Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Juan Cole: More Nuclear Scaremongering about Iran

From: iran.html

More Nuclear Scaremongering about Iran from Clinton: Neocons
Quake at Ahmadinejad threat to make . . . gasp . . . Medical Isotopes

By Juan Cole
Informed Comment : Monday, February 08, 2010

Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton engaged in some fearmongering on Iran on
Sunday on Candy Crowley's CNN magazine show, State of the Union. Here is how
the exchange went:

'CROWLEY: If you were to say to the American people, this country is the
most dangerous to Americans and to the U.S., where is that country?

CLINTON: You know, Candy, in terms of a country, obviously a nuclear- armed
country like North Korea or Iran pose both a real or a potential threat.

CROWLEY: And you're convinced Iran has nuclear...

CLINTON: No, no, but we believe that their behavior certainly is evidence of
their intentions . . .

Kudos to Crowley for not letting that ridiculous assertion pass. To put Iran
in the same category as North Korea in 2010 and to make it among the primary
'threats' challenging the United States is just bizarre. The US intelligence
establishment continues to doubt that Iran has or wants a nuclear weapons
program. Tehran does have a nuclear enrichment program, which is permitted
by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran allows United Nations
inspections of it nuclear facilities. Although Iran is not as transparent as
the UN International Atomic Energy Agency would like, there is no
dispositive evidence of a weapons program. For the Secretary of State to
frame Iran as she did is just muddled or dishonest.

Clinton again repeated that the new facility near Qom is evidence that Iran
intends to build a bomb. But then head of the International Atomic Energy
Agency Mohammed Elbaradei was invited to inspect it in late October and
found a 'hole in a mountain' with no equipment or uranium on-site. The
facility is too small to be an efficient producer of High Enriched Uranium
for bombs, and is more likely intended to serve as a repository of equipment
and know-how that cannot be bombed by the Israelis or Americans.

It is a trick of the Washington Establishment to scare apparently easily
frightened Americans into a conviction that some small, poor, third world
country is a dire threat to the most massively funded and armed military in
the world. Repeating falsehoods is one way the Big Lie is implanted, that
then allows US belligerence to be unquestioned at home.

Clinton did go on to defend the Obama administration's attempts to engage
North Korea and Iran (again, placing them on the same plane), but not on the
grounds of success in negotiations. Rather, she argued that attempting to
engage the problem countries made it easier, when the negotiations failed,
to convince countries such as Russia and China (in N. Korea's case) or
Russia (in the case of Iran) to ratchet up sanctions at the UN. But if all
engagement accomplishes is to make imposition of sanctions easier, it isn't
really engagement, it is just posturing. Here is the video:

News from Iran will be spun by the US press to justify Clinton's fears.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made headlines Sunday by directing
Iran's (regularly inspected) nuclear research establishment at Natanz near
Isfahan to begin attempting to enrich uranium to 19.75% so that that country
will eventually have the ability to supply its own fuel for its sole reactor
that produces medical isotopes for treating, e.g., cancer. Any uranium
enriched to 19.75% and fed through the reactor is transformed into isotopes
and then used up.

Note that Iran is openly announcing this decision and is informing the
International Atomic Energy Agency of it, in accordance with the Non-
Proliferation Treaty. Nor is it something they'll be able to accomplish

Iran's PressTV reports on the Western reaction to the announcement:

But if all Iran does is enrich to 19.75% (the upper level of low-enriched
uranium) for the isotope reactor and then use up the isotopes, this step is
the least dangerous one it could take.

Iran in the past bought the enriched uranium for the isotope reactor from
Argentina. So it would be nothing new if Iran came to possess that grade of
LEU. Iran's government is horrible, but it is less dictatorial than that of
the Argentinean generals of the 1970s and early 1980s who developed Buenos
Aires' nuclear enrichment capabilities to the point where it really could
have made a bomb. But the country foreswore any such ambitions despite its
knowledge. Iran likewise denies it wants a bomb, and there is no good
evidence to the contrary. It is just that Washington adored the far
rightwing generals in Argentina who made people disappear in the thousands,
and didn't care if they had the Bomb. And much of Washington is determined
to lie about what is known of Iran's capabilities and intentions.

The list of other countries capable of producing LEU of 19.75% includes
Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Holland, North Korea,
South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
There would be nothing extraordinary about Iran joining this list, and none
of the others on it except N. Korea is being sanctioned-- and that is for
constructing a bomb, which Iran is not doing. Argentina was sanctioned
neither for enriching to 19.75% nor for selling that stock of LEU to Iran!
And South Korea was never sanctioned for secretly enriching to 77%, near
bomb grade, something Iran has never been accused of.

It is not dangerous for Iran to produce low enriched uranium, whether for
reactor fuel for the nuclear electric plants it is building or for its small
medical isotopes reactor (given to it in 1969 by the United States).

It would be dangerous if Iran determined to enrich to 95% to make a bomb. In
order to do so, it would have to evade all US electronic surveillance,
withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and throw out the UN
inspectors. No country being actively and continuously inspected by the IAEA
has ever developed an atomic bomb. The US National Security Agency can hear
a walkie-talkie conversation in the jungles of Guatemala, and for Iran to
hide a decision to make a bomb would be very difficult. The US has also been
successful in enticing Iranian nuclear physicists into defecting, with
insider knowledge and documents. The idea that Iran could conceal a major
enrichment facility somewhere is far-fetched, because enrichment is a water-
and electricity-intensive activity that can be detected. Even just the
building activity for the new small facility near Qom showed up on US
satellite surveillance.

Does the step Ahmadinejad announced on Sunday make sense for Iran? The
answer is yes. Jeffrey Lewis of the New America Foundation writes that:

'Iran has developed plans to use naturally occurring uranium as a "target"
for producing an important medical diagnostic isotope of molybdenum, an
isotope whose decay product can be used to scan for cancers in bone, heart,
lung, and kidney. Iran already imports a sizable quantity of this
pharmacological radionuclide but producing it indigenously would not only
save Iran a considerable amount of money each year, much more than it would
pay for the fuel for the reactor it would use to produce it, but also allow
a more efficient use of this short lived isotope by preventing the decay of
nearly half of the amount bought before it even reached the patients.
Perhaps the biggest incentive indigenous production of 99Mo in Iran would be
the encouragement of its entire nuclear medicine infrastructure; an
infrastructure that might right the imbalance of medical isotopes into this
developing country relative to other nations." '

Iran is already producing low enriched uranium for reactor fuel. That it has
decided to produce a higher grade of it for its medical infrastructure is
neither surprising nor a cause for panic. You'll know if Iran decides to
build a bomb. It will throw out the inspectors or refuse them access,
including to places the US detects a huge electromagnetic signature but
which Iran declines to declare as facilities. None of that has happened.
Until then, the world should relax.

posted by Juan Cole @ 2/08/2010

"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on
the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of
compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in
this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst,
it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and
places (and there are so many) where people have behaved magnificently,
this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending
this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act,
in however small a way, we don¹t have to wait for some grand utopian
future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now
as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad
around us, is itself a marvelous victory." ---Howard Zinn

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