U.S. Now Sees Iran as Pursuing Nuclear Bomb

Leon E. Panetta

Leon E. Panetta

Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.

In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran’s “development of a nuclear weapon” before correcting himself to refer to its “pursuit” of weapons capability.

Obama’s nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. “From all the information I’ve seen,” Panetta said, “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.”

The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program.

As the administration moves toward talks with Iran, Obama appears to be sending a signal that the United States will not be drawn into a debate over Iran’s intent.

“When you’re talking about negotiations in Iran, it is dangerous to appear weak or naive,” said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear weapons expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-proliferation organization based in Washington.

Cirincione said the unequivocal language also worked to Obama’s political advantage. “It guards against criticism from the right that the administration is underestimating Iran,” he said.

Iran has long maintained that it aims to generate electricity, not build bombs, with nuclear power. But Western intelligence officials and nuclear experts increasingly view those claims as implausible.

U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.

Obama’s top intelligence official, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, is expected to address mounting concerns over Iran’s nuclear program in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.

When it was issued, the NIE stunned the international community. It declared that U.S. spy agencies judged “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

U.S. intelligence officials later said the conclusion was based on evidence that Iran had stopped secret efforts to design a nuclear warhead around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Often overlooked in the NIE, officials said, was that Iran had not stopped its work on other crucial fronts, including missile design and uranium enrichment. Many experts contend that these are more difficult than building a bomb.

Iran’s advances on enrichment have become a growing source of alarm. Since 2004, the country has gone from operating a few dozen centrifuges — cylindrical machines used to enrich uranium — to nearly 6,000, weapons experts agree.

By November, Iran had produced an estimated 1,400 pounds of low-enriched uranium, not nearly enough to fuel a nuclear energy reactor, but perilously close to the quantity needed to make a bomb.

A report issued last month by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that “Iran is moving steadily toward a breakout capability and is expected to reach that milestone during the first half of 2009.” That means it would have enough low-enriched uranium to be able to quickly convert it to weapons-grade material.

Tehran’s progress has come despite CIA efforts to sabotage shipments of centrifuge components on their way into Iran and entice the country’s nuclear scientists to leave.

Iran still faces considerable hurdles. The country touted its launch of a 60-pound satellite into orbit this month. Experts said Iran’s rockets would need to be able to carry more than 2,000 pounds to deliver a first-generation nuclear bomb.

And there are indications that the U.S. and Iran are interested in holding serious diplomatic discussions for the first time in three decades. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that his nation was “ready to hold talks based on mutual respect,” and Obama indicated that his administration would look for opportunities “in the coming months.”

Hassan Qashqavi, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday warned the U.S. not to wait for Iranian presidential elections this year, because ultimate authority rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He also said Iran would be patient.

“Since a new administration came to power in the U.S., we do not want to burn the opportunity of President Obama and give him time to change the reality on the ground,” Qashqavi said.

But experts said Iran was now close enough to nuclear weapons capability that it may be less susceptible to international pressure.

“They’ve made more progress in the last five years than in the previous 10,” Cirincione said.

LA Times

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Will Obama Break the Law for Israel’s Sake?

Since entering office, President Barack Obama has promised sweeping changes in three aspects of governance: transparency, law enforcement, and stewardship of American tax dollars. For a public weary of law enforcement forever prosecuting street but never elite crime, Obama’s many statements about holding all individuals accountable under the law have been encouraging. He also called for government-agency compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in a White House mandate for transparency. Obama swore any bailouts of financial institutions and industries will hereafter avoid secretly funneling taxpayer funds into bloated Wall Street bonuses, executive junkets, and private jets.

But does Obama intend to follow these rules himself? Probably not. Obama’s entire facade momentarily crumbled under a single withering question – “Do you know of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons?” – launched by veteran reporter Helen Thomas during the president’s first evening press conference on Feb. 9, 2008.

Obama dodged the substance of the question:

“With respect to nuclear weapons, I don’t want to speculate. What I know is this: that if we see a nuclear arms race in a region as volatile as the Middle East, everybody will be in danger. And one of my goals is to prevent nuclear proliferation generally, I think that it’s important for the United States in concert with Russia to lead the way on this, and I’ve mentioned this in conversations with the Russian president, Mr. Medvedev, to let him know that it is important for us to restart the conversations about how we can start reducing our nuclear arsenals in an effective way, so that we then have the standing to go to other countries to start stitching back together the nonproliferation treaties that frankly have been weakened over the last several years.”

The evasion inherent in Obama’s reply coupled with actions already taken may reveal the new administration’s true framework for Middle East policy: deception, wastefulness, and lawlessness.

