According to Thierry Meyssan, the debate around the possible existence of an Iranian military nuclear programme is nothing but a smokescreen. The great powers suspended all transfer of technology with the overthrow of the Shah and the Islamic Revolution repudiated the principle of the atomic bomb. The feigned suspicions of western countries are merely a ploy to isolate a state which calls into question the military and energy dominance of the nuclear powers and their veto rights at the Security Council.
The White House issued a press kit explaining the thrust of Security Council resolution 1929. Its content – as well as the widespread communication campaign behind it – were relayed by the mainstream media without, as usual, the slighest critical approach.
According to the Western media – parroting the White House – the resolution was adopted by a “large majority” and constitutes “a reponse to Iran’s constant refusal to comply with its internacional obligations related to its nuclear programme”. Let’s take a closer look.
Of the 15 Security Council members, 12 voted in favour of adopting the sanctions (including the five permanent members), 1 abstained and two voted against . This “large majority” actually shrouds a new political divide: for the first time in the history of the Council, a bloc of emerging nations (Brazil and Turkey, supported by the non-aligned countries in unison) took a stand against the permanent members (China, France, Russia, UK and USA) and their vassals. Thus, in reality, this “unanimity minus two votes” reflects the chasm between the Directory of the Big Five and what one must again refer to as the Third World by analogy to the Thid Estate , or those whose voice doesn’t count.
Brazil played a key role in the framing of the Tlatelolco Treaty, establishing Latin America as a “nuclear-free zone”. Turkey is actively pursuing the same objective for the Middle East. The sincerity of these two countries’ opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons is beyond doubt. As is the fact that Turkey, which shares a common border with Iran, should be particularly concerned with preventing Tehran from acquiring the atomic bomb.
Why, then, did they vote against Resolution 1929? As we shall see, the problems conjured up by the big powers are but a smokescreen intended to stymie the deeper debate allowing Iran and the non-aligned bloc to denounce their privileges.
The myth of the Iranian bomb
During the reign of Shah Reza Pahlevi, the United Status and France implemented a wide programme to equip Tehran with the atomic bomb. In view of its history, it was generally accepted that Iran was not an expansionist State and that the great powers could safely provide it with such technology.
The programme was discontinued by the Western countries at the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, giving rise to a financial litigation centering on the Eurodif S.A. company. According to the Iranian authorities, the programme was never taken up again.
The Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors condemned the manufacturing, stockpiling, utilization, and threat of utilization of nuclear weapons for being contrary to their religious values. It their view, it is morally unacceptable to deploy weapons of mass destruction which kill indiscriminately both civilians and military forces, government supporters and opponents alike. This prohibition became legally binding through a decree issued by the Supreme Guide of the Revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei, on 9 August 2005.
The Iranian leaders displayed their adherence to this principle, in particular, during the war triggered by Iraq (1980-88) for which the Iranian people had to pay a heavy price. Saddam Hussein ordered unguided missiles to be fired against Iranian cities. The Iranian army retaliated in the same fashion until Imam Khomeini intervened to prohibit, on ethical grounds, the indiscriminate firing of missiles against enemy cities. The country preferred to endure a longer war rather than to win by employing arms aimed at random .
Considering how the country functions, it seems unlikely that some individuals would have contravened this theological edict and defiled the memory of the Iraq-Iran war martyrs with a view to establishing an underground programme for researching and developing atomic weapons.
The Iranian stance preceded international law. It wasn’t, in fact, until 1996 that the International Court of Justice at the Hague determined that any form of mass destruction is a criminal offence, and that the very principle of nuclear deterrence, i.e. the threat of perpetrating a crime, constitutes in itself a crime . However, since the advisory opinion of the Court is not binding but only consultative, the big powers can simply brush it aside .
The myth of an Iranian military nuclear programme was concocted by the Anglo-Americans after their invasion of Afganistan and Iraq. Their ultimate strategy was to corner Iran in a pincer operation launched from the two neighbouring countries. During that period, U.S. and British intelligence services propagated misleading information regarding Iran, as they had done in the case of Saddam Hussein’s purported weapons of mass destruction.
