The Iran "Threat" In A Kafkaesque World: Addendum
Edward S. Herman’s and my “The Iran ‘Threat’ In A Kafkaesque World” has just been published in the Autumn 2012 issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies (Vol. XLII, No. 1, pp. 24-45). I hope you turn to the Journal to read our article as well as the other material you’ll find therein—all of which went to press before Israel launched Operation Pillar of Cloud, one of the by now standard bloodbaths it perpetrates against the Gaza Palestinians, followed by a 138-to-9 vote in the UN General Assembly in favor of granting Israel's targets “non-member observer State status” in the United Nations, a legal innovation that sits as uneasily within the U.S. political establishment as it does within Israel's.
Since a lot of other events of considerable relevance to our article also occurred between the time we completed our final draft and the publication of the Autumn issue, some additional words have become inescapable.
First, you’ll notice both in the abstract that introduces our article as well as on page 30 of it, we write that “Between 6 June 2003 and 30 August 2012, the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] devoted thirty-eight written reports to Iran’s nuclear program and passed twelve resolutions on the issue through September 2012” (p. 30).
Well, we need to amend this now, because on November 16, the IAEA published its thirty-ninth written report on Iran’s nuclear program, under the standard but nonetheless foreboding title: Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
And just as it did in its August 30 report, the IAEA’s November 16 report repeated yet again its favorite Alice-in-Wonderland refrain about Iran’s nuclear program:
While the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the
nuclear facilities and [Locations Outside Facilities] declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement, as Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol, the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.
As we also note on page 30, “Given the impossibility of proving a negative, the IAEA, inevitably, is incapable of proving conclusively that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons.”
This last point is crucial to understanding how the IAEA manages its “Iran file” so as to keep the file open indefinitely, and how Western nuclear weapons powers such as the United States have managed the IAEA so as to keep Iran’s nuclear program in the center ring of the international circus for the past ten years.
Clearly, the IAEA has structured the condition that Iran must be able to provide credible assurances about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities so as to be impervious to refutation. No matter what Iran does or does not do with its nuclear program, it cannot escape this condition.
But this, in turn, tells us that the condition is essentially political in nature, rather than scientific. For even if Iran does provide exhaustive, credible assurances about its actual (“declared”) nuclear program, the IAEA can always reject Iran’s assurances about its “undeclared” (and highly likely nonexistent) nuclear weapons-related activities on grounds that Iran’s assurances are not “credible.”
Therefore, as long as the IAEA’s current Director General Yukiya Amano—a career bureaucrat whom the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA once recounted in a secret cable made public by WikiLeaks had pledged that “he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, [including] the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program”—remains willing to entertain every new sexed-up allegation thrown at Iran by adversarial states, it will remain impossible for Iran to meet the IAEA’s condition—or, more catastrophically, until such time as it is too late to matter, as was the case for the former Iraqi regime from March 20, 2003 on.
Moreover, during the two-and-a-half month period between the release of the IAEA’s thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth written reports on Iran’s nuclear program, several important events took place that are closely related to any genuine nonproliferation and disarmament concerns, and they deserve to be discussed here.
Thus, for example, on November 10, only four days after Iran had agreed to attend a conference scheduled in Helsinki to discuss the application of “full-scope” IAEA Safeguards measures to all nuclear activities in the Middle East, with the longer-range goal of establishing a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East, two U.S. diplomats, speaking “on condition of anonymity,” told Associated Press’s George Jahn that the United States would soon announce that it was unilaterally cancelling the conference. The formal coup de-grâce was delivered on November 23 by U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, who issued a Press Release in which she cited the “deep conceptual gap [that] persists in the region on approaches toward regional security and arms control arrangements,” adding to this excuse the “present conditions in the Middle East,” as well as “Iran’s continuing defiance of its international nonproliferation obligations.”
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, responded that “It is clear for us and the whole world that the U.S. does not have genuine political will for a Middle East being free of weapons of mass destruction. It wants to continue Israel having a nuclear weapons capability, which is a threat to the Middle East and of course to international security.” Also noteworthy is the fact that between George Jahn’s November 10 report for AP about Washington’s plans to cancel the Helsinki conference, and Victoria Nuland’s formal announcement on November 23 that Washington had in fact cancelled the conference, Israel launched Operation Pillar of Cloud, its most ferocious military assault on the Gaza Palestinians in four years, and lasting from November 14 to 21, with at least 160 Palestinians killed (including 105 noncombatants, of whom 34 were children), and 6 Israelis. Unmentioned in Nuland’s excuse for cancelling the conference is that such “conditions” did not prevail in the Middle East two weeks earlier, by which time Washington already had signaled its intention to cancel the conference.
As best I can tell, the United States’ stark opposition to the goals of the Helsinki conference—that is, the United States’ and Israel’s joint policy that Israel is to remain the sole nuclear-weapons rogue power in the Middle East, and that Israel must not be disarmed or subjected to IAEA inspections—went unreported in the print editions of every major English-language newspaper in the United States.
