Revolution#112, December 16, 2007
Revelations in U.S. Report on Iran
Lies About Nukes...
And Bigger Lies
George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the rest of the proven liars in the Bush regime have been exposed—again—deliberately and repeatedly lying about life-and-death issues affecting millions of people. The lies this time were the Bush regime’s claim that they had proof Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons and had an active nuclear weapons program. For well over a year, Bush, Cheney, and other top officials have repeatedly and insistently asserted—with great certainty—that Iran was building or trying to build nuclear weapons. On March 31 of this year, Bush stated flatly, “Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.” On June 19, he warned the Iranian government of “consequences” if “they continue to pursue a nuclear weapon.” On July 12 he charged that the Iranian regime “is pursuing nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel off the map.” On August 6, he asserted, “this is a government that has proclaimed its desire to build a nuclear weapon.” Now, according to the US government’s own intelligence, none of this is true.
This drumbeat of lies, distortions, and half-truths was being used to push for harsher economic and political sanctions against Iran. Sanctions are not only an assault on ordinary Iranians, they can also be part of preparing for war by politically isolating and vilifying an opponent and building a coalition around U.S. objectives. These charges had been continually repeated in order to prepare public opinion for a possible military attack against Iran that could put millions of lives at risk and sharply escalate the nightmarish and reactionary clash between imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East/Central Asian regions.
The U.S. government’s own intelligence agencies are now saying with “high confidence” that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The “finding” that the Iran had a nuclear weapons program at all can hardly be taken at face value, given that it comes from the same “intelligence community” that produced the Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” hoax. But, according to this latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), they have suspended the weapons program and do not have their own capabilities to produce weapons grade nuclear fuel. This report also describes their capacity to produce civilian grade fuel (which is a much lower grade and a far simpler process) as still facing significant technical problems. This new assessment sharply contradicts a 2005 NIE report that claimed “with high confidence that Iran is currently determined to develop nuclear weapons” although Iran would be unable to do so until “early-to mid next decade,” a time frame that despite this pretty radical reassessment was reiterated in the new NIE report.
At his December 4 press conference, Bush was asked why he had been making war-like charges against Iran—and in particular why on October 17 he had claimed that “if you’re interested in avoiding World War 3, it seems like you ought to be interested” in ensuring that Iran not gain the capacity to develop such weapons. Bush responded by claiming, “I was made aware of the NIE last week” (i.e., in late November). Bush was then challenged about a Washington Post report (12/4) that the new intelligence estimate on Iran was in the works for 18 months, and that Bush officials had first been briefed on the latest findings in July—not late November. Bush responded, “In August, I think it was [Director of National Intelligence] Mike McConnell came in and said, we have some new information. He didn’t tell me what the information was; he did tell me it was going to take a while to analyze.” Bush’s claim seems absurd on the face of it. Either he’s lying, or he had so little interest in the truth of the situation that he didn’t bother asking what the gist of the information was—even though it concerned the country his administration has claimed is the biggest challenge it faces! In fact, the day after Bush’s press conference, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino “clarified” Bush’s remarks (apparently to avoid the impression that Bush didn’t know or care about one of the most serious issues facing the planet), stating that McConnell did in fact tell Bush in August that Iran may have suspended its nuclear weapons program and that this new information could lead to an intelligence reassessment on Iran.
And there is much more evidence concerning the depths of Bush’s lying—at his press briefing and for months before.
For one, the Washington Post (12/3) and the New York Times (12/5) reported that the NIE was prompted by new intelligence obtained over the summer—including notes from Iranian military officials—confirming a halt in Iran’s nuclear program. Top Bush officials tried to discredit this information by claiming it was part of an Iranian deception campaign, and U.S. intelligence services reportedly spent the intervening several months investigating this, finding it was not the case. In short, this new information was the subject of fierce debate within the Bush regime for months before Bush’s “World War 3” comment.
