Analysis – Iran Debate Pretty Much Over

Is Iran's Lack of Nuclear Weapons Really Beside the Point?

The Obama Administration was seemingly foiled last week when it was discovered that the “secret” Iranian nuclear facility they were about to reveal to the rest of the UN Security Council had already been reported to the IAEA, by Iran, as legally required.

But no one seemed to notice. The Western media still crowed about the “uncovering” of a secret facility by the Obama Administration and ran several stories questioning the ramifications in the lead-up to this week’s talks.

Today Slashdot, a popular news and current affairs discussion site, has run a discussion entitled “Iran’s nuclear ambitions” which underscores the tenor of the topic. Slashdot’s readership tends to be pretty politically independent and have above average education, so one would think they’d be more skeptical about the case for war than the average voter.

And there is a pretty even split between pro-war and anti-war positions on the discussion. Lots of grousing about empire. Lots of mentioning Israel. But there is one thing you won’t see, and that’s any serious questioning of whether or not Iran is creating nuclear weapons.

Despite the US intelligence community saying they aren’t, despite the IAEA saying they have seen no proof that they are, pretty much everyone takes Iran’s “nuclear ambitions” for granted, and are just split over whether or not its worth going to war over.

It’s not hard to imagine why this is. Both the Bush Administration and Obama Administration have cheerfully ignored their own intelligence communities and trumpeted this myth of the threat posed by Iran. If you’re the average person who doesn’t spend all day paying attention to this stuff you’d probably figure if one was lying about it so overtly the other party would call them on it. Not so.

But while we can take some solace in the fact that so many on Slashdot don’t see this as a good reason to go to war, if everybody believes Iran is making nuclear weapons this argument is pretty much over, and then the pro-war side has won. If facts don’t matter the state can ALWAYS scare the public into war.

It worked in Iraq… and 6+ years after the occupation a non-trivial minority of Americans still think Iraq had WMDs. Now it seems like it’s just a matter of if President Obama really wants to attack Iran or not.

And that’s not so straightforward. The US has 130,000+ troops in Iraq and will likely have over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan very soon. Conquering Iran will be no cakewalk, and even with the international good will the Obama Administration seems to have it is unlikely NATO is going to jump at the chance for another war.

But unless Americans are really willing to revisit the underlying claim of Iran’s mythical nuclear weapons program, the debate is over. Thursday’s talks will be about lining up international forces on Obama’s side for sanctions or worse against Iran, and the media will gleefully report the official line, no matter how little sense it makes.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.