The Construction of the Iran "Threat":
The Iran Versus the U.S.-Israeli-NATO Threats
by Edward S. Herman and David
It is spell-binding to see how the U.S.
establishment can inflate the threat of a target, no matter how
tiny, remote, and (most often) non-existent that threat may be,
and pretend that the real threat posed by its own behavior and
policies is somehow defensive and related to that wondrously elastic
thing called "national security."
We should recall that this establishment
got quite hysterical over the completely non-existent threat from
Guatemala in the years 1950-1954, a very small and very poor country,
essentially disarmed, helped by a U.S. and "allied"
arms boycott, quickly overthrown in June 1954 by a minuscule U.S.-organized
proxy force invading from our ally Somoza's Nicaragua.
But a telegram drafted in the name of
Eisenhower's Secretary of State John Foster Dulles shortly before
the 1954 regime change in Guatemala warned that this country had
become a "challenge to Hemisphere security and peace"
and was "increasingly [an] instrument of Soviet aggression
in this hemisphere" and a "menace to [the] stability
of strategic Central America and Caribbean area," so that
U.S. policy was "determined [to] prevent further substantial
arms shipments from reaching Guatemala."1
And the New York Times featured this terrible
threat repeatedly (one favorite, the lying headline of Sidney
Gruson's "How Communists Won Control of Guatemala,"
March 1, 1953), a propaganda campaign dating back to 1950 that
extended throughout the media, even reaching The Nation magazine
(Ellis Ogle, "Communism in the Caribbean?" March 18,
Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, even
tinier Grenada, the nutmeg capital of the world, and of course
Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction," all
posed dire threats that caused the U.S. Free Press to leap into
active propaganda service.
So the present intense focus on Iran's
supposed nuclear weapons threat is in a great tradition. But it
never ceases to amaze the extent to which the media journalists
and editors, reliably following the official party line, are able
to apply a truly laughable double standard as well as to make
another victim into an aggressor and dire threat. It's déjà
vu all over again, for the umpteenth time!
With minor exceptions journalists are
now, and have been for many years, spiritually "embedded"
in the military and corporate system.
"Free trade" and the U.S. right
to intervene and straighten out everybody across the globe - while
of course protecting our "national security" - are premises
of the professional embedsmen and embedswomen.
Harking back again to Guatemala in 1954,
we have the classic but still salient and cynical observation
of United Fruit Company's PR man Thomas McCann about the journalists
given guided "fact-finding" tours of Guatemala in the
late democratic era (1952-1954): "It is difficult to make
a convincing case for manipulation of the press when the victims
prove so eager for the experience."2
Think William Broad, Michael Gordon, David
Sanger, Judith Miller, Marlise Simons, Steven Erlanger, Ethan
Bronner, Seth Mydans, Simon Romero, Bill Keller, etc., etc., just
scratching the surface of one large U.S. newspaper.
This has to be coming from the deep structure
of the U.S. system, with the corporate and financial sectors and
military-industrial complex increasingly affluent and powerful
in a system of growing inequality, shaping and limiting political
choices and interlocked with and dominating the media via ownership
and advertising power. 3
The pro-Israel lobby, closely linked to
the military-industrial-complex and other elements of the power
structure, pushes politics, the media, and foreign policy in the
There is much talk these days about the
growth of a lunatic fringe on the right that threatens political
rationality and even the governability of the country.
But much more important is the structural
lunacy that causes supposed "centrists" to choose the
funding of a growing war machine, constantly improved methods
of killing, and permanent war as an unchallengeable centerpiece
of policy and resource use in a world of growing inequality, huge
infrastructure needs, and major environmental threats. Indeed,
structural lunacy is now built into the system and poses a greater
threat than rightwing lunacy, which flows in good part from the
impact and propaganda of the primary lunacy.4
A sad fact is that U.S. power and global
(mainly Western) elite interests are so great that U.S. and Israeli
imperial projects can also mobilize the support of the "international
community" (i.e., political leaders and international institutions,
not popular majorities), which regularly transforms the chosen
villain into the target, not only of the superpower, but also
of the United Nations - especially the Security Council and some
of the UN agencies. A dramatic case in point has been the U.S.
and U.K. use of the UN in their attacks on Iraq over two decades,
first with the Persian Gulf war and follow-up "sanctions
of mass destruction" (1990-2003), then with their outright
aggressions beginning in the spring of 2002 and in their classic
"shock and awe" attack and invasion starting in March
The United States, with UN assistance,
refused to allow Saddam to negotiate his way out of Kuwait in
1990-1991, and in the bombing war that followed, it deliberately
destroyed Iraq's electrical and water purification and sanitation
systems; and then, during the sanctions regime that followed,
it refused to allow the import of repair equipment, with the resultant
death of 500,000 children (along with a fair number of adults),
declared "worth it" in Madeleine Albright's famous words.
This was war-criminal and genocidal activity, but unnoticed by
the international community or by Samantha Power and the "responsibility-to-protect"
Perhaps the most interesting feature of
the Iraq experience is how the UN was used to prepare the ground
for the forthcoming aggression and occupation, and then to ratify
The U.S. and U.K. pressed evermore onerous
UN inspections of Iraq's alleged "weapons of mass destruction"
programs, always claiming that the previous inspections weren't
sufficiently thorough, and that those (non-existent) WMD posed
a serious threat to international peace and security. When the
weapons inspectors of UNMOVIC found nothing despite the most stringent
and intrusive inspections regime in history, 5 and a strong majority
of the 15-member Security Council wouldn't provide the U.S. and
U.K. with a vote in favor of war, 6 the Bush and Blair administrations
attacked Iraq anyway, in a gross violation of the UN Charter.
But the Security Council not only failed
to condemn this clear act of aggression, it soon voted for the
United States occupation rights.7 And the subsequent death of
a million more Iraqis and creation of four million Iraqi refugees
has in no way impeded the U.S.'s ability to manage the UN and
This is dramatically displayed in the
U.S., UN, EU, and media treatment of Iran.
In fact, the media, whose leaders had
not yet even begun to apologize for their gullibility in disseminating
the pre-March 2003 lies on Iraq,8 and the UN leadership, which
ought to have been embarrassed by having been lied to and played
a sucker and made an aggression-collaborator in the run-up to
the war, and then an occupation-collaborator, both quickly resumed
the same service when the United States turned its attention to
the alleged threat posed by Iran's nuclear program in May 2003.9
But it is not that the media and UN never
learn. Instead, what makes them look so foolish and so much like
instruments of the imperial state is that power rules - and they
are instruments of the imperial state. And there is nobody with
enough political muscle and courage to tell the emperor and the
agents-prostitutes of his imperial court in a voice loud enough
to be heard that "he has nothing on at all." Even some
of the victims can be bullied or bought to stay quiet, or to join
the "coalition of hegemonist power-projection" (e.g.,
Russia and China, in joining the sanctions parade against the
The misrepresentations and hypocrisy in
the construction of the Iranian threat, and of the need for the
United States and the "international community" to police
and counter this threat, are numerous indeed. In what follows,
we address some of them.
1. The most remarkable feature of the
construction of the Iran "threat" is that it has been
organized by the world's three preeminent gangster regimes: The
United States, Britain, and Israel (though Israel is largely forbidden
from playing a public role).
These three regimes have been engaged
in major violations of international law over the same years that
they brought Iran into the crosshairs of the "international
community." Whereas the U.S. and U.K. have invaded and occupied
both Afghanistan and Iraq (countries to Iran's east and west)
during this decade alone, and they aided Saddam Hussein's Iraq
as it carried out a bloody war of aggression against Iran in the
1980s, Iran has not moved outside its borders in the last century
and beyond. Yet, these unclean U.S. and U.K. hands have made no
difference to the exercise of their right and capacity to organize
international sanctions against Iran. Along with their allies
in the NATO bloc (see the Concluding Note, below), they are committed
to the permanent expansion of their military alliance and to permanent
war and the militarization of vast areas of the planet.
As the unquestioned leader of this gang
of super rogues, the United States is escalating its wars against
distant Afghanistan and Pakistan and it is still occupying Iraq
following its massive attack and invasion of 2003, which has virtually
destroyed that country; and Israel, after its UN Charter violation
and war in Lebanon in 2006, has accelerated its dispossessions
and settlements in the Occupied West Bank in violation of the
Fourth Geneva Convention, and more recently carried out a brutal
onslaught against the Gaza Palestinians.