The data transmitted to the allied countries and to the media was in most cases provided by a group of Iranians in exile, the People’s Mujahedin. It subsequently came to light that the group had fabricated the information as they went along, according to the needs. As it happens, they were based in Iraq but, notwithstanding the support of a local family infrastructure, they failed to penetrate the very compartmentalised organisation of the Revolutionary Guards inside Iran. Today, U.S. experts acknowledge that this source was worthless. Only the neo-conservatives and the French secret services, who safeguard the Mujahedin world headquarters in France continue to place trust in them.
Such disinformation constituted the basis for Security Council resolutions 1737 (23 December 2006) and 1747 (24 March 1007) .
Washington dropped its accusations against Iran on 3 December 2007, when U.S. Director of National Intelligence Vice-Admiral John Michael McConnell released a summary report revealing that Iran had abandoned any military nuclear activities several years back and that, even if it were to resume them, Tehran would not be in a position to develop an atomic weapon before at least 2015 . In publishing the report, McConnell’s aim was not only to put a lid on the controversy but above all – and in line with a group of top-ranking officers associated with senior General Brent Scowcroft – to suspend the war plans against Iran, the United States being temporarily short of economic and military means. Our readers may recall that I had analysed these events on this website, announcing Washington’s policy shift six hours before the surprise publication of the report.
With Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ green light and under the supervision of top-notch military mastermind General Scowcroft, an agreement was concluded between CentCom Commander Admiral William Fallon and his Iranian counterparts. A détente scenario had been envisaged which would allow the United States to withdraw from Iraq with its head high. However, the Bush-Cheney clan, which was still banking on this war, succeeded in having new sanctions adopted against Iran by way of resolution 1803 (3 March 2008) to be followed immediately by Admiral Fallon’s resignation. Here again, our readers will recall my detailed comments concerning this incident.
In the end, the Bush-Cheney clan attempted to circumvent U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff opposition by outsourcing the attack on Iran to Israel. With this in view, Tsahal had rented two air military bases in Georgia, from where jet bombers could have targeted Iran without needing to resupply in flight. Alas, this plan was interrupted by the sudden outbreak of the war in South Ossetia and the Russian bombardment of Israeli bases in Georgia.
Ultimately, General Scowcroft and his protégé Barack Obama exploited the debate to promote their own agenda: it is no longer a question of preparing a war against Iran, but of exerting strong pressure on Tehran to make it cooperate with the Anglo-Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq. In effect, western forces are bogged down in both operation theaters where the Iranians hold powerful levers of control over the Azeris in Afghanistan and the Iraqi Shia population.
Thus, General Scowcroft, who debunked the myth of the Iranian nuclear threat in December 2007 and who was mortified by the adoption of sanctions against Iran in 2008, has become the advocate of those same sanctions in 2010.
The energy dependence of emerging States
Iran has been striving for energy independence for sixty years. Under the Iranian monarchy, Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, expelling the majority of British advisers and technicians. In his view and that of the other subjects of the Shah, it was not so much a matter of reappropriating a financial boon but of securing the means to achieve their economic development. Oil was the key for the country’s industrial development.
Feeling wronged, London appealed before the International Court of Justice at The Hague, and lost. The British then called on the United States to organise a coup d’Etat . At the end of “Operation Ajax”, Mossadegh was arrested and replaced by former Nazi General Fazlollah Zahedi. The regime of the Shah thus became the most ruthless regime on Earth.
After overthrowing the Shah, the Islamic Revolution reinstated energy independence as a strategic goal. Anticipating the depletion of its oil resources, Tehran incorporated civilian nuclear activities in its broad scientific and tehcnical research programme. All the more reason since, according to Iranian geologists, the country is awash with exploitable uranium, a resource even more valuable than oil.
Lacking nuclear fuel, Tehran acquired it through President Raúl Alfonsín of Argentina with whom three agreements were drawn up in 1987 and 1988. The first deliveries of 19.75% enriched uranium took place in 1993. But the process was interrupted by the Buenos Aires bomb attacks of 1992 and 1994, attributed to Iran, but more likely perpetrated by the Mossad which had established a foothold in the country during the military dictatorship of General Videla.
