The standoff between Iran and the Western powers led by the United States has created an entirely new "industry" in Washington, which consists of "pundits" on Iran, its political system, and its nuclear program. Some of them are not experts at all, as their "expertise" consists entirely of hollow rhetoric, great exaggerations about the "threat" posed by Iran, and half-truth, if not outright lies. One such pundit is Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the neoconservative-aligned Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Before he became an "expert" on Iran, he was in the venture capital as well as software industries. How he became an Iran expert overnight is not clear to this author. He is now presented everywhere as an "expert" on sanctions against Iran, never mind that one does not need "expertise" to advocate economic war on a nation. He has taken some of the most hawkish positions regarding Iran. In a June 2012 article in Foreign Policy he advocated extremely harsh sanctions against Iran, to which Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi and I responded, revealing the depth of bankruptcy of his advocacy. Washington has been overcrowded with such non-expert "experts" who want nothing but misery for the Iranian people.
In the second group are people that do know nuclear technology, or nuclear proliferation, or Iran, etc. Such pundits are divided into two groups. Some have remained objective, and have not tried to take advantage of the hysteria against Iran created by the War Party and the Israel Lobby to cash in. A good example is Robert Kelley, a true nuclear expert and former chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Iraq. He has consistently been skeptical about all the grand claims and alarmist views about Iran’s nuclear program (see here and here, for example). In the second group are those who have completely sold out to the War Party. Their goal is not objective analysis of Iran’s nuclear program, but appeasing the Party and the Washington hawks who would settle for nothing less than complete destruction of Iran and its people.
Chief among such experts is David Albright, President of Institute for [bogus] Science and International Security [for the American Empire]. He has played a leading role in inflaming the hysteria about Iran by his grand exaggerations, alarms over non-existing evidence, creating something out of nothing, and even telling legal scholar Daniel Joyner how to interpret international agreements regarding nuclear weapons. See here to read about how Albright treated progressive journalist Sam Husseini and threatened his organization with lawsuits, when Husseini asked Albright pointed questions.
I first wrote about his work in March 2009, stating that if he continues on the path that he had taken, he would become for the Iran Hawk what Judith Miller, the discredited former New York Times reporter was for Iraq. The article led to him contacting me, trying to scare me, then suggesting to have a radio debate together, then backing out [all the e-mail exchanges are available], and eventually feeling compelled to issue a defense of the ISIS work on Iran. I invite the readers to read my previous article on Albright, and compare it with what he is currently doing. Not only has he not become more balanced and objective, he has in fact moved further to the right toward the positions that the War Party and Israel Lobby have taken.
Just to give an example of Albright’s "scientific" modus operandi, consider the following "scientific" report published by ISIS last May, in which he and Paul Brannan wrote (see here for more of Albright-Brannan baseless speculations, presented as "scientific" to the public):
ISIS has acquired commercial satellite imagery of the [non-nuclear, conventional] Parchin site in Iran showing new activity that substantiates the IAEA’s stated concern regarding recent “activity” at the site. The new activity seen in the satellite image occurred outside a building suspected to contain an explosive chamber used to carry out nuclear weapons related experiments. The April 9, 2012 satellite image shows items lined up outside the building. It is not clear what these items are. The image also shows what appears to be a stream of water that emanates from or near the building…. The items visible outside the building could be associated with the removal of equipment from the building or with cleansing it. The stream of water that appears to emanate from the building raises concerns that Iran may have been washing inside the building, or perhaps washing the items outside the building. Satellite images of the building from recent months do not show any similar activity at the site — indicating that such activity is not a regular occurrence at this building.
Let us consider the "scientific" paragraph again. It is not clear what the items outside the building are. They could be associated with removal of equipment from the building. Iran may have been washing inside the building, or perhaps outside. Satellite images do not show any similar activity at the site. (How often are such images taken?) Yet, all of these sheer speculations supposedly substantiate the IAEA’s stated concern regarding recent “activity” at the site. In addition, ultra-sensitive sensors that the IAEA inspectors have can detect one part in one million particles in a sample, and so no amount of washing would be even nearly enough to hide such particles. And even if this were possible, would the water not contaminate the soil outside the building, so that the IAEA inspectors could, again, easily detect the contaminants?
The "scientist" Albright has teamed up with Dubowitz, Michael Yaffe (of National Defense University, and a former State Department Official), Leonard Spector (of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and a former official at the Department of Energy), and Orde Kittrie (of Arizona State University and FDD, and a State Department official in the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations) to issue a 155-page report, which is a political manifesto – better yet, the wish list of the War Party and the Israel lobby – rather than a rational, objective, and scientific report, entitled "U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing Middle East," in which they supposedly prescribe nuclear nonproliferation strategies, given Iran’s nuclear program, the civil in Syria, and the Arab Spring.
Kittrie has always been a strong proponent of tough economic sanctions against Iran; see for example, here and here. Yaffe supported invasion Iraq, has spoken about "Iranian hegemonic inclination," and following Pentagon’s line uses the "Gulf," instead of the standard Persian Gulf. Spector too has taken tough positions on Iran. He has supported sanctions, use of the threat for attacking Iran militarily, has urged "Washington and its allies" to "use every tool in their tool kit" to stop Iran’s "threat," and has even mentioned the possibility of inciting revolution to topple the Iranian regime.