Israel regularly prevents unwanted negotiations
from reaching a settlement with the Palestinians because a defined,
internationally recognized border would make Israel's further
dispossession of Palestinians more difficult. The United States
underwrites a phony "peace" -- but really ethnic-cleansing
-- process in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Meanwhile,
it wages its own serial wars and prepares for future wars because
U.S. power projection is institutionalized in this highly militarized
society, and weapons, threats, and violence rank among the United
States' primary (and booming) export businesses.10 The vested
interests at work here are clearly immense. As Madeleine Albright
once said to Colin Powell, "What is the point of having this
superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use
2. The United States organized the overthrow
of the then-democratic government of Iran in 1953 and installed
a torture-prone dictator, the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi,12 his
torturers trained by U.S. and Israeli experts. With the Shah in
power, the United States actually encouraged Iran's development
of nuclear energy.13 But with his overthrow in 1979, the United
States reversed course and nuclear energy was no longer permissible
for Iran. This crude politicization of nuclear energy rights and
perversion of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
(NPT)14 does not influence the UN, EU, or media treatment of this
3. Meanwhile, Israel has built up a nuclear
weapons arsenal that includes some 150-250 warheads, plus delivery
systems by land, sea, air, and ballistic missile, with the help
of the United States, France, and Germany, and has managed to
maintain and improve this capability for more than 40 years while
refusing to sign the NPT and subject itself to IAEA inspections.
It is well established that a secret agreement was struck between
U.S. President Richard Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda
Meier back in 1969 to accept and to maintain silence over the
Israeli nuclear weapons program, often referred to as the "U.S.-Israeli
Less well known but reported of late is
that this understanding was reaffirmed in discussions between
Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during
the latter's visit to the White House in May of this year.
After U.S. Assistant Secretary of State
Rose Gottemoeller had lumped Israel together with three other
nuclear-weapons states (India, Pakistan, and North Korea) in her
remarks at a preparatory session for the 2010 NPT Review Conference,
stating that "Universal adherence to the NPT . . . remains
a fundamental objective of the United States," the reaction
in Israel was hysterical.16 By the date Netanyahu sat down with
Obama on May 18, Avner Cohen and George Perkovich explain, Israel's
"ultimate nightmare" faced Netanyahu. "[I]f Iran
is willing to negotiate seriously, it might agree to substantial
concessions only on a regional basis, as a step towards the establishment
of a Middle East nuclear-weapon-free zone. In such a case, Israel
could be pressed to make its own nuclear concessions, possibly
even to shut down the Dimona reactor as part of the price for
effectively halting Iran's enrichment activities at Natanz. This
last point may have far-reaching_ramifications on Israel's entire
bargain with the bomb."17
According to the Washington Times, however,
Obama "reaffirmed" the not-so-secret "understanding
that has allowed Israel to keep a nuclear arsenal without opening
it to international inspections." Netanyahu even boasted
over Israel's Channel 2 television that when he met with Obama
in May, he "asked to receive from him an itemized list of
the strategic understandings that have existed for many years
between Israel and the United States on that issue." Obama
obliged, Netanyahu added. In effect, "The president gave
Israel an NPT treaty get out of jail free card," one Senate
staffer told the Washington Times.18
With this reaffirmation of the 1969 understanding,
the 40-year-old double standard is officially institutionalized
and the issues at stake are not discussible in the Free Press.
As was the case with the Shah of Iran, a U.S. client is exempt
from the stern rules that apply to a target like present-day Iran,
and the political leadership and media can get hugely excited
and indignant at Iranian "secrecy" on its nuclear facilities,
while maintaining complete silence and zero indignation at Israeli
secrecy on its Dimona nuclear facilities in the southern Negev
desert. This double standard is of course helped along by target
demonization and suppression or playing down of murderous and
illegal behavior by "our side," and it is carried out
by both the internalization of bias and professional levels of
So thoroughly institutionalized is this
double standard that when, for the first time in its history,
the annual General Conference of the International Atomic Energy
Agency, held in Vienna in mid-September, voted 49 to 45 to adopt
a binding resolution that "calls upon Israel to accede to
the NPT and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive
IAEA safeguards," that is, for Israel's nuclear weapons program
to be treated like Iran's civilian nuclear program, thereby "realizing
the universality of the NPT in the Middle East,"19 the English-language
news media observed near total silence about the vote. As best
we can tell, the only major English-language print daily that
reported this resolution was the next day's Irish Times,20 and
nothing showed up in any major U.S. print media.
4. Also unmentionable is the fact that
the United States is itself in violation of the NPT (as is every
other state that tested a nuclear weapon prior to January 1, 1967
21), as Article VI requires that all parties to the NPT "pursue
negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the
cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear
disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament
under strict and effective international control."22
But they have not done this, and the United
States has openly striven to improve its nuclear weapons to make
their use more practicable in warfare,23 and both the United States
and NATO have openly declared the importance of a "credible"
nuclear posture to the Alliance "to preserve peace and prevent
coercion and any kind of war."24 Moreover, Security Council
Resolution 1887, adopted with much fanfare during the opening
week of the United Nations in late September, when a sitting U.S.
president chaired the Council session for the first time in UN
history, calls upon all Parties to the NPT to live up to the NPT's
nuclear disarmament demands under Article VI, just as it calls
upon all states that are not Parties to the NPT "to accede
to the Treaty as non-nuclear weapon States so as to achieve its
universality at an early date, and pending their accession to
the Treaty, to adhere to its terms."25
But as power rules, the multiple NPT violations
of the five declared nuclear-weapon states that claim membership
in the NPT while rejecting disarmament (the United States, Russia,
Britain, France, and China), the violations of the three declared
nuclear-weapon states outside the NPT (India, Pakistan, and North
Korea), and the violations of the sole nuclear-weapon state never
to have declared its status as a nuclear power while also remaining
outside the NPT (Israel) are ignored (excepting for North Korea,
among the most isolated UN members in the world). Nor do these
violations interfere in the least with UN, international community,
and mainstream media indignation over the alleged NPT violations
of the target country, Iran.
5. Both the United States and Israel have
threatened to attack Iran. Both have nuclear arms and delivery
systems. But Iran is not to be permitted to enrich uranium within
its national territory, much less build a single nuclear weapon,
although given these credible threats by its declared enemies,
it urgently needs such weapons as part of its self-defense. The
Israeli military analyst Martin van Creveld has even argued that,
given the destruction that the United States has caused to the
nuclear-weaponless Afghanistan and Iraq, "Had the Iranians
not tried to build nuclear weapons [to deter an attack], they
would be crazy."26
As one senior Pentagon adviser told Seymour
Hersh: The Bush administration "believe[d] that that the
only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure
in Iran and that means war. . . . [The danger is that] it also
reinforces the belief inside Iran that the only way to defend
the country is to have a nuclear capability."27 But in a
world dominated by super rogues and structural lunacy, Iran can
be threatened with nuclear attack, literally even attacked by
conventional forces (see Point 6, below), but it cannot enrich
uranium for peaceful purposes without running afoul of the super
rogues and UN agencies. In short, Iran has no right of self-defense.
And because even civilian nuclear capability would advance Iran
toward weapons capability, it cannot exercise its rights to civilian
nuclear facilities as guaranteed by its membership within NPT.
6. The United States and close allies
have been engaged in a campaign to destabilize Iran's government
and national life for several years running (at minimum). Of course
there is the massive destabilization caused by militarily invading
and occupying Iran's neighbors, Afghanistan and Iraq, and by saturating
the Middle East with weapons of war and human grievances that
span generations. There are also the economic sanctions unilaterally
imposed on Iran by the United States, but now expanded and enforced
by the Security Council.
Then there are the more conventional kind
of attacks that the United States has used against dozens of countries.
The Bush administration wasn't shy about publicizing its intention
to "mount a covert 'black' operation" against Iran,
even leaking (i.e. publicizing via anonymous sources fed to the
media) the fact that Bush had "signed a 'nonlethal presidential
finding' that puts into motion a CIA plan that reportedly includes
a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation
of Iran's currency and international financial transactions,"
as ABC TV News reported in 2007.28 The word 'nonlethal' needs
to be taken with a large grain of salt: ABC also reported that
Bush "supported and encouraged an Iranian militant group
Jundullah, that has conducted deadly raids inside Iran from bases
on the rugged Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan 'tri-border region',"
with Jundullah ("Soldiers of God") itself claiming that
it had "been recruiting and training 'hundreds of men' for
'unspecified missions' across the border in Iran." Scores
of terrorist bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, and shoot-downs
of Iranian military aircraft inside Iran provide some evidence
of what these "unspecified missions" really entail.