Additionally, on December 3, the UN General Assembly voted on a draft resolution put forth by the Committee on Disarmament and International Security (or the First Committee) that “Reaffirms the importance of Israel’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and placement of all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive International Atomic Energy Safeguards,” and that “Calls upon that State to accede to the Treaty without further delay….” The General Assembly voted 174 in favor to 6 against, these 6 nays numbering among them the United States, Israel, and Canada (along with the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau)—Iran, of course, voted in favor of the resolution, as did every other Middle East state.
As best I can tell, the General Assembly’s overwhelming vote (and many others like it, whether in 2012 or earlier years) in favor of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament in the Middle East went unreported in the print editions of every major English-language newspaper in the United States and Britain. (Though Glenn Greenwald did blog about it for The Guardian’s electronic edition.)
Then only two days after the General Assembly’s vote, on December 5, lo and behold! The United States conducted what its scientists call a “subcritical” nuclear weapons test some 1,000 feet below ground at its Nevada National Security Site, 85 miles northwest of Las Vegas. (“Subcritical,” in that no self-sustaining nuclear chain-reaction was triggered.) Codenamed “Pollux” and conducted jointly by the National Nuclear Security Administration, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories (now there are some outfits that merit much closer international inspection), it was the twenty-seventh “subcritical” test-to-date since the United States began this series of nuclear weapons experiments in 1997. In the words of NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook, “more data [were] collected in this single experiment than all other previous subcritical experiments”—data that are critical for the “continued confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the nation’s stockpile,” he added.
When news of the “Pollux” test trickled into circulation via the wire services and the Internet, Twitter and the like (the NNSA even posted a 31-second video clip of the test on YouTube!), the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as members of Iran’s government, responded angrily. “On behalf of the A-bombed city of Hiroshima, I vehemently protest,” Mayor Kazumi Matsui stated in an open letter to the American president. Separately, Mayor Matsui wondered “why President Obama, who said he would seek a nuclear-free world, carried out the test?” (Recall NNSA’s Don Cook’s explanation about the need to maintain confidence in the effectiveness of American nukes.) More to the point was the observation of Hirotami Yamada, the Secretary General of the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivors Council, who lamented that the test is “proof that the United States could use nuclear weapons anytime,” and added that “Such a country is not qualified to be a world leader.” These latter sentiments were widely echoed in Iran.
As best I can tell, this U.S. nuclear test and all of its ramifications for international peace and security, nuclear nonproliferation as well as disarmament, went unreported in the print editions of every major English-language newspaper in the United States and Britain.
To summarize, then: Of these four closely related events (i.e., the IAEA’s release of its thirty-ninth written report on Iran’s nuclear program; the United States’ cancellation of the conference in Helsinki devoted to the elimination of nuclear weapons from the Middle East; the UN General Assembly’s vote calling on Israel to accede to the NPT, and open-up its nuclear weapons program to inspection, with the goal of its elimination; and the United States’ own nuclear weapons test somewhere beneath the Nevada desert), the first event was reported widely by the establishment English-language news media in the United States and elsewhere around the world, while the other three were largely passed-over and barely mentioned at all.
As Edward Herman and I note at the end of “The Iran ‘Threat’ In A Kafkaesque World” (p. 38):
Moments before his extrajudicial murder at the end of The Trial, Kafka’s protagonist wonders “Where was the judge he’d never seen? Where was the high court he’d never reach?”
K’s despair given the kind of world depicted in The Trial calls to mind many aspects of Iran’s nuclear program as the Islamic Republic continues to wind its way through the U.S. dominated Western world.
Hence the State Department’s announcement in late September 2012 that it was revoking its longstanding designation of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization,” the Department having stated only two months earlier that the MEK “seeks the overthrow of the Iranian regime.” As Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the MEK’s political front, greeted the news in an interview: "[T]he balance of power [in Iran] is going to change….[T]he first message for the Iranian people will be they won't fear increasing their activity and increasing their demonstrations…and that will lead to the expansion of anti-regime activities within Iran." (At least in this case, not even the establishment news media could suppress this reversal.)
The response from Iran was understandable: In delisting the MEK from its “foreign terrorist” rankings, the State Department had reconfirmed the extreme hostility of the United States towards Iran.
When asked during an American television interview while he was attending the start of the 67th UN General Assembly in New York City in September whether Iran was “building a nuclear weapon,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replied: “A nuclear weapon? For what purpose? Why would we do that?...What intelligent person would fight 5,000 American bombs with one bomb?”
To which I might add: Why fight between 100 and 200 Israeli nukes?
Imagine that the god of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament were to grant us the wish of rewriting the IAEA’s constant harangue against Iran, but with real-world application to nuclear facts-on-the-ground as they presently exist in the Middle East (and have existed for longer than four decades).—What might we say?
