US increasing Iraq-style pressure on Iran over its nuclear program

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Nothing illustrates the West’s hypocrisy better than its attitude to the issue of nuclear technology and its use for the generation of energy. There are several layers of hypocritical behaviour: countries that do not possess nuclear know-how must be denied its use because it is alleged that this would lead to their making nuclear weapons. Those that have mastered the techniques must be prevented from advancing further if they are Muslims because they might challenge the West’s hegemony. Thus “Muslim” Pakistan is under pressure to abandon its nuclear programme but Hindu India is promised nuclear cooperation; zionist Israel has several hundred nuclear weapons but there is not even a hint of criticism, while Islamic Iran is threatened with military aggression for operating within the framework of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which it is a signatory.

The nuclear issue also brings into focus the fact that there is no difference between the US and the European Union (EU) when dealing with Muslims. Take the case of Iran. The three EU countries–”Britain, France and Germany–”that have been involved in discussions with Tehran for more than a year seem to be engaged in a monologue; they do not hear what Iran is saying, but are adamant that their own demands, however ludicrous, be met, or else. On March 23 Iran presented a detailed set of proposals to meet the EU-3’s concerns, but they did not even look at it. On August 12, in an interview with an Israeli radio station, US president George Bush said that while he would give diplomacy a chance, all options, including the “use of force” against Iran, are on the table. These threats follow deliberately placed leaks in the US media to the effect that US vice president Dick Cheney has ordered senior air force generals to draw up contingency plans to strike Iran with tactical nuclear weapons.

This rising crescendo of threats has occurred in parallel with the IAEA board of governors’ resolution, passed at the behest of the EU on August 11, demanding that its chairman, Mohamed El-Baradei, report by September 3 on whether Iran has complied with its request for “full suspension of all enrichment-related activities”. For the record, it must be stated that under article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has “an inalienable right … to develop, research, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination”. Yet Iran’s treaty rights are buried under an avalanche of hostile propaganda.

From the reports in the Western media, one could easily conclude that Iran is guilty of violating the terms of the NPT. Western media reports have been deliberately misleading, echoing statements by European and American officials without presenting the whole picture. The coverage of Iran’s breaking of seals on stored material at the Isfahan nuclear power plant on August 15 is typical of this attitude. The story was presented as if Tehran had acted unilaterally and in violation of its treaty obligations. In fact, Iran had announced at the IAEA board meeting in Vienna on August 10 that it would wait until IAEA inspectors arrived at the plant and installed monitoring cameras before it would open the seals, a perfectly legitimate course of action, well within its NPT rights; yet this fact has been deliberately omitted in almost all Western media reports. It was simply reported that Iran “broke the seals”, implying impropriety on its part. The material at Isfahan is only being converted into gas and does not complete the nuclear-fuel cycle by enriching uranium that could be used to make a bomb. Iran also announced that operations at its Natanz plant, where the fuel-cycle could be completed, would remain suspended.

Iran has insisted all along that its nuclear activities are aimed at producing energy; to show its good faith, it signed an Additional Protocol with the EU-3, something it was under no obligation to do. Far from appreciating Iran’s good intentions, the EU-3 and the US have launched a vicious propaganda campaign projecting Iran as a “rogue” state that is bent on producing nuclear weapons. Considering Iraq’s experience, Iran would be well advised not to preclude the nuclear option; after all, the US refrained from attacking North Korea precisely because it feared severe retaliation, but destroyed Iraq even though it did not have any weapons, as had been established through the IAEA and UN. As US vice-president Dick Cheney famously put it in February 2003: “Iraq is do-able, North Korea is not.” Countries threatened with military strikes by Washington’s mad dogs should seek all means to defend themselves.

The IAEA’s resolution, while recalling that all of Iran’s nuclear material is accounted for, still maintains that the agency is not yet in a position to declare that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities elsewhere. Echoing his role in the US war on Iraq and echoing similar sentiments, El-Baradei stated that his agency could not yet account for “the whole country”. Even Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, who has since declared the US war on Iraq illegal, has endorsed the IAEA’s resolution on Iran. In a telephone conversation with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Iran’s president, on August 9, Annan insisted that Iran must be “pro-active”: the exact phrase he used for Iraq in 2002. It has also now been established by the IAEA that traces of enriched uranium found on material in Iran did not come from Iranian sites; the contamination had occurred when the equipment was purchased abroad.

Western media reports continue to fuss about the “generous offer” made by the EU-3 that Iran rejected last month. When Iran signed the Paris agreement last year, it was on the clear understanding that this was a temporary measure, including the suspension of “all uranium-enrichment activities”, and that the EU-3 would produce long-term proposals to meet Iran’s legitimate need for an uninterrupted supply of fuel for its nuclear reactors. The EU-3 were also to include specific security guarantees that there would be no aggression against Iran, by either the EU or the US. Yet the EU-3’s “Framework for Cooperation” offered to Iran on August 7 was full of vague generalities that did not address any of the concerns that Iran had raised repeatedly in its discussions, instead insisting that Iran should permanently abandon its uranium-enrichment rights in return for vague promises. Not surprisingly, Tehran called the proposals “insulting”.

Iran has, of course, considerable experience of dealing with the West, especially the US. In the case of the Algiers Accords, the US was to deliver to Iran billions of dollars of Iranian assets that had been frozen illegally by the US after the Islamic Revolution; it has never done so. The Hague Tribunal, established to adjudicate disputes between governments, has delivered a series of verdicts in Iran’s favour, but the US ignores its findings. Given the West’s record of hypocrisy and double standards, not only against Iran, Tehran’s suspicions are perfectly justified. Although Iran has made concrete proposals to confirm the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme–”greater access to IAEA inspectors, the installation of additional surveillance cameras, and so on –”the EU insists not only that Iran suspend all enrichment activities permanently but that it undertake long-term “confidence building” measures before the Europeans keep their vague promises. Only when they are convinced that Iran does not have any plans for making nuclear weapons will they recommend that their governments provide economic and security guarantees. And the basis for all these insulting demands is mere “suspicion”; there is no evidence at all that Iran intends to make nuclear weapons.

While the US threatens Iran with tactical nuclear weapons and the EU-3 in their proposals do not preclude the possibility of using such weapons, as well as threatening to take the matter to the UN Security Council, they have the audacity to demand that Iran forego all such options. Tehran should make it clear that if the US, Israel or the EU dare launch an attack against its interests or territory, there will be swift and effective response. Iran should show no weakness on this point, even if it pursues the dialogue option to continue to test EU’s sincerity. Although its difficulties in Iraq mean that the US is in no position to attack Iran in the short-term, Tehran cannot afford to lower its guard: the people in control of US policy are not reasonable beings. They care neither for the lives of other peoples, nor their own. They have to be warned that the cost of their misadventures will be far greater than any benefit they might hope to gain from perpetrating further aggression.

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