Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Replaying the same old Iraq WMD scam but now for Iran

Some people never learn. Or, maybe the Neo-conservatives feel that they were "successful" with their "liberation" of Iraq under the pretext of "democracy" and WMDs. In any case, they are trying to run almost exactly the same playbook but this time over alleged WMD "intentions" of Iran.

Today we read in an article from the Associated Press by George Jahn entitled "West calls on Iran to comply with U.N. Security Council demands on its nuclear program" that:

In its criticism of Iran, Gregory L. Schulte, the chief U.S. delegate to the IAEA, listed intelligence from Washington and its allies that the agency is trying to verify, including:

- a document showing how to cast uranium metal into the shape of warheads

- explosives experiments that could be used to test detonation devices for a nuclear weapon

- schematics of a missile re-entry vehicle that the IAEA judges "is quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device," and

- remote explosives testing that appears to include plans for underground detonations facilities, with a separate facility 10 kilometers (6 miles) distant to set off the detonation.

"I suspect that technicians don't need to shelter themselves 10 kilometers away to test conventional weapons," said Schulte, suggesting the setup was created with nuclear weapons testing in mind.

"Iran's leaders say that they do not have a nuclear weapons program" he said. "To give the world confidence that this is true, we call on them to fully disclose past and present activities and suspend those that are not necessary for a civil program but are necessary to build a nuclear weapon."

As with Iraq and WMDs the U.S. is once again "characterizing" information to give it an ominous sense that the information by itself does not actually have. Shades of Colin Powell's UN presentation and Tony Blair's "sexed up dossier" which gave an "impression" that was wholly out of line with reality.

As far as this first item of "a document showing how to cast uranium metal into the shape of warheads", it turns out this is old news. The IAEA saw the document back in 2005 and Iran finally turned it over to the IAEA back in November of 2007. There is nothing new or ominous here. There are probably any number of countries who have similar information. My guess is that the diagram dates from before 2003 when Iran shut their nuclear weapons program down. So, just as with Iraq, the administration seeks to use old, stale, information to give an impression of an "imminent threat." Iraq too had a nuclear weapons program, but it had been suspended for a number of years.

Most of the items listed in the article fall into the "could be used" category, which is hardly evidence of current malign intent. This is the same form of argument that the administration used for Iraq WMDs, such as the aluminum tubes which "could be used" for centrifuges or the trailers which "could be used" as mobile biological weapons production.

What is worse is that the U.S. has badgered even the normally even-keeled IAEA into participating in the speculative venture. For examples, "quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device" is several leaps of logic and evidence away from being definitive evidence. Just like Iraq and WMDs. There is way too much speculation going on here.

Then we read "appears to include plans for underground detonations facilities", which once again is at least one or two leaps of logic away from direct evidence. These people actually want to base policy decisions on something that "appears to" do something? It is incredible that people still fall for this kind of speculation.

If we learned one important thing from the whole Iraq WMD episode it is that evidence needs to be direct evidence and collaborated by multiple methods from multiple sources. Here we read statements such as "schematics of a missile re-entry vehicle that the IAEA judges "is quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device"" which does not even come close to being even a single piece of direct evidence that the RV is specifically designed for a nuclear weapon.

People need to wake up and "just say no" to the ludicrous form of "case" that is being made that Iran is a threat just like Iraq was a "gathering threat."

Frankly, if the best we can say about the IAEA "case" right now is to refer to "intelligence from Washington and its allies that the agency is trying to verify", then the IAEA, the U.S., and everybody else should just kindly keep their mouths shut until they do have a definitive, direct, verifiable, multi-source case to be made.

-- Jack Krupansky


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