I read with some dismay an article by a fellow author on OpEd News regarding statements by some of the top Democratic Presidential candidates on Iran. The article, "Clinton, Edwards and Obama: Strike Iran", seen here -> http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_joshua_f_070206_clinton_2c_edwards_and.htm describes a rather aggressive attitude toward Iran.
As anyone who has read my articles will attest, I am not a fan of Iran. I believe Iran still owes the United States and the entire institution of diplomacy an apology regarding the hostage taking of US diplomats some 38 years ago.
However, a regional or perhaps global catastrophe is in the works based on misinformation (or many would say DISinformation) regarding Iran's atomic energy program. It upsets me that some of my favorite Democrats are operating based on that misinformation. The Bush administration is asserting at every turn that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons. They have no basis for that accusation.
US intelligence assets on the ground in Iran are limited or non-existent. Anything they come up with is guessing at best. The people who are on the ground are the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency and they say things that sound very different from those coming out of the Bush administration. If that sounds familiar to you, it should. The UN's IAEA is one of two UN Weapons Inspection Agencies that was on the ground in Iraq for months before the war and issued a report a little over two weeks before the war started that said there had been no WMD found in Iraq after months of onsite inspections.
Remember that news fracas two weeks ago about Iran supposedly barring IAEA inspectors? It turns out they had a limited objection to only a few inspectors. IAEA posted a press release on their website at http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/PressReleases/2007/prn200701.html which said the following:
Statement by IAEA Spokesperson, Melissa Fleming on Iran
22 January 2007 | "Details of inspector designation is a confidential matter between the IAEA and the country concerned. In this case, we are discussing with Iran its request for withdrawing the designation of certain safeguards inspectors.
It should be noted however, that there are a sufficient number of inspectors designated for Iran and the IAEA is able to perform its inspection activities in accordance with Iran's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement."
The second paragraph above in Ms. Fleming's statement is telling. Iran is living up to its agreements with regard to inspections of its atomic energy program.
The most recent news about Iran discusses Iran's long planned effort to set up more centrifuges. In "Iran setting up atomic centrifuges, officials say" http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/02/05/iran.nuclear.ap/index.html
there are a number of things that are apparent:
1. Iran is setting up the centrifuges that it said it would.
2. The IAEA is there monitoring this activity
3. Assuming Iran was attempting to build a nuclear weapon, it would take 3-4 years.
4. If Iran was attempting to build such a weapon, it would become apparent to the IAEA inspectors who are watching the program long before any weapons grade uranium was produced.
What also can be learned from reading official IAEA reports is that Iran actually lets IAEA inspectors take samples of the materials produced by the centrifuges.
I am not saying that there are no concerns or that there is no possibility that Iran is attempting to build nuclear weapons. What I AM saying is that the level of rhetoric coming from the administration based on what we know is inappropriate. Not only is it inappropriate, much of it crosses the line into untruth or lying.
Democrats all must steer clear of hostile rhetoric regarding Iran. At this point, there is no course of action reasonable to propose other than dialogue and negotiation. Democrats need to keep in mind that Iran is likely willing to negotiate given their overtures to us back in 2003 that were unwisely rebuffed by Cheney. As exposed in this article by the AFP and BBC, "Iran offered to cut off Hezbollah in overture to US in 2003: BBC" click here
"Iran offered to cut off aid and support for the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas, and promised full transparency on its nuclear program in a secret letter to the United States soon after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the British media reported.
According to the BBC, the letter, which it obtained, was unsigned, but the US State Department understood that it came with the approval of the highest Iranian authorities.
Initially, the State Department was positive on the offer, according to Lawrence Wilkerson, former US secretary of state Colin Powell's chief of staff, who spoke to the BBC.
"As soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the Vice-President's (Dick Cheney) office, the old mantra of 'we don't talk to evil' ... reasserted itself," Wilkerson told the broadcaster.
"To our embarrassment at State ... the cable that I saw go back to the Swiss actually upbraided the Swiss for being so bold and audacious as to present such a proposal to us on behalf of the Iranians."
I cannot read the account of the administrations dismissal of Iran's 2003 overtures to us without becoming angry. What an opportunity was missed there! Nor was 2003 the only recent attempts at friendly negotiations with us. The same above article also contains the below paragraph about another such attempt in 2001:
According to Wilkerson, the State Department was also offered a deal by the Iranians after it led the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 which involved Iran giving up senior Al-Qaeda terror network figures in return for help pursuing the MKO (MKO is a dissent Iranian group hostile to both the US an Iran).
Iran does not to be approached with confrontation and threats. They are clearly willing to negotiate with us and, surprisingly, in many cases help us. The more you research and know the truth about IAEA inspections and reports as well as Iran's attempts to reach out to us, the less they look like a dangerous enemy. Instead of thinly veiled indications of willingness to use force, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama should state the facts as I have laid them out above and say the only correct course to be taken or discussed at present with regards to Iran is dialogue and negotiation. I hope that is what I hear from them going forward.
A political blogger for the International Business Times, Steve Leser is a hot national political pundit. He has appeared on MSNBC's Coundown with Keith Olbermann, Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Russia Today's (RT) Crosstalk with (more...)