Two bipartisan Resolutions that are being widely construed as tantamount to a declaration of war on Iran are expected to be voted on by both houses of the U.S. Congress this week.
U.S. House of Representatives Resolution (HR 362) and Senate Resolution (SR 580), while non-binding and explicitly stating that they are not granting the Bush administration the authorization to attack Iran, call on the Administration to take a much harder line on Iran. This would include a naval blockade of Iran's ports, which would certainly be interpreted as an act of war.
Both the Senate and House Resolutions are based on factual errors, exaggerations, half-truths, and even outright lies. Therefore, it is of utmost urgency that Americans who oppose an attack on Iran know what the Resolutions actually contain, so that they can lobby their Congressional representatives, with facts in hand, to stop the Resolutions' passage in both the House and the Senate.
To that end, here is the guide to understanding Congress' "Iran War" Resolutions, as well as the errors, falsehoods, and exaggerations within them. Actual sentences from the Senate and House Resolutions are in italics; my rebuttals follow in normal text.
The Senate Resolution
S. Res. 580 - for nearly 20 years Iran had a covert nuclear program, until the program was revealed by an opposition group in Iran in 2002.
Even this simple statement is full of inaccuracies. Iran did not have any covert nuclear program for 20 years. What it had was a small nuclear research program that was safeguarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Senate Resolution does not name the "opposition group," perhaps because it is the Mojahedin-e Khalgh (MEK). The MEK is actually in exile, was a collaborator with Saddam Hussein's regime, and is listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization.
What Iran did not reveal to the IAEA for many years was the construction of the Natanz facility for uranium enrichment. But, the Subsidiary Arrangements part of Iran's Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA stipulates that Iran was obligated to inform the Agency of the existence of any nuclear facility only 180 days prior to introducing any nuclear materials into the facility. Iran did just that and, therefore, it did not violate its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or Safeguards obligations by not reporting the construction of the enrichment facility.
S. Res. 580 - the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed that the Government of Iran has engaged in such covert activities as the illicit importation of uranium hexafluoride, the construction of a uranium enrichment facility, experimentation with plutonium, the importation of centrifuge technology and the construction of centrifuges, and the importation of the design to convert highly enriched uranium gas into a metal and to shape it into the core of a nuclear weapon, as well as significant additional covert nuclear activities.
The uranium hexafluoride was imported from China which, like Iran, is a NPT member state. The matter has now been completely clarified, and the material is safeguarded by the IAEA. As explained above, construction of the uranium enrichment facility was not an illicit activity, because Iran had no legal obligation to report it. Indeed, the IAEA has never ever called the construction "illicit" or "illegal."
Iran has never done any experiment with plutonium. What Iran did do was experiment with Polonium-210, not plutonium. In its February 2008 report to the Board of Governors (BoG) of the IAEA, the Agency declared its satisfaction with the resolution of the issue.
Importing centrifuges and/or manufacturing them in Iran are also not in violation of the NPT or the Safeguards Agreement. In fact, they are not even covered by the Safeguards Agreement, because they are also used for many other non-nuclear purposes, unless the centrifuges are to be used for nuclear experimentation. In that case, Iran's only legal obligation is to report the intention for the tests 90 days before the tests. The IAEA has been fully informed of Iran's activities in this regard.
As for the document for converting uranium fluoride to uranium metal, Iran had claimed that the A. Q. Khan network gave the document to Iran, without Iran asking for it. In its May 2008 report, the IAEA confirmed Iran's contention by reporting that the Government of Pakistan had confirmed the existence of an identical document there. In addition, since Iran has had for many years, with the full knowledge of the IAEA, a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan, it just does not make sense for it to pursue such a process.
Finally, the documents for designing a nuclear warhead are the subject of a discussion between Iran and the IAEA. Iran claims that the documents are not authentic, and the IAEA cannot show Iran their originals, if they exist.
In its February 2008 report to the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General, declared that, "We have managed to clarify all the remaining outstanding issues, including the most important issue, which is the scope and nature of Iran's enrichment programme."
S. Res. 580 - the Government of Iran continues to expand the number of centrifuges at its enrichment facility and to enrich uranium in defiance of 3 binding United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment activities;
Sending Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council was illegal. The reason is that the IAEA has never found Iran in violation of the NPT, or in such breaches of its Safeguards Agreement that could "further a military purpose," in the language of the Agreement.
