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Iran, sanctions, and "nuclear ambitions"? - Sept 29

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Post updated Sept 30, 2009 - Regular EB contributor Michael Lardelli wrote: Your Iran coverage lately was a little US-centric (IMO). This article by Scott Ritter (who correctly predicted no WMDs would be found in Iraq) would add a little balance:


Keeping Iran honest

Scott Ritter, The Guardian
It was very much a moment of high drama. Barack Obama, fresh from his history-making stint hosting the UN security council, took a break from his duties at the G20 economic summit in Pittsburgh to announce the existence of a secret, undeclared nuclear facility in Iran which was inconsistent with a peaceful nuclear programme, underscoring the president's conclusion that "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow"...

Beware politically motivated hype. While on the surface, Obama's dramatic intervention seemed sound, the devil is always in the details. The "rules" Iran is accused of breaking are not vague, but rather spelled out in clear terms. In accordance with Article 42 of Iran's Safeguards Agreement, and Code 3.1 of the General Part of the Subsidiary Arrangements (also known as the "additional protocol") to that agreement, Iran is obliged to inform the IAEA of any decision to construct a facility which would house operational centrifuges, and to provide preliminary design information about that facility, even if nuclear material had not been introduced. This would initiate a process of complementary access and design verification inspections by the IAEA...

While this action is understandably vexing for the IAEA and those member states who are desirous of full transparency on the part of Iran, one cannot speak in absolute terms about Iran violating its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. So when Obama announced that "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow", he is technically and legally wrong...

The Qom plant, if current descriptions are accurate, cannot manufacture the basic feed-stock (uranium hexaflouride, or UF6) used in the centrifuge-based enrichment process. It is simply another plant in which the UF6 can be enriched...

Simply put, Iran is no closer to producing a hypothetical nuclear weapon today than it was prior to Obama's announcement concerning the Qom facility...
(25 September 2009)

Scott Ritter was a UN weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991-1998 and is the author of Iraq Confidential (IB Tauris, 2006).

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Ahmadinejad Rejects Obama's Nuclear Warning

Massimo Calabresi and Bobby Ghosh, Time
Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has warned U.S. President Barack Obama against pressing Tehran about new revelations that Iran has been constructing a secret uranium-enrichment plant. "If I were Obama's adviser, I would definitely advise him to refrain making this statement because it is definitely a mistake," Ahmadinejad told TIME in New York City on Friday. "It would definitively be a mistake." His comment came as Obama, speaking at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pa., made a dramatic announcement that Iran has been constructing a second uranium-enrichment facility whose existence had been kept secret in violation of the non-proliferation agreements to which Tehran is a signatory.

Flanked by Britain's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and France's President, Nicolas Sarkozy, Obama warned that Iran would be held accountable if it failed to live up to its international obligations. Fearing imminent disclosure of the plant — which is being built into a mountain near the seminary city of Qum — the Iranians earlier this week wrote to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to confirm its existence.

But in an exclusive interview with the editors of TIME that coincided with Obama's announcement, Ahmadinejad insisted that Iran was not keeping anything from the IAEA. "We have no secrecy; we work within the framework of the IAEA," he said. Still, the Iranian leader seemed nonplussed by the news that Obama was revealing the Qum plant's existence. Ahmadinejad's response meandered from the defensive to the aggressive. "This does not mean we must inform Mr. Obama's Administration of every facility that we have," he said, warning that if Obama brings up the uranium facility, it "simply adds to the list of issues to which the United States owes the Iranian nation an apology over." And he boasted that Obama's "mistakes" work in Iran's favor...
(25 Sept 2009)


Iran's Global Foray Has Mixed Results

Steve Secklow and Farnaz Fassihi, The Wall Street Journal
Last year, a delegation of Iranians and other foreigners arrived at this tiny, remote coastal village in speedboats. They came to map out plans to build a $350 million deep-water port and a new city.

The three-dozen families who live here weren't pleased to see them. For more than two hours, they say, they berated the Iranians for not consulting them first about the development, and they videotaped the clash. "We said we would defend our homes with guns, knives, machetes, whatever," says William Claire Duncan.

The Iranians haven't been back since.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has described his oil-rich nation as a superpower with worldly ambitions. Since taking power in 2005 he has signed scores of trade agreements with African and Central and Latin American countries, opened a Venezuelan bank, and built factories and housing projects.

On Sunday, Iran said it test-fired short-range missiles, just days after it confirmed it is building a second uranium-enrichment facility. It's all part of an Iranian campaign to project power and greatness world-wide -- including in America's own backyard.

But a close, on-site examination of some of Iran's projects on two continents -- in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Senegal -- reveals mixed results...
(29 Sept 2009)


Iran defies Western pressure with missile test-firing

Katherine Butler, The Independent
After raising the stakes in its confrontation with the West by test-firing long range missiles yesterday, Iran will be warned this week that its banks as well as its oil and gas industry will be targeted for harsh sanctions unless it complies with international demands on its nuclear programme.

