By Muhammad Sahimi
In a series of articles that were posted on Payvand in October 2003, the
author provided a brief history of Iran's nuclear program (Part I); described
the general outline of the arguments that justify for Iran nuclear energy as an
economically viable source of energy (Part II), and explained the crisis that
was emerging at that time in the relationship between Iran and the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (Part III). In Part IV, posted on Payvand on
December 7, 2004, the author presented a detailed economical analysis of Iran's
nuclear energy program.
The goal of the present article is twofold:
(a) We describe in detail the key role that the US
played in the 1970s in starting Iran's nuclear program. We show that not only
did the US push the Shah to buy nuclear power plants (NPPs) from the US, but was
also willing to offer Iran the technology for uranium enrichment if Iran agrees
to buy eight US-manufactured NPPs. This should be compared with the present
state of affairs whereby the US and its European allies are pressuring Iran to
refrain from utilizing its uranium enrichment facilities and, instead, import
enriched uranium for its NPP.
(b) We then compare what we describe in (a) with the
present positions of the US neoconservatives and their sympathizers, which
reveal the extent to which they are willing to inflict CIVILIAN casualties and
economic damage on Iran to stop it from starting the Bushehr reactor.
Giving wide public exposure to the neoconservatives'
and their sympathizers' thinking is, in the author's opinion, particularly
important since, as the author has pointed out in his articles over the past
three years, Iran's main antidemocratic forces - the monarchists and cultists -
have aligned themselves with these groups. Therefore, it is essential to learn
more about the fantasies of the neoconservatives and their sympathizers, which
in turn will help us become more informed about the true face and colour of
their Iranian allies who are willing to do anything to grab power in Iran.
The United States-Iran Nuclear Relations in
It was presumably 1955 when the first discussions on
developing a nuclear program for Iran took place. The first concrete step,
however, was taken in 1957 when the US signed an agreement with Iran  on
civilian nuclear cooperation. This was promoted as part of the US Atoms for
Peace Program that was supposed to provide technical assistance to the
signatories, as well as leasing them enriched uranium, and carrying out joint
research on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. In the same year, the Central
Treaty Organization (CENTO), that consisted of Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq,
Britain, and the US moved its Institute of Nuclear Science from Baghdad to
Tehran (after General Abdolkarim Ghassem's military coup d'etat in 1958, Iraq
withdrew from CENTO).
In 1959 the Shah ordered establishment of a nuclear
research center at Tehran University, Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC), and
began negotiating with the US to purchase a 5-megawatt (MW) reactor for the
Center. To this date, the Center remains one of Iran's main nuclear research
In the late 1950s the US Joint Chiefs of Staff wanted
to store nuclear bombs in Iran (presumably due to the victory of the Cuban
revolution, the rise of Fiedel Castro to power, and the support that he began
receiving from the Soviet Union). In February 1961, shortly after President John
F. Kennedy took office, the US State Department opposed the JCOS suggestion; it
was never carried out .
In September 1967 Iran received from the US 5.54 kgr
of enriched uranium, of which 5.16 kgr contained fissile uranium isotopes (which
could, in principle, be used in a nuclear bomb), to use in its research reactor
at TNRC. In addition, Iran received 112 kgr of plutonium, 104 kgr of which were
fissile isotopes . The safeguarded 5 MW nuclear research reactor, a
pool-type, water-moderated reactor that was supplied to Iran by the US firm GA
Technologies started full operations at TNRC in November 1967, using 5.58 kgr of
93% enriched uranium. The fuel was provided by the US firm United Nuclear
Corporation. In addition, the US supplied Iran hot cells which are , "heavily
shielded rooms with remotely operated arms used to chemically separate material
irradiated in the research reactor, possibly including plutonium laden
'targets'." On July 1, 1968, the first day that the Nuclear Non-proliferation
Treaty (NPT) was opened for signature, Iran signed the Treaty. It was ratified
by the Majles (the Iranian parliament) on February 2, 1970.
The US-Iran agreement, Cooperation Concerning Civil
Uses of Atoms, that had been signed in 1957 (see above) was extended on March
13, 1969 for another 10 years. The first announcement on Iran's intention for
obtaining NPPs was made in December 18, 1972 , when Iran's Ministry of Water
and Power began a feasibility study for constructing a NPP in southern Iran.
The 1973 war between the Arab countries and Israel,
and the subsequent huge increase in the price of oil, provided the Shah's
government with considerable resources. In fact, 1974 proved to be a very busy
year for Iran's atomic energy program! The Shah had originally envisioned Iran
to produce, by 1990, 10,000 MW of electricity by NPPs. However, a 1974 study by
the Stanford Research Institute concluded that Iran would need, by 1994, to
produce 20,000 MW of electricity by NPPs. Thus, in March 1974 the Shah announced
 plans for generating 23,000 MW of electricity, "as soon as possible," using
up to 23 NPPs, with a target date of 1994. To achieve his goal, the Shah
established the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), appointed Dr. Akbar
Etemad, a Swiss-trained physicist, as its first chief, and announced that the
AEOI, like everything else, would be run directly under his command.
