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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


May 8, 2006

Moscow says the current efforts by the Bush Administration to impose sanctions on Iraq constitute `the first steps to war.’ The Russians are right on the mark. We are indeed seeing the US preparing the world – and American voters — for a long-expected attack on Iran.

Last week, President George Bush again warned that Iran’s modest program of low-grade nuclear enrichment `is a danger to the entire world.’ Interestingly, he made no mention if Brazil’s announcement that it, too, had succeeded in enriching uranium.

Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney, both reiterated their hostility towards Iran was being primarily motivated by their concern for Israel.

The uproar over Iran’s nuclear energy program, and Tehran’s angry defiance, certainly helped distract public attention from the Bush Administration’s mounting domestic and foreign policy woes.

It also showed how few people understand the Iranian nuclear question.

Everything Iran has so far done is legal under the Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty. Iran has the right to enrich uranium to 3% to produce nuclear fuel. UN inspectors have reported no evidence that Iran is working on nuclear weapons.

The war fever being whipped up by Dick Cheney and his neocon troops is not about what Iran is dong, but about what it might some day do. Like Iraq, Iran is being told to prove a negative: ie prove you are not secretly making nuclear weapons. If you cannot do this, you are guilty.

We are recalled Saddam’s plaintive words before the US invasion, `how can we prove to them we have no such weapons?’ Ironically, it was Bush who was lying about nuclear weapons and Saddam who told the truth.

Experts say Iran may be in a position to fabricate a crude nuclear weapon in 5-10 years (Israel claims in months), but all the current alarms about Iran ignore a basic reality of nuclear weapons.

A nuclear device is utterly useless unless it can be delivered with moderate accuracy over medium to long distances. One reason I was among the few voices insisting in 2002 that Iraq posed no threat was because it had no delivery systems for any weapons of mass destruction. Iraq’s most advanced missile could fly only 130 km. None of its warplanes could carry nuclear weapons. Yet Bush, Colin Powell, and Condoleeza Rice claimed Iraq mortally threatened the US.

Even if Iran could fabricate, miniaturize and harden a nuclear warhead – a difficult technological achievement – and make warheads spin to prevent them tumbling in flight like Iraq’s primitive Scuds, maximum range of Iran’s most advanced missile, the highly inaccurate, unreliable Shahab-3, is only about 1,300 kms(780 miles). Iran has no nuclear-capable aircraft.

The only way Iran could pose the grave nuclear threat to the United States that Bush and his aides loudly claim, would be to send a nuclear device by freighter or `Fedex.’ Civilian aircraft must file flight plans and are monitored, so there is little chance Iran could send one of its 747SP airliners with a bomb aboard.

Each nuclear explosion has a distinctive signature. US monitoring devices would quickly identify the provenance of a nuclear explosion. The US would vaporize the attacking nation within hours.

CIA admits North Korea’s Taep’o-dong missile can today hit North America with a nuclear warhead. India’s developing ICBM’s and sea-launched missiles will also be able to do so in a few years.

But contrast Washington’s nonchalance about these real programs with the contrived hysteria over Iran.

Even if nuclear armed, Iran’s handful of Shahab missiles only have range to hit US bases in the Gulf, or Israel. But these US bases are so close to Iran, any nuclear strike there would blow back on Iran.

That leaves Israel, which has the world’s only effective, operational anti-missile system and an estimated 200 atomic and hydrogen warheads. Iran knows it would be totally destroyed by massive thermonuclear retaliation from Israel’s air, land and sea-based nuclear triad - which could survive any surprise nuclear attack. Israel currently has one or two new German-built submarines on station in the Arabian Sea off Iran.

If Iran is covertly developing nuclear weapons, it is for reasons of national prestige and self defense. Iran is surrounded by nuclear-armed powers: Israel, India, Russia, Pakistan – and US forces. The Cold War showed strategic nuclear weapons are useless as offensive arms, but effective in warding off attack, exhibit A being North Korea and Israel in 1973.

