"As anyone who studies the behavior of the U.S. empire during the last century discovers a common factor; every time the US are going to attack someone, they don’t do it right away, they start by preparing the terrain of their internal public opinion, one of the things that worries them the most....That way, when they launch the attack, they obtain the support of a big part of their internal public opinion. Almost all media in the country support them... they look for allies in Europe, from the U.N., they start preparing the terrain..."
Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela
February 20, 2005
The war on Iran has already begun. Although no shots (that we know of) have yet been fired make no mistake, the United States and it's dwindling number of allies are once again on the warpath. Stage one, the propaganda phase, the "preparing the terrain" phase, is well underway.
The long trail of lies and deceptions that led us into Iraq is already well-documented and beyond dispute. Today we are again being subjected to this kind of PR campaign on Iran. The war plotters dare not use the term "WMD" in their pitch this time around, but its the same campaign nevertheless. For instance, earlier this year the following argument appeared in an article on the pages of The Independent newspaper in London:
By far the most alarming acquisition from Pakistan, according to western intelligence assessments, is the P2 centrifuge, the highly sophisticated device necessary for enriching uranium to weapons grade.
In order to reach the advanced stage needed for building an atomic weapon, it is necessary to connect a number of centrifuges so that they form a "cascade".
When they were finally allowed to visit Natanz two years ago, IAEA inspectors were alarmed to discover that the Iranians had managed to construct a cascade. This comprises 164 centrifuges, which are based on Pakistan's P2 design.
Any doubts about the effectiveness of the devices were banished when soil samples taken from the site by IAEA inspectors showed traces of weapons-grade uranium.
If the nuclear programme were genuinely aimed at developing nuclear power, there would be no need to process weapons-grade uranium.
Asked to explain the soil samples, the Iranians provided the rather lame excuse that the traces had inadvertently been imported from an unidentified foreign power - believed to be Pakistan - when the centrifuges were purchased.
Now, stripping this passage of all it's innuendo and concentrated solely on nominal facts presented leaves us with the following assertions about Iran's gas centrifuge uranium enrichment program:
- centrifuges are used to produce weapons-grade uraniam.
- the process requires that the centrifuges be arranged in a "cascade"
- Iran procured centrifuges from the nuclear armed nation of Pakistan
- Iran has 164 centrifuges arranged in a cascade
- The IAEA found trace elements of weapons-grade uranium at the site
- The Iranians claimed that the traces found were attributable their having been previously used by a nuclear-armed nation.
To my knowledge, all of these assertions are actually true. So what's the problem then? The problem is a key fact that was omitted from the article, an omission that conveniently allows the author to advance his conclusion that Iran was producing weapons-grade uranium. What's missing here is the fact that the enrichment of uranium to weapons grade requires a cascade of several thousand centrifuges. Iran can no more produce weaponized uranium with 164 centrifuges than I could make a H2 Hummer out of a Hot Wheel. It's analogous to accusing someone of causing a tsunami with his garden hose. With this fact in mind, suddenly Iran's "lame excuse" sounds quite plausible. So the intentional deception inherent in such an argument is clear.
We see this technique repeated over and over again. Just this past week a Republican panel in the US House of Representatives issued a report excoriating the US intelligence community for failing to provide enough sexed-up, war-friendly intel on Iran and it's nuclear program - I ask that you ignore for now the question of how these congressmen know that Iran is so capable if they admit, as they seem to be, that they've been given no proof of it. I'll deal with that later.
Juan Cole at Informed Comment examines the text of the report:
On page 9, the report alleges that "Iran is currently enriching uranium to weapons grade using a 164-machine centrifuge cascade at this facility in Natanz."
This is an outright lie. Enriching to weapons grade would require at least 80% enrichment. Iran claims . . . 2.5 percent. See how that isn't the same thing? See how you can't blow up anything with 2.5 percent?
The claim is not only flat wrong, but it is misleading in another way. You need 16,000 centrifuges, hooked up so that they cascade, to make enough enriched uranium for a bomb in any realistic time fame, even if you know how to get the 80 percent! Iran has . . . 164. See how that isn't the same?
See the full text of the report (view only on an empty stomach) in Adobe PDF format.
Once again the American public and the world is being buttered up by an an organized, premeditated media onslaught, a PR campaign, a large 24-hour war commercial, to "prepare the terrain" for another unnecessary war of choice against a middle-eastern nation that, only "coincidentally" we are told, sits on a sea of oil. We as a nation have fallen for this routine once before. We've received instructions how to deal with a second instance. Listen to the man again...
UPDATE #1, 9/14/2006: Commenter Brian raised concerns over my citation of Juan Cole in this post, arguing that Iran is indeed enriching uranium to weapons grade with their 164 centrifuges and, with their target of 3,000 centrifuges, could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon within 2/3 of a year.
My response was two-fold. First, I conceded that I could not find anything online that directly corroborated Juan Cole's figure, which is firmly on the high end of figures I did find, though I do have recollection of reading a similar figure (10,000) in a nuclear technology page I stumbled upon a while ago (which I'm frustrated to say I cannot find now). I intend to e-mail Cole directly with this and hope to get a response, which I'll be glad to post here.
Secondly, I pointed out that the figures Brian quoted seem to be correct with regard to the P-2 model of centrifuge, which has accelerated capacity, but Iran's program is not based on this model. The Iranians are using the P-1 centrifuge which, according to the Federation of American Scientists estimations (for assumptions please see the comments here) could not produce enough weapons-grade uranium in anywhere near that time frame without a conservative estimate of at least 5,000 centrifuges in it's initial cascade. FAS is quick to point out that the estimates generated by their calculator model are generous with regard to capability, as they assume, rather unrealistically, maximum efficiency, productivity and flawless implementation for the sake of mathematical workability. For every instance where Iran falls short of perfection this number increases.
This all goes without making note of the fact that, by the same FAS calculations, it would take Iran 4 years to do so with the paltry 164 P-1 centrifuges it now has, even if everything went perfectly for them (which it most certainly has not). The next update should dispell any doubt about that.
UPDATE #2, 9/14/2006: Here's the latest on the GOP congressional report referenced in this post:
US Iran report branded dishonest
The UN nuclear watchdog has protested to the US government over a report on Iran's nuclear programme, calling it "erroneous" and "misleading".
In a leaked letter, the IAEA said a congressional report contained serious distortions of the agency's own findings on Iran's nuclear activity...
Signed by a senior director at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vilmos Cserveny, the letter raises objections over the committee's report released on 23 August.
It says the report was wrong to say that Iran had enriched uranium to weapons-grade level when the IAEA had only found small quantities of enrichment at far lower levels...
A Western diplomat called it "deja vu of the pre-Iraq war period".
Yes, it does sound eerily familiar, doesn't it? Can't get fooled again, folks. Read more...