Monday, May 31, 2010

Barack Obama's options in the wake of Israel killing peace activists

Boarding the flotilla and killing activists was a really be move by Israel. So far the dead do not have names, but we'll learn their identities and stories over the next week and their names will be connected to the morally indefensible siege Israel is laying on Gaza. Their names will also connect to the Egypt's morally indefensible cooperation with the siege that the US Congress purchases from Hosni Mubarak on Israel's behalf.

I'd like to believe that this episode will have the galvanizing and symbolic effect the Sharpeville massacre had in building the anti-Apartheid movement around 30 years before that institution fell, or the Soweto uprising about 15 years before the end of Apartheid. It is too early to tell, and my own inclinations probably lead me to overestimate the historical impact an event like this will have. However there certainly is potential for this to mark the beginning of an era. If it does not, it will at least guide perceptions of the United States for some time to come.

A large proportion of the good will Barack Obama has gained with the Muslim world since becoming president now hangs in the balance. Barack Obama is different than George W. Bush because there was a plausible narrative that Bush was unusually hostile towards Muslims for a US president. With Obama having the opposite narrative, that he is as understanding of the Muslim world as any US president could be, a bad response on Obama's part will have a longer and stronger impact on the Muslim image of the United States than Bush could have.

Obama's first response was absolutely terrible. It is worse than I would have considered plausible before I saw it.
This morning between 10:00 and 10:15 AM CDT, the President spoke by phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He said he understood the Prime Minister's decision to return immediately to Israel to deal with today's events. They agreed to reschedule their meeting at the first opportunity. The President expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today's incident, and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals. The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events as soon as possible.
"Many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals"? What is that?

It seems most likely that Obama will strike a tone in this that is primarily supportive of Israel and the US image in the Middle East is going to sink, nearly permanently, in the Middle East as a result of this episode. Obama could take an anti-Israel tone, express outrage that the boat was boarded violently and, while confirming that he will not abandon Israel, express that the US considers this unacceptable and that there will be some consequence for it. If he was to do so he would be furthering the idea of US independence from Israel and make it easier for those inclined to cooperate with the United States to make public gestures to that end. Unfortunately, it seems Obama is unable to do so.

The primary issue that prevents Obama from matching the outrage of nearly every non-Jewish person in the region is that Obama has bought into the idea of that the Gaza siege is a good thing. It is not defensible, and Obama rarely talks about it publicly, but Obama's vision of Abbas accepting what are essentially the Bantustans Nelson Mandela rejected on behalf the the Palestinians depends on Abbas' opposition being weakened, and the siege is, in Obama's mind, a way to weaken Hamas.

It is a disgusting way to think. The people going hungry and the medical complications this hunger causes will be worth it if they lead to the Palestinians accepting a Jewish state. Yes, it is a war crime to punish civilians even for executing war against Israel, much less for voting for a party that does not accept that there must be a state with a Jewish political majority, but Obama believes his vision of two states requires this. This is, with no exaggeration, exactly what Obama means when he says the United States is committed to steering the situation toward "justice" in the Middle East.

The United States pays heavy costs for assuming the responsibility of keeping the Middle East safe for there to be a majority Jewish state for the 5 or so million Jews currently in Palestine. The costs the US is forced to pay, from cooperation in isolating Iran, to cooperation in administering Iraq to the price the US colonial clients in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt demand increase when there Israel commits atrocities as it did this morning.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Iran and lessons from Iraq in 2002

I think some Westerners have learned the wrong lesson from Iraq before the US invasion. In one sentence, WMD was just a pretext in the case of Iraq. The US military did not seriously believe Iraq may have had nuclear weapons. It did not believe Iraq may have had chemical weapons. The United States invaded Iraq because it believed that a pliable puppet state in Iraq would advance US interests and the US believed that it could successfully install a puppet state there.

If Iraq could have convinced the United States that any attempt to install a puppet would be unsuccessful, the attack would have been averted. If Iraq could have convinced the United States that an attack would be tremendously expensive, far in excess of anything it could consider itself to have gained, then an attack would have been averted.

If Iraq convinced the United States that it really did not have weapons of mass destruction, that would not have averted the attack. This is a very important point. Weapons of mass destruction were a pretext. Iraq was hostile to both Israel and the structure of pro-US colonial monarchies in its region. The United States was in conflict with Iraq because of the hostility to Israel and the colonies - the weapons of mass destruction was a false concern from the beginning, pursued only to justify the US acting on its pre-existing hostility.

I at times read statements such as "why does Iran not just answer the IAEA's questions" and I wonder if the asker is serious. The two answers are first that there is an unlimited number of questions the US can invent, if we establish that everytime the US invents a question, Iran either has to suspend its nuclear program or will endure additional sanctions until that question is answered. Slightly less important but still a consideration is the fact that if the US was to attack Iran's nuclear program, answers to some questions would make such a US attack more harmful against Iranian interests.

