Iran demonised


Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s remark on 26 October 2005 that “Israel must be wiped off the map” – he was quoting Ayatollah Khomeini – has been the occasion for much hypocritical outrage from the West and Israel.


An EU statement issued from Hampton Court on 27 October 2005 said piously:


“Calls for violence, and for the destruction of any state, are manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community”


Strange that the EU hasn’t felt the need to issue any condemnation of any of the numerous threats of violence against Iran emanating from the US and Israel in recent years, not to mention the implied threats from Britain.  Whereas Foreign Secretary Straw has stated that military action against Iran is “inconceivable”, Prime Minister Blair himself has declared that it is still “on the table”, if Iran fails to do what the US/EU wants as regards its nuclear facilities.


No account of what President Ahmadinejad said that we have seen contains an explicit threat of military action against Israel, whereas the US and Israel have explicitly threatened military action against Iran – repeatedly.  In reality, military action by Iran against Israel is inconceivable, whereas military action by the US (with the UK in tow, no doubt) or Israel against Iran is far from being inconceivable, the most likely being air attacks against Iran’s nuclear installations.


And you can bet your bottom dollar that if such attacks do take place, there will be no EU statements describing the perpetrators as acting in a manner that is “manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community”.


What is more, whereas the EU felt compelled to condemn in the strongest terms the implied “calls for violence” by President Ahmadinejad against Israel, it has remained remarkably silent about the actual violence perpetrated continuously by Israel against Palestinians, not to mention its destruction of Palestinian property and theft of Palestinian land, which has been ongoing since the foundation of the Israeli state.  Is Israel not acting in a manner that is “manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community”?


Nor has the EU felt compelled to condemn the actual violence perpetrated by the US/UK against Iran’s neighbour over many years, culminating in the destruction of the Iraqi state in March 2003, violence that has brought about the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis since then.  Were/are the US/UK not acting in a manner that is “manifestly inconsistent with any claim to be a mature and responsible member of the international community”?


The EU is guilty of applying double standards: explicit threats of violence, or actual violence, against Muslims are met with silence by the EU, whereas an implicit threat of violence by a Muslim state against Israel is met with a howl of outrage.


Quick Kofi

The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, is also guilty of applying double standards.  He was extraordinarily quick to condemn these implied “calls for violence” by President Ahmadinejad against Israel, given that he kept his head down when the US/UK committed actual violence against Iraq and while the US/Israel threatens violence against Iran.   He too was moved to issue a statement in which “he recalls that, under the United Nations Charter, all Members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State”.  Indeed, they have: Article 2(4) of the Charter says:


“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state … ”


And time without number, the US/UK have broken it by threatening to use force against one state or another in this world, and the Secretary-General has kept his mouth shut.  Not that opening his mouth would do any good, since the US/UK would simply ignore him – and make sure to get a more compliant Secretary-General the next time, as they did by refusing to renew the term of his predecessor Boutros Boutros-Ghali.


No evidence of weapons

The British media reported President Ahmadinejad’s remark in the context of the ongoing process in the IAEA Board about whether Iran was going to be referred to the Security Council, at the instigation of the US/EU.  This was understandable.


But, at the same time, the impression was given that Iran was being obstructive about allowing the IAEA access to its nuclear facilities, and therefore that it was hiding something sinister.  Blair added to this impression by his rhetoric at his press conference after the EU meeting on 27 October 2005, when he said that Iran’s “attitude on the nuclear weapons issue … isn't acceptable”.


One could be forgiven for thinking that there was evidence that Iran was in the process of developing nuclear weapons. In fact, the IAEA has no such evidence, but the British media never say so.


In an interview Der Spiegel on 21 February 2005, Mohammed ElBaradei, the IAEA Director General, said: “I have not found any evidence” that Iran is operating “a secret nuclear weapons program”.


In his report to the IAEA Board on 10 November 2003, he wrote:


“The Agency will now undertake all the steps necessary to confirm that the information provided by Iran on its past and present nuclear activities is correct and complete. To date, there is no evidence that the previously undeclared nuclear material and activities referred to above were related to a nuclear weapons programme.” (paragraph 52)


In the intervening two years, ElBaradei has produced five more reports (see here).  None of these presents any evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.


You are very unlikely to glean any of this information from the British media.


No obstruction

As for obstruction by Iran, ElBaradei states in the latest report on 2 September 2005:


“Since October 2003, good progress has been made in Iran’s correction of the breaches, and in the Agency’s ability to confirm certain aspects of Iran’s current declarations, which will be followed up as a routine safeguards implementation matter (particularly in connection with conversion activities, laser enrichment, fuel fabrication and the heavy water research reactor programme).”  (paragraph 43)


In reality, Iran is cooperating with the IAEA to a greater extent than is required by the letter of its agreements with the IAEA.


