The Price of Indifference II

At a news conference in Vienna today, the National Council for Resistance in Iran—a.k.a. the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, for the past seven years among the State Department’s officially “Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” a group which until the recent past derived its “primary support” from the “former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein,” in the State Department’s words, and some of whose members the American forces have maintained at a military encampment within Iraq since the first months of the occupation—announced that Iran has a nuclear weapons program that is so secret, not even the International Atomic Energy Agency knows about it.

According to the wire services, the NCRI’s allegations dealt with two items of importance. Past transfers to Iran of weapon-design blueprints (mid-1990s) as well as a small quantity of highly-enriched, weapons-grade uranium (2001), at the behest of the former head of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qaader Khan. (Though even the NCRI’s spokesman said that he doubts Iran “was given enough for a weapon.”) And the presence of one or more undeclared or undiscovered—not the same thing—nuclear-weapons sites within the Iranian military establishment—the two most commonly mentioned candidates being the Lavizan site, within Tehran, and the Parchin site, a short distance to Tehran’s southeast. (Associated Press and Reuters, Nov. 17.)

Notice that the infamous Mr. Khan is believed to be safely under lock-and-key somewhere back in Pakistan—Though who really knows?—He very well may be on a Panamanian-registered freighter endlessly circling Diego Garcia—after allegations surfaced in February that he had covertly assisted the development of nuclear-weapons programs (minimally) in Iran, Libya, and North Korea, the Great Khan’s intent having been to develop an “Islamic bomb,” as Western reports of the his project describe it. (Presumably, the nuclear weapons within the American arsenal are Christian, in precisely the same sense. (Though lately they are becoming Rich-White-Protestant, depending on whom you read. Even Evangelical.) The Russian nukes are Orthodox. China’s a mixture of Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist. India’s Hindu and Muslim. Pakistan’s Muslim through-and-through. (Though even here there’s a Sunni-Shiite schism that pretty much reverses the kind of schism to be found in Iran and Iraq.) No telling what North Korea’s nukes are. If anything. While the undeclared Israeli nuclear program’s are unashamedly Jewish.—Hell of a modern world we’ve got going here. I’m sure you’ll agree. There isn’t a single group among them with the wisdom and the maturity to possess nukes.)

Nor has the IAEA ever had access to the Great Khan, please note well. Last, it appears that a preponderance of the allegations in circulation about the Great Khan derive from the American Government. Though once again, it’s hard to tell. Reporters do appear to be quoting themselves, quoting anonymous sources, working from leaks, placing layers of expectation upon layers of expectation.

At every instance of our pre-scientific or scientific development we are living in the center of…a “horizon of expectations”…the sum total of our expectations whether these are subconscious or conscious, or perhaps even explicitly stated in some language. Animals and babies and reporters and Ivy League academicians (and so on, extending up the chain of corruption all the way to the Throne of American Power) also have their various and different horizons of expectations, though no doubt on a lower level of consciousness than, say, a scientist or a street person, the first of whose consists to a considerable extent of linguistically formulated theories or hypotheses, and the second of the practical tools necessary for coping with real world. Yet in all these cases the horizon of expectations plays the part of a frame of reference: Only their setting in their frame confers meaning or significance on our experiences, actions and observations.

And the like. Pyramid schemes are crucial to writing the history of the present. Just as pyramid schemes are crucial to other forms of speculation and embezzlement. The financial in particular. But also demonizing and threatening officially designated foreign “rogue states.”

(Quick aside. For an object lesson in how the history of the present is spun out of leaks and hearsay into a grand narrative that in this particular case serves to advance American Power—or framing the “issues in such a way that the premises of the propaganda source are taken as given, with any inconvenient considerations ignored and any sources that would contest the party line bypassed or marginalized,” as Edward Herman put it recently (“Iran’s Dire Threat“)—take a look at “The Khan Network,” a paper delivered in June at the Conference on South Asia and the Nuclear Future at Stanford University by the New York Times‘s David E. Sanger.—Does this method of reporting history sound familiar? The New York Times is lucky if it catches itself doing it maybe one-out-of-every-one-hundred times.)

As for the serious allegation—serious if true, that is—concerning the Iranian military sites at Lavizan and Parchin: The IAEA has inspected Lavizan and found no reason to change it basic conclusion that there is no evidence that Iran is working on nuclear weapons. Parchin, on the other hand, I do not believe Iran has ever permitted the IAEA to investigate. So it remains something of a wild card. And an easy target for anyone intent on drumming up doomsday scenarios about Iranian intentions, the Great Khan, and the failure of the IAEA and the European powers to be sufficiently threatening with the Iranians. Precisely as the American Government, the current issue of U.S. News & World Report, and the National Council for Resistance in Iran are busy doing this week.

