The U.S., Britain and France staged a bravura performance of political theatre last week by claiming to have just "discovered" a secret Iran uranium enrichment plant near Qum. On cue, a carefully orchestrated media blitz trumpeted warnings of the alleged Iranian nuclear threat and "long-ranged missiles."
In reality, the Qum plant was detected by U.S. spy satellites over two years ago, and was known to the intelligence community. Iran claimed the plant will not begin enriching uranium for peaceful power for another 540 days. UN nuclear rules, to which Iran adheres, calls for 180 days notice.
UN nuclear watchdogs say Iran should have revealed the plant earlier. Iran alerted the UN last week and said it would invite inspectors.
The reluctance of Iran to reveal its nuclear sites is magnified by constant threats of attack against them by Israel and the U.S. Iran also recalls Iraq, where many of the UN "nuclear inspectors" were likely spies for CIA or Israel's Mossad. This may explain some of Iran's secretive behaviour. The U.S., Britain, France and Israel have been even less forthcoming about their nuclear secrets.
Iran's test of some useless short ranged missiles, and an inaccurate 2,000-km medium ranged Shahab-3, provoked more hysteria. In a choice example of media scaremongering, the Globe and Mail printed a picture of a 1960s vintage SAM-2 anti-aircraft missile being launched, with a caption of Prime Minister Stephen Harper warning of the "grave threat" Iran posed to "international peace and security."
Welcome to Iraq deja vu, and another phony crisis. U.S. intelligence and UN inspectors say Iran has no nuclear weapons and certainly no nuclear warheads and is only enriching uranium to 5%. Nuclear weapons require 95%. Iran's nuclear facilities are under constant UN inspection and U.S. surveillance.
The U.S., its allies, and Israel insist Iran is secretly developing nuclear warheads. They demand Tehran prove a negative: That is has no nuclear weapons. Iraq was also put to the same impossible test.
Israel is deeply alarmed by Iran's challenge to its Mideast nuclear monopoly. Chances of an Israeli attack on Iran are growing weekly, though the U.S. is still restraining Israel.
The contrived uproar about the Qum plant was a ploy to intensify pressure on Iran to cease nuclear enrichment -- though it has every right to do so under international agreements. More pressure will be applied at this week's meeting near Geneva between the Western powers and Iran.
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, poured fuel on the fire, again questioning the Holocaust and staging the ostentatious launch of missiles with little military value.
Why did Ahmadinejad antagonize the West and act belligerent when he should be taking a very low profile? Why would Iran face devastating Israeli or U.S. attack to keep enriching uranium when it can import such fuel from Russia?
Civilian nuclear power has become the keystone of Iranian national pride. As noted in my new book, American Raj, Iran's leadership insists the West has denied the Muslim world modern technology and tries to keep it backwards and subservient. Tehran believes it can withstand all western sanctions.
Iran appears to be very slowly developing a "breakout" capability to produce a small number of nuclear weapons on short notice -- for defensive purposes. Iraq's invasion of Iran cost Iran one million casualties. Iran demands the same right of nuclear self defence enjoyed by neighbours Israel, India and Pakistan.
What Iran really wants is an end to 30-years of U.S. efforts to overthrow its Islamic regime. The U.S. is still waging economic warfare against Iran and trying to overthrow the Tehran government. Like North Korea, Iran wants explicit guarantees from Washington that this siege warfare will stop and relations with the U.S. will be normalized.
As Flynt and Hillary Leverett conclude in their excellent, must-read Sept. 29 New York Times article, detente with Iran will be bitterly opposed by "those who attach value to failed policies that have damaged America's interests in the Middle East ... "
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