Sorting Out the Facts about Iran

Exclusive: Neocons, including the Washington Post’s editors, keep playing games with the facts regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The plan apparently is to guide the United States into a military confrontation whether President Obama and the American people want one or not, a dilemma addressed by ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

On the issue of Iran’s “nuclear ambitions” you hear one thing on Monday, a different thing on Tuesday. “It’s a puzzlement!” to quote Yul Brunner’s famous line in The King and I. But in this case, the confusion is hardly insignificant.

In a speech on March 4 to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), President Barack Obama drew a new red line, saying that if diplomacy and sanctions fail, he would use military force to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Washington Post's editorial page editor Fred Hiatt

So, it’s important to try to separate fact from opinion, taking our cue from the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who famously said: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

On May 26, the editors of the Washington Post claimed that Iran has “no right” under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to process uranium. In a Letter to the Editor published by the Post on Saturday (June 2), Alireza Miryousefi of Iran’s mission to the UN wrote that the Post was simply wrong on that key point.

The Iranian diplomat seemed to be quoting from the NPT in saying that it unambiguously recognized “the inalienable right of all of the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.” It turns out that it is word-for-word from the Treaty text.

“Peaceful purposes” would include fueling nuclear power plants to generate electricity. But why, some ask, would Iran need those when it has so much oil and natural gas? President Gerald Ford asked that same question in 1976, before he was persuaded to approve a deal with the Shah of Iran, under which Westinghouse and General Electric were to make billions of dollars by supplying essentially the same full nuclear fuel cycle capability to Iran that Tehran now claims the right to create on its own.

Ford’s principal aides, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, reminded the President that Iran’s demand for electrical power would inevitably increase and that its oil and gas resources would be depleted one day. In the interim, they explained, Iran coveted the hard currency it earns from selling its gas and oil on the international market.

The deal fell apart when the Shah fell from power. That this history is not widely known has made it easier for some U.S. and Israeli officials and pundits to argue that that the primary aim of Iran’s nuclear development program must be to build nuclear weapons. For those hoping to stir up a crisis with Iran, it’s helpful to shove down the memory hole that Rumsfeld/Cheney once advocated for Iran having a nuclear program.

Part of the problem (not to mention the confusion) lies in the fact that the uranium enrichment technology used for power plants can also be used to create a nuclear weapon, assuming it is refined to a much higher purity. And the prospect of a nuclear-weapon-capable Iran is widely considered a frightening prospect in view of Iran’s supposed threat to “wipe Israel off the map.” President Obama himself alluded to this in his March 4 address before AIPAC.

But a fact-checking problem is that no senior Iranian official has threatened to “wipe Israel off the map.” Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Dan Meridor, who is also Israel’s minister of intelligence and atomic energy, reluctantly conceded the point during an interview with Aljazeera on April 14. Meridor agreed that Iranian leaders “didn’t say, ‘We’ll wipe Israel out.’”

But, still, “everyone knows” that Iran is secretly working on a nuclear weapon. The trouble there is that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated definitively on Jan. 8 that Iran is not doing that; and ten days later his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, agreed.

According to the official U.S. government translation of Barak’s interview on Jan. 18 with Razi Barkay of Israeli Army Radio, Barak stated that Iran “is evidently not trying to procure nuclear weapons.”

Barkay: How long will it take from the moment Iran decides to turn it [Iran’s nuclear program] into effective weapons until it has nuclear warheads?

Barak: It doesn’t really matter. To do that, Iran will have to announce its departure from the control regime [UN inspections], to stop responding to IAEA’s criticism, and so forth. They haven’t done that. Why? Because then it is clear to everyone that Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons.

On Thursday, I’ll be speaking at Random Row Books in Charlottesville, Virginia, where we can further try to sort this confusion out.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as a CIA analyst for 27 years, in the early 80s preparing The President’s Daily Brief and using it to conduct one-on-one morning briefings of President Reagan’s most senior national security advisers. McGovern will discuss these issues at 6:00 PM Thursday, June 7, at Random Row Books, 315 West Main St., Charlottesville, Virginia.

10 comments for “Sorting Out the Facts about Iran

  1. June 8, 2012 at 01:50

    Others argue well why dont they use hydroelectric, wind and solar to increase the electricity output.

    Iran already has wind power feilds at manjil, Rudbar, binalood, and the Iran-Armenia wind farm. Iran is curently the only country in the region that produces wind turbines and ranks 30th in the world in wind power.

