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Archive for mai, 2012

The former chief of Israel’s vaunted Mossad spy agency, Meir Dagan, has already said that he thinks “an attack on Iran before you’re exploring all other approaches is not the right way to do it.” He has spelled out some of his objections clearly, noting that he doesn’t think Israel faces any “existential threat,” that an attack would “ignite… a regional war,” and that such a strike would only delay Iran’s nuclear ambitions — not halt them.

But today, during a conference at an Israeli think tank closely associated with the country’s security establishment, Dagan further explained his opposition to a strike. He told the audience there — in line with previous U.S.U.N.and Israeli estimates that Iran has not yet made a decision to produce a weapon — that attacking Iran would spur the Islamic Republic into accelerating its nuclear program and push for a bomb. Dagan said:

A strike could accelerate the procurement of the bomb. An attack isn’t enough to stop the project. …

We would provide them with the legitimacy to achieve nuclear capabilities for military purposes.

In a sign of a consensus emerging among former top Israeli security officials, Dagan shares the newly expressed view — that attacking Iran would give the Islamic Republic every reason to boot out U.N. nuclear inspectors, make a “dash” for a weapon, and rally its population to that goal — with other former security chiefs. Former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intelligence head Shlomo Gazit and former internal security chief Yuval Diskin have expressed nearly identical sentiments. In addition, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Thomas Pickering has expressed such views as well.

A potential Iranian nuclear weapon is widely considered a threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, as well as the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The intelligence estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of pressure and diplomacy to resolve the crisis. Questions about the efficacy and consequences of a strike — not least the one raised by Dagan today — have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the “best and most permanent way” to resolve the crisis. Perhaps Dagan’s latest comments will lead to a broader discussion about the possible consequences of an attack on Iran.

http://www.lobelog.com/former-top-israeli-spy-chief-attacking-iran-‘could-accelerate-the-procurement-of-the-bomb’/

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By Pepe Escobar

Pentagon head Leon Panetta told ABC News that the US is “ready” to attack Iran. It depends on US President Barack Obama giving it a go. Will he or won’t he?

Nobel Prize winner and Drone Godfather Obama has been busy “justifying the ‘just war’ theories of Christian philosophers”, as Ray McGovern graphically put it – and as attested by the New York Times orgasmically promoting its piece “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will’.

Apparently there’s no Iranian “kill list’ so far – apart from scientists being whacked by the unsavory association of the Israeli Mossad and the Iranian Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) terrorist outfit. And there’s no evidence – yet – Obama considers attacking Iran a “just war”. On the contrary; Obama might flaunt a nuclear deal with Iran as a major foreign policy victory on the way to re-election. But – just in case – the Pentagon is keeping up the pressure.

Enrich, and you’re history
Panetta regurgitated the same old fallacy perpetrated ad infinitum, since at least 2006, by the neo-cons, the Israel lobby and US corporate media, according to which Iran is about to build a nuclear bomb like … tomorrow. “We will do everything we can to prevent Iran from developing a weapon”, Panetta said. Once again, it doesn’t matter that the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, plus 17 US intelligence agencies have stressed this is not the case.

Panetta’s move must be seen as the Pentagon preemptively bombarding the P5 + 1 talks about the Iranian nuclear program – now scheduled for a third round in Moscow on June 18. As Gareth Porter has shown, there can be no deal as long as Washington insists on absolutely ditching the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran subscribes (See US hard line in Iran talks driven by Israel, Asia Times Online, May 29, 2012). The US position amounts to never allowing Iran to even enrich uranium for civilian purposes.

Panetta also insists that the “international community’s been unified” about it. That’s nonsense. Not only the BRICS group of emerging powers but also the whole Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has insisted Iran has a right, like any other country that subscribes to the NPT, to maintain a civilian nuclear program.

Now let’s turn to the Iranian position. Iranian nuclear chief Fereydoon Abbasi said, “We have no reason to retreat from producing the 20% because we need 20% uranium just as much to meet our needs,” according to Iranian state TV.

Not only that; Iran will start building two new nuclear power plants in 2013, and its sole active nuclear reactor is now close to full production levels.

Under the NPT, a member state with a consistent civilian nuclear program essentially may also acquire a nuclear weapons capability – what is also defined as a “nuclear option”. Japan, Brazil and Argentina, for instance, all NPT member states, have maintained their “nuclear option” for decades. They could ditch the NPT and build a nuclear bomb in a few months if they wanted to. They won’t. But Washington, on a mission from God, believes Iran will.

The fact is Tehran is not doing anything illegal in its pursuit of nuclear technology. It has even agreed to talk in Baghdad about suspending its 20% uranium enrichment. But then Iranian negotiators found out in Baghdad that for the US, the red line – no enrichment at all – is definitive. At best, in exchange Iran might receive supplies of medical isotopes.

So Tehran won’t be moved from its position; it will only consider suspending its 20% enrichment if the ultra-harsh Western oil embargo plus the financial war via banking sanctions is reconsidered.

By the way, Iran’s Central Bank Governor Mahmoud Bahmani said that Tehran has already activated an alternative payment clearing system to SWIFT – thus foiling another vector of Washington’s relentless economic war. What this means is that Iran, BRICS members Russia, India and China, plus Iran’s trading partners in the developing world are moving one step beyond in their flight from the US dollar as global reserve currency.

Sanction me baby one more time 
Even in the – unlikely – possibility that the leadership in Tehran suddenly decided to stop all uranium enrichment, and kill the whole nuclear program on the spot, Iran would still be under US sanctions. The sanctions have practically nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear program. It’s all about regime change.

By 401-11, Congress in the US last Friday approved a resolution that goes even beyond “crippling” sanctions.

US sanctions are bound to remain forever unless President Obama certifies to the extremely unpopular US Congress (14% approval rate), “Iran has released all political prisoners and detainees; ceased its practices of violence and abuse of Iranian citizens engaging in peaceful political activity; conducted a transparent investigation into the killings and abuse of peaceful political activists in Iran and prosecuted those responsible; and made progress toward establishing an independent judiciary.”

There’s more; Obama also has to certify, “The government of Iran has ceased supporting acts of international terrorism and no longer satisfies certain requirements for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism; and [that] Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of nuclear, biological, chemical, and ballistic weapons.”

Into this mire of wishful thinking steps Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey. He told CNN on Monday, “the military option should be considered”. Oops, but that refers to that other war in the making – in Syria. General Dempsey said he would prefer for the “international community” to effect regime change in Syria, but – just in case – the Pentagon is ready to pounce (“Of course, we always have to provide military options.”) The NATOGCC compound is barely containing its shrieks of joy.

So what’s it all about, Barack? So many wars to choose, so little time till Re-election Day.

http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NE31Ak03.html

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Laying the Foundations for Preemptive Nuclear War Against Iran

 
 

As prospects for a preemptive strike on Iran remain ever present, the recent round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Baghdad on May 23rd, 2012 have resulted in a familiar stalemate. As a precondition for any deal to stop higher-grade uranium enrichment, Tehran requested immediate relief from economic sanctions as a show of reciprocity [1]. Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili emphasized Tehran’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while the P5+1 refused to scale back economic sanctions, insisting Iran suspend its 20% uranium enrichment program [2]. As leaders in Tel Aviv assert that Israel may conduct military strikes against Iran before the US Presidential elections in November [2], Major General Hassan Firouzabadi of the Iranian Armed Forces reiterated Iran’s commitment to the full annihilation of the Zionist regime and the continual support of Palestinian autonomy [3]. Even if Tehran reaches an agreement with the IAEA, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused to rule out a military strike against Iranian facilities, demanding that Iran dismantle its uranium enrichment sites and use only imported fuel [4]. 

