The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Iran And The Bomb, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Facts

"Given how easily the American public and media were manipulated into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, this moment should give us some pause. The disastrous effects of that $3 Trillion Dollar War are still being felt across the world. For those not interested in seeing a much-bloodier, costlier sequel, I offer this introductory course in intellectual self-defense. The only way to rebuff and dismantle propaganda is to be aware of the truth on which it claims to comment.

Lesson #1: Iran is not building nuclear weapons

National Intelligence Estimate: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” (2007 National Intelligence Estimate Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities; November 2007)

“Several senior Israeli officials who spoke in recent days to The Associated Press said Israel has come around to the U.S. view that no final decision to build a bomb has been made by Iran.” (Associated Press, “Israel shifts views on Iran”; March 18, 2012)

The 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a synthesized compilation of data evaluated by America’s 17 intelligence agencies, declared that there were no serious revisions to the controversial (for war hawks) 2007 NIE—which stated Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. While the 2011 estimate did include updated progress on Iran’s civilian nuclear program, such as an increased number of operative centrifuges, it still could not muster any evidence to indicate the program was being weaponized.

These findings echo reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has also concluded that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. The IAEA accounts are typically pored over for the slightest hint of ambiguity or malevolence, which are then promulgated as the most important takeaways in Western news summaries.

A recent example of such deliberate obfuscation was the IAEA report on Iran from August 30, 2012. Typical American media accounts highlighted the increase in Iran’s nuclear infrastructure (underground centrifuge production, etc.), while failing to mention that their stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium—the only material capable of being enriched further to 85% or weapons grade—had actually diminished as a result of conversion to fuel plates for use in the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Thus nuclear development is highlighted, under the false premise that that equals progress toward a weapon, while exculpatory evidence is discarded: a case study in how news and propaganda function.

A civilian nuclear program is not easily converted into a weapons program. Before a country can begin the latter, it must break the IAEA monitoring seals on its uranium stockpile, which is also under constant camera detection. It must also kick out international inspectors, who currently have unfettered access to all of Iran’s nuclear sites. Completing those very public steps would be the first true warning indicators that Iran was building nuclear weapons.

As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is entitled to enrich uranium to low levels for domestic power consumption and medical treatment, such as radiation therapy for cancer patients.

Lesson #2: Iran is not a threat to the US

The United States military is the largest, most sophisticated machine of force and violence the world has ever seen. After factoring in foreign military aid and nuclear weapons maintenance, the U.S. spends over an estimated $1 trillion (that’s >$1,000 billion) on defense annually.

By contrast, Iran spends somewhere between $10-12 billion on defense annually, after factoring in foreign and domestic paramilitary units such as the Revolutionary Guards and Basij—Iran’s domestic volunteer militia. This is “less than the United Arab Emirates, and only between 25% to 33% of Saudi defense spending,” notes Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It spends approximately 1/5 of the amount allocated by the six sheikdoms of the Gulf Cooperation Council—America’s staunchest regional allies (save for Israel) and the guardians of Western access to crude.

Lesson #3: Iran is not an existential threat to Israel

Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister: “Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel.” (Reuters, Report: Barak says Iran is not existential threat to Israel; September 17, 2009)

Dan Halutz, former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces and Commander of the Israeli Air Force: “Iran poses a serious threat, but not an existential one. The use of this terminology is misleading. If it is intended to encourage a strike on Iran, it’s a mistake. Force should be exerted only as a last resort.” (YNet, Former IDF Chief: Iran doesn’t pose an existential threat; February 2, 2012)

Tamir Pardo, Director of the Mossad: “Does Iran pose a threat to Israel? Absolutely. But if one said a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands was an existential threat, that would mean that we would have to close up shop and go home. That’s not the situation. The term existential threat is used too freely.” (Haaretz, Mossad Chief: Nuclear Iran not necessarily existential threat to Israel; December 29, 2011)

Israel maintains a competitive advantage in total amount spent on munitions and assets, as well as a massive edge in terms of technological sophistication. Israel spends almost twice as much as Iran on defense appropriations and is able to buy the world’s most advanced weaponry from the United States (mostly with U.S. taxpayer money, laundered through foreign aid). Iran, by contrast, is heavily dependent on the dated munitions it received under the Shah and acquires rudimentary missile technology from China and North Korea with its own money.

Even if Iran were pursuing nuclear weapons, Israel’s own stockpile—estimated at a several hundred high-yield warheads—ensures that Tehran would not engage in a first-strike. Those familiar with the Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) know that when confronted with the possibility of your own annihilation, so the theory goes, you’re incentivized to refrain from launching a first strike. Israel’s stationing of nukes on German-made Dolphin class submarines in the Mediterranean assures that even if a first strike were to be carried out on the Jewish state, the perpetrator would still be subject to a retaliatory strike.