    Solar power is still in its early stages in Iran with just 2 plants one in Shiraz and one in Mashad around 2009.

    As of 2010, Iran has constructed 588 dams (big and small), with 137 more under construction and 546 planned.

    Thus the whole “you dont need nuclear energy cause you can burn oil for electricity, and therefore you must be doing this for weapons” argument is really just a political excuse. Especially since the politicians in the US making that argument were the same ones who urged Iran to go nuclear in the first place. The US even gave Iran its first nuclear reactor back in the 70s

  2. June 8, 2012 at 01:49

    It should also be pointed out that in terms of energy consumption Iran ranks 13th in the world. Energy consumption has even doubled since 1990. Given that Tehrans pollution is world famous with numerous articles in the “western” media that acknowledge this. Googling the words “Tehran smog” shows even Fox news reported this along with the BBC, USAtoday, the LA Times, the NY Times etc….
    In the 80s even though the population was only 40 million, power outages in Tehran was a daily occurrence. Iran increased it electricity output to the point that despite the population increased to over 70 million, and per capita usage increased with the advent of laptops, cell phones etc power outages are now rare.

    Iran now even exports electricty to many neighors such as Armenia, Azerbajan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, afghanistan (Virtually every neighbor that it shares borders with). It even planned before the syria crisis to export to Lebanon and Syria which is now on hold.

    Thus adding Nuclear power plants makes a lot of economic sense as 1) oil can be used for export and petrochemicals instead of wasting it to make electricity. 2) it will relieve smog in Tehran and thus decrease smog and the resultant pulmonary illness, missed days at work, school. 3) Iran can increase electricity exports which will help the economy and help relieve unemployment as these plants need employees to work in them.

  3. Kenny Fowler
    June 7, 2012 at 20:41

    Neocon war propaganda campaigns have little use for the facts. Lying to create fear and hysteria to start a war is the main neocon strategy. Facts? You must be kidding. These people don’t know what facts are.

  4. Dr. Don
    June 6, 2012 at 16:18

    But if Romney wins?
    Here’s what I think will happen if Romney wins: 1) Ryan budget gets passed, cutting Soc Sec, Medicare, SNAP, and a whole host of other domestic programs for the poor and needy. 2) The Ryan budget’s additional tax cuts for the rich get passed. 3) All Pentagon cuts are off the table, indeed they get more $. 4) We follow the Iss-rah-ay-lees into war w/Iran, perhaps letting them take the first feeble swing, or setting up some sort of provocation (Iran trying to evade sanctions or whatever) so it appears they/we are responding defensively. 5) Voila! Deficits no longer matter because National Security Is At Stake, so we can fund this new war, like we did the last two, by borrowing. 6) Oil prices go through the roof, enriching Big Oil, Rove, Cheney, and other donors to the GOPer cause. 7)The MIC and Rich Republicans Win Again!

    • June 11, 2012 at 11:02

      What about Ron Paul? He is the only one who loudly and adamantly has said to “end the wars now!”. He has also advised that we end the Fed, which is an illegal non-government organization. We need a “choice” in the US and just maybe we need “democracy”. The Rep. and Dem. are the same. We do not find a real difference and see that best when they join together in the center aisle. Iraq has a “democracy” and each voters vote counts! Our Presidents are elected by the electorate. If we can not get these changes, then maybe its time for revolution. We are not a nation of sheep that willing allow a boot to be applied to our necks. These “wars of aggression” are illegal and have to stop.

  5. June 6, 2012 at 16:00

    Please email me with more detailed information on this.

  6. Hillary
    June 5, 2012 at 21:04

    It looks like a “done deal” as with Iraq.

    The necessary war to protect our “Homeland”.

    The shepherds in charge of the sheep know best.

  7. incontinent reader
    June 5, 2012 at 19:13

    If there is no difference on the Iran issue and AIPAC is ultimately calling the shots, Obama is just digging his own political grave, and the Democrats have joined AIPAC to pave the way with their own legislative bulldozer.

  8. rosemerry
    June 5, 2012 at 17:11

    1. Don’t forget that Henry Kissinger was one who advised the Shah to go for nuclear power.
    2. How dare Barak even speak about the IEA or NPT when Israel has no possible right as a nonmember to try to tell anyone else how to act.

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