January 18, 2012 · 0 Comments
By Michael McGehee:
Arthur Brisbane, the New York Times Public Editor, recently wrote a blog (“Times errors: Iran’s nukes, SF’s voting”) where he said that “there are sometimes cases [on whether or not to correct stories] where The Times’s [sic] judgment call and mine are not the same.” For Brisbane an example is a recent Times piece that he says, “strongly suggest Iran is conducting a nuclear weapons program but it is noteworthy that nowhere does the IAEA come right out and say this.”
It is also noteworthy that this writer has recently written (see here) on how the Times reported U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta as saying that, “Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that’s what concerns us,” but found the admission as unworthy of the attention it deserved. Considering Brisbane’s words above and the seriousness of the rising tensions between Washington and Tehran one would expect a free press with integrity to be a “truth vigilante,” but as we will see this is not the case.
An online article from the New York Times yesterday titled “U.S. Presses South Korea to Reduce Oil Imports from Iran” continues the predictable propaganda line an observant reader comes to expect. On matters of U.S. power and policy, the Times tows the line. The article begins by saying that,
A senior American diplomat urged South Korea on Tuesday to reduce its imports of Iranian crude oil Iran as the United States continued to seek support from major Asian economies to increase pressure on Tehran to halt its nuclear program.
When Robert J. Einhorn, the State Department’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control is reported as saying, “We are urging all of our partners to help us, to work with us in putting more pressure on the government of Iran to get them to negotiate seriously,” anyone with their head screwed on straight cannot help but feel disturbed by the deceit. The idea that the U.S. is trying to “negotiate seriously” is so absurd that it’s difficult to decide which is more ridiculous: that Einhorn made the statement, or that the Times repeats it without challenging it.
Now keep in mind that the Times has reported a top American official admitting that Iran is not trying to develop a nuclear weapon, but rather the capability, and which even the Times notes the nuke would likely be created for deterrence purposes. In referring to the 2007 and 2010 National Intelligence Estimates, the “paper of record” noted that “the consensus of the intelligence community, concluded that Iranian leaders had made no political decision yet to build an actual weapon. Instead, they described a series of steps that would take Iran right up to that line — and position it to assemble a weapon fairly quickly if a decision to do so were made.” Those “series of steps” are the U.S. policies of isolating and punishing Iran for not being a subordinate ally.
Not even two years ago the U.S. military published a document called “The Joint Operating Environment (2010)” which stated that, “Several friends or Allies of the United States, such as Japan and South Korea are highly advanced technological states and could quickly build nuclear devices if they chose to do so.”
Is the U.S. putting pressure on South Korea (or Japan) to halt their nuclear programs? Is the U.S. “pressing” other countries to “reduce” their economic dealings with South Korea until such time as the state “negotiate[s] seriously”? Are there even any negotiations to get them to cancel their nuclear programs? No, no, and no. So what gives? What is it about Iran that qualifies them for differential treatment? As the Times notes, South Korea is “a key American ally,” and Iran is not. This last comment is something that Henry Kissinger will explain to us below.
When discussing Iran’s nuclear program one essential fact worth knowing is that weapons grade uranium must contain highly enriched uranium (HEU) with an isotopic concentration greater than 90% U-235. According to the latest IAEA report filed on November 18, 2011 (GOV/2011/65): “Within its nuclear programme, Iran has developed the capability to enrich uranium to a level of up to 20% U-235.” This is in the context of Iran declaring their program and intentions to the IAEA, the IAEA having considerable access to their program and then verifying it. There is absolutely no evidence of a nuclear weapons program. None. For decades now the U.S. has been accusing Iran of having a nuclear weapons program, and often saying they are only five years away from having a nuke, yet in late 2011 it is confirmed by the IAEA that Iran is operating nowhere near the level required for a weapons program. This is also part of the significance of Panetta’s admission.
And on top of it all, it is Iran who has supported FISSBAN—an international treaty that would place all of the world’s nuclear programs under the strict supervision of an international team of inspectors—not the U.S.
There are other ways to get an idea of just how serious the U.S. is about opposing nuclear weapons programs. The U.S. itself is a nuclear state who is modernizing their program, another fact we will turn to in a moment. Also, the U.S. is not singling out allies like South Korea and Japan, for their nuclear programs, even though we know they “could quickly build nuclear devices if they chose to do so.” And the U.S. government certainly doesn’t bring up Israel’s nuclear weapons program. In fact, when the U.N. does bring up Israel’s nuclear weapons program the U.S. blocks any resolution that calls on them to disarm, or even declare their program.
