Top Myths about Iran’s Nuclear Enrichment Program

1. Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program is alleged by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to be a stealth nuclear weapons program. But there is no evidence at all for this allegation, and it was contradicted by Netanyahu’s own Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, who admitted that Iran has not decided to initiate a nuclear weapons program. Israel’s chief of staff, Benny Gantz, has also admitted that Iran has not decided to build a bomb.

2. It is often argued that Iran does not need nuclear power. But it uses some petroleum for power generation, and Iranians are driving more and more. There is every prospect that what happened to Indonesia, which now uses all its own oil in addition to importing some, will happen to Iran. Iran’s energy exports provide a crucial financial cushion, allowing the country to remain independent. Other oil giants, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are also building nuclear power plants. There is nothing illogical or unusual about Iran going in this direction.

3. It is alleged that Iran has threatened to annihilate Israel. It has done no such thing. Iran has a ‘no first strike’ policy, repeatedly enunciated by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has expressed the hope that the ‘Zionist regime over Jerusalem” would ‘vanish from the page of time.’ But he didn’t threaten to roll tanks or missiles against Israel, and compared his hopes for the collapse of Zionism to the collapse of Communism in Russia. Iran has not launched a conventional war of aggression against another state in all of modern history. Israel aggressively invaded Egypt in 1956 and 1967 and Lebanon in 1982 and 2006. The list of aggressive wars fought by the US, including the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, is too long to detail. So why is Iran being configured as the aggressor?

4. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has given a formal ruling or fatwa against nuclear weapons, saying

“The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”

5. Some have alleged that Khamenei is lying in his fatwa, in accordance with a Shiite doctrine that allows pious dissimulation. The permission to lie about religion does not apply where there is a Shiite state able to protect Shiites.

6. No, the International Atomic Energy Agency, on inspecting Iran, did not alleged evidence for bomb-making. It certified that no uranium has been diverted to a weapons program.

7. It is often argued that Iran’s nuclear program might spur an arms race in the Middle East. But it is Israel’s arsenal of 400 nuclear warheads that has spurred the arms races. Iraq’s experiments with enrichment in the late 1980s until 1991 were a direct result of knowledge that Israel was given the bomb by France, Britain and the US. If a non-nuclear Iran is so important, why won’t Israel respond to repeated requests by Middle Eastern countries for a nuclear-free zone in that region?

8. Iran has actually reduced its stockpile of low-enriched uranium at 19.75%, turning it into plates to fuel its medical reactor (which is what Iran has all along said it was doing with that uranium). Iran lost its source of uranium fuel for the medical reactor when Argentina ceased producing and supplying it. (Note that no one put sanctions on Argentina or threatened to bomb it when *it* was enriching uranium to that level).

9. Netanyahu is implicitly arguing that Iran’s activities are the source of the region’s problems. But his insistence on keeping millions of Palestinians stateless and without basic human or property rights, and his creeping annexation of Arab Jerusalem, site of Islam’s third holiest site, are what inspires hatred in the Muslim world not only for Israel but for the United States. Hard line fundamentalists are so easy to convince of malevolent American intentions toward Islam because the United States has been so cooperative in screwing over the Palestinians and in the Israelization of all of Jerusalem. That the US press let Netanyahu get on American television and not answer questions about the illegal Israeli squatting on Palestinian land and continued depriving of the Palestinians of statehood is a testimony to how the American mass media has abdicated its responsibility to inform the American public.

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65 Responses

  1. Yes, so true. So what’s Netanyahu’s game? What does he and/or Israel (their interests not being unitary) stand to gain from the incessant saber rattling and spurious claims of imminent Iranian nuclear Armageddon, which, as noted in a prior Informed Comment post, have now been going on for 20 years?

    • Hype-up foreign threat to paint yourself as the only True Defender of the State, positioning your political opponents as soft, naive or unpatriotic. Its a marketing strategy: note how the GOP in the US has used it over the years.

      That said, keeping the region economically backward is in the interest of the foreign policy strategy they’ve pursued since 1948. So, its not necessarily saber rattling, except to the extent they will want to prepare people and the world for War as an inevitability (“those people were just ASKING for it!”)

