Deconstructing Lieberman’s Iran Resolution

By Muhammad Sahimi

February 29, 2012 "
Antiwar" - - Sen. Joseph Isadore “Joe” Lieberman, the “independent Democrat” from Connecticut, has been one of the most hawkish members of the Senate for years. He is in fact a turncoat who campaigned for John McCain in 2008, and in many ways he has been more Republican than Republicans. He supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and he has blindly supported and defended Israel to the point that he has been given an award for his support.

Most importantly, Lieberman has consistently advocated tough economic sanctions and even military attacks on Iran. In a conference of Christian Zionists in 2009, Lieberman declared, “The chief obstacle to peace in the Middle East is not Israelis living on the West Bank but the regime in Tehran.” He has been a sponsor or co-sponsor of many anti-Iran Senate resolutions, including those that directly intervene in Iran’s internal affairs and impose economic sanctions on the country.

In January 2011 Lieberman announced that he will retire from the Senate when his term expires this year. He is now using his last months in the Senate to provoke a war with Iran. Earlier this month, Lieberman, together with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the man who has declared, “I want to destroy Iran,” and Robert Casey (D-Pa.), introduced Senate Resolution 380 to give President Obama a blank check to go to war with Iran and prevent diplomacy. In effect, it declares that it should be the policy of the United States to prevent Iran “from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability” and it “rejects any United States policy that would rely on efforts to contain a nuclear weapons-capable Iran.” As recently reiterated by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the U.S. policy has been preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons, but Resolution 380 declares that Iran cannot even have the know-how. The resolution is replete with lies, exaggerations and half truths. Let’s begin:

Whereas since at least the late 1980s, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has engaged in a sustained and well-documented pattern of illicit and deceptive activities to acquire a nuclear capability…

False: What Iran has set up is a complete cycle for producing nuclear fuel. The same facilities can be used to produce high-enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, but there is no evidence, as certified time and again by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that Iran has diverted its nuclear facilities and materials to production of nuclear weapons.

Whereas the United Nations Security Council has adopted multiple resolutions since 2006demanding the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities by the Iranian government and its full cooperation with the IAEA on all outstanding issues related to its nuclear activities, particularly those concerning the possible military dimensions of its nuclear program…

Half-truth: True, the Security Council has demanded suspension of Iran’s nuclear program, but sending Iran’s nuclear dossier to the Council was an illegal act taken by the Board of Directors of the IAEA in the first place.

Whereas on November 8, 2011, the IAEA issued an extensive report documenting “serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program” and stating that “Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device” and that these efforts may be ongoing…

Half-truth: The activities that the IAEA pointed out, if they have taken place, are all research, not development of any particular nuclear device; they all have a variety of civilian applications; and in many cases, the results of the research have been published in open source journals. In addition, the IAEA is not even sure whether all the activities have taken place, as its report is replete with “perhaps,” “may,” “might,” “possible,” etc.

Whereas as of November 2008, Iran had produced approximately 630 kilograms of uranium-235 enriched to 3.5% and no uranium-235 enriched to 20%, according to the IAEA;

Whereas as of November 2011, Iran had produced nearly 5,000 kilograms of uranium-235 enriched to 3.5% and 79.7 kilograms of uranium-235 enriched to 20%, according to the IAEA…

Half-truths: True, Iran has produced low-enriched and 20% enriched uranium, but they are all sealed and safeguarded by the IAEA. So long as they are, Iran will not be able to use them for any purpose other than fuel for nuclear reactors. In addition, Iran began producing the 20% enriched uranium only after the IAEA and the West refused to supply nuclear fuel for Tehran Research Reactor that produces medical isotopes for 850,000 Iranian patients every year, in which the 20% enriched uranium will be spent.

Whereas on January 9, 2011, IAEA inspectors confirmed that the Iranian government had begun enrichment activities at the Fordow site, including possibly enrichment of uranium-235 to 20%…

Insinuation: The Fordow facility is monitored and safeguarded by the IAEA inspectors. Nothing is going on there that can be hidden from them.

Whereas if Iran were successful in acquiring a nuclear weapon capability, it would likely spur other countries in the region to consider developing their own nuclear weapons capabilities…

False: There is no evidence of that. But, if that is going to happen, who is going to supply the nuclear technology to these countries? Clearly, it will be the United States and France, which already have signed agreements with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. So, if there are concerns, the West can simply deny them the technology and offer them security guarantees.

Whereas on December 6, 2011, Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia stated that if international efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons fail, “we must, as a duty to our country and people, look into all options we are given, including obtaining these weapons ourselves…

Absurd: This is the same prince who has referred to the Arab Spring as the “Arab Troubles.” Since when must one pay attention to such absurd proclamation by one of the most reactionary and corrupt Saudi officials?