Although the recent conference in Baghdad failed to meet the expectations of its participants, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have agreed to hold another round of talks in Moscow on June 18th [5]. As a further indication of division between P5+1 participants, Germany has pledged to work toward a political and diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear energy issues by providing Tehran with technical assistance in developing a peaceful nuclear program [6], while the US Senate recently approved a new round of sanctions against Iran aimed at any country or company that provides technology or resources to develop Tehran’s oil and uranium resources [7]. The new legislation targets Iran’s national oil and tanker firms and widens sanctions on Iran’s energy sector to any international joint venture where Tehran is a substantial partner or investor. As the US continually pressures Beijing to join its oil embargo, the Chinese Foreign Ministry remains vocally opposed to the new package of economic sanctions against Iran [8]. 

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich blasted the US for imposing new unilateral sanctions against Iran, describing the move as an irrational measure intended to the harm pace of negotiations [9]. India has remained adamant against expanding sanctions on Iran [10], as New Delhi and Tehran agree to increase annual bilateral trade two thirds to $25 billion by 2015, confirming their intent to bypass US sanctions by making payments for a significant portion of its oil purchases from Iran in rupees [11]. As further cooperation between the US and the Persian Gulf monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) remains evident through their unanimous support of Syria’s armed opposition, Saudi Arabia remains a major beneficiary under the continued imposition of sanctions on Tehran from Washington. Japan and South Korea once accounted for 26% of Iran’s oil exports [12], now both Seoul [13] and Tokyo [14] have sought stable supplies of crude oil from Saudi Arabia. As South Africa turns to Saudi Arabia after halting business with Iran [15], the kingdom’s crude output is at a thirty-year high [16], as shipments to the United States quietly rise to 25% [17]. 

As a result of sanctions on Iran, Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund predicts that oil prices could spike as much as 30% and hover around $160 per barrel if Iran’s crude oil exports fell sharply [18]. As Iranian production hits a ten-year low as of March 2012, industry-wide fears of a recession-fueled fall in demand have prompted the reduction of total world oil production through the imposition of embargoes on Iranian oil; higher prices triggered by a supply squeeze from the sanctions work to further benefit international oil companies and producers like Saudi Arabia [19]. In March 2012, the US granted Japan and 10 EU nations a six-month reprieve to gradually cut their imports of Iranian oil, lest they be subjected to their own financial sanctions and cut off from the US financial system [20]. Under the 2012 US National Defense Authorization Act, Barack Obama can impose financial sanctions on foreign banks that carry out financial transactions with Iran’s central bank “for the purchase of petroleum or petroleum products from Iran” [21]. 

Given the fragile state of the European economy, the further implementation of financial sanctions on nations who fail to comply with the oil embargo on Iran is thoroughly unreasonable, with entirely negative implications for the European Union. Any further escalation of tensions with Iran would likely trigger inflated oil prices, which could further cripple the unstable economies of Greece and Portugal and potentially lead to those nations leaving the European Union. Despite Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi downplaying the negative effects of sanctions [22], inflation is soaring within Iran as the cost of food increases between 25% to 125%, with 60% of the population relying on cash subsidies handed out by Tehran [23]. Iran’s budget deficit for the 2011/2012 fiscal year is expected to be between $30 to $50 billion, as the Iranian rial continues to plunge after the imposition of the oil embargo, causing widespread panic buying of gold among the Iranian public [24]. 

As commodity prices in Iran continue to skyrocket, former Mossad director Efraim Halevy remarked, “The rial is going down, it’s gone down by over 50 percent. It’s almost impossible to describe the damage done,” while former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami forewarns, “When a national currency loses 50% of its value in a matter of weeks, economic collapse is at hand.” [25][26]. As Iran struggled to replace it’s client base following the imposition of US-led economic sanctions, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz spoke before the Israeli cabinet predicting the collapse of the Iranian economy [27]. Haaretz reports the remarks of an unnamed senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, “These aren’t sanctions against Iran. Instead, they are sanctions imposed by the West to curb Israel’s attack plans, had Israel not spoken out about its intention to attack, none of this would be happening. The Iranians are frightened. You have to understand what’s going on there in stores; citizens grab food off the shelves because they are worried about an impending attack. Inflation is soaring and the currency has lost half its value. All this attests to fear.” [28] 

As the black market in Iran expands amid an increasing lack of public confidence in the rial, the role of the state is indirectly strengthened because smuggling imports requires strong connections within the regime, leaving the poor and lower middle class susceptible to poverty while the officials being targeted by sanctions themselves benefit from the embargo [29]. The fact that Obama administration chose to preemptively impose sanctions on Iran before the P5+1 meeting in Baghdad even took place indicates that the objective of US-Israeli policy toward Iran seeks not mutual agreement and reconciliation, but the further perpetuation of conflict to ensure that the question of Iran’s nuclear energy issue remains unsolved. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the scope for sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program had been exhausted and any additional measures were intended to provoke discontent in the Iranian population [30]. 

As the United States and its allies offer unflinching support to armed opposition groups under cover of “democratic activism” in non-acquiescent countries in the region, any popular revolution in Iran would unquestionably be supported and used to pressure the government from within, even using the opportunity to launch an armed opposition insurrection. An articled published in The New Yorker by Seymour M. Hersh entitled, “Our Men in Iran?,” documents how members of Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident group and US State Department-listed terrorist organization, were trained in communications, cryptography, small-unit tactics and weaponry by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at a base in Nevada starting in 2005 [31]. JSOC instructed MEK operatives on how to penetrate major Iranian communications systems, allowing the group to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran for the purpose of sharing them with American intelligence. The group has been implicated in the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists [32] and the planting of the Stuxnet malware that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz [33]. 

MEK was founded in 1965 as a Marxist Islamic mass political movement aimed at agitating the monarchy of the US-backed Iranian Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The group initially sided with revolutionary clerics led by Ayatollah Khomeini following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but eventually turned away from the regime during a power struggle that resulted in the group waging urban guerilla warfare against Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1981. The organization was later given refuge by Saddam Hussein and mounted attacks on Iran from within Iraqi territory, killing an estimated 17,000 Iranian nationals in the process [34]. MEK exists as the main component of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a “coalition of democratic Iranian organizations, groups and personalities,” calling itself a “parliament-in-exile” seeking to “establish a democratic, secular and coalition government” in Iran [35]. Following the toppling of Saddam Hussein, UN special representative in Iraq Martin Kobler organized efforts to relocate MEK insurgents to a former US military base near the Baghdad airport, with the full support of the US Embassy in Iraq and the State Department to avoid violent clashes between the MEK and the Shiite-led Iraqi government [36]. 

MEK has long received material assistance from Israel, who assisted the organization with broadcasting into Iran from their political base in Paris, while the MEK and NCRI have reportedly provided the United States with intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. Despite the documented cases of atrocities committed by MEK forces, elder statesmen such as former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley K. Clark, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former 9/11 Commission Chairman Lee Hamilton were paid $20,000 to $30,000 per engagement to endorse the removal of the Mujahideen-e Khalq from the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations [37]. NBC News reports that Israel provided financing, training and arms to Mujahideen-e Khalq, who are responsible for killing five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 using motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars [38]. A recent investigation by the US Treasury Department has indicated that Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization is financially sponsored by the Israeli regime and Saudi Arabia [39].
 
Upon launching a war against Iran, aggressor nations would likely utilize MEK forces as opposition insurgents and could even recognize the touted “parliament-in-exile”, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, as Iran’s legitimate representative, much like the how the Friends of Syria group has recognized the opposition Syrian National Council [40]. From her political base in Paris, exiled NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi is a strong candidate for Western support in contrast to internal opposition figures such as Mir-Hossein Mousavi, former Iranian Prime Minister turned political reformist and figurehead of the Green Movement demonstrations in 2009 following the victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in elections widely perceived as a fraudulent [41]. Although Mousavi has advocated greater personal freedoms in Iran and the disbanding of religious police enforcers, he is a strong advocate of Iran’s nuclear energy program and would likely never yield the kind of acquiescence to Western policy that exiled figures such as Maryam Rajavi would uphold in exchange for political support and material assistance [42]. It is widely believed that Mousavi is currently held under house arrest without an arrest warrant, charge or trial [43]. 