On Iran's periphery, Bush recruited minority Baluchis in the southeast,
minority Kurds in the northwest, and minority Azeris in the north,
and threw hundreds of millions of dollars at them. The purpose,
as Hersh reports it, was to develop a "secret military task
force" inside Iran "designed to destabilize the country's
religious leadership" and, as one Bush insider told Hersh,
to "undermine the government through regime change."29
Planning for the final attack on Iran
was "enormous" under Bush, a senior intelligence official
told Hersh. "Space assets, SLBMs [submarine-launched ballistic
missiles], tactical air, and sabotage, cooperation from the Turks
and the Russians . . . . significant air attacks on [Iran's] countermeasures
and anti-aircraft missiles -- a huge takedown." Also various
combinations of "bunker-buster" bombs, including "tactical
nuclear weapons, such as the B6-11, against underground nuclear
sites."30 (Israel and the United States have kept the threat
or potential use of "bunker-buster" bombs [by whatever
name] against Iran's nuclear facilities a recurring topic for
the international media since at least September 2004.31)
When Hersh reported this in the spring
of 2006, the only primary underground nuclear site was Iran's
pilot fuel enrichment plant at Natanz, some 200 miles south of
Tehran, and under IAEA surveillance since 2003. Now, of course,
a second underground site, built into a mountainside at Fordo,
near the holy city of Qom, has also been disclosed. It is significant
that, when discussing the facility at Fordo, Iranian political
figures explain its location in terms of Iran's need to defend
it against possible Western bombing attack. "Given the threats
we face every day," Iran's Atomic Energy Organization head
Ali Akbar Salehi said, "we are required to take the necessary
precautionary measures, spread our facilities and protect our
human assets. Therefore, the facility is to guarantee the continuation
of our nuclear activities under any conditions."32 In September,
the Israeli Air Force General Ido Nehushtan told the Jerusalem
Post that Israel is concerned about the Russian-built S-300 surface-to-air
missile defense system, which is "very advanced with long
ranges and many capabilities. We need to make every effort to
stop this system from getting to places where the IAF needs to
operate or may need to operate in the future."33 During an
interview with the Russian Interfax news service in May, U.S.
Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller stated that the
"U.S. is very concerned about the potential sale of S-300s
to Iran, because they could be very destabilizing in that region."34
Her reason was the same as General Nehushtan's: The S-300s are
very good at defending sites targeted by aerial attack. The largest
purchaser of the S-300 in the Middle East is Iran. An Iran that
can defend itself could destabilize the region, goes the U.S.
and Israeli argument -- that is, could make other states more
likely to attack Iran, before it acquires the means to better
In short, both the United States and Israel
not only have openly threatened Iran with military attack -- itself
a violation of the UN Charter's prohibition that "All Members
shall refrain in their international relations from the threat
or use of force" (Art. 2.4) -- but the United States has
been directly and indirectly carrying out military and terrorist
moves against Iran for years, just as the United States and Britain
did in bombing Iraq's surface-to-air defense systems well before
they launched the actual invasion in March 2003. In fact, a large
suicide bombing was carried out on October 18, 2009 in the city
of Pisheen, in Iran's far southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan,
near its border with Pakistan.
The bombing killed a number of Iranian
Revolutionary Guard commanders as well as civilians, and led immediately
to suspicions of indirect U.S. involvement. Mohammad Marzieh,
the chief prosecutor for the province, told the media that the
Sunni-Baluchi ethnic minority organization Jundullah had claimed
responsibility for the attack, one of many it has carried out
since 2005, leaving hundreds of victims, and once again putting
the lie to the "nonlethal" side of the presidential
finding signed by Bush in 2007.35 All of this is in violation
of international law, but it is normalized in the establishment
media and international community, where it poses no obstacle
to the relentless focus on the perfidy of the Iranian regime --
including the massive attention devoted to Iran's presidential
election last June, along with major efforts to discredit it36
-- and the alleged threat that the target of these attacks poses
to its attackers.
7. In presiding over the session of the
Security Council at which Resolution 1887 was unanimously adopted,
President Barack Obama told the Council: "We must demonstrate
that international law is not an empty promise and that treaties
will be enforced." But, as with the decades-long U.S.-Israeli
"nuclear understanding" by which the United States singles
out Israel to protect it against demands that it accede to the
NPT and open its nuclear program to IAEA inspections (or dismantle
its weapons program altogether), the Obama administration reaffirmed
the United States' special understanding with India within 24
hours of 1887's adoption.
The Bush administration had reached a
series of major deals with India and the U.S. Congress beginning
with the July 2005 Joint Statement on civilian energy cooperation
with India, and culminating in the United States-India Nuclear
Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act of October
2008.37 Throughout these deals, the so-called "India anomaly,"
the fact that India has been a wildcat nuclear-weapons proliferator
since its first weapons test in 1974, and refuses to join the
NPT, lurked in the background. The United States pressured India
to accept a "separation" between its civilian and its
military nuclear programs such that any U.S. assistance India
receives will go strictly to the peaceful, civilian side; although
this wall is largely if not completely imaginary, the pretense
that it helped to bring India into conformity with the NPT was
a critical selling point for the rest of the U.S.-India deal.
The Bush administration then joined with Congress in creating
India-specific exemptions under the 1954 U.S. Atomic Energy Act
that will enable the United States to export nuclear technology
and material to India. Perhaps most remarkably, the United States
also pressured the Nuclear Suppliers Group to lift its ban on
the export of fissile material to India, under the just-mentioned
separation pretense. Last, the United States pressured the IAEA
to reach a watered-down "safeguards" agreement with
India, but on condition that India not be forced to join the NPT,
a move India adamantly opposes.
What has driven this new "strategic
partnership" between the United States and India are the
rapid development of China as an economic (and no doubt eventual
military) power38 and the desire of U.S.-based firms in the nuclear
energy as well as military sectors to sell nuclear reactors and
weapons to India. The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
has announced plans to increase India's nuclear energy capacity
some one-hundredfold by 2050 (from 4,120 megawatts today, up to
470,000 megawatts); while the projections may be unrealistic,
"each reactor sale to India by companies such as Areva and
Westinghouse signifies contracts worth billions of dollars and
translates into thousands of jobs for Americans, French and Russians."39
Another potential windfall to U.S. firms, India plans to spend
$100 billion on military imports over the next decade as it begins
replacing its Soviet-era hardware; "India is steering away
from traditional ally Russia, . . . and looking toward the United
States to help upgrade its weapons systems and troop gear."40
But India being an active nuclear weapons
rogue since its first atomic test in 1974, one of three nuclear-weapons
states outside the NPT, which is now reportedly capable of building
"high-yield" bombs of 200 kilotons or more,41 U.S. law
unambiguously prohibits such deals. Hence, the many bilateral
agreements and new U.S. laws exempting India since 2005. Thus
when asked at a September 25 news conference in New York City
whether the "U.S. side" could comment on India's letter
to the UN "saying that India was not in a position to sign
the NPT," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake
said the "resolution  that was passed yesterday unanimously
by the Security Council does not have any bearing on our bilateral
civil nuclear cooperation. . . . So we've provided reassurances
to that effect to our friends in the Indian Government."42
Attending the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh, India's Prime
Minister Singh was more direct: "We have been assured that
this is not a resolution directed at India and that the U.S. commitment
to carry out its obligations under the civil nuclear agreements
that we have signed with United States remains undiluted. That
we have been assured officially by the United States government."43
Of course, both Singh and Blake are right,
and the U.S. President wrong: Security Council resolutions, the
NPT, international law, and the like are enforced not according
to their letter or their spirit, but according to the asymmetries
of world power. The Superpower Gang gets to gang up on Iran, and
to rattle whatever resolutions and treaties it can muster over
the heads of the managed populations in countries such as the
United States, Britain, France, and Germany to keep their minds
properly fixed on the targeted villain. India, on the other hand,
one of the genuine rogue states in the field of nuclear weapons
proliferation (exactly like Israel and Pakistan, but not like
Iran), gets its own unique version of the "NPT treaty get
out of jail free card," compliments first the Bush and now
the Obama administrations. The "India anomaly" stands
-- though there is nothing in the least anomalous about it.
8. Since early 2002, when Bush first lumped
Iran, Iraq, and North Korea into the "axis of evil,"
states "seeking weapons of mass destruction" and "arming
to threaten the peace of the world,"44 the United States
has accused Iran of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program.
Prior to 2003, Iran had indeed failed to meet certain obligations
under its NPT-Safeguards Agreement "with respect to the reporting
of nuclear material, the subsequent processing and use of that
material and the declaration of facilities where the material
was stored and processed," as the IAEA concluded at the time.45
The IAEA then placed the relevant facilities under its surveillance,
according to its standard safeguards protocol.