In 2003, Iran signed the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which takes scientific advances into account. In accordance with the new dispositions, the signatories must apprise the International Atomic Energy Agency of any nuclear sites under construction, while in the past they were required to do so only six months before commissioning. In view of this change, Tehran confirmed the construction underway of the new nuclear units at Natanz and Arak. The Additional Protocol making no provisions for the changeover from one juridical system to the other, President Mohammed Khatami accepted to discuss the modalities with a contact Group composed by the European Union, Germany, France and the United Kingdom (UE+3), and suspended Iran’s uranium enrichment as a gesture of apeasement.
Elected President of the Islamic Republic in mid-2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad considered that his country had given the IAEA sufficient notice to undertake the required transition inspections and that the contact Group was deliberately dragging its feet to prolong the Iranian moratorium indefinitely. He therefore decided to resume the uranium enrichment process.
From that moment on, the Europeans – that look down on Iran as a “regime of the Mollahs” – rebuked the Iranians for having broken their word. The Ahmadinejad administration retorted that – like all countries – while it is bound by the treaties ratified by Parliament, it is under no obligation to espouse the policies of previous administrations. It sparked the beginning of the legal wrangling still in course. Germany, France and the UK obtained the support of the G8 and convinced the IAEA Board of Governors to refer the dispute to the UN Security Council.
The vote of the Board, on 4 February 2006, foreshadowed that of the Security Council on 9 June 2010. The great powers formed a compact block in favour, while Cuba, Syria and Venezuela voted against.
Furious over the humiliating affront, the Ahmadinejad administration decided to withdraw Iran’s signature from the Additional Protocol, rendering nul and void the commitments of the Khatami administration and putting an end to the dispute with the UE+3 group. In response, the Security Council demanded a renewed suspension of the country’s uranium enrichment (Resolution 1696 of 31 July 2006). In the eyes of International law, this resolution has no legal foundation. The United Nations Charter does not bestow upon the Security Council the power to demand of any country the alienation of its rights for the sake of “restoring the confidence” of other countries in its regard.
Since then, with the support of 118 non-aligned countries, Iran has refused to bend to the litany of Security Council demands, invoking Article 25 of the Charter which stipulates that Member States are not obliged to accept the decisions of the Council if they are not in keeping with the Charter. The focus of the international legal debate has imperceptibly shifted from the IAEA’s control of the Iranian programme to a showdown between dominant and emerging powers. Or, better said, it slipped back to the square-one level prevailing in the 1950’s, the issue relating to the control by the IAEA being only one episode in the faceoff opposing the dominant powers to the Third World.
After oil, uranium
The parallel between the attitude on the part of the great powers vis-à-vis yesterday’s Iranian oil and today’s uranium is striking.
Following World War II, the Anglo-Saxons had imposed leonine contracts on Iran to extract its oil at undercut prices. They had at the same time hindered Iran from acquiring adequate refineries for oil transformation, in such a way that the Iranians were forced to import at full price the petrol that British Petroleum had produced by refining abroad the oil stolen from the Iranians.
Today, the big powers are determined to ban Iran from enriching its uranium to produce energy fuel. In practice, the country would be prevented from using its own mineral wealth and be forced to sell it at a cheap price. In 2006, the Anglo-Americans passed a resolution through the Security Council compelling Tehran to suspend its enrichment-related activities, including research and development. This was followed by their proposal to buy unrefined uranium from the Iranians and to sell enriched uranium to them in return.
Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s reaction to this blackmail was identical to that of Mohandas K. Ghandi in an analogous situation. The British prohibited the Indians from spinning their cotton. Hence, they purchased at a low price the raw material that the Indians could not make use of, selling to them at full price the fabrics made in Manchester with the cotton taken from their country. Mahatma Ghandi violated imperial law by spinning his own cotton on a rudimentary spinning wheel, which became the emblem of his political party. In equal fashion, the British imposed their monopoly on salt exploitation placing an exhorbitant tax on the product. Here again, Ghandi challenged imperial law by organising an epic march across the country to collect the salt without paying the tax. Thanks to this type of action, India recovered its economic sovereignty.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s thunderous declarations at the launching of Iran’s centrifuges should be appreciated in this context. They express Iran’s determination to exploit its own mineral resources and to secure the energy indispensable for its economic development.
