the point of no return” is a classic scare tactic intended to induce a sense of panic. Time is running out! Soon it will be too late! As though warmongering propaganda over Iraq had taken place in a parallel universe, the paper blithely asserted that “Israeli and Western intelligence agencies believe the 20-year-old programme, which was a secret until 2002, is designed to give the ruling mullahs an atom bomb.” (Philip Sherwell, ‘Israel launches covert war against Iran,’ Daily Telegraph, February 16, 2009; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldne ... -Iran.html)
“Ruling mullahs” is another trigger phrase intended to resonate in the public mind alongside “mad mullahs,” “Islamic fundamentalism” and “militant Islam”.
Remarkably, the BBC told the public, who pay for the broadcaster:
“Germany has warned Iran that it would support tougher sanctions if diplomatic efforts to stop the Iranians acquiring nuclear weapons broke down.” (BBC online, ‘Germany warns Iran over sanctions,’ 15:39 GMT, February 7, 2009; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7876659.stm)
So according to the BBC, Iran is indeed trying to acquire nuclear weapons. The corporation’s famed “impartiality” really is a joke.
Meanwhile, the Times maintained its own tragicomic tradition of balanced coverage (see Media Lens Media Alert, ‘Selling the Fireball’, June 25, 2008; http://www.medialens.org/alerts/08/0806 ... reball.php).
The paper’s chief foreign commentator, Bronwen Maddox, inaccurately described Iran’s nuclear programme as “accelerating.” In her column, Iran was portrayed as “ambitious” and keen to upset “the balance of power even further in a region already tense about Tehran's overbearing ways.” (Bronwen Maddox, ‘Ambitious Iran is bent on tilting the balance of power,’ The Times, February 27, 2009). There was no hint that it is the US which is “ambitious” and “overbearing” - with a long and shameful record of aggression towards Iran and many other countries in the region - and a proven eagerness to assert its dominance.
It is par for the course, and closely aligned with Western state priorities, for the corporate media to portray Iran as a threat; its “ruling mullahs” desperate to build nuclear weapons or arm “militants” targeted by the US in its “war on terror.”
The ‘liberal’ Guardian plays its part in the same propaganda system. A recent piece by the Guardian’s Rory McCarthy about a new Amnesty report on arms in the Middle East wrongly implicated Iran in the supply of weapons to Hamas in Gaza. McCarthy wrote:
“For their part, Palestinian militants in Gaza were arming themselves with ‘unsophisticated weapons’ including rockets made in Russia, Iran and China, it said.” (McCarthy, 'Suspend military aid to Israel, Amnesty urges Obama after detailing US weapons used in Gaza,' The Guardian, February 23, 2009; http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/fe ... el-amnesty)
This then, according to McCarthy, is what "it”, Amnesty, said.
But in fact Amnesty was +not+ the source of allegations about the origins of Palestinian rockets. Amnesty had merely cited the publication 'Janes Defence Weekly' and was not itself in a position to verify the claims. Worse for the Guardian, as the Amnesty report made clear, the claims actually originate from Israeli and Egyptian security and police sources. Such claims should be treated with extreme caution and, at the very least, be correctly attributed by the Guardian.
Worse still, Amnesty had this to say on the claim that rockets have been supplied from Iran:
"There have been several reports that Iran has provided military equipment and munitions, including rockets, to Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups but Amnesty International has not seen any evidence to verify these allegations." (Amnesty International, ‘Fuelling conflict: Foreign arms supplies to Israel/Gaza,’ AI Index: MDE 15/012/2009, February 23, 2009; http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ ... 12/2009/en; page 31)
We wrote to both Rory McCarthy and Siobhain Butterworth, the readers' editor, suggesting they publish a prompt correction in the Guardian. As usual, we received only silence in response.
Friendly Nukes - Israel Doesn't Threaten Anyone, Never Did
No sane person wants nuclear conflict. What single act could be more monstrous than that of instantly incinerating a city full of men, women and children? This is what America did, twice, in its atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (See David Cromwell, ‘Racing Towards The Abyss,’ Media Lens Cogitations, January 15, 2008; http://www.medialens.org/cogitations/08 ... ds_the.php)
Who could argue with the United Nations’ “goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery”? (UN resolution 687, April 3, 1991; http://www.fas.org/news/un/iraq/sres/sres0687.htm)
But the stoked-up fears, and media hype, over Iran generally overlook the fact that there is already a nation in the region armed with nuclear weapons - Israel. But Israel is a western ally and therefore to be regarded as essentially benign.