However, much as America acts as Israel’s patron, so too Iran spends a good deal arming and supporting proxy armies in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip—Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively. While these forces present a serious challenge to Israeli military incursions into said areas, their ability to project force within Israel’s borders is limited to indiscriminate rocket fire. While dangerous and psychologically terrifying for civilians, such tactics cannot be considered more than a nuisance when comparing capacities for state violence.

Israel is not a signatory to the NPT and repeatedly refuses propositions for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (MENWFZ) to be established as a means of ending the stand-off with Tehran, despite majority support from the Israeli public."

"EVIDENCE IS now in that President Barack Obama grossly exaggerated the humanitarian threat to justify military action in Libya. The president claimed that intervention was necessary to prevent a “bloodbath’’ in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city and last rebel stronghold.

But Human Rights Watch has released data on Misurata, the next-biggest city in Libya and scene of protracted fighting, revealing that Moammar Khadafy is not deliberately massacring civilians but rather narrowly targeting the armed rebels who fight against his government.

Misurata’s population is roughly 400,000. In nearly two months of war, only 257 people — including combatants — have died there. Of the 949 wounded, only 22 — less than 3 percent — are women. If Khadafy were indiscriminately targeting civilians, women would comprise about half the casualties.

Obama insisted that prospects were grim without intervention. “If we waited one more day, Benghazi … could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.’’ Thus, the president concluded, “preventing genocide’’ justified US military action.

But intervention did not prevent genocide, because no such bloodbath was in the offing. To the contrary, by emboldening rebellion, US interference has prolonged Libya’s civil war and the resultant suffering of innocents.

The best evidence that Khadafy did not plan genocide in Benghazi is that he did not perpetrate it in the other cities he had recaptured either fully or partially — including Zawiya, Misurata, and Ajdabiya, which together have a population greater than Benghazi.

Libyan forces did kill hundreds as they regained control of cities. Collateral damage is inevitable in counter-insurgency. And strict laws of war may have been exceeded.

But Khadafy’s acts were a far cry from Rwanda, Darfur, Congo, Bosnia, and other killing fields. Libya’s air force, prior to imposition of a UN-authorized no-fly zone, targeted rebel positions, not civilian concentrations. Despite ubiquitous cellphones equipped with cameras and video, there is no graphic evidence of deliberate massacre. Images abound of victims killed or wounded in crossfire — each one a tragedy — but that is urban warfare, not genocide.

Nor did Khadafy ever threaten civilian massacre in Benghazi, as Obama alleged. The “no mercy’’ warning, of March 17, targeted rebels only, as reported by The New York Times, which noted that Libya’s leader promised amnesty for those “who throw their weapons away.’’ Khadafy even offered the rebels an escape route and open border to Egypt, to avoid a fight “to the bitter end.’’"

"The silence of cable news regarding America's newest ally in Syria is an interesting phenomena, though perhaps there's good reason for it. Maybe the networks are too busy covering other highly-important stories - like racist comments made three decades ago by an irrelevant celebrity chef. Or perhaps they're not yet done demonizing the guy who gave up a six-figure salary working for the National Security Agency in order to help expose a massive surveillance apparatus collecting and storing data on every single human being in the country.

Whatever the case may be, it's clear that U.S. taxpayers have acquired new friends in Syria - known as the "rebels", who are working diligently to bring down the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad - and the media hasn't done a very good job providing us with an introduction.

Firstly, if you love al-Qaeda - or terrorism in general - you're going to absolutely adore the "rebels". Reports Bloomberg, 6/21/2013:

"The Islamic extremist militia Jabhat al-Nusra is the "leading opposition force on the ground" because it's the "most effective", Lavrov said in the interview today, which Bloomberg conducted together with the Associated Press. Jabhat al-Nusra, which has merged with al-Qaeda, was designated a terrorist group by the U.S. in December."

Don't worry. Not all of the "rebels" are made up of al-Qaeda. Surely some of them can be trusted with U.S. taxpayer-funded armaments such as anti-aircraft missiles, and while we might have no way of knowing who is getting what, maybe if we just continue pouring weapons into the country, cross our fingers, and hope for the best, everything will work out fine. Besides, this same strategy was applied in Afghanistan back in the 1980's and nothing bad came from that, right?

This new alliance is further complicated by the fact that many of the "rebels" aren't even "rebels" in the sense that they are native Syrians fighting their own government. It was recently revealed that "rebel" fighters are flooding into Syria from at least 29 different countries - including nearby Turkey and Jordan - where U.S. troops were recently deployed. Actual Syrian civilians have increasingly come to fear and despise both the "rebels", as well as their own brutal government - a government so brutal that during the Bush years, the U.S. partnered up with the Assad regime and sent terror suspects to Syria so they could be tortured in ways that would make Freddy Krueger crap himself with trembling nightmares.

Oh, and speaking of torturers, it was also recently revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency - notorious for regularly torturing during the Bush years (and getting away with it thanks to Obama) - isn't very optimistic about this new alliance with the "rebels". The Los Angeles Times reports that they've already started sizing up the growing al-Qaeda presence in Syria for future drone strikes.

Still, don't be discouraged quite yet. There are other things about our lovable new "rebel" friends in Syria that you might come to cherish. For example:

If you like cutting out and eating human body parts (who doesn't?), you might like the "rebels". One report by The Telegraph found "rebels" in Syria chowing down on the lung of a Syrian soldier.

If you like murdering teenagers, you might like the "rebels". A report by The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, offers details on the story of a 15-year-old boy who had his jaw blown off by the "rebels" - in front of his mother - either because he was denying the existence of a god, or because he was refusing to give a customer a free coffee. Either way, he obviously had it coming.

If you approve of the use of child soldiers, you might like the "rebels". Human Rights Watch tells us that "rebels" are recruiting fighters as young as 14 to not only carry weapons and supplies, but to also do other things, such as taking part in beheadings.

If you like religious persecution, you might like the "rebels". Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, testified that Islamic insurgents are targeting Christians for ethno-religious cleansing.

If you like suicide bombings, you might like the "rebels".

If you like massacring entire villages, you might like the "rebels".

And to add some icing to the yellowcake, if you like chemical warfare and weapons of mass destruction, you might like the "rebels". There is strong evidence that the arsenal of the Syrian "rebels" consists of chemical weapons - and they haven't been shy about using them.

So, let's recap: our new allies in Syria are not only affiliated with al-Qaeda, but they also enjoy things like eating human body parts, shooting teenagers, recruiting child soldiers, suicide bombings, massacres, and using chemical weapons. Why anyone would have a problem with letting these heroes have access to U.S.-taxpayer funding, training, and weaponry is quite the mystery. What could possibly go wrong?

With all of this in mind, one might be left to wonder why the U.S. would get involved at all in Syria, especially at a time when it is already bogged down in the affairs of dozens of other countries around the globe.

Those claiming that the U.S. is acting out of "humanitarian" motives to "liberate" the Syrian people from Assad would do well to examine some of America's other allies, like the highly-repressive regimes of Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and Jordan, to name only a few. The U.S. is also in the process of propping up another dictatorship in recently-"liberated" Iraq. So if noble motives aren't at work here, what exactly is the U.S. government doing in Syria?

Thanassis Cambanis, Adjunct Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, offers a partial explanation as to how this conflict benefits the West and its allies:

"The war is becoming a sinkhole for America's enemies. Iran and Hezbollah, the region's most persistent irritants to the United States and Israel, have tied up considerable resources and manpower propping up Assad's regime and establishing new militias. Russia remains a key guarantor of the government, costing Russia support throughout the rest of the Arab world. Gulf monarchies, which tend to be troublesome American allies, have invested small fortunes on the rebel side, sending weapons and establishing exile political organizations. The more the Syrian war sucks up the attention and resources of its entire neighborhood, the greater America's relative influence in the Middle East."

Additionally, months before the attacks of 9/11, neoconservative David Wurmser, with the assistance of his American Enterprise Institute colleague Douglas Feith, drafted a set of war plans for the United States and Israel. As recorded by History Commons, Wurmser suggested that Israel and the United States should "strike fatally, not merely disarm, the centers of radicalism in the region—the regimes of Damascus [Syria], Baghdad [Iraq], Tripoli [Libya], Tehran [Iran], and Gaza [the Palestinians]" to establish the recognition that fighting either the United States or Israel is "suicidal". Wurmser urges both the U.S. and Israel to be watchful for a crisis because "crises can be opportunities". Considering the recent wars in Iraq and Libya, the economic sanctions against Iran (a common prelude to conventional war), and now the intervention in Syria, one might deduce that the U.S. neoconservative foreign policy is going well and according to plan.

There are other reasons for U.S. involvement, including the little-known fact that U.S. defense companies are drooling at the opportunity to overtake Russia's monopoly on weapons sales to Syria. They'll also have yet another reason to keep building more drones and missiles when the time inevitably comes to make smoldering craters out of the "rebels" once the U.S. is done using them.

