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Tightening the Noose: The International Atomic Energy Agency Report on Iran's Nuclear Program

by The Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran and The Virginia Defender, Truthout | News Analysis

A diplomatic, economic and military noose is being steadily tightened around the Islamic Republic of Iran.

On the diplomatic front, the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is about to release its latest report on Iran's nuclear program, a program Iran insists is solely designed to produce electricity and not atomic or nuclear weapons, as is claimed by the United States and other Western powers.

The report was submitted to IAEA member states on November 9. That report "is expected to give fresh evidence of research and other activities with little other application than atomic bomb-making, including studies linked to the development of an atom bomb trigger and computer modeling of a nuclear weapon."(1)

Such "evidence" would give the US ammunition to pressure the UN Security Council (UNSC) to impose a fifth round of economic sanctions against Iran, or even help justify a military attack by Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom or all three countries, all of which have developed contingency plans for just such an attack.

Tightening the Noose

The IAEA report comes amid a background of other ominous developments:

  • Beginning in late October, Israeli media began widely speculating that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heavily lobbying for military strikes against Iran's nuclear sites.
     
  • On November 2, Israel test-fired a missile said to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching Iranian territory.(2)
     
  • Britain's armed forces have reportedly stepped up contingency planning for potential military action against Iran.(3)
     
  • These developments follow widely challenged US allegations of an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, an attack that top US officials claim was to be carried out by a hit man hired from the Mexican Zeta drug cartel, an outfit known to be heavily infiltrated by US anti-drug agents.(4)
     
  • Meanwhile, the Pentagon is hard at work strengthening its military alliance with the Persian Gulf states that, together with US-occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, form a military semi-circle around the Islamic Republic.
     
  • The US House Foreign Affairs Committee is considering a new sanctions bill that would, for the first time in US history, forbid the president or any member of his administration to talk with a representative of another country, in this case, Iran, without prior Congressional approval, effectively blocking any chance of a negotiated settlement of differences between the US and Iran. The bill is being heavily promoted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel's well-funded US lobbying organization.(5)

For its part, Iran is insisting that any "proof" from the IAEA claiming to show evidence of a nuclear weapons program is nothing more than rehashed fabricated charges. On November 5, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi stated that Iran had already provided a 117-page response to such allegations and that the IAEA report will add nothing new to those false claims.

As the US government ratchets up these diplomatic, economic and military pressures, let's review Iran's international rights and responsibilities concerning its nuclear program.

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The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

First of all, the only reason the IAEA issued this report in the first place is that Iran is one of the 189 countries that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the world's principal arms control agreement. Only three UN members have never signed the treaty: Israel, which constantly accuses Iran of violating the NPT; India, which nevertheless is part of the UN's IAEA team charged with making sure that countries signing the NPT adhere to its rules; and Pakistan, which with its failed government presents a real threat of the actual use of nuclear weapons.

Weapons of Mass Destruction Charges All Over Again, and With the Same Goal

We already know without a doubt that the US government will lie in order to build a case for war. That's exactly what it did in 2003 with its charges against Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, ties to al-Qaeda and responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

As with Iraq, the real aim for Iran is a regime change in order to set up a puppet government in this oil- and gas-rich country in the strategically key Persian Gulf region.

Iran Has an Internationally Recognized Right to Develop Nuclear Energy

As a signatory to the NPT, Iran has an "inalienable right" to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Further, the NPT actually requires all parties to the treaty to help other members wishing to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. But with Western pressure blocking its access to such cooperation, Iran has been forced to strive for self-reliance in nuclear technology.

Despite a campaign of continuing and multiple charges, the fact is that there is no credible evidence that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Every IAEA report on Iran to date, including that of May 31, 2010, has stated that "the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran."(6)

Further, the 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran reportedly once again states that there is no evidence that Iran is working to develop an atomic or nuclear weapon. The NIE is the collective report of the 16 US intelligence agencies.(7)

In his latest article for The New Yorker magazine in June 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says the United States might attack Iran based on distorted estimates of Iran's nuclear and military threat - just like it did with Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq. Hersh, who has access to internal sources of the US administration, reveals that, despite using Iranian informants and cutting-edge surveillance technology, US officials have been unable to find decisive evidence that Iran has been moving enriched uranium to an underground weapons-making center.