While figures such as Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi publically renounce nuclear weapons [44], Iranian scientists claim to be enriching uranium to 20% to develop radiopharmaceuticals and industrial isotopes under the supervision of the IAEA inspectors [45]. On October 1, 2010, the IAEA proposed a deal according to which Iran would send 3.5% enriched uranium abroad and receive 20% enriched uranium from potential suppliers in return, namely France and the United States, who Tehran accused of stalling negotiations from the start [46]. Tehran was offered a deal at a time when its supplies of 20% enriched uranium were nearly depleted, however Iranian lawmakers rejected the deal after technical studies showed that it would only take two to three months for any country to further enrich the nuclear stockpile and turn it into metal nuclear plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, while suppliers had announced that they would not return fuel to Iran in any time less than seven months [47]. 

Iran has made efforts to ensure the transparency of its nuclear program by allowing IAEA probes to inspect Iranian sites such as the Parchin military complex where the agency has reported suspicious activities in the past [48]. The IAEA’s recent discovery of traces of uranium enriched up to 27% at Iran’s Fordo enrichment plant sparked controversy, although the enrichment figure is still substantially below the 90% level needed to make the fissile core required in nuclear arms; officials conceded that the likely explanation for the increased level of enrichment was attributed to centrifuges initially over-enriching at the start as technicians adjusted their output [49]. It should be noted that former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Hans Blix has challenged the IAEA’s own reports on Iran’s nuclear activities, accusing the agency of relying on unverified intelligence from the US and Israel [50]; the IAEA’s most recent report cited Tehran’s progress toward enrichment technology with complete cooperation with the agency and confirms the non-weaponized status of Iranian nuclear activities [51]. 

Clinton Bastin, former director of US nuclear weapons production programs, has sent an open letter to President Obama regarding the status of Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear weapons [52]. Bastin reiterates, “The ultimate product of Iran’s gas centrifuge facilities would be highly enriched uranium hexafluoride, a gas that cannot be used to make a weapon. Converting the gas to metal, fabricating components and assembling them with high explosives using dangerous and difficult technology that has never been used in Iran would take many years after a diversion of three tons of low enriched uranium gas from fully safeguarded inventories. The resulting weapon, if intended for delivery by missile, would have a yield equivalent to that of a kiloton of conventional high explosives” [53]. The US-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has recently released claims that Iran’s total production of enriched uranium over the past five years would be enough for at least five nuclear weapons stating, “This total amount of 3.5 percent low enriched uranium hexafluoride, if further enriched to weapon grade, is enough to make over five nuclear weapons.” [54] 

Bastin’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear program further emphasizes the impracticality of weaponizing the hexafluoride product of Tehran’s gas-centrifuges, as the resulting deterrent would yield the equivalent explosive capacity equal to a kiloton of conventional explosives, producing a highly inefficient nuclear weapon. If Iran chose to produce nuclear weapons in this way, it would take several years to reach the 90% enrichment levels needed for a nuclear deterrent; Iran has complied with the IAEA and the United Nations on this issue and there is no substantial evidence indicating that Tehran has any intention of enriching uranium to 90% for the purpose of creating nuclear weapons. On March 23rd, 2012, Reuters released a special report entitled, “Intel shows Iran nuclear threat not imminent”, concluding that the United States, its European allies and even Israel agree that Tehran does not have a bomb, it has not decided to build one, and it is years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead [55]. As the West continually implements an unyielding regime of sanctions against Iran when they themselves acknowledge the civilian nature of the Iranian nuclear program, the overwhelming motive behind their actions to pressure Iran into full-scale war on an unprecedented scale is self-evident. 

The United States has produced more than 70,000 nuclear weapons between 1951 and 1998 [56], while Israel possess a nuclear weapons stockpile ranging from 75 to 400 warheads [57]. While the hazardous ramifications of Iran’s nuclear development pervade public consciousness, the fact that US legal doctrine has worked to further blur the line between conventional and nuclear warfare remains rarely acknowledged. The March 2005 Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations released by the Joint Chiefs of Staff envisages “contingency plans” for an offensive first strike use of nuclear weapons against both Iran and North Korea, providing the legal mandate to carry out pre-emptive nuclear war, both in terms of military planning as well as defense procurement and production [58] The 2002 adoption of the Pentagon’s 2001 Nuclear Posture Review by the US Congress marked the cease of prohibition on low yield nuclear weapons and provided funding allocations to pursue the development of tactical nuclear weapons, such as bunker buster (earth penetrator) mini-nukes [59]. 

The revised Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (March 2005) envisaged five scenarios where “the use of nuclear weapons might be requested,” namely, “to attack adversary installations including weapons of mass destruction, deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons, or the command and control infrastructure required for the adversary to execute a WMD attack against the United States or its friends and allies” and “to counter potentially overwhelming adversary conventional forces”. The doctrine further cites, “Responsible security planning requires preparation for threats that are possible, though perhaps unlikely today. The lessons of military history remain clear: unpredictable, irrational conflicts occur. Military forces must prepare to counter weapons and capabilities that exist in the near term even if no immediate likely scenarios for war are at hand. To maximize deterrence of WMD use, it is essential US forces prepare to use nuclear weapons effectively and that US forces are determined to employ nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use” [60]. 

The possibility of nuclear strikes against Iran pose staggeringly frightening implications for the human family, as the very nations crying foul about the danger of nuclear weapons have prepared the legal infrastructure to use them against others, preemptively. While trust towards the Iranian regime remains questionable among segments of the Iranian population and the international community, Tehran has complied with the IAEA and no evidence exists to implicate Iran with constructing a nuclear weapon. While the fiery rhetoric of Iranian and Israeli officials remains entirely counterproductive, Tel Aviv has shown the least initiative to constructively partake in diplomacy with Iran, as top Israeli officials refuse to even meet with US envoy to the P5+1, Wendy Sherman, who reportedly was sent to Tel Aviv to “reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security” [61]. As Israel aggressively employs an apartheid policy domestically, nuclear-armed Tel Aviv boasts its right to strike Iran without consent from any other nation [62]. As our species approaches the increasingly dangerous crossroads of the 21st Century, nations such as Germany, Russia, India and China must utilize their collective influence and technology to mediate this impending security crisis in the Middle East. 

Although Iran has asserted its right to develop peaceful nuclear technology as a signatory to the nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty, its uranium-based fuel has wrought negative and inaccurate accusations regarding Tehran’s intentions to weaponize. To ensure the further deflection of erroneous accusations, Iran can truly make an example of itself by phasing out uranium-based nuclear technology and shifting to a liquid fuel based on molten-fluoride salts used in Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) nuclear technology powered by thorium, an obscure, mildly radioactive metal produced as a waste product from the mining of rare earth minerals. Thorium is plentiful, easily accessible and energy dense, a metric ton produces as much energy as 200 tons of uranium, or 3,500,000 ton of coal [63]. Thorium-based reactors consume their own hazardous waste and would serve Iran’s internal needs far more effectively than its current technology. As a nuclear fuel, thorium is both cleaner and safer than uranium and produces benign alpha radiation, unable to even penetrate skin [64]. 