The Shah had proposed to the US for many years the
establishment of a Joint Economic Commission (JEC) for regulating and expanding
Iran's commercial relations between the two countries. Up until 1974, the US had
always turned down the Shah's suggestion on the ground that, having a
free-market economy, the US government had no role to play in the commercial
relations with Iran. Instead, the Shah had established many such JECs with the
communist countries. However, after the severe increase in the price of oil
during 1973-1974, the US was looking for a way to recoup billions of dollars
that it was spending on importing oil and, therefore, it suddenly became very
interested in establishing a JEC with Iran! In a SECRET letter, dated April 13,
1974, to Amir Assadollah Alam, the long-time Imperial Court Minister and
confidante of the Shah, Mr. Richard Helms, the then US ambassador to Iran, wrote
"On March 14 and April 4, 1974 I discussed in
audience with His Imperial Majesty my Government's genuine interest in finding
ways to deepen and broaden the already strong ties between the Imperial
Government of Iran and the United States. I am pleased to describe to you in
more comprehensive detail my Government's views on ways in which we can mutually
enrich the relationships between our Governments. I would Greatly appreciate
this message being forwarded to its High Destination..... Secretary [of State
Henry A.] Kissinger looks forward yo discussing these matters personally with
His Imperial Majesty at a fairly early date...."
Mr. Helms then went on to suggest the establishment
of a JEC, the same commission that the US had resisted for years (!):
"There is considerable scope for expanded
cooperations between our countries in the economic field. In order to provide
proper focus and suitable high-level official guidance, we suggest the
establishment of a Joint Economic Commission at the Cabinet level. For our part,
we contemplate that the United States member of the Commission would be the
Secretary of Treasury...."
Mr. Helms then proposed the formation of several
working groups that "could address general areas of concern or specific
projects," including technology transfer, petrochemical development,
communications, and political and security matters. But the first and most
important working group that he proposed was the NUCLEAR ENERGY PRODUCTION
GROUP, for which he wrote,
"We have noted the priority that His Imperial Majesty
gives to developing alternative means of energy production through nuclear
power. This is clearly an area in which we might most usefully begin on a
specific program of cooperation and collaboration. Accordingly, we suggest that
this be the first working group under our Joint Economic Commission. The
Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission is prepared at an early date to visit
Tehran with a team of experts to discuss ways and means by which we can most
actively cooperate in this field based on our own experience."
As pointed out in detail in Part IV of this series,
the fact is that constructing NPPs in Iran in the 1970s had no economic
justification whatsoever. This had made the Shah very sensitive to the critics'
criticism - which had considerable validity - that nuclear contracts were being
imposed on Iran by the US. Mr. Alam, the Shah's confidante, also expressed his
grave concerns to him by telling him that ,
"It is not in the interest of Shahanshah's
Independent National Policy that such suggestions [Mr. Helm's] be proposed and
be called a contract,"
to which the Shah responded ,
"We will expand our relations that we already have,
and nothing more,"
just as Mr. Helms had suggested to the Shah in their
private meeting and mentioned in his letter to Mr. Alam (see the next
paragraph). Even from the US perspective, although the Shah was its close ally
at that time, selling Iran nuclear technology was also a very sensitive subject,
hence the secret nature of Mr. Helms' letter to Mr. Alam. The sensitivity can be
seen in a paragraph of his letter where, under the title PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENTS,
he stated that,
"In the ordinary course of events, our joint
initiatives in the fields mentioned above will naturally receive a certain
amount of attention. Some general reference to our expanded cooperation might
well take place during Secretary [of State Henry A.] Kissinger's next visit, but
it is my personal view that we should handle these joint endeavors as natural
outgrowths of the already close and friendly relations between the Imperial
Government of Iran and the United States....."
At the end of his letter, Mr. Helms emphasized the US
eagerness to participate in Iran's nuclear program:
"The Secretary [of State Henry A. Kissinger] has
asked me to underline emphatically the seriousness of our purpose and our desire
to move forward vigorously in appropriate ways...."
In May 1974, Dr. D.L. Ray, the Chairman of the US
Atomic Energy Commission, travelled to Iran during which he mentioned the
possibility of establishing REGIONAL uranium enrichment and reprocessing
facilities for Iran.
The next month, the Shah declared that Iran will have
nuclear weapons, "without a doubt and sooner than one would think" . The Shah
first backed off , but later on qualified his earlier statement, saying 
that Iran has
"no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons but if
small states began building them, then Iran might have to reconsider its
According to Dr. Akbar Etemad (the first Chief of the
AEOI from 1974 to 1978), the TNRC carried out experiments in which plutonium was
extracted from spent fuel using chemical agents . Note that the most
important use for plutonium is in a nuclear bomb. It is also believed that the
Shah had assembled at the TNRC a nuclear weapon design team. According to Mr.
