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US Dumps Dubious Data on IAEA to Discredit Iran
New UN sanctions on Iran come despite Iran-IAEA progress
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2008-03-06 14:33 (KST)   
The UN Security Council has imposed a new set of sanctions on Iran passing resolution 1803 by a vote of 14-0 with one member, Indonesia, abstaining.

On the surface it seemed that this was just another round of sanctions from the UN Security Council in response to Iran's failure to answer the questions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to stop its uranium enrichment activity as the Security Council in two prior resolutions had required (1737, 1747) According to Britain, France and Germany (who is not on the Council, but one of the sponsors of the Security Council resolution ), and the U.S. this new set of sanctions (1803) was necessary to let Iran know that it was to stop its enrichment activity and to buy its enriched uranium from other sources like other countries are doing.

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There had been some opposition from the non permanent members of the Council to the imposition of a new set of sanctions as the sanctions were rushed and formulated even before the IAEA Report was issued. Dumisani Kumalo, the South African Ambassador, wondered if this was sidelining the IAEA which is the UN body that is mandated to deal with the issues of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Marty Natalegawa, the Ambassador from Indonesia, the one member of the Security Council that abstained in the vote for new sanctions, said he wasn't convinced that new sanctions were an appropriate step considering Iran's cooperation with the IAEA.

The 'Laptop of Mass Destruction'

But beneath the surface, the scenario of how this new set of sanctions has been passed is strikingly similar to the scenario that was employed to create the pretext for the US invasion of Iraq. In December 2007, the US government's National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) was made public. It stated that there was no evidence that Iran is involved with other than the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

For a while that seemed to take the wind out of the sails of those who were promoting a new set of sanctions against Iran. Though Iran resisted implementing the requirement of the two prior Security Council resolutions (1737, 1747) that it suspend its uranium enrichment activity, with the IAEA, it had formulated a workplan to answer the outstanding questions that the IAEA said needed explanation. Iran expected a good report in the Feb. 22, 2008 IAEA Report. Iran was asking that the oversight over its nuclear program be returned to the IAEA by the Security Council. Iran offered to implement the Additional Protocol if the matter was transferred out of the Security Council.

There appeared to be little basis for the Security Council to continue its demands on Iran, demands that were contrary to Iran's rights under the NPT to the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. But the IAEA workplan agreed to between Iran and the IAEA had one additional section yet to be acted on. This section was to be about "Studies", rather than actual work with nuclear material.

The material in this section related to a laptop that the US intelligence agency had acquired which German officials identified as originating with the Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK) and its political arm, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI). The US State Department has NCRI on its list of terrorist organizations. (see: "The 'Laptop of Mass Destruction'")

In the workplan Iran and the IAEA agreed to in August 2007, Iran explained that the documents emanating from the laptop were "politically motivated and baseless allegations," but if it was provided with specific documentation, it would review it and "inform the Agency of its assessment."

The IAEA-Report

The IAEA was only able to give Iran some partial documentation on Feb. 3-5, 2008, just a few weeks before the IAEA Report was due to be completed on Feb. 22. Iran's assessment of what it received was that they were fabrications containing the names of non-existent individuals and offices.

Not until almost two weeks later, on Feb. 14, was Iran told that the US had made more documents available and that it would be able to examine the bulk of documents related to the allegations from the laptop against it.

This was clearly too late for Iran to be able to respond in time for its response to be included in the IAEA Report. The result was that the report states (PDF File, p.54):

"In light of the above, the Agency is not yet in a position to determine the full nature of Iran's nuclear programme."

The IAEA report explains that the agency has not detected nuclear activity with regard to the alleged studies, but it includes a statement that:

"The Director General has urged Iran to engage actively with the Agency in a more detailed examination of the documents available about the alleged studies which the Agency has been authorized to show to Iran."

Thus what was to be a good report is turned into a new set of questions about data that was not even made available to Iran during the reporting period. The IAEA has the obligation to provide evidence of any problem with regard to Iran's program, treating Iran as innocent until proven otherwise. But the report includes a section that transforms this obligation into its opposite - this is similar to the obligation put on Iraq to prove the negative that it didn't have Weapons of Mass Destruction[1]

The IAEA Report says:

"Confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme requires the Agency be able to provide assurances not only regarding declared nuclear material, but, equally importantly, regarding the absence of undecleared nuclear material and activities in Iran." (Paragraph 57 IAEA Report)

Iran is presented with the obligation to prove the absence of something, even though the Report goes on to acknowledge that "with the exception of the issue of the alleged studies, which is outstanding, the Agency has no concrete information about possible current undeclared nuclear material."

Turning of the Screw: Quick Conclusions...

A statement of the six nations that drafted Resolution 1803 against Iran refers to the materials the US recently declassified to present as allegations against Iran. The statement says:

"We note...the IAEA's serious concerns about 'alleged studies', which are critical to an assessment of a possible military dimension to Iran's nuclear programme."[2]

Similarly, the statement of the American Ambassador about the issuing of the sanction resolution, says:

"The latest IAEA report states that Iran has not met its obligation to fully disclose its past nuclear weapons programme. On the core issue of whether Iran's nuclear programme is strictly peaceful, the report showed no serious progress."

The Belgian Ambassador also refers to this issue:

"Belgium notes that in his report of 22 February the Director General of the IAEA concludes again that he is not able to provide assurances regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, or regarding the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme."