The governments of China [65] and India [66] have expressed great interest in further developing thorium molten-salt reactor technology. Iran holds 9% of the world’s oil reserves and 17% of its natural gas reserves; the abundant supply of fossil fuel resources has indirectly discouraged the pursuit of alternative renewable energy sources [67]. Iran has enormous potential as a producer of geothermal energy, particularly in the provinces of Azerbaijan and Tehran [68]. There is no shortage of solutions to the current problems faced by the international community in its efforts to oversee peaceful energy technology in Iran. China, Germany and India could share their growing technical expertise with Iran to develop energy solutions that can never be used as a pretext for external military strikes. No credible basis exists to warrant the implementation of economic sanctions against Iran, which are ostensibly in place to coax social unrest and collapse the Iranian economy. 

For all the belligerence exuded by the current Iranian regime, the unwavering aggressive it receives from outside forces does nothing to offer the people of Iran any tangible solutions to better themselves and their standard of living. Although the further application of sanctions will inevitably have damaging effects on Tehran, inflated oil price fluctuations have the potential to fracture the fledging austerity-states of the European Union. The failure of emerging markets to adhere to full embargoes on Iran once they come into effect would send a strong message to the architects of such disastrous policy. As nations such as China and Russia acknowledge the imbalanced nature of power in the Security Council and the aggressive stance of the United States and Israel, these nations can best utilize their power by offering technological and diplomatic solutions to avert the detrimental social, economic and spiritual consequences of war. 

Notes: 
[1] Iran accuses world powers of creating ‘difficult atmosphere’ in nuclear talks, Haaretz, May 24, 2012 

[2] Iran claims ‘undeniable right’ to enrich Uranium: new talks, same deadlock, Russia Today, May 25, 2012 

[3] Israel takes back promise to Obama not to attack Iran before the election, Russia Today, May 24, 2012 

[4] Top Commander Reiterates Iran’s Commitment to Full Annihilation of Israel, FARS, May 20, 2012 

[5] Deal or no deal, Iran may be bombed – Israeli minister, Russia Today, May 23, 2012 

[6] Germany Ready to Find Diplomatic Solution to Iran’s N. Issue, FARS, May 25, 2012 

[7] US Senate approves sanctions against Iran, New Straits Times, May 22, 2012 

[8] China slams new US sanctions against Iran, PressTV, May 23, 2012 

[9] Moscow Raps US New Sanctions against Iran as Irrational Move, FARS, May 25, 2012 

[10] India against more sanctions on Iran, The Hindu, February 11, 2012 

[11] India, Iran look at $25 billion trade by 2015, The Economic Times, March 12, 2012 

[12] Japan to reduce oil imports, BBC, January 12, 2012 

[13] Saudi oil minister pledges Seoul stable crude supply, The Korea Herald, February 3, 2012 

[14] Japan to seek stable oil supply from Saudi Arabia, Reuters, May 7, 2012 

[15] South Africa Engen buys Saudi crude to replace Iranian supplies, Al Arabiya, May 9, 2012 

[16] Saudi Arabia says kingdom pumping 10 million bpd, the most in 5 months, Al Arabiya, May 8, 2012 

[17] Exclusive: Iran sanctions seen spurring more Saudi oil sales to U.S.Reuters, March 16, 2012 

[18] Iran: Meetings with IAEA Head Paves Way for Negotiations with 5+1, FARS, May 24, 2012 

[19] Turkey cuts 20% of oil purchases from Iran, Financial Times, March 30, 2012 

[20] U.S. exempts 11 states from Iran sanctions; China, India exposed, Reuters, March 21, 2012 

[21] Ibid 

[22] Iranian Minister Blames EU Sanctions for Hike in Oil Prices, FARS, March 25, 2012 

[23] No One Can Afford Another Round of Iran Sanctions, OilPrice, May 21, 2012 

[24] Iran raises interest rate on bank deposits, Financial Times, January 27, 2012 

[25] Warning Iran, and lacerating Mitt Romney, a former Mossad chief steps out of the shadows, The Times of Israel, March 28, 2012 

[26] Iran’s Nuclear Grass Eaters, Project Syndicate, April 4, 2012 

[27] Steinitz: SWIFT sanctions may lead to Iran’s economic collapse, YNET News, March 18, 2012 

[28] Israeli threats of attack sparked new wave of Iran sanctions, officials say, Haaretz, March 16, 2012 

[29] Iran’s Middle Class on Edge as World Presses In, The New York Times, February 6, 2012 

[30] Q&A: Iran sanctions, BBC, February 6, 2012 

[31] Our Men in Iran? The New Yorker, April 6, 2012 

[32] Israel teams with terror group to kill Iran’s nuclear scientists, U.S. officials tell NBC News, MSNBC, February 9, 2012 

[33] Stuxnet Loaded by Iran Double Agents, ISSSource, April 11, 2012 

[34] Moqtada Sadr Reiterates Iraqis’ Demand for Expulsion of MKO Terrorists, Fars News Agency, September 19, 2011 

[35] About the National Council of Resistance of Iran, The National Council of Resistance of Iran, 2010 

[36] Are the MEK’s U.S. friends its worst enemies? Foreign Policy, March 8, 2012 

[37] Mujahideen-e Khalq: Former U.S. Officials Make Millions Advocating For Terrorist Organization, Huffington Post, August 8, 2011 

[38] Israel teams with terror group to kill Iran’s nuclear scientists, U.S. officials tell NBC News, MSNBC, February 9, 2012 

[39] Israel funds terrorist MKO: Investigation, PressTV, May 24, 2012 

[40] Friends of Syria recognize SNC as ‘legitimate representative’, Russia Today, April 1, 2012 

[41] Iran’s supreme leader orders investigation into claims of vote fraud, Xinhua, June 15, 2009 

[42] Iran’s presidential candidates, BBC, June 12, 2009 

[43] Iran: Further information: Opposition leaders arbitrarily held, Amnesty International, 2011 

[44] Iran: We do not want nuclear weapons, The Washington Post, April 13, 2012 

[45] Iranian Experts Place Fuel Plates into Heart of Tehran Research Reactor, FARS, May 23, 2012 

[46] Ibid 

[47] Ibid 

[48] UN nuclear chief: Deal reached on Iran probe, Russia Today, May 22, 2012 

[49] Traces of uranium enriched to higher than previous levels found at Iran site, Haaretz, May 25, 2012 

[50] Blix: US, Israel source most of IAEA allegations, PressTV, March 25, 2012 

[51] Envoy: UN Atomic Report Endorses Peaceful Nature of Iran’s N. Activities, FARS, May 26, 2012 

[52] Iran has a Nuclear Power, Not a Weapons Program, 21st Century & Technology, December 2, 2011 

[53] Top US Nuclear Expert Tells Obama: There Is No Weapons Threat From Iran, LaRouche Pac, February 25, 2012 

[54] ‘Iran has enough enriched uranium for 5 nuclear bombs’ The Times of India, May 26, 2012 

[55] SPECIAL REPORT-Intel shows Iran nuclear threat not imminent, Reuters, March 23, 2012 

[56] 50 Facts About U.S. Nuclear Weapons, Brookings Institute, August 1998 

[57] Nuclear Weapons – Israel, Federation of American Scientists, January 8, 2007 

[58] Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, Joint Chiefs of Staff, March 2005 

[59] Ibid 

[60] Ibid 

[61] U.S. sends senior envoy to Israel to brief government on Iran nuclear talks, Haaretz, May 25, 2012 

[62] Bad news unwelcome: Israel refuses to listen to US envoy’s report on Iran, Russia Today, May 26, 2012 

[63] How Iran can have nuclear power and the world can have peace, Russia Today, May 07, 2012 

[64] Thorium: How to save Europe’s nuclear revival, Centre for European Reform, June 2011 

[65] India plans ‘safer’ nuclear plant powered by thorium, The Guardian, November 1, 2011 

[67] Renewable energy in Iran: Challenges and opportunities for sustainable development, International Journal of Environmental Science & Technology, Spring 2004 

[68] Status of Geothermal Energy in Iran, 19th World Energy Congress, September 2004 

 

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Analysis by Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2012 (IPS) – Negotiations between Iran and the United States and other members of the P5+1 group in Baghdad ended in fundamental disagreement Thursday over the position of the P5+1 offering no relief from sanctions against Iran.