  2. I think to understand Iranian government on this issue you have to go beyond the basic economy of nuclear energy. Iranians nuclear program is the ONLY nuclear program that its accomplishments have been publicized (or may be even hyped) by the Iranian government. All the public statements from the government is designed to convey a sense of accomplishment rather than secret program to develop weapons.

    What Iranian government wants to prove to its own citizen and the rest of the world is that it can do anything it sets its mind on. The more sanctions there are, the more they are proving that without help of US/Europe (and even fighting their sabotage) they can achieve their goals. The closest parallel are the John F Kennedy’s landing on the moon objective. Their goal is to do what appears as impossible. The cost is worth it because, they are hoping, that this will be the symbolic end to inferiority complex that Iranians have felt against the obviously technologically superior west.

    • Do the Iranians have such an inferiority complex? Not being critical, just curious. Expats I meet, hardly a good sample, reflect quite a self-confident lot. Hardly like the Palestinians, or the impression I am given in reading of the Arab World’s perception of themselves militarily, given how Israel has dominated them over the years.

  3. Thirty years ago today, in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Christian militiamen were killing men, women, and children. The massacre continued for three days. Israeli defense forces had the camps surrounded and controlled access to them.
    Americans and Israelis find it easy to forget things like the Sabra and Shatilla masacres.
    But then we find it necessary to state in the Democratic platform that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

  4. Another thing that adds to the divide between the Muslim world and the West is that Muslims take holiness and religion very seriously. I prefer secular libertinism with a dash of homemade religion, but I respect those who take holiness seriously.

  5. well juan
    at least we have you

    if only there were more
    who would listen,

    perhaps the new world
    would stop ruining the old

    we have much more to learn
    than we have to teach

  6. ” American mass media has abdicated its responsibility to inform the American public.”; right Dr. Cole.
    Shame on the American MM journalists, they are traitors.

  7. I don’t think your first point (there is no evidence …) is quite right. But if it were, there still would be reason not to trust Iran with nuclear technology. Experts seem to say that once Iran has the ability to make reactor grade fissile material, weapons grade material is not such a big step. The US and Europe certainly do not want nuclear weapons in Iran.

    • Jonathan,
      You said, “The US and Europe certainly do not want nuclear weapons in Iran.”. The arrogance of that statement is appalling.
      Many of us don’t want nuclear weapons in anyone’s hands, especially not in Israel’s hands.

    • But, wouldn’t you say a country that stuck to its principles that WMDs were so evil that even the threat of immenent destruction could not justify their creation even when faced with that threat of immenent destruction has earned a great deal of trust when it comes to possessing knowledge that could, theoretically, and with much effort that can be fairly easily detected, be turned into a WMD? If so, I will remind you that Iran had all the knowledge and equipment,as well as almost certainly a still to be destroyed remnant of the Shah’s stockpile of chemical weapons, to answer in kind the WMD attacks by Saddam (attacks that were fully approved of by the US)at a time when it was fully reasonable to predict that Iran could not stand up to Saddam’s army equipped and backed by the ‘civilised world’ unless it adopted similar weapons/tactics and refused to do so.

  8. What is going on in Iran? I just cannot shake this feeling that Netanyahu is working from more factual intelligence than Juan Cole. 1. Ehud Barak and Benny Gantz speak for local/internal and immediate Israeli political reasons; certainly Barak has also been waving the sword, with Netanyahu. 2. The need for nuclear power for electricity did not temper the danger of Iraq. 3. It is imprudent to so easily discount the aggressive over-the-top, nasty statements of Khamenei & Ahmadinejad. Only one nation has ever used nukes in anger, maybe it should be disarmed by the world, first. 4. Fatwas can be lifted. 5. Religious doctrine can change. Fatwas can be lifted. 6. IAEA is not on the ground in Iran; I suspect Israeli intelligence is. 7. Only one nuclear power is truly frightening: India. 8. Argentina is not a military threat. 9. I often wonder if the Arab and Muslim world really, truly give-a-hoot about the plight of the Palestinians, and if, in fact, the Palestinians serve another and crass agenda for the power centers in the Muslim world…

