The Iran Trap
By Scott Ritter
13 September, 2005
In the complicated world of international diplomacy surrounding the
issue of Iran's nuclear program, there is but one thing that the
United States, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the
so-called EU-3 (Germany, France and Great Britain) and Iran can all
Iran has resumed operations of facilities designed to convert uranium
into a product usable in enrichment processes. From that point forward
consensus on just about anything begins to fall apart.
Iran's resumption of its uranium conversion program seems to have
brought to an end a negotiating process begun in November 2004 between
the EU-3 and Iran, at which time Iran agreed to freeze its uranium
enrichment-related activities in exchange for the EU-3's agreement to
broker a deal that would provide inducements for Iran to give up its
nuclear enrichment program.
With the EU-3 initiative now dead in the water, it appears that the
next logical step in the diplomatic process is for the IAEA to refer
the matter to the Security Council, where the United States, backed by
the EU-3, have threatened to push for economic sanctions. The IAEA
board meets in Vienna, Austria on 19 September to discuss this matter.
The EU-3 countries are uniform in their criticism of Iran's diplomatic
slap in the face, but in fact neither the EU-3 nor the IAEA have a
legal leg to stand on.
Iran, as a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), asserts
its 'inalienable right' under Article IV of the NPT to 'develop
research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.'
Such rights are conditional, however, but Iran strongly believes that
it has complied with Articles I and II of the NPT, where it agrees not
to manufacture or acquire nuclear weapons, and Article III, where it
accepts full safeguards, including on-site inspections.
Iran has yet to be declared to be in formal breach of any of these
obligations, which raises the basic question: what is it the EU-3 wish
to accomplish vis-à-vis their diplomatic intervention?
The real purpose of the EU-3 intervention -- to prevent the United
States from using Iran's nuclear ambition as an excuse for military
intervention -- is never discussed in public.
The EU-3 would rather continue to participate in fraudulent diplomacy
rather than confront the hard truth -- that it is the United States,
and not Iran, that is operating outside international law when it
comes to the issue of Iran's nuclear program.
In doing so, the EU-3, and to a lesser extent the IAEA, have fallen
into a trap deliberately set by the Bush administration designed to
use the EU-3 diplomatic initiative as a springboard for war with Iran.
The heart of the EU-3's position regarding Iran's nuclear program is
the matter of nuclear enrichment, which the EU-3 outright oppose.
This, of course, is an extension of the American position (as well as
that of America's shadow ally, Israel).
Legally, this is an unsupportable position under the NPT, but one
which has been pursued based upon two fundamental points.
The first is Iran's history of deception regarding its nuclear
program, in which Iran hid critical aspects of this effort from the
international community. Iran now claims to have come into compliance
with its NPT obligations, by having declared the totality of its
efforts, something neither the EU-3 and the IAEA, nor the United
States and Israel can refute factually.
Indeed, the recent disclosure by the IAEA that the hard 'evidence' it
possessed to sustain the charge that Iran was pursuing a covert
nuclear weapons program (the existence of traces of highly enriched
uranium on Iranian centrifuges) was flawed.
The fact that the uranium came from Pakistan, not Iran, has undercut
any case the EU-3 might have had in pursuing its confrontational
stance with Iran.
In the face of this development, the EU-3 -- Britain, Germany and
France -- need to ask themselves a very fundamental question: what is
their true policy objective being pursued vis-à-vis Iran?
The answer appears to be little more than serving as a front for
American complaints against the Iranian nuclear program. Given this,
the EU-3 must next confront the real policy of the United States when
it comes to Iran -- regime change. As was the case with Iraq, Europe
has failed to confront the Bush administration's policy of regime change.
Instead, the EU-3 has allowed their seemingly unified European foreign
policy position regarding Iran to be hijacked by a neoconservative
cabal in Washington, DC as a stepping stone to war.
Europe would like to believe that the diplomatic initiative undertaken
by the EU-3 last November represents a nominal 'Plan A', which avoids
direct confrontation between the United States and Iran through use of
the European intermediary.
The EU-3 comfort themselves with the knowledge that any failure of
their initiative pushes the world not to the brink of war, but rather
toward a 'Plan B', intervention by the Security Council of the United
Nations, which would seek to compel Iran back into line with the
threat of economic sanctions.
A failure by the Security Council to achieve change on the part of
Iran would then, and only then, pave the way for 'Plan C', American
European diplomats concede that there is little likelihood that the
Security Council will impose sanctions on Iran, given the
intransigence on the part of Russia and China.
However, they have lulled themselves into a false sense of complacency
by noting that given the situation in Iraq, and now in the United
States in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the US military is so
overstretched that any talk of the Bush administration implementing a
'Plan C' is out of the question.
What the Europeans -- and the member nations of the EU-3 in particular
-- fail to recognize is that the Bush administration's plan for Iran
does not consist of three separate plans, but rather one plan composed
of three phases leading to the inevitability of armed conflict with
Iran and the termination of the theocratic regime of the Mullahs
currently residing in Tehran.
These three phases -- the collapse of the EU-3 intervention leading to
a referral of the Iran matter to the Security Council, the inability
of the Security Council to agree upon the imposition of economic
sanctions against Iran, and the US confronting the Security Council
over its alleged inability to protect American national security
interests - lead inevitably toward military confrontation.
As with Iraq earlier, the United States has embraced a position which
requires Iran to prove the negative (i.e., demonstrate that it does
not have a nuclear weapons program) as opposed to the US and the IAEA
proving that one does in fact exist.
