A major reason for the Warfare State’s overwhelming dominance of American governance is the abysmal failure of the Fourth Estate to do its job. The old school of hard-hitting investigative reporting has given way to a culture of laziness and mendacity. Laziness comes from instant access to the on-line archives—which means that once a narrative is planted there, copy and paste are a few clicks away. And mendacity because the archives are heavily populated and shaped by the original reporting from the leading media organs which unabashedly practice “access journalism”. That is, the Washington Post, CNN, Fox, NBC and often the New York Times are completely in the tank for the Warfare State.
Nowhere has this syndrome had a more baleful impact than on the 30-year running narrative that Iran is an outlaw state hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. That meme filters into the daily news coverage with such automaticity that it might as well be holy scripture. And its a complete distortion of the actual history that has evolved since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Garth Porter’s important new book entitled “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of The Iran Nuclear Scare” accomplishes exactly what its title promises. It tracks the whole convoluted history back to its ironic beginning. Namely, that the Iranian nuclear program was originally a monumental undertaking by the megalomaniac Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi designed to pave Iran with nuclear plants in order to minimize domestic consumption of oil and thereby maximize export earnings from the 5 million barrels per day Iran was then producing.
The grand deal was that all the equipment for the massive plant construction program would be supplied by the nuclear industry of the West, and that the enriched uranium needed to fuel the plants would be supplied by a French led consortium. The latter even held a multi-billion Iranian deposit at the time the revolution occurred.
What happened next is well explained in the review below which covers the1980s phase when the new regime attempted to restart an extremely modest version of the Shah’s program—by completion of the 75% finished Bushehr reactor and obtaining enriched uranium to fuel it from the French consortium. In short, the US blocked all Iranian efforts to obtain equipment to finish the reactor and exercise its call on French enrichment services. This was driven by the Reagan Administrations insane tilt to Iraq during the 1980s Iran-Iraq War and its open satellite targeting aid in support of Saddam Hussein’s chemical attacks on Iranian troops, including its boy soldier brigades.
The nuclear equipment and material embargo even went to far as to sequester Iran’s $2 billion deposit with the French, and eventually drove the Iranians into the black market in search of the materials and know-how to develop its own enrichment capacity. This action, in turn, was quickly labeled as evidence of a secret plan by the Iranian regime to obtain nuclear weapons capability– and so the nuclear scare narrative was off and running.
In the section below, author Sheldon Richman picks up with the late 1980’s opening to dialogue and negotiations that occurred when the moderate Rafsanjani came to power and did arrange for the release of American hostages being held in Lebanon by Hezbollah. It makes clear that the Iranian initiative was capriciously shutdown by the Poppy Bush Administration and his chief of national security, Brent Scowcroft. But the coup d’ grace was administered ultimately by one of the most detestable of cold warriors, Robert Gates. In this instance, Gate’s career had almost been ruined when Rafsanjani had earlier outed the Iran-Contra scheme.
The evidence that Gate’s harbored a grudge when he finally became Bush’s CIA director can hardly be disputed. And the documents now available make clear that it was Gates who finally closed the door to negotiations with the Rafsanjani government, thereby initiatiating an new round of hostilities in the 1990s.
In the late 1980s the U.S. government had an opportunity to change its relationship with Iran from hostile to nonadversarial. It had been hostile since 1979, when the Islamic revolution overthrew the brutal U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and Iranians held 52 Americans hostage for more than a year.
Despite all this, reports Gareth Porter in his important new book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, change was in the air in 1989.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, died and was succeeded by the president, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Then Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaker of the parliament, was elected president. His “victory brought to power a pragmatic conservative who was openly committed to integrating Iran into the global economic system,” Porter writes.
Meanwhile in the United States, George H.W. Bush had become president. Bush, Porter writes, “recognized the opportunity [for a new relationship] and pledged in his inaugural address … that Iran’s ‘assistance’ in the liberation of U.S. hostages being held by a militant group in Lebanon would be ‘long remembered,’ adding, ‘Goodwill begets goodwill.'”
The Bush administration took steps toward normalization, and Iran went to work on freeing the hostages. On December 4, 1991, the last American was freed.
“Reciprocal gestures” from the Americans, such as lifting some economic sanctions and removing Iran from the terrorist list, got a close look.
Then suddenly, in April 1992, the administration changed course.
Why? According to Porter, people in the administration have since said that intelligence reports indicated Iran was planning to engage in terrorism, rearm, and procure nuclear weapons. The source for this information was Bush’s national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. “But,” Porter writes, “Scowcroft cited no intelligence of an actual terrorist attack by Iran, except for the claim of an Iranian assassination of someone who was not identified somewhere in Connecticut. And that claim was apparently either a mistake or a deliberate ruse by someone seeking to justify the refusal to make any reciprocal gesture to Iran, because no such assassination was ever registered in the FBI’s central database of incidents relevant to its work.”
This would foreshadow a pattern of attributing, without evidence, violence almost anywhere in the world to Iran or an Iran-backed group. As for the claim about nuclear weapons, Porter’s book demonstrates that while Iran wanted a civilian nuclear industry, including the ability to enrich uranium, it never sought a nuclear weapon—and the U.S. government knew it.
What, then, accounts for the change from conciliation to continued antagonism? Porter partly implicates Robert Gates, who became CIA director just as interest in a new relationship was vanishing. “One explanation for his hostility to Iran,” Porter writes, “was that he blamed then president Rafsanjani for having revealed the 1986 secret visit of NSC [National Security Council] staff to Iran in connection with the Iran-Contra plan—an episode that almost cost Gates his career.… Gates was nominated for CIA director in 1987, but he withdrew his name after it became clear that he would not be confirmed because of questions raised by other witnesses about his veracity.”
But Porter also provides ample evidence that the main reason for the about-face was fear at the CIA and Pentagon that their budgets and staffs would be slashed with the end of the Cold War. The “CIA had a very large institutional interest at stake in treating Iran as a new, high-priority threat to US interests…,” Porter writes. “The CIA leadership had begun the search for substitutes for the Soviet threat as early as 1988.”
Would these government agencies really manufacture a threat merely to protect themselves from budget cutters in the wake of the Cold War? Anyone who knows anything about bureaucracies knows the answer to that question.
This column originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation.
Published at Reason.com.View original post.