All Praise To Barack Obama For Stiffing The War Party—- Peace Is Finally Being Given A Chance
By David Stockman
I have rarely found anything President Obama has done to be praiseworthy, and believe his domestic policies of Keynesian borrow and spend and incessant statist intervention in capitalist enterprise to be especially deplorable. But finally he has stood up to the War Party——and that could mark a decisive turning point in rolling back Washington’s destructive interventionism and imperial pretensions in the Middle East and, indeed, around the world.
The Iranian nuclear agreement is a decisive refutation of the War Party’s hoary claim that Iran is hell-bent upon obtaining nuclear weapons. This deafening but untruthful narrative was long ago debunked by the 2007 National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs). These authoritative findings were issued by the nation’s 16 top intelligence agencies in November 2007, and they held that what had possibly been a small-scale Iranian weapons research effort was abandoned in 2003 and never restarted. That NIE verdict has been reiterated several times since then.
Not surprisingly, it was also these NIE findings that stopped cold in its tracks George Bush’s plan to bomb the alleged Iranian nuclear sites in late 2007. In his memoirs the Great Decider admitted that it would have been hard to explain to the American public why he was launching another war to eliminate an alleged Iranian WMD threat when his own intelligence agencies had just concluded it did not even exist!
Indeed, it was the same crowd of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Feith et.al. which had falsified the WMD claims against Saddam Hussein that had been beating the war drums so loudly about the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program.
And, as it has turned out, they had resorted to the same kind of falsified intelligence which the first time around had generated the infamous “curveball” pictures of biological weapons labs that were actually pasturized milk plants. This time it was a bunch of falsified drawings and plans mysteriously found on a laptop computer that had been turned over by a Iranian dissident group called the MEK, which, ironically, had long been allied with Saddam Hussein and had been on the State Department terrorist list from 1997 to 2012.
So it needs to be shouted from the rafters at the outset that all the arm-waving and screeching against this deal by the GOP war-mongers and the Israeli lobby is grounded in a Big Lie. The whole Iran-is-after-the-bomb narrative is just WMD 2.0.
Indeed, the War Party has been so shrill and unrelenting in promulgating this trumped-up story that the other side of the equation is hardly known to the American public. Namely, that the overwhelming weight of the evidence over more than three decades—–including information obtained by the IAEA during the course of extensive investigations—-is that Iran’s primary aim has been to obtain enrichment capacity for its civilian reactors.
In fact, when an incipient weapons research program was shutdown in 2003, the Ayatollah Khamenei took a decisive step to remove all doubt inside the Iranian government. He issued a fatwa (ban) against the possession of nuclear weapons by the Islamic Republic.
This anti-WMD edict was in keeping with a similar fatwa against biological and chemical weapons issued by his predecessor, the Ayatollah Khomeini, in the midst of Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s. At the time, Saddam was dropping these horrific weapons on Iranian battle forces—-some of them barely armed teenage boys—- with the spotting help of CIA tracking satellites and the concurrence of Washington.
Thus, the real history demonstrates an Iranian posture that is wholly contrary to the War Party’s endless blizzard of false charges about its quest for nukes. However benighted and medieval its religious views, the theocracy which rules Iran does not consist of demented war mongers. In the heat of battle they were willing to sacrifice their own forces rather than violate their religious scruples to counter Saddam’s WMDs.
At the end of the day, the War Party’s narrative is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
So in the context of all of that history we now have a solemn international agreement that’s designed to insure that the nuclear weapons program that the CIA has never found and that the Iranians say they never had and that their Supreme Leader has forbidden—does, in fact, never happen.
That’s not only a very good thing; it also an overwhelmingly sure thing by the light of any rational analysis.
After all, why would a nation purportedly motivated by a fiendish desire to get the bomb ever agree to a network of restrictions, controls, roadblocks and handcuffs from which not even Houdini could escape? All of this containment machinery would keep the Iranian regime many steps—nay, many miles— removed from anything even remotely resembling an A-bomb capability.