The questions are a pretext. Iran cannot avoid sanctions or US opposition to its nuclear program by answering questions any more than Iraq avoided an invasion by its truthful 12,000 page declaration in December 2002 that it had no chemical biological or nuclear weapons program.
Before Iraq submitted the document, the White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, noted several times that omissions in the declaration would constitute a violation of United Nations Resolution 1441. But now, Mr. Bush and his national security team — which has often been divided on how much support to give United Nations inspectors and whether to build an international coalition to strike Iraq — face what officials describe as three major choices.

The first, which has not been seriously considered in the White House, is to demand that Iraq answer specific questions about specific weapons programs. "We gave them that chance," one senior official said today. "They knew what issues were outstanding in 1998. They blew it."
If Iraq had produced 12,000 pages explaining how the US would face an insurgency that would be beyond its ability to contain, end up losing thousands of lives and be left with an Iraq that is still fundamentally hostile to the US regional colonial structure - the United States would probably have taken such a document seriously enough to at least ask questions about supposed omissions.

Iran can deter US sanctions and attack by making sure the US expects there to be a cost in US interests for such activities. Playing along with the pretext, just as was the case with Iraq, has no impact on US policy, at least no positive effect from Iran's point of view. US policy is not now nor has it ever been motivated by those pretexts.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Turkey to enrich uranium?

One thing I've found amazing about Turkey is how quietly major shifts in its policy can occur. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has demonstrated a certain determination to pull Turkey out of the US orbit that has been generally gradual, but in some senses, at some times, abrupt.
"If a country enriches uranium at low levels for peaceful purposes and not production of nuclear weapons, then this is its right … and this is what Iran is doing," Erdogan said in a meeting with the South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in Ankara on Tuesday.

"Now, Turkey has also signed a deal with Russia, according to which we will have launched our nuclear power plant within the next 6-7 years. We will also have the chance to enrich uranium at low levels, and having this chance is our right as long as it has peaceful purposes," Haber Turk newspaper quoted Erdogan as saying.
If Turkey really acquires an enrichment capability we are seeing the beginning of what can only be described as a revolution in the Middle East.

What we have to see now is how Erdogan's AKP does in the next election. If Turkey's voters endorse the course that is apparently now being charted then the process of the US losing any ability to influence events in the Middle East is accelerating.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Israel's offer to sell nuclear weapons to Apartheid South Africa

Putting this here mostly because I may want to look it up later. Yes, there is a fundamental similarity between creating an Afrikaaner, or Dutch state, in Southern Africa and creating a homeland for largely European Jews in the Middle East. Yes, Israel and Apartheid South Africa were allies because of the similarity of their national projects created a similarity in outlook or world-view. Yes, the best solution to the dispute over Zionism is the solution that was reached over the attempt to create a politically White South African state: the rejection and failure of that attempt in favor of a single state that is not tied to ethnicity.

But there is nothing new. This is just confirmation of what had already been well known before.
Secret South African documents reveal that Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime, providing the first official documentary evidence of the state's possession of nuclear weapons.

The "top secret" minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa's defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel's defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them "in three sizes". The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that "the very existence of this agreement" was to remain secret.
The Israeli authorities tried to stop South Africa's post-apartheid government declassifying the documents at Polakow-Suransky's request and the revelations will be an embarrassment, particularly as this week's nuclear non-proliferation talks in New York focus on the Middle East.

They will also undermine Israel's attempts to suggest that, if it has nuclear weapons, it is a "responsible" power that would not misuse them, whereas countries such as Iran cannot be trusted.
South Africa eventually built its own nuclear bombs, albeit possibly with Israeli assistance. But the collaboration on military technology only grew over the following years. South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake uranium that Israel required to develop its weapons.

The documents confirm accounts by a former South African naval commander, Dieter Gerhardt – jailed in 1983 for spying for the Soviet Union. After his release with the collapse of apartheid, Gerhardt said there was an agreement between Israel and South Africa called Chalet which involved an offer by the Jewish state to arm eight Jericho missiles with "special warheads". Gerhardt said these were atomic bombs. But until now there has been no documentary evidence of the offer.
Israel pressured the present South African government not to declassify documents obtained by Polakow-Suransky. "The Israeli defence ministry tried to block my access to the Secment agreement on the grounds it was sensitive material, especially the signature and the date," he said. "The South Africans didn't seem to care; they blacked out a few lines and handed it over to me. The ANC government is not so worried about protecting the dirty laundry of the apartheid regime's old allies."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Iran's nuclear controversy in two sentences

Actually two sentences are all that is necessary to fully understand the dispute over Iran's nuclear program:

1) Iran is willing and able to answer any questions the West wants if Iran's right to a full nuclear program, like those of Japan and Brazil, which inherently and legally contain technology that could in theory make a weapon is accepted.

