by Daud Abdullah
A book review
The current dispute between the west and Iran over its nuclear programme bears uncanny similarities to the case of Iraq; western assertions that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons programme is strikingly reminiscent of the claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In the absence of no verifiable proof of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, Peter Oborne and David Morrison make a compelling case that the west and its client state Israel are wrong. The consequences of this dangerous delusion could be catastrophic for the region.
The purpose of this revealing book is two-fold; first to dispel some of the myths and falsehoods which have distorted the image of Iran in the west and secondly to assert that the confrontation with Iran is not only unnecessary but also dangerous.
So why the hullabaloo? Oborne and Morrison are convinced that it has little or nothing to do with Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons and everything to do with a desire to humiliate, and ultimately subvert Iran’s Islamic regime.
The current impasse cannot be understood without an understanding of western economic involvement and political interference in Iran’s internal affairs. They began with the colossal profiteering from Iranian oil in the first half of the 20th century and the subsequent overthrow of Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953 after he nationalised the oil industry. With the onset of the Islamic revolution in 1979, it seemed the Iranians were finally on the road to independence.
The book confirms that despite the hostile rhetoric, the protagonists have at various times engaged in secret negotiations. Hillary Mann, a former member of the US National Security Council and advisor to Condoleezza Rice recalled a series of meetings at the UN’s New York headquarters in early 2001 in which the Iranians offered ‘unconditional talks’ with the US. Prior to that, the US had been demanding unconditional talks. According to reports, Iran offered to help on Afghanistan in the war against Al Qaeda, notably the provision of intelligence briefings. These overtures culminated in a startling offer in May 2003 of ‘decisive action’, including an end of support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. [p.24]
The authors examine the principal legal framework for negotiations between Iran and the west, namely the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran, they recall, was one of its original signatories in 1968. The Treaty gives all non-nuclear weapons states the ‘inalienable right’ to uranium enrichment on their soil. Since then, neither the US nor the EU have publicly or privately acknowledged this Iranian right. Oborne and Morrison believe this is quite understandable because if they do, the case for applying sanctions against Iran would disappear.
The Treaty is, in some respects, conspicuously skewed. While nuclear weapons states are not expected to give up their weapons, non-nuclear weapons states are prohibited from acquiring them.
The book identifies the year 2002 as a significant turning point in Iran’s nuclear standoff with the west. That year, the Mujahideen-e-Khlaq revealed the existence of a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz. Both the US and Israel seized on this to assert that Iran had a weapons programme and as such should be referred to the Security Council. In retrospect, the Iranians had provoked the alarm because they had not declared the plant to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They were, however, not obliged to do so. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general (1997-2009) in his report of 6 June 2003 confirmed that there was no obligation to do so since “heavy-water production facilities are not nuclear facilities under comprehensive NPT safeguards agreements, and are thus not required to be declared to the Agency thereunder.”
Significantly, the doors of diplomacy remained open. In October 2003 the foreign ministers of the EU3 – Britain, France and Germany – visited Tehran for negotiations. They led to the Paris Agreement of 15 November 2004, which Oborne and Morrison described as the high point of negotiations. A comprehensive agreement seemed in reach as ElBaradei later wrote:
“For several months, expectations that the negotiations would lead to an overall diplomatic solution were high. Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA stayed strong; there were only a few remaining inspection issues.” He further pointed out that, “At the March 2005 Board meeting, Iran’s nuclear program was not on the agenda for the first time in almost two years…”
At the crucial negotiations, which took place in Paris in the spring of 2005, the Iranians offered to subject their facilities to improved external inspection and remain bound by the NPT. Indeed, they also offered guarantees to ensure that they would not divert their programme for military use.
Having spurned these offers, the authors contend that the west – the EU3 and the US – were clearly not interested in devising “objective guarantees that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes.”
