It's Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran Time
The United States and Western "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" crowd -- hysteria running at fever pitch ahead of Thursday's multilateral nuclear talks in Geneva -- could do worse than have a word with Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.
Lula actually talked to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad face-to-face for over an hour on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week. He invited Ahmadinejad to visit Brazil in November. About the meeting, he went straight to the point, "What I wish for Iran is what I always wanted for Brazil -- a peaceful, civilian nuclear program."
Lula is an island of common sense in an ocean of hysteria. French President Nicolas Sarkozy publicly gave a December deadline for Iran not to make a "tragic mistake", as in provoking Armageddon. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini reiterated the Group of Eight was giving Iran only three more months.
United States President Barack Obama -- now running three wars (Iraq and the AfPak combo) -- demanded that Iran (which is not at war with anybody) demonstrate "its peaceful intentions or be held accountable to international standards and international law".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu announced to the UN, "the greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fundamentalism and the weapons of mass destruction". Impervious to irony, Netanyahu obviously forgot that Iran -- like Iraq in 2003 - has no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Israel not only has WMDs, but still refuses to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or allow its weapons to be inspected, as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rushed to clarify. As for religious fundamentalism, Zionism is more than a match to Iran's Shi'itism.
As if this was not hysteria enough, leaks in Britain revealed that the head of M-I6 Sir John Scarlett and the head of Mossad Meir Dagan may have established that Saudi Arabia is ready to allow Israel to bomb Iran. The House of Saud remained mute. But not the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) -- which de facto controls Iran's missile program. They successfully tested long-range Shahab-3 and Sajjil solid-fuel missiles with a maximum range of 2,000 kilometers. Ergo, even more hysteria.
General Hoseyn Salami, commander of IRGC's air force, told the IRINN TV network that Iran had a firm "no first strike" policy in terms of a missile war with Israel, and defended the tests as linked to the approaching anniversary of the 1980 Iraqi attack on Iran -- the beginning of a horrible eight-year war that killed at least 250,000 Iranians. (The US, by the way, supported in that war a character who later personified the "new Hitler", Saddam Hussein.)
Now compare all this to the Western reaction to what's happening this Thursday in Beijing on China's National Day parade for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China; an array of two types of surface-to-surface conventional missiles, a new land-based cruise missile, surface-to-surface intermediate and long-range missiles that could carry nuclear warheads, and nuclear intercontinental missiles will all be shown off in an asphalt catwalk. Not a peep from the West. It's as if this was part of Beijing Fashion Week.
A non-secret secret
The all-out hysteria reaches ludicrous overtones when it comes to the disinformation campaign around the now iconic Iranian back-up nuclear enrichment plant, built at the base of a mountain inside an ultra-protected underground facility controlled by the IRGC some 30 kilometers northeast of the holy city of Qom. The plant was built with heavily reinforced concrete and is about the size of a football field, enough to hold 3,000 uranium-refining centrifuges.
The site was duly reported by Tehran in a letter to the IAEA, according to the rules this is done six months before a site becomes operational. Iranian Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, also the head of Iran's nuclear program, has stressed there was never anything "secret" about the plant; and justified its construction because of "threats" against Iran.
Ahmadinejad -- an engineer -- for his part stressed the plant would only be operational in 18 months. And it will be open to IAEA inspections according to a timetable already being discussed. This is the bottom line: if the IAEA inspects, there's no way the plant will churn out nuclear weapons.
From Tehran's point of view, this all makes sense; a back-up plant protected by the IRGC near Qom is a given after the George W Bush administration and Israel have repeatedly threatened to bomb Iran. Location is everything; imagine Israel bombing the outskirts of Qom. It's as if the Pentagon bombed the Vatican.
As for Washington, it might have known about this "secret" plant during the George W Bush administration -- as those usual suspects, "senior officials", confirmed to US corporate media. But that raises the question: why did Israel and the US not expose it when it was "secret", that is, still not reported to the IAEA?
Anyway, what remains excluded from the hysteria-saturated news cycle is that the new not-so-secret plant will not enrich uranium beyond 5% -- the suitable level in a civilian energy program. A nuclear weapon demands 90% enrichment. The plant will not produce uranium hexaflouride, or UF6, which is used for enrichment. The bottom line, once again; the Qom backup plant changes nothing in terms of Iran's nuclear program as recognized by the IAEA.
Talk first, bomb later
And that brings us back to Lula. Brazil, just like Iran, is a signatory of the NPT. Just like Iran, it is enriching uranium. Just like Iran, it does not allow unlimited, invasive IAEA inspections. And just like Iran, it has in the past kept some aspects of its nuclear technology "secret".
Brazil enriches uranium to less than 5%, as part of its $1 billion nuclear industry, which will invest on seven new atomic plants to diversify the country's consumption of oil and hydroelectric power. Brazil plans to start exporting enriched uranium before 2014. Brazilian centrifuges could be used to produce highly enriched uranium. But that's a matter of political will. The letter of the Brazilian constitution effectively forbids the building of nuclear weapons.
In Iran the situation is actually similar. Both the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have made it very clear that nuclear weapons are against Islam.
Obviously, the US State Department will always dismiss any comparisons between Tehran and Brasilia. After all, Brazil is a Western-style democracy and Iran is now, after the last presidential elections, a military dictatorship of the mullahtariat. Brazil may be a natural leader in South America, but it's not threatening anybody; while Iran, a regional leader, threatens Israel's "secret" nuclear hegemony in the Middle East. But in both Iran's and Brazil's case, the heart of the matter is the same: running a successful nuclear program is, above all, a question of national pride.
Sanctions cannot possibly work. And once again the current hysteria glaringly shows how, when it comes to Iran, double standards rule.
Washington was forced to admit sanctions did not work with the dictatorship in Myanmar. Now Washington wants to talk. Sanctions will not work on Iran either. It's ridiculous, for instance, to imagine Iraq joining a Western-enforced gasoline embargo on Iran. Besides, Persians are too proud and loaded with too much history to succumb to threats.
Israel, sundry Sunni Arab puppet rulers and dictators, the pathetic American right and the European right, these all fear Iran's regional clout and want to bring the regime down. The nuclear dossier could not be a more convenient cover story for regime change.
As much as the military dictatorship of the mullahtariat may be distasteful for the world and for a lot of Iranian citizens, the end does not justify the means. And the means won't lead to the desired end, as an attack on Iran will make the whole population rally behind the regime. Something is profoundly rotten in the so-called "international community" kingdom -- minus Russia and China, by the way -- when it lets global policy be determined by someone like Netanyahu.
Obama and Lula meet this Friday in Copenhagen to see whether Chicago or Rio will win the race to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. The chemistry between them is excellent. Obama could do worse than check up on Lula on his face-to-face meeting with Ahmadinejad.
But as it stands, it's more like the "international community" is being led in an Olympic race to bomb Iran.
Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd.