Bush administration lies to besmirch Iran
By William Beeman-Guest Columnist
May 23, 2005
The frustration of the Bush administration with Iran regarding its
nuclear program is obviously boiling over when an administration
official issues an outright lie about Iran in a public venue, as
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns did on
television on May 5.
Mr. Burns made the following statement on PBS's "NewsHour" program to
interviewer Margaret Warner.
WARNER: But as you know, I mean, Iran says that under the (Nuclear
Non- Proliferation) treaty, it has an inalienable right to continue
pursuing this technology for civilian purposes.
BURNS: But the agreement that Iran entered into November of last year
in Paris with Britain, France and Germany, is that it will not just
suspend its nuclear fuel cycle activities, it will actually lead to
cessation and dismantling. That means that Iran would not be able to
have the possibility to enrich or produce fissile material which, as
you know, is the essential ingredient in the capacity to build a
Mr. Burns' statement is untrue. The Nov. 15 treaty, a public document,
does not stipulate any agreement on Iran's part to dismantle any part
of its peaceful nuclear development program. Moreover, Iran's
cessation of enrichment activity was specified as voluntary in the treaty.
Mr. Burns' remark is designed to show that Iran is in violation of a
treaty subsequent to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), thus
perpetuating the Bush administration portrait of Iran as an outlaw
nation and "treaty violator." What Mr. Burns failed to point out is
that Iran also subscribed to the following unambiguous statement in
the November treaty:
"Iran reaffirms that, in accordance with Article II of the NPT, it
does not and will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons. It commits
itself to full cooperation and transparency with the IAEA. Iran will
continue implanting voluntarily the Additional Protocol [for enhanced
inspections] pending ratification."
Iranian officials have dug in their heels on this issue, because they
correctly feel that they have been unfairly singled out for attack.
They know full well that Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea are
not signatories to the NPT; that they have nuclear weapons; and that
the United States is doing nothing to target them. They also know that
Brazil has a developing nuclear program, and that Taiwan supplies
nuclear technology support to all and sundry, and these nations are,
likewise, not the targets of American rhetoric.
Iran is deeply proud of its technological advances. It is now
manufacturing commercial passenger aircraft for export, and has the
largest automobile manufacturing plant in the Middle East. It is
diversifying its oil economy and has growing non-oil export trade.
Nuclear energy technology is both a demonstration of its advancing
skills in high-level engineering and a practical economic measure to
free petroleum and natural gas for export to China, India and other
nearby Asian markets. Iran's clerical leaders are not loved by its
youthful population, but their support for nuclear energy development
is almost universally supported by the populace.
Since there has been no diplomatic relations between Washington and
Tehran for nearly 30 years, the only way for either nation to get the
attention of the other is through invective and excessive rhetoric.
The Bush administration has decided that the nuclear issue is the one
that will play best with the American public, and on the world scene,
and so it seems ready to tolerate, and perhaps even orchestrate,
stunts like the Burns prevarication.
However, in the long run, the United States is losing the battle.
European powers are not willing to go along with U.S. strong-arm
tactics and, even if the United States is able to haul Iran in to the
United Nations to face sanctions, it is likely that China, Russia and
France will veto the measure, causing embarrassment in Washington.
Far better for Washington would be to do what Britain, France and
Germany have been urging the Bush administration to do, and actually
press to open direct talks with Tehran. This is the honest, the
correct and the effective way to deal with the very proud nation of Iran.
(Pacific News Service contributor William Beeman is professor of
Anthropology and director of Middle East Studies at Brown University.
He is currently visiting professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology
at Stanford University.)
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