If I have passed on disinformation, I apologize. I think I stated that the Iranians had removed IAEA seals from their nuclear installations. I may have been taken in by the bad journalism in which I – and all the rest of us – swim. However, Kermit Roosevelt has pointed me toward an article by Paul Craig Roberts, “The Coming War in Iran,” which denies that Iran has violated its obligations as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. According to Roberts,
“The only ‘evidence’ that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons is mere assertion by members of the Bush administration and the neoconservative press. Iran says it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors say there is no evidence of a weapons program.
“Iran is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Under the treaty, signatories have the right to develop nuclear energy. All they are required to do is to make reports to the IAEA and keep their facilities open to inspection. Iran complies with these requirements.
“There is no Iranian "defiance." When news media report 'defiance,' they purvey disinformation. The 'seals' on Iranian facilities were placed there voluntarily by the Iranians while they attempted to resolve the false charges brought by the Bush administration. The 'Iran crisis' is entirely the product of the Bush administration's determination to deprive Iran of its rights as a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty.”
In my opinion, the problem lies right inside the NPT document itself, which promised non-nuclear weapons states the right to gain peaceful nuclear technology, provided they refrain from developing nuclear weapons. The other half of the bargain was that the nuclear weapon states were to begin disarming their own nuclear arsenals, so that in time there would be none of these abominable devices left. In fact, the real violations are those of the nuclear states – especially the United States – which have no foreseeable plan to give up their nuclear weapons, come what may. In fact, the non-nuclear states did not get such a great bargain either. By now, only foolish, misguided souls believe that wonderful new sources of energy or medical cures will come from owning the “peaceful atom.” The forthcoming oil crisis cannot be solved by building nuclear power plants. But the desire to do so can hardly be reversed by rewriting the treaty now.
What is significant is public opinion, both in the United States and in Iran. Both populations are deluded to a remarkable degree. Kermit Roosevelt is trying to disabuse me of any false hope that a nonviolent student movement (see photo) may occur in Iran. He writes:
“Metta, Iran is NOT ripe for a student uprising, in my opinion. The student protests are exaggerated by Iranian dissidents in the US and their supporters who want the US to invade and presumably install a Pahlavi as leader. Yes, these students are courageous, but if I had to generalize I would say that young Iranians are interested in one thing: money. After that they are interested in Dokhtar-bazi (chasing girls), motorcycles, football and loud electronic music. They have developed a remarkable level of apathy and cynicism about the possibility of real change…”
But students are not the whole population. The whole Iranian electorate picked a president recently who is either genuinely loony or smart enough to pretend to be loonier than his al Qaeda rivals, who stole from Iran its revolutionary preeminence, after Ayatollah Khomeini’s era. I cannot judge his inner mental condition, but he was elected. Were the elections fair? The US government says no but some other observers say yes. In any case, Ahmadinejad has a considerable following. Moreover, Roosevelt himself believes that the vast majority of Iranians fully support their country’s acquisition of nuclear power. (For additional support of this opinion, see the piece by Karl Vick in the Washington Post, Monday, January 23, 2006; Page A09.) If the Iranian public is misguided, their beliefs are no worse than those of Americans. Paul Craig Roberts cites a Fox poll, noting that,
“Despite the clear and unambiguous facts, the Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll reports that 60% of Republicans, 41% of Independents, and 36% of Democrats support using air strikes and ground troops against Iran in order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. This poll indicates an appalling extent of ignorance and misinformation among the American public. The Bush administration will take advantage of this ignorance to initiate another war in the Middle East.”
Unlike Roberts, I doubt that the Bush administration will even try such a thing. If they cannot win in Iraq against the Sunni uprising, they know they cannot win in Iran. Nevertheless, the acceptance of this prospect by 57 percent of the American public shows the power of disinformation. Evidently we cannot count on democracy alone to prevent disastrous decisions. We need help from some astute diplomats.
So what remains to hope for? If the students are not going to rebel, what other possibilities remain alive? There seem to be two. First, the increasingly open declaration by other Middle Eastern states that Iran must not acquire nuclear weapons means that some of them – probably Saudi Arabia– will play a constructive role. And, second, there is an offer by Russia to process nuclear fuel for the Iranians, so that they need not do so themselves. These offers are still lively possibilities.
In any case, it is sobering to realize that the neoconservatives have been so able to convince the American public not only that Iraq was getting weapons of mass destruction but now that Iran also may be doing so. Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!