Strategic motives aside, the growing minority of U.S. citizens who favor this kind of intervention in Syria should ask themselves: If a foreign country began sending highly-trained, well-equipped, and immensely brutal fighters from multiple countries into the United States to "free" Americans from their government through routine acts of terrorism, what would be thought of both the foreign fighters and the host country sponsoring them? And would there be any doubt that those in power would respond as brutally as the Assad regime has? One need only look at how the U.S. government treated the Occupy Wall Street protesters - who weren't even attempting to topple the government - to answer the latter question.

While the situation in Syria might have initially started off as a genuine revolution, it has since morphed into nothing short of external regime change imposed by external forces for external gain. This is not intended to be a win for the Syrian people, despite the narrative of a "humanitarian intervention" - an oxymoron in itself coined by the same batshit neoconservatives who helped march the country down the road to "liberating" more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Tragically, it seems the U.S. is heading down that same skeleton-covered, blood-stained road once again as it prepares to "liberate" Syria -- unless U.S. citizens pull the emergency brake and stop the taxpayer-funded clown car before it's too late."

"Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly tells viewers that, according to a September 23 CNN-Gallup poll, "66 percent of Americans support going into Iraq, even without UN mandates." In fact, the poll to which O'Reilly is referring shows that only 37 percent supports a war in Iraq without a U.N. mandate."

"Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly defends American media coverage of the upcoming war: "Everywhere else in the world lies. If you see the foreign coverage, it's just a bunch of propaganda.""

"Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly tries to bet one of his guests that U.S. victory in Iraq would be swift: "I will bet you the best dinner in the gaslight district of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week. Are you willing to take that wager?""

"Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly again promises his viewers that the U.S. will effortlessly win the impending war in Iraq: "Our military machine will crush Iraq in a matter of days and there's no question it will... Once the United States and Britain unleash, it's maybe hours. They're going to fold like that.""

"February 26, 2003 — "Once the war against Saddam begins, we expect every American to support our military, and if they can't do that, to shut up. Americans, and indeed our allies, who actively work against our military once the war is underway will be considered enemies of the state by me. Just fair warning to you, Barbra Streisand, and others who see the world as you do." (Bill O'Reilly, Fox News Channel)"

"A false chemical weapons discovery is widely reported in the media. Fox News Channel posts a headline that reads, "HUGE CHEMICAL WEAPONS FACTORY FOUND IN SO IRAQ.... REPORTS: 30 IRAQIS SURRENDER AT CHEM WEAPONS PLANT.... COAL TROOPS HOLDING IRAQI IN CHARGE OF CHEM WEAPONS." ABC's John McWethy promotes "one important new discovery: U.S. officials say, up the road from Nasarijah, in a town called Najaf, they believe that they have captured a chemical weapons plant and perhaps more important, the commanding general of that facility. One U.S. official said he is a potential 'gold mine' about the weapons Saddam Hussein says he doesn't have."

The next day, a Fox correspondent in Qatar quietly issues an update to the chemical weapons story: The "chemical weapons facility discovered by coalition forces did not appear to be an active chemical weapons facility." U.S. officials admit that morning that the site contains no chemicals at all and had been abandoned long ago."

"MSNBC cancels host for being "anti-war", "anti-Bush" (2/25/2003): After having a program on MSNBC for less than a year, host Phil Donahue's show is cancelled. The initial reason given is low ratings; however, a leaked internal memo reveals that MSNBC felt Donahue would be a "difficult public face" in a time of war, going on to say that "he seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush, and skeptical of the administration's motives.""

"MSNBC host Chris Matthews: "We're all neocons now."
(4/9/2003): After a statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled (an event staged for the networks), Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball", says: "We're all neocons now.""

"MSNBC host Chris Matthews: Women like this war (5/1/2003): "We’re proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who’s physical. They want a guy who’s president. Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple. We’re not like the Brits.""

"MSNBC host Chris Matthews: George W. Bush "won [Iraq] war" (5/1-4/2003): Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball", says President Bush "deserves everything he's doing tonight in terms of his leadership. He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics. Do you think he is defining the office of the presidency, at least for this time, as basically that of commander in chief?""

"MSNBC host Ed Schultz advocates support for Obama's 2011 bombing campaign in Libya (3/23/2011): MSNBC's Ed Schultz, host of "The Ed Show", writes an opinion piece on the Huffington Post supporting US involvement in Libya. He writes that the "president of the United States, Barack Obama, deserves the benefit of the doubt and our support in his decision to use military force in Libya.""

