Iran’s Nuclear Program

“The facts and Iraq’s behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction . . .  These are not assertions.  What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”

–  Washington’s official justification for America’s war on Iraq, announced to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003.

Then in July 2003 the US Secretary of State reiterated that there was “very strong intelligence . . . that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons.”  And there were many more unequivocal and detailed statements about the reliability, the certainty, of intelligence, notably from the British prime minister, Tony Blair, and Washington’s Dick Cheney.

At that time those of us who considered these assertions to be nonsense were shocked and chastened. After all, the leaders of the world’s largest military and surveillance machine were declaring that they had “solid intelligence” regarding a terrifying arsenal of evil weaponry that would be used by Iraq’s maniacal leader.  All the intelligence gathered by thousands of US spooks and amazingly sophisticated technical devices couldn’t be wrong, could it?

Before the  war on Iraq the US was spending about 50 billion dollars a year on gathering and processing information (it’s now about $70 billion), and with that sort of cash and exotic technical activity being devoted to discovering that Saddam’s  “efforts to reconstitute his nuclear program have been focused on acquiring the third and last component – sufficient fissile material to produce a nuclear explosion,” as we were assured,  then all the official reports and announcements and New York Times’ revelations must have been true.

But they weren’t.

The whole thing was a farrago of baloney :  it was tripe, hogwash, codswallop and claptrap from beginning to end. There were no nuclear, biological or chemical weapons programs of any sort.  And there were no apologies, either, from the demented barbarians in Washington who lied to the world and caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and wrecked their country.

And now we are being told that Iran’s nuclear program is as dangerous as the one Saddam didn’t have.

On  September 25 London’s Times newspaper (among others) reported that  “The West warned Iran that it will face fresh sanctions by December unless it can persuade the world of a “profound change” in its nuclear stance after the existence of its secret underground uranium enrichment plant was uncovered.”

But the plant was not “uncovered” by the West.  An International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman stated that  “on September 21 Iran informed the IAEA in a letter that a new pilot fuel-enrichment plant is under construction in the country. The letter stated that the enrichment level would be up to 5 per cent.” So then the Times tried to save face by claiming that  “Reports from Washington [more of these generous but always anonymous sources] indicate that Iran had learnt of the West’s move and declared [the plant] formally to the IAEA.”

How fascinating.   So Iran knows so much about America’s surveillance of its nuclear facilities – and the intentions of its State and Defense Departments, not to mention the White House – that just before the omniscient US intelligence agencies were about to reveal Iran’s secrets to the world they were pre-empted by the equally all-knowing Iranians.

Some other reports were also intriguing.   The New York Times, ever attentive to anonymous “senior officials,”  (possibly like those who caused it to believe, endorse and publicize the “intelligence” that led to the war on Iraq), carried a piece on September 26 to the effect that  “officials said that they developed a detailed picture about work on the facility from multiple human intelligence sources, as well as satellite imagery. A senior official said that intelligence was regularly shared among American, British and French spy agencies, and that Israeli officials were told about the complex years ago.”

“Multiple human intelligence sources,” indeed.  So the CIA has spies lurking and working in Iran’s nuclear establishment and government. Not only that, but America’s premier Intelligence Agency tells “officials” who tell reporters, and thus the world, that it has such assets. How professional, to be sure.

But if the CIA has all these sources with such amazing access, then there must be information available on the level of enrichment of uranium that is planned.  Perhaps the “officials” who so generously leak highly classified information to selected reporters could indicate what it is?

The deranged Iranian President Ahmadinejad, in one of his clearer moments, said that the newly disclosed nuclear facility was not scheduled to begin operations for another 18 months and that  “It’s not a secret site. If it was, why would we have informed the IAEA about it a year ahead of time?” Then Ahmadinejad said that the Agency was welcome to inspect the facility.

