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A little nuclear sanity

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“For me, it is a different world”
—Mohamed ElBaradei (Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency)

Ikata Nuclear Power Plant

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This is change. And very good news.

I never have quite understood the logic of the USA’s stockpiling enough nukes to destroy the world six times over while insisting that nukes are bad and no one else should have them.

Nor have I understood how countries who sign treaties allowing  development of nuclear power stations have to endure threats of missile strikes from the USA or Israel for building them.

Good news is that it looks like Mr. Obama has decided fair deals and keeping our promises might be good policy, along with tightening up the rules by which all of us play.  Here’s what he’s proposed in Europe:

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Mr. Obama was embracing a concept that the Bush administration had repeatedly rejected: That to counter proliferation, the United States could no longer simply ignore the fact that some countries — like Iran — were signatories to international treaties and could correctly claim a “right” to produce their own nuclear fuel.

SHARM EL SHEIKH/EGYPT, 19MAY08 - Mohamed M. El...

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Mr. Bush’s approach was to declare that some countries could simply never be trusted.

Mr. Obama’s approach is to tighten the web of treaties, and amend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to make it harder for nations like Iran to limit inspections or refuse to answer questions about suspect documents.

Mr. Obama even embraced two controversial treaties that many in Congress will oppose because of the limits they put on American nuclear strategy: One would ban nuclear testing, they other would cut off production of new fissile material.

“For me, it is a different world,” Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian-born director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a visitor to his office in Vienna on Monday, as Mr. Obama was finishing up his trip.

“When was the last time you heard a president talk about moving toward zero nuclear weapons? Or fixing a nonproliferation system that is clearly falling apart?”

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Showing some exemplary restraint of our own while putting some teeth into the mutually-agreed rule of law, might just be a step toward a world of greater sanity.

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N.B.: The leave a comment button has moved to the top of each post.

National Intelligence Estimate: Iran halted weapons program in 2003

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Oh guess what? While the President was suggesting “World War III” if America didn’t go get Iran—turns out it’s another “oops.” US intelligence now says Iran’s been out of the nuclear weapons business for years.

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For those who have doubts about miracles, a double one occurred today. An honest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran’s nuclear program has been issued and its Key Judgments were made public. …

“We judge that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program…

“We assess with moderate confidence Tehran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007. …

“We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely…

“We judge with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame.

“We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.” …

This NIE does not [italics in original] assume that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons

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Strike two on nuke spooks, Mr. President:

  1. None in Iraq, Americans believe you, a million perish.
  2. None in Iran, Americans say “Hold on a minute,” disaster barely averted.

Wow, Mr. President, is this what neo-conservatism means? War, unless the evidence arrives before the bombing begins? Propaganda without facts?

Honestly, who’s the person most likely to get people killed? It’s not Osama; it never was Ahmadinejad.  Are you, Mr. President, the most dangerous man in the world?

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Written by Monte

December 3, 2007 at 7:41 pm

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Islam, Politics

A brief history of Iran-US relations, part 2: Ahmedinejad, nukes, and weapons

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Cole Juan with captionOn February 27, my wife Lori and I were privileged to hear Juan Cole, the University of Michigan’s distinguished expert on Middle Eastern affairs, at a luncheon of the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. It occured to me that notes from Prof. Cole’s brief lecture, with a few supporting resources, could provide a valuable structure for understanding the back-stories that make today’s crises add up.

Part 1 of this thread sketched Prof. Cole’s list of the foundational events of Iran-US relations during the 20th century. This post offers my notes from the remainder of the lecture, and Part 3 suggests an exit strategy from neighboring Iraq.

Quotation marks indicate quotes of Prof. Cole. Other comments contain links that serve as citations.

By all means, check out Prof. Cole’s Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion for scholarly reflection on news events as they happen.