At the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference Israel’s nuclear weapons was brought up and U.S. and Israeli officals balked. Nearly 190 nations signed an agreement to make the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone, and called for Israel to become a signatory of the NPT. “It ignores the realities of the Middle East and the real threats facing the region and the entire world,” one Israeli official said of the “deeply flawed” agreement while President Obama remarked that, “We strongly oppose efforts to single out Israel, and will oppose actions that jeopardise Israel’s national security.”
Somehow wanting the region free of nuclear weapons is “singling out Israel.” Was this an admission that only Israel has nuclear weapons, or just a poorly thought out comment? Why does the U.S. not “strongly oppose efforts to single out” Iran, and why do they not see that doing so are “actions that jeopardise [Iran's] national security”?
When the New York Times recently reported that Saudi Arabia may be going nuclear it was not followed with any outrage from the U.S. There has been no push for sanctions, nor has President Obama come out and said that “all options are on the table”—a clear threat to make war.
At the most recent U.N. General Assembly, the world voted in favor of a resolution titled “nuclear disarmament” (A/RES/65/56). The vote was 168-3, and while the U.S. was among those who voted in favor there was also a vote titled, “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world: accelerating the implementation of nuclear disarmament commitments” (A/RES/65/59). The vote was 167 to 4 against. Of those voting against was the U.S. Of those voting in favor was Iran.
The U.S. will vote in favor of disarmament—which one could say the resolution was largely symbolic and a token gesture on the part of the U.S.—but will vote against steps “Towards a nuclear-weapon-free world.” This trend is one that can be confirmed by looking at past votes. In 2007 the world voted on no less than 15 resolutions dealing with nuclear disarmament. Only one nation voted against all of them: The U.S. But back to the most recent votes: Iran noted the hypocrisy and even said of the “nuclear disarmament” resolution that, “It is an irony to call this nuclear disarmament and talk about a world free of nuclear weapons while one of the parties to this treaty has officially announced the allocation of more than $100 billion for modernizing nuclear warheads and constructing new facilities for developing nuclear weapons. The international community cannot turn a blind eye to those clear and obvious facts.” (Readers can look through the Times’ archives for any mention of this comment as a useful experiment in the efficacy of propaganda.)
Recently it was reported that Iran created its first nuclear fuel rod because “the sanctions ban it from buying them on foreign markets.” The same article reported that,
Tehran focused on domestic production of nuclear fuel rods and pellets in 2010, after talks with the West on a nuclear fuel swap deal ended in failure as Iran backed down on shipping a major part of its stock of enriched uranium abroad in return for fuel.
In 2010 Brazil and Turkey tried to get an arrangement made that would resolve the issue. Iran was willing. The U.S., however, wouldn’t back down from its confrontational stance. Even as Iran was willing to exchange their uranium for fuel, the U.S. still claimed they were trying to seek nuclear weapons. The above claim that the “deal ended in failure as Iran backed down” is inaccurate and poor reporting. Reuters reported that, “It was less than 24 hours after Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan joined Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Tehran to revive a stalled nuclear fuel swap deal with Iran which they hoped would remove the need for sanctions,” that the U.S. announced their plans for more sanctions. “U.S. dismissal of Brazilian and Turkish diplomatic efforts in Tehran” angered the two nations and was the likely reason as to what made “the two nations to vote against a new round of U.N. sanctions for Iran,” which the article said “was the first time any council members had opposed Iran sanctions.” The article also noted:
David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security said Clinton was no more undiplomatic than Ankara and Brasilia, who “threw the first stone by trying to wreck the sanctions effort. Clinton just threw one back.”
Albright’s statement is another example of why a reasonable person cannot believe the U.S. is serious in their claims towards Iran. It’s not just that the U.S. unilaterally undermined attempts to “negotiate seriously” in 2010, or that we turn a blind eye to the nuclear program of “a key American ally,” or how a “series of CIA memos describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.” What the comment reveals is that “the sanctions effort” is not related to resolving the nuclear question, and that any effort to resolve that without sanctions or war is to “wreck” matters. If U.S. policy was guided by a genuine effort to “negotiate seriously” there would not have been a “U.S. dismissal of Brazilian and Turkish diplomatic efforts,” or differential treatment to allies, or a “covert war.”