2) There are no questions Iran could answer that would make the West comfortable with Iran having a program like Brazil's or Japan's because that would end Israel's regional monopoly on nuclear weapons capability.

These two long sentences are the essential heart of the dispute between the West and Iran on the nuclear issue. Putting aside the bluster, the carefully misleading formulations and the arcane technical and legal details, the non-proliferation structure is being used by the West as a means to an end. The end being protecting the ability of about 5 million Jews, about half of European ancestry, to have a state in the Middle East where they are the dominant majority.

You'll hear, "why will Iran just not answer the questions about the alleged studies found on the US-laptop of death?" The basic answer is that cooperating would give the US information that it could use to attack Iran's program militarily and more importantly, the US can and will always easily produce laptops of death. If presenting questions and demanding further investigation has the effect of postponing Iran's achievement of nuclear capability, the US has no incentive to ever stop.

The question of motivation is really important. The United States does not oppose Iran having a nuclear capability because of the alleged studies. The alleged studies exist because the United States opposes Iran having a nuclear capability. The United States does not oppose Iran having a nuclear capability because there was a Board of Governor's resolution. The United States lobbied very vigorously for a Board of Governor's resolution because the United States opposes Iran having a nuclear capability. The United States does not oppose Iran having a nuclear capability because the UN Security Council deems such a capability illegal. The United States expended a tremendous amount of resources accomplishing the UN Security Council resolutions because the US opposes Iran having a nuclear capability.

The Western press, in sympathy with the biases of Western law and policy-makers generally does a poor job challenging the stated motivations of opponents of Iran's nuclear program. Those motives are pretty transparent. When opponents of Iran's nuclear program are asked if they would accept Iran having a Japan-option if Iran resolved all outstanding questions, after a lot of hemming, hawing and misdirection, the answer turns out to be "no" 100% of the time. The question, "under what circumstances would you accept Iran having a Japan option?" immediately causes opponents of Iran's nuclear program to bring up conditions, such as recognizing Israel, that have nothing to do with any legal or technical nuclear issues.

For the West, this is not primarily a legal or technical dispute. For Iran it is also not primarily a legal or technical issue.

Having a Japan option would have tremendous strategic value for Iran. If Iraq had acquired a Japan option by 2002, there would have been no invasion. One out of 20 Iraqis died as a result of the invasion, one out of eight Iraqis has been maimed by the invasion and one out of six has been displaced from their homes. The cost of not acquiring a Japan option for Iraq was horrible. Attaining a Japan option for Iran is at least a matter of national independence, and fairly can be considered an issue of national survival.

So we're left with a situation that, despite the efforts of misdirection by Iran's opponents, is relatively easy to understand. For the most part, confusion regarding issues around Iran's nuclear program is deliberate where it exists.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Desperate and stupid are two very different kinds of crazy

Richard Nixon once devised a plan that he'd try to convince some of the US' cold war rivals the he was crazy. He thought that if they believed he was crazy they'd be more accommodating. I'm not sure if non-Americans understand the pull that idea has for the American psyche - how tempting the idea is that by acting crazy a person can easily trick his opponent into submitting to his wishes. It is the type of idea that resonates so well with the American psychology that the idea is believed before it is closely examined.

But if an American was to examine the idea, it really does not work. Where it fails is that there is a word "crazy" in English that can have two meanings, and the different meanings have vastly different implications for a party interacting with a "crazy" party.

I'm pretty sure we've seen a calculated act of craziness in the US rush to introduce a UN Security Council resolution the day after Iran agreed to terms presented by Turkey and Brazil for a medical reactor fuel deal.

I once saw a television show about a mother polar bear searching for food with her cubs over a winter. Along the way, a hungry male polar bear appeared, memory fails me but the male apparently wanted either to eat the cubs or possibly to kill the cubs to mate with the mother.

Male polar bears are far larger than female polar bears and in fighting a female polar bear is no match for a male polar bear. But the mother polar bear was not willing to live if her cubs were harmed and took a huge gamble. She stood between the male and her cubs and prepared to fight. The male bear would have won the fight, but the cost of that win would have been greater than what it would gain. The male walked off.

In English, there is a sense in which the mother bear was crazy. And because she was crazy, the male bear did not test his strength against hers even though he would have won. But this "crazy" was really desperate. This was not an act. The mother was really willing to fight and really willing to die for her cubs.

What if the mother bear had started biting her tail? What if the mother bear took some fish she was about to eat and threw them into the sea? In English, that is also crazy. Nixon's idea was that if the leadership of the US convinces its adversaries that it is "crazy" the adversaries would back off.

