Thursday, August 31, 2006

War Lies

"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

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.


Brian said...

The fact that you would quote Hugo Chavez is alarming.

Second... I suggest you edit your blog... because the whole premise for it is wrong. It took me all of two minutes via internet searching to see that

1. The deputy head of Iran's atomic energy was quoted as saying "We will expand uranium enrichment to industrial scale at Natanz," he was later quoted saying that this would be 3000 centrifuges in 2006.

2. With this number of centrifuges, they can produce enough weapon's grade material within 2/3 of year.

3. The deputy head of Iran's atomic energy also said they are going to go to FULL operation, which means 54,000 centrifuges.

Now, while it is very unrealistic... the point is being missed. They have INTENT. It could be a few years away if they are competent, it could be 10 years away if they are not.

Aren't you just as guilty as the one you quoted for not including the above material?

thx! ... and please correct me if I am wrong.

FearItself said...


1. So we're invading people over what we think is their "intent" again? How did that work out the last time?

2. I don't think I need to edit anything. "Industrial scale" is nothing more than the capacity needed to run a electricity-generating power program, which they are perfectly within their rights to do. As Juan Cole (as well as the article I posted before pointed out, you need several thousand cascaded centrifuges (which means significantly more than three) to be on any realistic schedule for making a bomb. Seriously, from other fact sheets I've read the figure of 10,000 stands out in my mind but Juan Cole is citing 16,000. Whatever the bedrock minimun is, rest assured it's well above 3,000 (which is only a hypothetical number in the first, based on what you wrote). Iran only has 164. As the two examples posted illustrate, people are selectively describing the process to manipulate the debate. They're intentionally trying to up the "YIKES" factor. You can't allow yourself to be taken in by this game again.

3. I'm curious as to what's so alarming about quoting Hugo Chavez. Who would know better how a hositile US propaganda campaign works than someone who has been on the receiving end of one for 6 years running? But aside from that, I haven't seen where Chavez has done anything that should alarm me.

Bush, on the other hand...

Brian said...

1. Nobody is being invaded. Nobody will be invaded at least by the U.S. Intent is the question, always. If we listened to Bin Laden's "intent" in the 90's (by declaring war on us), then maybe we would not be as bad off as we are now. If someone is screaming and shouting... "You do not deserve to live!!!!" should not someone listen?

2. No, you are wrong. They are even producing with 164 (whatever the number is). It is a question of number versus time. With 3000, they can produce (enough for one weapon) in less than a year. With 54,000, the can produce enough in a few days. Here is a quote "The next stage is to install 3,000 centrifuges. We definitely won't have problems doing that. We just need to increase our production line,". The bedrock minimum is not well above 3000.

Juan Cole should never be quoted.. he is fringe and gets his facts wrong about simple things. Why would you trust what he says about nuclear matters... to quote him "Saddam Hussein never gave any real support to the Palestinian cause, and he did not pay suicide bombers to blow themselves up." It is laughable, he is wrong.

3. To quote Chavez... "Israel often criticizes Hitler ... but they have done the same thing, perhaps even worse," as well as... "What has happened was a genocide. They must be brought in front of an international tribunal." He is talking about the Iran/Israel conflict.

He has no concept of world events... and these wild analogies are beyond comment. The question to you is... would you like to live under his allies in Cuba, Iran, and the former Iraq? Would you want your wife or girlfriend to live in an Iran that is cracking down harder now than ever before because of Ahmadinejad??? I know we have made a poor choice of allies in the past... but really.

I do not quote Bush... and I never would to prove a point, or whatnot.


FearItself said...


I'm going answer #2 first because because the answer to it is so long. I'll deal with 1,3 & 4 in my next comment.

I've done some extra checking around and it really doesn't look like I'm going to find anything concrete online to corroborate the figure of 16,000 centrifuges that Juan Cole quoted. That definitely does seem to be the highest estimation I can find. I think I'll drop him a note asking about it and see if he responds. I'll let you know how that goes. In the meantime, I don't believe in directly altering original posts for anything other than spelling and grammar. But what I'll do is add an update to it referencing your concerns and my response.

But I think I see where we're missing connections. The numbers you're citing are correct with the respect to the P-2 model of centrifuges, which is the model cited in one of the articles I referenced. That model has accelerated capability. However, the Iranian program is based on the P-1 centrifuge, not the P-2. Iran has done research on the P-2 but the facility at Natanz is based on the P-1 (reports from an Iranian exile group to the contrary not withstanding -- they look like another CIA/Chalabi-type group to me... yet another thing about this hype that sounds familiar).

With that information we can consult the Federation of American Scientists' uranium enrichment calculator to get an estimate of how many of these centrifuges would be needed to make the highly-enriched uranium (HEU) needed for a bomb within a year.

The following assumptions were used for my computations:

- Separtive work units (Kg per yr) = 3 (highest possible for the P-1)
- Centrifuges added per year = 1 (because I wanted to stick as closely to the figures we're discussing as possible)


Starting with 165 centrifuges (the closest figure to Iran's actual inventory available in the calculator) it would take Iran almost 4 years (3.93 yrs) to produce enough HEU to make on nuclear weapon.

Starting with 1,000 centrifuges it would take them about 2 1/2 years (2.41) to do it.

Starting with 5,000 centrifuges it would take about 8 months (247 days).

You see? Five sounds a lot more like "several" than three. Although, I admit, it's less than 10 and much less than the 16,000 quoted by Juan Cole. However, if you'll read the paragraph below the calculator you'll see that the calculator assumes that every centrifuge is assimilated perfectly on the first try, that all of them work properly right away and that they all operate at maximum capacity instantly, which could never happen in the real world. They'd almost certainly experience some level of attrition and malfunction, even moreso considering this is a learning process for them. The result is that these time estimates are bound to be extremely optimistic compared to reality. That may be the factor the stretches the figures upward.