The two sides agreed to meet again in Moscow Jun. 18 and 19, but only after Iran had threatened not to schedule another meeting, because the P5+1 had originally failed to respond properly to its five-point plan. 

The prospects for agreement are not likely to improve before that meeting, however, mainly because of an inflexible U.S. diplomatic posture that reflects President Barack Obama’s need to bow to the demands of Israel and the U.S. Congress on Iran policy. 

The U.S. hard line in the Baghdad talks and the failure to set the stage for an early agreement with Iran means that Iran will not only increase but accelerate its accumulation of 20-percent enriched uranium, which has been the ostensible reason for wanting to get Iran to the negotiating table quickly. 

Iran’s enrichment to 20 percent, which Tehran has justified over the past two years as needed by its Tehran Research Reactor to produce medical isotopes, can be turned into high enriched uranium more quickly than the 3.5 percent enriched uranium for Iran’s nuclear power programme.

But although Iran has let it be known that it is open to making a deal to end its 20 percent enrichment and even to let go of its stockpile if offered the right incentive, the Obama administration has opted not to go for such a deal by refusing to offer any corresponding reduction in sanctions. 

The U.S. demand for the closure of the Fordow facility, which is now under surveillance by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was a direct response to pressure from Israel. Prime Minister Benjamen Netanyahu declared that demand one of his “benchmarks” for the talks on Mar. 2. 

In discussions with the U.S. in late March, Defence Minister Ehud Barak insisted on the closure of Fordow as one of the Israeli demands, as he revealed Apr. 4. That was a quid pro quo for Israeli acceptance of a focus in the first stage on halting Iran’s uranium enrichment to 20 percent rather than demanding an end to all uranium enrichment, as Reuters reported Apr. 4. 

That agreement clearly implied that the Obama administration would do nothing to dismantle any sanctions against Iran unless Iran ended all uranium enrichment. 

The administration’s refusal to entertain any removal of sanctions as part of its diplomatic strategy with Iran also recognised the fact that it would have to pay a steep political price merely to request any change in sanctions legislation and would be unlikely to prevail over the deeply entrenched interests of Israel in both houses. 

After being lobbied by 12,000 activists attending the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March, the House of Representatives passed a resolution demanding a policy of preventing Iran from having a “nuclear weapons capability” by a vote of 401-11. 

The U.S. understandings with Israel were sharply at odds with a deal with Iran based on a “step by step” approach which had been proposed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Under that approach, each move by Iran to satisfy Western concerns about its nuclear programme should be rewarded by a relaxation of sanctions. 

As Michael Adler revealed in The Daily Beast Mar. 7, however, the Obama administration was unwilling to reduce sanctions gradually as the Russians wanted. Adler’s account implied that it could only come at the end of the process in response to a complete suspension of all uranium enrichment by Iran as a “confidence building measure”. 

For Iran, 20 percent enrichment has been largely an exercise in increasing its bargaining leverage with the United States by creating a level of enrichment that the U.S has said is threatening. 

Iran has made a series of policy statements since it began that enrichment suggesting that the objective has been to trade those bargaining chips for negotiating concessions that would benefit Iran – mainly moves to reduce sanctions and the recognition of its right to enrich. 

The demand that the 20 percent enrichment be ended and that Fordow facility be closed without any easing of economic sanctions would represent a double diplomatic defeat which Iran has strenuously rejected. 

“Giving up 20 percent enrichment levels in return for plane spare parts is a joke,” Iranian analyst Hasan Abadini was quoted as saying. 

There was some discussion before the Baghdad meeting, initiated by Europeans, of at least offering to suspend a European ban on insuring oil tankers, which threatens some of Iran’s oil trade with Asian countries, in conjunction with a deal, according to the New York Times May 18. But that was evidently rejected by Washington. 

The U.S. rejection of the “step by step” approach in favour of a stance that leans heavily toward Israeli preferences leads to apparent contradictions in U.S. policy. 

That stance is sharply at odds with the official U.S. stance suggesting ending Iran’s 20 percent enrichment is an urgent requirement. A senior U.S. official was quoted by Associated Press Thursday as saying, “We are urgent about this, because every day we don’t figure this out, they keep going forward with a nuclear program.” 

The contradiction was further highlighted by reports that Iran is further increasing its capability for 20 percent enrichment at the Fordow facility. A Reuters story from Vienna Thursday said that Iran may have already put 350 more centrifuges into Fordow since February, on top of the almost 700 already operating there. 

Associated Press reported a senior U.S. official in Baghdad explaining that sanctions were likely to increase the pressure on Iran to agree to U.S. terms in the next round of talks. “Maximum pressure is not yet being felt by Iran,” the official was quoted as saying. 

But few diplomatic observers believe that Iran’s Supreme Leader, who makes the crucial decisions, could afford to bow to the U.S. demands as presented in Baghdad. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. strategy of drawing out the talks to wait for the impact of sanctions to work on the Iranians allows Iran to continue adding “facts on the ground”. 

Ironically, U.S. strategists have argued publicly in the past that Iran was using negotiations to “play for time” while it increased its nuclear capabilities. 

In another seeming contradiction between U.S. diplomatic posture and its declared interest in ensuring that Iran prove the non-military character of its nuclear programme, U.S. officials dismissed as irrelevant the news that Iran and IAEA Director General Yukia Amano are close to an agreement on the terms of Iranian cooperation in clarifying allegations of past nuclear weapons work. 

A “senior U.S. official” said the United States welcomed the signs of progress, but then carefully differentiated the purpose of the P5+1 negotiations and those of the IAEA, according to Al-monitor May 22. 

“The IAEA is about accounting for the past and for naming what is,” the official explained. “It is not about what is the nature of Iran’s nuclear program and what will Iran’s nuclear program look like going forward, and will it be peaceful.” 

That statement abruptly reversed previous U.S. insistence that Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA represented a central element in a diplomatic settlement of the conflict over Iran’s nuclear programme. 

The idea that U.S. negotiations with Iran would not be affected by whatever it did to prove allegations of past nuclear weapons work wrong implies that Washington is firmly committed to its present diplomatic course mainly in order to placate Israel and the U.S. Congress. 

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006. 

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=107920

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Why NATO Targets Syria and Iran?
Geopolitical notes from India

By M D Nalapat

May 27, 2012 “Information Clearing House” — The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukio Amano, follows UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s policy of supporting whatever it is that the NATO powers want. In both their home countries, Japan and South Korea, NATO – in the shape of the US military – has been a benign force, defending them against attack by hostile powers. The NATO experience in East Asia has been much less negative for domestic populations than that in West Asia,while South Asia stands in between, except for Afghanistan, where NATO negativism has resulted in the revival of the Taliban and the weakening of forces that could be expected to defend the country against another takeover by the rag-tag militia that is creating panic in NATO headquarters.

