As the June 30 deadline for the conclusion of talks on Iran’s nuclear program looms, the main foreign policy issue of our time comes ever more sharply into focus. And by that I don’t just mean the immediate question of whether a deal can be reached, but also the larger question of whether Washington’s post-9/11 military rampage has finally lost its momentum.
The relatively narrow debate over how to implement and verify the deal continues, with an op ed in the New York Times by Alan Kuperman, an associate professor and coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation and Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin, claiming that the deal is “fatally flawed.” Kuperman’s piece itself is flawed, however, by several false premises, as Kelsey Davenport and Daryl Kimball point out over at the Arms Control Association web site:
“He assumes that Iran could immediately reassemble, reinstall, re-calibrate and begin to operate the 14,000 centrifuges the agreement will require Iran to disconnect and remove and put under IAEA seal. Such an assumption ignores the fact that it would take many months, if not years, to achieve such a stunt, which would be detected and could be disrupted within days of any such effort.”
The framework agreement reached at Lausanne calls for inspections, and one wonders how the inspectors would react to such blatant violations of the agreement. Does Kuperman think they would fail to notice such a massive project, or is he just counting on the public’s ignorance of the technical details to be able to get away with this kind of legerdemain?
Davenport and Kimball continue:
“He assumes that the agreement would allow Iran to keep large amounts of current low-enriched uranium (LEU) stockpile in solid form (oxide powder instead of gas), which is entirely incorrect. Under the agreement, Iran must verifiably reduce its current stockpile of some 7,600kg of LEU gas to no more than 300kg of LEU in any form.
Again, Kuperman relies on the public’s ignorance of the technical details of the framework agreement – which are pretty heavy going – in order to seemingly confirm Israeli charges that the developing agreement is “a bad deal.” And of course he brings up Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s “I want 100,000 centrifuges” to drive home his point:
“Kuperman repeats an old line from Iran’s Supreme Leader that he wants more than 100,000 centrifuges. That statement was made many months ago to describe the uranium-enrichment capacity Iran would need to power its one operating light-water reactor at Bushehr – and to try to gain bargaining leverage in the talks. Since then, Russia, which supplies the fuel for the reactor, has extended further fuel supply assurances for Bushehr, obviating any such ‘need’ for Iranian enrichment capacity of that scale. Iran has also agreed to limits on its enrichment capacity that make the achievement of such capacity out of reach for well over a decade.”
Ignorance is the War Party’s strength: that has always been the case, and never so much as in this instance, where the arcane details of nuclear technology can be easily manipulated for propagandistic purposes. And when it comes to the larger issue – US policy in the wake of our withdrawal from Iraq – the same ignorance is the main weapon in the warmongers’ arsenal. For example, a recent piece by Josh Rogin and Eli Lake, both of Bloomberg News, points excitedly to a military base in Iraq jointly occupied by US “advisors” and “Iran-backed militias”:
“The U.S. military and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are getting closer and closer in Iraq, even sharing a base, while Iran uses those militias to expand its influence in Iraq and fight alongside the Bashar al-Assad regime in neighboring Syria.
“Two senior administration officials confirmed to us that US soldiers and Shiite militia groups are both using the Taqqadum military base in Anbar, the same Iraqi base where President Obama is sending an additional 450 US military personnel to help train the local forces fighting against the Islamic State. Some of the Iran-backed Shiite militias at the base have killed American soldiers in the past.
“Some inside the Obama administration fear that sharing the base puts US soldiers at risk. The US intelligence community has reported back to Washington that representatives of some of the more extreme militias have been spying on US operations at Taqqadum, one senior administration official told us. That could be calamitous if the fragile relationship between the US military and the Shiite militias comes apart and Iran-backed forces decide to again target US troops.”
And of course John “bomb-bomb Iran” McCain is cited, bloviating about how this coexistence is “very hard to understand” for the families of soldiers supposedly killed by Shi’ite militias in Iraq. What’s really hard to understand, however, is how this Bizarro World history of the Iraq war relates to reality. Those Shi’ite militias were and are affiliated with the political parties that took over the country – in much hailed elections – after Saddam’s defeat. The ruling Ba’ath party, which supported Saddam, was composed almost exclusively of Sunni Muslims, and it was the Sunnis – dubbed “dead-enders” by Donald Rumsfeld – who fought the Americans. Indeed, President George W. Bush invited the leader of the biggest Shi’ite militia, the Badr Brigade, to a meeting at the White House.
In the absence of those Shi’ite militias – which are, in reality, composed of Iraqis, although you’d never know it from reading the Rogin-Lake propaganda – ISIS would already be in Baghdad, laying siege to the US Embassy. Their presence is nothing new: they have constituted the backbone of the Iraqi police for years. Their power is the direct result of the US invasion of Iraq, which destroyed the Sunni-controlled Iraqi military establishment and guaranteed Shi’ite dominance. That the same people who supported the Iraq war are now bemoaning its inevitable consequences is yet another example of how deftly the neoconservatives evade any responsibility for their own bloody handiwork.
And it’s funny how the Sunnis – who fought the Americans tooth and nail – are so easily forgiven by McCain & Co. After all, it was these very Sunni tribesmen who were mobilized during the much-touted “surge,” and hailed as the heroes of the so-called “Anbar Awakening,” and yet they had the blood of American soldiers on their hands. But we aren’t supposed to remember that.
The War Party and its Israeli backers are in the midst of a rather delicate pivot: their goal is to redirect US animosity, shifting it from the suicide-bombers of the Sunni “dead-enders” to Iran and its regional proxies. In order to do this they need to invert the history of the Iraq war and reposition the Sunnis as our valiant allies. Again, this revisionism is counting on the ignorance of the American public as to the arcane details of the religious differences that fuel the region’s sectarian conflicts. And in a sane world there is no good reason why the average American should know – or care – about those differences. However, in the world we are living in – the Bizarro World of the post-9/11 era – this lack of knowledge has the potential to start World War III.
The de facto Saudi-Israeli alliance aimed at Iran – and the Obama administration – necessitates some unusual ideological gymnastics on the part of the War Party in this country. Suddenly the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria is being held up as a viable alternative to the now virtually nonexistent “Free Syria Army” – and yet nobody has asked the families of the 9/11 victims for their opinion of that particular tactical move. And while the Israelis are busy tending to wounded al-Qaeda fighters in Syria, their own Druze population is attacking the ambulances transporting these fighters to Israeli hospitals.
Bibi Netanyahu and the heirs of Osama bin Laden – together at last! Now there’s an alliance that might be dubbed the Stalin-Hitler Pact of our times. Don’t expect either Josh Rogin or Eli Lake to be writing about that any time soon.
In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, when it is suddenly announced that a war with Eastasia has broken out and that Eurasia is no longer the enemy, Big Brother appears on the telescreen declaring “We have always been at war with Eastasia!” In the dystopian world of Orwell’s prescient novel, no one questions this – although everyone knows it’s a lie – out of fear of the omnipresent Thought Police. In our world, however, while there is a would-be Thought Police patrolling the discourse, there are still a few of us who can call out the neoconservatives’ brazen rewriting of history.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
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I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.