Alam , in the mid 1970s the Shah ordered the establishment of a ``University
of Military Sciences and Technology.'' The mission of this university, which was
supposed to be in Esfahan and controlled solely by Iran's armed forces, was to
carry out research and development in the area of chemical and nuclear weapons.
The Shah had even authorized stealing the necessary science and technology from
other countries, if need be, in order for Iran to fully acquire the know-how of
making chemical and nuclear weapons. None of these activities did, of course,
provoke any reaction by the US.
On March 3, 1975, Iran and the US signed an agreement
worth about $15 billion, according to which the US was, among other things, to
build EIGHT NPPs in Iran with a total capacity of about 8,000 MW. The agreement
was signed by the US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, and Iran's Finance
Minister Mr. Houshang Ansari. The fuel for the reactors was to be supplied by
On March 14, 1975, in National Security Study
Memorandum 219 signed by Mr. Henry A. Kissinger, President Gerald R. Ford
"a study of the issues involved in reaching an
acceptable agreement with the Government of Iran which would allow nuclear
commerce between the countries - - specifically, the sale of the U.S. nuclear
reactors and materials, Iranian investment in the U.S. enrichment facilities,
and other appropriate nuclear transactions in the future."
About a month later, President Ford instructed the US
negotiators to offer Iran uranium enrichment and reprocessing facilities.
Specifically, National Security Decision Memorandum 292, dated April 22, 1975
and signed by Mr. Kissinger, stated  that the US shall
"- - Permit U.S. materials to be fabricated into fuel
in Iran for use in its own reactors and for pass-through to third countries with
whom we have Agreement."
In addition, the US was willing to allow Iran to
invest in the US uranium enrichment facility (Iran had proposed investing $2.75
billion in an enrichment facility in the US ). This is stated in the
Memorandum : The U.S. shall
"- - Agree to set the fuel ceiling at a level
reflecting the approximate number of nuclear reactors planned for purchase from
the U.S. suppliers. We would, as a fallbak, be prepared to increase the ceiling
to cover Iran's full nuclear reactor requirement under the proviso that the fuel
represents Iran's entitlement from their proposed investment in an enrichment
facility in the U.S...."
The US was also willing to allow Iran to reprocess
the spent fuels  (whic produce plutonium): The US shall
"Continue to require U.S. approval for reprocessing
of U.S. supplied fuel, while indicating that the establishment of a
multinational reprocessing plant would be an important factor favoring such
Around the same time, the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology signed a contract with Iran for providing training for Iranian
nuclear engineers. At that time, the AEOI had a staff of about 150 nuclear
physicists, about half of whom were from Argentina. The Shah increased the 1976
budget of Iran's AEOI to $1 billion from about $31 million in 1975.
In National Security Decision Memorandum 324, dated
April 20, 1976 and signed by General Brent Scowcroft, President Ford authorized
the following negotiation position for the US with Iran. The US side should
"Seek a strong political commitment from Iran to
pursue the multinational/binational reprocessing plant concept, according the
U.S. the opportunity to participate in the project....."
Note that when President Ford was offering Iran such
nuclear concessions, Dick Cheney, the present Vice President, was the White
House Chief of Staff, and Mr. Donald Rumsfeld was the US Defence Secretary.
Therefore, the same Donald Rumsfeld who was closely involved with pursuing a
nuclear deal with Iran in the 1976, and the same Donald Rumsfeld who went to
Baghdad in December 1983 to inform Saddam Hussein that the US, although
officially neutral in the Iran-Iraq war, was going to tilt towards Iraq (after
which the US provided strong military and intelligence support to Saddam
Hussein), now has a leading role in the invasion of Iraq and threatening Iran
with military strikes.
Around the same time, Mr. Jeffrey Eerkens, a US
uranium enrichment expert, travelled to Iran to obtain funding for an invention
of his for a special laser that could be used for uranium enrichment. In fact,
Mr. Eerkens obtained in 1978 a license from the US Department of Energy to sell
four lasers to Iran . The lasers were shipped to Iran in October 1978 (only
five months before Islamic Revolution's victory!). The IAEA reported recently
that Iran had experimented with this technique about 10 years ago. However,
apparently, the Eerkens lasers proved to be unworkable as a uranium enrichment
On April 12, 1977, Iran and the US signed an
agreement to exchange nuclear technology and cooperate in nuclear safety. In an
address to the symposium , "The US and Iran, An Increasing Partnership,"
held in October 1977, Mr. Sydney Sober, a representative of the US State
Department, declared that the Shah's government was going to purchase EIGHT
nuclear reactors from the US for generating electricity.