Since the past decade, NATO has waged open war in order to alter the status quo. Its battles are not in furtherance of democracy, for it needs to be remembered that locations such as Qatar and Bahrain, where substantial numbers of NATO troops are based, are far from democratic in their governance. However, thus far, neither Barack Obama nor David Cameron have given any indication of noticing this fact. Instead, they turned their attention first to Iraq and thence to Libya and now Syria, with Iran a permanent target of war plans. After the occupation of Iraq in 2003 and the execution of Saddam Hussein, what was behind the NATO-assisted removal of the Muammar Kaddafy regime? Although BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera pretended that the uprising was entirely local, now the world knows that special forces from several countries got inserted to Libya and played the dominant role in the defeat of forces loyal to Kaddafy. Neighbouring countries provided weapons,money and training to mercenaries who were inserted into Libya throughout 2011,until the fall of Tripoli Conspiracy theorists claim that Goege W Bush and his “Executive President” Dick Cheney invaded Iraq in order to teach Saddam Hussein a lesson for seeking to assasinate the then US President’s father. George H W Bush was a good leader,although – like Lyndon Johnson before him – given much less credit by commentators than he merited.

However,it was not for him that Iraq was invaded.Rather,the common link between Saddam Hussein,Muammar Kaddafy,Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is that all four are opposed to the monarchies that rule the wealthy nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council. EliminatingSaddam would,it was calculated,strengthen the position of the GCC and other monarchies. It is no accident that while republican Egypt and Tunisia have undergone changes in the Head of State,the same has not taken place in Jordan and Morocco,both of which are monarchies It needs to be admitted that NATO has stood by its friends in West Asia and North Africa,namely the monarchies. After having taken out Saddam Hussein,another anti-monarchist,Muammar Kaddafy,was dealt within the same way,while a similar fate has been planned for Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Once the last two anti-monarchial Heads of State join Saddam and Kaddafy, NATO believes that their royal friends in the region will be secure,even if there be some public protest,asin Bahrain and Jordan. And their royal friends have stood by the NATO member-states,often at huge financial cost.During the 2008 economic meltdown caused by the greed of NATO-based financial institutions, investors (both public and private) within the GCC lost more than $1.3 trillion,through no fault of theirs.Despite this,they are still holding nearly $4 trillion in the same financial institutions that have been shown to be unreliable.Should the inevitable fall of Greece and Spain be followed by the collapse of Italy and France, GCC investors alone stand to lose $2.1 trillion dollars in financial assets. Despite the rising risk of a repeat of the 2008 meltdown,GCC investors are continuing to keep almost all their funds in financial institutions situated in NATO member-states.

It is this loyalty to the members of NATO that is being rewarded by the military alliance going to battle to rid the region of the principal anti-monarchial regimes there. A fallout of the tension that such a policy by NATO creates is a steady rise in oil prices.Rather than $30,which is the natural price of crude oil given supply and technological potentialities,it is still about $100 a barrel,entirely because of the tension created by NATO policy towards anti-monarchial regimes in West Asia,principally Iran. Such a spike in oil prices rewards companies based in NATO capitals,as well as the monarchies.

Even better,it slows down growth in China, thereby preventing that country from overtaking the US. It slows down growth in India as well, but Delhi is collateral damage. The real target of artificially high oil prices is Beijing. Given such geopolitical realities as the need for NATO-based financial institutions to retain the immense deposits made in them by GCC investors, and the negative impact on China of rising oil prices,it would be futile to expect a breakthrough in the Baghdad talks on the Iranian nuclear program. The pressure on Syria and Iran will continue, until NATO’s mission to rid the globe of key anti-monarchy regimes gets fulfilled.

The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

This this article was first published at Pakistan Observer

© Pakistan Observer

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Nile Bowie, Contributor

Activist Post

As prospects for a preemptive strike on Iran remain ever present, the recent round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran in Baghdad on May 23rd, 2012 have resulted in a familiar stalemate. As a precondition for any deal to stop higher-grade uranium enrichment, Tehran requested immediate relief from economic sanctions as a show of reciprocity [1]. Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili emphasized Tehran’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while the P5+1 refused to scale back economic sanctions, insisting Iran suspend its 20% uranium enrichment program [2].

As leaders in Tel Aviv assert that Israel may conduct military strikes against Iran before the US Presidential elections in November [2], Major General Hassan Firouzabadi of the Iranian Armed Forces reiterated Iran’s commitment to the full annihilation of the Zionist regime and the continual support of Palestinian autonomy [3]. Even if Tehran reaches an agreement with the IAEA, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused to rule out a military strike against Iranian facilities, demanding that Iran dismantle its uranium enrichment sites and use only imported fuel [4]. 

Although the recent conference in Baghdad failed to meet the expectations of its participants, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have agreed to hold another round of talks in Moscow on June 18th [5]. As a further indication of division between P5+1 participants, Germany has pledged to work toward a political and diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear energy issues by providing Tehran with technical assistance in developing a peaceful nuclear program [6], while the US Senate recently approved a new round of sanctions against Iran aimed at any country or company that provides technology or resources to develop Tehran’s oil and uranium resources [7].

The new legislation targets Iran’s national oil and tanker firms and widens sanctions on Iran’s energy sector to any international joint venture where Tehran is a substantial partner or investor. As the US continually pressures Beijing to join its oil embargo, the Chinese Foreign Ministry remains vocally opposed to the new package of economic sanctions against Iran [8]. 

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich blasted the US for imposing new unilateral sanctions against Iran, describing the move as an irrational measure intended to the harm pace of negotiations [9].

India has remained adamant against expanding sanctions on Iran [10], as New Delhi and Tehran agree to increase annual bilateral trade two thirds to $25 billion by 2015, confirming their intent to bypass US sanctions by making payments for a significant portion of its oil purchases from Iran in rupees [11].

As further cooperation between the US and the Persian Gulf monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) remains evident through their unanimous support of Syria’s armed opposition, Saudi Arabia remains a major beneficiary under the continued imposition of sanctions on Tehran from Washington. Japan and South Korea once accounted for 26% of Iran’s oil exports [12], now both Seoul [13] and Tokyo [14] have sought stable supplies of crude oil from Saudi Arabia. As South Africa turns to Saudi Arabia after halting business with Iran [15], the kingdom’s crude output is at a thirty-year high [16], as shipments to the United States quietly rise to 25% [17]. 

As a result of sanctions on Iran, Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund predicts that oil prices could spike as much as 30% and hover around $160 per barrel if Iran’s crude oil exports fell sharply [18].

As Iranian production hits a ten-year low as of March 2012, industry-wide fears of a recession-fueled fall in demand have prompted the reduction of total world oil production through the imposition of embargoes on Iranian oil; higher prices triggered by a supply squeeze from the sanctions work to further benefit international oil companies and producers like Saudi Arabia [19].

In March 2012, the US granted Japan and 10 EU nations a six-month reprieve to gradually cut their imports of Iranian oil, lest they be subjected to their own financial sanctions and cut off from the US financial system [20]. Under the 2012 US National Defense Authorization Act, Barack Obama can impose financial sanctions on foreign banks that carry out financial transactions with Iran’s central bank “for the purchase of petroleum or petroleum products from Iran” [21]. 

Given the fragile state of the European economy, the further implementation of financial sanctions on nations who fail to comply with the oil embargo on Iran is thoroughly unreasonable, with entirely negative implications for the European Union. Any further escalation of tensions with Iran would likely trigger inflated oil prices, which could further cripple the unstable economies of Greece and Portugal and potentially lead to those nations leaving the European Union. Despite Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi downplaying the negative effects of sanctions [22], inflation is soaring within Iran as the cost of food increases between 25% to 125%, with 60% of the population relying on cash subsidies handed out by Tehran [23].

Iran’s budget deficit for the 2011/2012 fiscal year is expected to be between $30 to $50 billion, as the Iranian rial continues to plunge after the imposition of the oil embargo, causing widespread panic buying of gold among the Iranian public [24]. 

