Belfast Telegraph

Propaganda a bigger threat than Iran's nuclear power

By Eamonn McCann

The attempt by David Cameron to persuade us that Britain is under threat of an Iranian nuclear attack should be seen alongside Tony Blair's claim in 2002 that Iraq had the capacity to hit British targets any time it chose.

Then, the London Evening Standard headlined that Britain was '45 minutes from attack'. Yesterday, The Sun warned: 'Iran building missile to hit UK'. Here we go again.

There is evidence that Iran had a nuclear weapons programme in 2003. But the evidence shows, too that, under international pressure, the programme was abandoned at that point.

In mid-2007, the US National Intelligence Estimate, summing up the conclusions of the US's 16 intelligence agencies, declared 'with high confidence' that Iran had no nuclear weapons programme.

On January 11 last, Robert Kelley, a senior International Atomic Energy Agency official in 2003, commented: "I am speaking up about [Iran] now, because, as a member of the IAEA's Iraq action team in 2003, I learned first-hand how withholding the facts can lead to bloodshed.

"Having known the details then, though I was not allowed to speak, I feel a certain shared responsibility for the war that killed more than 4,000 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis. A private citizen today, I hope to help ensure the facts are clear before the US takes further steps that could lead, intentionally or otherwise, to a new conflagration, this time in Iran."

Voices like Kelley's are being drowned out by the rattle of sabres as British and US leaders crank up the war propaganda. Maybe things have changed since the NIE's 2007 assessment? No. On January 8 last, Obama's Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, interviewed on CBS, said: "Are [the Iranians] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No."

On February 16, US National Intelligence Director James Clapper appeared before the Senate armed services committee.

Asked about Iran's nuclear ambitions, he said: "We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so. We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."

Israeli chief of military intelligence Brigadier Aviv Kochavi agrees. Answering questions from the Knesset defence committee on January 29, he said: "Iran is not currently working on producing a nuclear weapon, but could make one within a year or two of taking such a decision."

A fortnight earlier, on January 18, the Tel Aviv daily Ha'aretz reported the view of 'Israel officials' due to brief the US joint chief of staff on Israel's latest estimation of Iran's ambitions: "While Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon..."

All of these statements seem, more or less automatically, erased from the record the instant they are delivered.

Meanwhile, Israel's refusal to allow the IAEA, or any other agency, to inspect its stockpile of nuclear bombs is rarely mentioned.

It is not unusual to hear representatives of the Israeli regime interviewed on mainstream news programmes about Iran's alleged ambition to emulate its nuclear-armed adversary without the Israeli nuclear arsenal rating a mention. Similarly, silence surrounds Iranian religious leaders' fatwas against nuclear weapons, possibly because the image of black-turbaned ayatollahs with nuclear weapons at their disposal is nicely calculated to terrify Western audiences.

Within weeks of grabbing power from the 1979 revolution, the Ayatollah Kholmeni declared the nuclear weapons programme of his predecessor, the West's close ally the Shah, "the work of the devil".

He lifted the fatwa after Saddam Hussein used chemical and biological weapons - components supplied by the Western powers - against his country.

The fatwa has recently been reconfirmed by current religion supremo, the Ayatollah Khameni.

Summarising the Supreme Leader's views, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said last week: "The production, possession, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons are illegitimate, futile, harmful, dangerous and prohibited as a great sin."

Khameni's own pronouncement last month was: "We believe that using nuclear weapons... is prohibited and that it is everybody's duty to make efforts to protect humanity against this great disaster."

Khameni spelt out his view that no outside power has a right to prevent Iran developing nuclear energy technology and that no Iranian government has a right to develop or use nuclear weapons.

A naive soul might have assumed that statements of this sort from that quarter might have made headline news.

But there has scarcely been a mention.

We are being pummeled with lies to prepare us for another blood-for-oil disaster.

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