From roughly May-June 2003 on,46 the U.S.
strategy has been to claim incessantly that Iran is in violation
of the NPT. Although Iran has rights under the NPT to research
and develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,47 the United
States maintains that it will not accept certain Iranian nuclear
activities, whether lawful or not. In particular, this relates
to Iran's enrichment of uranium -- "mastering the nuclear-fuel
cycle" -- at one or more uranium enrichment plants, most
notably the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz. As the Bush
administration's former UN Ambassador John Bolton once stated:
"This is a test of the Security Council. If the Iranians
insist, as they have for years now, that they want an indigenous
uranium enrichment capability, that's something we can't accept."48
Through early 2006, the United States
pressed the IAEA's Board of Governors to take action against Iran
based on the "absence of confidence that Iran's nuclear program
is exclusively for peaceful purposes," where this "absence
of confidence" is a function, not of Iran's conduct, but
of its accusers' unwillingness to accept any measure that Iran
undertakes. When the IAEA's Board finally agreed in February 2006
to pass along its "dossier" on Iran's nuclear program
to the Security Council, the Board's resolution (among other things)
"[deemed] it necessary for Iran to re-establish full and
sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing
activities," stated that Iran needed to provide "credible
assurances regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material
and activities in Iran," and referred the matter to the Security
Council.49 The Security Council obliged the United States and,
by December 2006, began imposing sanctions on Iran.50 __These
sanctions remain in place today, almost three years later. But
now there are greatly heightened pressures from the U.S., U.K.,
and France to tighten the sanctions, despite the IAEA's latest
(and its 27th overall) report in late August that it "continues
to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran."51
The whole seven-year-plus charade by which
the United States and its allies have been able to exploit the
IAEA to harass Iran over its nuclear program can be summed up
by a sentence from the August report (repeated many times over
the years): The IAEA is not yet "in a position to provide
credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material
and activities in Iran"52 -- a condition deliberately structured
so as to be impervious to refutation by Iran or, crucially, as
the world witnessed in the case of Iraq, until such time as it
is too late to make a material difference.
Iran's inability to prove a negative to
the satisfaction of states that won't accept the existence of
Iran's nuclear program anyway is the intellectual and moral loophole
that enables one IAEA report after another to come up empty-handed
and yet provide the impetus for the next round of U.S.-driven
allegations, and the next report. Phrasing such as this was evident
in the very first of the IAEA's published reports in June 2003
(i.e., "the Agency's ability to provide credible assurances
regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear activities is limited"53),
and phrasing like it has been used in virtually every other one
of the IAEA's published reports on Iran since then.
The belief in the West that the Iranians
(or the Persians) are so cunning and dangerous that the absence
of undeclared nuclear activities in Iran is far more threatening
than anything concrete the IAEA can investigate helps to explain
why the incoming director of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, can state
in July that he "[doesn't] see any evidence in IAEA official
documents [that Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons capability],"54
but his words have zero impact: Iran simply is building nuclear
It also explains why the current director
of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, after 12 years in his post and
the recipient of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for the IAEA's "efforts
to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes,"55
can tell the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists --
In many ways, I think the threat has been
hyped. Yes, there's concern about Iran's future intentions and
Iran needs to be more transparent with the IAEA and international
community. But the idea that we'll wake up tomorrow and Iran will
have a nuclear weapon is an idea that isn't supported by the facts
as we have seen them so far.56
-- yet almost nobody listens, and the
search for Iran's nuclear weapons program gains momentum.
It explains why, based strictly on leaks
from anonymous sources, first Associated Press and then the New
York Times can publish spectacular, headline-grabbing allegations
about an internal IAEA "Secret Annex" to its periodic
reports that is said to prove Iran "has the ability to make
a nuclear bomb and worked on developing a missile system that
can carry an atomic warhead" (AP, September 17) and "acquired
'sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable'
atomic bomb" (New York Times, October 4) -- and even ElBaradei's
counter-claim that the IAEA "has no concrete proof that there
is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran" is drowned
out by the allegations.57
And it explains why Barack Obama, Gordon
Brown, and Nicolas Sarkozy can call a special news conference
ahead of the opening round of the Group of 20 Summit in Pittsburgh
in late September, where they pretended that their intelligence
services had caught Iran red-handed with a covert, undeclared
nuclear facility, even though this facility at Fordo, near Qom,
already had been declared by Iran, exactly as Iran is supposed
to do under agreements related to the NPT -- and this non-revelation
about an already-declared facility becomes the gotcha moment,
after several days of using the start of the 64th session of the
United Nations to single out Iran and "draw a line in the
sand" that the "international community" mustn't
permit Iran to cross: "Iran must abandon any military ambitions
for its nuclear program" (Brown).58
9. As we've just seen, in the current
establishment hysteria over the Iran threat, one important feature
has been demonization of the target state; and the more successfully
the targeted state is demonized, the more the principle of anything
goes holds true.
Indeed, demonization is standard operating
procedure when a U.S. attack and regime change are in the offing.
In the case of Guatemala back in 1950-1954, there was a steady
official and mainstream media outcry over an alleged takeover
by the Reds (which was untrue). In a notable episode the importation
of a boatload of small arms from Czechoslovakia by the threatened
country was the basis of great publicity and worry in the U.S.
The CIA, however, greeted this news with
glee as the agency "had long been searching for a credible
pretext under which to 'unleash' Castillo Armas [the CIA's contra
leader based in Nicaragua]," and the CIA had already begun
to plant weapons with conspicuous Soviet markings for discovery
by the Guatemalan police.59 In the 1980s, Nicaragua's Sandinista
leaders were accused of supplying weapons to Salvadoran rebels,
were allegedly importing MIGs from the Soviet Union at the time
of -- and distracting attention from -- their 1984 election, and
were said to be sponsoring a "revolution without borders."
Iraq was allegedly building those WMD and threatening U.S. national
security. And then Iran was accused of supplying various Iraqi
groups with weapons -- only the U.S. invader had a right to supply
arms in Iraq -- and Iran is of course pursuing a nuclear energy
program that has the United States and Israel trembling as both
rattle their nuclear arsenals. __And the media tremble also.
Iranian words are also frightening, just
as were Krushchev's "I will bury you," the alleged Sandinista
threat of a "revolution without borders," and Grenada's
reported threat to cut off the supply of nutmeg. Notoriously,
in the rich load of disinformation that surrounds Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the West, it is held that Ahmadinejad once
claimed that "Israel must be wiped off the map of the world,"60
and that he is a "Holocaust denier."61 Actually, in
the first case, what Ahmadinejad really said was "This occupation
regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time"62
-- that is, he never threatened or predicted that Israel would
be militarily attacked, but asserted that it would disappear as
a "Jewish," i.e., racist, state, and he went on to make
an analogy with the disappearance of the Soviet Union.
In the case of the holocaust, Ahmadinejad
doesn't deny Nazi Germany's efforts in the 1930s and 1940s to
kill or drive away as many Jews and other victims as possible.
Instead, he says repeatedly that the Europeans compounded this
crime when, in the aftermath of World War II, in classic imperial
fashion, they tried to solve their "Jewish problem"
by imposing a "Jewish state" upon the Palestinians.
Ahmadinejad also says that these topics ought to be studied, and
no one ought to assume that the final word on history has been
established. In other words, first the Europeans carried out the
holocaust, then they transferred it to the Middle East. And these
are the same Europeans (and Americans, the West) who lecture Iranians
about the difference between "civilization" and "barbarism,"
and warn that the "greatest threat facing the world today
is the marriage between religious fanaticism and the weapons of
But it was convenient to misinterpret
his words as a military threat, just as in parallel it was convenient
to ignore the fact that Israel has repeatedly made actual threats
to bomb Iran, has openly discussed plans for such an attack, and
has aggressively sought U.S. action along the same line or approval
of an Israeli attack.64 As regards holocaust denial, even if true
what would it prove beyond ignorance and gross insensitivity?
Is it a worse crime than the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians
on the West Bank? Isn't the West's support of this ethnic cleansing
and unwillingness to penalize Israel in any way for its murderous
attack on Gaza more despicable than holocaust denial, given that
it protects actual and ongoing killing and dispossession based
on religious-ethnic bias rather than merely misrepresenting history?
Isn't this protection of Israel a form of "slow-genocide
10. We started this catalogue by saying
that the most remarkable feature of the construction of the Iran
"threat" is that it is has been organized by the world's
three preeminent gangster regimes. But equally remarkable, we
believe, is that, like the Guatemalan threat of Soviet proxy aggression,
the Nicaraguan threat of a "revolution without borders,"
and Iraq's WMD ready to raise "mushroom clouds" over
Western capitals, the Iran threat is mythical. The Iranians have
no nuclear bomb, may well have no intention of building a nuclear
bomb, and, even if they ever did build one, could only use it
in an act of desperate self-defense against their enemies, who
have lots of nuclear bombs and the means of delivering them,65
and regularly threaten to use them against Iran.
