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Eric Margolis Headshot

Fight Fair, You Menacing Mullahs!

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You can't trust those devious Iranians. First, they threaten the world, or so we are told, with nuclear weapons. They don't really have any nukes, but never mind.

Now, Tehran's menacing mullahs actually seem to be cooperating with UN inspections, pulling the rug out from under the feet of the war party in Washington and its right-wing allies in London, Paris and Jerusalem.

Last week, the leaders of the US, Britain and France staged a bravura performance of political theater in an effort to browbeat Iran into nuclear submission, by claiming to have just "discovered" a secret Iran uranium enrichment plant near Qum.

On cue, a carefully orchestrated media blitz trumpeted warnings of the alleged Iranian nuclear threat and "long-ranged missiles."

In reality, the Qum plant had been detected by US spy satellites over two years ago, and was well known to the intelligence community. Iran claimed the plant will not begin enriching low-grade uranium for peaceful power for another 540 days. UN nuclear rules, to which Iran adheres, call for 180 days notice.

But Iran cast suspicion on itself by hastily alerting the UN's nuclear agency, IAEA, right after the "revelation" of the Qum plant and then inviting inspection. Iran may not have been actually guilty of anything, but it looked guilty - in western eyes.

Iran can hardly be eager to reveal the locations of its nuclear sites or military secrets given the steady stream of threats by Israel to attack Iran's nuclear plants and the beating of war drums in the United States. Iran also recalls Iraq, where half the UN nuclear inspectors were actually spies for CIA or Israel's Mossad whose main job was developing targeting information for air and missile strikes. This may explain some of Iran's secretive behavior.

The US, Britain, France and Israel have been even less forthcoming about their nuclear secrets. US allies Israel and India refuse any UN inspection.

France's president Nicholas Sarkozy went out of his way to denounce Iran's nuclear program without mentioning that France had secretly supplied Israel with its nuclear infrastructure in the 1950s. A primary reason for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons is to offset the very real threat of nuclear attack by Israel.

Iran's test of some useless short ranged missiles, and an inaccurate 2,000-km medium ranged Shahab-3, provoked more hysteria and rich hypocrisy. In a choice example of media scaremongering, one leading North American newspaper printed a picture of a 1960s vintage SAM-2 anti-aircraft missile being launched, with a caption warning of the "grave threat" Iran posed to "international peace and security."

Welcome to Iraq déjà vu, and another manufactured crisis. US intelligence and UN inspectors say Iran has no nuclear weapons and certainly no nuclear warheads and is only enriching uranium to 5%. Nuclear weapons require 95%. Iran's nuclear facilities are under constant UN inspection and US surveillance.

Even so, the US, its allies, and Israel insist Iran is secretly developing nuclear warheads. They demand Tehran prove a negative: that it has no nuclear weapons. Iraq was also put to the same impossible test, then, attacked when it naturally could not comply.

Now, the US government is again leaking claims that Iran is working on a nuclear warhead for its Shahab-3 medium-ranged missile. Iran says the data supposedly backing up this claim is a fake, concocted by Israel's Mossad. Forged data was also used to justify invading Iraq.

Israel is deeply alarmed by Iran's challenge to its Mideast nuclear monopoly. Chances of an Israeli attack on Iran are growing weekly, though the US is still restraining Israel.

More intense pressure was applied to Iran at last week's meeting near Geneva between the Western powers and Iran.

Everyone expected Iran to stall and prevaricate.

Instead, the pesky Persians fooled everyone by apparently agreeing to ship a good part of their enriched uranium to Russia for safekeeping, thus taking the wind out of the sails of the war party in Washington, London and Paris - at least for a while. Whether this happens remains to be seen. The Iranians are notorious for making agreements and then slipping out of them.

Even so, you could almost hear the outraged neocons in Washington yelling, "Hey you sneaky Iranians, fight fair! How dare you cooperate."

Meanwhile, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, continued to antagonize the West by bombastic speeches when he should be taking a very low profile. Why would Iran face a devastating Israeli or US attack to keep enriching uranium when it can import such fuel from Russia?

Civilian nuclear power has become the keystone of Iranian national pride. As noted in my new book, American Raj, Iran's leadership insists the West has denied the Muslim world modern technology and tries to keep it backwards and subservient. Tehran believes it can withstand all western sanctions.

In my view, Iran appears to be very slowly developing a "breakout" capability. That means the technology to produce a small number of nuclear weapons on fairly short notice - for defensive purposes. There was a hue and cry last week in the US over claims Iran possessed plans for nuclear weapons. More scaremongering. I also have plans for nuclear weapons that I acquired in Japan. You can find plans on the Internet.

Iraq's invasion of Iran that was engineered and financed by the US, Britain and the Gulf Arabs cost Iran one million casualties. Iran demands the same right of nuclear self defense enjoyed by neighbors Israel, India and Pakistan.

But Iran's multi-level leadership is also split over the question of whether or not to actually build nuclear weapons. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who is also supreme military commander, insists Iran will not develop nuclear weapons. But others in the Tehran leadership say Iran must have a strategic self-defense capability.

Iran is just as fearful of an Israeli nuclear attack as Israel is of an Iranian nuclear attack. For the record, President Ahmadinejad did not call for Israel to be "wiped off the face of the map," but quoted an old Imam Khomeini speech calling for Zionism to be wiped away and replaced by a democratic state for Jews, Muslims and Christians.

What Iran really wants is an end to 30-years of US efforts to overthrow its Islamic regime. The US is still waging economic warfare against Iran and trying to overthrow the Tehran government. Like North Korea, Iran wants explicit guarantees from Washington that this siege warfare will stop and relations with the US will be normalized.

As Flynt and Hillary Leverett conclude in their excellent, must-read 29 September New York Times article about Iran's nuclear program, détente with Iran will be bitterly opposed by "those who attach value to failed policies that have damaged America's interests in the Middle East..."