So, it's clear any claims that Iran is an imminent nuclear threat because of their 164 P-1 centrifuges is nonsense, hysteria, a flat out lie. Alarm over their possible expansion to 3,000 or more or the possibility of upgrading to P-2 is only slightly better considering the inherent difficulty in doing so and the fact that they just plain don't have this capacity yet. If they ever overcome these obstacles then, yes, they may be able to produce a bomb in a reasonable time frame in the absensce of IAEA constraints.

But, for me, the point is moot. Any concern over these can be dealt with via the IAEA inspections process, as they were dealt with in Iraq. I cannot stress enough that Iran is a signatory to the NPT and as such had allowed the intrusive inspections regimes under that agreement. Getting inspectors back into the process is sufficient for the situation. Let Iraq stand as a testament to that fact. But this Bush policy threatens (or possibly intended to) to drive Iran to withdraw from the NPT which, of course, will be used to justify a war against them. I strongly believe we're being railroaded to another self-defeating war.

FearItself said...


This is going to be long too.

1. When you say, 'Nobody is being invaded", if you mean by ground troops, you're probably right. We are far too stuck in the mud in Iraq for that. The thing that has always been anticipated is an air assault by either the US or Israel and, as I've indicated numerous times here, the latter seems to be what's on the menu. However, if Iran responds and attacks Israel back, there's no telling what could happen.

As for starting wars on the basis of perceived intent, I would argue that intent without capability is nothing. There is no doubt that Saddam may have had the intent to restart his WMD program. I doubt he ever intended to attack the US but if he did, still, but he had no capability of doing either. The US had bombed and destroyed Iraq's military and the inspections had dismantled his weapons programs completely. If the Iraq war has accomplished nothing else in three years, it's proved that point beyond refutation. The inspections worked like a charm and they could work in Iran. Iraq didn't have the capability and neither does Iran. Now, if the we don't learn our lessen from this most recent experiment in war based on "intent" we're dumber than anyone ever feared and we ourselves represent the biggest threat to world peace in existance today.

Also, people were listening and actively tracking Al Qaeda well before 9/11 because their intent was married to actual proven capability. If you'll remember, under the previous administration an attack on the World Trade Center also occured. That administration actually caught the perpetrators of that plot and put them in prison for life (unlike other administrations we know). At no time during that administration's tenure did the president announce to the world, "I don't know where [bin Laden] is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, be honest with you" .

Just picture that, Brian. After saying something like that in public this president has the unmitigated gall to use these latest bin Laden tapes to remind YOU and I that WE need to take Al Qaeda seriously! Isn't your intelligence insulted? And it's not just him, others in this administration on record with the same line. It's infuriating, Brian. It's intolerable. I would never have bought a scenario like this if it were the basis of a movie, yet here it is in real life.

3. I honestly don't see what's so horrible about those Chavez quotes you're citing. What Israel is doing is, by definition, ethnic cleansing. Their policies are outlawed by international law. It may not be the most extreme form of ethnic cleansing, genocide, as in the case of the Holocaust or the Ruwandan genocide, but it's ethnic cleansing nevertheless. From Israel's inception it has embraceda policy of engineering and enforcing an ethnic/religious majority favoring Jews by the combination of massive immigration for jews and forced evictions, denial of citizenship, deportations, imprisonment, denial of right of return, and military force against arabs. These are crimes against humanity.

Now, it is fair to questions Chavez' claim that what they're doing may be "worse" than Hitler's crimes. That may be hyperbolic, but hey, he's a hyperbolic guy. Still, the basic premise is sound. Ethnic cleansing is ethnic cleansing. Whether you're talking about force removal or genocide is simply a question of degrees of intensity. He has a point.

As for your question to me. No, I would not like to live in Cuba under Castro as things are. I do not subscribe to communism or one-party government like what you have there. That country is also incredibly impovershed. But how much of that poverty is due to the US embargo as opposed to the Castro regime is difficult to determine. The embargo is a big fact of life there (and it's senseless) and skews any analysis of Cuba's economic performance.

My question back to you is this, "Do you think Cuba is more communist or more oppressive than China?" The US has normal relations with China and go out of our way to send American jobs there by the thousands. We have no sanctions on China whatsoever and are, instead, encouraging trade and entanglement with them (including the massive amounts of US debt they hold). Just this summer Bush rolled out the appropriately red carpet for Hu Jintao. If you were forced to choose would you want to live there or in Cuba? I suspect you'd be dancing salsa.

And no, I would not want to live in Iran either. I don' t believe in theocracy either But you have to admit that Iran is actually one of the more liberal governments in the middle-east in terms of civil freedoms. That 's not saying much but it's still worth noting that Iranians enjoy a certain amount of latitude that is not experienced by citizens of US-aligned states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, just to name a few. You'll notice Iranian women can walk the streets in Iran without the burka, for example. Try that in Saudi Arabia.

But the point is not whether I'd want to live in these societies, whether they are perfect or whether they're better than the US. The point is whether these nations have a right to self-determination just like we do and whether we have a right to trample on that. It's whether trampling on that right is in our true national interests or if only serves to endanger us more while enriching a few. The role of our government, in my mind, is not to whip us into a fear-crazed frenzy so that we'd agree to use the young men and women of the US armed forces (or some proxy thereof) to act as muscle for corporate profit-taking. My heart goes out to any kid who signed up for the service after 9/11 believing they were going to be defending freedom only to be sent off to fight for Halliburton's no-bid contracts while their Commander in Chief declares the constitution obsolete back home. Government-as-corporate-ATM-machine isn't a value worth killing and dying for.