Sunday, March 1, 2009

Will Iran Scuttle the Obama Agenda?

President Barak Hussein Obama has unveiled a very ambitious U.S. domestic agenda to deal with the worst global economic crisis in at least sixty years and to remake America after thirty years of the Reagan revolution, deregulation and less government. The president has already acknowledged "the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak". The president has warned them that he, too, is "ready for the fight".

As if the escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and domestic special interest groups were not enough , it is now being argued by some that Obama is about to be blind-sided by the powerful Israeli lobby pushing for war against Iran to stop its nuclear program. Can the Israeli lobby succeed in their latest war quest? Conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan is worried about it. Here is a piece he recently wrote on this subject:

"Real men go to Tehran!" brayed the neoconservatives, after the success of their propaganda campaign to have America march on Baghdad and into an unnecessary war that has forfeited all the fruits of our Cold War victory.

Now they are back, in pursuit of what has always been their great goal: an American war on Iran. It would be a mistake to believe they and their collaborators cannot succeed a second time. Consider:

On being chosen by Israel's President Shimon Peres to form the new regime, Likud's "Bibi" Netanyahu declared, "Iran is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon and constitutes the gravest threat to our existence since the war of independence."

Echoing Netanyahu, headlines last week screamed of a startling new nuclear breakthrough by the mullahs. "Iran ready to build nuclear weapon, analysts say," said CNN. "Iran has enough uranium to make a bomb," said the Los Angeles Times. Armageddon appeared imminent.

Asked about Iran's nukes in his confirmation testimony, CIA Director Leon Panetta blurted, "From all the information I've seen, I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability."

Tuesday, Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a front spawned by the Israeli lobby AIPAC, was given the Iranian portfolio. AIPAC's top agenda item? A U.S. collision with Iran.

In the neocon Weekly Standard, Elliott Abrams of the Bush White House parrots Netanyahu, urging Obama to put any land-for-peace deals with the Palestinians on a back burner. Why?

"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now part of a broader struggle in the region over Iranian extremism and power. Israeli withdrawals now risk opening the door not only to Palestinian terrorists but to Iranian proxies."

The campaign is under way to conflate Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria as a new axis of evil, a terrorist cartel led by Iranian mullahs hell-bent on building a nuclear bomb and using it on Israel and America. The full-page ads and syndicated columns calling on Obama to eradicate this mortal peril before it destroys us all cannot be far off.

But before we let ourselves be stampeded into another unnecessary war, let us review a few facts that seem to contradict the war propaganda.

First, last week's acknowledgment that Iran has enough enriched uranium for one atomic bomb does not mean Iran is building an atomic bomb.

To construct a nuclear device, the ton of low-enriched uranium at Natanz would have to be run through a second cascade of high-speed centrifuges to produce 55 pounds of highly enriched uranium.

There is no evidence Iran has either created the cascade of high-speed centrifuges necessary to produce HUE or that Iran has diverted any of the low-enriched uranium from Natanz. And the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors retain full access to Natanz.

And rather than accelerating production of low-enriched uranium, only 4,000 of the Natanz centrifuges are operating. Some 1,000 are idle. Why?

Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei, head of the Atomic Energy Agency, believes this is a signal that Tehran wishes to negotiate with the United States, but without yielding any of its rights to enrich uranium and operate nuclear power plants.

For, unlike Israel, Pakistan and India, none of which signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and all of which ran clandestine programs and built atom bombs, Iran signed the treaty and has abided by its safeguards agreement. What it refuses to accept are the broader demands of the U.N. Security Council because these go beyond the treaty and sanction Iran for doing what it has a legal right to do.

Moreover, Adm. Dennis Blair, who heads U.S. intelligence, has just restated the consensus of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran does not now possess and is not now pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

Bottom line: Neither the United States nor the Atomic Energy Agency has conclusive evidence that Iran either has the fissile material for a bomb or an active program to build a bomb. It has never tested a nuclear device and has never demonstrated a capacity to "weaponize" a nuclear device, if it had one.

Why, then, the hype, the hysteria, the clamor for "Action This Day!"? It is to divert America from her true national interests and stampede her into embracing the agenda of a renascent War Party.

None of this is to suggest the Iranians are saintly souls seeking only peace and progress. Like South Korea, Japan and other nations with nuclear power plants, they may well want the ability to break out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, should it be necessary to deter, defend against or defeat enemies.

But that is no threat to us to justify war. For decades, we lived under the threat that hundreds of Russian warheads could rain down upon us in hours, ending our national existence. If deterrence worked with Stalin and Mao, it can work with an Iran that has not launched an offensive war against any nation within the memory of any living American.

Can we Americans say the same?

Related Links:

Who Rules America?

Buchanan OpEd in San Jose Mercury News

Iran Joins Elite Space Club

Jewish Power Grows in U.S. Congress

Obama's Ambitious Domestic Agenda

National Intelligence Estimate on Iran

Are Jews Culprits of Collapse on Wall Street?


Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from an Op Ed by ex Indian diplomat Bhadrakumar:

Clearly, relations with the US are of the highest priority for India, as they are for Russia or China. But the similarity ends there. For the foreseeable future, despite the heart-warming prognosis by the world community hailing India as a potentially emerging global player, the hard reality is that such a prospect remains distant in the scheme of things. When it comes to issues such as the situation around Iran, India lacks the wherewithal of Russia or China.
On the other hand, India is almost similarly placed vis-a-vis the US as Brazil or Turkey are. The fact that these two countries, which are close partners of the US, have not drawn Washington's ire shouldn't go unnoticed. New Delhi's apprehensions that any independent line on the Iran nuclear issue might upset the rhythm of US-India relations seems, in introspect, to have been entirely unwarranted. Countries that have taken an independent line on the Iran nuclear issue during crucial IAEA votes - Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Egypt - have not exactly come to grief. On the contrary, India's traditional ties with Iran grievously suffered when it began blindly toeing the American line.

Worse still, Tehran harbors a suspicion that New Delhi might have used its ''Iran card'' to ingratiate itself with the George W Bush administration. The signs are that Tehran has made a cool analysis about damage control and has decided to more or less relegate its ties with New Delhi to a place on the backburner, even while going through the occasional motions of friendship and exchange of views that the two neighbors cannot do without.

New Delhi needs to take stock that Obama is an extraordinarily gifted politician endowed with intellectuality and it is conceivable he may come up with new thinking and a new approach to the problem. Monday's swap deal underscored indisputably that US policy on Iran is in a cul-de-sac. A reversal becomes inevitable. To be sure, Obama has taken note that Turkey and Brazil highlighted the existence of a whole world beyond the secretive, cloistered framework of the "Iran Six".

New Delhi has of late been attempting to follow in the footsteps of Russian and Chinese policies. Here too, a rethink is in order. India needs to factor in gains accruing to Russia and China from a continuing US-Iran standoff. The Western embargo against Tehran is keeping Iranian energy exports out of the European energy market that might otherwise have competed with Russian supplies. Energy exports constitute the single-biggest trump card of Russian foreign policy to modulate Western policies toward Moscow.

As for China, it is indeed having quite a field day as an exporter of goods and services to Iran as well as for advancing plans to evacuate Iranian gas and oil through pipelines across Central Asia that are nearing completion. In sum, Beijing has done splendidly well.

India's diplomatic ingenuity lies in working on the US thinking to persuade it to become a partner in the Iran pipeline project. The prospect offers a "win-win" situation. Iran doesn't hide its panache for Big Oil. The US has stakes in India-Pakistan normalization. India and Pakistan's energy markets offer massive business for American oil companies. The US involvement acts as a guarantee for the pipeline. Least of all, Washington too wishes to make Tehran a stakeholder in regional stability.

Riaz Haq said...

Diplomat Bharakumar Op Ed on Iran-India contd:

Russia and China, therefore, have complementary interests in shepherding Iranian energy exports to the Asian market. How is India placed in the energy equations? On balance, India in no way benefits out of the US-Iran standoff and, in fact, has a great deal to lose as regional tensions prevail in a region which forms its extended neighborhood. The Iran nuclear issue potentially can complicate the US-India strategic partnership as New Delhi will be firmly opposed to any use of force in the resolution of the problem.
Equally, the bottom line is that Iran is a major source of energy supplies for the expanding Indian economy. In geopolitical terms, a leap of faith uncluttered by the debris in the India-Pakistan relationship will dictate that the Iran gas pipeline project offers a rare opportunity for New Delhi to make its western neighbor a stakeholder in regional cooperation. Even at the height of the Cold War with nuclear armies preparing for Armageddon, pipelines criss-crossed the Iron Curtain. Alas, the Indian strategic community has a closed mind, as things stand, when it comes to developing a matrix of regional cooperation that even remotely includes Pakistan.

India's diplomatic ingenuity lies in working on the US thinking to persuade it to become a partner in the Iran pipeline project. The prospect offers a "win-win" situation. Iran doesn't hide its panache for Big Oil. The US has stakes in India-Pakistan normalization. India and Pakistan's energy markets offer massive business for American oil companies. The US involvement acts as a guarantee for the pipeline. Least of all, Washington too wishes to make Tehran a stakeholder in regional stability.

New Delhi should closely study Turkey's motivations on the Iran nuclear issue. Turkey has interests almost similar to India's and its supple diplomacy enables it to astutely position itself for the day when the US-Iran standoff dissipates. Turkey estimates that Iran is a neighbor (although they have had a troubled relationship) while the US is a key North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally and any midwifery in the inevitable US-Iran rapprochement becomes a strategic asset for Ankara's growing stature as a regional power.

Indian diplomacy has lately made some interesting moves toward Iran, beginning with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao's visit to Tehran in February. The desire to craft a fresh approach is also evident in External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's consultations this week in Tehran. The path is strewn with thorns, as the Iranians harbor a deep sense of hurt about India's stance at the IAEA votes. Therefore, as the US's tug-of-war with Iran intensifies, New Delhi faces the challenge of not treading on Tehran's sensitivities all over again.

On the whole, Indian policy is principled, especially its line that the IAEA ought to be in the driving seat rather than a cabal of states with dubious intentions. But New Delhi is lurking in the shadows in a blissful state of masterly inactivity.

India should openly join hands with Turkey and Brazil in opposing the need for a continued push for UN sanctions against Iran. No doubt, the diplomatic initiative by Turkey and Brazil creates an altogether new situation and Indian diplomacy should grasp its importance and seize its potentials.

Riaz Haq said...

In "Confront & Conceal" by David Sanger, there is a secret assessment of US scientist Gary Samore about the incompetence of Iranian nuclear scientists. Iranians have taken much much longer and still not achieved what the Brits, Indians and Pakistanis did in much shorter time to build nuclear capability.