1. Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program is alleged by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to be a stealth nuclear weapons program. But there is no evidence at all for this allegation, and it was contradicted by Netanyahu’s own Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, who admitted that Iran has not decided to initiate a nuclear weapons program. Israel’s chief of staff, Benny Gantz, has also admitted that Iran has not decided to build a bomb.
2. It is often argued that Iran does not need nuclear power. But it uses some petroleum for power generation, and Iranians are driving more and more. There is every prospect that what happened to Indonesia, which now uses all its own oil in addition to importing some, will happen to Iran. Iran’s energy exports provide a crucial financial cushion, allowing the country to remain independent. Other oil giants, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are also building nuclear power plants. There is nothing illogical or unusual about Iran going in this direction.
3. It is alleged that Iran has threatened to annihilate Israel. It has done no such thing. Iran has a ‘no first strike’ policy, repeatedly enunciated by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has expressed the hope that the ‘Zionist regime over Jerusalem” would ‘vanish from the page of time.’ But he didn’t threaten to roll tanks or missiles against Israel, and compared his hopes for the collapse of Zionism to the collapse of Communism in Russia. Iran has not launched a conventional war of aggression against another state in all of modern history. Israel aggressively invaded Egypt in 1956 and 1967 and Lebanon in 1982 and 2006. The list of aggressive wars fought by the US, including the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, is too long to detail. So why is Iran being configured as the aggressor?
4. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has given a formal ruling or fatwa against nuclear weapons, saying
“The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that the decision makers in the countries opposing us know well that Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous.”
5. Some have alleged that Khamenei is lying in his fatwa, in accordance with a Shiite doctrine that allows pious dissimulation. The permission to lie about religion does not apply where there is a Shiite state able to protect Shiites.
6. No, the International Atomic Energy Agency, on inspecting Iran, did not allege evidence for bomb-making. It certified that no uranium has been diverted to a weapons program.
7. It is often argued that Iran’s nuclear program might spur an arms race in the Middle East. But it is Israel’s arsenal of 400 nuclear warheads that has spurred the arms races. Iraq’s experiments with enrichment in the late 1980s until 1991 were a direct result of knowledge that Israel was given the bomb by France, Britain and the US. If a non-nuclear Iran is so important, why won’t Israel respond to repeated requests by Middle Eastern countries for a nuclear-free zone in that region?
8. Iran has actually reduced its stockpile of low-enriched uranium at 19.75%, turning it into plates to fuel its medical reactor (which is what Iran has all along said it was doing with that uranium). Iran lost its source of uranium fuel for the medical reactor when Argentina ceased producing and supplying it. (Note that no one put sanctions on Argentina or threatened to bomb it when *it* was enriching uranium to that level).
9. Netanyahu is implicitly arguing that Iran’s activities are the source of the region’s problems. But his insistence on keeping millions of Palestinians stateless and without basic human or property rights, and his creeping annexation of Arab Jerusalem, site of Islam’s third holiest site, are what inspires hatred in the Muslim world not only for Israel but for the United States. Hard line fundamentalists are so easy to convince of malevolent American intentions toward Islam because the United States has been so cooperative in screwing over the Palestinians and in the Israelization of all of Jerusalem. That the US press let Netanyahu get on American television and not answer questions about the illegal Israeli squatting on Palestinian land and continued depriving of the Palestinians of statehood is a testimony to how the American mass media has abdicated its responsibility to inform the American public.
Juan Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan and maintains the blog Informed Comment