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Is U.S. Rhetoric Fuelling Iran’s Nuclear Program?

StorySeptember 22, 2004
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As Iran announces it is resuming its nuclear program, we speak with Iranian-born author and former diplomat Mansour Farhang about the increasing tensions in the United States towards Tehran. [includes rush transcript]

As violence and bloodshed continue on a daily basis in US-occupied Iraq, recent events may be propelling the United States into another confrontation–this time with Iran.

The issues are chillingly similar to those that led to the US invasion of Baghdad 18 months ago. The US is accusing Iran of secretly building nuclear weapons–Iran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. US intelligence is reportedly considering a preemptive strike against Iran. And again, Washington is in considerable disagreement with key allies, this time Britain included, over how to handle the situation.

Last weekend under European pressure, the United States agreed to defer its demand that the International Atomic Energy Agency refer Iran’s stance on nuclear issues to the UN Security Council, where sanctions might be considered.

The IAEA instead adopted a resolution demanding that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and report sensitive nuclear activities. And Chief UN nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran’s program did not present a “imminent threat.”

But yesterday, President Mohammad Khatami announced that Iran had resumed producing a uranium gas for enrichment as a nuclear fuel. Khatami said “We’ve made our choice: yes to peaceful nuclear technology, no to atomic weapons.”

  • Mansour Farhang, Iranian-born author and former diplomat. He served as revolutionary Iran’s first ambassador to the United Nations and worked as a mediator in the early months of the Iran-Iraq war. He left Iran as a dissident in 1981 and now teaches international relations and Middle Eastern politics at Bennington College, Vermont. He is the co-author of “U.S. Press and Iran: Foreign Policy and the Journalism of Deference” (Univ. of California, 1987) and the author of “U.S. Imperialism: From the Spanish-American War to the Iranian Revolution” (South End Press, 1981).

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is the first part of our interview with you today. Mansour Farhang, can you respond to these latest developments?

MANSOUR FARHANG: The latest development is really the continuation of the U.S. efforts to contain or perhaps end Iranian nuclear activities. On the face of it, the contentious issue between I.A.E.A. and Iran has to do with the fuel for the operation of the Bushehr nuclear facilities. Iran, according to the N.P.T., to which Iran is a signatory, has the right to produce its own enriched uranium. However, producing enriched uranium in any country makes that country potentially capable of making nuclear weapons. Therefore, I.A.E.A. wants Iran to go beyond its treaty obligations and completely relinquish its enrichment activities because of the deep distrust toward Iran by the western world in general, and the United States and Israel in particular.

AMY GOODMAN: Where do you think this standoff will lead?

MANSOUR FARHANG: Well, the Iranians see this pressure as the first step of the Bush administration for regime change. The activities concerning the regime change particularly the close operations between the United States and Israel concerns Iran deeply. And what is happening in Iran is that this pressure on Iran is so far politically working to the benefit of the theocratic order and against the democratic forces. This confrontation enables the Iranian regime to create a sense of xenophobia and benefit from nationalistic sentiment towards the defense of Iranian territory and therefore, what the Bush administration is doing with regard to security issues and the so-called promotion of democracy is in fact helping a deeply anti-democratic regime and making it difficult for the democracy movement in Iran to engage in a meaningful and effective struggle. Therefore, in the short run Iran is the beneficiary of this confrontation in the political sense, but in the long run, if there is an actually a military attack against Iran, it will be another disaster, the consequences of which will be far graver than anything we see in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Last question. U.S. plans to sell Israel $319 million worth of air launch bombs, including 500 bunker busters. Reuters is reporting with an Israeli security source telling Reuters, this is not the sort of ordinance needed for the Palestinian front. Bunker busters could serve Israel against Iran or possibly Syria. We only have a few seconds. Your response.

MANSOUR FARHANG: Exactly. Iran is surrounded by American military presence in the region, and the Sharon government has repeatedly threatened to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. Therefore, the Iranian regime has concluded that perhaps developing the capability to make nuclear weapons is the only deterrent they have in the face of American and Israeli aggressive attitude toward the regime.

AMY GOODMAN: Mansour Farhang, thank you for joining us. Iranian born author and former diplomat. He’s co-author of U.S. Press and Iran: Foreign Policy and the Journalism of Deference.

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