During his now-famous trip to Tehran on January 1,
1978, President Jimmy Carter and the Shah reached a new bilateral agreement for
nuclear cooperation. The US agreed to grant Iran "most favored nation" status
for reprocessing of spent nuclear fuels. Iran agreed to buy 6-8 light-water
nuclear reactors from the US (subject to approval by the US Congress).
On July 10, 1978 (only 7 months before the Islamic
Revolution's victory) the draft of the US-Iran Nuclear Energy Agreement was
signed. The agreement was supposed to facilitate cooperation in the field of
nuclear energy and to govern the export and transfer of equipment and material
to Iran's nuclear energy program. Iran was also to receive American technology
and help in searching for uranium deposits . On October 18, 1978, James R.
Schlesinger, the US Energy Secretary, sent the agreement to President Carter for
his signature. By then, however, Islamic Revolution had swept Iran, and the Shah
had informed the US Ambassador Richard Sullivan that his plans for NPPs were on
hold. Finally, in early 1979, the US stopped its supply of highly enriched
uranium to Iran. Since Iran started its nuclear energy program in the early
1980s, the US has been completely hostile towards it.
The Neoconservatives' Fantasies for Dealing
with Iran's Nuclear Program
We now move the clock forward for about 30 years to
the present times to see what the neocons and their sympathizers are saying
about Iran's nuclear energy program. We begin with a quote about the neocons
"The neocons hate two things: To be wrong and to be
It is now an indisputable fact that Iraq did not have
any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. But, that never
stopped the neocons and their sympathizers from advocating invasion of Iraq,
which ultimately succeeded when the invasion began in March 2003. The disaster
in Iraq has not, however, discouraged the necons and their sympathizers. They
now have fantasies about Iran as if Iranians are not already suffering enough in
the hands of Tehran's right wing. Too many articles are being published by the
necons and their sympathizers describing their fantasies about Iran. All one has
to do is taking a look at what such publications as the Weekly Standard, the
National Review, the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, the Times of
London, the Washington Times, and many other publications and websites contain
about Iran, or do a Google search on Messrs Michael Ledeen, Michael Rubin, Reuel
Marc Gerecht, and others. The goal of this part of the article is not to review
what they write about Iran - it will take books to do so - but only to provide
clues to neocons' and their sympathizers' thinking and their "action plans" for
Iran's nuclear energy facilities, and compare them with the US policy towards
Iran's nuclear program in the 1970s.
Before doing so, however, the author would like to
point out that, having been a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists for
nearly two decades - an organization dedicated to educating the public about the
dangers of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons - he is only
too aware of the danger that such weapons pose against the world, if they are in
the hands of extremists. Therefore, the question is NOT whether Iran, under its
present political conditions, should or should not have nuclear weapons. Rather,
the point of this part of the article is to give wider public exposure to the
neocons' and their sympathizers' fantasies about Iran, particularly among
Iranians. Since they know very well that Iran is not Iraq to be overrun, and
because they were bitten by "allies" such as Ahmad Chalabi and are well-aware
that their Iranian allies - the monarchists and cultists - have no base of
support inside Iran, they have begun having fantasies!
Exposing the neocons' and their sympathizers'
fantasies is also important from another perspective: When it comes to opposing
the spread of nuclear weapons (and it is not even certain yet whether Iran is
trying to develop nuclear weapons), the US has a double standard. Aside from
Israel's arsenal (which includes biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons)
which no US politician dares to question or even officially acknowledge, the US
does not oppose Pakistan's nuclear arsenal - an immense threat to the stability
of that part of the world, because Pakistan is an essentially failed State in a
chaotic state. Its nuclear-armed military, populated by Islamic extremists,
created the Taliban and still shields many of its leaders. Osama bin Laden could
not have hidden for so long without the support of at least some elements of
Pakistan's military. Pakistan has a sectarian war in which its majority sunni
population has been murdering the shiite minority, and its schools teach Islamic
radicalism. Abdul Ghadeer Khan, the founder and owner of Pakistan's nuclear
supermarket, could not have operated freely for so long without the support of
at least some elements of Pakistan's military. Even now, Pakistan does not allow
any foreigners, including experts and inspectors of the IAEA, to interview Mr.
Khan. However, instead of trying to alleviate this dangerous situation, the US
has granted Pakistan "special friend" status.
But, the US double standards do not end with Israel
and Pakistan. The US has exported nuclear technology to China; has offered a
non-aggresion pact and economic incentives to North Korea, and never objected to
Argentine and South Africa (which developed 16 nuclear bombs in the 1980s)
acquiring nuclear technology and know-how. It was recently announced that South
Korea and Taiwan both have been involved with enriching uranium, producing
plutonium, and even nuclear bomb making, yet the revelation did not provoke any
reaction by the US. Brazil, a signatory to the NPT, had until very recently
refused to allow the IAEA full inspection of its uranium enrichment facilities
that are under construction, yet, although Brazil provided nuclear materials to
Saddam Hussein's regime in the 1980s, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
declared on October 5, 2004, that Brazil's behavior "does not concern the US."