    • Norton: Not sure of your intent here. Netenyahu has never let facts stand in the way of the need to manufacture consent, every day. What danger did Iraq ever represent, and to who? It is extremely prudent to question the constant misrepresentations by US pols and US media of what Khameni and Ahmadinejad actually say. Fatwas can be lifted, but in general are more consistent over time than politicians, especially coming from the top echelon of religious leaders. See “Pope”. To much and perhaps most of the world, the US is truely frightening with its combination of nuclear and “conventional” overkill, not to mention its global surveillence capacity and weaponization of space. Overwhelming conventional force are not much different than WMD’s. If you often wonder if the Muslim world really cares about the Palestinians you must not ever read any news or views from the Muslim world.

  9. Aw, c’mon, Perfesser — ANYthing is possible, isn’t it? Per that great purveyor of truthiness, Donald “You go to war with the Army you’ve got” Rumsfeld,

    [T]here are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.

    So there! You see? Having experienced decades of Our Own Sacred Government lying to us in things large and small, having performed chemical and biological and radiological experiments on us mopes, trading weapons for hostages and using drug money to fund CIA-driven destabilizations whole denying everything or being unable to recall, conspiring to set in motion the nuclear arming of Israeli crazies, there are so many things we don’t know that we don’t know that, c’mon, it is POSSIBLE that those sneaky bastards in Iran have a huge underground nukeular weapons program, and ICBMs and cargo containers and truck bodies fitted with nukular devices that are just moments away from Destroying Our Ally Who Spies On Us, Sneers At Us, Takes Our Money And Pokes All Of Muslimia In The Eye Every Chance They Get, and of course blowing up the Pentagram, G_d between us and evil!!!!!

    Our minds are made up, our limbic systems are spinning up to warp speed, and the drums of war are hammering in our brains and loins. Don’t be confusing us with no damn FACTS, fer Jaysus’ sake!!!

  10. I place no faith or credibility in anything Netanyahu says. He is nothing more than a blowhard, a potentially dangerous blowhard regarding US interests (were we to acquiesce in his bluster), but a blowhard nevertheless.

    That said, however, no one–not Professor Cole nor Ehud Barak nor Obama nor Romney nor I nor any other commentators–have the slightest idea what the Iranian leaderships’ intentions are regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

    I take no position on whether or not Iran’s intention is to ultimately achieve nuclear weapons capability. There are enough questions to leave room for debate. Nevertheless, I find it a bit amusing that some are so eager to defend Iran’s public position that they are willing to suspend a healthy skepticism and take everything the Iranians say at face value. It seems to me that they are as adamant in their position as are those who are sure the Iranians have a weapons development program. Should future events reveal that Iran intended to achieve nuclear weapons capability all along, such commentators and posters should have salt and pepper handy to put on their scrambled eggs, as they scrape it off their face.

    • Why does it seem that the “questions” about Iranian intentions re becoming a Mouse That Roared are mostly generated by people whose job it is to sow dissension, create fear and uncertainty, and do stuff like tell Yellowcake tales and scare us with fraudulent Bomber Gaps, Missile Gaps and Windows of Vulnerability that we might fall into or get thrown out of? And that so much of what our Experienced Players and Great Gamers claim to perceive in the intentions of Others is just projection of their own baser, scarier and more hateful wishes and dark midnight thoughts and secret plans? Coupled with really strenuous efforts to make sure that anyone foolish enough to try to relate to others with decency and honor and trustworthiness gets a lot of hard, painful lessons in how the worst of us work and how the rest of us have to play the same game or get killed, or worse, creating that ol’ self-fulfilling prophecy thing?

      It’s a good thing, Bill, that probably nobody at all gives a hoot about what positions you (or I, of course, and my imaginary 3×5 cards) take or assume on any issue or point or argument, on matters minute or of Great Import.