As it happens, there is nothing in the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) that impedes anyone from enriching uranium
The Tehran Protocol
At the Washington summit on nuclear security (12 and 13 April 2010), Brazilian President Lula da Silva offerred his good offices to his U.S. counterpart. He enquired what measures would be needed to restore a climate of confidence and stop the spiral of Security Council resolutions.
Mr. Lula da Silva, who has set his sights on the post of UN Secretary-General, has been acting as a mediator among the various actors. Taken aback, President Obama withheld his response until his letter to Lula of 20 April , indicating that a measure like the one negotiated in November 2009, but later suspended, would serve the purpose. Iran could exchange insufficiently enriched uranium for low-enriched uranium. The exchange could be effected in a third country like Turkey, for example. Tehran would then be in a position to fuel the reactor it needs for medical purposes without having to enrich the uranium directly. Obama addressed a similar letter to his Turkish counterpart, which was however not made public.
The Brazilian President departed immediately for Moscow, where at a press conference, on 14 May 2010, President Medvedev announced that the measure was regarded as an aceptable solution also from his government’s point of view . Mr. Lula da Silva then joined the Turkish Prime Minister in Tehran to sign the awaited document with President Ahmadinejad (17 May)
Having done that, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad affirmed that, if the agreement is applied, it would not be necessary for his country to enrich uranium but that preventively, in case the Protocol is breached, his country had to learn to master the technique. Iran will therefore carry on with its research.
Doing an about face, Washington lodged a draft resolution with the Security Council, which it had negotiated in advance with the other permanent members. Following three weeks of play acting, the barely amended text was submitted to the Council for debate. For the sake of apperances, the western partners faxed their observations on the Protocol to Tehran four hours before going on stage . No longer willing to go along with a provisional agreement, they urged Iran to renounce its enrichment technique. Resolution 1929 was adopted, including by Russia and China, on 9 June .
For Brazil, Turkey, Iran and the 118 non-aligned countries in their camp, this came as a severe shock. It has thus become totally clear that what the great Powers are really seeking is not to prevent Iran from enriching uranium to manufacture bombs but to stop it from mastering the know-how that would ensure its independence.
The Repercussions of Resolution 1929
In the days that followed, the internal dissensions among Russian leaders started to seep through. A string of contradictory declarations were issued claiming and disclaiming that the embargo called for by Resolution 1929 also applied to the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles awaiting delivery. Finally, President Medvedev settled the question: the delivery of anti-aircraft weapons was suspended, implying that, from a technical point of view, a bomb attack against Iran remains on the table as a plausible military option.
Pressing ahead, Washington compounded the UN sanctions with a set of its own, and the European Union followed suit. The new dispositions aim to deprive Iran of the energy it needs for its economy and prohibit Western-based companies from delivering refined oil or any other fuel to Tehran. The first consequence of these unilateral measures was Total’s forced withdrawal from Iran. Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorin, in turn, announced that the agro-industrial companies of his country could run the risk of supplying ethanol to Iran. A cascade of desistances that spell economic disaster not only for the Iranians but for the French and Brazilians as well.
Meanwhile, the temperature in Moscow reached boiling point as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s supporters felt cheated. In their view, the sanctions against Iran were not meant to destabilise the country. They had endorsed President Dmitry Medvedev’s position of cooperating with the United Stated provided that the sanctions would be limited to those of the United Nations. Instead, they were placed before a fait accompli: the Security Council resolution served as a pretext for the unilateral measures imposed by Washington and Brussels aimed to strangle Iran. During a Senate hearing, U.S. Secretary of Denfense Robert Gates jeered at the confusion reigning at the Kremlin and its “schizophrenic approach” vis-à-vis the Iranian issue.