If the mother bear began acting randomly, it would not have scared the male bear. If the mother bear bit her tail, the male bear would believe that the mother is an easier victim than he would otherwise. What if the male bear made a demonstration of randomness? The male bear might think if he bites his tail the mother will not be willing to fight because he is "crazy". But the mother would fight a stupid bear just as quickly, even more quickly, than she would fight an intelligent bear. Desperate works. But it is not a trick. Stupid does not work for either party.

Hillary Clinton actually proposed to Barack Obama that in response to Iran's agreement to the terms the US asked for with the medical reactor deal, that she put a sanctions resolution before the Security Council weeks or months earlier than she had planned. Barack Obama actually heard that proposal and approved it. The signal they are trying to send is that they are, together, so "crazy" that they are willing to introduce a Security Council resolution earlier and with less preparation than they had planned.

This was not desperate. The US is not directly taking any risk. This is a pure performance. Desperate might be an attack on Iranian installations which would have huge consequences that the US is aware of. Introducing an unprepared resolution was random. This is slapping a NATO ally in the face and removing any pretense that the US is either willing to negotiate or has a reasonable position on the issue. There was no benefit from it, except that Hillary and Obama have read Nixon's "craziness" theory and are more impressed by it than they should be.

This was a stupid move, made in a rushed panic, but it is something the United States cannot take back. The ground that shifted with Iran's acceptance of the Brazilian and Turkish proposal has shifted more by the US response. Sorting out the full impact of the proposal and the US initial response, as well as later US responses still remains to be done, but the US position regarding Iran's nuclear program has suffered a loss and it will be a substantial amount of time before that loss is fully recovered.

My prediction in December was that there would be no sanctions at all in 2010. There have been moments when that prediction looked bad. There have been moments when that prediction has looked good. Fundamentally George Bush struck a good deal when in exchange for Iranian help in Iraq, he de-escalated tensions over Iran's nuclear issue. That is still a good deal for Obama, with Afghanistan playing the role Iraq played, and Iraq settling into a situation that Iran is for the most part happy with and the United States able to leave with with pride rather than humiliation.

Obama has many motivations to pretend he is going to break that deal. Both as a negotiation tactic and to reduce pressure from pro-Israel factions of his own administration. But Obama has fewer motivations to actually break the deal. Breaking the deal means causing US soldiers to lose their lives and at the same time making US regional objectives more difficult to reach or manage.

I can be wrong, but Clinton's performance yesterday is not evidence that I'm wrong. Clinton acted crazy, but crazy meaning stupid rather than crazy meaning desperate.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

If the US wants confrontation, the US is going to get confrontation

The United States' response to the agreement between Iran, Brazil and Turkey is to rush a resolution to the full body of the UN Security Council.
“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a Senate committee. “We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”
OK. She's right that it is as convincing as anything the US could have done. This is a panicked and amateurish move that positions the United States as a party thirsting for a confrontation with Iran which is trying to give the US ways to avoid a confrontation.

From this position, Iran adds to its assets a moral advantage. If the United States is really irrationally hostile, then maybe Iran is right that the US should be forced out of the region. The moral element is not as important as tangible factors, but it does have a role. People have to choose which side to be on and they have to justify their decisions to themselves.

When Barack Obama failed to hold Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in check to prevent a move like this, he proved that he does not have the strength to chart an independent foreign policy for the United States, which proves that Iranian attempts at reducing tension can only be fruitless while he is in office.

The United States really is lurching back and forth in its foreign policy. Hillary Clinton is working hard to convince Iran that open confrontation with the US is just something Iran has to accept until Obama is out of office. If that's the case, Iran will make it as difficult and expensive as possible for the US to achieve any of its objectives in the region.

Gary Sick is pretty much right about the deal

Not much to add. Except what I've already written. Gary Sick did a terrible job analyzing Iran's June 2009 election and its aftermath, but pretty much gets the situation right regarding the recent agreement between Iran, Brazil and Turkey.
We should also be reminded that Iran did not reject the original deal: they proposed amending it. Basically, when the Iranian negotiators came home with the proposed deal, they were attacked from all sides – including members of the Green Movement – for being suckers. Their opponents pointed out that they were going to rely on the word and good will of Russia (where the LEU would be enriched to 20 percent) and France (where the fuel cells would be fabricated). Iranians from left to right argued that both of these countries had repeatedly cheated Iran on nuclear issues: Russia by delaying endlessly the completion of the nuclear power plant at Bushehr, and France by refusing to grant Iran rights to the Eurodif enrichment facility partially owned by Iran since the days of the shah. Why, they asked, should we believe that this agreement will be any different?