Anyway. If one smells a new primary sponsor lurking behind the National Council of Resistance in Iran (i.e., the ousted Iraqi President no longer being available), my hunch is that there’s good reason. Today’s impromptu NCRI news conference in Vienna followed by three days Sunday’s Letter of Agreement between Tehran and representatives of Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union (the “E3/EU”) in which Tehran, acting on a “voluntary basis,” declared that it would “extend its suspension” of its nuclear-enrichment activities under previous agreements to “include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities,” until such time as a “mutually acceptable agreement on long-term arrangements” can be finalized, including “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for peaceful purposes” (chief among which are inspections), and “firm guarantees on nuclear, technological and economic cooperation and firm commitments on security issues.” Though on the security issues, no one is capable of providing any real guarantees, as long as the American and Israeli wild cards remain in the deck. And these days, they are multiplying in number.

The voluntary aspect of Tehran’s agreement to extend the suspension of its uranium-enrichment activities (achieved under previous agreements with the IAEA) is important: Every signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty enjoys the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. What they disavow are its non-peaceful applications, such as the Americans and the Israelis practice. Tehran is thus agreeing to do something (a “voluntary confidence-building measure and not a legal obligation,” as Sunday’s agreement put it) that it has no legal obligation to do. Throughout, Tehran has been acting in this manner so as to avoid suffering something much worse.

Wednesday’s New York Times misrepresents these basic facts, in a very bold style. “Iran will not be fully in the clear until it agrees to more long-term arrangements,” the Times editorializes, “including a permanent end to uranium enrichment and the ratification of an agreement permitting international nuclear inspectors to look wherever they choose without prior warning. Only then should Europe grant the economic sweeteners Iran seeks as part of a final deal. If Tehran backslides on this agreement, as it did on a previous one, Europe should be prepared to impose tough economic penalties, possibly including a ban on investments in Iran’s oil industry.” (“Iran Blinks,” Nov. 17.)

Now. Would anybody care to guess exactly who in this world was the first to propose the imperative to the effect that Iran will not be in the clear until it permanently ends all uranium-enrichment processes? Do you suppose it was the IAEA, whose current (and seventh overall) report on the Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran purportedly concludes that “All the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities”? (While adding, cautiously, that “The Agency is…not in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran.”)

If not the IAEA, then how about the European Union, and the governments of Britain, France, and Germany combined? The Non-Aligned Movement? The Group of 77? The UN General Assembly? Even the UN Security Council? Maybe Russia? How about China? Maybe all of the above?

Is an answer to this question even necessary? (To be frank: Was my asking this question even necessary?)

What the editorial voice of the New York Times is asserting is that Iran is unique among signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in that the treaty isn’t legally binding, where Iran is concerned: Iran must permanently renounce its “inalienable,” NPT-protected, Article IV-right to “develop, research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination,” plain and simple. When reading the Times‘s assessment of Tehran’s rights and obligations, what we find is nothing other than the voice of the American Government speaking, and what it says with respect to Iran’s rights and obligations are not what the NPT states, but something presumed to pre-empt it and to supercede it—with discrimination, I might add. The issue is not Tehran’s rights, therefore. But how the American Government interprets Iran’s rights. And how far the American Government is willing to go to impose its interpretation of Iran’s rights not only upon Iran—but upon the rest of the world.

“What we need in Iran is something closer to what we had in Iraq,” the Middle East Policy Director at the Brookings Institution, Kenneth Pollack, urges in today’s Los Angeles Times: “a much larger inspection regime that has a considerable presence on a regular basis.”

(Quick aside. As a friend of mine noted upon reading this commentary by the esteemed head of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, “This swine admitted to have been gulled on ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq and therefore to have helped gull the public, so the result in this shit country is that he remains an expert of choice!” And now Pollack is free to go right on gulling everyone with regard to Iranian “weapons of mass destruction,” the so-called “Persian Puzzle” of his latest tract.)

This is because the Europeans’ “nothing-but-carrots” approach has “consistently failed,” Pollack complains—quite some conclusion, if you think about it, since Pollack clearly counts among the failures Sunday’s agreement between the European powers and Iran, an agreement that headed off an imminent showdown between the Americans and the rest of the world at next week’s meeting of the IAEA in Vienna. (Headed-it-off at least for the moment.)

