Iran: Iraq War Puts Off U.S. Invasion

Doug Lorimer, Green Left Weekly (radical newspaper), New South Wales, Australia, November 28, 2005

Iranian Basij forces form a 12 mile-long human chain Saturday, in north Tehran, to demonstrate Iran's willingness to defend the country from any “foreign aggressions” in reference to the controversy over the country's nuclear program. (Photo: Behrouz Mehri / AFP-Getty Images)

On Nov. 20, four days before the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-member board began its three-day November meeting, the Majlis (Iran’s parliament) adopted a resolution requiring the government to cancel all its voluntary measures of cooperation with the I.A.E.A. if Iran is referred by the board to the U.N. Security Council for “action.”

The Western corporate media presented the Majlis decision as a threat by Tehran to block U.N. inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities. However, Majlis member Kazem Jalali told Associated Press that the resolution required the government to only comply with its legal obligations under the 1970 international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (N.P.T.) and Iran’s safeguards agreement with the I.A.E.A., signed in 1974.

This requires that Iran “accept safeguards, in accordance with the terms of this agreement, on all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities within its territory, under its jurisdiction or carried out under its control anywhere, for the exclusive purpose of verifying that such material is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

More than a year ago, I.A.E.A. director general Mohammed ElBaradei reported to the I.A.E.A. board that “all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities,” i.e., to the development of nuclear weapons.

However, in 1997 the I.A.E.A. proposed a “model additional protocol” to safeguards agreements that it has recommended all N.P.T. signatories adopt. In 2003 Iran voluntarily agreed to act in compliance with the additional protocol, even though Iran has not ratified it.

The additional protocol requires countries that have a safeguard agreement with the I.A.E.A. to allow go-anywhere, see-anything inspections of their declared nuclear facilities and to provide disclosure to the I.A.E.A. of all of their nuclear-related activities since signing their safeguards agreement.

After Iran agreed to voluntarily abide by the additional protocol it failed, until last year, to provide full details of its 1975-2003 research into the development of a full nuclear fuel cycle, i.e., the conversion of milled uranium ore (“yellowcake”) into uranium hexafluoride gas and then the extraction of enriched uranium (with at least 5 percent of the uranium-235 isotope in it) from the UF6 gas.

U.S. officials have used this past failure to claim that it is “proof” Iran has a secret program to produce weapons-grade uranium — highly enriched uranium, typically 70 percent U-235 — for use in nuclear bombs and is thus in violation of the N.P.T. and its I.A.E.A. safeguards agreement.

At its last meeting, on Sept. 24, the I.A.E.A. board adopted — by 22 votes, with 1 vote (Venezuela) against and 12 abstentions (including China and Russia) — a U.S.-backed resolution moved by Washington’s Nato allies Britain, France and Germany — the so-called E.U.-3 — declaring that Iran was in “non-compliance with its safeguard agreement” (meaning the additional protocol).

This was despite the fact that ElBaradei reported to the Sept. 24 meeting that Iran was cooperating with I.A.E.A. inspectors in providing information on its previously undisclosed research on uranium enrichment.

Anti-U.S. Nations

Since the September meeting the composition of the I.A.E.A. board has changed, with more countries represented on it that have already indicated their support for Iran. As the Nov. 21 London Guardian observed: “Belarus, Cuba and Syria joined Venezuela on the I.A.E.A. board in September. With those anti-U.S. nations on board, any vote on referral would be more strongly opposed than the resolution passed at the last board meeting two months ago.”

Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa have also indicated they would oppose referral. A vote with less countries in support of Security Council referral than in September “would look like a step backward,” a U.S. official told the Guardian.

As part of its effort to counter the U.S. and E.U.-3 attempts to turn other I.A.E.A. members against it, Iran has stepped up its economic and military cooperation with Russia, the chief source of Iran’s nuclear power technology. On Nov. 7, for example, Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Hamid-Reza Asefi said Tehran welcomed Moscow’s proposal for the establishment of a common, Russian-led military force in the oil-rich Caspian Sea with participation of all the littoral countries — Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The Russian proposal explicitly excludes the participation of other countries, i.e., the U.S., from provision of equipment, technical assistance, intelligence sharing, personnel training or other inputs.

Tehran is also stepping up its cooperation with other countries that are threatened by U.S. aggression, particularly Venezuela and Cuba.

At a joint Nov. 13 press conference in Tehran with visiting Cuban foreign minister Felipe Perez Roque, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared: “We hope that given new wave of revolutionary moves inspired by freedom-seeking as well as justice-seeking spirit of world nations along with the intellectuals of some South American countries, we will witness further coordination and convergence in rescuing the countries from hegemonic powers in those regions.”

On Nov. 23, the official IRNA news agency reported that the Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottak had told the new Cuban ambassador to Tehran that “Fidel Castro taught a very good lesson to world countries, particularly those in Latin America, on how to stand firm in their positions,” and that “Iran considers Fidel Castro as a valuable asset for the Latin American nations.”

According to an Oct. 31 IRNA report, Ahmadinejad had sent a letter to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expressing Tehran’s appreciation for Venezuela’s stance in support of Iran at the Sept. 24 I.A.E.A. board meeting. Ahmadinejad reportedly described Venezuela’s stance as proof of the two governments’ “brotherly and lasting relations.”

On Nov. 23, Iran’s Petropars company announced it would invest $2 billion to develop an oil field in Venezuela, Latin America’s largest oil producer, with the state-owned Venezuelan oil company PDVSA. “This is the first oil project of Iran that is being implemented abroad,” Petropars managing director Golam-Reza Manuchehri told the Mehr news agency.

“No Justification” for Referral

On Nov. 18, ElBaradei circulated a new report to I.A.E.A. board members on Iran’s nuclear activities. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Majlis national security and foreign policy commission, told reporters in Tehran on Nov. 21 that on the basis of the new report “our assumption is that we will not face the issue of our nuclear case being reported to the U.N. Security Council unless the United States exerts specific political pressure on European states.” He added that “there is no other justification for” Iran to be referred to the Security Council other than “U.S. political pressure.”

The aim of Washington’s accusation that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program is to pressure the I.A.E.A. board to vote to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council so that U.S. officials can claim that Iran, like Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, poses an “imminent threat” to the “international community.”

Since January 2002, when President George Bush labelled Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, part of an “axis of evil” that was threatening the U.S. “with the world’s most destructive weapons,” Washington has been trying to lay the diplomatic and propaganda groundwork to justify a future Iraq-style U.S.-led invasion and occupation of oil-rich Iran. If successful, this would give the U.S. capitalist rulers direct or indirect control over all of the Persian Gulf’s huge oil and natural gas resources.

In the Jan. 16 New Yorker magazine, renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that the Pentagon had been ordered by Bush to update its plans for an invasion of Iran. He reported that in interviews with past and present U.S. intelligence and military officials, “I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran.”

Hersh wrote: “Strategists at the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, in Tampa, Florida, have been asked to revise the military’s war plan, providing for a maximum ground and air invasion of Iran.” He added: “Previously, an American invasion force would have had to enter Iran by sea, by way of the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman; now troops could move in on the ground, from Afghanistan or Iraq. Commando units and other assets could be introduced through new bases in the Central Asian republics.”

On Nov. 22, U.S. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington: “We believe that, given Iran’s past behavior, that it should be referred to the Security Council … But we will reserve the right to seek that action at the time of our choosing.”

This was an indirect admission that with the U.S. military bogged down trying, unsuccessfully, to suppress a mass armed resistance to its occupation of Iraq and with most of the U.S. public now wanting a rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Washington is not in a position to implement its Iran invasion plan.

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