By Ron Forthofer
The U.S. has long been concerned about Iran’s legal enrichment of uranium for civilian use based on the fear that the enrichment could lead to an Iranian nuclear weapons program. Recently released documents show that both the Ford and Carter administrations were worried about the possibility that Iran under the Shah might decide to develop a nuclear weapons program. An informative article by Muhammad Sahimi documents that the U.S. has long played up the mere possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon, and the Bush administration turned the possibility into a crisis during this decade. Unfortunately, this crisis situation continues under the Obama administration. As Sahimi also pointed out, Israel and some Western nations also hyped the threat with dire predictions about when Iran would have nuclear weapons.
For the past few years, Israel and the U.S. have threatened Iran with a military attack, possibly using nuclear weapons, unless it were to give up its legal enrichment program. Unmentioned is the fact that these threats are themselves grave violations of the UN Charter as well as several other international agreements. Israel and the U.S. use the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon at some future point as a pretext for an attack.
Israel says that an Iranian nuclear bomb would present a threat to its existence. However Dr. Avner Cohen, an Israeli expert on nuclear weapons, points out that this claim is wildly overblown. An alternative and perhaps more believable Israeli reason for an attack might be that Israel wants to remain the sole nuclear weapons power in the Middle East. The U.S.’s consideration of a military attack might be a function of: 1) U.S. desire to control Iranian energy resources; 2) revenge for the humiliation Iran inflicted on the U.S. in 1979 as well as for Iran’s chutzpah in standing up to the U.S.; and 3) the Israel lobby’s efforts pushing for a U.S. attack.
Regarding the possibility of an attack, recent reports about U.S. and Israeli military movements are alarming. Sources point to the recent transit of about a dozen U.S. warships and one Israeli warship through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea. A second aircraft carrier battle group led by the USS Harry S. Truman joined another carrier group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the north Indian Ocean close to the Persian Gulf entrance. According to the May 30th online Times (UK), Israel will also deploy three of its nuclear missile submarines to the Persian Gulf. In addition, there are unconfirmed reports about the presence of Israeli warplanes and U.S. supplied equipment in Georgia and Azerbaijan, possible jumping off points for an Israeli attack on Iran. However Stratfor, a provider of global intelligence, discounts the reports of Israeli or U.S. attack from Georgia or Azerbaijan.
Perhaps the leaders of Israel and the U.S. are simply trying to intimidate Iran with their recent show of military force. They have used this approach before. However, U.S. and Israeli leaders are creating a situation where one simple miscalculation could lead to a huge explosion with terrifying consequences. These actions raise a question about the judgment of Israeli and U.S. leaders.
It is amazing that U.S. political leaders and establishment pundits are so exercised – just like during the buildup to the illegal and disastrous U.S.-led attack on Iraq – about an apparently nonexistent Iranian nuclear weapons program. I say apparently nonexistent because the November 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate concluded that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons design work in 2003 and had not restarted it. In addition in March 2009, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the intelligence community agrees … that Iran has not decided to press forward … to have a nuclear weapon on top of a ballistic missile.” Even more current, in January 2010, Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that there is still no evidence that Iran has made a final decision to build nuclear weapons.
In addition, this past January Israeli Brigadier-General Uzi Eilam, former director-general of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, said it would probably take Iran seven years to develop nuclear weapons. He also called the official Israeli view hysterical.
In 2005 the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa against the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons and reiterated this idea in 2009 saying: “We fundamentally reject nuclear weapons.”
In November 2009 Mohamed ElBaradei, then the outgoing Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said he had seen “no credible evidence” that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. In an April 2010 interview, ElBaradei commented that Iran wants “nuclear weapons capability” – which is very different from having nuclear weapons – in order to be taken seriously as a regional power by the U.S. Note that since ElBaradei left, the IAEA has taken a more aggressive position on Iranian activities. However, articles by Gareth Porter and Kurt Nimmo point out that materials underlying this change were badly flawed.
Are U.S. and Israeli leaders really so anti-Iran that they can’t accept the findings of their own and other experts? Or are they cynically using the mere possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapons program as an excuse for an attack in an attempt to bring about regime change in Iran? It appears that U.S. leaders and some establishment pundits have already forgotten about the enormous short- and long-term costs of the disaster they’ve created in Iraq. The world cannot afford an even greater disaster in Iran.
– Ron Forthofer is a retired professor of biostatistics. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.