Second, an analysis by David Fromkin of the Washington Post (12/5) showed that Bush’s rhetoric on Iran did shift in August—from claims that Iran definitely was pursuing nuclear weapons, to claims that Iran was pursuing the knowledge needed to make nuclear weapons and that this was also an unacceptable danger. For instance, on August 9, Bush stated that Iran’s rulers “have expressed their desire to be able to enrich uranium, which we believe is a step toward having a nuclear weapons program.” On August 28, Bush condemned “Iran’s active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons.” On October 4, Bush warned that the U.S. would work so Iran could “not have the know-how on how to make a weapon.” This rhetorical shift indicates Bush did know something was up—even as he continued to beat the drums for war.
Third, a number of journalists have reported that there has been a sharp debate within the U.S. government over the state of Iran’s nuclear program for at least six months and probably over a year—including whether Iran was even pursuing nuclear weapons. A year ago, Seymour Hersh wrote: “The Administration’s planning for a military attack on Iran was made far more complicated earlier this fall by a highly classified draft assessment by the C.I.A. challenging the White House’s assumptions about how close Iran might be to building a nuclear bomb. The C.I.A. found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency.” (During this period the IAEA had repeatedly stated that there was no evidence that Iran was attempting to build nuclear weapons.)
On CNN last week (12/4), Hersh said, “At the time, I wrote that there was a tremendous fight about it, because Cheney in the White House—the vice president did not want to hear this. So that there was a fight about that intelligence. And, actually, for the last year, I think the vice president’s office pretty much has kept—you know, the vice president has kept his foot on the neck of that report. That report was bottled up for a year. The intelligence we learned about yesterday has been circulating inside this government at the highest levels for the last year—and probably longer.”
All this indicates that Bush lied—again—at his press conference and that in reality Bush and Cheney DID know that—at the very least—their own intelligence reports contradicted their claims about Iran, and that there was sharp debate within the U.S. government over the exact status of Iran’s nuclear program. And Cheney in particular reportedly actively intervened to suppress the NIE.
Bush, Cheney, Rice, and the rest have been making very serious charges—with certainty—when they do not have certain knowledge of these facts—and when there has been contrary evidence—including from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Iranians themselves—for years (as we’ve reported in Revolution). In other words, the Bush regime has been distorting, twisting, and lying about reality in order to advance its imperialist political objectives—with potentially catastrophic consequences for the people.
What’s Going On Here?
Why do Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the U.S. ruling class lie—openly, unashamedly, and repeatedly? It is not because they were born habitual liars or they’re simply “lying politicians.” They do so because they represent a system that is compelled by its very workings to commit horrendous atrocities—and by its need to enlist the people in supporting (or accepting) those atrocities, even though they are against the most fundamental interests of the vast majority.
One thing that is revealed in all this is that U.S. pressure and moves towards war on Iran have not,fundamentally, been about nuclear weapons. The U.S. has been lying about the status and capacity of Iran’s nuclear program because of these more fundamental and strategic motives.
Ever since the infamous “Axis of Evil” speech, and with increased urgency since the invasion and occupation of Iraq—and the quagmire that led to—the Bush regime has been moving to isolate, squeeze, and prepare for possible war on Iran. U.S. warships hover off the coast of Iran, a floating trip wire and provocation. The Bush regime has made a barrage of accusations that the Iranians are supplying weapons to forces attacking the U.S. forces in Iraq. And the “nuclear weapons” lie has been put out as a justification of all this. Even when Iran has signaled at various points that it was willing to come to an accommodation with the U.S. on the nuclear issue, the U.S. has either dismissed Iran’s offers or insisted on agreements it knew Iran could not accept.
Driving all this is what the U.S. imperialists consider real necessity. Those “at the wheel” of the ship of state now have assessed that one way or another they need to knock down Iran, not just effect a change in the policy of that country’s rulers. They see Iran—which has gained influence and strength in the region with the U.S. bogged down in Iraq—as a big impediment on many fronts to their most urgent foreign policy goals: defeating Islamic fundamentalism and Jihadist forces, restructuring the Middle East, and deepening the U.S. hold on this volatile region. These goals are not the whimsical or arrogant delusions of a handful of neocons. These goals are fundamental and foundational for those at the core of power in the U.S. now.