Estimates for Israel's nuclear weapons stockpile range from 70 to 400 warheads. An assessment published by the Federation of American Scientists in 2007 concluded that the most likely number lay in the range 100-200. (Steven Aftergood and Hans M. Kristensen, ‘Nuclear weapons – Israel,’ Federation of American Scientists, updated January 8, 2007; http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/nuke/)
In 2008, the BBC reported former US President Jimmy Carter’s statement that Israel has “150 or more” nuclear weapons. (BBC online, ‘Israel “has 150 nuclear weapons”,’ 20:26 GMT, May 26, 2008; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle ... 420573.stm)
Unlike Iran, Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Also unlike Iran, Israel does not allow international inspection of its nuclear facilities. In fact, Israel has never formally admitted that it possesses nuclear weapons, instead following a “policy of ambiguity.” However, in an embarrassing slip, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert told a German television interviewer in 2006 that Iran was “aspiring to have a nuclear weapon as America, France, Israel and Russia.”
Olmert reacted angrily when asked if Israel’s alleged nuclear programme weakened the Western case against Iran, insisting no such comparisons could be made:
“Israel is a democracy, Israel doesn’t threaten any country with anything, never did.”
He said Iran could not be compared to the US, Russia, France and the UK, as Iran had threatened “to wipe Israel off the map.” (For a refutation of this mistranslation from Farsi, see Jonathan Steele, ‘Lost in translation,’ The Guardian, June 14, 2006; http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree ... 14/post155)
Olmert explained in all seriousness:
“You are talking about civilized countries that do not threaten the foundations of the world [and] that do not threaten other countries that they will use the nuclear weapons in order to destroy them. That is why there is a big difference.” (Associated Press and Ynet, ‘Olmert: Iran wants nuclear weapons like Israel,’ December 12, 2006; http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340 ... 83,00.html)
In 2006, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a Senate committee that Israel possessed nuclear weapons and that these might provide Iran with the motivation to acquire its own. He even recognised that Iran faced a potential US threat:
"They [Iran] are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons - Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf." (Associated Press, ‘Incoming U.S. Defense Secretary tells Senate panel Israel has nuclear weapons,’ Ha’aretz, December 9, 2006; http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/798405.html)
Orwell’s Memory Hole
One searches in vain for any corporate media analysis focusing on Israel’s large stockpile of over 150 nuclear weapons. Where is the in-depth discussion that Israel might have a reason to divert attention from its own nuclear arms by cynically manipulating fears over Iran?
At best, there is an occasional subtle nod in the direction of uncomfortable truth. For instance, the Guardian’s Middle East editor, Ian Black, noted blandly that:
“Israel, which has its own undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal, has been warning for some time that Iran is far closer than believed in the west to being able to build a bomb.” (Ian Black, ‘US fears that Iran has capability to build a nuclear bomb,’ The Guardian, March 2, 2009)
But has Israel been simply “warning”, in the manner of a responsible citizen phoning the police about a mad gunman roaming the streets? Or has it, perhaps, been hyping fears about Iran for its own ends – and those of US power?
It is now almost unmentioned in media coverage that Israel carried out a massive military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean last June. This involved 100 bombers, rescue helicopters and midair refuelling planes over Crete, 1,400 kilometres from Israel – about the same distance separating Israel from Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.
A few days after the exercise, Israel's deputy prime minister, Shaul Mofaz, said:
"If Iran continues its programme to develop nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The window of opportunity has closed. The sanctions are not effective. There will be no alternative but to attack Iran in order to stop the Iranian nuclear programme." (Jonathan Steele, ‘Israel asked US green light to bomb Iran,’ The Guardian, September 26, 2008)
Around the same time, the US announced that it would sell Israel 1,000 bunker-busting “smart” bombs, capable of penetrating 90 cm of steel-reinforced concrete. It was reported in passing that the US and Israel were in advanced talks about upgrading Israel's Arrow II ballistic missile shield.
In 2007, Israeli forces conducted an air raid against an alleged Syrian nuclear facility. Seemingly unable to obtain US backing for similar strikes against Iran, Israel has launched a “covert war” involving hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to stop “the regime's illicit weapons project.” (Sherwell, op. cit.)