U.S. power has made the Iran nuclear program
into a global fright and forced the IAEA to focus incessantly
on whether Iran is abiding by its commitments under the NPT or
hiding something from IAEA inspectors. In a way this is comical,
as the U.S. violates its own NPT promise without notice, let alone
penalty; its client Israel is permitted to stay outside the NPT,
build nuclear weapons, and threaten Iran, without notice or penalty;
the U.S. can exempt from NPT rules other states like India and
Pakistan in accord with its current calculations of political
and/or economic advantage; and the U.S. can still mobilize the
IAEA, Security Council, and international community to contain
the menacing Iran -- still bombless, and still threatened with
Concluding Note: The Struggle for Western
Since the collapse of the Soviet bloc
(symbolized by the downing of the Berlin Wall in November 1989),
the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself in 1991, and the termination
of the Warsaw Pact military alliance that same year, the allegedly
"defensive" North Atlantic Treaty Organization has expanded
from 16 members to 28, disregarding an agreement between the first
Bush administration and the last Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev
in which Bush I pledged that the "borders of NATO would not
move eastward" if the Soviet Union agreed to the peaceful
reunification of East and West Germany in October 1990.66 In its
wholesale violation of this agreement, NATO added to its membership
the Czech Republic (1999), Hungary (1999), Poland (1999), Bulgaria
(2004) Estonia (2004), Latvia (2004), Lithuania (2004), Romania
(2004), and Slovakia (2004), and it added Slovenia (2004), Albania
(2009) and Croatia (2009) as well.67 NATO also maintains Partnership
for Peace relations with 22 other countries in Eastern Europe
and Central Asia,68 and Mediterranean Dialogue relations with
7 others (Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco,
and Tunisia).69 One of the great myths of the past two decades
holds that the collapse of the Soviet bloc signaled the passing
of the East-West "bloc era" of the global order. But
in fact it has ushered in an era of U.S.-led Western bloc hegemony,
as signaled by the first war against Iraq in early 1991, the more
extensive invasions and occupations of this first decade of the
21st Century, and the buildup of NATO as an instrument of global
Although it served as NATO's rationale
for more than 40 years, the threat posed by the Soviet bloc to
Western Europe and the United States was wildly exaggerated, and
NATO's post-Soviet expansion has taken place in an environment
where the United States and other great Western powers have faced
no real military challenge. However, there was the challenge that
dismantling NATO would harm military establishment interests and
those of weapons dealers in both the United States and Europe,
and would end the justification for U.S. bases in Europe and weaken
the United States' ability to dominate Western military and even
economic policy and to mobilize Europe for its program of global
domination (under the rubric of a "war on terror").
Along with this challenge was the opportunity for the United States
to continue and even enlarge its domination, making NATO into
an instrument of the war on terror -- in reality, a war of terror
For the United States to accomplish this
requires enemies and threats. If real enemies and threats aren't
available, then manufactured enemies and threats are called for,
and it was also possible to manufacture real ones by sufficient
provocation of relatively weak powers and forcing their armament
or movement to trigger-ready violence. As a key member of NATO,
the United States was heavily responsible for that organization's
military attacks on Russia's ally Yugoslavia, 1995-1999, its putting
the KLA-dominated Kosovo Protection Corps (and later the Armed
Forces of Kosovo) in power in this southern Serbian province,
eventually giving it independent state status and recognition
(from February 2008 on), and setting the stage for NATO-member
Albania and its Kosovo ally to threaten a military struggle for
a unified Greater Albania.70 NATO and the United States have seriously
threatened Russia by incorporating into NATO the Baltic countries
and Eastern Europe; by building military bases in Romania, Bulgaria,
and Kosovo; by threatening anti-missile sites in Czechoslovakia
and Poland, now cancelled in favor of more numerous mobile sites
throughout Europe and the Middle East along with planned Aegis
missile-carrying ships, still allegedly devoted to that monumental
threat from nuclear-bomb-free Iran; and by "democracy-promotion"
intervention and the aggressive militarization of Russia's southern
flank, including the arming, training, and active support of Georgia
in its 2008 conflict with Russia and ongoing attempts to bring
both Georgia and the Ukraine into NATO. This is threat manufacture
of an especially blatant sort, but the Free Press has made Russia's
very lagged hostile reaction into a new Russian pugnacity.71
There are other "threats" with
which NATO's "New Strategic Concept" must allegedly
contend. In various speeches and conferences, NATO leaders have
claimed a need for NATO military preparedness to deal with what
are now referred to as "Third-Millennium concerns."
Current NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently
listed 17 different "deadly threats" among the "growing
list of responsibilities" to which NATO must be prepared
to respond, most of which read like they derived from survivalist
literature, including global warming, drought, food security,
population migrations, energy security, storms, natural and humanitarian
disasters, nuclear threats, cyber attacks, and piracy.72 Why these
are the "responsibility" of a U.S.-EU-based "defensive"
military organization is not clear, except that its dominant powers
choose to displace the more multilateral and democratically representative
United Nations with something more controllable and willing to
rely heavily on force.
In the case of "energy security,"
there is a question of whose security is at stake, and how it
may be obtained. Isn't China's "energy security" threatened
by the U.S. and NATO conquest of Afghanistan and Iraq, by their
political penetration of the Caspian basin countries, and by their
threat of war against Iran? Isn't the U.S.-U.K. invasion-occupation
of Iraq, with NATO collaboration, an attempt to gain "energy
security" by force in violation of international law? Could
it be that all of these threats, including the "nuclear,"
are being defined by the NATO powers strictly in accord with the
economic and political interests of their principals, who represent
a small minority of the global population?
The United States is still expanding the
number and reach of its military bases, moving into Africa, planning
multiple bases in Colombia, and building them throughout Eastern
Europe, the Caspian basin, and the Balkans. The United States
and NATO have brought Finland and Sweden into cooperative military
arrangements and have gotten many of the new NATO entrants and
NATO "partners" to re-arm and to contribute forces to
the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the U.S.-based analyst
Rick Rozoff observes, "A major function of the Afghan war
is to train military forces from over fifty nations -- in five
continents, the Middle East and Oceania -- under NATO command
for counterinsurgency and other combat operations both in South
Asia and afterwards in other parts of the world. In doing so numerous
NATO partnership countries . . . are to varying degrees being
integrated into the bloc's plan for history's first global army."73
But this army will not serve the interests of the populations
of the newly mobilized "partners," nor will it keep
the peace and security of the world. In fact, it will be a mercenary
army, one ready to be deployed at the behest of its dominant members,
who are now searching desperately for "grunts" to relieve
themselves of the growing burdens of their global "responsibilities."
Even now the United States is helping
rebuild Georgia's armed forces, and the U.S. and NATO stage regular
war games and exercises with the Baltic, Scandinavian, Caspian
basin, and Balkans states, all serving to provoke and threaten
Russia and Iran, and to manufacture an environment of conflict
and fear conducive to militarization and war. To cover over their
own power projection and systems of permanent warfare and ethnic
cleansing (in the case of Israel), the United States and Israel
need villains and "threats." Both Iran and Russia have
been demonized and mobilized to serve this purpose. And this program
designed for permanent tension and war has been working well.
In fact, it has been working much better
than it did in the case of the 1954 regime change in Guatemala.
At that time, the disarmed target, about to be attacked by a mercenary
army funded and directly assisted by the United States, appealed
to the UN and international community for assistance. It got none,
U.S. power assuring that the UN would deflect this appeal, and
the other great powers failing to respond.74
But in the case of Iran, the UN actually
helps the aggressor by providing a politicized instrument, the
IAEA, which the aggressor can use -- like it used the weapons-inspections
program of UNMOVIC against Iraq in 2002-2003 -- to focus attention
on Iran's inability to prove that it possesses no secret, undeclared
nuclear weapons program beyond the reach of the IAEA's inspectors,
while the IAEA and the entire Western establishment ignore the
vastly more serious NPT and other international law violations
of the United States, its closest allies, and its clients. And
in contrast with Guatemala in 1954, Britain and France are actively
collaborating in the preparation for an attack on the U.S. target,
In this context, it is vital to recall
that in 1996, the fourteen judges of the International Court of
Justice ruled unanimously that "There exists an obligation
to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations
leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict
and effective international control" -- "without any
doubt an objective of vital importance to the whole of the international
Yet, every one of the five declared nuclear
weapon states have failed to meet this obligation from 1970 on,
while one of these five, the United States, has shielded three
other nuclear weapon rogue proliferators from acceding to the
NPT, even as it singles out Iran for sanctions, threats, subversion
-- and perhaps much worse.
Thus in his remarks before the General
Assembly (Sept. 23) and the Security Council on the day that Resolution
1887 was adopted (Sept. 24), Barack Obama said "this is not
about singling out individual nations."76 But he then proceeded
to single out by name Iran (and North Korea), as did Gordon Brown
and Nicolas Sarkozy, even as the United States was reaffirming
the special exemptions from the NPT that it has arranged for both
Israel and India. For the Great-Power rogues, the opening of the
64th Session of the UN was an orchestrated ganging-up on Iran.
And this is all part of a U.S.-NATO program
for providing the world "peace and security" through
strength and war. This is a Kafka-world advance over Guatemala
1 See The American Republics, "Guatemala,"
viz. "The Secretary of State to Certain Diplomatic Offices,"
May 28, 1954, in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952
- 1954, Vol. IV, 1137-1139, here 1137.