Fortunately, Americans don’t need Barack Obama to “speculate” on what former President Jimmy Carter already confirmed on May 25, 2008: Israel possesses an arsenal of at least 150 nuclear weapons. Why does Obama trot out the discredited policy of “strategic ambiguity” – in which Israeli and U.S. officials officially refuse to confirm or deny the existence Israeli nuclear weapons – at this early moment? For one reason alone: to break the law. The 1976 Symington Amendment prohibits most U.S. foreign aid to any country found trafficking in nuclear enrichment equipment or technology outside international safeguards. Israel has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). If U.S. presidents complied with the Symington Amendment, they would not deliver yearly aid packages to Israel totaling billions of dollars. Presidents make-believe that Israeli nuclear weapons don’t exist so Congress can legally continue shoveling the lion’s share of the U.S. foreign aid budget to Israel. But this thin pretense is now over. Since Carter’s revelation, press outlets such as Reuters chat openly about how Israeli’s nukes mean that it does not qualify for U.S. aid. But like Harry Markopolos incessantly nagging the SEC about Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, fourth-estate and nuclear-activist calls for compliance continue to be rebuffed by government agencies. Denying Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests about Israeli nukes has always been an integral tactic in preserving this hoary old ruse.

The National Security Archive at George Washington University has doggedly pursued public release of key CIA files about Israel’s nuclear weapons programs under the FOIA. The Archive has so far obtained “only a small fraction of a large body of documents … that remain classified.” Keeping all kinds of damning information bottled up was a special priority during the George W. Bush administration, whose FOIA policy was to find reasons not to release documents. As Obama backtracks on transparency – as he must if he fully commits to the policy of “strategic ambiguity” – researchers will have to wait at least another eight years for documents already long overdue for public release. That could be very dangerous.

Placing declassified documents about Israeli nuclear capabilities on the table as part of U.S.-Iranian and other regional diplomatic and academic relations is the only way to prepare for good-faith negotiations. Iran is a signatory to the NPT and allows public inspections of its civilian nuclear facilities, though many doggedly insist without hard evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. U.S. policymakers will continue to have a difficult time convincing the public and allies that newer, tougher approaches are needed against Iran if the U.S. continues to avoid discussing Israeli nukes. Regional and American negotiators must be armed with enough facts to address whether Israel’s military belligerence, coupled with a nuclear arsenal, is motivating others to seek the nuclear deterrents. Obama appears to be committing to Israeli regional nuclear hegemony rather than addressing it as a proliferation-driver. If this seems far-fetched, consider that Obama has already reauthorized a quiet blockade of Iran begun during the Bush administration.

George W. Bush responded to Israel lobby pressure to target Iran by creating a new U.S. Treasury Department unit by executive order in 2004. The secretive Office of Terrorist and Financial Intelligence (TFI) delivers most of its public briefings at an AIPAC-sponsored think-tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and even contracts the think-tankers for “consulting.” Like other agencies during the Bush presidency, TFI denied FOIA requests [.pdf] for detailed information about its activities, but it is known to be targeting commercial shippers, international banks, and companies that do business with Iran. Clearly, if this quiet commercial and financial blockade were being waged by some powerful foreign entity against the United States, Americans would consider it a casus belli. But rather than slow or shut the operation down in preparation for promised attempts at U.S.-Iran diplomacy, Obama’s new Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner recently announced that Stuart Levey will continue to lead this financial blockade unit at Treasury. This particular clandestine operations component of Obama’s Middle East policy may soon spark a senseless military conflict with Iran, but perhaps that’s the plan. Obama’s policy, if honestly verbalized, may be the following: As your president, I will continue to deceive you about Israeli nuclear weapons, so that my administration can violate the Symington Amendment and deliver unwarranted amounts of taxpayer dollars to Israel. My administration will negotiate in bad faith with Iran while clandestinely attacking it, in order to preserve Israeli nuclear hegemony in the Middle East.

For Americans impoverished in both reputation and wallet by years of corruption and waning rule of law, such a crass public admission would be refreshing. But is not change we can believe in.

American people back Iran`s right to enrich uranium: Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky lashed out at western media reports saying Tehran was “defying the world” over its nuclear program.

“That’s a funny definition of the ‘world’. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), for example which is the majority of countries, endorses Iran’s right to enrich uranium,” said Chomsky.

“Now nobody thinks they have the right to develop nuclear weapons, however that’s different issue. But the majority of the (American) population agrees (on Iran’s right to enrich uranium),” he added.

Iran has repeatedly stressed that having nuclear arms would be against its Islamic teachings and laws.