Here, we review the positions of two pundits
regarding Iran's nuclear energy program. They are not at the American Enterprise
Institute, the hotbed of neoconservatism, and may not consider themselves as
neoconservative pundits. However, as we show below, their positions resonate
nicely with those of the neocons.
The first pundit whose "positions" regarding Iran's
nuclear energy facilities we would like to discuss is Mr. Michael Eisenstadt, a
senior fellow at The Washington Institute. In a recent book chapter 
entitled, "The Challenges of U.S. Preventive Military Action," Mr. Eisenstadt
suggested the following covert actions, among others, against Iran's nuclear
facilities (see pages 121 and 122 of Ref. ) (the emphasis with capital
letters is mine):
"harassment or MURDER of key Iranian SCIENTISTS or
"introduction of FATAL DESIGN FLAWS into critical
reactor, centrifuge, or weapons components during their production, to ensure
CATASTROPHIC FAILURE DURING USE;"
"introduction of destructive viruses into Iranian
computer systems controlling the production of components or the operation of
"damage or destruction of critical facilities through
There are at least three important aspects of the
above covert options to consider:
(a) One wonders whether Mr. Eisenstadt's suggestion
for murdering Iranian scientists or technicians is not tantamount to
state-sponsored terrorism. If so, it appears that in Mr. Eisenstadt's view
terrorism is committed only by weaker countries or groups against powerful
(b) Likewise, it appears that Mr. Eisenstadt does not
consider sabotage as either state-sponsored terrorism, or against international
laws. It appears that in his view, international laws are good only so long as
they advance the interests of powerful nations!
(c) It is completely clear that Mr. Eisenstadt has no
notion of what constitutes a catastrophic failure in an industrial complex. We
are talking about a system which includes nuclear reactors and nuclear
materials. Any catastrophic accident or system failure in any large-scale
industrial complex, let alone a nuclear complex, is one that has immense
consequences in terms of loss of lives, long-term health problems, human
suffering, and economic and environmental damage. We only need to recall what
happened in Bhopal, India - a non-nuclear accident - and in Chernobyl, Ukraine -
a nuclear accident - to see the consequences of a catastrophic industrial
failure. The people of those areas are still paying with their lives the cost of
those accidents, with Chernobyl's total casualty reaching over 30,000.
To further boost his case for the type of covert
actions he was proposing, Mr. Eisenstadt stated that ,
"it might not be possible for Iranian authorities to
determine, for instance, whether the death of a scientist was due to natural or
un-natural causes, or whether damage to a critical facility was due to an
industrial accident or sabotage."
Consider the reasoning: Mr. Eisenstadt seems to be of
the opinion that the people who run Iran's nuclear program know nothing about
anything. He appears to have forgotten that the same Iranian authorities managed
to set up the complete cycle for enriching uranium over a period of 18 years and
hide it from the world.
It came to the author's attention that Mr.
Eisenstadt, in an e-mail that he sent to the panelists of the panel, "Assessing
the Iranian Nuclear Program: Technical Capabilities and Intent," which was part
of a workshop entitled, "Iran's Nuclear Program" (held on Tuesday November 9,
2004, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington,
D.C.), tried to put a spin on what he had stated in his article quoted above. In
that panel Mr. Eisenstadt's proposal for creating a catastrophic failure was
questioned and criticized by Professor Najmedin Meshkati of the University of
Southern California, an internationally-recognized authority on safety of
nuclear reactors. In response to Professor Meshkati's criticism, Mr. Eisenstadt
stated the following  in his e-mail:
"Had I been there [in the panel] I would have pointed
out that the term 'catastrophic failure' is used in industry to describe
'failure, often sudden and without warning, that jeopardizes the acceptable
performance of an entire system or assembly.' (This definition is from the
ChemIndustry.com website, which describes itself as the worldwide search engine
of the chemical industry). "Catastrophic" refers to how the failure affects the
operation of the system, not its impact on the people operating the facility or
living in its vicinity. There are no doubt ways to sabotage a nuclear power
plant (if one were inclined to do so and had appropriate access) to prevent
reactor start-up or to force it to shut-down without creating a hazard to the
work force or the peoples of the region."