Instead, Pollack believes—and note that Pollack is close to the Colin Powell extreme of the first Bush regime—at the other extreme is a figure such as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, John Bolton—that “it is crucial that there be a clear threat of negative incentives” against Iran, “economic and political sanctions—should Iran refuse or renege” on the deal, which is still only a deal-on-paper, and widely distrusted within Iranian political circles. (“We gave a fine pearl, and received candy,” as one leading political figure put it.) “On something as important to Iran as its desire for a nuclear deterrent,” Pollack continues, “it is not enough to assume that economic benefits will be enough to hold Tehran to any agreement.”

“The U.S. cannot afford to continue to ignore the problem of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, nor can it continue to outsource dealing with it to the Europeans,” Pollack concludes. “It has to be a player.” (“U.S. Is Needed to Defuse Iran; Containing Tehran’s nuclear program can’t be outsourced,” Nov. 17.)

That the Americans will remain a “player” in this conflict goes without saying.

How far they are willing to go is another question.

My fear is that they will do anything they must to remain the player.

Even passing upeven subverting—peaceful solutions along the way.

Multilateral Arms Regulation and Disarmament Agreements, United Nations website
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (March, 1970-), United Nations website

In Focus : IAEA and Iran, International Atomic Energy Agency (Webpage devoted to Iran.—A strong caveat applies, however: Much of the information archived herein derives from sources with a decidedly American-hegemonic point of view. This goes for the maps, too, by the way.)

UN partly clears Iran on nuke issue, doubts persist,” Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, November 15, 2004

UN Finds No Proof of Nuclear Weapons in Iran; U.S. Remains Skeptical of Iran’s Intentions,” Bryan Whitemore, Boston Globe, November 16, 2004
Europe persuades Iran to cool nuclear program—for now,” Peter Ford, Christian Science Monitor, November 16, 2004
Keeping Iran From The Bomb,” Editorial, Christian Science Monitor, November 16, 2004
Straw welcomes Iran’s offer on nuclear process,” Robin Gedye, Daily Telegraph, November 16, 2004
Europeans try to play down deal on Iran’s uranium plans,” Gareth Smyth et al., Financial Times, November 16, 2004
U.N. Sees No New Nuclear Signs in Iran,” Douglas Frantz, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2004
Iran’s Nuclear Freeze,” Editorial, Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2004
Europeans Say Iran Agrees to Freeze Uranium Enrichment,” Elaine Sciolino, New York Times, November 16, 2004
Moves Cement Hard-Line Stance On Foreign Policy,” Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, November 16, 2004
U.N. Finds No Nuclear Bomb Program in Iran; Agency Report and Tehran’s Deal With Europe Undercut Tougher U.S. Stance,” Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, November 16, 2004

Iranian opposition group says Tehran received black market nuclear bomb drawings, continues to enrich uranium,” George Jahn, Associated Press, November 17, 2004
Iran got warhead design, bomb-grade uranium—exiles,” Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, November 17, 2004
U.S.: Iran May Seek to Mate Missile, Nuclear Warhead,” Saul Hudson, Reuters, November 17, 2004
Iran’s nuclear gamesmanship,” Editorial, Chicago Tribune, November 17, 2004
Iran nuclear deal ‘a fine pearl in return for candy’,” Gareth Smyth and Guy Dinmore, Financial Times, November 17, 2004
U.S. Is Needed to Defuse Iran; Containing Tehran’s nuclear program can’t be outsourced,” Kenneth M. Pollack, Los Angeles Times, November 17, 2004
Group Says Iran Has Secret Nuclear Arms Program,” Douglas Jehl, New York Times, November 17, 2004
Nuclear Deal With Iranians Has Angered Hard-Liners,” Nazila Fathi, New York Times, November 17, 2004
Iran Blinks,” Editorial, New York Times, November 17, 2004
A chance for Bush to rein in Iran,” Editorial, Newsday, November 17, 2004
Iran’s New Alliance With China Could Cost U.S. Leverage,” Robin Wright, Washington Post, November 17, 2004

The Khan Network, David E. Sanger, Stanford Institute for International Studies, June, 2004

Iran’s Dire Threat (It might be able to defend itself),” Edward S. Herman, Z Magazine, October, 2004

“Israeli Nuclear Capabilities and Threat” I, ZNet Blogs, September 4
Iranian Nukes? Search Their Beards, ZNet Blogs, September 21
The Non-Aligneds Have Gotten the Message, ZNet Blogs, September 22, 2004
“Israeli Nuclear Capabilities and Threat” II, ZNet Blogs, September 27
Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone,” ZNet Blogs, September 28, 2004
The Price of Indifference I, ZNet Blogs, November 15, 2004

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