In fact, it’s actually designed to virtually suffocate even the civilian nuclear industry that Iran has proclaimed to be its purpose all along. And, needless to say, that is something which it is entitled to—including uranium enrichment capabilities— as one of the 193 signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The latter, of course, is most definitely a non-exclusive club—-since it includes every nation on the planet Earth except India, Pakistan, South Sudan and Israel.
Under any rational assessment of the agreement, therefore, suffocation of its incipient civilian nuclear power industry is exactly what Iran has embraced. It has done so in the name of ending the wholly unnecessary confrontation with the West over its mythical nuclear weapons program and to thereby gain relief from the sadistic regime of sanctions that have so drastically and unfairly punished its 77 million innocent citizens.
To wit, Iran will eliminate 98% of its existing stockpile of mostly low-enriched uranium and convert the limited number of centrifuges at its one truly hardened site (Fordow) to non-uranium research activities. Further, it will cut the number of centrifuges at its large Natanz facility from 20,000 to 5,060 units, and this absolutely minimal capacity will be restricted to three-decade old slow, inefficient first generation technology. Not even research on more advanced enrichment technologies may be undertaken for the next eight years.
Moreover, the centrifuges that it will be permitted to operate will be restricted to enriching uranium to only 3.67% purity, meaning that Iran will not be remotely capable of producing the 90% purity material needed for bomb making.
It will also dismantle the core of its heavy water reactor at Arak, which would produce plutonium as a by-product. Although such waste material cannot be used to make a bomb without a reprocessing plant which Iran does not have and could not likely get, Iran has agreed to replace the current core with an alternative non-weapons capable reactor technology.
Finally, wrapped around all of these limited capacities for civilian enrichment will be a cradle-to-grave inspection regime covering its entire nuclear fuel cycle. This will put inspectors on the ground and sophisticated monitoring equipment in place at its uranium mines, milling plants, storage and transportation facilities, processing plants, centrifuge operations, civilian reactors, waste handling and processing stations and all the supporting services and equipment supply and maintenance activities along the entire route.
In short, Iran has agreed to put what will be a tiny civilian nuclear power and uranium enrichment industry into a wholly transparent fishbowl. The inspection and monitoring system will be so exhaustive and intrusive that it will resemble the lockdown in a high security Federal prison; and, in fact, will make Iran’s entire sovereign territory subject to inspection demands “anytime and anywhere-“—-including its military facilities.
Yes, in the case of suspected sites not on the primary inspection system it will require a request by the international inspectors. And if the Iranian authorities say no, it will go to a resolution panel where the majority of the members will represent the US and the other western signatories to the agreement. But the key thing is all of this must happen within 24 days.
Can any one in their right mind really believe that Iran could build an illicit facility with tens of thousands of unauthorized centrifuges and all the rest of the bomb cycle equipment that would be required to stage a “break-out”, and that this could first escape US intelligence satellite discovery; and then, if found out, be dismantled and have every trace removed within 24 days?
Here’s the thing, folks. The fulminations of Senator Lindsay Graham and the rest of the GOP War Party, along with the hysterical bellowing of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his legions of lobbyists on the Potomac, have nothing to do with the actual nation of Iran and the actual leaders who signed the agreement. The War Party is attacking a giant fiction and tissue of lies of its own-making—-an untruthful narrative that is grounded in pure politics, not the security interests of the citizens of either America or Israel.
Indeed, the three decade long demonization of Iran has served one over-arching purpose. Namely, it enabled both branches of the War Party to conjure up a fearsome enemy, thereby justifying aggressive policies that call for a constant state of war and military mobilization.
When the cold-war officially ended in 1991, the Cheney crowd in the George H.W. Bush White House feared the kind of drastic demobilization of the US military-industrial complex that was warranted by the suddenly more pacific strategic environment. In response, they developed an anti-Iranian doctrine that was explicitly described as a way of keeping defense spending at high cold war levels.
And the narrative they developed to this end is one of the more egregious Big Lies ever to come out of the Beltway. It puts you in mind of the young boy who killed his parents, and then threw himself on the mercy of the courts on the grounds that he was an orphan!