In fact, the main reason for sending Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council was due to Iran's rejection of the demand of the BoG of the IAEA to suspend its enrichment activity. However, the IAEA and its BoG have no legal power or authority to make such a demand. Therefore, there was absolutely no legal basis for sending Iran's dossier to the UN Security Council.
Once Iran's dossier was before it, the UN Security Council could not issue its Resolutions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which is exclusively for the cases that pose a threat to the peace or international security, unless it first identifies, as the UN Charter demands, the threat. However, the UN Security Council refused to identify the threat. Instead, it merely referred to the Resolution of the BoG of the IAEA, which, as discussed above, has no legal basis.
In addition, Iran has stated repeatedly that, if the nuclear dossier is sent back to the IAEA, it will be willing to negotiate a temporary suspension of its enrichment program. In fact, Iran did suspend, on a voluntary basis, its enrichment activities from October 2003 to February 2006.
S. Res. 580 - the Government of Iran has announced its intention to begin the installation of 6,000 advanced centrifuges, which, when operational, will dramatically reduce the time that it will take Iran to enrich uranium;
In compliance with its Safeguards Agreement, Iran has announced its intentions, thus fulfilling its legal obligations. In addition, there is nothing illegal about adding more centrifuges, so long as it is declared to the IAEA. Moreover, the manufacturing and installation of the 6000 advanced centrifuges will take years, not a short time. Finally, there is no way for Iran to use its declared facilities for any illicit activities, because they are safeguarded by the IAEA.
S. Res. 580 - the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate reports that the Government of Iran was secretly working on the design and manufacture of a nuclear warhead until at least 2003 and that Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon as early as late 2009;
The NIE never presented any hard evidence that Iran was actually involved in the design of a nuclear warhead before 2003. It did not even mention the manufacturing of a nuclear weapon. Indeed, even if Iran was working on the problem before 2003, it was only at the design stage, as Iran has no highly enriched uranium to manufacture a nuclear warhead. It still does not and will not have highly enriched uranium any time soon, if ever.
As for manufacturing a bomb, there must first be an intention, but the IAEA has certified time and again that there is no evidence for such a goal. At the same time, 2009 is a worst-case scenario pushed by Israel. Most estimates, including the NIE's, are from 2010-2015. But, most importantly, Iran could not use its present facility to produce highly enriched uranium, unless it leaves the NPT and expels the IAEA inspectors. Iran has said repeatedly that it has no intention of leaving the NPT.
We also note that in 2005 Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a Fatwa, forbidding production of nuclear weapons.
S. Res. 580 - allowing the Government of Iran to obtain a nuclear weapons capability would pose a grave threat to international peace and security;
If the idea is not to allow Iran to master the enrichment technology, it has already made great strides: the red line for the knowledge aspect has already been crossed. However, so long as Iran's enrichment facilities are safeguarded by the IAEA, their potential for making a nuclear weapon is latent and under tight control. In addition, Iran has indicated its willingness to sign the Additional Protocol, which will grant the IAEA much more intrusive power for inspection. In fact, Iran did, on a voluntary basis, carry out the provisions of the Additional Protocol from October 2003 to August 2005.
S. Res. 580 - if it were allowed to obtain a nuclear weapons capability, the Government of Iran could share its nuclear technology, raising the frightening prospect that terrorist groups and rogue regimes might possess nuclear weapons capabilities;
Iran has been accused of supporting Hezbollah and Hamas, but has never been accused of sharing with them its technology for conventional arms. So, why would Iran share nuclear technology with any group or nation?
In addition, any nuclear material manufactured in any nation has a "genetic" signature. If it is used anywhere, the present science and technology allow the experts to identify its origin. Iranian leaders are fully aware that if they provide nuclear materials to any terrorist group, their origin can be identified and, therefore, there will be massive and "obliterating" retaliations by the international community. Thus, such claims are simply scare tactics.
S. Res. 580 - allowing the Government of Iran to obtain a nuclear weapons capability would severely undermine the global nuclear nonproliferation regime that, for more than 4 decades, has contained the spread of nuclear weapons;
The nonproliferation regime has been greatly weakened not by Iran, but by three US allies and friends: Israel, Pakistan, and India, none of which is an NPT member state. In fact, even if we assume that there is a military dimension to Iran's nuclear program, it is due to the nuclear arsenals of Israel and Pakistan, and the presence of the US forces in the Middle East. In addition, by agreeing to transfer its nuclear technology to India, the US would be violating its own NPT and nonproliferation obligations.