Iran is a state where Islamic fundamentalists opposed to the U.S. came to power. It supports Islamist movements and trends across the region. Its main enemies were overthrown by the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Saddam’s fall greatly increased Iran’s influence in Iraq—all of which strengthened Iran’s regional position. Iran sits on the second or third largest reserves of oil and natural gas in the world and sits astride the world’s oil lifeline—the Persian Gulf. It has benefited by skyrocketing oil prices, and is building its military and its nuclear program.
The nuclear issue is part of this picture, but it is mainly being used as a pretext by the Bush regime for aggression in service of a larger agenda. A nuclear armed Iran—or even Iran as a “virtual nuclear state” as Newsweek put it (10/27, quoting an Iranian official who said this was their strategy)—without nuclear weapons but with the know-how to quickly build them if threatened—would shift the entire regional balance of military forces, seriously impede U.S. and Israeli freedom of military action, and could accelerate the destabilizing regional arms race which is already underway.
It is U.S. aggressionthat has primarily fueled all this. The U.S. “War on Terror” has brought horrors to, and outraged the people of the Middle East, pushing sections of people into the arms of reactionary Islamic forces. And it is the U.S., with ten thousand nuclear weapons and nuclear war integrated into its war-fighting doctrine, that holds the world nuclear hostage. It was the U.S. that let the nuclear “genie” out of the bottle, built the first nuclear weapons, and remains the only country to have ever used them. (See “Who REALLY Holds the World Nuclear Hostage: Why a U.S. Attack on Iran Must Be Stopped,” Revolution #109 [11/18/07], online at revcom.us)
Dangers, Disagreements, and the Need for Mass Resistance
Many people are outraged by the revelations that Bush has been lying—again. At the same time, there is a perception that this new NIE seems to put an attack on Iran on hold, at least for now. Maybe it will, maybe not—and as things are further revealed more analysis will be forthcoming in the pages of Revolution. One thing that is already clear is that this NIE report does not mean that “reason and sanity” are prevailing, nor that anyone should breathe a sigh of relief.
There is much to learn and understand about what precisely prompted this new NIE and its sharp departure from the administration’s previous thrust regarding Iran. People representing sections of the U.S. ruling class have expressed concern that war on Iran could prove catastrophic. Their concern is not for humanity, not for the horrors that would be set off by an attack, possibly involving nuclear “bunker busters,” by the U.S. on Iran. But they are concerned about the dangers for the U.S. empire. In a rather dramatic event, the very day the new NIE was released, the New York Times carried a full-page ad signed by four former generals and one colonel calling on people to “stop President Bush from attacking Iran” because “Iraq has been a debacle on all fronts,” and an attack on Iran would “endanger our troops in Iraq and add to the conflagration and chaos in the region.”
And Senator Joseph Biden—who, while not a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for president, is a powerful senator—told a crowd in New Hampshire on November 29 that “The president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach.”
There is also much to investigate about why, and with what motives—after reportedly blocking the release of these findings—Bush and Vice President Cheney allowed the report to be released. Quoted in the French news agency AFP, Cheney said, “[T]here was a general belief that we all shared that it was important to put it out—that it was not likely to stay classified for long, anyway.” And Cheney gave some indication that those at the top of the Bush regime might have felt a need to address a credibility gap in the wake of the Iraqi WMD hoax. He told AFP that the decision to release the report was made “especially in light of what happened with respect to Iraq and the NIE on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”
The release of this report, and the generals’ ad, might be a clue as to just how close war may have been. It could also portend even sharper infighting within the ruling class. However, it would be very wrong to conclude that Bush and the neocons are finished or that war on Iran does not still loom as a very real possibility. In fact if Bush, Cheney, et al. feel that they are losing ground it could even prompt them to act decisvely against Iran to utilize a military “fait a’ccompli” to shore up the ranks of the ruling class behind their agenda. The neocons have already started counterattacking in the pages of the influential Wall Street Journal, calling into question the NIE. All the leading Republican candidates have taken extremely bellicose positions on Iran.