To wit, during the 1980s the neocons in the Reagan Administration issued their own fatwa again the Islamic Republic based on its open hostility to America—-an enmity grounded in Washington’s 25-year support for the tyrannical and illegitimate regime of the Shah.
That they had a case is beyond doubt. The open US archives now prove that the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government in 1953 and put the utterly unsuited and megalomaniacal Mohammad Reza Shah on the peacock throne to rule as a puppet in behalf of US security and oil interests.
During the subsequent decades the Shah not only massively and baldly plundered the wealth of the Persian nation; with the help of the CIA and US military, he also created a brutal secret police force known as the Savak. The latter made the East German Stasi look civilized by comparison.
All elements of Iranian society including universities, labor unions, businesses, civic organizations, peasant farmers and many more were subjected to intense surveillance by the Savak agents and paid informants. As one critic described it:
Over the years, Savak became a law unto itself, having legal authority to arrest, detain, brutally interrogate and torture suspected people indefinitely. Savak operated its own prisons in Tehran, such as Qezel-Qalaeh and Evin facilities and many suspected places throughout the country as well. Many of those activities were carried out without any institutional checks.
Ironically, among his many grandiose follies, the Shah embarked on a massive civilian nuclear power campaign in the 1970s, which envisioned literally paving the Iranian landscape with dozens of nuclear power plants. He would use Iran’s surging oil revenues after 1973 to buy all the equipment required from Western companies—– and also fuel cycle support services such as uranium enrichment——in order to provide his kingdom with cheap power for centuries.
At the time of the Revolution, the first of these plants at Bushehr was nearly complete, but the whole grandiose project was put on hold amidst the turmoil of the new regime and the onset of Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran in September 1980. As a consequence, a $2 billion deposit languished at the French nuclear agency that had originally obtained it from the Shah to fund a ramp-up of its enrichment capacity to supply his planned battery of reactors.
In 1983 the new Iranian regime decided to complete the Bushehr power plant and some additional elements of the Shah’s grand plan. But when they attempted to reactivate the French enrichment services contract and buy necessary power plant equipment from the original German suppliers they were stopped cold by Washington. And when the tried to get their $2 billion deposit back, they were curtly denied that, too.
To make a long story short, the entire subsequent history of off again/on again efforts by the Iranians to purchase dual use equipment and components on the international market, often from black market sources like Pakistan, was in response to Washington’s relentless efforts to block its legitimate rights as a signatory to the NPT to complete some parts of the Shah’s civilian nuclear project.
Needless to say, it did not take much effort by the neocon “regime change” fanatics which inhabited the national security machinery after the 2000 election to spin every attempt by Iran to purchase even a lowly pump or pipe fitting as evidence of a secret campaign to get the bomb. The exaggerations, lies, distortions and fear-mongering which came out of this neocon campaign are truly disgusting.
In that context, it only required one more giant lie to complete the demonization of the Iranian government. That is the utterly false claim that Iran is an aggressive would be hegemon that is a fount of terrorism and is dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel, among other treacherous purposes.
That giant lie was almost single-handedly fashioned by Bibi Netanyahu and his coterie of power-hungry henchman after the mid-1990s. Indeed, the false claim that Iran posses an “existential threat” to Israel is a product of the pure red meat domestic Israeli politics that have kept Bibi in power for much of the last two decades.
But the truth is Iran is no better or worse than any of the other major powers in the Middle East. In many ways it is far less of a threat to regional peace and stability than the military butchers who now run Egypt on $1.5 billion per year of US aid. And it is surely no worse than the corpulent tyrants who squander the massive oil resources of Saudi Arabia in pursuit of unspeakable opulence and decadence to the detriment of the 27 million citizens which are not part of the regime, and who one day may well reach the point of revolt. And when it comes to the support of terrorism, the Saudis have funded more jihadists and terrorists throughout the region than Iran ever even imagined.
