In Defense of the Iranians
Jude Wanniski
August 9, 2005


Memo To: Bob Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Saving the NPT

Dear Bob:

You may be too busy in other areas to be keeping up with the “crisis” involving Iran’s decision to “resume Atomic Activity,” as the NYTimes puts it in its front-page headline today, so I thought I would alert you to the absolute fact that the “crisis” is of our making, not Tehran’s. If you read the papers to keep up with what’s going on, you would be thoroughly misled, because our media is no more competent to inform on these nuclear matters than they were when reporting that Saddam was sitting on a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. You recall I cheered, Bob, when the President named you to be Condi’s deputy instead of John Bolton, believing you would be able to sort out fact from the kinds of fictions Bolton was an expert in perpetrating.

If you look closely enough, you will find that Tehran has been bending over backwards in every conceivable way to save the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) from the ashcan of history, which is where Bolton and his neo-con puppet masters have wanted it to go for many years – because it gives its signators the right to develop the peaceful uses of atomic energy. The way the nuclear powers got most of the world to sign the NPT was by giving those rights, as long as they also acceded to the Safeguards Agreement which permitted the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect facilities to make sure they were in no way using nuclear power plants to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon. An additional protocol added in recent years gives the IAEA authority to go anywhere, look at anything that seems to be in violation of the NPT. The Clinton administration did everything it could to bolster the NPT, but the neo-cons who inhabit the Bush administration hate it, and despise the IAEA, because they get in the way of their hidden agendas of toppling regimes that are deemed potential threats.

The U.S. news media, which takes its cues from the government on these matters, is ill equipped to present a fair assessment of Iran. In the Times front-pager today, for example, the two reporters in Tehran who wrote it, Nazila Faith and Joel Brinkley, have not covered the issue before and make simple mistakes that will mislead any of the readers of the paper. They report, for example, that “Iran has admitted to deceiving inspectors for 17 years about many of its activities, and the United States argues that those deceptions effectively negate its right to a full nuclear program and that they provide a basis for international sanctions.”

That’s what the United States argues, but it is certainly not true that “Iran has admitted to deceiving inspectors for 17 years about many of its activities.” Iran has only admitted to have disagreements on several issues with the IAEA on how each was interpreting the Safeguard Agreement. The IAEA and its esteemed director general, Mohammed el-Baradei, will tell any reporter who asks that there has never been any evidence that Iran violated the NPT -- only whether or not they were required to report X, Y or Z to the IAEA, even though X, Y or Z had nothing to do with a nuclear-weapons program.

More to the immediate point, Bob, is the fact that even though Iran has lived up to all its responsibilities of the NPT and has given the IAEA the right to go anywhere and look at any facility it suspects of harboring a weapons program, the government of which you are a part continue to make demands upon it that it KNOWS Tehran cannot accept and still consider itself a sovereign nation.

Britain, France and Germany did attempt to negotiate even more restrictive conditions on Iran than exist in the NPT and Safeguards Agreement and its latest protocol. In November last year, in Paris, Iran agreed to suspend all work on even the earliest phases of enriching uranium for use in a nuclear power plant while awaiting the outcome of the diplomatic talks with the EU countries. For its part, the EU countries asked that Iran come up on its own with a set of “objective guarantees” that go beyond the NPT, to make as air tight as possible a perpetual verification of Iran’s limitation on its atomic activity to producing only electric power. Iran did so, asking an international team of experts including U.S. scientists, to recommend such “objective guarantees.”

As Dr. Gordon Prather wrote last weekend in his column:

On March 23, Iran offered a package of "objective guarantees" that included a voluntary "confinement" of Iran's nuclear programs, to include:

a. forgoing the reprocessing of spent fuel and the production of plutonium;

b. a "ceiling" on enrichment at reactor fuel level;

c. limiting the extent of the enrichment program to that required for Iran's power reactors;

d. the immediate conversion of all enriched uranium to fuel rods to preclude even the technical possibility of further enrichment; and

e. an incremental and phased approach to implementation of the uranium-enrichment program, beginning with the least sensitive aspects – such as uranium conversion.

The Iranians also proposed that there be an unprecedented "continuous on-site presence of IAEA inspectors at the conversion and enrichment facilities."

Now, as a consequence of the EU failure to respond in a timely manner to the Iranian offer, the Iranians have announced they will resume uranium conversion.

If this package of concessions by Tehran is unfamiliar to you, it is because it has never been reported in the American press. It of course was known to the IAEA at the time, and if reporters would now ask around, they would surely found that John Bolton was among the first to know about the concessions, and so would Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, Scooter Libby. But no, not a word in the press. The only place I found out about them was in Dr. Prather’s column.

Now Dr. Prather, a nuclear physicist who was the army’s chief scientist in the Reagan administration and a conservative Republican, tells me that the 9-page letter from Iran to the IAEA making these concessions has been on the IAEA website for several days, but still has not been mentioned by the American press. That is, when Iran last week advised the IAEA that it was going to resume its activities because there had been no satisfactory response from the EU, it asked that the letter be included as a formal IAEA document, with ElBaradei did. You should take the trouble of reading it in full. In keeping with the NPT and Safeguards Agreement, Iran would be obliged to so inform the IAEA so it would have time to sent inspectors and install cameras and other equipment to assure that only permissible work was being done. Iran continues to bend over backwards.

So do the neo-con warhawks who remain embedded in the administration you serve, Robert. There is even talk, reported in the same NYTimes story this morning that your very own State Department is talking about denying a visa to Iran’s newly-elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to attend the United Nations General Assembly next month. A preferred tactic of Richard Perle and Neo-Con Cabal has been to prevent their opponents from speaking in international forums to counter their propaganda, and of course they know if Ahmadinejad speaks at the U.N., it would be hard for the media to not cover what he has to say. Do you hear me, Bob? Mr. Zoellick? Deputy Secretary of State?

By the way, there are similar problems with North Korea, including the miserable reports on the 6-party talks in the media, again with the NYTimes in the lead. I’ll be back at you tomorrow on that. Iran is enough for one day.

Sincerely, your longtime admirer, Jude