THE ROVING EYE
A bad case of nuclear Iranophobia
By Pepe Escobar
As the climax to a leaking frenzy in Western corporate media that bordered on - literally - nuclear hysteria, United Nations inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) finally released a report essentially charging that Tehran had tried to design a nuclear weapon to fit in a missile warhead until as late as last year.
According to the report, Iran worked "on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components".
Besides the effort to redesign and miniaturize a Pakistani nuclear weapon, Tehran is also accused of trying to develop a covert operation to enrich uranium - the "green salt project" - that could be used "in an undisclosed enrichment program".
All this leads the IAEA to express "serious concerns" about research and development "specific to nuclear weapons".
The report sells the notion that while the IAEA has tried for years to monitor declared Iranian stockpiles of uranium ore and processed uranium - currently 73.7 kilograms of 20%-enriched uranium in Natanz plus 4,922 kg of uranium enriched to less than 5% - Tehran, in secret, has been trying to build a nuclear weapon.
The IAEA insists is relying on "credible" intelligence - over 1,000 pages of documentation - from more than 10 countries, and has drawn on eight years of "evidence".
Yet the IAEA has no independent means to confirm the enormous mass of information - and disinformation - it receives from mostly Western powers. Mohammad ElBaradei - who was the predecessor of the Japanese Yukya Amano as the head of the IAEA - said so, explicitly, many times. And he always disputed what passes for "Iran intelligence" - knowing it was politicized to the extreme, and trespassed by waves of rumor and speculation.
No wonder ultra-conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan had reason to ask whether that was a IAEA report or an American diktat to the meek, easily pressured Amano.
There's nothing even remotely earth-shaking about the report - satellite images and speculation by "diplomats" being sold as irrefutable "intelligence". If this looks like the build-up towards the war on Iraq, that's because it does. Essentially, it's regurgitation of a four-year-old farce, known as the "laptop of death". 
The scenario closer to reality - even taking into consideration the existence of a covert program, which is not substantiated - spells out that building a nuclear warhead, for Tehran, is counter-productive.
Yet the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) - in charge of all high-level military programs - may certainly keep the option of building a nuclear warhead as fast as lightning, as a deterrent in case they were absolutely sure the US would invade, or even launch an extended "shock and awe". The undisputed true consequence of Iran eventually holding a nuclear weapon is to end once and for all with the ever-present threat of an American attack. Any doubts, please consult the North Korean dossier.
The Tehran regime may be ruthless, but they're no amateurs; to build a nuclear weapon - either in secret or in full view of the IAEA - and go bang, would lead them nowhere. The regime - which is already embroiled in a vicious, complex internal battle between the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the faction of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad - would be totally isolated geopolitically.
The Iranian population is way more concerned with inflation, unemployment, corruption and the yearning for more political participation to be plunged inside a global nuclear controversy. There is ample positive consensus in Iran about a civilian nuclear program. But there's no guarantee even a minority would endorse an "Islamic bomb".
Calling Israel's bluff
What does rattle the nerves not only of Israel but the powerful array of US interests who 32 years later are still in denial about losing their prized gendarme of the Gulf (the shah of Iran) is that Tehran keeps them guessing, forever.
Predictably, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel will keep barking to deafening levels, while trying by all ruses necessary to wag the (American) dog.
The same Netanyahu that neither US President Barack Obama nor French President Nicolas Sarkozy can stand anymore has a single-minded strategy; to draw Washington and a few minions, from the Brits to the House of Saud - and this has nothing to do with "international community" - to exercise maximum pressure on Tehran. Otherwise, Israel will attack.
This is nonsense, because Israel can't attack even a stray poodle. All its crucial military hardware is American. It needs special permission to cross Saudi or Iraqi airspace. It needs a green card from Washington from A to Z. The Obama administration may be accused of everything - but it's not suicidal.
Only those non-entities at the US Congress - despised by the overwhelming majority of Americans, according to any number of polls - can possibly believe in the martial marching orders they get from Netanyahu via the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby.
So what's left is the possibility of even more sanctions. Four rounds of harsh UN Security Council sanctions already target Iran's imports and banking and finance. But that's the end of the line.
Russia is not convinced by the IAEA report, and already said so explicitly. China is not impressed; the IAEA simply did not have enough evidence to flatly accuse Iran of conducting an active nuclear weapons program.
So forget about Russia and China accepting another US-imposed round of sanctions at the UN - which would be literally nuclear; a de facto boycott of Iran's sales of oil and gas.
Only a bunch of clowns can assume that China would vote against its national security interest at the UN Security Council. Iran is China's third-largest oil supplier, after Saudi Arabia and Angola. China is importing around 650,000 barrels of oil a day from Iran - 50% more compared to last year. That's over 25% of Iran's total oil exports.
Even the Obama administration had to admit publicly that a boycott is unimaginable; it would deprive the depression-bound global economy of no less than 2.4 million barrels of oil a day, with the barrel probably hitting $300 or even $400.
Tehran has - and will continue to find - ways to bypass financial sanctions. India has paid Iranian oil imports via a Turkish bank. Tehran is starting to use a Russian bank as well.
This also proves that Israel's mantra of the "international community" isolating Iran is a monumental bluff. Key actors such as BRICS members Russia, China and India keep close commercial relations.
On top of it, amid all the Iranophobic hysteria, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) - China, Russia and four Central Asian "stans" - engaged in their latest summit in St Petersburg. Iran - which enjoys observer status - was there, via Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. Sooner or later Iran will be admitted as a full member.
If even before Iran joining the SCO China and Russia considered an attack on Iran as an attack on both of them - as well as on the idea of Asian energy integration - it will be very enlightening to watch Israel trying to convince the US to conduct an attack on Asia.
1. See here .
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.