      And I hope you will be honest enough to keep salt and pepper shakers ready to hand, should future events reveal that any of your Jovian pronouncements prove to be, like, incorrect. I’ve got mine, a Fiestaware rooster and chicken inherited from my grandparents… (I was unaware that one was supposed to actually eat the egg, scrambled or over easy or hard, that one found on one’s face after saying something that proved not to be so. I thought that little gustatory figure of speech was structured around eating one’s hat that one had been found guilty of talking through.)

  11. You charge Israel with aggressively invading Egypt in 1967. Didn’t the Egyptians close the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping, which is an act of war? Didn’t they mass troops in Sinai? Concerning Lebanon in 2006, wasn’t there an armed attack across the border by Hezbollah and the killing and abduction of Israeli soldiers. Your selective history is not worthy of a scholar.

  12. What is especially dumbfounding is that Netanyahu never gets called on any of his palaver about Iran when he’s interviewed by US reporters. For example – and I cite is only because it is the best (or worst) example – David Gregory at NBC has yet to confront the Israeli Prime Minister, or any other neo-con who shows up on Meet The Press demanding war now, war forever, on statements they make. Poor Tim Russert must be spinning in his grave.

    • It would be easy for the Sunday morning anchors to name the Israeli defense and intelligence officials who are on record opposing an attack on Iran. “Mr. Netanyahu, do you discount these warnings?” They are very similar to warnings given to the Bush Administration in 2003 by experts in Middle East politics that were ignored but materialized anyway: sectarian violence, refugees and most importantly, chaos.

    • David Gregory, like other MM (pseudo) journalists, are dis-informers by omission or commission. They and their bosses know that if the popular media was open to political discourse the American folks would mount a new Forth of July in no time.

  13. Mitt Romney will bring back the NeoCons. McCain will be his choir director, as the nation, dutiful TV-watching sheep, sing “Bomb, bomb Iran”. It’s the oil stupid! NO MORE WARS! It’s getting more and more dangerous.

  14. I’ve gotten some feedback from people about this issue: one young Egyptian I spoke with expressed rage at the fact that “the American people sat idly by and allowed their country to destroy Iraq.” I responded by saying we were strongly against the war and protested it severely, to the point that anti-war groups were put under surveillance from the Government and infiltrated. This interaction made me feel that we, as Americans, could do more to reach out to Arabs in the ME and explain “our side of things.” Perhaps rented billboards on the sides of markets in obscure locations, things like that? I would get involved in something like that.

    Most of the Muslims I spoke to expressed an honest shock that people are so offended by the video. They said “it’s just a video, get over it, we know who Muhammad is (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) so why are people getting so riled up?” Note – this was the American Muslim community, who has developed some thick skin over the years in the face SOME bigotry. For every example of bigotry against Muslims in the US we could likely find 100 examples of Americans reaching out to the Muslim community as neighbors, friends, visitors, etc.. experiencing the culture happily and learning curiously.

    The Arab world needs to understand that most of America (at least liberal America) is pretty cool towards Muslims, open to experiencing Islamic culture, and VERY interested in stopping conflict and being at peace. America is really divided on this issue, with the media seeming to mostly push for intolerance.

    A media blitz in the ME led by progressive-minded friends of American Muslims is in order.

  15. While I agree with much of this, there are three issues I find:

    1) Most people do not say that Iran has decided to weaponize. The claims are that they are getting to the point where once they make the decision to weaponize it can be done very shortly.

    2) You misstate Israel’s aggression. In 1967 the Arabs were mobilized and massed on their borders. A war was imminent. Israel’s pre-emptive strike was necessary, and 1973 shows that it likely saved many thousand lives. In 1982, Israel had been constantly attacked by the PLO from Lebanon (staying in Lebanon was another issue). In 2006, Israel was once again attacked by Hezbollah (this was the final of a number of attempts to kidnap and kill soldiers since 2000). Israel’s use of force has bought it what is now 6 years of quiet on its northern border, which is unprecedented.

    3) Your third point completely ignores Iran’s sponsorship of Hamas and Hezbollah on Israel’s southern and northern borders, not to mention Hezbollah terrorism of Israeli targets abroad. Israel and Iran have already fought several de facto wars at this point.