2 Thomas McCann, An American Company:
The Tragedy of United Fruit (New York: Crown, 1978), 47.
3 Leslie Gelb's tenure as foreign affairs
and diplomatic editor at the New York Times was interrupted by
a stint as director of policy planning at the Pentagon and later
as policy planner in the State Department. On the revolving door
and co-optation process at the New York Times, see Edward S. Herman,
The Myth of the Liberal Media: An Edward Herman Reader (New York:
Peter Lang Publishing, 1999), 76-78.
4 About the class- and professional biases
of the establishment's primary lunacy, a study commissioned by
the British government's Panel on Fair Access to the Professions
compared social mobility trends for two different birth cohorts
in Britain (1958 and 1970) and found that, beginning in the 1960s,
the apprenticeship route to professional careers began to decline;
this trend has accelerated since. But the "biggest decline
in social mobility occurred in the professions of journalism and
accountancy" (19), with some 98% of entrants to the profession
of journalism already possessing a degree in journalism or other
post-graduate qualification (25). By this decade, less than 10%
of new entrants into the field of journalism in Britain came from
working-class backgrounds, and only 3% from homes headed by semi-skilled
or unskilled labor. The "consequence is that some professions
draw their interns from a limited pool of talent," the profession
of journalism in particular (101). See the White Paper by Alan
Milburn et al., Unleashing Aspiration: The Final Report of the
Panel on Fair Access to the Professions (U.K. Government, July,
2009). We are confident that a similar study of journalism in
the United States would produce similar findings.
5 The UN Monitoring, Verification, and
Inspections Commission (UNMOVIC) was created by Security Council
Resolution 1284 on December 17, 1999. But it was Resolution 1441
on November 8, 2002 that stated the Council was giving Iraq one
"final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations"
(para. 2), although, as history shows, Iraq already had complied,
its WMD programs having been destroyed by the UNSCOM inspectors
by 1995, and that Res. 1441's assertions that Iraq was then "in
material breach of its [disarmament] obligations" (para.
1) were Great-Power fabrications designed to advance the imminent
and criminal U.S.-U.K. aggression against Iraq.
6 See, e.g., "UK, US and Spain Won't
Seek Vote on Draft Resolution, May Take 'Own Steps' to Disarm
Iraq," UN News Center, March 17, 2003. As France's UN Ambassador
Jean-Marc de La Sablière stated upon hearing of the U.S.-U.K.
decision to drop their effort to gain Security Council approval:
"During the last days members of the Council repeatedly stated
that, and it is a majority in the Council, that it would not be
legitimate to authorize the use of force now while the inspections
set up by the resolution are producing results. And now I understand
that the [U.S.-U.K. cosponsors of the draft resolution] made some
bilateral consultations last night and this morning and the result
is that the majority of the Council confirms that they do not
want to authorize the use of force. The majority considers that
it would not be legitimate."
7 UN Security Council Resolution 1483
of May 22, 2003 lifted the 13 year economic siege of Iraq (para.
10), turned Iraq over to the United Nations to begin mopping up
the humanitarian disaster that the sanctions and invasion had
caused, and initiated the scramble for Iraq's resources. Security
Council Resolution 1546 of June 8, 2004, by creating a Multinational
Force for Iraq, and placing the United States in charge of it,
granted retroactive de jure legitimation to the U.S. and allied
military occupation of Iraq.
8 The most memorable of the high-profile
mea culpas (however narrow) on the part of the news media did
not begin to emerge until May 2004, when the New York Times famously
acknowledged its partial liability for "coverage that was
not as rigorous as it should have been," printing "questionable"
allegations that were "insufficiently qualified or allowed
to stand unchallenged," and failing to be "more aggressive
in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged or failed to
emerge" (see "The Times and Iraq," Editorial, May
26, 2004). It is worth noting that, by May 2004, the Times already
had been printing questionable allegations about Iran's nuclear
program for some 12 months.
9 Speaking on the deck of the U.S. aircraft
carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, President George Bush
proclaimed ''one victory in a war on terror that began on September
11, 2001, and still goes on.'' Less than one week later, the Bush
administration began to express concerns that "Iran has stepped
up its covert nuclear program," sought "broad international
support for an official finding that Tehran has violated its commitment
not to produce nuclear weapons," and began "pressing
nations that sit on the board of the International Atomic Energy
Agency . . . to declare that Iran has violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty" (Steven R. Weisman, "New U.S. Concerns on Iran's
Pursuit of Nuclear Arms," New York Times, May 8, 2003). Before
the end of May 2003, the National Council of Resistance of Iran
held a news conference in Washington D.C. to announce that Iran
is covertly enriching uranium -- "information that, if proven,
might add to the Bush administration's argument that Iran is violating
its commitment not to produce nuclear weapons" (Sheryl Gay
Stolberg, "Group Says Iran Has 2 Undisclosed Nuclear Laboratories,"
New York Times, May 27, 2003).
The same month, both houses of the U.S.
Congress "approved a series of provisions sought by the White
House and the Pentagon that could open the door to development
of new nuclear weapons. . . . [T]he House eased a 10-year-old
ban on research into smaller nuclear weapons while the Senate
lifted it entirely. Lawmakers also rejected proposals to block
spending on turning existing nuclear warheads into weapons capable
of piercing underground bunkers" (Carl Hulse and James Dao,
"Cold War Long Over, Bush Administration Examines Steps to
a Revamped Arsenal," New York Times, May 29, 2003).
A communiqué released in early
June at the Group of Eight summit in France warned of the "proliferation
implications of Iran's nuclear program," and one U.S. official
commented anonymously that, at the IAEA meeting later that month,
''Iran's going to be on the griddle" (John Tagliabue and
Elizabeth Bumiller, "Group of 8 Summit Leaders Talk Tough
On Spread of Nuclear Arms," New York Times, June 3, 2003).
Speaking in Germany, U.S. Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned against "Iran's nuclear activities
and called on the Atlantic alliance to find new ways of combating
'the nexus of terror and weapons of mass destruction', which he
called the biggest threat facing the countries of both 'old' and
'new' Europe" (Richard Bernstein, "Rumsfeld Says Iran
Is Developing Nuclear Arms Under Guise of Civilian Program,"
New York Times, June 12, 2003). Also in June, the IAEA published
the first of what would become a total of 27 written reports on
Iran's nuclear program through the time of this writing (October,
2009). According to the New York Times, the "debate over
Iran's nuclear ambitions intensified today at the United Nations'
watchdog agency on atomic weapons, as the United States and other
countries tried to rally support for a resolution urging Iran
to accept stricter supervision of its nuclear program" (Mark
Lander, "U.S.and U.N. Agency Press Iran on Its Nuclear Program,"
June 18, 2003).
"President Bush said for the first
time today that the United States and its allies 'will not tolerate
the construction of a nuclear weapon' in Iran," the New York
Times also reported (David E. Sanger, "Bush Says U.S. Will
Not Tolerate Building of Nuclear Arms by Iran," June 19,
"One of the central challenges of
the coming decade is to stop nuclear weapons from falling into
the hands of dictators and terrorists," the New York Times
editorialized. "Iran has just shown us the nature of the
problem" ("Iran and Nuclear Weapons," June 22,
2003). Although limited to the New York Times, these excerpts
illustrate the early stages of the U.S. government-driven construction
of the Iranian nuclear weapons threat, and an uncritical, conduit
function similar to that which the Times had performed in passing
along the U.S. government's construction of the Iraqi "weapons
of mass destruction" threat, ca. 2002 - March, 2003.
10 See John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman,
and Robert W. McChesney, "The U.S. Imperial Triangle and
Military Spending,"Monthly Review, October 2008.
11 Colin Powell (and Joseph E. Persico),
My American Journey(New York: Ballantine, 1995), 576.
12 See Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm
Byrne, Eds., Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran (Syracuse,
NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004).
13 See William Burr, Ed., "U.S.-Iran
Nuclear Negotiations in 1970s Featured Shah's Nationalism and
U.S. Weapons Worries," National Security Archive Electronic
Briefing Book No. 268, January 13, 2009, esp. Documents 31a-b,
"Final Agreement." Even then, however, in 1978, recognizing
the tenuousness of the Shah's hold on power, the Carter administration
was reluctant to permit Iran to "reprocess spent fuel or
enrich uranium supplied by the U.S. 'unless the parties agree'."
14 See the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation
of Nuclear Weapons (INFCIRC/140).
15 See Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1998); and "Israel
Crosses the Threshold," National Security Archive Electronic
Briefing Book No. 189, April 28, 2006.
16 See Statement by Rose Goettemoeller
[on the NPT], U.S. Department of State, May 5, 2009. Also see
"The Israeli nuke kerfuffle," Foreign Policy - The Cable,
May 7, 2009.