S. Res. 580 - it is likely that one or more Arab states would respond to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapons capability by following Iran's example, and several Arab states have already announced their intentions to pursue 'peaceful nuclear' programs;
Three Arab States may seek peaceful nuclear programs. All are US allies, over which the US also has great leverage. One is Egypt, with which the US has close military, intelligence, and economic relations. The U.S. also provides Egypt with nearly $2 billion in annual aid, which is critical to its solvency. Why does the US not discourage Egypt's intentions?
The second nation is Saudi Arabia, the known oil reserves of which are twice as large as Iran's, with a population 1/3 of Iran's. Why can the US not use the same logic with the Saudis that it has tried to use with Iran by telling them: You have too much oil and, therefore, no need for nuclear technology for the foreseeable future. In addition, if this really concerns the US, why has it not protested the Saudis agreement with France for obtaining nuclear technology?
The third nation is Bahrain, the small island nation where the US 5th Fleet is headquartered. Bahrain is a nation with no conceivable need for nuclear reactors. If the US is worried about the spread of nuclear technology why has it agreed to sell the technology to Bahrain? Therefore, once again, these are simply scare tactics.
In addition, if the Arab nations did not try to acquire nuclear weapons after Israel developed them in the 1960s, why would they want to do so in reaction to the peaceful nuclear program of Iran, a Muslim nation?
S. Res. 580 - allowing the Government of Iran to obtain a nuclear weapons capability would directly threaten Europe and ultimately the United States because Iran already has missiles than can reach parts of Europe and is seeking to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Iran has no program for intercontinental missiles. Moreover, the Arms Control Association stated in October 2007 that Iran could not develop an intercontinental missile by at least 2015, even if it wanted to. Iran's present missiles cannot reach any part of Europe except Turkey, its neighbor. Iran's missiles are purely defensive, because such missiles are offensive weapons only if the nation that has them has the ability to project power far beyond its borders. Iran does not have such ability, nor is there any evidence that it aspires to have it. In addition, Europe is Iran's most significant commercial partner. Why would Iran attack its commercial partners?
S. Res. 580 - the Government of Iran has repeatedly called for the elimination of our ally, Israel;
Aside from some inconsequential and often deliberately mistranslated rhetoric, Iran has never had any plan to attack Israel. It actually purchased weapons from Israel during its war with Iraq, and Iranian oil is reaching Israel indirectly. Iranian leaders are also fully aware that any attack on Israel will bring a massive and "obliterating" counterattack by both Israel and the US.
S. Res. 580 - the Government of Iran has advocated that the United States withdraw its presence from the Middle East;
Iran is not the only nation that has called on the US to withdraw its forces from the Middle East. Many nations consider the presence of the US forces as the greatest source of instability in the Middle East. Moreover, why is Iran's demand - a nation in the Middle East - that the US withdraw its forces from the Middle East an "offense"?
S. Res. 580 - the United States, the Russian Federation, the People's Republic of China, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany have offered to negotiate a significant package of economic, diplomatic, and security incentives if Iran complies with the Security Council's demand to suspend uranium enrichment;
The Government of Iran has consistently refused such offers;
Iran has stated repeatedly that it is willing to negotiate its entire nuclear program without any pre-conditions, and that a suspension of its uranium enrichment program should be an outcome of the negotiations, rather than a pre-condition. Iran did freeze its enrichment activities from October 2003 to February 2006, but because Europe did not reward Iran for the suspension, as it had promised to, Iran stopped the suspension. There is also evidence that the latest proposal is actually the subject of intense internal debates among Iranian leaders, because it does not require Iran to immediately freeze its program. In fact, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki just announced that Iran will soon start negotiating with the 5+1 group.
The House Resolution
Many paragraphs in the House Resolution are similar to those in the Senate version and, therefore, need not be responded to. I analyze only those statements that seem to add fuel to the fire to the threat of an attack on Iran.