In this context, the War Party’s bloviation about Iran’s leadership of the so-called Shiite Crescent is especially obnoxious. Yes, the Iranians support the Assad government in Syria, but that’s a long-standing alliance that goes back to his father’s era and is rooted in the historic confessional politics of the Islamic world.
The Assad regime is Alawite, a branch of the Shiite, and despite the regime’s brutality, it has been a bulwark of protection for all of Syria’s minority sects, including Christians, against a majority-Sunni ethnic cleansing. The latter would surely occur if the Saudi supported rebels, led by ISIS, were ever to take power.
Likewise, the fact that the government of the broken state of Iraq——an artificial, non-sustainable 1916 concoction of two stripped pants European diplomats (Messrs. Sykes and Picot of the British and French foreign offices, respectively)——–is now aligned with Iran is also a result of confessional politics and geo-economic propinquity.
For all practical purposes, the Kurds of the northeast have declared their independence and the western Sunni lands of the upper Euphrates have been conquered by ISIS with American weapons dropped in place by the hapless $25 billion Iraqi army minted by Washington’s departing proconsuls. Accordingly, what is left of Iraq is a population that is overwhelmingly Shiite, and which nurses bitter resentments from decades of Sunni repression under Saddam. Why in the world, therefore, wouldn’t they ally with their Shiite neighbor?
Likewise, the claim that Iran is now trying to annex Yemen is pure claptrap. The ancient territory of Yemen has been racked by civil war off and on since the early 1970s. And a major driving force of that conflict has been confessional differences between the Sunni south and the Shiite north.
In more recent times, Washington’s blatant drone war inside Yemen against alleged terrorists and its domination and financing of Yemen’s governments eventually produced the same old outcome. That is, another failed state and an illegitimate government which fled at the 11th hour, leaving another vast cache of American arms and equipment behind.
Accordingly, the Houthis forces now in control of substantial parts of the country are not some kind of advanced guard sent in by Tehran. They are indigenous partisans who share a confessional tie with Iran, but which have actually been armed by the US. And the real invaders in this destructive civil war are the Saudis, whose vicious bombing campaign against civilian populations controlled by the Houthis are outright war crimes if the word has any meaning at all.
Finally, there is the fourth element of the purported Iranian axis—–the Hezbollah controlled Shiite communities of southern Lebanon and the Beka Valley. Like everything else in the Middle East, Hezbollah is a product of historical European imperialism, Islamic confessional politics and the frequently misguided and counter-productive security policies of Israel.
In the first place, Lebanon was not any more a real country than Iraq was when Sykes and Picot laid their straight-edged rulers on a map. The result was a stew of religious and ethnic divisions—-Maronite Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Copts, Druse, Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Kurds, Armenians, Jews and countless more—– that made the fashioning of a viable state virtually impossible.
At length, an alliance of Christians and Sunnis gained control of the country, leaving the 40% Shiite population disenfranchised and economically disadvantaged, as well. But it was the inflow of Palestinian refugees in the 1960s and 1970s that eventually upset the balance of sectarian forces and triggered a civil war that essentially lasted from 1975 until the turn of the century.
It also triggered a catastrophically wrong-headed Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982, and a subsequent repressive occupation of mostly Shiite territories for the next eighteen years. The alleged purpose of this invasion was to chase the PLO and Yassir Arafat out of the enclave in southern Lebanon that they had established after being driven out of Jordan in 1970.
Eventually Israel succeeded in sending Arafat packing to north Africa, but in the process created a militant, Shiite-based resistance movement that did not even exist in 1982, and which in due course became the strongest single force in Lebanon’s fractured domestic political arrangements. After Israel withdrew in 2000, the then Christian President of the county made abundantly clear that Hezbollah had become a legitimate and respected force within the Lebanese polity, not merely some subversive agent of Tehran:
“For us Lebanese, and I can tell you the majority of Lebanese, Hezbollah is a national resistance movement. If it wasn’t for them, we couldn’t have liberated our land. And because of that, we have big esteem for the Hezbollah movement.”[
So, yes, Hezbollah is an integral component of the Shiite Crescent and its confessional and political alignment with Tehran is entirely plausible. But that arrangement—-however uncomfortable for Israel—–does not represent Iranian aggression on Israel’s northern border. Instead, it’s actually the blowback from the stubborn refusal of Israeli governments—–especially the rightwing Likud governments of modern times—–to deal constructively with the Palestinian question.