The distinguished 80-year-old professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said, “Public opinion here overwhelmingly holds that Iran should have the right to develop nuclear energy…”

Chomsky reaffirmed also that Iran was “of course entitled to uranium enrichment as a member of the NPT.”
The US scholar made clear that most Americans reject the Iran policy of President George W. Bush.

“With regard to Iran, a substantial segment of pretty mainstream opinion has been harshly critical of the confrontational approach and has called for negotiations and diplomacy,” Chomsky said.

He added there could have been a US-Iranian “rapprochement for the last 10 years.”

“It did not happen because of the extremism of the Bush administration was simply directed at making relations harsher, more bitter, militarizing them and that’s why the Bush administration even antagonized allies,” Chomsky said.

Asked whether the US-Iranian estrangement could finally end, he pointed to the possibility of a “working relationship” between both adversaries.

full article: www.insight-info.com

Depleted Uranium has Destroyed the Genetic Future of Iraq

Markthshark, Daily Kos

May 30, 2008

It’s not just the U.S. military, and it’s not just Iraq. The U.K. has also used depleted uranium in both Iraq and Afghanistan; NATO forces have used it in Kosovo, and Israel allegedly used it in Lebanon and on the Palestinians.

The use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by the U.S. military may lead to a death toll far higher than that from the nuclear bombs dropped at the end of World War II.

A waste product from the enrichment of uranium, DU, contains nearly one-third the radioactive isotopes of uranium that occurs naturally. DU is generally used in armor-piercing ammunition; despite its classification as a weapon of mass destruction, and subsequent banning by the United Nations.

Incidental inhalation or ingestion of DU particles is very toxic and can remain so forever. To give you an idea of just how toxic: at the end of the first Gulf War, the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority estimated that 50 tons remained in Iraq, and that amount could be responsible for 500,000 cancer deaths by the year 2000. Now, it’s not clear whether that prediction came true or not, but to date, an estimated 2,000 tons of DU dust have been generated in the Middle East in general.

In contrast, approximately 250,000 lives were claimed by the explosions and subsequent radiation released by the nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Natural News.com has the story:

“More than ten times the amount of radiation released during atmospheric testing [of nuclear bombs] has been released from DU weaponry since 1991,” said Leuren Moret, a U.S. nuclear scientist. “The genetic future of the Iraqi people, for the most part, is destroyed. The environment now is completely radioactive.”

Because DU has a half-life of 4.5 billion years, the Middle East will, for all practical purposes, be radioactive forever.

The two U.S. wars in Iraq “have been nuclear wars because they have scattered nuclear material across the land, and people, particularly children, are condemned to die of malignancy and congenital disease essentially for eternity,” said anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott. 

Since George H.W. Bush’s first Gulf War, birth defects and childhood cancer rates have increased seven fold in Iraq. And, our troops have paid a heavy price as well. More than 35 percent (251,000) of U.S. Gulf War veterans are dead or on permanent medical disability, compared with only 400 who were killed during the conflict.

It doesn’t have to be like this. We can’t change the past but we can fight to end the use of inhuman weapons in immoral wars of aggression. I believe Barack Obama said it best… (paraphrased)

We not only need to end the war; we need to end the mindset of war.

Those are powerful words and something I’ve never heard before from an American leader… ever.

 

 

Bush’s Middle East foreign policy creates moral tragedies

The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, recently called the United States “a hegemonic power that has lost the high moral ground.” Our politicians have ruined not only our economy but also our image and integrity. President George W. Bush didn’t practice what he preached of a “humble foreign policy” but applied instead the attitude of “might is right.”

imam mohammad ali elahi and imam khomeini

 

Our country, once a beacon of hope and freedom for the world, has squandered our prosperity to create conflicts and instigate civil wars among other nations by funding one group against another. This is a moral tragedy.

The successful presidential election in Lebanon indicates the failure of the Bush foreign policy. The people of the region are searching for reconciliation. The United States should get on the right side of the struggle and be part of the triumph of peace. The president said he gave up golfing “in solidarity” with the families of soldiers in Iraq. I hope the president resumes his golfing soon. A more constructive display of solidarity would be to stop these wars, fix the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan and don’t start yet another war in the Persian Gulf.

There is no evidence that Iran is building nuclear weapons. United Nations atomic watchdog chief, Mohamed El-Baradei, accused the Bush administration of adding “fuel to the fire” with bellicose rhetoric. The national intelligence estimate in November 2007 confirmed that Iran’s nuclear program has no military aspect — it is not pursuing nuclear weapons. Under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran, just like any other country, has the right to produce peaceful nuclear technology.

full article by Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi