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Iranian Nuclear Deal: Down Hans Blix’s Rabbit Hole

1-Patrick-henningsen-BW1Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire

Last week, a preliminary agreement was reached between international negotiators from the P5+1 and Iran over the future on Tehran’s civilian nuclear industry.

On one level, it’s a major diplomatic achievement, but on another level it’s fraught with gremlins. Suffice to say, it’s a little premature to be celebrating, and here’s why…

There is still vehement resistance to any deal with Iran, and it’s coming from two specific places: the US Republican Congress and the Israeli Lobby. Both factions have stated their position openly from the onset which is absolutely “no deal” with Iran, and are advocating indefinite sanctions or a preemptive military strike against Iran in the near future. In the words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “No deal is better than a bad deal.” For some reason I’m left with the distinct impression that any deal would be a bad deal for old Bibi.

The Iran nuclear issue will almost certainly drag on, if not accelerate well into 2016, where it will become the central foreign policy piece for Republican presidential candidates, their campaigns and television debates, with each contender going as far to the right as possible on the issue so as to assuage the ‘national security’ fears while courting their November foot soldiers. ‘Talking tough’ on Iran will be a requirement for all GOP contenders looking to attract money and support from Neoconservative and Israeli Super PACS. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) has already pledged to ‘kill’ any Iran deal his first day in office if he’s elected president in 2016. Expect more to come.

With Iran in focus, the stage is set for a new flavor of power-partisan politics. On the right, you have either sanctions or war, and on the left, should US Secretary of State and chief Iranian negotiator, John Kerry, enter the presidential race for the Democrats alongside Hillary Clinton,  their party’s focus will be on a peaceful settlement and working through multilateral and diplomatic channels. Once the primaries are finished, Iran will be the ultimate ‘wedge issue’, custom-designed to polarize US voters on foreign policy, the same way that abortion, prayer in schools, and gay marriage does domestically every four years.

Another aspect which is being overlooked at present, is that regional events in places like Yemen, Syria and Iraq could eventually overtake the Iranian nuclear question as a central policy concern, even for the hawks in Washington. The regional theater is already in danger of becoming incompressible for policy hacks in Washington, with some of the west’s induced conflicts threatening to spiral even more out of control than they already are. Yemen is already an international disaster beyond the pale, with Saudi Arabia launching all all-out military assault, and possible ground invasion of its sovereign neighbor on the basis that it is “concerned for its national security.”

See my summary from last week, April 3rd on RT International:

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Last week, I said on air (above) during that report for RT International that the focus of this preliminary deal would ultimately shift over to specific technical aspects of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection process, and that’s exactly what has happened since.

Former UN weapons inspector David Albright revealed some of the sticking points which will hamper the deal between now and June 30th, and perhaps long after that. He stated in a recent segment on NPR:

“One of the critical things in any verification arrangement is that the inspectors can go anywhere in Iran. It’s not clear to me that they could go to any military site in Iran. More importantly, the one issue that seems unresolved is, how quickly can they go there? The United States has taken the position – and I agree with it – that the methods the IA uses through its traditional safeguards, through its additional protocol – those measures are not sufficient. And the U.S. is trying to work out a procedure with Iran in order to provide quicker access or more guaranteed access. And those provisions are not negotiated yet.”

Once you enter the realm of inspections, there is no end to the minutia and potential Segways.

This is already shaping up to be a repeat of the long-running Iraqi weapons inspection serial science fiction drama which spanned through the 1990’s until 2003. This and other technical details will almost certainly drive this narrative towards “A Tale of Two Inspectors”, back into the dual worlds of former UN weapons inspectors Scott Ritter from the US, and Hans Blix from Norway. Both men had similar jobs in relation to monitoring and searching for Iraq’s nonexistent WMD’s, but played very different roles in a drama which unfolded on the international stage. Scott Ritter was openly vocal about how there were no weapons, while Hans Blix was playing a seemingly more diplomatic role and came across as fairly inconclusive during the intense run-up to a US-led bombing and invasion of Iraq. Ritter insisted that there were never any weapons and that the whole process in the run-up to the war was a waste of time, while Blix maintained they simply ‘hadn’t found anything yet’ and stayed true to his job description, even though Blix was being undermined by the CIA at the orders of Paul Wolfowitz at the time.