So where does that leave us?

Essentially, it takes us back to last October. The one big difference is that Iran has more LEU now than it did then. But the reality is that Iran will keep producing LEU unless a new agreement is reached to persuade them to stop. If we had completed the agreement of a swap in October, Iran would have the same amount of LEU as it has now. If we wait another six months for negotiations, Iran will have still more LEU.


Although angst is high among the sanctions-at-all-costs crowd, this path to a nuclear swap deal was fully endorsed by the United States and was the centerpiece of the justification for sanctions. One way to respond at this point may just be to declare that our threat of sanctions worked: Iran has capitulated and we accept yes as an answer.

Hmmm…are we that smart?
Sanctions will not slow the production of LEU. Nothing the US can do would be effective at that. The idea is slowly spreading through the US foreign policy establishment that a nuclear capable Iran is not something to be prevented, but a fact that the US will have to acknowledge and manage.

Iran's situation today

Yesterday was an important step forward but nothing fundamental changed. What has changed is that Iran is not alone in advancing an important proposition about its nuclear program. This proposition is that Iran does not need to remain beneath a one ton threshold of low enriched uranium. In some sense, Turkey and Brazil do not agree with the idea advanced by the US, on Israel's behalf, that Iran must not have a nuclear weapons capability.

Beyond that proposition, the symbol of two Security Council members supporting Iran's efforts to avert sanctions gives the United States space to slow its drive for sanctions, and thereby its program of increasing hostility and non-military confrontation with Iran. This space is important because the US military is well aware of the advisability of avoiding conflict with Iran despite pressure from pro-Israel factions of government to increase such pressure.

The United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates produced a memo in January, and the administration released the memo in March, which said that there are no military or non-military options at the disposal of the United States that can be expected to prevent Iran from becoming a virtual nuclear power. By virtual nuclear power it meant a country, like Japan or Brazil, that has the necessary technology to produce weapons if it was to make that political decision. The effect of the recent deal between Brazil, Turkey and Iran is that it gives the conclusion of the Gates memo several more months to settle in, or to become accepted as a reality that the US would prefer not to be the case, but which is not avoidable.

As far as Iran's stock of uranium, Iran has plenty of uranium for strategic purposes. Westerners estimate that Iran has produced over 500 tons of the uranium compound that is fed into centrifuges for enrichment. The IAEA reports that by late 2009, 21 tons had been processed in Iranian centrifuges which yielded about 1800 kgs of low enriched uranium. If we roughly estimate that 15 tons of unenriched uranium in that form can yield an amount of low enriched uranium that could be further processed to make one weapon, then Iran has enough uranium that can be fed to centrifuges for over 30 weapons. There really is not a significant issue of Iran running out of uranium for strategic purposes.

There also is not a very pressing time issue right now. The United States is deterred from launching a military attack by the US position especially in Afghanistan. The US will not have removed its vulnerability in Afghanistan for several years in which time other vulnerabilities are likely to develop or increase in importance. In the five years we can guess it will take, at a minimum, for the US to be reasonably secure in its positions in countries neighboring Iran, Iran can, at its present rate (which can increase if Iran decides) produce enough more low enriched uranium that further enrichment could make six or so weapons. Iran does not have to race to build its stock before any particular foreseeable cut-off.

Exporting or not exporting what overall is a small amount of low enriched uranium is not in itself important to Iran. What is important is that Iran must not handcuff future generations of Iranian leadership. Iran must not allow a precedent to be set that limits the options available to Iran decades from now. To suspend enrichment as George Bush demanded would have been a step toward accepting a permanent US veto over enrichment. To export uranium to a maintain a domestic level of less than one ton as Barack Obama demands carries the danger that this one ton limit will be extended indefinitely.

Iran has been beneath one ton in its domestic stock before. Iran was willing, temporarily, to go beneath one ton again as a gesture that would have allowed Obama to save face. The problem was that there is no confidence that if Iran made that gesture, that the US would accept it as a voluntary gesture instead of as a submission to US pressure and thereby an opportunity to set a permanent limit.

The United States has not, and cannot apply enough pressure on Iran that Iran's current leadership will constrain the options of Iran's future leaders. The Gates memo shows that there is some understanding in the US government that the amount of pressure that would be needed is just not available to the United States. When this understanding becomes more universal, the United States may be able to accept Iran's capabilities and define its relationship with Iran in a manner that prevents unnecessary damage to the interests of both parties.

As far as nuclear generation of electricity, Westerners point out that Iran's enrichment program is not extensive enough for that. They are right and this is a problem that Iran will solve in the future as options become available. Iran has at least the knowledge necessary to make fuel for power generators from raw uranium mined anywhere in the world. The United States has succeeded in blocking Iran from importing uranium from many of these sources. The current US position is that Iran will be blocked from importing more uranium until it agrees to US-set limits on its weapons capability. Years from now maybe the US position will change, or maybe the US will be less relevant, less able to enforce the prohibition it enforces now.