Although these developments have been given limited coverage, they invariably, and rapidly, disappear down the Orwellian ‘memory hole.’ Inconvenient facts are forgotten or overlooked. Somehow, the dots – the West’s long record of criminal actions, its current threats and longstanding strategic interests - are never joined. Somehow, there is no in-depth reporting or analysis of Israel’s hugely threatening stock of nuclear weapons; or of “our ally’s” threat to regional and global instability. Somehow, the West’s (particularly the US’s) massive financial, diplomatic and ideological support for a nuclear-armed Israel is not part of the story.
All of this is simply not discussed in any meaningful, sustained way by ‘mainstream’ broadcasters and newspapers. And so, like many others in the region, the people of Iran remain in the crosshairs of Western firepower; just as the Iraqis were.
Sadly, this deadly cocktail of media silence and diversion will likely yield yet more corpses, more mutilations, more victims demented by grief, fear and misery.
Whatever steps each of us can take to challenge the agenda of power propagated through the media are well worth the effort.
'No credible evidence' of Iranian nuclear weapons, says UN inspector
Mohamed ElBaradei says Iran was 'on the wrong side of the law' but rejects British intelligence claims
* Julian Borger and Richard Norton-Taylor
* guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 30 September 2009 18.51 BST
Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said British claims of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme were unfounded.
The UN's chief weapons inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei, said today he had seen "no credible evidence" that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, rejecting British intelligence allegations that a weapons programme has been going on for at least four years.
The claims and counter-claims came on the eve of a potentially decisive meeting in Geneva between diplomats from six world powers and an Iranian delegation about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Iran insists its programme is for peaceful purposes, and that there is nothing illegal about a uranium enrichment plant under construction near the city of Qom, the existence of which was revealed last week. Iranian leaders say they did not have to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) until six months before the first uranium was processed.
But ElBaradei, the outgoing IAEA director general, publicly disagreed today, saying Iran had been under an obligation to tell the agency "on the day it was decided to construct the facility". He said the Iranian government was "on the wrong side of the law".
However, ElBaradei rejected British intelligence claims that Iran had reactivated its weapons programme at least four years ago. By making the claims the UK broke with the official US intelligence position that Iranian work on developing a warhead probably stopped in 2003. They said that even if there was a halt, as reported in a US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) two years ago, the programme restarted in late 2004 or early 2005.
British officials had been privately sceptical about the NIE finding since its publication in 2007, but this was the first time they had made detailed allegations about Iran's weapons programme.
BND, the German intelligence organisation, this year provided evidence in a court case saying it believed weapons work in Iran had continued after 2003. A leaked internal memo written by the IAEA also found that Iran probably had "sufficient information" to build a bomb, and that it had "probably tested" a high-explosive component of a nuclear warhead.
ElBaradei has angrily rejected claims from Israel, France and the US that he had suppressed the internal IAEA report, saying all relevant and confirmed information had been presented to member states.
Tomorrow's talks will take place in a secluded villa on the edge of Geneva. The Iranian delegation will be led by its chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, who at a similar meeting in Switzerland last year delivered a lecture more than two hours long about recent Iranian history and the global balance of power. But he refused to discuss Iran's nuclear programme.
Iranian officials say its programme remains non-negotiable, despite five UN security council resolutions calling for Iran to suspend enrichment. Western negotiators say they will push for a date for an IAEA inspection of the Qom uranium plant, and further concrete steps from the Iranian government to restore international confidence in the peaceful purpose of its programme. Failing that, multilateral talks will start on the imposition of more sanctions.
The Kremlin said today that the Russian position on sanctions would depend on the degree of Iranian cooperation with the IAEA. However, Russia and China are expected to resist the far-reaching measures aimed at Iran's energy sector being promoted by the US, Britain and France.
Iran’s nuclear threat is a lie
Published 01 October 2009
Obama's "showdown" with Iran has another agenda. The media have been tasked with preparing the public for endless war
In 2001, the Observer published a series of reports that claimed an "Iraqi connection" to al-Qaeda, even describing the base in Iraq where the training of terrorists took place and a facility where anthrax was being manufactured as a weapon of mass destruction. It was all false. Supplied by US intelligence and Iraqi exiles, planted stories in the British and US media helped George Bush and Tony Blair to launch an illegal invasion which caused, according to the most recent study, 1.3 million deaths.
