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DC’s Absurd Choice: a Nuclear Deal or War on Iran

I don’t know which is worse: President Obama asserting, in defense of the nuclear deal he and his Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated with Iran, that “The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon,” or the fact that most Americans, and most American pundits, seem to accept that limited choice of options as a given.

Nothing could be more ridiculous, of course. We already know, because the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have repeatedly inspected Iran’s nuclear energy programs and reactors and verified the fact, that no bomb-making work has been going on in Iran for years. Iran has no weapons-grade uranium 235 and no plutonium. Even the US intelligence services and Israel’s Mossad leaders past and present have said that Iran has no nuclear weapons program underway.

If the existence in a country of scientists capable to make a bomb were a cause for going to war, the US would have to be attacking Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, all the countries of Eastern Europe and all the former Soviet states now referred to as “the Stans” in central Asia, as well as a host of others whose students have performed admirably as engineers and physics majors in US and European universities. Any of these countries could work out the science and the engineering issues needed to design and build a bomb, and if they didn’t have nuclear reactors that could churn out the necessary fissile material (most do), they could buy it on the black market.

So, for that matter, could Iran, if its leaders really wanted The Bomb. How hard would it have been for Iran to surreptitiously buy a nuke or three from ally and fellow Muslim state Pakistan, which has a bunch of them, or from financially strapped North Korea, or just to buy the ingredients for a bomb from them?  But Iran has not done this, and despite years of unprovoked Israeli threats to send bombers to attack Iran, a fairly impressive and vicious cloak-and-dagger Mossad campaign to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, a US/Israeli-orchestrated cyber attack, called Stuxnet, that destroyed most of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and supercomputers, and covert US support of terrorist actions inside Iran, Iran’s leaders have not reconsidered their decision back in 2003, a full 12 years ago, to halt the country’s research on developing a nuclear bomb, which Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has declared to be a “sin” under Islam.

Anyone who is convinced Iran plans to build a bomb and create Mideast mayhem by using it should ask themselves how that would benefit Iran. The country has been battered by sanctions and an oil embargo that have hampered any and all of its efforts to grow its economy and to improve the lives of the Iranian people. Iran also experienced first hand the horrors of war in the prolonged and horrific struggle it had against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein (who had US backing). Even if there are people who occasionally still shout “death to America” at demonstrations in Tehran, it would be hard to find someone in that country who would really want a war with the US, or with Israel either for that matter — a country that has at its disposal some 400 nuclear weapons (and which, unlike Iran, has never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, does not allow international inspectors on its territory, and most importantly, has never ruled out using nukes first or against a country that has no nukes).

Iran, if it were nuts enough to go ahead and build a bomb, would never be nuts enough to actually use it against Israel, which would be certain to respond all out by incinerating Iran.

So what the heck is Obama talking about? The choice is not a nuclear agreement with Iran or a war with Iran!  The choice is a nuclear agreement, reached between the US and six other countries on the one side, and Iran on the other, under which Iran agrees to take no steps towards developing a nuclear weapons capability for at least 10 years and in return has the sanctions and embargo on oil sales lifted, or there is no agreement, and the negotiators will have to return to the table at some point, only this time with a pissed-off Iran angry at having been betrayed by a double-crossing US.

It’s a choice between a good deal, and a future worse deal.

Why worse? Because if the pathetic US Congress, buckling under pressure from the Israel lobby, kills this agreement, it is highly unlikely that the other countries party to the negotiations, the so-called P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China, Britain, France, Russia and the US, plus Germany), would go back to supporting tough sanctions on Iran if the US backed out of the agreement. And if Russia, China and any of the European members of the group back out of sanctions, that would only strengthen Iran’s hand in the next go-round at a deal.

Certainly Obama knows this is the real alternative. He has even said so. But he is also making the “deal or war” threat. The disgusting thing about that is that he can even have it taken seriously.

It is taken seriously, though, because that is the Cro-Magnon level of thought of the average American and of the craven politicians — like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — who take the poison shekels of the pro-Israel lobby.

The danger is that this kind of “thinking,” if it can be called that, could be self-fulfilling, leading to mass murder in Iran and to even more chaos in the Middle East than we already are seeing.

There was a time when the world ran on oil and controlling the main source of oil — the Middle East — might have at least made some kind of sick sense, but that time is or will soon be over. As it becomes increasingly clear that the world will have to move away from carbon-based fuels and fast, with predictions of sea-level rise of 10-15 feet happening by 2050 if we don’t, oil and other climate change-causing fuels will soon be on the way out. If so, fairly soon the Middle East will be a backwater, with demand for its blood-soaked petrochemicals, and the price people will pay for them, sinking. (If that doesn’t happen it will be all the earth’s coastlines that will be sinking making this whole issue moot!)

Instead of casually raising the specter of yet another war in the Middle East as Obama is doing in his confusing and increasingly desperate campaign to win support for the negotiated agreement with Iran, he should stick to talking about how it’s the best deal the US is going to get. And once he gets that agreement with Iran approved, if he manages to do it, and has let Israel know in no uncertain terms that if it tries anything unilaterally against Iran, he should move on and start seriously tackling climate change.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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