    • I agree with your points, except your first, mainly because Iran not having made the ‘decision to weaponize’ is a key aspect of Obama’s policy. Obama, at one point, said the US would know when that decision (to weaponize) is made. US intelligence certainly knows a lot more than they say. It may be true that US intelligence is inside Iranian computers and could pinpoint when the technology takes a turn that is indisputably to weaponize. Obama is very confident in his position. Netanyahu saying the Iranians are 90% there means nothing without saying what the other 10% is.

  16. Actually Iran didn’t lose its source of reactor fuel because Argentina “ceased producing and supplying it” but when the US sanctions prevented Iran from acquiring the fuel as usual on the open market. There are plenty of substitutes for Argentina, but Iran can’t buy the fuel from any of them so it resorted to making its own. This, despite the fact that the reactor in question is under IAEA monitoring and far to small to makes nukes anyway — so the US sanctions on the sale of fuel for that reactor served no non-proliferation goal but instead encouraged Iran to enrich uranium to higher levels. Great job. What a “success”.

  17. tl;dr Palestine is still an issue but most people now cite Iraq as the most clear indicator of American aggression towards Muslims.

  18. 1—The reactions of Netanyahu and others appear as an understandable reflection of psychological projection: it’s what they have done and would be themselves be doing, and in all rationality they cannot imagine Iran doing anything else.

    3—The mis-translation of “wiping Israel of the map,” has been propagated (same root as the word propaganda), consciously. It was not a mistake. Aside from the sheer bluster of Hitchens v. Cole, looked at linguistically or in context of where and how that statement was originally made, and later clarified, there is no question in any objective mind of what it meant. So, the only thing for the truth-teller to do is to try to shout louder. The point is how it is has been and is being repeated, and how the perception of what was said is empowering events. Sad.

    4—Lying fatwas, I think you have to give some credence to. It becomes a matter of judgement, and when your nation simply cannot afford any sort of mistake (albeit, due to the bed you have made for yourself), can you look at any such statement any other way? Ultimately, words mean NOTHING. Would you bet your life on them when there was a loaded gun to your head? There is no gun and the bullets are only theoretical, but given Israel’s sorry history with its neighbors and the Palestinians, who would feel differently? I can feel Israel’s pain, but they’d do better to recognize the underlying problem and begin to work on that.

    6—There has a lot of breathless media anticipation recently about an Iranian site the IAEC is about to get access to, where we are implicitly promised absolute final proof of Iranian duplicity. Forgot the location, but the essence of it is that a Soviet scientist who’d worked on diamond manufacturing with some high-pressure technique had his expertise hijacked for enrichment there (?: I know I got this all wrong, but the gist of the thing is out there for anyone wanting the details). The Iranians had been stiff-arming the inspectors until they got the area cleaned-up, all done underneath a canopy so satellites couldn’t track them. The announcers promising that IAEA instruments are so delicate they would find their evidence anyway…..which leads to the real question:

    —SO WHAT?

    What if Iran just came out and said they are going to throw out the inspectors and develop their capabilities, nuclear and otherwise, as they choose and when they choose, as a simple matter of sovereignty?

    The US and Israel do not want them to have more power, nuclear or otherwise, for reasons economic and political. Iranian economic and political development must be stopped, and the nukes are more symbolic of that power than anything else. Its either stop Iranian development, or the US must learn to live with their increasing control over our energy resources. And pressure will increase on Israel to deal with the Palestinians fairly, losing their current strategic regional hegemony.

    The question becomes what are those odds that will be….acceptable?

    • The site in question is called Parchin. It is a military base used to test explosives. Even though it is not a nuclear site — and so falls outside of the IAEA’s inspection authority — the Iranians already allowed the IAEA to visit the site in 2005, twice. Nothing was found, and the IAEA thanked Iran for giving access. Now we’re presented with claims about this site again. The Iranians say they’ll let the inspectors in again, but that it has to be pursuant to some framework which will protect Iran’s rights too.

  19. What is your source for the claim that they are reducing their stockpile of 19.75% LEU?

  20. Dr. Cole, you may be technically correct in stating that Iran has not outright said they intend to build the bomb, but as you yourself have hypothesized, they are likely pursuing a policy of nuclear latency.