The author has been involved with the chemical and
petroleum industry for thirty years. In addition to being a professor of
chemical engineering, carrying out research (funded by leading funding agencies
in the US) and publishing extensively (over 220 papers and 4 books) in these
areas, the author has also been, and currently is, a consultant to many
industrial coorporations. Mr. Eisenstadt's "clarification" is, in the author's
opinion, nothing but hair spiting and distorting what is widely known, and does
nothing but adding insult to the injury of his original suggestions. The
suggestion that one can cause catastrophic failure in a nuclear facility
"without creating a hazard to the work force or to the peoples of the region" is
Perhaps one of the best responses to the
"clarification" of Mr. Eisenstadt, and his claim that he was only discussing
some possibilities, was given by Dr. Guive Mirfendereski, an international laws
expert and a frequent commentator on Iran and the Middle East. In an e-mail to
Mr. Eisenstadt, Dr. Mirfendereski wrote :
"You are not in a scientific conference where all
manner of theories are proposed, or in a sci-fi convention. Since the conditions
of flawlessness of execution are never met, a catastrophic failure will produce
catastrophic consequences. To even suggest such a thing in theory is reckless
and without regard to the human toll that it will engender. Assume that the
catastrophic failure occurs in Bushehr and before you know it the Iranians [who
work there] fail to manage the failure properly - the Bhopal or Chernobyl style
cloud or waterborne contamination then begins to waft over into the Persian Gulf
and the neighboring countries, which include Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and Iraq,
where we [the US] have troops and will have for a foreseeable future. Will you
then stand up and say, oops we goofed, the intel was faulty? Instead of coming
up with Agent-Orange type solution inspired by an over-exaggerated sense of
Bond-esque machismo, maybe the time has come for you and your cohorts to talk
about befriending a country without whose friendship in the past twenty-odd
years we [the US] have managed to screw up everything we touched in the Middle
East - ironically to the ultimate detriment of the welfare of the citizens of a
certain country that wags our [the US'] national policy."
The depth of Mr. Eisenstadt's lack of understanding
of what is happening in the Middle East and what his proposals might do to that
region can be seen where he states in his article that :
"Successful U.S. prevention would require
exceptionally complete intelligence; near flawless military execution; and deft
post-strike diplomacy to mitigate an anti-American nationalist backlash, deter
retaliation, and, most importantly, ensure that military action does not poison
pro-American sentiment or derail the movement for political change in Iran. The
complex, daunting, and somewhat contradictory nature of these challenges (e.g.,
successful prevention could harm short-term prospects for political change and
complicate long-term prospects for rapprochement with a new Iran) only
underscores the importance of exhausting diplomatic options before giving
serious consideration to military action."
In other words, Mr. Eisenstadt believes that the US
can cause a catastrophic failure in Iran's nuclear energy facilities, with
unforeseen human, economic, and environmental consequences, but if the US only
has "deft post-strike diplomacy" it can prevent a backlash and piosoning of
pro-American sentiment, or derailment of the movement for political change in
Iran. What Mr. Eisenstadt is saying is, in fact, rehashing of what all the
neocons have been saying: That the reason for the anti-US feelings in the Middle
East is just bad public relations, and has nothing to do with what the US has
actually been doing there. In other words, as a Bush Administration official
recently stated, the US should "create reality" as it goes ahead with its
policies in the Middle East.
The second pundit whose position regarding Iran's
nuclear energy facilities we discuss is Mr. Patrick Clawson. He is deputy
director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a pro-Israel think
tank. Similar to Mr. Eisenstadt, Mr. Clawson has been advocating sabotage, and
creating industrial accidents in Iran's nuclear energy facilities. In a recent
article Mr. Clawson stated that :
"In an ideal world, the United States could disrupt
Iran's nuclear program through covert means, such as corrupting software
In another recent article  Mr. Clawson was quoted
as going further, stating that:
"The idea that the only contingency plan available is
to use U.S. air raids is not true. Given the shoddy design of the Russian
nuclear plants whose blueprints Iran is using for its facilities, one could well
imagine that there could be catastrophic industrial accidents."
However, it was in the Workshop in Washington
(mentioned above) that Mr. Clawson stated his position most "eloquently." His
remarks followed up Mr. Henry Sokolski's response to Professor Najmedin
Meshkati's inquiry about suggestion for sabotaging Iran's nuclear system and Mr.
Eisenstadt's written statements quoted above. The following remarks were
transcribed verbatim from the C-SPAN live and then re-broadcast of the Workshop
on Iran's Nuclear Program. Mr. Clawson said (the emphasis with capital letters
are the author's) :
"Look, if we could find a way in which we could
introduce computer viruses which caused the complete shutdown of the Bushehr
system before it became operational, that would be DELIGHTFUL."
"If we could find ways in which these very
complicated centrifuges, which are spinning at such high speeds, could develop
stability problems and fly apart, and the cascade [of the centrifuges] could be
DESTROYED, I think that would be DELIGHTFUL."
The readers surely note that empty centrifuges do not
spin! They only spin at high speeds when they contain uranium hexafluoride which
is in gaseous state. So, destroying the cascade of the centrifuges only implies
rapidly spreading the uranium compound everywhere, from which Mr. Clawson would
derive delight. He continued:
"And, indeed, if we could find a way to create an
industrial accident of the scale of the Three Mile Island which did not cause a
single fatality, which would prevent Bushehr from becoming operational, I think
that would also be very HELPFUL."