Because Israel has never provided the necessary cooperation, whether by acceding to the NPT and its Safeguards Agreement, or by signing the Additional Protocol, and by opening-up its nuclear weapons program to Agency inspections, not only the Agency, but the entire civilized world, are unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear weapons activities in Israel, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Israel is in peaceful activities.
Of course, we all know better.
David Peterson, "The Iran 'Threat' In A Kafkaesque World: Addendum," ZNet, January 2, 2013
---- ENDNOTES ----
 See, e.g., Noam Chomsky, "Palestine 2012—Gaza and the UN Resolution," ChomskyInfo, December 1, 2012. Also see "General Assembly grants Palestine non-member observer State status at UN," UN News Center, November 29, 2012.
 Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran (GOV/2012/55), Report by the Director General, November 16, 2012.
 Ibid., para. 53.
 In an accompanying footnote to the November 16, 2012 report, the IAEA explains that it is merely enforcing the “completeness” condition that Iran’s Safeguards Agreement imposes on the country’s nuclear program—that is, that the IAEA is required to verify the “absence of undeclared nuclear activities in [Iran].” (Ibid., n 56, p. 12.)
 U.S. Ambassador Glyn Davies, “SUBJECT: IAEA: AMANO READY FOR PRIME TIME,” Vienna, October 16, 2009, para. 1-2, one of the more than 250,000 “Secret U.S. Embassy Cables” published by WikiLeaks, November 28, 2010, as posted to The Guardian’s website.
 For critiques of some of the more recent sexed-up allegations about Iran’s nuclear program, see, e.g., Gareth Porter, "IAEA Data on Sensitive Iranian Stockpile Misled News Media," Inter Press Service, November 21, 2012; Glenn Greenwald, "AP's dangerous hoax demands an accounting and explanation," The Guardian Blogs, November 29, 2012; and Gareth Porter, "Fake AP Graph Exposes Israeli Fraud and IAEA Credulity," LobeLog, November 30, 2012.
 George Jahn, “Mideast nuke talks called off,” Associated Press, November 11, 2012.—For some important criticisms of Jahn’s work for AP on Iran’s nuclear program, see n. 6, above.
 Victoria Nuland, “2012 Conference on a Middle East Zone Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction (MEWMDFZ)” (PRN: 2012/1840), Press Statement, U.S. Department of State, November 23, 2012.
 “Iran slams US for pulling plug on nuclear conference,” Agence France Presse, November 26, 2012.
 See “After the Truce Deal: Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Civilian and Wound 20 Others in Khan Yunis,” Palestinian Center for Human Rights, November 23, 2012.
 For the text of the UN General Assembly resolution, see The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East (A/67/412), November 19, 2012, pp. 5-7, para. 3-4.
 For the UN General Assembly’s vote breakdown, see UN Department of Information (GA/11321), December 3, 2012, Annex XXXVII.
 See Glenn Greenwald, “The U.S. and Israel: A short quiz on ‘rogue nation’ status,” The Guardian Blogs, December 4, 2012.
 “NNSA Conducts Pollux Subcritical Experiment at Nevada National Security Site,” Press Release, National Nuclear Security Administration, December 6, 2012.
 See “Pollux,” National Nuclear Security Administration, YouTube, December 6, 2012.
 “Japan raps U.S. subcritical nuclear test,” Xinhua, December 8, 2012.
 “U.S. conducts limited nuclear test,” Agence France Presse, December 7, 2012.
 See, e.g., “Nuclear test in Nevada shows U.S. aggressive nature: Iran MP,” Press TV, December 8, 2012.
 In Breon Mitchell’s 1998 translation (New York: Schocken Books).
 See “Delisting of the Mujahedin-e Khalq,” U.S. Department of State, September 28, 2012; and see Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, July 31, 2012), Ch. 6, "Foreign Terrorist Organizations," viz. the listing for the “Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization.”
 “Iran says Obama administration’s removal of group from US terror list shows ‘double standards’,” Associated Press, September 29, 2012.
 See, e.g., Scott Shane, “Star Lobbyists Help Iran Group Escape Shadow,” New York Times, September 22, 2012; Richard Silverstein, “Terror delisting the MEK is a cynical sham,” The Guardian, September 22, 2012; and Glenn Greenwald, “Five lessons from the de-listing of MEK as a terrorist group,” The Guardian Blogs, September 23, 2012.
 Elaine Galey, “AP Interview—Iran opposition chief sees rebirth,” Associated Press, September 29, 2012.
 Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell, “Conversation with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” The Charlie Rose Show, PBS TV, September 28, 2012.
 See Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, “The Real Obstacles to Successful Nuclear Diplomacy with Iran Lie in Washington, Not Tehran,” The Race for Iran, December 23, 2012.