    This is equally dangerous IMO because part of nuclear latency is calculated escalation in the event of a crisis, and there are no shortages of crises in the region. Japan doesn’t need to go through the escalation process of announcing a weapons program, then announcing a weapon capability, then threatening a test, then conducting a test; because they have a nuclear armed ally (US) to protect them. Iran has no such ally.

    The assertion that Iran is doing this because Israel already has the bomb is not reassuring even if it is true.

    We can only hope that our blessed leader Obama is better at arm twisting the Ayatollahs then he is the house republicans.

    • 40 countries around the world share Iran’s nuclear “latency” simply because the technology is 20+_ years old.
      link to
      If Iran wanted to keep a breakout option then why did it suspend enrichment entirely for 3 years, offer to ship out 1200kg its 20% enriched uranium, offer to operate its nuclear program as a joint venture with foreign governments, and offer to place significant other restrictions on its nuclear program well beyond any legal requirements?

  21. And what about this. There is a brutal, corupt, autocratic regime, that knows, that tho only way to stay in power for the long term is the acquisition of nuclear weapons, without them the extreme and corupt elites would sooner or later loose their iron grip on iran.

    • Iran’s nuclear program is massively popular at home, and Iran’s government is simply not “holding onto power” by force as is portrayed in the West, but in fact enjoys significant legitimacy – not lease because according to Iran’s Human Development INdex, the lives of ordinary Iranians has signficantly improved since the Islamic Revolution
      link to

      • Survey by Iran’s state TV recently indicated that majority of Iranians are not happy w/ the gov’t sacrificing their economy for the sake of nuclear technology, as in
        link to
        or in the penultimate paragraph of the “Iranian Viewpoint” section @
        link to

        Gov’ts hold on to power by a variety of means. Certainly, force has become a major component in the Iranian gov’t’s case. Most consider the massive crackdown on the 2009 pro-democracy protests as an exercise in brute force. Just check Amnesty Int. or Human Rights Watch’s Iran sections on human rights of violations in all categories, including rape & torture in prisons. IRI is in the top 5 worst violators of journalistic rights worldwide. It has the 2nd highest in numbers and the highest per capita execution rate in the world, w/ highest in child executions. The IRI is in the 10 worst enemies of the internet list. During public events, like important state anniversaries, major towns turn into garrison states to squash the slightest expression of protest before it takes off.

        Here’s one account of Iran’s economic situation:
        link to
        The economy is in such stellar shape that the country has the largest rate of brain drain in the world. Unemployment and inflation are off the chart. The lives of ordinary Iranians also significantly improved during the Pahlavi dynasty, up to early 70s, comparatively more than during the Islamic Rep. This is not meant to plug for that dictatorial dynasty, but just for comparison.

        The survey linked to by Cyrus, now almost 3 years old, was severely criticized by many analysts, given the state of censorship and crackdown on dissident views at the time till now. It’s as if a survey of N. Koreans is conducted from S. Korea by calling people in the North and asking them sensitive national-security-related questions.

        • No, sorry but Iran’s Human Development index prior to the revolution was flat. From 1975 through 1980 Iran’s Human Development Index remained stagnant at 0.569. By 1990 it was up to 0.693, and in 2002 it was 0.732.

          The myth about the “largest brain drain in the world” was debunked many years ago (The “IMF” or “World bank” survey it relied on does not actually exist.)

          And the survey was in fact multiple surveys, and the people were free enough to express signficant dissapproval in those survey so there’s no reason to assume they are false or comparable to North Korea.

          FROM the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2011:

          “Islamic Republic of Iran’s HDI value for 2011 is 0.707—in the high human development category—positioning the country at 88 out of 187 countries and territories. Between 1980 and 2011, Islamic Republic of Iran’s HDI value increased from 0.437 to 0.707, an increase of 62.0 per cent …

          “Between 1980 and 2011, Islamic Republic of Iran’s life expectancy at birth increased by 21.9 years, mean years of schooling increased by 5.2 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.3 years. Islamic Republic of Iran’s GNI [Gross National Income] per capita increased by about 43.0 per cent between 1980 and 2011.”