Something similar is happening over Iran: the same syncopation of government and media "revelations", the same manufacture of a sense of crisis. "Showdown looms with Iran over secret nuclear plant", declared the Guardian on 26 September. "Showdown" is the theme. High noon. The clock ticking. Good versus evil. Add a smooth new US president who has "put paid to the Bush years". An immediate echo is the notorious Guardian front page of 22 May 2007: "Iran's secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq". Based on unsubstantiated claims by the Pentagon, the writer Simon Tisdall presented as fact an Iranian "plan" to wage war on, and defeat, US forces in Iraq by September of that year - a demonstrable falsehood for which there has been no retraction.
The official jargon for this kind of propaganda is "psy-ops", the military term for psychological operations. In the Pentagon and Whitehall, it has become a critical component of a diplomatic and military campaign to blockade, isolate and weaken Iran by hyping its “nuclear threat": a phrase now used incessantly by Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, and parroted by the BBC and other broadcasters as objective news. And it is fake.
The threat is one-way
On 16 September, Newsweek disclosed that the major US intelligence agencies had reported to the White House that Iran's "nuclear status" had not changed since the National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007, which stated with "high confidence" that Iran had halted in 2003 the programme it was alleged to have developed. The International Atomic Energy Agency has backed this, time and again.
The current propaganda derives from Obama's announcement that the US is scrapping missiles stationed on Russia's border. This serves to cover the fact that the number of US missile sites is actually expanding in Europe and the "redundant" missiles are being redeployed on ships. The game is to mollify Russia into joining, or not obstructing, the US campaign against Iran. "President Bush was right," said Obama, "that Iran's ballistic missile programme poses a significant threat [to Europe and the US]." That Iran would contemplate a suicidal attack on the US is preposterous. The threat, as ever, is one-way, with the world's superpower virtually ensconced on Iran's borders.
Iran's crime is its independence. Having thrown out America's favourite tyrant, Shah Reza Pahlavi, Iran remains the only resource-rich Muslim state beyond US control. As only Israel has a "right to exist" in the Middle East, the US goal is to cripple the Islamic Republic. This will allow Israel to divide and dominate the Middle East on Washington's behalf, undeterred by a confident neighbour. If any country in the world has been handed urgent cause to develop a nuclear "deterrence", it is Iran.
As one of the original signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has been a consistent advocate of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. In contrast, Israel has never agreed to an IAEA inspection, and its nuclear weapons plant at Dimona remains an open secret. Armed with as many as 200 active nuclear warheads, Israel "deplores" UN resolutions calling on it to sign the NPT, just as it deplored the recent UN report charging it with crimes against humanity in Gaza, just as it maintains a world record for violations of international law. It gets away with this because great power grants it immunity.
Preparing for endless war
Obama's "showdown" with Iran has another agenda. On both sides of the Atlantic the media have been tasked with preparing the public for endless war. The US/Nato commander General Stanley McChrystal says 500,000 troops will be required in Afghanistan over five years, according to America's NBC. The goal is control of the "strategic prize" of the gas and oilfields of the Caspian Sea, central Asia, the Gulf and Iran - in other words, Eurasia. But the war is opposed by 69 per cent of the British public, 57 per cent of the US public and almost every other human being. Convincing "us" that Iran is the new demon will not be easy. McChrystal's spurious claim that Iran "is reportedly training fighters for certain Taliban groups" is as desperate as Brown's pathetic echo of "a line in the sand".
During the Bush years, according to the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, a military coup took place in the US, and the Pentagon is now ascendant in every area of American foreign policy. A measure of its control is the number of wars of aggression being waged simultaneously and the adoption of a "first-strike" doctrine that has lowered the threshold on nuclear weapons, together with the blurring of the distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons.
All this mocks Obama's media rhetoric about "a world without nuclear weapons". In fact, he is the Pentagon's most important acquisition. His acquiescence with its demand that he keep on Bush's secretary of "defence" and arch war-maker, Robert Gates, is unique in US history. He has proved his worth with stepped-up wars from south Asia to the Horn of Africa. Like Bush's America, Obama's America is run by some very dangerous people. We have a right to be warned. When will those paid to keep the record straight do their job?
