Pre-conceived perceptions

What are we to make of all the Western sabre-rattling over Iran? That it’s loud-mouthed non-stop, threatening and aggressive is obvious. But what’s behind it? And is there the slightest justification for it?

By Phillip Knightley

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Published: Sun 27 Nov 2011, 9:28 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:54 AM

The ostensible reason is that the International Atomic Energy Agency published its latest report on Iran’s nuclear research. The report raised new concern about the possible existence of undeclared nuclear facilities and material in Iran. The report came on the eve of the Republican debate on foreign policy where it was seized upon to attack President Barack Obama. Candidate Mitt Romney called the state of Iran’s nuclear programme Obama’s greatest failure. “Look, one thing you know, and that is . . . if we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon.”

The New York Times picked up the IAEA report and made it the lead story, saying IAEA investigators had amassed a treasure trove of new evidence that they say made a credible case that Iran may be carrying out nuclear weapons activity.

Western commentators whipped themselves into a “I told you so” frenzy and forecast that either the United States, or Israel or both would feel the need to strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities in the near future. There were discussions in newspapers whether the best results would be achieved by giant “bunker busting” bombs or by an invasion by Western Special Forces.

Few bothered to examine and analyse the IEAA report. In particular few bothered to compare it with previous reports to see what in it was new, if anything. One exception was Robert Kelley, a retired IAEA director and nuclear engineer. He said that he could find very little new information in the report.

He told investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that most of the information on which the IAEA report was based appeared to come from a single source, a laptop computer allegedly supplied to the IAEA by a Western intelligence agency. He went on to add, “This is old news and known to many journalists. I wonder why this same stuff is now considered new information by those same reporters.”

Hersh himself is something of an expert on Iran, and the bomb, and has been reporting on the subject for the New Yorker magazine for over 10 years. He has concentrated on what he calls the inability of the “best and brightest” of the US Joint Special Operations Command, with many a convert operation, to find concrete, definitive evidence of a nuclear weapons production programme in Iran. The mission was to find something physical to show the world that Iran was developing an atomic bomb, make the evidence public and then to attack and destroy the site. That mission has so far failed.

It may have failed because Iran has succeeded in concealing its intentions from everyone. It is more likely to have failed because there is nothing to conceal and the situation remains the same as it was since George Bush said that Iran was a member of the ‘axis of evil’.

The best argument that Iran is developing an atomic bomb is a logical not an evidential one. Its leaders have not forgotten that the West masterminded a coup in 1953 in which the CIA overthrew the pro-Soviet government of Dr. Mohamed Mossadeq and installed the pro-Western Shah. Today Iran is surrounded by regional rivals — all of them have atomic weapons — Pakistan, India, Israel. Its leaders may well think that these enemies will only be deterred if Iran has one too.

Phillip Knightley is a London-based journalist and commenta

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