Nuclear fear-mongering on Iran finds a new home

 In Iran


UANI's cryptic bus stop ad

Now that the Bush administration is heading off into the sunset, and the “Axis of Evil” speech is a distant memory, apparently someone felt the need to fill the void and instill Americans with a sense of impending doom about Iran.  Enter United Against a Nuclear Iran, a group that is “united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.” They attempted to put their members in panic mode today with this "urgent" alert:

The New York Times reported today that Iran "has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb."…

…Each day, more and more Americans grow to understand the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran.  Time is of the essence.  We must mobilize the power of a united American public in opposition to a nuclear armed Iran NOW.  We can't do it alone.  We need your help.  It only takes seconds.

They then urge to you act quickly to “protect America” by signing up your friends to join and giving them some money. The graphic from the Drudge Report is a nice touch.

There are some key pieces of information left out of this alert.  And they only had to look as far as the very same New York Times article to find them:

Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps. Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved.

“They clearly have enough material for a bomb,” said Richard L. Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the hydrogen bomb and has advised Washington for decades. “They know how to do the enrichment. Whether they know how to design a bomb, well, that’s another matter.”…

… “It’s a virtual milestone,” Dr. Cochran said of Iran’s stockpile. It is not an imminent threat, he added, because the further technical work to make fuel for a bomb would tip off inspectors, the United States and other powers about “where they’re going.”

My intention here isn’t to downplay the potential hazards of Iran, or any nation, obtaining nuclear weapons. What this article is saying, however, is that even if Iran wants to produce nuclear weapons, which the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate disputes, there’s no sign that they have the technological capability to do that. This reinforces a message that we’ve been conveying to members of Congress and the public: there is plenty of time to pursue a tough-minded diplomatic approach with Iran; they do not pose an imminent threat to the US or our allies.

United Against a Nuclear Iran makes clear that they want you to fear a nuclear Iran, but what exactly do they want the US government to do about it? One of their objectives is to “lay the groundwork for effective US policies,” but they don’t outline what those would be. Based on their press releases and action alerts, I would translate their mission into “scare the bejesus out of people about Iranians getting their hands on nuclear weapons.” That kind of fear-mongering and false urgency implies to me that they’re not calling for a thoughtful, diplomatic approach.

President-Elect Obama has a reputation as a cool-headed person, and we certainly hope he won’t be susceptible to this kind of unsubstantiated saber-rattling.  Given the fact that several members of UANI’s advisory board, including Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke, could likely have Obama’s ear, we aren’t going to take that for granted. We at Peace Action West will be mobilizing the public to support our new president’s vision of pragmatic, direct diplomacy, the best and only real solution we have to dealing with tensions with Iran.

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