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The hawks are circling
Talk about Iran's nuclear weapons sounds eerily familiar. It's time to end the Bush-era bellicosity
o George Galloway
o guardian.co.uk, Friday 2 October 2009 22.00 BST
By coincidence, I was in the very hotel in Geneva as the world's media descended for the next day's talks on Iran. Judging by the excited war-babble of the Fox, Sky and CNN correspondents, the scene was set for a showdown.
The cold war with Iran, warmed up by the Pittsburgh moment when the US, Britain and France "revealed" the existence of a "secret" Iranian nuclear facility in Qom (in fact declared by Iran a full year before they were required to under the IAEA rules), seemed set to go nuclear – metaphorically, one hopes.
In fact, by the end of the day both the US and Iranian foreign ministers were hailing the outcome as "productive" (Clinton) and "constructive" (Mottaki). You could almost feel the disappointment among the fox-hole journalists and in the British, French and German camps.
Most media reaction, including the BBC's, to news that Iran had revealed a second facility was ominously reminiscent of their mendacious complicity over Iraq. Sober interventions by the head of the international nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, that there was no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons programme were brushed aside. The testing by Iran of a missile within its borders was treated as if the Kaiser had ordered a Zeppelin over Edwardian London.
On full parade was Britain's post-empire arrogance, which treats a sophisticated state as an errant child in need of a good slap from an authoritarian parent. But the hubris of six years ago, when US neocons debated which to attack next – Syria or Iran – while imagining they had already pacified Afghanistan and Iraq, was largely absent from Washington; though not, it should be noted, from Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, who have been like bellicose understudies for Bush and Blair.
Throughout this year they and Gordon Brown have ratcheted up confrontation with Iran just as President Obama sought public diplomacy.
The Gevena meeting, heavily influenced by Russia and China, provides a space for that. It even led to Iranian calls for a summit between Obama and President Ahmadinejad. The very suggestion will bring howls from the hawks on Capitol Hill and from the bomberatti who have yet to apologise for their role in the Iraq disaster.
And therein lies the rub. The pressure for a more aggressive policy, not least from Israel and its supporters, towards Iran and others has not gone away. What the hawks oppose is Iran playing any major role in the region, though that is exactly the position it has been bequeathed thanks to the war on Iraq and the alliances of convenience the occupation has had to forge there.
They now risk the same outcome in Afghanistan. The US top brass are pushing for large new deployments into a country which has been the graveyard of armies. Nato's commander in Kabul, General McChrystal, wants maybe 40,000 more troops. If he gets his way, Britain is likely to follow. And all into killing fields from which there is no exit strategy or clear idea of why we are there. Hamid Karzai's election carve-up put paid to claims that the occupation would bring democracy. When Brown next reads out the names of British dead, he might like to tell us why he sent them there to die.
Talking peace with Iran while pursuing a hopeless war in another of its neighbours is a policy for chaos.
From The Sunday Times
October 4, 2009
Israel names Russians helping Iran build nuclear bomb
Uzi Mahanimi in Tel Aviv, Mark Franchetti and Jon Swain
Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has handed the Kremlin a list of Russian scientists believed by the Israelis to be helping Iran to develop a nuclear warhead. He is said to have delivered the list during a mysterious visit to Moscow.
Netanyahu flew to the Russian capital with Uzi Arad, his national security adviser, last month in a private jet.
His office claimed he was in Israel, visiting a secret military establishment at the time. It later emerged that he was holding talks with Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, and President Dmitry Medvedev.
“We have heard that Netanyahu came with a list and concrete evidence showing that Russians are helping the Iranians to develop a bomb,” said a source close to the Russian defence minister last week.
* Israel admits Bibi's secret Moscow trip
* Iran's missiles are ‘ready to destroy Israel’
* Russia denies Arctic Sea arms shipment to Iran
“That is why it was kept secret. The point is not to embarrass Moscow, rather to spur it into action.”
Israeli sources said it was a short, tense meeting at which Netanyahu named the Russian experts said to be assisting Iran in its nuclear programme.
In western capitals the latest claims were treated with caution. American and British officials argued that the involvement of freelance Russian scientists belonged to the past.
American officials said concern about Russian experts acting without official approval, had been raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in a report more than a year ago.
