The nuclear showdown between the US and Iran
By Tim Buchholz
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jul 17, 2008, 00:26

Every day we seem to be inching more and more toward more war.

According to Ali Akbar Dareini�s July 9 article in the AP, �Iran test-fired nine long- and medium-range missiles Wednesday during war games that officials said aimed to show the country can retaliate against any U.S. and Israeli attack.� He also says that �Israel�s military sent warplanes over the eastern Mediterranean for a large military exercise in June that U.S. officials described as a possible rehearsal for a strike on Iran�s nuclear facilities.�

Our boys, too, are running war games, preparing for a possible attack on the Strait of Hormuz, �a strategic waterway through which about 40 percent of the world�s oil passes.� All this because we say Iran wants nuclear weapons.

The nuclear program in Iran is a long story, and at the beginning, is us. The US, that is. In the 1950s the US was very friendly with the Shah of Iran. We, well the CIA, helped put him in power in a coup that removed a democratically elected prime minister. People in the Gerald Ford administration, names we see today saying Iran should not be allowed to pursue enrichment (Dick Cheney, for one), suggested to the Shah that though Iran had plenty of oil, some day it would run out and it was time to start preparing for the future. According to Wikipedia, �President Gerald Ford signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The Ford strategy paper said the introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran�s economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.� Now, 30 years later, Dick Cheney says Iran is �already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas, nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy.� But back to the beginning.

According to �Iran�s Nuclear Program. Part 1: Its History� by Mohammad Sahimi, �History shows that the US and her allies were in fact the driving force behind the birth of Iran�s nuclear program in the late 1960s and early 1970s. According to declassified confidential US Government documents posted on the Digital National Security Archive, in the mid-1970s, the US encouraged Iran to expand her non-oil energy base, suggested to the Shah that Iran needed not one but several nuclear reactors to acquire the electrical capacity that the Stanford Research Institute had proposed, and expressed interest in the US companies participating in Iran�s nuclear energy projects.� He says the Shah�s government was going to purchase eight nuclear reactors from the US for generating electricity.

And according to �Bush Spins Iran�s Centrifuges� by Ray McGovern, �Cheney and Rumsfeld persuaded a hesitant President Ford to offer Iran a deal that would have meant at least $6.4 billion for U.S. corporations like Westinghouse and General Electric, had not the Shah been unceremoniously dumped three years later. The offer included a reprocessing facility for a complete nuclear fuels cycle -- essentially the same capability that the U.S. and Israel now insist Iran cannot be allowed to acquire.�

Dafna Linzer says in her article �Past Arguments Don�t Square with Current Iran Policy,� �Iran was also willing to pay an additional $1 billion for a 20 percent stake in a private uranium enrichment facility in the United States that would supply much of the uranium to fuel the reactors.� We also provided Iran with �93 percent enriched uranium reactor fuel,� in the 1960s, according to To make an atomic bomb, according to �Uranium Enrichment -- How to Make an Atomic Bomb� by Tim Dean, �the uranium has to be enriched to more than 90 percent and be produced in large quantities.� He says Iran claims it has �not enriched uranium beyond 4.8 per cent and only on a limited scale (as of 2006).� Wikipedia says �Most reactor fuel is enriched to only 3�4 percent.� The International Atomic Energy Agency, or the IAEA, which, according to its website, �works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies,� released a report on Iran in late May 2008, entitled �Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007) and 1803 (2008) in the Islamic Republic of Iran.� It states, �The results of the environmental samples taken at FEP and PFEP indicate that the plants have been operated as declared. The samples showed low enriched uranium (with up to 4.0 percent U-235), natural uranium and depleted uranium (down to 0.4 percent U-235) particles. Iran declared enrichment levels in FEP of up to 4.7 percent U-235. Since March 2007, fourteen unannounced inspections have been conducted.�

In a report issued in November 2007 from The National Intelligence Council (NIC) of The United States, entitled �National Intelligence Estimate � Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities,� our government states, �National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) are the Intelligence Community�s (IC) most authoritative written judgments on national security issues and designed to help US civilian and military leaders develop policies to protect US national security interests.� They �ascribe high, moderate, or low levels of confidence to our assessments,� and define high confidence as �High confidence generally indicates that our judgments are based on high-quality information, and/or that the nature of the issue makes it possible to render a solid judgment.� They say with high confidence that �in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.�

The NIC defines moderate as, �Moderate confidence generally means that the information is credibly sourced and plausible but not of sufficient quality or corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence.� They then say that, �We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007,� and that, �We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon.� They also state, �We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon is late 2009, but that this is very unlikely.� So why the big rush now to attack their nuclear facilities? And isn�t our system of law in the US based on the principle �innocent until proven guilty?�

Perhaps the rush has something to do with my favorite joke circulating before the Iraq war, �How does the US know Iraq has weapons of mass destruction? They still have the receipt.� According to �State of War� by James Risen, the CIA had a secret plan they called �Merlin.� It was hatched under the Clinton administration, and was carried out in 2000 under the Bush administration. It involved a Russian scientist who had defected to the US years earlier and had been kept on the CIA�s payroll. He was given �technical designs for a TBA 480 high-voltage block, otherwise known as a �firing set,� for a Russian-designed nuclear weapon. He held in his hands the knowledge needed to create a perfect implosion that could trigger a nuclear chain reaction inside a small spherical core. It was one of the greatest engineering secrets in the world, providing the solution to one of a handful of problems that separated nuclear powers such as the United States and Russia from rogue countries such as Iran that were desperate to join the nuclear club but had so far fallen short.� And he was told to take the blueprints �to Vienna to sell them -- or simply give them -- to the Iranian representatives to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).� The blueprints had a small error, but they hoped Iran wouldn�t notice and would try to build a bomb. �Instead of a mushroom cloud, the Iranian scientists would witness a disappointing fizzle. The Iranian nuclear programme would suffer a humiliating setback, and Tehran�s goal of becoming a nuclear power would have been delayed by several years.� The CIA wanted to see if Iran already had this technology, and if not, they wanted to humiliate them. The only problem was the Russian scientist noticed the error. When he told the CIA officers of the error, they told him it didn�t matter, but he feared the Iranians wouldn�t work with him if they noticed the flaw. So once he arrived in Vienna, he opened the package and included a letter saying that there was a flaw, but he could help them find it. He then got scared and instead of selling the report to the Iranians, he slipped it under their door and ran. James Risen goes on to say that �Tehran also obtained nuclear blueprints from the network of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, and so already had workable blueprints against which to compare the designs obtained from the CIA. Nuclear experts say that they would thus be able to extract valuable information from the blueprints while ignoring the flaws.� Oops!

Another bit of information left out of the current administration�s speeches is that Iran�s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued a fatwa forbidding nuclear weapons. Wikipedia describes a fatwa as �a religious opinion on Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwa is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be, depending on the status of the scholar.� Iran is predominately Shiite.

Bill Weinberg, in his story �Iran issues anti-nuke fatwa,� includes a portion of the statement Iran presented to the IAEA on the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing. �The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued the Fatwa that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who took office just recently, in his inaugural address reiterated that his government is against weapons of mass destruction and will only pursue nuclear activities in the peaceful domain . . . It is the most absurd manifestation of irony that the single state who caused this single nuclear catastrophe in a twin attack on our earth now has assumed the role of the prime preacher in the nuclear field while ever expanding its nuclear weapons capability.�

Iran�s spiritual leader issued a similar fatwa against chemical weapons during the Iran/Iraq war, and although Iraq used chemical weapons, Iran did not. Ali Khamenei says that Iran is committed to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran signed in 1968. According to Mohammed Sahimi, the treaty �recognized Iran�s inalienable right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination, and acquire equipment, materials, and scientific and technological information.� They are also permitted under this treaty to enrich uranium, which the US and its allies are now demanding Iran cease under threat of war.

The US signed this same treaty, and according to the UN�s website, the NPT �represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.� So isn�t the United States in violation of this treaty by not disarming? When is someone going to attack our nuclear reactors and put sanctions on us?

Ria Novosti, in the article �IAEA says Israel�s nuclear status none of its concern,� says �The UN nuclear watchdog said it will not respond to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert�s remark implying that Israel has nuclear weapons, something the Jewish state has never officially admitted. Independent analysts have said Israel holds between 80 and 200 nuclear warheads, and may be the world�s sixth-largest nuclear power.�

Gerald M. Steinberg, in his article, �The International Atomic Energy Agency and Israel, A Realistic Agenda,� defends Israel saying, �As long as Jewish sovereignty and Israel�s right to equality as a state among the nations is denied, the need for a credible deterrent will not end.� Israel bombed a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007 in an attempt to keep them from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Israel�s closest ally, the United States, has gone to war with Iraq and many people believe they did so for oil, which Iran happens to have a lot of. Is not the sovereignty of Iran at stake as well? Countries want to have nuclear weapons for the same reason that the US won�t get rid of theirs, as a deterrent from the other countries that do have them. It�s kind of like the Second Amendment here in America, the right to bear arms. It was created by our forefathers to guarantee that if the government becomes corrupt, the people can stand up and fight back. I don�t know what Iran�s intentions are, but I do know what is fair. And it is not fair for the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon, who has more than anyone else, to tell anybody else they can�t have one, let alone threaten war.

Henry Kissinger, who was secretary of state during the Ford administration, now writes opinion articles about why Iran should not be allowed to go nuclear. During the Ford administration, he was one of the major players in bringing nuclear power to Iran. In Dafna Linzer�s article, cited above, she asked him why he changed his mind. He said, �They were an allied country, and this was a commercial transaction. We didn�t address the question of them one day moving toward nuclear weapons.� Had they only just bought it all from us, maybe we wouldn�t be on the brink of World War III.

Tim Buchholz is a freelance writer living in Ohio.

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