          Facts are facts — plenty of Iranians do support the regime, like it or not.

  22. Re. Number 6: I can’t claim I know how to read IAEA reports, but I’m definitely concerned when I read the summary of their August report here: link to

    That’s not to say I believe Iran is trying to make a bomb, but I’m certainly not highly confident they aren’t trying.

    PS. I can’t seem to read the other comments posted on this article, but can on others.

    • The thing about all of this human-behavior, who’s-a-bigger-liar stuff is that You Never Know, which is the fundamental fact that all the pot-stirrers and fomenters of conflict rely on when reminding us that You Can’t Believe A Word Anyone Says. Of course, there are Experts who can parse the flood of words and, authoritatively, tell the rest of us what is or isn’t in the minds of Mullahs and Masters of the Universe. And since Our Fellow American Rulers Who Would Never Lie To Us, or Our Allies the Israelis Who Would Never Lie To Us, say that the Evil Iranians are Up To Something , at least it must be more likely than not. Right? I mean, after all there were Weapons of Mass Destruction all over Iraq, right? and then there’s stuff like this to read and try to figure out, when it comes to that IAEA thing and the biases that Prof Cole has dared to report here in the past: link to

      Good luck figuring it all out. Following the money helps, but you got to account for all that tribal and power-driven stuff too…

  23. On point #2 you also forgot to mention the UK, and their widespread use of nuclear plants to generate electricity not their North Sea Oil riches.

    • Also Iran’s substantial investments in solar, wind, and hydro power. That if one wanted to build a wind farm, using the closest source for the parts, anywhere in the ME, one would be buying from Iran, sort of makes the ‘they have oil, the only real reason for developing non-oil power they have is as a front for weapons development’ meme sound idiotic, doesn’t it.

  24. Your analysis is very accurate. Netanyahu is paranoid and will drag us into another confrontation with another Middle Eastern country. The Israeli government was singing the same song regarding Iraq and after we got in we did not find any WMD. Israel is pushing the US to act against Iran; and if the USA does not go as crazy as Israel is and act, then the USA does not care about Israel-USA relations. How come that Israel isn’t going crazy over the North Korean nuclear program despite that the USA said repeatedly that the program is a threat to the US national security? Just wondering.

  25. Your first point is most crucial, your second point is I think a little specious.

    While I agree wholeheartedly Iran’s nuclear program is not a cause for alarm, it is not the case that Nuclear is a logical choice for them if all they wanted was an alternative to petroleum. Solar and other investments in renewables would be far cheaper for the regime than the constant conflict with the West over nuclear power. There’s just no comparison in the cost-benefit.

    That said, I don’t blame Iran for seeking to be a few steps closer to nuclear. As you point out, they actually have reasons for not wanting to be outgunned by an aggressive neighbor.

    • Iran already invests in other renewable sources including solar and windpower (Iran actually exports wind generators)
      Iran also has built some of the world’s largest hydroelectric dams. But nuclear power is in the mix, as it should be. There’s a reason why there are hundreds of new reactors being built or planned around the world, and many new countries are going nuclear. Iran is no exception.

  26. Why is everyone here being so cautious? Joe Klein just correctly averred if Iran DID get the bomb it would help Middle East peace by creating better balance.

  27. And guess what? There’s a bunch of careful scholarship that concludes that all that “delivering” and “smiting” stuff was composed as a self-serving oral tradition, vetted and parsed and finally inscribed, by a bunch of patriarchal tribal leaders, whose opposite (and losing) numbers, the tribal chieftains and high priests of all those Hittites and Amorites and Jebusites, etc., that were put to the sword or enslaved by the Israelites, had composed similar traditions and texts with the same import, and them as the winners. And of course the KJV is only one of hundreds of renditions of the words, and people still argue vigorously and acrimoniously over the punctuation, the stresses, the manifold translations of the many words.