So, the contention is that a nuclear accident of the
type and scale of the Three Mile Island would not cause any fatality! Clearly,
Mr. Clawson has not done his homework. The author invites Mr. Clawson and the
interested readers to watch the award-winning video, "Three Mile Island
Revisited" . To quote, the video
"directly challenges the claim of the nuclear
industry and government that 'no one died' from the core meltdown of the Three
Mile Island nuclear power plant in 1979, America's worst nuclear disaster.
Through the testimony of area residents and scientific experts, the documentary
presents compelling evidence that cancer deaths and birth defects increased in
the area surrounding the Pennsylvania plant."
The author also suggests that Mr. Clawson and the
interested readers read, "People Died at Three Mile Island," chapter 14 of a
seminal book  to learn about the chilling facts about this nuclear accident,
from birth defects and increased rate of child mortality, to increased cancer
deaths in that area.
Mr. Clawson then continued,
"So, there are a whole variety of mechanisms that
could be used to stop Iran's nuclear program, that would be much less dangerous
than some of the other methods that we are talking about. We are talking about
military strikes. I hate to tell you this, but military strikes kill people, and
that fact we have to take into consideration."
So, Mr. Clawson was apparently worried about loss of
human lives as a result of military strikes. But he immediately revealed his
true colour (if he already had not by making the statement about a Three Mile
Island-type of accident):
"If we could find ways to bring about industrial
accidents, that offer good prospects of not endangering human life, but may
UNFORTUNATELY CAUSE SOME COLLATERAL DAMAGE, then that's a plan that we have to
Therefore, Mr. Clawson immediately contradicted
himself and conceded that industrial accidents of the type he is talking about
do cause some (how much?) collateral damage.
After the 1995 agreement was signed by Iran and
Russia for completing the Bushehr reactor, the Clinton administration began
charging that the plutonium that one can extract from the nuclear waste that the
reactor would produce could be used by Iran for making nuclear weapons. However,
this issue was addressed by Iran and Russia, when they negotiated an agreement
by which the nuclear wastes from the Bushehr reactor would be returned to
Russia. In fact, the Bushehr reactor, at which most of Messrs Eisenstadt and
Clawson fury and covert plans are aimed, is believed by many experts to be
incapable of producing plutonium suitable for making a nuclear bomb. For
example, according to Thomas Stauffer ,
"The reactor at Bushehr is the wrong kind of nuclear
reactor for producing weapons-grade fissile material. It will produce the wrong
kind of plutonium.... It can be operated only in the wrong way with regard to
yielding plutonium, and it is the wrong kind of reactor as well, in the sense
that a facility such as Iran's is easily amenable to close surveillance, not
lending itself at all to any covert diversion - of even the wrong kind of
However, the neocons and their sympathizers would
have none of these. The only thing that would satisfy this group is the complete
destruction of Iran's nuclear energy facility, regardless of its human,
environmental and economic consequences. Thus, having "successfully" completed
their "Project for the New Iraqi Century," the neocons and their sympathizers
have begun having fantasies about Iran. We already have neocons among Iran's
right wing in Tehran who have been trying to suppress Iran's democratic
movement. We should look forward to seeing Iranian neo-monarchists and
neo-cultists as well, the US neocons' natural allies.
It is clear that the Frankstein that the US now calls
Iran's nuclear program was conceived by the Shah and his government, with the
direct assistance and strong encouragement (many believe pressure) by the US.
Not only did the US want the Shah to develop nuclear infrastructure and build
nuclear reactors (hence inspiring him to start the work for building nuclear
bombs), but also offered him uranium enrichment technology, the main point of
contention between the US and its European allies, and Iran. That was, of
course, because the Shah was the US' dictator, having put him in power after he
had been run out of Iran in 1953. The present reactionary right wing in Tehran
is home grown. That appears to be the main difference between the Shah and his
regime and Tehran's present right wingers.
Nearly 27 years ago, when the author moved to the US
for his graduate studies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, the
neocons and pundits such as Messrs Clawson and Eisenstadt were considered as
belonging to fringe groups on the far right. Today, such groups are gradually
becoming the "mainstream" of the American politics. With the neocons being in
power for the next four years, we may have to develop new meanings for "fringe
groups," "far right," etc. In that case, the author shudders at the thought of
what the new "fringe groups" or the "far right" may constitute, if the lunatic
neocons represent the "mainstream."
 US Department of State, "Atoms for Peace
Agreement with Iran," Department of State Bulletin 36 (April 15, 1957).
 G.A. Morgan, "The Current Internal Political
Situation in Iran," in Digital National Security Archive, secret internal paper
dated February 11, 1961. http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com
 Digital National Security Archive, January 29,
1980, "US Supplied Nuclear Material to Iran." http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com
 D. Albright, "An Iranian Bomb?," The Bulletin of
Atomic Scientists, vol. 51, No. 1 (January 1995).