Yet while fulminating against Iran for developing nuclear power, the Bush Administration is considering using tactical nuclear weapons against deeply buried targets – particularly in the case of Iran.

But, as neocons clamor, what if Iran gives a nuclear weapon to terrorists, who might sneak it into the US? Iran has been at scimitar’s drawn with Sunni militant groups, notably al-Qaida and Taliban. How would Iran benefit by giving a bomb to fanatics that could be quickly traced back to Tehran? Seeing Baltimore blow up is not worth having Iran turned into a radioactive wasteland. It makes no sense.

The European Union’s opposition to Iran’s nuclear program does not come from fear of Iranian attack, but from concern a US-British attack on Iran will produce chaos and violence in its backyard, and enflame Muslim minorities across Europe. Europe, not the US, would likely be the primary victim of revenge-seeking Mideast militants.

Amidst the cries for war against Iran, no Bush Administration official has yet proposed creation of a Mideast nuclear-free zone. The sole nuclear power in the region refuses to consider this option. But, in the end, that is the option most likely to eliminate the nuclear threat.


  • A recent poll shows 85% of US troops in Iraq actually believe that nation was behind the 9/11 attacks. Thank you Pentagon propaganda. The professional army has become dumbed down since the days of conscription (when I served) when people with intelligence and education served along with those who had none. Even so, I was stuck in a unit from the Deep South nearly all of whose members could barely read or write. That seems the norm in today’s `Army of One.’

  • I just read `In the Belly of the Green Bird’ by Nir Rosen(Free Press New York). Unlike nearly all western `embedded’ (read in bed) journalists who do no more than parrot handouts from the military, the Arabic-speaking Rosen went into the field in Iraq and met the resistance forces. He paints a grim view and shows how the US remains a bull in a china shop in Iraq, alienating its people and creating a new host of problems. Anyone who really wants to get a feel of what’s happening in Iraq should read this book. Though not an easy read at times, it conveys truths that we do not hear from other western sources.

  • Serbia says it can’t find major war criminals Rato Mladic and Radovan Karadizic. Because it is hiding them. Why do civilized nations continue to put up with such lies? Why have the Arab oil sheiks not put a price of $25 million each on their heads, as the US has done with its Muslim foes? Simple way to motivate Serbia to hand them over: cut off its oil and freeze its foreign bank deposits until it does.

  • When George Bush preaches `democracy’ you never hear him mention his ally, Singapore. This rich little island state held `elections’ in which the forever-ruling party won 82 out of 84 seats – the same as the last `election.’ Singapore remains a one-party state with bogus, window- dressing elections.

  • Just also finished `The Mitrokhin Archive II’- based on KGB files purloined by archivist Vasili Mitrokhin (Penguin New York/London). A dense compendium of spycraft and Cold War intelligence information. Volume I was more interesting as it dealt with the west. Vol. II covers Latin America, the Third World, China, Japan and India. Mitrokhin’s files confirm that the sainted Chilean Marxist Salvador Allende and his regime were hand in glove with Cuban intelligence and financed by KGB. And reconfirms the fact that Fidel Castro urged the Soviet Union to launch nuclear attacks on the US - even from Cuban soil. The KGB found it could not begin to afford to buy all the Indian politicians and officials who were falling over themselves to sell their nation’s secrets.

  • The Bush Administration’s neocons are determined to bring all intelligence under their control to silence any dissenting voices. Hence Bush’s naming the former NSA chief, Gen. Michael Hayden, to head CIA. He’s the officer who disgracefully implemented spying on Americans. Former CIA boss, Porter Goss, was kicked out, among many reasons, because he was `not enough of a team player’ – meaning he occasionally would not provide fake evidence to support the White House party line. Naming Hayden is bad for US democracy and bad for national security. The Pentagon already controls around 80% of the $40 billion per annum US intelligence budget. Enough, already!

    Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2006

Published at since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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