The criteria put forward by the Bush administration for Iran to comply
-- no-notice inspections of any site at any time -- are an affront to
a sovereign nation that has yet to be shown to be in violation of any
of its legal obligations.
The fact that the United States used a similar program of no-notice
weapons inspections as a front for espionage against Iraq in support
of its regime-change policy against Saddam Hussein has not escaped the
attention of the Iranians, who have flat-out rejected any such
extra-legal requirements on its part.
The United States, and to a lesser extent the IAEA and the EU-3, have
taken Iran's intransigence as a clear sign that Iran has something to
Once again, as was the case with Iraq, the United States has put
process over substance, and unless the EU-3 block, the American effort
to have the Iranian case transferred to the Security Council, the end
result will be war.
The Iran trap has been well baited by the Bush administration, so much
so that a Europe already burned once by American duplicity regarding
Iraq, and a war weary American public, fail to recognize what is
actually transpiring. The bait for this trap is, of course, diplomacy,
first in the form of the EU-3 intervention, and that having failed, in
the form of Security Council actions.
Polls taken in April 2005 showed that most Americans (63% to 37%)
believed the Bush administration should take military action to stop
Iran from developing or trying to develop a nuclear weapons program.
It is completely irrelevant that Iran has yet to be shown to have a
nuclear weapons program (in fact the overwhelming amount of data
available points to the exact opposite conclusion).
Today, in September 2005, many Americans might be loath to immediately
embrace a direct path towards war with Iran. However, according to
recent polls, most Americans support referring the matter of Iran to
the Security Council for the purpose of imposing sanctions.
If the Security Council, because of Russian and Chinese opposition,
refuses to support sanctions, the American people will be confronted
by the Bush administration with the choice to either appear weak
before the United Nations, or to take matters into our own hands
(i.e., unilateral military action) in the name of national defence.
The outcome in this case is certain -- war.
Since the result of any referral of the Iran issue to the Security
Council is all but guaranteed, the push by the EU-3 to have the IAEA
refer Iran to the Security Council, while rooted in the language of
diplomacy, is really nothing less than an act of war.
The only chance the world has of avoiding a second disastrous US
military adventure in the Middle East is for the EU-3 to step back
from its policy of doing the bidding of the US, and to confront not
only Iran on the matter of its nuclear program, but also the larger
issue of American policies of regional transformation that represent
the greatest threat to Middle East security and stability today.
Scott Ritter is former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998 Author
of 'Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of America's Intelligence
Conspiracy', published by I.B. Tauris (London) and Nation Books (US)
in October 2005.
The opinions expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily
reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of Aljazeera.
Iran warns Israel against attacking nuclear sites
Sun Oct 2, 2005
Iran's parliament speaker warned Israel against any attempt to attack
its nuclear facilities, and promised to "teach it a lesson" if it did.
"If Israel does something stupid and attacks our nuclear facilities
like it did in Iraq, we promise to teach it a lesson it will never
forget," Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel said after talks with his Syrian
counterpart in Damascus.
He was referring to a 1981 strike by Israel against the Osiraq nuclear
reactor in Iraq, which the Jewish state suspected of developing atomic
"We will not give in," Hadad Adel said, citing the "right" of all
countries to use nuclear energy for civilian energy purposes under the
In an escalating crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions, Tehran has
rejected proposals that it abandon fuel cycle technology in return for
incentives and has resumed uranium conversion work in defiance of a
suspension agreement with Britain, France and Germany.
Iran insists its activities are peaceful but faces accusations it is
developing nuclear energy as a cover for a weapons programme.
The International Atomic Energy Agency last month adopted a resolution
that found Iran in "non-compliance" with nuclear proliferation
safeguards -- an automatic trigger for taking the matter to the
Iran threatened Tuesday to retaliate by blocking tough inspections of
its nuclear sites and resuming uranium enrichment activities.
Israel, which has long warned against Iran's nuclear ambitions, has
not signed the NPT and is believed to be the only nuclear power in the
Middle East, though it neither confirms nor denies reports that it has
about 200 nuclear warheads.
Since Saddam Hussein's regime was ousted from Iraq in April 2003,
Israel has viewed Iran as it prime enemy in the region.
Iran's top military commander accused the United States and Israel of
planning the non-stop bomb attacks that killed thousands of civilians
Brigadier General Mohammad-Baqer Zolqadr, the deputy commander of
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), told a gathering of
senior officials, that the U.S. needs those attacks to justify the
continuation of its military presence in Iraq.
"The Americans blame weak and feeble groups in Iraq for insecurity in
this country. We do not believe this and we have information that the
insecurity has its roots in the activities of American and Israeli
spies," Zolqadr said.
"Insecurity in Iraq is a deeply-rooted phenomenon. The root of
insecurity in Iraq lies in the occupation of this country by foreigners".
"If Iraq is to become secure, there will be no room for the occupiers".
Zolqadr also said that the U.S. forces pursue "important and strategic
goals in their continuing occupation of Iraq".
The U.S. wanted to remain in Iraq to "plunder the country's wealth,
bring the Middle East under its control, and create security for
Israel, which is on the verge of annihilation".
Zolqadr, moreover, noted that dozens of new U.S. military are being
built in Iraq "for this reason they are constantly creating insecurity".
The U.S.-occupation authority has repeatedly claimed that the Iraqi
security forces are not ready yet to protect the country against rebel
attacks, with the aim of defending the continued heavy presence of
U.S. troops there even after an Iraqi government was elected.
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