In a "twin-track" approach which European governments are emphasising, Tehran will also be offered a range of incentives including access to new energy technology, closer links with the EU, and the normalisation of trade if it commits to suspending its uranium enrichment activities and coming clean on a newly revealed nuclear site.

Amid rising tensions ahead of a crucial meeting between Iran and six major powers in Geneva on Thursday, Tehran flaunted the extent of its arsenal by announcing that it had successfully test-fired advanced long-range missiles the Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles. Both are capable of carrying warheads and can travel up to 1,200 miles, which would put Israel within range. "Iranian missiles are able to target any place that threatens Iran," said Abdollah Araqi, a high-ranking member of the Revolutionary Guards, after yesterday's news on state TV that the missile tests had gone ahead...
(29 Sept 2009)


Iran: The Next Neocon Target

Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell.com
Before the U.S. House of Representatives, April 5, 2006

It’s been three years since the U.S. launched its war against Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Of course now almost everybody knows there were no WMDs, and Saddam Hussein posed no threat to the United States. Though some of our soldiers serving in Iraq still believe they are there because Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, even the administration now acknowledges there was no connection. Indeed, no one can be absolutely certain why we invaded Iraq. The current excuse, also given for staying in Iraq, is to make it a democratic state, friendly to the United States. There are now fewer denials that securing oil supplies played a significant role in our decision to go into Iraq and stay there. That certainly would explain why U.S. taxpayers are paying such a price to build and maintain numerous huge, permanent military bases in Iraq. They’re also funding a new billion-dollar embassy – the largest in the world.

The significant question we must ask ourselves is: What have we learned from three years in Iraq? With plans now being laid for regime change in Iran, it appears we have learned absolutely nothing. There still are plenty of administration officials who daily paint a rosy picture of the Iraq we have created. But I wonder: If the past three years were nothing more than a bad dream, and our nation suddenly awakened, how many would, for national security reasons, urge the same invasion? Would we instead give a gigantic sigh of relief that it was only a bad dream, that we need not relive the three-year nightmare of death, destruction, chaos and stupendous consumption of tax dollars? Conceivably we would still see oil prices under $30 a barrel, and most importantly, 20,000 severe U.S. casualties would not have occurred. My guess is that 99% of all Americans would be thankful it was only a bad dream, and would never support the invasion knowing what we know today.

Even with the horrible results of the past three years, Congress is abuzz with plans to change the Iranian government. There is little resistance to the rising clamor for “democratizing” Iran, even though their current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is an elected leader. Though Iran is hardly a perfect democracy, its system is far superior to most of our Arab allies about which we never complain. Already the coordinating propaganda has galvanized the American people against Iran for the supposed threat it poses to us with weapons of mass destruction that are no more present than those Saddam Hussein was alleged to have had. It’s amazing how soon after being thoroughly discredited over the charges levied against Saddam Hussein the Neo-cons are willing to use the same arguments against Iran. It’s frightening to see how easily Congress, the media, and the people accept many of the same arguments against Iran that were used to justify an invasion of Iraq.
(5 April 2006)
sent in by EB contributor Rick Lakin, who comments:
"It is perhaps time to take another look at Ron Paul's views on our policy toward Iran as he stated in this 2006 op-ed."


Obama's Move: Iran and Afghanistan

George Friedman, Stratfor
During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, now-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that like all U.S. presidents, Barack Obama would face a foreign policy test early in his presidency if elected. That test is now here.

His test comprises two apparently distinct challenges, one in Afghanistan and one in Iran. While different problems, they have three elements in common. First, they involve the question of his administration’s overarching strategy in the Islamic world. Second, the problems are approaching decision points (and making no decision represents a decision here). And third, they are playing out very differently than Obama expected during the 2008 campaign.

During the campaign, Obama portrayed the Iraq war as a massive mistake diverting the United States from Afghanistan, the true center of the “war on terror.” He accordingly promised to shift the focus away from Iraq and back to Afghanistan. Obama’s views on Iran were more amorphous. He supported the doctrine that Iran should not be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons, while at the same time asserted that engaging Iran was both possible and desirable. Embedded in the famous argument over whether offering talks without preconditions was appropriate (something now-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attacked him for during the Democratic primary) was the idea that the problem with Iran stemmed from Washington’s refusal to engage in talks with Tehran.

We are never impressed with campaign positions, or with the failure of the victorious candidate to live up to them. That’s the way American politics work. But in this case, these promises have created a dual crisis that Obama must make decisions about now...
(28 Sept 2009)
sent in by EB contributor William Tamblyn, who writes:
I hope Obama and his advisers don't agree with Friedman because in my view an attack on Iran would be the beginning of a *much* larger war -- a war that would all too likely evolve into a far worse global war than WWII.

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