US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton engaged in some fearmongering on Iran on the February 7 edition of CNN's State of the Union.
Asked which country was the most dangerous to the US, Clinton said: "In terms of a country, obviously a nuclear-armed country like North Korea or Iran pose both a real or a potential threat."
When the interviewer asked if Clinton knew for sure Iran was nuclear armed, she replied: "No, no, but we believe that their behavior certainly is evidence of their intentions."
To put Iran in the same category as North Korea in 2010 and to make it among the primary "threats" challenging the United States is just bizarre. The US intelligence establishment continues to express doubt whether Iran has, or even wants, a nuclear weapons program.
Tehran does have a nuclear enrichment program, which is permitted by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran allows United Nations inspections of its nuclear facilities. Iran is not as transparent as the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would like, but there is no evidence of a weapons program.
Clinton claimed Iran's new facility near Qom is evidence that it intends to build a bomb. But then IAEA head Mohammed Elbaradei was invited to inspect it in October and found a "hole in a mountain" with no equipment or uranium on-site.
The facility is too small to be an efficient producer of high-enriched uranium for bombs, and is more likely intended to serve as a repository of equipment and know-how that cannot be bombed by the US or Israel.
It is a trick of the Washington establishment to scare US people into a conviction that some small, poor, Third World country is a dire threat to the most massively funded and armed military in the world.
Clinton did defend the Obama administration's attempts to engage in dialogue with North Korea and Iran (again, placing them on the same level). She justified this with the argument that attempting to engage the "problem countries" made it easier, when negotiations failed, to convince countries such as Russia and China to ratchet up sanctions.
News from Iran will be spun by the US media to justify Clinton's fears. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made headlines on February 7 by directing Iran's (regularly inspected) nuclear research establishment at Natanz near Isfahan to begin attempting to enrich uranium to 19.75%.
He said this is so the country will have the ability to supply its own fuel for its sole reactor that produces medical isotopes for treating cancer.
Any uranium enriched to 19.75% and fed through the reactor is transformed into isotopes and then used up.
Iran is openly announcing this decision and informing the IAEA, in accordance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is also not something they'll be able to accomplish soon.
In the past, Iran bought the enriched uranium for the isotope reactor from Argentina. Iran's government is horrible, but it is less dictatorial than that of the Argentinean generals of the 1970s and early 1980s who developed Buenos Aires' nuclear enrichment capabilities to the point where it really could have made a bomb.
There is no good evidence to contradict Iran's claim it doesn't want nuclear weapons. The list of other countries capable of enriching uranium to 19.75% includes Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Japan, Holland, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Britain and the US.
There would be nothing extraordinary about Iran joining this list, and none of the others on it, except North Korea, are being sanctioned —for actually making a bomb.
South Korea was never sanctioned for secretly enriching to 77%, near bomb grade, something Iran has never been accused of.
It would be dangerous if Iran decided to enrich uranium to 95% to make a bomb. To do so, it would have to evade all US electronic surveillance, withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and throw out the UN inspectors.
No country actively and continuously inspected by the IAEA has ever developed an atomic bomb.
The US has also been successful in enticing Iranian nuclear physicists to defect, with insider knowledge and documents. The idea that Iran could conceal a major enrichment facility somewhere is far-fetched, because enrichment is a water- and electricity-intensive activity that can be detected.
Even just the building activity for the new small facility near Qom showed up on US satellite surveillance.
Iran is already producing low enriched uranium for reactor fuel. That it has decided to produce a higher grade for its medical infrastructure is neither surprising nor a cause for panic.
[Abridged from www.juancolecom.]