    Is verse 22 the authority for the way the Likudniks are dealing with Gaza and the West Bank? “And the Lord thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee”? One might guess the balance of that selection justifies and gives divine sanction to all the rest? When do the Israelites get to consume the US, or is the US not one of those “nations?” Might want to ask the Armageddonists among the Christians, the ones who are busily trying to bring about the end of the world so they can come into their version of 72 versions and endless ripe dates, what they think about that…

    Does the G_d of Love trump the YWH of Abraham? Just asking.

  28. Professor Cole,

    Your use of the term ‘myth’ in the title of this posting is telling. Despite the fact that the dominant views in the US surrounding the Iranian nuclear program are false (evidence of weaponization, Iranian aggression against Israel)these ‘myths’ have attained a large degree of reality in popular consciousness. As Walter Benjamin recognized, what makes myths effective have less to do with internal validity or consistency than with the ability to make it seem that they have this coherence.

  29. I think the conversation needs to be shifted from its current state to “why can’t Iran develop a nuclear weapon?”.
    This might not be popular in Israel, maybe not even in the US, but Iran is a sovereign state and as such has the same rights to develop nuclear technologies as any other.
    As the only nuclear power in the region it makes perfect sense for the Israeli’s to want to monopolize that position but what right do they have to do so? Throwing rocks in glass houses I say.
    Kenneth Waltz makes, in my opinion, a less biased and more strategic case for such a shift in conversation: link to

  30. It’s incredible how B. Netanyahu and his collaborators are so totally unable to see that, by oppressing the Palestinians in such a huge number of ways, the connection, in spirit, of the Israelis with the victims of the Holocaust is rapidly fading to almost nothing, while the Palestinians, who had nothing whatsoever to do with the German death camps, can be identified with those who were exterminated more and more closely every day.

    Nothing illustrates this better than the way that Netanyahu, by now obviously driven berserk by his 20-year obsession with Iran’s presumed nuclear ambitions, and by incessantly hurling bogus charges of Iran’s “existential threat,” whatever that means, is repeating almost exactly the strategy of the German Reichchancellor of 1939, who, just before he unleashed World War 2, kept ranting and raving that tiny, helpless Czechoslovakia was “a dagger pointed at the heart of Germany.” The big difference is that Herr Schickelgruber clearly meant to erase that dagger or “existential threat” himself, while Netanyahu has thrown all caution to the winds by openly interfering in the current U.S. Presidential elections as they near their climax, in an attempt to force the U.S. to do his dirty work for him.

  31. Red Lines or Nethanyahu’s Red Area

    I don’t see mentioned Nethanyahu’s red line is NO ENRICHMENT whatsoever by Iran. Obama has stated he cannot prohibit a nuclear program for civilian use. Current negotiations reflect an acceptance of Iran’s nuclear rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Iran is signatory to the NPT, Israel is not.

    The essence of uranium enrichment – link. The Iranians claim they need the 19.75% enrichment for production of medical isotopes in their Tehran Research Reactor linked to Argentina and build by the US for the Shah of Persia.

  32. I always enjoy Juan Cole’s perspective but much of what is said here is misinformed or factually untrue. It appears to be accepted by all the governments in the Middle East that Iran is actively pursuing the development of nuclear capability. It’s also true that Iran, unlike Israel or the Sunni Arab states has been an aggressive, violent and highly disruptive force in spreading its influence, creating deadly conflicts throughout the region through its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah.

    I think it’s more relevant to explore what our role has been in pushing Iran’s nuclear policy. Bush termed Iran as part of an axis of evil and invaded its neighbors. Why wouldn’t Iran want the power of nuclear deterrent? Bush insisted on elections which helped bring to power extremist Hamas, Iran’s proxy. Hamas fired Iran-provided weapons on Israeli towns and indeed has stated in the past its sole aim is to destroy Israel and and kill off its population. Since Iran, via Hamas, has recently attacked Israel (although Netanyahu’s approach seems ego-driven and impractical) Israel’s fear of a nuclear Iran is not irrational.

    Maybe the lesson here is to use diplomacy in the future, instead of wasting American lives, resources and credibility in the military adventurism of the Bush administration. Being more judicious in our use of force would make us a more powerful nation and not push our allies and adversaries into such difficult positions.

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