17 Avner Cohen and George Perkovich, "The
Obama-Netanyahu Meeting: Nuclear Issues," Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace, May 14, 2009.
18 Eli Lake, "Obama Agrees to Keep
Israel's Nukes Secret," Washington Times, October 2, 2009.
19 See "Israeli Nuclear Capabilities"
(GC(53)/RES/17), IAEA, September 18, 2009.
20 Mark Weiss, "Israel Spurns Nuclear
Watchdog's Call to Open Atomic Sites to Inspection," Irish
Times, September 19, 2009. The print media's silence is worsened
by the fact that several readily available wire services reported
the vote, including Agence France Presse, Al Jazeera, Associated
Press, Dow Jones International News, FARS News Agency, IHS Global
Insight Daily Analysis, Kyodo News, Morning Star Online, Plus
News Pakistan, States News Service, Trend News Agency, and Xinhua
News Agency. Also see "Iran: The Wardance," Media Lens,
October 1, 2009.
21 Article IX(3) of the NPT defines a
"nuclear-weapon State" as "one which has manufactured
and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device
prior to 1 January 1967." At the time the NPT entered into
force on March 5, 1970, the five internationally recognized (or
declared) nuclear-weapon states were the United States, the Soviet
Union, Britain, France, and China. Of course, the sixth actual
nuclear-weapon state, Israel, had not declared itself, though
it had already reached its secret understanding with the Nixon
administration to keep its nuclear weapons program "invisible"
(Cohen and Perkovich).
23 See Matthew Cardinale, "U.S. Nukes
Agency Pushes New Bomb Production," Inter Press Service,
September 30, 2009 (as posted to Truthout). Known within the U.S.
Department of Energy as the Complex Modernization program, it
is but "another title to give [the National Nuclear Security
Administration] permission to build new bombs," said anti-nuclear
weapons activist Bobbie Paul. "It flies in the face of what
[Barack Obama] told the rest of the world."
24 See The Alliance's Strategic Concept,
adopted by the North Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., April
23-24, 1999, esp. "Characteristics of Nuclear Forces,"
para. 62-64. "To protect peace and to prevent war or any
kind of coercion, the Alliance will maintain for the foreseeable
future an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces based
in Europe and kept up to date where necessary," NATO's 1999
reaffirmation of nuclear weapons states. "Nuclear weapons
make a unique contribution in rendering the risks of aggression
against the Alliance incalculable and unacceptable. Thus, they
remain essential to preserve peace" (para. 46).
25 UN Security Council Resolution 1887,
September 24, 2009, para. 5, para. 4.
26 Martin van Crevald, "Sharon on
the Warpath: Is Israel Planning to Attack Iran?" New York
Times - International Herald Tribune, August 21, 2004.
27 Seymour Hersh, "The Iran Plans,"
New Yorker, April 17, 2006.
28 Brian Ross, "Bush Authorizes New
Covert Action Against Iran," ABC News, May 22, 2007.
29 Seymour M. Hersh, "Preparing the
Battlefield: The Bush Administration Steps Up Its Secret Moves
against Iran," New Yorker, July 7, 2008.
30 Hersh, "The Iran Plans."
31 See, e.g., Dan Williams, "Eying
Iran Reactor, Israel Seeks U.S. Bunker Bombs," Reuters, September
32 Ali Akbar Dareini, "Iran to Allow
IAEA Visit Nuclear Site," Associated Press, September 26,
33 Yaakov Katz and David Horovitz, "Eye
in the Sky," Jerusalem Post Magazine, September 17, 2009.
34 See the Interview, "U.S. Assistant
Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller Outlines the U.S. Position
on a New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia," Interfax
Information Services, May 4, 2009.
35 See Jay Deshmukh and Farhad Pouladi,
"Suicide Bomber Kills 30 in Attacks on Iran's Guards,"
Agence France Presse, October 18, 2009; Ali Akbar Dereini and
Nasser Karimi, "Revolutionary Guard Commanders Killed in
Bomb," October 18, 2009; Fredrik Dahl and Reza Derakhshi,
"Suicide Bomber Kills 29 in Attack on Iran Guards,"
Reuters, October 18, 2009; "FACTBOX: Sunni Group Suspected
of Killing 29 in Iran," Reuters, October 18, 2009; Ali Akbar
Dareini, "Iran: US, Britain, Pakistan Linked to Militants,"
Associated Press, October 19, 2009; Fredrik Dahl, "Iran Threatens
Britain and U.S. after Guard Bombing," Reuters, October 19,
2009; "Russian Analyst Expects More Suicide Bombings in Iran,"
RIA Novosti, October 19, 2009; Robert Tait and Mark Tran, "Iran
Blames Pakistan and West for Deadly Suicide Bombing," The
Guardian, October 19, 2009; Michael Slackman et al., "Iran
Says U.S., Britain Behind Attack," New York Times, October
36 See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson,
"Riding the 'Green Wave' at the Campaign for Peace and Democracy
and Beyond," MRZine, July 24, 2009. In drafting this analysis,
we were astounded over how willing left analysts in the States
and elsewhere were to conclude that the official outcome of Iran's
June 12, 2009 presidential election was fraudulent, and the election
rigged. Based on what evidence, we wondered? Iran's June 2005
presidential runoff election between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali
Akbar Rafsanjani resulted in a 2 to 1 margin of victory for Ahmadinejad,
who received 62% to Rafsanjani's 31%. Turning to Iran's June 2009
presidential election, the official results for the first round
were 63% for Ahmadinejad, and 34% for Mir Hussein Mousavi, or
slightly less than a 2 to 1 margin of victory for Ahmadinejad.
But this result simply could not be true, the objections to Iran's
"stolen" election have maintained. In rejecting the
legitimacy of the official results, the leftist Campaign for Peace
and Democracy stated that "there is very powerful evidence
that either no one emerged with a majority [in the first round],
or that Mousavi won outright" (Stephen R. Shalom et al.,
"Question & Answer on the Iran Crisis," Campaign
for Peace and Democracy, July 7, 2009, Point No. 3). Yet, a poll
of Iranian public opinion taken from August 27 - September 10
by WorldPublicOpinion.org on behalf of the Program on International
Policy Attitudes found that 55% of Iranians who agreed to take
the poll reported that they had voted for Ahmadinejad in June,
while 14% reported they had voted for his nearest rival, Mousavi.
When also asked "If the same election were to be repeated
tomorrow, who would you vote for?" 49% responded Ahmadinejad,
and only 8% Mousavi (Steven Kull et al., Iranian Public on Current
Issues, PIPA-WorldPublicOpinion.org, September 19, 2009, 8-9.
Also see the accompanying Questionnaire, Q20 and Q23). Similarly,
a pre-election poll in May by three U.S.-based organizations had
also found "Ahmadinejad leading [Mousavi] by more than a
2 to 1 margin" (Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty, "The
Iranian People Speak," Washington Post, June 15, 2009). For
the actual poll, see Results of a New Nationwide Public Opinion
Survey of Iran before the June 12, 2009 Presidential Elections
(May 11 - 20, Terror Free Tomorrow, Center for Public Opinion,
and New America Foundation, Q27, 52). Although PIPA-WPO reports
that the interview refusal rate for its September 2009 poll was
52%, and that "only in the question on the presidential vote
[Q20] were there large numbers of refusals," we believe that
the combined results of the Terror Free Tomorrow poll in May,
Iran's official election results in June, and the results of the
PIPA-WPO poll in September, clearly reinforce each other, just
as they reinforce the conclusion that Ahmadinejad was the actual
winner in Iran's 2009 presidential election, independently of
whether some vote fraud did occur.
37 See the "Joint Statement Between
President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,"
Bush White House Archives, July 18, 2005; Fact Sheet, "The
United States and India: Strong Global Partners," July 18,
2006; "President Signs U.S.-India Peaceful Energy Cooperation
Act," December 18, 2006; Fact Sheet, "The United States
- India Peaceful Energy Cooperation Act," December 18, 2006;
"President's Statement on H.R. 5682, the 'Henry J. Hyde United
States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006',"
December 18, 2006; and United States-India Nuclear Cooperation
Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act (HR 7081), October
8, 2008. Also see Esther Pan and Jayshree Bajoria, "The U.S.-India
Nuclear Deal," Council on Foreign Relations - Backgrounder,
October 2, 2008.
38 See Siddharth Varadarajan, "The
Truth behind the Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal," The Hindu, July
29, 2005. Varadarajan cites the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace's Ashley Tellis, who in 2005 had advised: "[D]on't
jettison the [non-proliferation] regime 'but, rather, selectively
[apply] it in practice'. In other words, different countries should
be treated differently 'based on their friendship and value to
the U.S.' With one stroke of the pen, India has become something
more than a 'major non-NATO ally' of the U.S. It has joined the
Free World. It has gone from being a victim of nuclear discrimination
to a beneficiary. India is not alone. Israel is already there
to give it company."
