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David Harris

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Poor, Misunderstood Iran!

Posted: 11/15/11 08:39 AM ET

Last week's report from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) -- a UN body -- sent a chilling message.

Here is the central finding:

The IAEA has serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program. After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the Agency finds the information to be, overall, credible. The information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.

It spelled out some of those activities, including "efforts, some successful, to procure nuclear-related and dual-use equipment and materials by military-related individuals and entities" and "work on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon, including the testing of components."

While newly reported, this information only confirms what many have been saying for years -- that Iran is determined to achieve nuclear-weapons capability, if not the weapons themselves. Moreover, Tehran seeks delivery capability, as evidenced by its longstanding ballistic missile program, which it doesn't even bother to hide.

Yet all along, Iran has been able to count on those who, for their own reasons, have rushed to defend it. They've claimed Iran is misunderstood, yearning only for peaceful nuclear energy. Ah, Iran and its rapid-response team allege, but for the endless machinations of that bellicose anti-Iranian trio -- the U.S., Britain, and Israel!

It will be interesting to see how Iran-struck spinmeisters react to the latest IAEA report. I wouldn't hold my breath given past statements.

Here are some memorable comments in recent years:

Consider this gem, expressed a few months ago by Mohamed ElBaradei, who was the IAEA head from 1997 to 2009, but never took the issue all that seriously:

"During my time at the IAEA, we haven't seen a shred of evidence that Iran has been weaponizing, in terms of building nuclear-weapons facilities and using enriched materials... All I see is hype about the threat posed by Iran.

If only it were all "hype"!

Or from Iran's intimate friend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as reported by the Syrian Arab News Agency last year:

The President added that Iran has proved its goodwill and restored international confidence in the peaceful nature of its nuclear program...

Or from the Iranian supreme leader himself, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei:

Building or using nuclear weapons is against Islamic law.

Sure, that's right up there with Saddam Hussein's 1990 declaration that "We don't want war because we know what war means." Literally one week later, August 2, 1990, Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait.

And while I'm no expert in Islamic law, the IAEA seems to think the Islamic Republic of Iran must have transgressed it, just as Pakistan has, and as Iraq, Libya, and Syria were trying to do at various points in their recent history.

Or the view of Amr Moussa, when he was the Secretary General of the Arab League (he's now a leading candidate for the Egyptian presidency):

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa stressed that the Iranian nuclear energy is completely peaceful, threatening no one and it is a right for all the world's countries.

Perhaps Moussa took a misguided cue from his former boss, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who told Washington: "Saddam Hussein has no intention to attack Kuwait or any other party." That was seven days before Iraqi forces occupied neighboring Kuwait.

Or this from Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari:

Iran has begun its plan for the expansion and further development of its nuclear program with totally peaceful objectives in mind, as Tehran has no need to possess nuclear weapons.

Or, two years ago, from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose country is particularly critical to the Iran equation:

We have no information on Iran's work on nuclear weapons.

Or from one of Iran's best buddies, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez:

There is not a single proof that Iran is building... a nuclear bomb.

Or from Brazil's former president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who instructed his UN ambassador to vote against a 2010 UN Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran for its defiance of previous resolutions:

Brazil backs Iran's quest for peaceful nuclear energy in full respect of international accords.

Not to be outdone, Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan, whose country joined with Brazil as the only two UN Security Council members to oppose the Iran measure, said:

Those who accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons are talking hypothetically about what is not yet there.

And my two favorites, both coming from well-known American journalists:

"There's just no serious evidence inside that Iran is actually doing anything to make a nuclear weapon," wrote a confident Seymour Hersh in 2009.

Or this doozey from New York Times columnist Roger Cohen in June:

The nuclear bogeyman obsession has been a distraction from the need to try to tease out a relationship with Tehran, see Iran as it is... Iran is characterized by... 'administrative chaos'... That's not how you make a nuke. When remembering Iran -- and it must be remembered -- call the fear-mongers to account.

The misreading by Hersh and Cohen is in a way eerily reminiscent of the famous American essayist, Walter Lippman, who, in 1933, commenting upon Hitler's denunciation of war in a speech before the Reichstag, wrote:

The outer world will do well to accept the evidence of German goodwill and seek by all possible means to meet it and to justify it.

So, to Messsrs. ElBaradei, Assad, Khameini, Moussa, Zardari, Putin, Chavez, Lula, Erdogan, Hersh, and Cohen:

Do you continue to stand by your contention that Iran has no interest in nuclear-weapons capability, notwithstanding the latest meticulous IAEA report?

Do you believe that Iran is nothing more than the victim of misinformation peddled by IAEA officials, the Obama Administration, and at least ten other concerned governments, whose data helped inform the report?

The latest IAEA report sends yet another clear warning of Iran's goal, at least for those prepared to see the truth as it is, not as they might wish or pretend it to be.