H. Con. Res. 362 - Iran has used its banking system, including the Central Bank of Iran, to support its proliferation efforts and its assistance to terrorist groups, leading the Department of Treasury to designate 4 large Iranian banks proliferators and supporters of terrorism;
The treasury Department has never presented any evidence that Iran uses its banking system for proliferation purposes. In addition, at the very least, use of Iran's banking system for providing Hamas and Hezbollah has been greatly exaggerated. See, in particular, the article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, on Thursday, June 26, 2008, titled "Are Sanctioned Iranian Banks Actually Sponsoring Anti-Western Terror?" which questioned the dubious nature of the US Treasury Department's claims about Bank Melli of Iran.
H. Con. Res. 362 - Iran's support for Hezbollah has enabled that group to wage war against the Government and people of Lebanon, leading to its political domination of that country;
Hezbollah and its allies among the Christian Maronites (the March 8 Coalition) have a large number of representatives in the Lebanese parliament. They are also part of the Lebanese Government. With the mediation of our ally, the Government of Qatar, Hezbollah and the Lebanese government recently resolved all of their differences. Hezbollah enjoys strong support among a very significant portion of the population. It is, therefore, not clear who are the "Government and people of Lebanon" that Resolution is referring to.
H. Con. Res. 362 - Iran's support for Hamas has enabled it to illegally seize control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority, and to continuously bombard Israeli civilians with rockets and mortars;
First of all, Hamas won elections that were certified as democratic by former President Jimmy Carter. Hamas took control of Gaza, not because Iran helped it, but because the people of Gaza supported it. In addition, according to Fatah, the main group in the Palestinian Authority, many wealthy Saudis provide far more financial aid to Hamas than Iran ever has, but the US is silent about this for the obvious reasons. Many Iranian leaders have stated repeatedly that it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to resolve their own conflict.
H. Con. Res. 362 - Iran continues to provide training, weapons, and financial assistance to Shi'a militants inside of Iraq and antigovernment warlords in Afghanistan;
Those Shi'a militant groups and Afghan warlords use Iranian training, weapons, and financing to attack American and allied forces trying to support the legitimate Governments of Iraq and Afghanistan;
The US has never ever presented any concrete evidence that Iran provides weapons to any group in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Shi'ite groups that represent the legitimate Government of Iraq are the same groups that spent years in Iran in exile. Iran was instrumental recently in preventing Mugtada al-Sadr and his group from starting a full rebellion against the Government of Iraq.
As for Afghanistan, Iran was instrumental in helping the US to overthrow the Taliban. Iran's ally, the Northern Alliance, which Iran had supported for years, was the first group to reach Kabul and overthrow the Taliban. At the conference on the Future of Afghanistan in December of 2001, Iran was instrumental in helping the National Unity Government of President Hamid Karzai to form, this according to the US representative James Dobbins. After the US, no nation has invested more in rebuilding Afghanistan than Iran. Above all, both the Taliban and al-Qaeda are bloody enemies of Iran.
H. Con. Res. 362 - Iran is further destabilizing the Middle East by underwriting a massive rearmament by Syria;
With mediation by our ally Turkey, Syria and Israel have been secretly negotiating a peace agreement. Syria's only other enemy, the regime of Saddam Hussein, is gone. Therefore, what is this imaginary rearmament for? Where is the evidence for it? Where is the evidence that Iran is paying for it, even if it exists?
On the other hand, the US has agreed to a massive rearmament of some Arab states of the Middle East and Israel by agreeing to sell them up to $50 billion in modern weapons, hence contributing greatly to the region's instability and arms race.
H. Con. Res. 362 - through efforts, Iran seeks to establish regional hegemony, threatens longstanding friends of the United States in the Middle East, and endangers American national security interests.
Regional hegemony is not achieved with Iranian army that has been designed solely to defend Iran, and an air force that belongs in museums.
To summarize: it is clear that practically every paragraph in the Senate and House Resolutions have factual errors, lies, exaggerations, and half-truths. Iran can be criticized on many grounds, particularly in the area of respect for human rights. But, Iran is not a threat to the United States or to Israel. It is not anywhere close to having the capability for manufacturing nuclear weapons, even if it wanted to.
Therefore, the American public must recognize these Resolutions for what they really are: War Resolutions proposed and pushed by neoconservatives in both the Democrat and Republican parties, various pro-Israel lobbies, and their allies.
It is crucial that the American public act now, today, by calling their congressional representatives before these "declarations of war" against Iran are passed. If we do launch an unprovoked attack on Iran the results will most probably be horrific to all sides, if not to the entire world.