In lieu of a two-state solution in the territory of Palestine, therefore, Israeli policy has produced a chronic state of war with nearly half the Lebanese population represented by Hezbollah. The latter is surely no agency of peaceful governance and has committed its share of atrocities. But the point at hand is that given the last 35 years of history and Israeli policy, Hezbollah would exist as a menacing force on its northern border even if the Shah or his heir was still on the Peacock Throne.
And that goes to the heart of Netanyahu’s Big Lie. His relentless claim that Iran is out to annihilate Israel and by implication liquidate its Jewish population is a preposterous distortion and exaggeration of Iran’s policy, as articulated by its Supreme Leader himself.
The real issue is the Palestinian question and the gross injustices that the Palestinian diaspora outside of Israel’s current borders, and the occupied populations inside the massive settler communities of the West Bank, have suffered for decades. But Iran does not propose to seek redress for the Palestinians by dropping nuclear bombs on Israel or sending in its own feeble military or even hordes of hired terrorists.
No, the Ayatollah Khamenei has proposed to vote the present sectarian state of Israel out of existence by referendum, not A-bombs!
In one of his most recent pronouncements on the topic in March 2012, in fact, he said the following during a Friday prayer sermon calling for a multi-religious secular state in Palestine:
Holding a referendum in Palestine among the Palestinians, and all those that became refugees—if, of course, they want to return to Palestine—is a rational solution [to the problem]. Those [Palestinians], who live in Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, and elsewhere, can return home. I am not advocating forcible return of anybody. Then, [Palestinians should] hold a referendum among these who were living there before 1948, when the illegitimate state of Israel was formed, whether Muslim, or Jew or Christian, which will then decide the type of government that must be formed there. This is democracy. Why is democracy good for others, but not for the Palestinians? Why it is that all the people of the world can decide their own fate, but not the Palestinians? There is no doubt that the present regime [Israel] took over through deception, trickery, and force. Thus, the people there have an imposed regime. Fine! Let the people of Palestine hold a referendum to choose the type of the government that they want for themselves. That regime and that government should form and then decide what to do with the people who moved there after 1948. Whatever decision it made, that would also be the fruit of people’s vote, as well as democracy, respect for human rights, and in line with the world’s present rationale. This is a good solution that must be implemented.
Needless to say, the wizened old man who rules Iran for the time being has no right or authority to call for a referendum among peoples outside his own borders. But that he preaches the doctrine of a secular state solution that was accepted by most of the civilized world as a plausible answer to the Palestinian question only 40 years ago is surely not evidence that Iran is led by fiendish men who plan another holocaust.
So what is at stake here is of truly epochal importance. The Iranians have signed the agreement in good faith and have locked-up any potential for development of a nuclear weapon that they do not want, and have thrown away the key.
Look at the jubilation on the streets of Iran today owing to the prospect that the West’s brutal sanctions will be lifted, and that their country now has a pathway back into the community of nations. Once prosperity and self-respect return to the ancient land of Persia—–not this Ayatollah nor any other will ever be in a position to do anything more harmful to Israel than what is embodied in the quoted paragraph above. That is, preach vainly about a history that might have been.
In the interim, Israel ought to thank its lucky stars that two flawed but inspired politicians—Barack Obama of the US and Hassan Rouhani of Iran—–found it possible to transcend 30 years of lies and enmities on both sides in order to give peace a chance.
More importantly, as Iran comes back into the community of nations and re- enters global commerce it will give the citizens of Israel an opportunity to see that they have been betrayed and jeopardized by the terrible lies, bullying, megalomania and insuperable will to power of Bibi Netanyahu.
Their path to a better, safer future does not lie in the defeat of this agreement on the floor of the US Congress; it lies in a resounding defeat of Netanyahu government the very next time they have the chance to go to the polls.