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Friday, Sept. 12, 2008

The Bush Administration Knows Full Well That There Is No Nuclear

A Shepherd Q&A with weapons inspector Scott Ritter

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Before the United States’ invasion of Iraq in 2003, former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter claimed that the vast majority of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed or accounted for. Yet the Bush administration invaded anyway—and found no WMDs.

Five years later, it’s deja vu all over again, only this time the target is Iran.

Ritter is concerned that the Bush administration will bomb Iran because it claims that Iran seeks to build nuclear weapons and therefore poses a threat to the United States.But, just like before the invasion of Iraq, inspectors have found no evidence to back Bush’s claims. Ritter says that the Bush administration has offered no proof, either.

 

Last week Ritter spoke in Milwaukee (sponsored by Peace Action Wisconsin) and at Fighting Bob Fest about Target Iran. Before his talk, he answered some questions about the Bush administration’s goals in the Middle East and what it means for the next president.

Shepherd: You’ve written that the war with Iran “is on,” that it’s already under way. I think people would be surprised to hear that the United States has gone beyond the planning stages to actually being at war with Iran.

Ritter: I ask all Americans, “What would constitute an act of war against America? What actions would a nation have to do before we said that’s war?” Again, I would imagine, if a nation sent commandos into our cities to blow up bridges, I would say that’s an act of war. If they sent terrorists in to assassinate our political leaders, I would say that’s an act of war. If they sent in proxy military forces to blow up trucks and kill soldiers, that’s an act of war. If they violated our airspace to gather intelligence that would be used in a military strike, we would say that’s an act of war. We’re doing all of this against Iran.

Shepherd: Why is the United States taking such an aggressive stance toward Iran?

Ritter: In the post-Sept. 11 world, the Bush administration has defined American interest in the Middle East as being one which involves what we call “regional transformation,” to transform the region into a manner which is more in keeping with the goals and the objectives of the United States. That includes regime change of nations that we deem to be incompatible with the United States’ vision of what the region should be like. Iraq fell into that category. Syria falls into that category. And Iran falls into that category. Iran is a nation that we have labeled a rogue nation. We have said that our policy against Iran is regime change. This is what’s going on. This is the larger picture in which the statement “we are at war with Iran today” should be viewed in. This isn’t something out of the blue where Americans can say, “Why would we be doing that?” Something has been going on for some time.

Shepherd: The Bush administration is saying that Iran has a nuclear program and it must be stopped before it can develop nuclear weapons.

How accurate is that?

Ritter: I think that what the Bush administration is saying is that Iran has a nuclear program that the Bush administration contends is geared toward nuclear weapons.

There is no doubt that Iran has a nuclear program.

Iran doesn’t deny that. Iran is permitted to have a nuclear program under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Iran is a signatory power to. Iran has signed what’s called a Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], which allows more nuclear inspectors to operate inside Iran to monitor Iran’s nuclear program.

So it’s not that Iran is trying to do something in secret. Iran has declared its program and has subjected it to international compliance inspections. And, indeed, the last technical report of the IAEA inspectors says that Iran is in full compliance with its obligation to the Safeguards Agreement.

The Bush administration, however, contends that there’s no justification for the Iranian nuclear program other than to develop technology that is used in a nuclear weapons program. […] The thing here, though, is that the Bush administration has produced no evidence whatsoever to back up its rhetorical claims. So we have a problem here.

As a longtime intelligence professional, one of the things we do to judge intent of any party is to examine past patterns of behavior. When you take a look at the Bush administration and the clear example of Iraq, where the Bush administration lied, exaggerated or misrepresented claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction for the purpose of implementation of the policy of regime change against Saddam Hussein, I would say that today the same pattern is being repeated.

The Bush administration once again is lying, exaggerating or misrepre senting the data on Iran’s nuclear program, contending that it is a weapons program. Not because the Bush administration is concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. Believe me, the Bush administration knows full well that there is no nuclear weapons program in Iran. Just like they knew that there were no active WMD programs in Iraq. They’re sim ply using this as a cover for their broader policy objectives. In the case of Iraq, that was getting rid of Saddam Hussein. In the case of Iran, it’s get ting rid of the theocracy.

Shepherd: Is Iran a threat to the United States?

Ritter: Iran doesn’t pose a threat to the United States in any way, shape or form. It has some ballistic missile programs. If I were an Israeli I might be concerned about Iran’s ballistic missile programs, just like Iran is concerned about Israel’s ballistic missile programs. There’s nothing illegal about Iran’s missile program. We can’t sit here and say that because Iran is developing a missile with the range to hit Israel at the same time that Israel has a complete arsenal with the range to hit Iran, that somehow it is Iran that is the global pariah.

I think the best thing to do about any nation’s arsenal in that region is to take measures to instill stability and confidence-building measures so that people don’t feel the need to build these expensive weapons pro grams. But the best thing the United States can do would be to seek to actually enter into discourse with Iran. Right now we’ve isolated Iran. We’ve refused to talk to Iran. This is absurd.

Shepherd: Many people argue that Bush won’t bomb Iran because he’s a lame duck. Do you agree?

Ritter: I go off of past patterns of behavior. And we also have to talk about intent. It is the intent of the Bush administration to achieve regime change in Iran. They may not be able to achieve that in its totality in their remaining time in power. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t still have this objective.

I think the big concern right now isn’t that the Bush administration is going to launch this massive invasion of Iran. The big concern of the Bush administration is that come November the American people very well may pick a candidate who is going to deviate meaningfully from the track undertaken in the last eight years by the Bush administration. Again, this is where we have to take a look at past patterns of behavior. In 1993 the last executive order given by George Herbert Walker Bush was for the U.S. military to bomb Iraq. The reason was that there was much concern in the outgoing Bush administration that the new Clinton administration would deviate meaningfully from the Bush administration’s Iraq policy of regime change. Bombing Iraq, a limited airstrike nev ertheless, tied the hands of President Clinton so that the first action he had to deal with in regard to Iraq was war, that we were bombing Iraq.

I’m very concerned that this same pattern may very well repeat itself if Barack Obama is elected president, that the last executive order of a lame duck president named George W. Bush might be for the military to launch a limited airstrike against Iran. Then Barack Obama now finds himself boxed in with limited maneuver room, having to view Iran as a threat and having to deal with the consequences. In 1993 there wasn’t much the Iraqis could do. If we bomb Iran, however, the Iranians can and probably will do some severe retaliation, which only expands the conflict, thereby guaranteeing that Barack Obama is not only trapped but will probably continue the policy objectives of the Bush administration. This is what concerns me.

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