Justin Foard, Contributing Writer
When the issue of Iran comes up in the mainstream media or on the presidential campaign trail, there is a noticeable litany of assumptions made. The usual narrative about Iran is that a) the Iranians are trying to acquire nuclear weapons, b) a nuclear Iran represents an existential threat to Israel’s existence, and c) Iran is led by a group of irrational men who cannot be dealt with conventionally.
All of these assumptions are false, and it is time that more Americans – especially conservatives, who tend to pride themselves on cautious, careful, rational reflection and analysis of facts – stop thinking about the Iranian question emotively, and begin to look at the actual intelligence data that we have available.
First, Iran is not trying to acquire a nuclear weapon. According to the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and had not reinitiated it. This data from 2007 was corroborated by the NIE’s 2011 comprehensive study – combining intelligence information from all 17 of our national security agencies – which concluded that there was no evidence that Iran was attempting to restart its nuclear weapons program.
Also, not a single International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report has indicated that Iran has even weapons-grade uranium, much less nuclear weapons. Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, “Have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can be readily used into a weapon? No.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Iran doesn’t have or desire a nuclear weapon. Why? Because Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in an interview last year, “Nuclear weapons are not at all beneficial to us… From an ideological and juridical perspective, we consider developing nuclear weapons as unlawful. We consider using such weapons as a big sin. We also believe that keeping such weapons is futile and dangerous, and we will never go after them.”
Something that many people fail to realize (or just forget) is that many politicians in the West have been claiming for decades that Iran is trying to go nuclear. They’ve been wrong. The House Republican Research Committee claimed in 1992 that there was “98 percent certainty that Iran already had all (or virtually all) of the components required for two or three operational nuclear weapons.” Also in 1992, Benjamin Netanyahu, now serving his second term as prime minister of Israel, claimed that Iran would have a nuclear weapon in three to five years unless an “international front” toppled the current regime.
Furthermore, Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel’s existence. Israel possesses an elite air force; Iran’s air force is rudimentary. Furthermore, Israel has 200 nuclear weapons, whereas Iran barely has a functioning civilian nuclear energy program. Even Israeli military officials have admitted that Iran is not an existential threat to the survival of Israel. In 2009, former Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said just that: “Iran does not constitute an existential threat to the existence of Israel.”
Others have said similar things. In 2011, Tamir Pardo, former head of the Mossad, was quoted as suggesting that “The term ‘existential threat’ is used too freely.” And in 2012, Dan Halutz, Israeli air force commander and former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, declared that “Iran poses a serious threat, but not an existential one. The use of this terminology is misleading.”
But isn’t Iran led by a bunch of crazed fundamentalists who think and act irrationally? Well, not according to Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff, Maj. Gen. Binyamin “Benny” Gantz, who asserted, “I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.” The thoughts of Maj. Gen. Gantz are seconded by U.S. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor.”
Tragically, the American political establishment accepts as dogma the aforementioned erroneous assumptions about Iran. This has resulted in brutal sanctions and the naval occupation of the Strait of Hormuz, which do nothing more than solidify support for the ayatollah and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad among the people of Iran, radicalize Iranians against the United States and give al-Qaeda a perfect recruiting tool among a pool of disaffected young Persian men.
When will Uncle Sam grow tired of his folly?