* * *

2005: REFORMERS APPEAR IMPOTENT – HARDLINERS SURGE. As it became apparent that the reform movement was unable to make sweeping change (partly due to persistent resistance from the US), Iranians began to see it as impotent. [In a comment, (see below), a knowledgeable friend points out that the US President’s inclusion of Iran in his axis of evil comments – during a time of reform – unwittingly contributed to the downfall of the reform movement.] Hardliners closed it down, setting the stage for a resurgence of control by religious conservatives.

2005: AHMEDINEJAD ELECTED PRESIDENT. … A populist “dressed as a janitor,”… Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

March 12, 2007 at 11:58 pm

Posted in Iran, Islam, Politics, Terrorism

Is Obama more style than substance? We consult

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It’s certainly a popular comment – but is it true? We went to, an independent political accountability group. Their evaluation includes a quote from last night’s debate:

Clinton: “I was somewhat amused the other night when on one of the TV shows, one of Senator Obama’s supporters was asked to name one accomplishment of Senator Obama, and he couldn’t.”

And Factcheck analyzes:

Clinton is referring to Texas state Sen. Kirk Watson, who completely whiffed when Hardball’s Chris Matthews threw him a softball question. But Clinton is wrong to suggest that Watson’s inability to answer means that Obama lacks substantive accomplishments.

In fact, Obama sponsored more than 800 bills during his eight years as an Illinois state senator. And his U.S. Senate career, while brief, has been action-packed.

As for Obama’s list of his accomplishments, he’s right on every count. A Washington Post editorial credited Obama for helping to create “the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet,” and the Coburn-Obama Act created a new Web site,, which allows anyone to see where federal contracting and grant money is being spent. Moreover, it was an Obama-sponsored amendment that ended Walter Reed’s practice of requiring outpatient military personnel to pay for their own meals.

And as a state senator in Illinois, Obama championed a bill requiring the police to videotape prisoner interrogations. Although initially controversial, the measure passed the Senate unanimously; even Republicans conceded that the turnaround was largely Obama’s doing.

Finally, while Obama didn’t mention this one, we think it’s worth noting that the Lugar-Obama non-proliferation initiative provided funds for destroying nuclear weapons and for intercepting weapons of mass destruction.

In short, Clinton is wrong to suggest that Obama lacks a substantive legislative record.

Well now, voter friend: Do you think eight hundred bills in the Illinois legislature is “all talk?” Do you think making the Army pay for veterans’ meals during treatment is “all style?”

May I invite you to bookmark this clip? If you should enjoy responding to those ubiquitous allegations, it could come in handy.  And I suppose there are a thousand such posts, and people everywhere who are doing the same thing.

We get to be a part, you and I, in these glorious internet days, of creating a groundswell of truth where once facts were too hard to come by.  What a privilege!  What a time to be alive!

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Written by Monte

February 22, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Politics, Social change

The New History of the Iraq Invasion

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SaddamBushRobert Parry, in an article for (CBS Falsifies Iraq War History), shows how victors’ versions of things become commonly accepted “truth.” This particular illustration comes from watching Scott Pelley ponder the apparent lunacy of Saddam Hussein on the Jan. 27 episode of CBS’s “60 Minutes.” Pelley interviews an FBI agent who “debriefed” Saddam.

But first, consider the Iraq story we’ve grown to believe:

The officially sanctioned U.S. account, as embraced by Bush in speech after speech, is that Saddam Hussein “chose war” by defying the U.N. over the WMD issue and by misleading the world into believing that he still possessed these weapons. […]

On Jan. 27, 2004, for example, Bush said, “We went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution – 1441 – unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.” […]

Or, on May 24, 2007:

“As you might remember back then, we tried the diplomatic route: [U.N. Resolution] 1441 was a unanimous vote in the Security Council that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. So the choice was his [Hussein’s] to make. And he made a choice that has subsequently caused him to lose his life.”

On July 14, 2003, as the U.S.-led WMD search also was coming up empty, Bush began asserting that it was all Hussein’s fault because he had never let the U.N. inspectors in. Bush told reporters:

“We gave him [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power.”

Fair enough, right? Think again. Here’s the record: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

January 28, 2008 at 9:24 pm