As commodity prices in Iran continue to skyrocket, former Mossad director Efraim Halevy remarked, “The rial is going down, it’s gone down by over 50 percent. It’s almost impossible to describe the damage done,” while former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami forewarns, “When a national currency loses 50% of its value in a matter of weeks, economic collapse is at hand.” [25][26]. As Iran struggled to replace it’s client base following the imposition of US-led economic sanctions, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz spoke before the Israeli cabinet predicting the collapse of the Iranian economy [27]. Haaretz reports the remarks of an unnamed senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, “These aren’t sanctions against Iran. Instead, they are sanctions imposed by the West to curb Israel’s attack plans, had Israel not spoken out about its intention to attack, none of this would be happening. The Iranians are frightened. You have to understand what’s going on there in stores; citizens grab food off the shelves because they are worried about an impending attack. Inflation is soaring and the currency has lost half its value. All this attests to fear.” [28] 

As the black market in Iran expands amid an increasing lack of public confidence in the rial, the role of the state is indirectly strengthened because smuggling imports requires strong connections within the regime, leaving the poor and lower middle class susceptible to poverty while the officials being targeted by sanctions themselves benefit from the embargo [29]. The fact that Obama administration chose to preemptively impose sanctions on Iran before the P5+1 meeting in Baghdad even took place indicates that the objective of US-Israeli policy toward Iran seeks not mutual agreement and reconciliation, but the further perpetuation of conflict to ensure that the question of Iran’s nuclear energy issue remains unsolved. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the scope for sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program had been exhausted and any additional measures were intended to provoke discontent in the Iranian population [30]. 

 
As the United States and its allies offer unflinching support to armed opposition groups under cover of “democratic activism” in non-acquiescent countries in the region, any popular revolution in Iran would unquestionably be supported and used to pressure the government from within, even using the opportunity to launch an armed opposition insurrection. An articled published in The New Yorker by Seymour M. Hersh entitled, “Our Men in Iran?,” documents how members of Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident group and US State Department-listed terrorist organization, were trained in communications, cryptography, small-unit tactics and weaponry by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at a base in Nevada starting in 2005 [31]. JSOC instructed MEK operatives on how to penetrate major Iranian communications systems, allowing the group to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran for the purpose of sharing them with American intelligence. The group has been implicated in the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists [32] and the planting of the Stuxnet malware that sabotaged Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz [33]. 

MEK was founded in 1965 as a Marxist Islamic mass political movement aimed at agitating the monarchy of the US-backed Iranian Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The group initially sided with revolutionary clerics led by Ayatollah Khomeini following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but eventually turned away from the regime during a power struggle that resulted in the group waging urban guerilla warfare against Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in 1981. The organization was later given refuge by Saddam Hussein and mounted attacks on Iran from within Iraqi territory, killing an estimated 17,000 Iranian nationals in the process [34]. MEK exists as the main component of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a “coalition of democratic Iranian organizations, groups and personalities,” calling itself a “parliament-in-exile” seeking to “establish a democratic, secular and coalition government” in Iran [35]. Following the toppling of Saddam Hussein, UN special representative in Iraq Martin Kobler organized efforts to relocate MEK insurgents to a former US military base near the Baghdad airport, with the full support of the US Embassy in Iraq and the State Department to avoid violent clashes between the MEK and the Shiite-led Iraqi government [36]. 

MEK has long received material assistance from Israel, who assisted the organization with broadcasting into Iran from their political base in Paris, while the MEK and NCRI have reportedly provided the United States with intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. Despite the documented cases of atrocities committed by MEK forces, elder statesmen such as former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley K. Clark, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former 9/11 Commission Chairman Lee Hamilton were paid $20,000 to $30,000 per engagement to endorse the removal of the Mujahideen-e Khalq from the US State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations [37]. NBC News reports that Israel provided financing, training and arms to Mujahideen-e Khalq, who are responsible for killing five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007 using motorcycle-borne assailants often attaching small magnetic bombs to the exterior of the victims’ cars [38]. A recent investigation by the US Treasury Department has indicated that Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization is financially sponsored by the Israeli regime and Saudi Arabia [39].

Upon launching a war against Iran, aggressor nations would likely utilize MEK forces as opposition insurgents and could even recognize the touted “parliament-in-exile”, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, as Iran’s legitimate representative, much like the how the Friends of Syria group has recognized the opposition Syrian National Council [40]. From her political base in Paris, exiled NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi is a strong candidate for Western support in contrast to internal opposition figures such as Mir-Hossein Mousavi, former Iranian Prime Minister turned political reformist and figurehead of the Green Movement demonstrations in 2009 following the victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in elections widely perceived as a fraudulent [41]. Although Mousavi has advocated greater personal freedoms in Iran and the disbanding of religious police enforcers, he is a strong advocate of Iran’s nuclear energy program and would likely never yield the kind of acquiescence to Western policy that exiled figures such as Maryam Rajavi would uphold in exchange for political support and material assistance [42]. It is widely believed that Mousavi is currently held under house arrest without an arrest warrant, charge or trial [43]. 

While figures such as Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi publically renounce nuclear weapons [44], Iranian scientists claim to be enriching uranium to 20% to develop radiopharmaceuticals and industrial isotopes under the supervision of the IAEA inspectors [45].

On October 1, 2010, the IAEA proposed a deal according to which Iran would send 3.5% enriched uranium abroad and receive 20% enriched uranium from potential suppliers in return, namely France and the United States, who Tehran accused of stalling negotiations from the start [46].

Tehran was offered a deal at a time when its supplies of 20% enriched uranium were nearly depleted, however Iranian lawmakers rejected the deal after technical studies showed that it would only take two to three months for any country to further enrich the nuclear stockpile and turn it into metal nuclear plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, while suppliers had announced that they would not return fuel to Iran in any time less than seven months [47]. 

Iran has made efforts to ensure the transparency of its nuclear program by allowing IAEA probes to inspect Iranian sites such as the Parchin military complex where the agency has reported suspicious activities in the past [48]. The IAEA’s recent discovery of traces of uranium enriched up to 27% at Iran’s Fordo enrichment plant sparked controversy, although the enrichment figure is still substantially below the 90% level needed to make the fissile core required in nuclear arms; officials conceded that the likely explanation for the increased level of enrichment was attributed to centrifuges initially over-enriching at the start as technicians adjusted their output [49]. It should be noted that former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Hans Blix has challenged the IAEA’s own reports on Iran’s nuclear activities, accusing the agency of relying on unverified intelligence from the US and Israel [50]; the IAEA’s most recent report cited Tehran’s progress toward enrichment technology with complete cooperation with the agency and confirms the non-weaponized status of Iranian nuclear activities [51]. 

Clinton Bastin, former director of US nuclear weapons production programs, has sent an open letter to President Obama regarding the status of Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear weapons [52]. Bastin reiterates, “The ultimate product of Iran’s gas centrifuge facilities would be highly enriched uranium hexafluoride, a gas that cannot be used to make a weapon. Converting the gas to metal, fabricating components and assembling them with high explosives using dangerous and difficult technology that has never been used in Iran would take many years after a diversion of three tons of low enriched uranium gas from fully safeguarded inventories. The resulting weapon, if intended for delivery by missile, would have a yield equivalent to that of a kiloton of conventional high explosives” [53]. The US-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) has recently released claims that Iran’s total production of enriched uranium over the past five years would be enough for at least five nuclear weapons stating, “This total amount of 3.5 percent low enriched uranium hexafluoride, if further enriched to weapon grade, is enough to make over five nuclear weapons.” [54]

Bastin’s assessment of Iran’s nuclear program further emphasizes the impracticality of weaponizing the hexafluoride product of Tehran’s gas-centrifuges, as the resulting deterrent would yield the equivalent explosive capacity equal to a kiloton of conventional explosives, producing a highly inefficient nuclear weapon. If Iran chose to produce nuclear weapons in this way, it would take several years to reach the 90% enrichment levels needed for a nuclear deterrent; Iran has complied with the IAEA and the United Nations on this issue and there is no substantial evidence indicating that Tehran has any intention of enriching uranium to 90% for the purpose of creating nuclear weapons. On March 23rd, 2012, Reuters released a special report entitled, “Intel shows Iran nuclear threat not imminent”, concluding that the United States, its European allies and even Israel agree that Tehran does not have a bomb, it has not decided to build one, and it is years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead [55]. As the West continually implements an unyielding regime of sanctions against Iran when they themselves acknowledge the civilian nature of the Iranian nuclear program, the overwhelming motive behind their actions to pressure Iran into full-scale war on an unprecedented scale is self-evident. 