“There has been Russian help. It is not the government, it is individuals, at least one helping Iran on weaponisation activities and it is worrisome,” said David Albright, a former weapons inspector who is president of the Institute for Science and International Security.
However, Israeli officials insist that any Russian scientists working in Iran could do so only with official approval.
Robert Einhorn, the special adviser for non-proliferation and arms control to Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, is understood to believe that Russian companies have also supplied material that has been used by Iran in the production of ballistic missiles.
The disclosures came as Iran agreed at talks in Geneva to submit to IAEA inspections of its newly disclosed enrichment plant, which is being built under a mountain on a military base at Qom. Iran revealed the plant to the IAEA to pre-empt being caught out by an imminent announcement from western governments, which had discovered its existence.
The West says the plant is tailor-made for a secret weapons programme and proves Iran’s claim that its nuclear programme is intended only for peaceful purposes is a lie. The plant is designed to hold 3,000 centrifuges — enough to produce the material needed for one bomb a year.
Iran’s conduct over the next few weeks will determine whether the West continues its new dialogue or is compelled to increase pressure with tougher United Nations and other sanctions.
Ephraim Sneh, a former Israeli deputy defence minister, warned that time was running out for action to stop the programme. “If no crippling sanctions are introduced by Christmas, Israel will strike,” he said. “If we are left alone, we will act alone.”
A key test for the West will be whether Iran allows IAEA inspectors unfettered access to the Qom plant. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, was in Tehran this weekend to discuss this and Iran’s agreement, in principle, to ship most of its current stocks of low-enriched uranium to Russia so it can be used in medical research. President Barack Obama has told Iran he wants to see concrete results within two weeks.
While there is consensus in the West that Iran is trying to acquire the capability to build a weapon, the progress of its weaponisation programme is a matter of fierce debate among intelligence agencies.
The Americans believe secret work to develop a nuclear warhead stopped in 2003. British, French and German intelligence believe it was either continuing or has restarted. The Israelis believe the Iranians have “cold-tested” a nuclear warhead, without fissile material, for its Shahab-3B and Sejjil-2 rockets at Parchin, a top-secret military complex southeast of Tehran.
The vast site is officially dedicated to the research, development and production of ammunition, rockets and explosives. Satellite imagery as early as 2003 has shown Parchin to be suitable for research into the development of a nuclear weapon, say western experts.
The Shahab-3B, which the Iranians test-fired last Monday, is capable of carrying a 2,200lb warhead. Its 1,250-mile range puts parts of Europe, Israel and US bases in the Middle East within its reach.
According to the Israelis, Russian scientists may have been responsible for the nuclear warhead design. But western experts have also pointed the finger at North Korea.
Michael Smith, Christina Lamb
ElBaradei: IAEA to inspect Iran's new uranium plant on Oct. 25
TEHRAN, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei said Sunday that the UN nuclear watchdog would inspect Iran's new uranium plant near Qom on Oct. 25.
ElBaradei made the remarks at a joint press conference in Tehran with Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
China expects progress in new meeting on Iran's nuclear issue
News Analysis: Iran nuclear talks send positive signals
Russia against extra sanctions on Iran because of missile tests
U.S. condemns Iran's missile tests
The inspection of the newly-disclosed uranium enrichment facility would be carried out in line with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Safeguards Agreement in Iran, the IAEA chief said.
Last month, Iran confirmed that it is building a new nuclear fuel enrichment plant near Qom. In reaction, the IAEA asked Tehran to provide detailed information and access to the new nuclear facility as soon as possible.
Leaders of the United States, France and Britain have condemned Iran's alleged deception to the international community involving covert activities in the new underground nuclear site.
ElBaradei, who arrived in Iran on Saturday for talks with Iranian officials over Tehran's nuclear program, also said officials from the United States, France, Russia and Iran will meet in Vienna on Oct. 19 for talks on the possible provision of higher-grade uranium for Iran's research reactor in Tehran.
"We will have a meeting to discuss the technical details and hopefully we will hammer out an agreement as early as possible," ElBaradei said.
The IAEA chief insisted that the Iranian nuclear issue can only be solved through dialogue and diplomacy.
The Islamic Republic's relations with Western countries were moving from "conspiracy" to "cooperation," ElBaradei added.
He said the IAEA has no "concrete" proof of weapons program in Iran and meanwhile the agency is working to deal with international concerns over Tehran's nuclear program.