The Panamian Ambassador refers to the section of the report about the need for Iran to prove "the absence of undeclaried nuclear material and activities in Iran."

Delay, Then Release of Suspect Documents

The laptop of dubious origin and its supposed information has been in the hands of the US government since 2004. The US waited until a few days before the IAEA Report was due out before turning over material to the IAEA to make available. By so doing the US helped to turn a report highly favorable to Iran's cooperation with the IAEA into one that was associated with studies related to military objectives though no proof existed to support such allegations.

Strikingly, an article appeared on the front page of the New York Times on Monday, March 3, the day the sanctions were to be voted on, stating that a "trove of evidence" which "raised new questions about whether Iran had tried to design an atom bomb" was presented in Vienna a week earlier.

Why a report from an event that happened a week earlier appears on the front page of the New York Times, on the day that sanctions against Iran are being voted on, is a serious question to be examined. This is reminiscent of the role that Judith Miller and Michael Gordon played in spreading the false stories of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq as the pretext for the US invasion of Iraq.

The article says that "Diplomats said the Vienna presentation bolstered the Security Council's resolve to impose a third round of sanctions."

It explains that:

"With the Iran debate losing steam, the Bush administration allowed the atomic energy agency to present to a wide array of diplomats some of the intelligence that the United States had obtained -- including from the 2004 laptop. (While the data has been declassified, the Bush administration has refused requests to make it public.)"

'Target Iran'

The article fails to say anything about the dubious origins of the data and the laptop or about the questionable nature of the allegations.

In his book "Target Iran", Scott Ritter comments on the suspect nature of the same laptop. (pgs 183-184) He maintains that the US government policy toward Iran is to deny Iran the ability to develop an indigenous uranium enrichment capability. Ritter describes how the US government equates uranium enrichment for nuclear energy with nuclear weapon capability, glossing over the fact that the peaceful use of nuclear energy is a right under the NPT. In order to generate power using nuclear fuel, there must be fuel. There is no prohibition in the NPT against the enrichment of uranium for use as fuel in a nuclear power generator.

Most of the European members of the Security Council and Russia maintain that Iran has no need to have an indigenous uranium enrichment capability.

Iran, to the contrary, disagrees. Iran argues that creating its own fuel is the best way to guarantee it will have a stable supply of energy. It also maintains that this is its right under the NPT. Furthermore, it notes that there is no legal basis to take this right away and thus the transfer of the Iranian uranium enrichment issue to the Security Council was an illegitimate maneuver to take away a right that Iran possesses under the NPT.

Security Council Implementing US Policy Against Iran

Since there is no mechanism of appeal from a decision of the Security Council, Iran is faced with the problem of how to deal with the increasing sanctions against it and the public relations campaign of allegations that it is to respond to, regardless of the suspect nature of the origin and purpose of these allegations.

Meanwhile the New York Times and other media fail to examine the claims that are being used to increase the level of sanctions against Iran and instead recirculate previously discredited claims as if they are new. The Security Council process thus becomes a mechanism for implementing the US policy against Iran, rather than an institutional process that provides an impartial investigation of the conflict between the US and Iran.

Though he voted in favor of the sanctions, Kumalo, the South African Ambassador, stated his concern with the process of the Security Council in its treatment of Iran. He explained:

"South Africa regrets that the sponsors of the draft resolution have persisted with the same substantive text that they had tabled before the latest report of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was even issued and hence, the draft resolution appears not to adequately take into account the progress made on the basis of the work plan agreed between the IAEA and Iran."

Kumalo proposes that the failure of the Security Council to enhance the authority of the IAEA will have implications for the credibility of the Security Council.

A correspondent from the Iranian news channel Alalam in Vienna writes that the IAEA Chief Mohamed Elbaradei, in his opening statement to the IAEA Board of Governors stated that the latest IAEA report on Iran is considered to be "a clean bill of health." Also he said that linking Iran's research activities to "military purposes are unfounded" as there is no proof for such a claim. The article also quotes Christophe Froinde, a diplomatic affairs expert with the IAEA:

"The agency and Director General Mohamed Elbaradei are dissatisfied with an influx of unconfirmed documents and data (regarding Iran's nuclear activities), since there is no end in sight for such claims."

Iran had cooperated with the IAEA over a period of time to answer the questions about its past activities that the IAEA legitimately might have so as to set the basis for the sanctions to be removed. The US goal, however, as was shown with Iraq and the false narrative of Weapons of Mass Destruction, was not the goal it claimed but instead to carry out a set of hidden policy objectives. Ritter proposes that the US goal in Iran, as it was in Iraq, is regime change. Ritter writes:
"The United States, as the 2006 National Security Strategy made quite clear, was committed to a policy of regime change in Iran, and was using Iran's nuclear program as a smokescreen to facilitate it. And as the 'Downing Street Memo' so clearly demonstrated with Iraq, the Bush administration would not hesitate to 'fix the facts' around this policy."
"Target Iran", Nation Books, New York, 2006, p. 195
Given this situation, the Security Council actions of imposing an escalating set of sanctions against Iran becomes a means of helping the US to create a pretext for its policy of hostility against Iran. There is a need for a press that will be able to expose such hidden political objectives and the role that the UN is playing in the process.
[1] See for example "Weapons of Mass Destruction Syndrome and the Press [Analysis] How does one prove a negative?"

[2] For meeting documentation, see UN document S/PV.5848 Security Council Meeting, March 3, 2008.


This article first appeared in Telepolis
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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