Representative Mark Udall, in a recent letter, repeats two familiar canards about Iran. First, "Iran has defied the international community by continuing to work to advance" its nuclear program. Second, "Iran's president has publicly stated his intention to 'wipe Israel off the map.'" The first of these statements is misleading, the second false. The following addresses both.
Iran, like the United States, is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Article IV of the NPT affirms "the inalienable right" of all the parties to the treaty to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. The same technology that can enrich uranium to the low level required to generate electricity can also enrich uranium to the much higher level that will produce bomb-grade material.
Iran insists that it is enriching uranium for the former purpose, not the latter. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has repeatedly inspected Iran's nuclear facilities, says it has no evidence that Iran's nuclear program is intended for military purposes.
The Bush administration, which dissembled about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in order to justify going to war, is now using a similar but more insidious approach regarding Iran. It asserts that Iran poses a nuclear threat and thus warrants the imposition of sanctions or even an attack to destroy its nuclear capability. It has persuaded the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment activity that is permitted under the NPT. Moreover, as part of its cynical effort to criminalize Iran, it has managed to get the Security Council to require the IAEA to certify that Iran has halted its perfectly legal uranium enrichment activity.
Both the United States and Israel have drawn up plans for a possible nuclear strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Meanwhile, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel have all developed nuclear arsenals in violation of the NPT. And the United States and all other nuclear weapons states continue to violate their NPT Article VI obligations to achieve nuclear disarmament. Iran is permitted under Article IV to pursue a nuclear program provided it doesn't develop weapons. The United States is obliged under Article VI to move toward complete disarmament.
Udall's second canard is the one that Iran's President Ahmadinejad "has publicly stated his intention to 'wipe Israel off the map.'" In fact, Ahmadinejad never said such a thing. His original statement, according to Iranian artist Arash Norouzi, who is no admirer of Ahmadinejad, does not mention "Israel," "map" or "wiping off." Here is her literal translation: "The Imam said the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." (see www.antiwar.com/orig/norouzi.php?articleid=11025)
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From Norouzi's translation it is obvious that Ahmadinejad is citing the views of someone else, "the Imam" or Ayatollah Khomeini, the deceased former ruler of Iran. The Imam's words refer not to the state of Israel, but to the "regime occupying Jerusalem," that is, the regime that in 1967 conquered foreign territory and now holds it as an occupying power. It is this occupying regime, not the state of Israel, which "must vanish from the page of time." Norouzi says that, in his speech, Ahmadinejad cited three examples of regimes that have vanished from the page of time: the Shah of Iran, the Soviet Union and Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Ahmadinejad referred to regime change, not war.
Nourizi demonstrates that the wipe-Israel-off-the-map statement was a media mistranslation that quickly spread around the world. Though corrections were made by various parties, the erroneous passage with all its dangerous implications took on a life of its own. But the most shameful folly occurred on June 20, when the U.S. House of Representatives, by an overwhelming majority, passed a resolution calling on the United Nations to indict President Ahmadinejad for inciting genocide. Only two members of the House showed that they were well enough informed to vote "no."
There are many reasons for concern about the government of Iran. But Iran does not pose a nuclear threat. And its president has not threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Udall's carelessness provides fuel for another unnecessary war.
In 2003, Iran offered to meet with the United States to discuss all issues of concern between the two countries, including nuclear matters. It was rebuffed. The United States and Iran should now discuss the whole range of issues that concern both countries, without preconditions. The world needs a diplomatic resolution of this concocted crisis, not another unnecessary war based on misrepresentations. We need Udall, who aspires to the Senate, to take the lead in fostering such discussion.
LeRoy Moore, Ph.D., is a consultant with the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.
© 2007 Daily Camera and Boulder Publishing, LLC