The 30-Year US/Iran Nuke Standoff: We Started It In The Reagan Days

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The Washington narrative about Iran’s alleged secret program to obtain nuclear weapons capability is among the single greatest lies ever propagated by the Warfare State. It has been underway for 30 years now—so the cumulative web of deceit, disinformation, distortions and fabrications has become nearly impossible to untangle, and for good reason: Keeping alive the notion that America is threatened by a fanatical incipient nuclear state is a vital lynch-pin justifying the presence of the vast US war machine in the Persian Gulf and our incessant interventions and meddling in the regions conflicts.

Gareth Porter, an intrepid journalist and historian associated with Inter Press Service has now produced a book that decimates the official narrative, and places the true facts and history into a single, comprehensive and accessible volume, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. It is a Must Read.

Apart from untangling three decades of misrepresentations, Gareth’s biggest contribution lies in going back to the beginning and pinning the tale on the donkey exactly where it belongs. The fact is, the Iranian nuclear program was inherited from the Shah and a vast alliance of American and European nuclear industry suppliers who had concocted a sweeping plan to literally pave Iran with nuclear power plants.

By the time of the 1979 Revolution, the first plant—the Bushehr Nuclear Reactor—was 80 percent complete. Needless to say, however, the Ayatollah Khomeini did not share in the Shah’s grand megalomania— so the program went dormant for several years in the early 1980s. However, the crucial reality was that the Shah’s monumental nuke building plan had always been a complete turn-key deal. Producing upwards of 5 million barrels of oil per day, the regime intended to swap part of its munificent oil revenues for the tens of billions needed to build dozens of nuke plants, and then to also purchase from the West all of the enrichment services, waste handling and other production-support activities it required for the indefinite future.

When the new Iranian government decided to complete the Bushehr plant in 1983, the Shah’s grand plan was turned upside down by the Reagan Administration. Notwithstanding that Iran had been a signatory to the NPT and had a right to build civilian nuclear power plants and uranium enrichment facilities to supply their fuel cycle under Article 4, the Reagan White House essentially delivered a ukase to the domestic nuclear industry and its European allies as well. The Shah’s program was to be entombed: US and West German suppliers were proscribed from supplying the equipment needed to finish Bushehr, and the French were forced to default on their contract to supply the uranium enrichment services on which the Shah’s plan vitally depended.

And why did the Reagan White House slam down a uranium curtain on the Iranians? It was not because of even a scintilla of evidence or even any charges that the Iranians were in violation of their obligations under NPT. Instead, it was pure power politics: American policy was then fully embarked upon its lunatic “tilt” toward Iraq, and viewed shutting down the Iranian nuclear program as useful assist to its ally, Saddam Hussein.

In the fullness of time, American satellite intelligence was delivered to Saddam so that he could better target his chemical weapons attacks on Iran’s teenage soldiers during the 1980s war; and Iran was forced to pursue through illicit channels both the equipment and the enrichment capacities it needed to restart a modest version of the Shah’s nuclear power program.  And the rest was history, as they say.

Thirty years latter it might be fairly asked who were the fools in Washington who decided to force the  revolutionary regime outside the NPT process and the out-sourced parameters of the original  Iranian program in order to bolster the power position of the bloody tyrant from Baghdad?

Yet that’s the least of the questions. As Gareth Porter makes clear, the Reagan Administration’s “uranium curtain” was a flat-out violation of the NPT, and a blatant default on the obligation that the nuclear weapons states had made in enacting the treaty: namely, that in return for renouncing nuclear weapons, non-weapons states would have full access to the equipment, technology, raw materials and services needed to operate a peaceful civilian nuclear industry.

So the irony is thick, indeed. For three decades the War Party has been sanctimoniously denouncing Iran as a rogue state in violation of international law and the NPT.  In that they have the shoe on the wrong foot. The Warfare State is its own law.

The Iranian Threat That Never Was

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If you take politicians and the mainstream media seriously, you believe that Iran wants a nuclear weapon and has relentlessly engaged in covert efforts to build one. Even if you are aware that Iran signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections, you may believe that those who run the Islamic Republic have cleverly found ways to construct a nuclear-weapons industry almost undetected. Therefore, you may conclude, Democratic and Republican administrations have been justified in pressuring Iran to come clean and give up its “nuclear program.”But you would be wrong.

Anyone naturally skeptical about such foreign-policy alarms has by now found solid alternative reporting that debunks the official narrative about the alleged Iranian threat. Much of that reporting has come from Gareth Porter, the journalist and historian associated with Inter Press Service. Porter has done us the favor of collecting the fruits of his dogged investigative journalism into a single comprehensive and accessible volume, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

A grain of truth can be found at the core of the official story. Iranian officials did indeed engage in secret activities to achieve a nuclear capability. But it was a capability aimed at generating electricity and medical treatments, not hydrogen bombs.

Porter opens his book by explaining why Iran used secretive rather than open methods. Recall that before the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran was ruled by an autocratic monarch, the shah. The shah’s power had been eclipsed in the early 1950s by a democratically elected parliament. Then, in 1953, America’s Eisenhower administration sent the CIA in to foment civil discord in order to drive the elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, from office and restore the shah’s power.

During his reign, the shah, a close ally of the United States and Israel, started building a nuclear-power industry — with America’s blessing. Iran’s Bushehr reactor was 80 percent complete when the shah was overthrown.

When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini became Iran’s supreme leader in 1979, he cancelled completion of the reactor and stopped related projects. But “two years later, the government reversed the decision to strip the [Atomic Energy Organization of Iran] of its budget and staff, largely because the severe electricity shortages that marked the first two years of the revolutionary era persuaded policymakers that there might be a role for nuclear power reactors after all,” Porter writes.

The new regime’s goals were “extremely modest compared with those of the shah,” Porter adds, consisting of one power plant and fuel purchased from France. Take note: the Iranian government did not aspire to enrich uranium, which is the big scare issue these days.

Iran brought the IAEA into its planning process, Porter writes, and an agency official, after conducting a survey of facilities, “recommended that the IAEA provide ‘expert services’ in eight different fields.” Porter notes that the IAEA official said nothing about an Iranian request for help in enriching uranium, “reflecting the fact that Iran was still hoping to get enriched uranium from the French company, Eurodif.”

Had things continued along this path, Iran today would have had a transparent civilian nuclear industry, under the NPT safeguard, fueled by enriched uranium purchased from France or elsewhere. No one would be talking about Iranian centrifuges and H-bombs. What happened?

The Reagan administration happened.

Continuing the U.S. hostility toward the Islamic Republic begun by the Carter administration, and siding with Iraq when Saddam Hussein’s military attacked Iran, the Reagan administration imposed “a series of interventions … to prevent international assistance of any kind to the Iranian nuclear program.” Not only did President Reagan block American firms from helping the Iranians; he also pressured American allies to participate in the embargo. This was in clear violation of the NPT, which recognizes the “right” of participating states to acquire nuclear technology for civilian purposes.

No wonder Iran turned to covert channels, most particularly A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani who “was selling nuclear secrets surreptitiously.” This would have been the time for Iran to buy weapons-related technology — however, Porter writes, “there is no indication that [Khan’s Iranian contact] exhibited any interest in the technology for making a bomb.”

This is indeed a manufactured crisis.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman.

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