Writer Jason Leoplod from Counterpunch reported in 2003:

“Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, was so eager to see the United States launch a preemptive strike against Iraq in early 2002, that he ordered the CIA to investigate the past work of Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector, who in February 2002, was asked to lead a team of U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq to search for weapons of mass destruction, in an attempt to undermine the scientist.”

In the end, Ritter was right, and everyone else, bar a few reasonable voices, was wrong.

Washington seems to love when history repeats itself, so expect the exact same story line from the Iraqi weapons inspections to take shape here with Iran, albeit with much higher geopolitical stakes in terms of nuclear vs. chemical weapons.

One American politician who would very much like to see history repeat itself is freshman Senator Tom Cotton for Arkansas (R), who is lobbying to skip diplomacy and go straight to the business of bombing. He told NPR recently:

“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. Several days of air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior. For interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions. All we’re asking is that the president simply be as tough in the protection of America’s national security interest as Bill Clinton was.”

That’s right, another “surgical” operation, which will no doubt be given some lofty arcane title like “Operation Magic Carpet”. Cotton believes that his bombing run could mirror the Clinton raid which lasted only four days, hitting some 100 Iraqi targets because U.N. inspectors claimed that the Iraqis were not cooperating with inspections.

This brings us right back to one of the key memes which was inserted early on – by both the Americans and Israelis – into the Iranian discussion, is the loaded rhetorical question, “Can we trust the Iranian with a deal? How do we stop them from cheating on the deal?” The question already implies that Iran is actively working towards building a nuclear arsenal, even though there is no evidence at all to support that assumption. In fact, it’s Washington who has already moved the goal posts on the deal agreed by all parties in Lausanne, Switzerland, as evidenced by a new ‘fact sheet’ just released by Washington listing a number of new points of the deal which were not included last week. By slipping this under the door after the deadline, Washington has already infuriated Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Now Iran is accusing US of cheating on its word, and the final agreement is still yet to be signed on June 30th.

Still, that  the Iranians are habitual cheaters will always remain the dominant meme and basis of justifying a heavy emphasis being placed on ‘snap inspections’ where the IAEA inspectors would figuratively parachute in with totally unimpeded access to every single site and installation inside Iran, as well a ‘Big Brother’ requirement – cameras (yes, more cameras, the solution to all the world’s ills) positioned throughout Iran’s nuclear facilities.

To continue with the ‘snap’ theme, in addition to snap inspections, we are also told there will be ‘snap-back sanctions’ should Iran ever be found to fall short of their end of the agreement. And to make matter even more difficult, the US are also backpedaling on a previous promise to lift international nuclear-based sanctions once the deal is signed this summer. Washington is now saying that sanctions will be lifted, but only gradually over time, in phases. This is another potential deal-breaker for Iran.

Of course, this sounds completely feasible for hawks in Washington and Tel Aviv, but not for Tehran – who understandably have their own legitimate ‘national security’ issue to worry about. For those US Senators who haven’t been taking their Prevagen, and suffer from acute memory loss, they may have forgotten how the IAEA had previously passed on sensitive information and intelligence about a number of Iranian nuclear scientists, only later to see many of those same scientists assassinated, most certainly by contract agents hired by either the US or Israel, or both. You might call that a legitimate concern.

The other incident which continues to escape the minds of Washington’s hawks and the Israel Lobby, is how in 2009, ‘Operation Olympic Games’ was carried out in a joint US-Israel cyber attack which planted the Stuxnet and Flame viruses in Iranian nuclear facilities in order derail Iran’s civilian nuclear program. It didn’t stop there, security experts also believe that the same cyber worm was also deployed against some Russian nuclear facilities.

Keep in mind the other deadly core meltdown at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union and at Fukushima in Japan, and you can see why Iran just might be more than a little concerned with its own ‘national security’  in the face of such a reckless espionage operation.

Amid all the talk and scheming, no one seems to mention that the CIA’s own intelligence assessment says that Iran has not been pursuing a nuclear weapon for a very long time now. There is no evidence that their nuclear weapons program exists, but there plenty of wild speculation and political conspiracy theories about it. Time to dive back down Hans Blix’s rabbit hole.

This explosive soap opera is just getting started.

READ MORE IRAN NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Iran Files

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