There is no evidence of an active nuclear weapons program in Iran. — Mohammed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), basing his judgment on the findings of IAEA inspectors in Iran.
If this sounds familiar it is, in fact, déjà vu, says Ray McGovern in Attacking Iran for Israel?. ElBaradei said the same thing about Iraq before it was attacked. But three days before the invasion, American nuclear expert Dick Cheney told NBC’s Tim Russert, “I think Mr. ElBaradei is, frankly, wrong.”
Here we go again. As in the case of Iraq, US intelligence has been assiduously looking for evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran; but, alas, in vain. Burned by the bogus “proof” adduced for Iraq-the uranium from Africa, the aluminum tubes-the administration has shied away from fabricating nuclear-related “evidence.” Are Bush and Cheney again relying on the Rumsfeld dictum, that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence?” There is a simpler answer.
Cat Out of the Bag — The Israeli ambassador to the US, Sallai Meridor, let the cat out of the bag while speaking at the American Jewish Committee luncheon on Oct. 22. In remarks paralleling those of Rice, Meridor said Iran is the chief threat to Israel. Heavy on the chutzpah, he then served gratuitous notice on Washington that countering Iran’s nuclear ambitions will take a “united United States in this matter,” lest the Iranians conclude, “come January ‘09, they have it their own way.”
Meridor stressed that “very little time” remained to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. How so? Even were there to be a nuclear program hidden from the IAEA, no serious observer expects Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon much sooner than five years from now.
Truth be told, every other year since 1995 US intelligence has been predicting that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in about five years. It has become downright embarrassing-like a broken record, punctuated only by so-called “neo-conservatives” like James Woolsey, who in August publicly warned that the U.S. may have no choice but to bomb Iran in order to halt Tehran’s nuclear weapons program.
Woolsey, self-described “anchor of the Presbyterian wing of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs,” put it this way: “I’m afraid that within, well, at worst, a few months; at best, a few years; they [the Iranians] could have the bomb.”
The day before Ambassador Meridor’s unintentionally revealing remark, Vice President Dick Cheney reiterated, “We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.” That remark followed closely on President George W. Bush’s apocalyptic warning of World War III, should Tehran acquire the knowledge to produce a nuclear weapon.
The Israelis appear convinced they have extracted a promise from Bush and Cheney that they will help Israel nip Iran’s nuclear program in the bud before they leave office. That is why the Israeli ambassador says there is “very little time”-less than 15 months.
Never mind that there is no evidence that the Iranian nuclear program is any more weapons-related than the one Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld persuaded President Gerald Ford to approve in 1976. Westinghouse and General Electric successfully lobbied for approval to sell the Shah for $6.4 billion the kind of nuclear facilities that Iran is now building, but the deal fell through when the Shah was ousted in 1979.
With 200-300 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, the Israelis enjoy a nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. They mean to keep that monopoly and Israel’s current leaders are pressing for the US to obliterate Iran’s fledgling nuclear program.
Anyone aware of Iran’s ability to retaliate realizes this would bring disaster to the whole region and beyond. But this has not stopped Cheney and Bush in the past. And the real rationale is reminiscent of the one revealed by Philip Zelikow, confidant of Condoleezza Rice, former member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and later executive director of the 9/11 Commission. On Oct. 10 2002, Zelikow said this to a crowd at the University of Virginia:
“Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I’ll tell you what I think the real threat is-it’s the threat to Israel. And this is the threat that dare not speak its name…the American government doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell.”