Iran signed an agreement that Russia would provide fuel for the reactor at Natanz. Very few countries can provide enriched fuel and Iran is paying the price for that. Later Iranian reactors eventually are very likely to be fueled by unenriched uranium imported from one of many places in the global south and enriched in Iran. Iran also long into the future will have the option of providing nuclear power to developing countries without the limitations the US seeks to impose.

The sanctions had never been, in themselves, a major problem for Iran. The problem with sanctions is that they represented a tangible US declaration that, after the de-escalation of tensions that began in 2007, it is moving back to a posture of open confrontation with Iran. Yesterdays agreement delays sanctions and more importantly delays that declaration. It gives the US time to calculate that if it cannot stop Iran from becoming nuclear capable anyway, it does not really benefit from Iran reaching that status in an environment of hostility instead of cooperation.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The thing about 1200 kilograms

Iran had, according to, 2144 kgs of low enriched uranium as of February 23, 2010. It was processing uranium at a rate Iranwatch calculated to be 3.78 kilograms per day, and has been stable at around the level for around two years. Rounding down, Iran would be expected to have about 300 kgs more than it did then, so something like 2400 kilograms.

Estimating that around 1000 kilograms could be further enriched in a matter of months to make a critical mass of highly enriched uranium, if the US accepts this deal, Iran will not lose its status as nuclear capable, by the definition the US has been claiming to use for Iran at least since October, for even one second.

The deal presented in public in October was a terrible deal for Iran because the US would retain leverage that it could use to pressure Iran to suspend enrichment before Iran received its fuel. The US could, and would have used delivery of the fuel itself (using the same pretexts that Russia has used to delay Bushehr and the anti-air defense systems Iran has purchased) as an additional lever of pressure to restrain Iran's nuclear program.

The deal presented in the first reports from Iran (thanks Lysander) does not advance the US position regarding Iran's nuclear program at all. Turkey will have credibly committed to return the LEU, but it does not matter much because if the US was to balk, next say next year, the 1200 kgs of LEU in Turkey will not change the strategic situation since Iran will again by then have well over 2000 kgs of LEU in its own territory.

There is no important difference between a deal in which Iran gives up 1200 of 2400 kgs of low enriched uranium and a deal in which Iran just buys the fuel with cash.

The remaining questions are: 1) is there an Iranian commitment to a fuel bank, or other pretext to send more uranium out of the country. I could see Iran export even more uranium without harming its interests as long as it does not relinquish its rights or give the US any additional way to apply pressure. Iran might reasonably agree to participate in a fuel bank in exchange for Bushehr starting, as long as it is understood that such participation is voluntary and can be adjusted as Iran's needs or situation change. Iran can give out a lot more uranium than 1200 kgs without suffering any medium or long term strategic setback. 2) how will the US react. This is a strategic victory for the US in that the US now has a pretext for giving up a sanctions drive that could have been, after the dust settled, devastating to the US regional position.

The United States cannot have sanctions and cooperation with Iran over Afghanistan at the same time. And without cooperation over Afghanistan, the United States will not be able to stablize that country given the amount of troops the US is able to allocate. A sanctions resolution really threatens to turn Afghanistan by itself into an eventual defeat for the US - in which the US just runs out of steam and retreats from the country in disgrace and exhausted.

The United States now has the opportunity to "grudgingly" accept a TRR deal and claim that it builds enough confidence to begin formal talks. The US still claims that Iran could not produce a weapon for several years and that somehow US sabotage efforts have given the US more time than it feared it may have. The second claim is questionable, but it is better for the US to act as if it believes it in order to salvage Afghanistan.

The US hoped in fall 2009, with the Qom revelation, with the still ongoing protests, with the ascension to director of the IAEA of a loyal pro-American and with the harsh IAEA board resolution that it could pressure Iran to accept a poor deal. That hope has been shattered. Iran was never in as weak a position as US officials seemed to believe. If the US had more accurately guaged Iran's position, it could have gotten at least a better face-saving deal in October.

It has been so long, but if anyone can remember, in the fall 2009 there was still a Western consensus that somehow the US could convince Iran that the US or Israel had a credible military option, and that brandishing the military option might, still scare Iran into submitting to US demands.

The amount that perceptions of Iran's situation have changed in informed Western circles over the past six or eight months nearly defies belief. If the US is willing, now, to accept what US Defense Secretary Gates wrote in a memo that was leaked to the New York Times, the true proposition that the United States does not have any effective option that it can use to get a better deal than what has been presented, then there is a good chance that a very bad outcome can be averted.

