Iran: Five Minutes to Zero Hour

If you wade through the International Atomic Energy Agency’s much-awaited report [.pdf] on Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons technology – a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone – what you’ll find is a studious ambiguity. “May,” “might,” and “could” are words that modify practically every assertion of Iranian perfidy:

“The information indicates that prior to the end of 2003 the above activities took place under a structured program. There are also indications that some activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device continued after 2003, and that some may still be ongoing.”

Or – since “indications” are not evidence – maybe not.

“The Agency has information from a Member State that Iran has undertaken work to manufacture small capsules suitable for use as containers of a component containing nuclear material. The Agency was also informed by a different Member State that Iran may also have experimented with such components in order to assess their performance in generating neutrons. Such components, if placed in the center of a nuclear core of an implosion type nuclear device and compressed, could produce a burst of neutrons suitable for initiating a fission chain reaction. The location where the experiments were conducted was said to have been cleaned of contamination after the experiments had taken place.”

Notice how unverifiable this is: if the evidence has been “cleaned” by those perfidious Iranians, then we’ll never know for sure, now will we? How very convenient.

Buried amidst all the technical jargon, interpolated with ambiguous conditional phrases, we have a story of a “clandestine nuclear network” – presumably the one set up by A.Q. Khan – which supposedly helped the Iranians set up their alleged weapons program. Or, rather, may have done so:

“In an interview in 2007 with a member of the clandestine nuclear supply network, the Agency was told that Iran had been provided with nuclear explosive design information. >From information provided to the Agency during that interview, the Agency is concerned that Iran may have obtained more advanced design information than the information identified in 2004 as having been provided to Libya by the nuclear supply network.”

In short: maybe – maybe not.

“Mainstream” media accounts of this farrago of half-truths and insinuations lead the unsuspecting reader to believe the Iranians are physically constructing a nuclear arsenal, which will shortly be aimed directly at Brooklyn, New York. The fact is that the only “illegal” activities Iran has carried out, in actual reality, are computer simulations. This is what they mean when they accuse Iran of engaging in “nuclear testing.” No one alleges Tehran has produced an actual physical bomb, or managed to put together a nuclear armed missile, and is hiding them underneath the Supreme Leader’s palace – this time around, the War Party is at least trying to be a bit more subtle. But subtlety, as we know, is not their forte.

What jumps out at the careful reader of the IAEA report is that there is nothing concrete involved in this nefarious plot: only hearsay descriptions of blueprints and computer models, including various publicly available scientific studies authored by Iranian scientists. According to Khan, what was transferred to the Iranians was know-how: theoretical knowledge and contacts with suppliers. Yet throughout the IAEA report, although there are plenty of instances where Iran is alleged to have sought this or that dual use component, we are never told if they actually succeeded in procuring the item. While the report attributes its information to “Member States,” why will I not be surprised if this “intelligence” comes from the same folks who brought us the Niger uranium forgeries?

Although there is no smoking gun, the injection of the A.Q. Khan network into the propaganda mix at this level is a relatively new development, one that links the latest Enemy of the Moment (Pakistan) with longtime-favorite Iran. Why not kill two birds with one stone?

After the big build-up, the actual content of the IAEA report is a major let-down: the movie is nothing like the previews. That isn’t stopping the “mainstream” media from running screaming headlines. NPR declared “Some of Iran’s Work is ‘Specific’ to Nuclear Weapons,” a claim echoed almost word for word by the tabloid Daily Mail. In a declarative phrase preceded only by the word “Report” and a semicolon, CNN stated flatly: “Iran Developing Nuclear Bombs.” Yet the report nowhere said anything this definitive: examined under a microscope – which is how we should look at any and all pretexts for war – the whole tissue of suppositions and “secret” information is revealed in all its embarrassing flimsiness.

There’s another headline related to this that popped up in my Internet search for examples of journalistic war hysteria, and it is this: “Oil Rises on Iran Nuclear Concerns.” We are headed for a perfect storm of oil shock, economic turmoil, and the looming prospect of war with Iran.

This fits right in with the War Party’s agenda: wars are a great way to mask the effects of economic failure – and simultaneously divert attention away from its real authors. Instead of accusing “obstructionist” Republicans of being the cause of our increasing poverty – a narrative even the President’s most devoted cultists must admit is getting threadbare – Obama can blame those obstinate Iranians for the economic chaos to come.

Now it’s clear why US officials were ecstatic at the appointment of Yukiya Amano as the new IAEA chief, replacing the troublesome Mohammed el-Baradei. As revealed by WikiLeaks, US diplomats came away from their first encounter with Amano convinced it “illustrate[d] the very high degree of convergence between his priorities and our own agenda at the IAEA.”

The American government’s agenda has never been in doubt, not since the days of George W. Bush, and that is “regime change” in Iran by any means necessary. The War Party has been building up to this climactic moment the way a composer slowly but surely works his way up to a crescendo – and we are nearly at the crest of the wave with the release of this report.

All we need now, to provoke World War III, is a proper Sarajevo, an incident that will spark a regional war, and eventually a global conflagration.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6 ….

In the context of the long propaganda war the neocons have been faithfully waging over the past decade or so, we’re five minutes to zero hour.

The key to understanding the fraud at the heart of the IAEA report is the first paragraph of the summary:

“While the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement, as Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation, including by not implementing its Additional Protocol, the Agency is unable to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

Translation: the Iranians have no suitably enriched fissile material – but because they won’t surrender their sovereignty and allow us to occupy their nuclear facilities at will, there is no “credible assurance” of this. Iran is guilty, and must prove its innocence: that’s what the justice of the West means in the context of its relations with Iran.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].