The report claims that Iran’s nuclear program, "Threatens international peace and security, undermines the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty [NPT], and threatens to spur proliferation elsewhere in the region." In what sense a non-existent nuclear weapon program threatens peace and international security, or undermines the NPT? Even if the program did exist – which it does not – the only thing that it would threaten would be the U.S.-Israel hegemonic power in the Middle East. Which countries will give nuclear technology to other nations in that region, if they decide to compete with Iran? The U.S. and France will be prime candidates.
The report claims, "Based on the current trajectory of Iran’s nuclear program, we estimate that Iran could reach critical capability in mid-2014." And, do not even think for a moment that this is a fantasy, because "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed concern that Iran may reach critical capability by the summer of 2013;" oh, yes, that is all we needed to be convinced. We should forget that Israel and the U.S. have been making such dire predictions since 1984.
So, what should be done about this? "We recommend that the United States and its allies impose maximal sanctions pressure on Iran," because, "There is no way to know whether the Iranian regime will ever relent in its nuclear ambitions. There is always the possibility that the regime will keep enriching notwithstanding a looming, or even actual, sanctions-induced economic collapse," and all of this in the face of repeated statements by U.S. and Israeli leaders that the Iranian leaders are rational actors. But, rest assured that they are all wrong. Because, typical of any report authored by Albright, he and only he knows everything. Thus, "The Iranian leadership’s apocalyptic messianism and exaltation of martyrdom may make it less possible to deter Iran’s leadership from using nuclear weapons."
The report demands, "The United States should ramp up sanctions against Iran so as to bring the date of maximal economic pressure nearer by significantly increasing the sanctions’ impact on Iran’s international trade and investment, Iranian government revenue, capital flows, inflation, foreign exchange rates, and overall macroeconomic stability." In other words, create the conditions that would force Iran to completely capitulate. But, do not even think for a moment that this Gang of Five does not have any heart, because they recommend that the U.S. should "continue working to ensure that implementation of sanctions on Iran does not inadvertently block the provision to Iran of humanitarian goods." There have been simply too many reports of severe shortage of critical medicines in Iran due to the sanctions; see here, here, and here, for example. But, they are all wrong! Typical of all reports authored by Albright, he and only he is right, because, "Despite U.S. sanctions on Iran, U.S. exports to Iran of various humanitarian goods rose considerably in 2012." How did we all miss that?
Then, we reach the really "meaty" part of the report, where the Gang proves their manhood. It demands, "Increase the credibility of the U.S. military threat. The combination of economic sanctions and covert actions may only succeed in preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons if paired with a crystal clear message to Iran’s leaders that it is futile for them to continue to seek such weapons because U.S. military action ultimately will prevent them from succeeding," never mind that too many U.S. officials stated in 2012 that Iran is not trying to make nuclear weapons, and has not even made the decision to do so. But, even this is not enough for the Gang. Iran must completely close "the Fordow facility and any other deeply buried enrichment facility that is either complete or under construction," because if the U.S. cannot destroy the Fordow site on its own (which it cannot), Iran must do the job for the U.S. and close the site. In addition, not only must the sovereign nation of Iran be forced to sign, ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, it must in fact agree [read capitulate] to "additional measures that reflect that Iran has been found in noncompliance with its safeguards obligations." Additional measures as called by whom or what? Even Netanyahu and the most virulent proponents of American imperialism could not write this as "eloquently" as the Gang of Five.
The Gang also draws remarkable lines in the sand for Iran: "The President of the United States should explicitly declare that he will use military force to destroy Iran’s nuclear program if Iran takes additional "decisive steps toward producing a bomb." Possible triggers could include producing weapon-grade uranium or separated plutonium, expelling IAEA inspectors, construction of additional covert nuclear facilities, or undertaking significant additional weaponization activities." Is there still any doubt about the strength of the Gang’s manhood?
The Gang also acts as the speech writer for the President, telling him how to threaten Iran: "The specific use by the president of an unambiguous phrase such as ‘I will use military force if necessary to stop Iran from taking the following steps toward acquiring a nuclear arsenal’ would contribute to the credibility of the military option vis-a-vis Iran’s nuclear program."
Amazingly, the "scientist" and "non-partisan" Albright agree to be the co-author of a report that also states, "Sabotage has been used to slow the Iranian nuclear program, including through infiltration and disruption of procurement networks and cyberattacks designed to inflict physical damage to the program. Judicious use of this tool should be included in continued U.S. efforts to constrain the Iranian nuclear program."
In other words, Albright, the man who always claims that he is opposed to war with Iran prescribes state-sponsored terrorist operations inside Iran. He wants a total economic war on Iran that will most likely kill tens of thousands of Iranians, if not more. Recall that the U.S. sanctions imposed on Iraq in the 1990s killed at least 500,000 Iraqi babies and children.
The Gang then loses control of reality and gets lost in its own sense of grandiosity. It begins to act as advocates for Saudi Arabia by demanding regime change – in Syria, that is – in order to isolate Iran. "The collapse of the Assad government and its replacement by a Sunni-dominated, Saudi and Qatari-backed anti-Iranian government in Damascus would be a grievous strategic setback for Tehran. As the United States attempts to pressure Iran to suspend its nuclear program by means of intensified sanctions, covert operations, and the possibility of future military intervention, Iran’s loss of its key ally could contribute to a tipping point that forces it to accept restraints on its nuclear endeavors."
I had no idea that David Albright was an expert on everything that is happening in the Middle East. But, then, again, the man knows everything, so why should anyone be surprised?
Muhammad Sahimi is Professor of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science and the NIOC Chair in Petroleum Engineering at the University of Southern California. In addition to his regular contributions to antiwar.com, he is also co-founder and editor of the website Iran News & Middle East Reports.