Predictions about Iran/Turkey/Brazil medical fuel deal

So we have a deal and at least some details will be released this week. The deal should be evaluated on what levers it leaves the US to prevent Iran from building a stockpile of uranium five years from now which is approximately the earliest plausible time that Iran may find itself without exploitable US vulnerabilities in neighboring countries.

The US wish list for a deal would be that a lot of uranium, enough to bring Iran's stock from around 2500 kgs to well under 1000 kgs, leaves Iran up front. Then Iran commits to either slow its production or contribute to some form of fuel bank outside of Iran to keep it LEU stock at that low level. Then the US holds most of the shipment of medical reactor fuel as a guarantee that Iran actually stays under the specified limit for a long period. I've read of delays of up to two years before delivery. These were all probably terms of the October "take it or leave it" deal offered by the US and France.

The Iranian wish list is about the opposite. Iran wants to give up as little uranium as possible and certainly to be free to replenish its LEU stocks. It is not absolutely critical that Iran's stock grow this year, but no deal could be accepted that would even set a precedent that later Iranian leaders are not able to build a stock.

So I guess what I'll be looking for as details are released are: 1) how much LEU leaves Iran and when; 2) is anything done about Iran's replenishment rate; and 3) can the US use the return of fuel as leverage and more broadly does the US get any new leverage over Iran's enrichment program.

I have a substantial amount of trust that if Iran's government accepted a deal it does not hamper Iran's nuclear program and in fact that it does not impact in any long or even medium-term way Iran's nuclear capability or "Japan option". So the important element is 3) does the US get new leverage to pressure Iran to restrain the growth of its nuclear program in the future. I'm pretty sure the answer is no.

We'll see the details as they emerge.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

US dishonesty about breakout scenarios and miscalculations about sanctions

It seems as if Barack Obama has convinced Mohamed ElBaradei that while Iran's nuclear stock is below about the one ton threshold, he or the US would have "negotiating space" to work on a nuclear deal and to discuss US/Iran relations generally. This idea is worth looking at for several reasons.
In the last six months Iran needed fuel for a research reactor that produces isotopes for medical purposes for cancer treatment and other we thought that this is a golden opportunity to show good will on both sides Iran agreed that they will use their own enriched uranium to be used for manufacturing of fuel and that was perfect because once you get that fuel out of iran or use it for fuel that would defuse the crisis, would defuse all the cries that Iran might have a breakout scenario and leave the non proliferation treaty. The Obama administration was very excited about that because again, President Obama realized that this would defuse the crisis, give him the space, as he called it he needed to negotiate with Iran on a whole range of issues unfortunately that proposal got stuck on sequencing. Iran said "we're only ready to ship our material out of the country when we've got the fuel". The US and the Europeans said "no you have first to ship it out and you will get the fuel in two years time".

I think frankly there's still a deal. The idea that, and again I'm not getting into the head of the American administration or the Iranian administration but I think there's still a deal to be made. Once the Iranians were and are still ready to get this material into an island in the Persian Gulf. That's what I proposed to them. We'll take custody of it we'll put it into a warehouse completely secured by the IAEA, with our security guards and under 100 satellites. That, frankly, to me would eliminate almost 100 percent of the threat because they could not use it, in any way for any enrichment or weapons related purposes. In addition to that, we probably could have gotten Iran also to sign the additional protocol or apply the additional protocol, so for me that was from a risk perspective a perfect deal. The fact that the material is not out of Iran is not necessarily the most important. The beauty of that deal is that it would have opened the opportunity for negotiation, bilateral negotiation primarily between the US and Iran which would have then dealt with the concern about the nuclear program, all the grievances about human rights, about technology, about sanctions and about the role of Iran positive and negative. Iran never hides that they can have, become be a very positive partner in the Middle East. In the case of Iraq, in the case of Afghanistan, in the case of Syria Lebanon, in Lebanon, they have a lot of influence, they have a lot of assets. To me that deal, as a precursor to what is sooner or later going to happen - a comprehensive negotiation between the US and Iran - is a win-win situation. It is still a deal that could be sold, even now. It is not what you want 100%, it's not what Iranians want 100% but it is the art of the possible. In fact it satisfies the needs of the US by eliminating what they see as a break out scenario.
As a purely practical matter there has never been a serious suggestion that Iran may plausibly leave the NPT and race to build a weapon this year. Famously that would go against a fatwa from Iran's supreme leader. The basic idea of that fatwa, that nuclear weapons are forbidden as immoral is continuously reaffirmed at every level by every single Iranian who could possibly claim to represent Iran's government or nuclear program.