"MSNBC President tells Cenk Uygur that channel is part of "establishment" and host should "act like it"
(April 2011): From the New York Times: "[...] in late June the channel’s president, Phil Griffin, decided to try out Mr. Sharpton, and offered Mr. Uygur a new contract that included a weekend show, but not a higher-profile weekday show.Mr. Uygur, who by most accounts was well liked within MSNBC, said in an interview that he turned down the new contract because he felt Mr. Griffin had been the recipient of political pressure. In April, he said, Mr. Griffin “called me into his office and said that he’d been talking to people in Washington, and that they did not like my tone.” He said he guessed Mr. Griffin was referring to White House officials, though he had no evidence for the assertion. He also said that Mr. Griffin said the channel was part of the “establishment,” and “that you need to act like it.”""

"CNN guest suggests dealing with 9/11 by killing people, even if some are not "directly involved" (9/11/2001): After the 9/11 attacks, major news networks, including CNN, largely turn their coverage on to themes surrounding retaliation. Says former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger: "There is only one way to begin to deal with people like this, and that is you have to kill some of them even if they are not immediately directly involved.""

"CNN Chairman orders correspondents to balance reporting from Taliban POV with reminders that Taliban harbor 9/11 terrorists (10/31/2001): CNN chairman Walter Isaacson orders his staff to balance CNN coverage of US-led civilian devastation in Afghan cities with reminders that the Taliban harbor those who attacked the United States on 9/11. In an internal memo to CNN correspondents, Isaacson writes: "As we get good reports from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, we must redouble our efforts to make sure we do not seem to be simply reporting from their vantage or perspective. We must talk about how the Taliban are using civilian shields and how the Taliban have harbored the terrorists responsible for killing close to 5,000 innocent people.""

"CNN anchor cuts broadcast of press conference with Iraqi Information Minister because US government "would disagree" with content (3/26/2003): "All right, we’re going to interrupt this press briefing right now because, of course, the U.S. government would disagree with most of what he is saying." —CNN anchor Carol Costello"

"CNN and FOX misrepresent toppling of Saddam statue (4/9/2003): CNN covers the toppling of a Saddam Hussein statue in central Baghdad, Iraq. It is portrayed as a spontaneous event started by "liberated" Iraqis overjoyed with the U.S. presence in their country. It is later revealed to be entirely the work of a Marine colonel who decided to take down the statue. As reported by the Los Angeles Times: "[It] was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.""

"CNN: Why report civilian deaths in Iraq? (4/15/2004): CNN anchor Daryn Kagan interviews Al-Jazeera's editor-in-chief, Ahmed Al-Sheik, and uses the opportunity to badger Al-Sheik about whether civilian deaths in Iraq are really "the story" in Fallujah. "Isn't the story, though, bigger than just the simple numbers, with all due respect to the Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives-- the story bigger than just the numbers of people who were killed or the fact that they might have been killed by the U.S. military, that the insurgents, the people trying to cause problems within Fallujah, are mixing in among the civilians, making it actually possibly that even more civilians would be killed, that the story is what the Iraqi insurgents are doing, in addition to the response from the U.S. military?""

"CNN briefly banned from Iran over "mistranslation" of Iranian leader (1/2006): CNN is briefly banned from Iran after "mistranslating" Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying Iran has the right to use nuclear "weapons" rather than nuclear "technology"."

"CNN's Anderson Cooper interned with CIA (9/6/2006): It is revealed that CNN's Anderson Cooper "spent his summers interning" at the Central Intelligence Agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia, "in a program for students interested in intelligence work", as reported by Rawstory."

"CNN's weekend host advises President Obama on foreign policy (5/13/2011): CNN's Fareed Zakaria, host of the weekend show Fareed Zakaria GPS, admits on CNN that he has been advising President Obama on foreign policy matters."

"CNN journalist urges Americans to stop being 'nosy' (6/2012): LZ Granderson, a regular CNN columnist and contributor, writes: "Though to be fair, it’s not entirely our fault. Between the 24/7 news cycle, social media and reality TV, we have been spoon fed other people’s private business for so long we now assume it’s a given to know everything. And if there are people who choose not to disclose, they must be hiding something. Being told that something’s “none of your business” is slowly being characterized as rude, and if such a statement is coming from the government, it seems incriminating. Times have changed. Yet, not everything is our business. And in the political arena, there are things that should be and need to be kept quiet. . . . You see, freedom isn’t entirely free. It also isn’t squeaky clean. And sometimes the federal government deems it necessary to get its hands a little dirty in the hopes of achieving something we generally accept as good for the country. . . . And maybe it’s better for us not to be so nosy, not to know everything because, to paraphrase the famous line from the movie “A Few Good Men,” many of us won’t be able to handle the truth.""