All Enriched Uranium Is Not the Same

It is true that nuclear power plants, medical reactors and atomic or nuclear weapons all require enriched uranium. But while power plants require "low-enriched uranium" (LEU, uranium enriched up to 5 percent), and Iran's lone medical reactor needs uranium enriched up to 19.75 percent, nuclear weapons require uranium enriched to a very high degree, above 90 percent. The process of producing this very highly enriched uranium is much more difficult and complex than that used for the LEU. And yet, despite being the most inspected country in the world, there has never been any evidence that Iran has developed or is using this higher enrichment process. Even so, Washington demands that Iran terminate its enrichment process altogether, in essence denying Iran its inalienable right to pursue civilian nuclear technology under the NPT.

In an exact replica of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the US now alleges that Iran has engaged in "nuclear weaponization studies" and claims it has documents that prove its charge - documents it says it has had for some time, but which it has refused to provide to the IAEA.

Iran's Need for Nuclear Energy and Technology Is Real

In the past three decades, Iran's population has more than doubled, while its per capita energy consumption has grown at an even faster rate. Demand has so outpaced production that electricity is now rationed. The country needs to diversify its energy sources in order to keep up with demand and still have enough oil and gas both for export and for future generations. It is in Iran's legitimate security interest to develop alternatives to oil for domestic consumption.

There Is No Legal Basis for UN Sanctions Against Iran

Despite all this, the UNSC has imposed four rounds of economic sanctions against Iran, a result of the IAEA's having referred Iran's "nuclear file" to the UNSC. But the only legal justification for referring the file would be if Iran had violated the provisions of the NPT, which the IAEA has never proven. In fact, referring Iran's file to the UNSC, thus opening the door to the UNSC imposing sanctions, was the result of intense political pressure by the US and its allies. Therefore, the UNSC's imposition of sanctions on Iran violates the IAEA's own statutes and lacks legitimacy.

If the US charges against Iran are not purely political, then why does the US defend Israel's open secret "nuclear deterrence"? Why is it that in 2009 US ally South Korea, and Egypt, at the time also a close ally, were not punished after revelations that they had experimented with near-weapons-grade nuclear material?

Iran Is Not a Threat

In order to justify depriving Iran of nuclear technology, many US political figures portray the Iranian leadership as irrational and hell-bent on using nuclear weapons as soon as they could develop them. But Iran has not attacked any other country in more than 200 years. Its per capita military spending is among the lowest in its region. On the contrary, it is Iran that has been attacked on many occasions, including the 1980 US-backed Iraqi invasion that led to eight years of full-scale war at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Iranian lives.

Further, the US and Israel both have vastly superior military capabilities, including massive nuclear arsenals. The US maintains military bases in most of the countries around Iran. It has a constant naval presence off the southern coast of Iran, threatening Iran with military attack.

Iran Is Under Constant Threat of Illegal Foreign Intervention

All leading US politicians, including President Obama, have stated that, in dealing with Iran, "all options are on the table." President Obama's Nuclear Posture Review singles out only one non-nuclear armed country, namely Iran, as a possible target for US nuclear attack. Israeli officials also have threatened to launch war on Iran, threats that are now intensifying.

All this is in violation of Article 2 of the UN Charter, which forbids member countries from threatening or using force against other countries.

The stated goal of what are now four sets of Security Council-imposed sanctions, as well as unilateral sanctions imposed by the US and many European countries, is to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear program.

In reality, the sanctions are meant to promote "regime change" in Iran.

What Is Really Behind the Anti-Iran Campaign?

So, if Iran does not present a threat to its neighbors, the US, or to the world as a whole, why is the US government so fixated on it?

Could it be because Iran, with the world's third-largest known oil reserves, refuses to allow itself to be recolonized by the West or to allow the US to gain hegemony in the oil-rich and strategically critical Middle East?

A peaceful resolution of this intensifying conflict can only be achieved by rejecting the current illegitimate course of threats and sanctions. The US policy of aggression must be replaced with unconditional and comprehensive negotiations between Iran and the US, based on mutual respect, to build trust between the two sides and find a solution to the stand-off that recognizes Iran's sovereignty and national rights.

Footnotes:

(1) "IAEA report on Iran set to raise Middle East tension" - Reuters, November 6, 2011.

(2) "Israel test-fires missile as Iran debate rages" - Reuters, November 2, 2011.

(3) "UK military steps up plans for Iran attack amid fresh nuclear fears" - The Guardian UK, November 2, 2011.

(4) "US Agencies Infiltrating Drug Cartels Across Mexico" - The New York Times, October 24, 2011.

(5) "Back Tougher Iran Sanctions" - AIPAC web site.

(6) "Introductory Statement to Board of Governors" by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, June 7, 2010

(7) "Iran and the Bomb: How real is the nuclear threat?" by Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, June 6, 2011.

This article originally appeared on Truthout.

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