The United States has produced more than 70,000 nuclear weapons between 1951 and 1998 [56], while Israel possess a nuclear weapons stockpile ranging from 75 to 400 warheads [57]. While the hazardous ramifications of Iran’s nuclear development pervade public consciousness, the fact that US legal doctrine has worked to further blur the line between conventional and nuclear warfare remains rarely acknowledged. The March 2005 Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations released by the Joint Chiefs of Staff envisages “contingency plans” for an offensive first strike use of nuclear weapons against both Iran and North Korea, providing the legal mandate to carry out pre-emptive nuclear war, both in terms of military planning as well as defense procurement and production [58] The 2002 adoption of the Pentagon’s 2001 Nuclear Posture Review by the US Congress marked the cease of prohibition on low yield nuclear weapons and provided funding allocations to pursue the development of tactical nuclear weapons, such as bunker buster (earth penetrator) mini-nukes [59]. 

The revised Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (March 2005) envisaged five scenarios where “the use of nuclear weapons might be requested,” namely, “to attack adversary installations including weapons of mass destruction, deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons, or the command and control infrastructure required for the adversary to execute a WMD attack against the United States or its friends and allies” and “to counter potentially overwhelming adversary conventional forces”. The doctrine further cites, “Responsible security planning requires preparation for threats that are possible, though perhaps unlikely today. The lessons of military history remain clear: unpredictable, irrational conflicts occur.

Military forces must prepare to counter weapons and capabilities that exist in the near term even if no immediate likely scenarios for war are at hand. To maximize deterrence of WMD use, it is essential US forces prepare to use nuclear weapons effectively and that US forces are determined to employ nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use” [60]. 

The possibility of nuclear strikes against Iran pose staggeringly frightening implications for the human family, as the very nations crying foul about the danger of nuclear weapons have prepared the legal infrastructure to use them against others, preemptively. While trust towards the Iranian regime remains questionable among segments of the Iranian population and the international community, Tehran has complied with the IAEA and no evidence exists to implicate Iran with constructing a nuclear weapon. While the fiery rhetoric of Iranian and Israeli officials remains entirely counterproductive, Tel Aviv has shown the least initiative to constructively partake in diplomacy with Iran, as top Israeli officials refuse to even meet with US envoy to the P5+1, Wendy Sherman, who reportedly was sent to Tel Aviv to “reaffirm our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security” [61]. As Israel aggressively employs an apartheid policy domestically, nuclear-armed Tel Aviv boasts its right to strike Iran without consent from any other nation [62]. As our species approaches the increasingly dangerous crossroads of the 21st Century, nations such as Germany, Russia, India and China must utilize their collective influence and technology to mediate this impending security crisis in the Middle East. 

Although Iran has asserted its right to develop peaceful nuclear technology as a signatory to the nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty, its uranium-based fuel has wrought negative and inaccurate accusations regarding Tehran’s intentions to weaponize. To ensure the further deflection of erroneous accusations, Iran can truly make an example of itself by phasing out uranium-based nuclear technology and shifting to a liquid fuel based on molten-fluoride salts used in Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) nuclear technology powered by thorium, an obscure, mildly radioactive metal produced as a waste product from the mining of rare earth minerals. Thorium is plentiful, easily accessible and energy dense, a metric ton produces as much energy as 200 tons of uranium, or 3,500,000 ton of coal [63]. Thorium-based reactors consume their own hazardous waste and would serve Iran’s internal needs far more effectively than its current technology. As a nuclear fuel, thorium is both cleaner and safer than uranium and produces benign alpha radiation, unable to even penetrate skin [64]. 

The governments of China [65] and India [66] have expressed great interest in further developing thorium molten-salt reactor technology. Iran holds 9% of the world’s oil reserves and 17% of its natural gas reserves; the abundant supply of fossil fuel resources has indirectly discouraged the pursuit of alternative renewable energy sources [67]. Iran has enormous potential as a producer of geothermal energy, particularly in the provinces of Azerbaijan and Tehran [68]. There is no shortage of solutions to the current problems faced by the international community in its efforts to oversee peaceful energy technology in Iran. China, Germany and India could share their growing technical expertise with Iran to develop energy solutions that can never be used as a pretext for external military strikes. No credible basis exists to warrant the implementation of economic sanctions against Iran, which are ostensibly in place to coax social unrest and collapse the Iranian economy. 

For all the belligerence exuded by the current Iranian regime, the unwavering aggressive it receives from outside forces does nothing to offer the people of Iran any tangible solutions to better themselves and their standard of living. Although the further application of sanctions will inevitably have damaging effects on Tehran, inflated oil price fluctuations have the potential to fracture the fledging austerity-states of the European Union. The failure of emerging markets to adhere to full embargoes on Iran once they come into effect would send a strong message to the architects of such disastrous policy. As nations such as China and Russia acknowledge the imbalanced nature of power in the Security Council and the aggressive stance of the United States and Israel, these nations can best utilize their power by offering technological and diplomatic solutions to avert the detrimental social, economic and spiritual consequences of war.  

Article originally posted Nile Bowie’s blog here. Nile Bowie is a syndicated freelance writer and photojournalist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Sources from inside Washington, DC are telling theinternational media that Israeli leadership is upset with US President Barack Obama’s handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear threat and may take military action before the November election.

The Debka news agency quotes sources from America’s capital that say Israel has withdrawn its earlier promise to avoid striking Iran before the upcoming US presidential election this fall. The reason, reports Debka, heavily revolves around President Obama’s refusal to side with Israel’s demands in dealing with the rumored emerging threat of a nuclear program in Iran.

Previously, authorities in Israel told the White House that they would refrain from striking Iran until after Election Day as to avoid marring the race by possibly involving the US in an international war. Because President Obama has not put his foot down on Iran’s alleged nuclear warhead procurement plan, Israeli officials are not reportedly willing to attack at any moment.

“There is no need to tell us what to do, and we have no reason to panic. Israel is very, very strong, but we do know that the Iranians are accomplished chess players and will try to achieve nuclear capabilities,” reads a translated statement from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak delivered this week in Hebrew. “Our position has not changed. The world must stop Iran from becoming nuclear. All options remain on the table.”

Minister Barak offered his statement on May 23, less than a week after attending a meeting in Washington. On May 17, Barak spoke with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon outside of Washington to discuss the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran, at which point Debka reports he was told that Obama had rejected the Jewish state’s plea. Debka’s sources say Obama was unwilling to demand that Iran halt their “high-grade uranium enrichment, export its stocks of material enriched higher than 3.5 percent grade and shut down production at the Fordo nuclear plant near Qom.”

Debka adds that, after the meeting with his US counterpart, Defense Minister Barak spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Clintonand National Security Adviser Tom Donilon over the ongoing Iran issue but was unable to have either member of the Obama administration aid in Israel’s plea to sanction Iran.

Previously, President Obama has gone on the record to say that he stands by America’s alliance with Israel and told The Atlantic earlier this year, “I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of theUnited States, I don’t bluff.”

“I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But (both) governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say,” added Obama.

President Obama and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Washington back in March during the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, where the Iran issue was a major topic of discussion. Despite urging from overseas, however, the White House yet refused to formally side with any military strikes on Iran.

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