39 Ravi Velloor, "India's Big Shift
to Nuclear Power," Straits Times (Singapore), September 30,
40 Emily Wax, "U.S. Eyes Bigger Slice
of Indian Defense Pie,"Washington Post, September 27, 2009.
41 See James Lamont and James Blitz, "New
Delhi Admission Raises Nuclear Stakes," Financial Times,
September 28, 2009.
42 Robert O. Blake, Jr., "Readout
of Indian and Tajik Bilateral Meetings," U.S. Department
of State, September 25, 2009.
43 "Security Council Call to Join
NPT Not Directed at India: PM," Indo-Asian News Service,
September 26, 2009.
44 George W. Bush, "President Delivers
State of the Union Address," Bush White House Archives, January
45 See Implementation of the IAEA safeguards
agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2003/40), June
6, 2003, para. 32-34. The Annex to this report lists the Iranian
nuclear facilities that had subsequently been brought under IAEA
46 For a brief recapitulation of the U.S.
government's shift of its focus away from Iraq's alleged nuclear
weapons program onto Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program in
May-June 2003, see n. 9, above.
47 NPT, Article IV.1 states: "Nothing
in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable
right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production
and use of nuclear energy for peaceful_purposes without discrimination.
. . ." Article IV.2 begins: "All the Parties to the
Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate
in the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific
and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear
48 Bradley Brookes, "Bolton: India,
Pakistan nukes legitimate as they never signed proliferation treaty,"
Associated Press, March 2, 2006. At the same event hosted by the
World Jewish Congress in New York, Bolton also explained the U.S.
focus on Iran, rather than on India and Pakistan (or Israel):
"In the context of the NPT, India and Pakistan had never
signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and therefore they weren't
in violation of it by having nuclear programs, in contrast with
Iran that is a state party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and
that's violating its obligations."
49 Implementation of the NPT Safeguards
Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2006/14), February
4, 2006, para. (g), 1, 7, and 8.
50 See S/RES/1696 (July 31, 2006), S/RES/1737
(December 23, 2006), S/RES/1747 (March 24, 2007), and S/RES/1803,
March 3, 2008.
51 See Implementation of the NPT Safeguards
Agreement . . . in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2009/55),
August 28, 2009, para. 26.
52 GOV/2009/55, para. 29.
53 GOV/2003/40, para. 35.
54 Sylvia Westall, "No Sign Iran
Seeks Nuclear Arms -- New IAEA Head," Reuters, July 3, 2009.
55 See "The Nobel Peace Prize 2005,"
56 "Interview: Mohamed ElBaradei,"
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, September/October, 2009.
57 George Jahn, "Nuclear Agency Secret
Report Says Iran Can Make Bomb, Developing Delivery System,"
Associated Press, September 17, 2009; William J. Broad and David
E. Sanger, "Report Says Iran Has Data To Make A Nuclear Bomb,"
New York Times, October 4, 2009.
58 See "Statements by Obama, Brown
and Sarkozy," New York Times, September 26, 2009.
59 Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer,
Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala (New
York: Doubleday and Co., 1982), 150.
60 For two from among many of these allegations,
see Dan Gillerman, Letter from the Permanent Representative of
Israel to the United Nations (S/2005/681), October 27, 2005; and
Nazila Fathi, "Iran's New President Says Israel 'Must Be
Wiped Off the Map,'" October 27, 2005. Ahmadinejad's comments
were made at the World Without Zionism conference in Tehran on
October 26, 2005.
61 The charge that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
is a "Holocaust denier" was repeated from the lectern
of the UN General Assembly in September by Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu. See Statement by H.E. Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu,
General Debate of the 64th General Assembly, New York, September
62 See Juan Cole, "Hitchens the Hacker,"
Informed Comment, May 3, 2006; and Juan Cole, "The Importance
of Cole v. Hitchens,"Informed Comment, May 4, 2006. Also
see Anneliese Fikentscher and Andreas Neumann (Trans. Erik Appleby),
"Does Iran's President Want Israel Wiped Off the Map?"
Information Clearinghouse, April 19, 2006; and Jonathan Steele,
"Lost in Translation," The Guardian, June 14, 2006.
63 Statement by H.E. Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu,
September 24, 2009.
64 Israeli threats of attack on Iran's
nuclear facilities have been commonplace for several years. For
an analysis of the likely success or failure of such an attack,
see Abdullah Toukan and Anthony Cordesman, Study on a Possible
Israeli Strike on Iran's Nuclear Development Facilities, Center
for Strategic and International Studies, March 16, 2009; also
see Reuven Pedatzur, "Here's How Israel Would Destroy Iran's
Nuclear Program," Haaretz, May 21, 2009. And for some mid-summer
2009 expressions of belligerence by the Israeli government, see
Yaakov Katz, "Israel Sends Sub through Suez Canal,"
Jerusalem Post, July 3, 2009; Dan Williams, "Israeli Sub
Sails Suez, Signalling Reach to Iran," Reuters, July 3, 2009;
Yaakov Kaatz, "IAF to Train Overseas for Iran Strike,"
Jerusalem Post, July 5, 2009; Uzi Mahnaimi and Sarah Baxter, "Saudis
Give Nod to Israeli Raid on Iran," Sunday Times, July 5,
2009; Sheera Frenkel, "Israeli Navy in Suez Canal Prepares
for Potential Attack on Iran," The Times, July 16, 2009.
65 See Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen,
"Nuclear Notebook: U.S. Nuclear Forces 2009," Bulletin
of the Atomic Scientists, March/April, 2009.
66 See Mark Kramer, "The Myth of
a No-NATO-Enlargement Pledge to Russia," Washington Quarterly,
Vol. 32, No. 2, April 2009. Kramer is quoting the former U.S.
Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Jack F. Matlock, from House testimony
in 1996. Remarkably, as indicated by the title of his essay, Kramer
himself rejects the claim (amply documented in the sources he
surveys) that Bush I and the Gorbachev Kremlin ever discussed
-- let alone agreed on -- a no-enlargement plan for NATO beyond
its then-16 members.
67 See the 28 "NATO Member Countries."
68 See the 22 "NATO Partner Countries."
69 See the "NATO Mediterranean Dialogue."
70 See Rick Rozoff, "Threat of New
Conflict In Europe: Western-Sponsored Greater Albania," Stop
NATO, October 8, 2009.
71 For the New York Times' editors, Vladimir
Putin is engaged in "constant snarling at the West"
(Ed., "Putin Strengthens His Legacy," February 13, 2008);
their news articles matter-of-factly speak of "the growing
assertiveness of Russia" (Judy Dempsey, "U.S. Stance
Toward Russia Again Divides Europe," September 10, 2009);
and their guest op-ed columnist Victor Erofeyev writes that Putin's
"biggest mistake was his longing to make Russia the successor
to the Soviet Union; . . . the imperial discourse . . . [and]
his defense of the Soviet Union's aggressive foreign policy. .
." ("Russia's Last Hope," February 29, 2008).
72 See Lord Levene and Anders Fogh Rasmussen,
"Piracy, Cyber-crime and Climate Change -- Bringing NATO
and Insurance Together," Daily Telegraph, September 30, 2009;
and "Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
on Emerging Security Risks, Lloyd's of London," NATO Speeches
and Transcripts, October 1, 2009. Also see Rick Rozoff, "Thousand
Deadly Threats: Third Millennium NATO, Western Businesses Collude
On New Global Doctrine," Stop NATO, October 2, 2009; and
Rick Rozoff, "U.S. Expands Asian NATO Against China, Russia,"
Stop NATO, October 16, 2009.
73 Rick Rozoff, "Afghanistan: West's
21st Century War Risks Regional Conflagration," Stop NATO,
October 12, 2009.
74 On this earlier UN role, see Schlesinger
and Kinzer, Bitter Fruit, 179-182.
75 See Legality of the Threat or Use of
Nuclear Weapons, International Court of Justice, July 8, 1996,
Opinion F, and para. 103. Although an "advisory opinion,"
and thus not legally binding on states, to date this counts as
the most authoritative legal decision to have been produced on
issues stemming from the existence of nuclear weapons and states'
obligations under the NPT.
76 Barack Obama, "Remarks by the
President to the United Nations General Assembly," New York
City, White House Office of the Press Secretary, September 23,
2009; and "Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament"
(S/PV.6191), UN Security Council, September 24, 2009, 3.___Edward
S. Herman is professor emeritus of finance at the Wharton School,
University of Pennsylvania and has written extensively on economics,
political economy, and the media. Among his books are Corporate
Control, Corporate Power (Cambridge University Press, 1981), The
Real Terror Network (South End Press, 1982), and, with Noam Chomsky,
The Political Economy of Human Rights (South End Press, 1979),
and Manufacturing Consent (Pantheon, 2002). __David Peterson is
an independent journalist and researcher based in Chicago.