You are very unlikely to glean any of this information from the British media, either.


Enriched uranium

In August 2003, the IAEA discovered particles of enriched uranium at locations in Iran.  For a time, this was taken, by the US/EU, as proof positive that Iran had enrichment facilities other than those it had declared to the IAEA, facilities that were being used to produce enriched uranium for weapons purposes.  (The declared facilities had yet to produce enriched uranium).  Iran’s explanation was that these particles came with equipment imported from Pakistan, and were not the products of an indigenous enrichment program.


The IAEA has now more or less accepted this explanation.  The Director General’s latest report on 2 September 2005 says:


With respect to the first issue — contamination — as indicated above, based on the information currently available to the Agency, the results of the environmental sample analysis tend, on balance, to support Iran’s statement about the foreign origin of most of the observed HEU [High Enriched Uranium] contamination. It is still not possible at this time, however, to establish a definitive conclusion with respect to all of the contamination, particularly the LEU [Low Enriched Uranium] contamination.” (paragraph 45)


Iran’s proposal

In many of the British media reports on President Ahmadinejad’s remark, he was described as “hardline, and reference was made to the “hardline” speech he delivered recently to the UN General Assembly.


This is the message the British and American governments have been trying to broadcast about this speech, which the President made on 17 September 2005 (see Islamic Republic News Agency here).  Nicholas Burns, the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, described it as “excessively harsh and uncompromising” in a press statement on 27 September 2005.  Burns continued:


“He spoke about Iran's rights but he didn't speak about Iran's responsibilities. And he three times mentioned in that speech that Iran was determined to enrich, which I think caught the attention of the international community.”


President Ahmadinejad did indeed assert Iran’s “inalienable right” under Article IV(1) of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to have civil nuclear facilities, including a uranium enrichment programme.  But in fact the speech was conciliatory, and he made a new proposal – over and above the obligations that Iran has entered into with the IAEA – to reassure the outside world that the enrichment process would not be used for weapons purposes.  Needless to say, the US/EU have not drawn attention to this proposal and, most likely therefore, the media are unaware of it.


The President proposed that Iran’s enrichment facilities be run as joint ventures with private and public sector companies from other countries:


“Technically, the fuel cycle of the Islamic Republic of Iran is not different from that of other countries which have peaceful nuclear technology.


“Therefore, as a further confidence building measure and in order to provide the greatest degree of transparency, the Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to engage in serious partnership with private and public sectors of other countries in the implementation of uranium enrichment program in Iran.


“This represents the most far reaching step, outside all requirements of the NPT, being proposed by Iran as a further confidence building measure.”


He proposed that the IAEA be involved in negotiation with potential partners:


“In keeping with Iran's inalienable right to have access to a nuclear fuel cycle, continued interaction and technical and legal cooperation with the IAEA will be the centerpiece of our nuclear policy. Initiation and continuation of negotiations with other countries will be carried out in the context of Iran's interaction with the Agency.”


Putting its uranium enrichment facilities under joint foreign control is an enormous concession on Iran’s part, a concession that isn’t required under the NPT or any other any international treaty that Iran has signed up to.  It is a step that the US, for example, would never contemplate taking in respect of facilities that are vital to its national interest. 


Furthermore, these proposals are based on the recommendations of an IAEA expert group, which reported in February 2005.  This group, headed by Bruno Pellaud, was established by the IAEA to recommend measures that would be useful in giving reassurance that nuclear facilities for civil purposes, for example, uranium enrichment facilities, which a state has a right to possess under the NPT, would not be used for weapons development.


Of the five proposals made by the committee, two were based on the notion of shared ownership or control.   Iran’s new proposals are a variant of these but, despite their pedigree, they have been ignored by the US/EU.


Denying Iran’s right

It is clear that the US/EU are intent on denying Iran its right under the NPT to a civil nuclear programme.  As a first step, they are attempting to get international support on the IAEA Board to have Iran referred to the Security Council.  To this end, they are happy to have broadcast as widely as possible the impression that Iran is in the process of developing nuclear weapons, is being obstructive in allowing the IAEA to clarify the matter and is refusing to be reasonable in negotiations with the EU.  All of this is untrue.  But happily for the US/EU the media is broadcasting it as if it were true.


Meanwhile, in another part of the Middle East, a state that definitely has nuclear weapons is left alone to build up whatever nuclear facilities, civil or military, that it wants.  The lesson for other states in the Middle East is plain: bury your nuclear facilities deep, and develop nuclear weapons; then you too will be left alone to build up whatever nuclear facilities you want.



David Morrison

Labour & Trade Union Review


6 November 2005