As for Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel zealously ordered the confiscation of the materials needed for the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant and heckled the Russian engineers in charge of assembling them. As the thermometer in Moscow kept climbing, Ambassador Churkin beseeched his Security Council partners to come to their senses.
In Beijing, the situation was just as nebulous. China agreed to vote in favour of Resolution 1929 in exchange for Washington’s abandonment of new sanctions against North Korea. Feeling incapable of defending Tehran and Pyongyang at the same time, Beijing wound up yielding ground uselessly since the United States later turned up at the G8 summit meeting in Toronto with the same reheated agenda.
In one of its declaration, the Iranian Supreme National Security Council emphasized that the UN Security Council was not competent to adopt Resolution 1929. In support, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced that his country will not apply a decision lacking a legal foundation. In concrete terms, Caracas will supply Tehran with fuel and provide the banking services that the Resolution has denied it.
Iran vented its annoyance by postponing further negotiations by one month and laying down conditions for the resumption of the talks. Reversing the mainstream rhetoric, Tehran accepts to discuss on the application of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty so as to “restore the confidence” of Western Powers provided, however, they too “restore the confidence” of Iran and the non-aligned countries in them.
To this end, President Ahmadinejad called on the negotiators to issue a statement – which in itself would not pose a problem if they are in good faith and would once and for all lift the suspicion of “double standards” – in which they would pledge to prevail upon Israel to sign the NPT (and as a consequence accept the IAEA regime of inspections as well as the principle of progressive denuclearisation) and commit themselves to applying the NPT to themselves (that is to say, embark straight away on the destruction of their stockpiles of nuclear weapons).
In the eyes of the West, this was interpreted as a delaying tactic: Tehran is posing unrealistic conditions which reveal its desire to break off negotiations. Seen from the Third World, Tehran has put its finger on the central NPT contradiction that has, for the past forty years, allowed the great powers to maintain their nuclear edge, both military and civilian, thereby dominating the rest of the world while preventing the emerging powers from joining the nuclear club.
Not surprisingly, Washington reacted by refueling the controversy. During a prime time televisión broadcast, CIA Director Leon Panetta asserted that, according to recent intelligence, Iran possesses by now enough low-enriched uranium to manufacture bombs. The accusation is completely off-the-wall considering that Iran only possesses 20% enriched uranium, while it takes up to 70 or 80% enriched uranium to develop atomic weapons. Facts and logic matter little; “might is right”.
Thirty-one years after the birth of the Islamic Revolution, Iran has consistently stayed its course. In spite of the proxy war waged against it by the super powers, and regardless of the embargos and sanctions of all kinds, it continues to challenge the architecture of international relations and to struggle for its independence and that of other nations. Looking back on the UN interventions by Iranian diplomats and leaders, one can observe Iran’s steadfast and consistent denunciations of the dominance exerted by the great powers over the rest of the world through their permanent seat and veto power at the Security Council. By the same token, one can see how the western media drummed up one smear campaign after the other to divert attention from the issues raised by the Iranian speakers.
Afin que la censure soit complète, le haut fonctionnaire français Bruno Guigne, qui s’était indigné publiquement de la présentation médiatique de cette affaire a été immédiatement relevé de ses fonctions par le président Sarkozy (lire : « Quand le lobby pro-israélien se déchaîne contre l’ONU », par Bruno Guigne, Réseau Voltaire, 24 mars 2008.
In the present context, Iran’s position on the nuclear issue remains unchanged but it has deepened. Iran advocates for a nuclear-free Middle East and Tehran has never stopped pushing for this goal which only now has been taken up by the UN notwithstanding Israel’s fierce opposition. Iran has launched various initiatives to facilitate an identity of views on the nuclear issue among Third World countries, the most recent being the International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament organised by Tehran in April 2010
The issue at stake does not concern Iran, but the refusal of the great Powers to comply with their obligation as parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: that is, to destroy forthwith their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. However, far from being oriented in this direction, the Obama administration has published its new nuclear doctrine contemplating the use of nuclear weapons not only as a retaliatory measure but for a first strike against recalcitrant non-nuclear states.