 "Nuclear Plant Study Started," Kayhan
International (December 19, 1972).
 Tehran Magazine (March 18, 1974), page 2.
 A.A. Alam, "Alam's Diaries", Volume 4, edited by
A. Alikhani (Maziar Press, Tehran, 2001), pp. 54-58. Mr. Alam had left a copy of
the letter with his diaries, which is reprinted in the book. These documents may
also be found in, "Issues and Talking Points: Intensified Bilateral
Cooperation," Department of State Briefing in Digital National Security Archive;
 A.A. Alam, "Alam's Diaries", Volume 4, edited by
A. Alikhani (Maziar Press, Tehran, 2001), page 7.
 "More Fingers on Nuclear Trigger?" Christian
Science Monitor (June 25, 1974).
 According to Ref. , Iran's embassy in France
issued a statement, denying that the Shah made that statement.
 Der Spiegel, February 8, 1975.
 A. Etemad, "Iran," in, "European
Non-Proliferation Policy," edited by H. Mueller (Oxford University Press,
London, 1987), page 9.
 A.A. Alam, "Alam's Diaries", Volume 1, edited by
A. Alikhani (Maziar Press, Tehran, 2001), page 107.
 See President Gerald R. Ford's Presidential
Documents at www.ford.utexas.edu/library/document/nsdmnssm/nssm219a.htm
 See President Gerald R. Ford's Presidential
Documents at www.ford.utexas.edu/library/document/nsdmnssm/nssm292a.htm
 Department of State Secret Report, "Current
Foreign Relations: US-Iran Commission cements bilateral ties; Iran and Iraq
agree to settle differences." See, http://nsarchive.chadwyck.com.
 See President Gerald R. Ford's Presidential
Documents at www.ford.utexas.edu/library/document/nsdmnssm/nssm324a.htm
 L.S. Spector, "Going Nuclear: The Spread of
Nuclear Weapons 1986-1987" (Ballinger Publishing, Cambridge, 1987), page 46.
 L.S. Spector and J.R. Smith, "Nuclear Ambitions:
The Spread of Nuclear Weapons, 1989-1990" (Westview Press, Boulder, 1990), page
 A. Etemad and N. Meshkati, "The US-Iran Nuclear
Dispute: Dr Mohamed ElBaradei's Mission Possible to Iran," Iran News (July 13,
 Department of State Memorandum, "Iran: The
US-Iran Nuclear Energy Agreement," October 20, 1978.
 This beautiful and insightful quote is not the
author's. He read it in an article but, unfortunately, could not locate its
original source. The author would be grateful to any reader who can provide him
with the original source of the quote.
 "Checking Iran's Nuclear Ambitions," edited by
H. Sokolski and P. Clawson (Carlisle, PA, U.S. Army War College, 2004). The
document can be accessed on-line at: http://www.carlisle.army.mil/ssi/pdffiles/00359.pdf. Those readers who may feel depressed after reading Mr.
Eisenstadt's chapter in this book, may consider reading the chapter by Mr. Rob
Sobhani for some relief and entertainment. (That chapter is, however, the
subject of a forthcoming article by the author.)
 The author is grateful to Professor Najm
Meshkati for sharing with him the e-mail on December 6, 2004.
 The author is grateful to Dr. Guive
Mirfendereski for granting him permission, on December 6, 2004, to quote him
 P. Clawson, "How to Rein in Iran Without Bombing
It," the Los Angeles Times (Friday October 15, 2004).
 S. Efron, "U.S. Options Few in Feud With Iran,"
the Los Angeles Times (Monday December 13, 2004).
 The author is grateful to Professor Najm
Meshkati for his invaluable help with transcribing what Mr. Clawson stated.
 The video was produced by Steve Jambeck and Karl
Grossman, and is about 30 minutes long.
 H. Wasserman and N. Solomon (with R. Alvarez and
E. Walters), "Killing Our Own, the Disaster of America's Experience with Atomic
Radiation" (Dell Publishing Co., New York, 1982).
 T.R. Stauffer, "Unlike Dimona, Iran's Bushehr
Reactor Not Useful for Weapons-Grade Plutonium," Washington Report on Middle
East Affairs (September 2003), p. 28; see, http://www.washington-report.org/archives/sept03/0309028.html.
About the author:
Muhammad Sahimi is
Professor & Chairman of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University
of Southern California in Los Angeles. In addition to several other scientific
organizations, since 1986 he has been a member of the Union of Concerned
Scientists and a member of its Partners for Earth Program. He has been a
visiting professor in Australia, Europe, and the Middle East, and a consultant
to many energy firms around the world. Portions of this article and a shortened
version of Part IV will appear in the Fall issue of Harvard International