Peter Jenkins, the former British ambassador to the IAEA during this crucial period conceded that, “With hindsight, that offer should have been snapped up. It wasn’t because our objective was to put a stop to all enrichment in Iran.”
Acting in apparent bad-faith, Britain and France persuaded the IAEA’s Board to adopt a resolution in September 2005 declaring Iran to be in ‘non-compliance’; a phrase which obliged the Agency to refer the matter to the Security Council. That step was taken in March 2006. The move was extremely dubious and questioned by ElBaradei. Since 31 July 2006, the Security Council passed six Chapter VII resolutions against Iran. Such steps, the authors argue, should only be taken when there is a ‘threat to the peace’, which merit action by the Council ‘to maintain or restore international peace and security.’ Yet two months prior, ElBaradei told the Monterey Institute of International Studies; “Our assessment is that there is no imminent threat…there is no clear and present danger.”
Given the comprehensive sanctions regime that has been imposed on Iran, Oborne and Morrison hold the US and its allies wholly responsible for the resultant ‘appalling’ suffering of the Iranian people. The sanctions were engineered in the US Congress at the behest of the pro-Israel lobby to eliminate Iran from the international banking system and make it incapable of paying for life-saving medicine.
A Dangerous Delusion is a call for sanity and impartiality. It reminds readers that Iran, unlike Israel, has not attacked another country for more than two hundred years; nor has it occupied another country.
Whereas Iran’s facilities are open to IAEA inspections, Israel, being a non-signatory, has closed its facilities from scrutiny. Yet, while Iran is subjected to sanctions, Israel is rewarded with $3 billion worth of US military aid annually.
The authors rile against the media for fuelling myths and delusions about Iran. They castigate some of the most respected for becoming willing cheerleaders for warmongers in Washington and Tel Aviv.
On the whole, the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme seems farcical at best and hideous at worst. Not founded on facts, the 2011 IAEA report on Iran contained a 15-page annex on the ‘possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.’ It used the words ‘alleged’, ‘allegedly’ and ‘allegation’ 28 times in total; hardly the type of watertight case to impose crippling sanctions, let alone invade another country and ignite a regional war.
Incredibly, the chief of the Israeli armed forces, Benny Gantz, admitted in April 2012 that he did not believe that Iran would develop nuclear weapons. Moreover, despite the histrionics about the threat from Ahmadinejad, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy, Dan Meridor, told Al Jazeera in an interview on 16 April 2012 that Ahmadinejad did not actually threaten to wipe Israel off the map. His remarks were mistranslated.
The purpose of the entire political and media campaign, the authors conclude, is to prevent Iran from becoming a major power in the Middle East; one that is capable of challenging US hegemonic policies. As in the case of Iraq, regime change is the surest way to achieve this.
For more than two decades the world has been awaiting proof of western claims; they are yet to materialise. In 1984 Jane’s Defence Weekly reported, citing West German intelligence sources, that Iran’s production of a bomb was ‘entering its final stage.’
In 1992 Benyamin Netanyahu, the incumbent Israeli Prime Minister, said Iran was three to five years away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon. Two decades on this claim remains a figment of his imagination, prompting questions about today’s hype and hysteria.
Oborne and Morrison are no apologists for the Iranian regime. They accuse it of human rights abuses that cannot be ignored. But, they argue persuasively, the country’s independence and legitimate interests must be respected.
One hope emerges from A Dangerous Delusion. It comes from the level of international support that Iran still enjoys; contrary to the US claim that it is isolated. The authors cite the August 2012 Non Aligned Movement summit in Tehran attended by 120 states, 24 presidents, 3 kings, 8 prime ministers and 50 foreign ministers, despite enormous pressure from the US. The summit endorsed the Tehran Declaration, which asserts the inalienable right of all states to research and develop atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
With all the evidence uncovered and marshalled in this book there should be no coalition of the willing in another war of aggression. This book is an appeal to the conscience of international public opinion, in spite of the misleading, false allegations made by the US and its client states.