Saudi Arabia can go nuclear, South Korea can retain the capability to “quickly build nuclear devices if they chose to do so,” and Israel can have their nuclear weapons because they are allies of the U.S.—i.e. subservient states. Iran, on the other hand, is not allowed to even have a nuclear energy program—which under international law they are—not because they actually pose some security threat to the Middle East, or the world, but because they are an independent regional player with growing influence. E.g., the need to pressure South Korea, and other “Asian economies,” to reduce oil imports from Iran.
Early last year, after the “Arab Spring” began, the New York Times quoted “a regional adviser to the United States government” in an article titled “Arab Unrest Propels Iran as Saudi Influence Declines” as saying that, “Iran is the big winner here.” Much like Cuba, where the U.S. continues to punish the Caribbean island for its defiance and independence (the last U.N. vote to end the embargo on Cuba was 186-2—the latter consisting of the U.S. and Israel), the real threat of Iran is that it is independent player that might set a precedent counter to U.S. influence in the region, leaving the “paper of record” to warn its readers that, “The popular revolts shaking the Arab world have begun to shift the balance of power in the region, bolstering Iran’s position.”
Another illustration of U.S. concerns about growing Iranian influence in the region came after the 2003 Iraq War. The Bush administration initially opposed elections, and only relented in the face of a growing opposition by the Shia community. And even a year and a half after the January 2005 elections the New York Times reported that,
“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,” said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.
Throughout the war and occupation the U.S., both under the Bush and Obama administrations, has routinely claimed that Iran is “meddling” in the affairs of Iraq. Many of the winners from Iraqi elections were men who lived in Iran as exiles for years and had close ties to the Iranian government. The U.S. was clearly worried that with the threat of democracy in Iraq, Iran would develop better relations with their former enemy, and even though it was the U.S. who invaded and occupied Iraq and set up “ministry advisory teams” to guide the new policies of the Iraqi government-under-foreign-
The CIA has so far refused to hand over control of Iraq’s intelligence service to the newly elected Iraqi government in a turf war that exposes serious doubts the Bush administration has over the ability of Iraqi leaders to fight the insurgency and worries about the new government’s close ties to Iran.
And it is not as if Iranian independence was seeking to be confrontational with the U.S. In 2003 Iran offered a peace deal to both the U.S. and Israel which included cutting off support to Hamas and Hizbollah, and tighter IAEA controls that included “full access” to their nuclear program. “But in 2003, Bush refused to allow any response to the Iranian offer to negotiate an agreement.” Remember, Iran is not developing a nuke, but rather the capability to quickly do so in the (likely) chance a “series of steps” forces it—i.e. economic strangulation, “covert war,” and threat of an all-out war.
Going back to the differential treatment between Iran and allies of the U.S., it was in 2005 when the Washington Post talked to Henry Kissinger about Iran’s nuclear program:
In 1975, as secretary of state, Kissinger signed and circulated National Security Decision Memorandum 292, titled “U.S.-Iran Nuclear Cooperation,” which laid out the administration’s negotiating strategy for the sale of nuclear energy equipment projected to bring U.S. corporations more than $6 billion in revenue. At the time, Iran was pumping as much as 6 million barrels of oil a day, compared with an average of about 4 million barrels daily today.
The shah, who referred to oil as “noble fuel,” said it was too valuable to waste on daily energy needs. The Ford strategy paper said the “introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran’s economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.”
Asked why he reversed his opinion, Kissinger responded with some surprise during a brief telephone interview. After a lengthy pause, he said: “They were an allied country . . .”
The Ford strategy paper reflects Iran’s argument today, and which the U.S. now rejects. Just from this it should be apparent that the issue with Iran is not nuclear, it’s imperial.
And it’s no wonder the New York Times ignores all of this, and instead makes comments about Iran’s “belligerent-sounding proclamations.” That the U.S. has “quietly provided Israel with bombs capable of destroying buried targets,” and continues to ignore the world on peace, and nuclear disarmament—and even rejects Iranian offers of peace and disarmament (while carrying out a “covert war”), or the efforts of other foreign countries to “negotiate seriously,” does not get called “belligerent.” In fact, it doesn’t even get mentioned, and if it does the context is often sorely misapplied.
What vigilant readers of the Times should be asking—not only themselves but the Times too—is, when reading articles about the U.S. pressing other countries to “reduce” their economic dealings with Iran, should they be informed of the content covered above? With its absence, the impression given is that the U.S. is taking a noble stand against tyranny. But the Times’ coverage could hardly be any further from the truth.