If it is found that the enrichment capability is in fact 5 per cent, then there will be a lot of stupid-looking people in the US and other western countries, as this is nowhere near the approximately 90 percent needed to manufacture nuclear weapons. But be assured, if this majestically hyped affair collapses into nothing because the “multiple human intelligence sources” (if they exist) are found to be fantasizing liars, and if the IAEA inspections find no evidence of weapon-grade enrichment, then those responsible for spreading the story will not confess their blunders.

The last lot of liars, under Bush, have never admitted  that they deliberately led their country into an unnecessary, disastrous and fantastically costly war. And if the current bunch of war fanatics have their way this time, and persuade Mr Obama to attack Iran because they imagine it may one day be nuclear-capable, they will never admit that they made a total mess of the whole thing, either.

President Obama emphasized nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation at the UN Security Council meeting he chaired in September. He declared he had “outlined a comprehensive agenda to seek the goal of a world without nuclear weapons,” adding that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “says that all nations have the right to peaceful nuclear energy; that nations with nuclear weapons have a responsibility to move toward disarmament.”

Quite so. Most gratifying.  Majestically desirable.  But the elephant in the UN room, the critical mass, as it were,  whose nuclear arsenal is steadfastly ignored by all nuclear powers and the west in general, is Israel,  the country that pays no attention to anything that is said by the UN Security Council regarding any of its illegal actions.

Israel has hundreds of undeclared nuclear weapons. It has signed no treaty concerning their construction or control.  Its uranium enrichment facilities have never been seen by any inspector, and never will be.  It has no intention of “moving towards” nuclear disarmament, and Mr Obama knows this perfectly well.

But we might ask why that ever-willing “senior official” told the New York Times that intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program was not only “regularly shared among American, British and French spy agencies,” but that “Israeli officials were told about the complex years ago.”

How intriguing.  Here we have three members of the UN Security Council, with nuclear capability, swapping intelligence about Iran. But why did Washington (according to the New York Times’ anonymous sources) tell Israel about it?

In fact the complex wasn’t known about “years ago”, but it’s still intriguing that Israel is well and truly in the loop about US intelligence concerning possible nuclear developments in other countries.

Why is Israel so privileged as to be informed about America’s most sensitive intelligence operations?

* * *

Iran  is in the grip of a bunch of quasi-religious bigots who are as wild-eyed as they are ignorant. They are being deliberately provocative towards the western bloc, whose leaders and establishment figures  regard them as pariahs and lose no opportunity to vilify them and try to make their lives difficult.

But the trouble is that when you penalize pariahs, they get back at you in ways that you might never have thought of.

The move towards inflicting penal sanctions on Iran is strong, but if these do not come about, most likely because Russia and China will veto them, then the attack option will be even more attractive.  This way lies utter disaster.  The world would be a much more dangerous place if the US mounted an attack on Iran.

If Israel attacked, the US would have to be party to its operation, if only because Israeli aircraft would have to fly through airspace totally controlled by America.  The reaction of Muslim nations would be, to put it mildly, robust. The standing of the US around the world, which has received a bit of a boost from Mr Obama’s policies, would be dealt a final, dramatic, deadly blow from which it would never recover. The entire world would suffer.

On September 30 the UN’s chief weapons inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei, said he had seen “no credible evidence” that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Predictably, the smear campaign against him was ramped up and his pronouncement was met with vehement contradiction. We’ll eventually know who was right, however.

The leaked stories in the media about Iran’s supposed nuclear  posture have been planted by US and Israeli sources.  Israel is intent on hyping the supposed threat  because it draws attention away from its genocidal activities in Palestine and its continuing defiant  and illegal building of settlements on stolen Arab land.

There is no proof that there is an Iranian nuclear weapons’ programme.

So remember what we were told last time, during the military build-up based on “facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence,” that led to the disastrous war on Iraq.

And think, this time round, about “multiple human intelligence sources,” who are supposedly providing the same sort of “solid intelligence” about the Iranian nuclear programme. Let’s hope President Obama doesn’t read the New York Times.

BRIAN CLOUGHLEY’s book about the Pakistan army, War, Coups and Terror, is to be published in the US by Skyhorse next month. His website is


Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.