Salehi, for his part, said the talks between Iranian officials and ElBaradei were "very successful" and "we hope Iran's nuclear case will return to a normal course."
Earlier on Sunday, ElBaradei met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Presidential Office in Tehran.
The United States and other Western powers suspect the program is aimed at producing nuclear-weapon material, but Tehran contends that the program has no military component and has steadfastly rejected calls to halt the effort.
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili Thursday held talks with top envoys from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in Geneva, Switzerland.
During the talks, Jalili promised that Tehran would soon open its newly-disclosed uranium-enrichment facility near Qom to UN inspectors, according to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who coordinated the talks.
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009- ... 180440.htm
[quote=""Cryptome""]US Iran intelligence 'is incorrect'
* Julian Borger in Vienna
* guardian.co.uk, Thursday 22 February 2007 18.39 GMT
Much of the intelligence on Iran's nuclear facilities provided to UN inspectors by US spy agencies has turned out to be unfounded, diplomatic sources in Vienna said today.
The claims, reminiscent of the intelligence fiasco surrounding the Iraq war, coincided with a sharp increase in international tension as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran was defying a UN security council ultimatum to freeze its nuclear programme.
That report, delivered to the security council by the IAEA director general, Mohammed ElBaradei, sets the stage for a fierce international debate on the imposition of stricter sanctions on Iran and raises the possibility that the US could resort to military action against Iranian nuclear sites.
At the heart of the debate are accusations - spearheaded by the US - that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.
However, most of the tip-offs about supposed secret weapons sites provided by the CIA and other US intelligence agencies have led to dead ends when investigated by IAEA inspectors, according to informed sources in Vienna.
"Most of it has turned out to be incorrect," a diplomat at the IAEA with detailed knowledge of the agency's investigations said.
"They 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.
"Now [the inspectors] don't go in blindly. Only if it passes a credibility test."
One particularly contentious issue was records of plans to build a nuclear warhead, which the CIA said it found on a stolen laptop computer supplied by an informant inside Iran. [see below\/]
In July 2005, US intelligence officials showed printed versions of the material to IAEA officials, who judged it to be sufficiently specific to confront Iran.
Tehran rejected the material as forged, and there are still reservations within the IAEA about its authenticity, according to officials with knowledge of the internal debate in the agency.
"First of all, if you have a clandestine programme, you don't put it on laptops which can walk away," one official said. "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."
IAEA officials do not comment on intelligence passed to the watchdog agency by foreign governments, saying all such assistance is confidential.
A western counter-proliferation official accepted that intelligence on Iran had sometimes been patchy, but argued that the essential point was Tehran's failure to live up to its obligations under the non-proliferation treaty.
"I take on board on what they're saying, but the bottom line is that for nearly 20 years [the Iranians] were violating safeguards agreements," the official said. "There is a confidence deficit here about the regime's true intentions."
That deficit will be deepened by yesterday's IAEA report, which concluded bluntly that "Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities", in defiance of a December UN ultimatum to stop.
The report noted that Iran had continued with the operation of a pilot enrichment plant.
Furthermore, the report said Iran had informed the agency of its plan to install 18 arrays, or cascades, of 164 centrifuges in an underground plant by May - a total of nearly 3,000.
At the moment, Iran's centrifuges are being used to make low enriched uranium, but if they were switched to making highly enriched, weapons grade uranium they could produce enough for a bomb in less than a year.
Mr ElBaradei's report said that Iran had so far not agreed to the IAEA installing remote monitoring devices in the enrichment plant to keep constant tabs on what the Iranians were doing with them.
Furthermore, the IAEA still has a string of questions about the Iranian programme that remain unanswered. Until they are, the agency will not give Iran a clear bill of health.
One of the "outstanding issues" listed in yesterday's report involves a 15-page document that appears to have been handed to IAEA inspectors by mistake with a batch of unrelated paperwork in October 2005.
That document roughly describes how to make hemispheres of enriched uranium, for which the only known use is in nuclear warheads. Iran has yet to present a satisfactory explanation of how and why it has the document.
"The issue here is the Iranians have not addressed outstanding issues, and we are still uncertain about the scope and intent of the programme," a senior UN official said last night.
"We cannot ensure the correctness and completeness of their declaration."