The New York Review of Books Gets It Wrong on Iran

It should also be made clear that Iran has made efforts above and beyond what is required by their treaty agreements to ensure that their nuclear program is peaceful and legitimate. These efforts include an offer of multinational enrichment within Iran four years ago (which would have provided numerous countries professional access to Iran’s program, thereby making it literally impossible for Iran to divert any material to military purposes in secret – something the IAEA has annually acknowledged Iran has never done). Also, Iran’s nuclear sites and facilities are all under the 24-hour video surveillance by the IAEA, allow access to IAEA inspectors and inspections, and are subject to material seals application by the Agency. Furthermore, even though it is not even allowed under Iran’s Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, as of February 2010, there had been 35 unannounced, surprise inspections of Iranian facilities since March 2007. There have surely been more since.

In May 2007, the IAEA publicly denied reports about Iran hampering inspections of its nuclear facilities, as required by its Safeguards Agreement. “There is no truth to media reports claiming that the IAEA was not able to get access,” IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire told reporters. “We have not been denied access at any time, including in the past few weeks.” He added, “Normally we do not comment on such reports but this time we felt we had to clarify the matter.”

IAEA inspectors have consistently had open access to the gas conversion facility at Esfahan, the enrichment facility at Natanz, and the new lightwater reactor at Bushehr, as well as the secondary enrichment facility under construction at Qom (which, again, Iran declared to the IAEA a full year before required to, when it was, as then-IAEA Secretary General Mohammed ElBaradei described “a hole in a mountain” and “nothing to be worried about”). Iran’s facilities continue to be monitored and supervised by the IAEA in full compliance with its Safeguards Agreement.

Iran has never been found by the IAEA to be in violation of the NPT. A statement made in June 2004 by the IAEA, rather, expressed concern that Iran might not be in full compliance with its safeguards obligations. This is not the same thing as violating the Treaty. Nevertheless, the IAEA resolution also welcomed Iran’s cooperation in granting the IAEA access to all requested facilities and merely called on Iran to resolve some “outstanding issues”, such as plutonium separation experiments. These issues have since been fully resolved.

The most egregious example of Bernstein’s adherence to the pathologically-dishonest Zionist narrative and fear-mongering about Iranian intentions is his reliance on this December 2001 quote by former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani:

If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in its possession, the strategy of colonization would face a stalemate because the application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damage in the Muslim world.

Fearing the inherent irrationality of the Muslim mind, Bernstein breathlessly analyzes Rafsanjani’s statement this way: “In other words, such a bomb would destroy Israel, but would produce only marginal damage in the Muslim world,” continuing, “If this is the general Iranian belief then a policy of deterrence would seem to be irrelevant: Rafsanjani is talking about a fight to the death that amounts to national suicide.”

With this determination (and his apparent ignorance or disbelief of Iran’s official “no first strike” policy), Bernstein reveals himself to hold a view similar to that of Israeli historian and ethnic cleansing justifier Benny Morris, who has stated, “There is a deep problem in Islam. It’s a world whose values are different. A world in which human life doesn’t have the same value as it does in the West, in which freedom, democracy, openness and creativity are alien…If it obtains chemical or biological or atomic weapons, it will use them. If it is able, it will also commit genocide…In that sense they are barbarians.”

Yet, if Bernstein actually read the entire speech given by Rafsanjani, instead of cutting and pasting this one cherry-picked and decontextualized passage, he’d know full well that his understanding of Rafsanjani’s statement is completely inverted. Last year, addressing career warmonger Jeffrey Goldberg’s use of the very same quote in his much-discussed cover story about a potential Israeli strike against Iran in The AtlanticForeign Policy Journal‘s Jeremy R. Hammond explained (forgive the lengthy quote, but no paraphrased version would do Hammond’s analysis justice):

The words come from a speech in which he [Rafsanjani] criticized Zionist crimes against the Palestinians, and U.S. support for those crimes. He emphasized that the struggle was not against the Jewish people, but the ideology of Zionism: “There are many Jews who don’t believe in Zionism. There are many Jewish scholars in America who have been active against these events.” He also observed that many Zionists are not Jewish. Discussing how Israel came into being, he said that the West supported the Zionist project to further its own colonialist and imperialist goals. “They have supplied vast quantities of weapons of mass destruction and unconventional weapons to Israel”, he said, including nuclear weapons.

He then suggested that the Islamic nations might themselves seek nuclear weapons as a deterrent to Western imperialism and Zionist aggression: “If one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists’ strategy will reach a standstill because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality.” Suggesting he was referring to nations other than Iran when referring to “the Islamic world”, he added, “Now, even if that does not happen,they can still inflict greater costs on the imperialists” (emphasis added). He referred to the then recent terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and explained: “We cannot encourage that sort of thing either” (emphasis added).

In other words, he was not encouraging terrorism against the West or nuclear proliferation: “I am only talking about the natural course of developments. The natural course of developments is such that such things may happen.” Additionally, Rafsanjani noted the U.S. role in supporting Israeli violence against Palestinians, and said that the 9/11 attacks “can be a lesson for the Americans, particularly today, when, due to their aggressive moves and their mistakes, they have paved the way and made it possible for some groups to be armed with non-conventional weapons”. He added, “I would like to admonish the Westerners not allow to matters to go this far” [sic], that “They should not allow a situation of confrontation and antagonism”.

Thus, Rafsanjani was explicitly arguing against a situation wherein “the Islamic world” also possessed a nuclear weapon; he was merely making the point that if the West persists in its complicity in the oppression of the Palestinian people that this could very well come to be. It would be unfortunate if it came to that, in Rafsanjani’s view. But this does not stop Goldberg from quoting Rafsanjani out of context in order to imply, falsely, that he was making an explicit threat of nuclear attack against Israel.

Nothing stopped Bernstein, who has used this quote to similar effect before, either.

Bernstein’s peddling of propaganda shouldn’t be surprising however, considering his obvious bigotry against Iran and its people and consistent repetition of long-debunked myths. In August 2010, Bernstein wrote that “with the Iranians things are never quite as they appear.” In late 2009, he claimed that “Iran differs from its neighbors in that its president and indeed many of its leaders have a stated policy of destroying Israel.” Yup, the worn-out “wipe Israel off the map” nonsense. It is ridiculous to have to keep repeating that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has never once threatened to attack, let alone destroy, Israel.

Perhaps Bernstein got his information from George W. Bush who, while speaking on the Farsi-language U.S. government propaganda radio station, Radio Farda (which illegally broadcasts in Iran) in March 2008, declared, “They’ve [the Iranian government] declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people — some in the Middle East. And that’s unacceptable to the United States, and it’s unacceptable to the world.”

This statement was so devoid of truth, in fact, that even former State Department Iran specialist Suzanne Maloney was moved to speak out. Maloney, who was at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center (not a progressive organization by any stretch) at the time, noted, “The Iranian government is on the record across the board as saying it does not want a nuclear weapon,” adding that while, in her opinion, “there’s plenty of room for skepticism about these assertions…it’s troubling for the administration to indicate that Iran is explicitly embracing the program as a means of destroying another country.”