President Barack Obama stood with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday to say that Iran’s nuclear program continues to pose a threat, as a belligerent West anticipates next week’s release of a report on Tehran’s nuclear activities.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to release on Tuesday a report on whether or not Iran’s nuclear program has a military dimension. Iran has maintained its nuclear activities are for civilian purposes only, a claim that has never been disproved with any evidence.
The last IAEA report on Iran was a review of the meeting of the board of governors and was released in September. At the meeting, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said that “Iran demonstrated greater transparency” during meetings and inspections of nuclear facilities over the summer. However, he stressed that “greater transparency and Iran’s full proactive engagement are also needed concerning its other nuclear activities,” which it has been less open about.
The rally for increased aggression towards Iran has reached a fever pitch in the last few days. Britain unveiled plans to attack Iran in the case of an American military move, and plans for a unilateral, preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities were leaked from the Israeli government.
A harsher set of sanctions were pushed forward on Wednesday in the House of Representatives that would further strangle Iran’s energy and banking sector. The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said it “is designed to clamp new and tougher sanctions on Iran’s energy sector, threatening the regime’s existence if it refuses to halt its nuclear weapons program.”
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the western alliance has no intention of intervening militarily in Iran, but the actions and rhetoric of most other top western officials hold a more threatening posture.
Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, came out yesterday to urge caution on the part of the US, Israel and their western allies. He warned that Tehran was acting out of a perception of threat, and must be reassured that it does not need a nuclear deterrent. “I think the talks that will resume should give Iran insurance that they will not be attacked from the outside under any circumstances,” said Mr Blix.
And indeed, Iran is sure to feel threatened. For years now, a concerted covert US campaign of cyber-terrorism, commercial sabotage, targeted assassinations, and proxy wars has apparently been under way in Iran, not to mention a harsh sanctions regime. Additionally, US-supported Israeli agents have admitted to committing terrorist acts, including assassinations, on people inside Iran.
The United States has long been garrisoning Iran’s surroundings with sophisticated weapons and military capabilities. Aside from two long and unnecessary wars directly to Iran’s east and west, the US has patrolled a fleet of Navy warships off the Iranian coast in the Persian Gulf.
The Obama administration in January of last year accelerated the deployment of military vessels off the Iranian coast and placed antimissile systems in at least four Arab countries neighboring Iran. The move was described at the time by the New York Times as ”part of a coordinated administration strategy to increase pressure on Iran” and also “intended to counter the impression that Iran is fast becoming the most powerful military force in the Middle East.”
The US makes major arms deals and sends significant amounts of security assistance to nearly all of Iran’s neighboring countries including Turkey, Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan.
Simply easing this militaristic posture towards Iran and its immediate surroundings is likely to ease tensions dramatically. Similarly, the US could simply agree to a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East, which Iran and the rest of the region has said they would agree to if Israel complies as well. Instead, the US insists on having Israel keep its nuclear arsenal in violation of international treaties and thus continue to miss the chance for a nuclear weapons free zone.
Under this environment of diplomatic, covert, economic and military aggression towards Iran, the rhetoric of the past few days coming from Western leaders could be dangerous, indeed. And these same postures, as Hans Blix explained, are more likely to influence Iran towards attaining a nuclear deterrent than not.