And all the leading officials—Democrats and Republicans—including those who have welcomed the new report, continue to call Iran a danger to the U.S., and continue to repeat inflammatory charges that Iran is responsible for killing U.S. troops in Iraq. At this point, forces in the ruling class who are sharply opposed to the approach Bush is taking to Iran are not challenging the bigger strategy that regime change in Iran is part of. For example, the Los Angeles Times editorialized after the new NIE was released that “Bush is correct to say that the revised intelligence estimate does not warrant a fundamental change in policy. A nuclear-armed Iran should be deterred. The tragedy for U.S. security and global peace is that Bush has twice squandered his chances to lead that vital effort.”
While the NIE report may have thrown a wrench into the gears, Bush, while showing signs of being shaken by the need to reveal the content of the new report, still refused to back off in any fundamental way at his December 4 press conference. He insisted that “Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” Framing things this way allows Bush to target Iran at any time, since whether or not Iran has a nuclear weapons program, developing a program to enrich uranium is part of (although far from the whole process of) the “knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” Bush denounced Iran as “a threat to peace,” and emphasized: “My opinion hasn’t changed.” And he repeated his determination to use his remaining time in office to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and emphasized “the best diplomacy” is when “all options are on the table.” The next day Bush and Secretary of State Rice tried to regain the initiative by blasting Iran for withholding evidence of its nuclear program and for suppressing democracy.
There are many possible scenarios that could unfold out of the current situation. Some 170,000 U.S. troops occupy Iraq, where Iran holds great influence. Dozens of U.S. warships, armed with nuclear weapons, remain within striking distance of Iran. On December 7, the British newspaper the Guardian reported, “Senior Israeli officials warned today they were still considering the option of a military strike against Iran, despite a fresh U.S. intelligence report that concluded Tehran was no longer developing nuclear weapons.”
The entire region remains an unpredictable powder keg, and the U.S. imperialists remain determined to maintain their stranglehold on it and if need be, to forcefully crush challenges to that imperialist stranglehold. And Bush—who has repeatedly indicated he wants the Iran challenge settled before he leaves office—might feel more compulsion to attack. With all the trip wires in place, an incident—accidental or manufactured—could serve as a pretext to go to war.
* * *
The NIE report reveals that Bush has been lying about Iran’s nuclear weapons program in order to justify aggression, and even war under false pretenses. The fact that this report saw the light of day indicates a sense among some in the ruling class that there are grave dangers for them in Bush’s push for regime change in Iran. The whole situation remains fraught with peril for the peoples of the region and the world.
All these lies are designed to cover up the deepest lie—promoted by all in the U.S. ruling class whether they opposed Bush’s Iran policy or not: that U.S imperialism is a force for good in the world, that its wars of aggression are motivated by making the world safer and freer, and that the people of the world benefit from all the carnage the U.S. leaves in its wake. These are the biggest lies of all—designed to cover up the fact that the U.S. is a predatory empire whose existence is based on global plunder and exploitation; plunder and exploitation that ruins—and ends—millions of lives every year through its “normal” operation. And this plunder and exploitation is enforced and extended by naked military force which—in the case of Iraq alone—has cost between 500,000 and 1 million Iraqis killed, and turned 4 million Iraqis into refugees (who the U.S. refuses to lift a finger to help).
In this tense and complex situation, there is potential and need for mass political resistance that breaks out of the whole terms set by the system, and challenges the whole agenda of U.S. global domination. As we have pointed out often in these pages, visible, determined, massive opposition to the whole agenda of the Bush regime is urgently needed. And such resistance will inspire those living in the Middle East—people who face death and terror at the hands of U.S. imperialism—to themselves break out of the dead end “alternatives” of U.S. imperialism or Islamic fundamentalism.
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