Whereas top Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened the existence of the State of Israel, pledging to “wipe Israel off the map”…

False: What Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said was, “The Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,” meaning the government, not the people of Israel, must disappear. Since the 1979 Revolution, Iran has always advocated a democratic state in Palestine in which Jews, Christians, and Muslim can live side by side.

Whereas the U.S. Department of State since 1984 has designated Iran as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” and has characterized Iran as “the most active state sponsor of terrorism”…

Double standards: The State Department has also listed the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) organization, an Iranian terrorist cult, as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), but its agents have been free to recruit former senior U.S. officials in order to remove the MEK from the FTO list without any hindrance whatsoever. So the list is purely political and subjective.

Whereas Iran has provided weapons, training, funding, and direction to terrorist groups including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Shi’ite militias in Iraq that are responsible for the murders of hundreds of American forces and innocent civilians…

Half-truth and exaggeration: The Shi’ites came to power in Iraq as a result of the U.S. invasion. They are supposedly our allies. Hamas does receive aide from Iran, but follows its own independent path. The Lebanese Hezbollah is Iran’s first line of defense, not offense, against Israel. This is not to say that Hamas and Hezbollah have not committed terrorism in the past. They have, but everything must be put in its proper context.

Whereas on July 28, 2011, the U.S. Department of the Treasury charged that the Government of Iran had forged a “secret deal” with al-Qaeda to facilitate the movement of al-Qaeda fighters and funding through Iranian territory…

False: al-Qaeda is Iran’s bloody enemy. The allegations have already been rejected both in the United States and in Europe. To the contrary, Iran offered to exchange senior al-Qaeda members who are under arrest in Iran for senior members of the MEK, but the United States refused.

Whereas in October 2011, senior leaders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force were implicated in a terrorist plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States on U.S. soil…

Absurd: The allegations were so absurd that they were emphatically rejected even by those who have spent a lifetime fighting the Islamic Republic. What happened to the allegations, anyway? The main Iranian-American supposed culprit recanted his confessions, and everything died down quickly after that.

Whereas on December 26, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution denouncing the serious human rights abuses occurring in the Islamic Republic of Iran, including torture, cruel and degrading treatment in detention, the targeting of human rights defenders, violence against women, and “the systematic and serious restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly” as well as severe restrictions on the rights “to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief”…

Crocodile tears: True, the Iranian regime has oppressed its people and has put down peaceful demonstrations by violence. But these are internal matters for Iranians, or at most for credible international organizations for human rights, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. How can a Senate Resolution that “urges continued and increasing economic and diplomatic pressure on the Islamic Republic of Iran” and in effect advocates war with Iran help the Iranian people? How credible are people such as Lieberman and Graham, who constantly advocate paralyzing economic sanctions and attacking Iran, when they shed crocodile tears for the Iranian people?

Whereas President Obama, through the P5+1 process, has made repeated efforts to engage the Iranian government in dialogue about Iran’s nuclear program and its international commitments under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty…

Half-truth: The effort by the president was halfhearted to begin with, and as demonstrated by Trita Parsi, it was derailed quickly by Saudi Arabia’s and Israel’s lobbies in the U.S. No serious efforts have ever been devoted to diplomacy with Iran, and no serious considerations have ever been given to Iran’s legitimate national security concerns.

Whereas on March 31, 2010, President Obama stated that the “consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran are unacceptable”;

Whereas in his State of the Union Address on January 24, 2012, President Obama stated: “Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal”;

Whereas Secretary of Defense Panetta in December 2011 stated that it was unacceptable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, reaffirmed that all options were on the table to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons efforts, and vowed that if the U.S. gets “intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it”…

False: The president and the defense secretary were both talking about nuclear weapons, not the nuclear-weapons capability that the resolution emphasizes. The two are vastly different. Any state that uses nuclear technology has the potential for making nuclear weapons. The main point is to keep the potential latent, and in Iran’s case it has remained so.

Once again, we have a Senate resolution based on lies, exaggerations, and half-truths. Once again, warmonger wolves in sheep’s clothes are trying to bring about an unnecessary war against a nation that has not attacked any other country for hundreds of years, a nation that poses no threat against anyone, least of all Israel and the United States, which are armed with thousands of nuclear warheads. Once again, supporting Israel and ignoring the United States’ true national interests will bring destruction and misery to another nation in the Middle East.

Muhammad Sahimi, Professor of chemical engineering & materials science and the National Iranian Oil Company chair in petroleum engineering at the University of Southern California, has published extensively on Iran’s political development and its nuclear program. He is the lead political columnist for the web site PBS/Frontline/Tehran Bureau, blogs at The Huffington Post, and contributes regularly to and National Public Radio on issues related to Iran.




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