What did the U.S. government know about the "secret" Iranian nuclear research facility at Qom and when did it know it? That’s the question that isn’t on everyone’s lips, as the chatter about Iranian "intransigence" on nuclear issues reaches a crescendo in the run-up to Oct. 1, the date negotiations with Tehran are scheduled to start. Practically no one wants to ask let alone answer this question, because it torpedoes the American narrative that is being carefully constructed by the Obama administration and its media fan club, which runs something like this: the Iranians have been actively deceiving us all along and simply can’t be trusted — the only solution, therefore, is to initiate a series of escalating sanctions, up to and including military action.
The Obama-worshippers in the punditocracy are telling us that this is an example of the Dear Leader’s genius: unlike George W. Bush and the neocons, whose crude unilateralism and unmitigated arrogance was a turnoff to our allies and a boon to our enemies, Obama wisely held back and waited until he had the Iranians just where he wanted them, and then, as one of the more unhinged Obama maniacs put it, "Ka-pow!"
"And so you see the Obama mojo again. Look at the moves of the last month. He scraps the missile defense in Eastern Europe, pleasing Russia, and moves the focus of defense to the Mediterranean, pleasing Israel.
"He pwns [sic] Ahmadinejad at the UN by being the first president of the U.S. to preside over the resolution to enforce nuclear non-proliferation.
"He corrals the rhetorical support of the developing world, isolating Tehran still further. He hangs back a little and allows Brown and Sarkozy to do the heavy hitting on NoKo and Iran this past week, again revealing that the desire to curtail Ahmadinejad’s nukes is not only an American project.
"And then, this morning… kapow!"
This tale of heroic cunning and diplomatic derring-do is largely a product of Sullivan’s hero-worshipping imagination — the same tendency to idolatry that moved him to praise George W. Bush as little short of the second coming of Winston Churchill back in the day. It is, however, based on even less substance this time around, for it turns out that the U.S. has known about this "secret" facility for years, as CNN reports:
"The United States was aware of Iran’s unfinished uranium enrichment site for several years, senior U.S. officials told CNN on Friday. U.S. officials have known about the facility since President George W. Bush’s administration, according to the officials who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations."
Yes, the Bushies knew about it, too, and said nothing — but why not? After all, George W. was not exactly known as an apologist for the Iranian regime, and he was no less eager than his successor to tag Tehran as a serial deceiver. The CIA knew about it when they issued that now inconvenient National Intelligence Estimate [.pdf] averring that Iran had abandoned all efforts to militarize its nuclear research in 2003. Were they trying to protect the Iranians, too? And, of course, Obama knew all about it — and decided to make use of it, in spite of the fact that (a) the Qom facility is not operational and (b) there is no evidence it is being used to create a nuclear weapon.
We are told the Iranians only recently discovered that we knew about Qom, which is why they chose to reveal its existence in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — but, really, since the Iranians had a direct line to our most closely guarded secrets, via Ahmed Chalabi, in the days of the Bush administration, it’s hard to make that case with absolute assurance. In any case, they did admit the existence of the Qom facility and have now invited in the inspectors — and all of Obama’s stern admonitions to the Iranians to "come clean" cannot obfuscate Tehran’s transparency in this matter.
In his UN oration, Obama declared “Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow," a manifestly untrue statement that nonetheless went largely unchallenged. Because "all nations" apparently doesn’t include the state of Israel, which has as many as 200 nuclear weapons and is no doubt developing more.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.