Maybe more importantly, Iran isn't going to need a nuclear weapon for a substantial period of time. The US is deterred, and will be at least for the next several years by Iran's conventional military and political influence over regions where the US is potentially vulnerable. The US admits that it is deterred from attacking when it describes the benefits of bombing Iran’s nuclear program as not worth the potential costs. The deterrence is confirmed with the results of public war game exercises. The US is deterred from even launching military strikes by Iran’s non-nuclear methods of deterrence. There is, for now, no pressing need for Iran to break its fatwa and lose even the moral advantages of remaining in the NPT.

The idea that by Iran exporting its uranium the US would be any more certain, during a limited negotiating period, that Iran will not rush to build a weapon is dishonest. Assurance that Iran will not build a weapon this year is not what motivates the demand that Iran reduce its uranium stock before negotiations. The US still estimates that Iran could not build a weapon for several years even if it made the decision today. A claim that the US has as an important objective to eliminate what the US openly calculates is a nonexistent near-term breakout capability insults the intelligence of anyone who examines the issue closely.

US dishonesty about Iran's nuclear issue is the usual state of affairs because the US is fundamentally trying to use the IAEA, NPT and UN Security Council to accomplish the objective of sustaining Israel's regional monopoly of nuclear capability which is an objective at odds with both general fairness and the purpose of the IAEA and NPT. The US, because of its commitment to Israel is continuously positioned such that it must be transparently deceptive in it's Middle East policy. This is one case. The sanctions against Iraq, initially imposed supposedly against chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, but once imposed expanded by the US declaration that sanctions would not be lifted until regime change is another example of US policy deception motivated by the US commitment to Israel.

(The sanctions resolutions are still in place today, held so the US can have leverage over Iraq's elected government.)

So what is the purpose of the demand that Iran export enough uranium that its stock is less than one ton? It is exactly a more strenuous and even less justifiable version of the Bush administrations demand that Iran suspend enrichment. It serves exactly the same purpose, has exactly the same effect and differs only in being less reasonable for several reasons.

The purpose of the suspension demand is that if Iran submits before negotiations, negotiations can proceed on the basis of answering the question, how can the suspension be made permanent. If enrichment is suspended for negotiations, the US is comfortable adopting the strategy it employs in North Korea: never ending "negotiations" to continue without any resolution until after regime change.

Under Bush, If Iran suspended enrichment for "negotiations" then the US would have had no reason for negotiations to ever end. The concessions the US made to get negotations are the only concessions the US need ever make.

Under Obama, if Iran agrees to a principle that by one mechanism or another it will never have a ton of LEU during "negotiations" we are in as a practical matter, exactly the same situation. The issue is not this year, but a negotiating period that can last decades with Iran's nuclear program neutralized until somehow or other - for example through regime change - Iran reverts to the pro-US foreign policy it implemented under the Shah.

Obama is asking for more because while Bush asked that Iran stop enriching, Obama asks that Iran first create the situation that would have prevailed if Iran had stopped enriching under Bush, and then in practical terms stop enriching.

Needless to say, as the US refusal under Obama to accept Iran as a nuclear capable nation like Japan, Brazil or dozens of other NPT non-weapons states has become clear, we can comfortably predict that Iran will refuse to submit to this demand. The US is trying to carve out a separate group of NPT non-weapons states that, because they are not politically cooperative with the US, must accept greater limits on their access to technology. What the US is attempting is expressly forbidden by the NPT that describes that the right to technology applies “without discrimination”.

I'm disturbed by pronouncements from the Obama administration that claim to believe that with a little more pressure Iran will be forced to submit. That is a really false and dangerous idea. The Obama administration is asking for much more than the Bush administration did but even that should have been immediately clear to be more than Iran could be compelled to accept by any sanctions regime.

Iran will not respond by submitting. Iran will respond by becoming more confrontational. Neither side wants a full shooting war, but Obama would be demonstrating that unlike late-term Bush, the US no longer wants to deescalate tensions work jointly on issues of mutual concern.

The US did not get a bad bargain from choosing to deescalate symbolized by issuing and releasing to the public the November 2007 NIE. The Iraq-surge could have had the exact opposite result of US casualties spiralling upward and the country becoming more chaotic. It will be very dangerous to try to execute an Afghanistan surge immediately after symbolically declaring that the cold war with Iran is resuming.

That is exactly the impact, and in practical terms the only impact - a UNSC will have. I have some degree of optimism that the US should be aware of this and hopefully is aware. If the US understands the danger - to the US - of a Security Council resolution (as it should and at least in some parts of government, especially the military, very likely does), then it is not serious about getting a resolution but instead is posturing for a better negotiating position.

For everyone's sake - let's all hope.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

An excellent speech by Ahmadinejad

We have the prepared text of the speech. The first thing that strikes me is that it is very religious, also very idealistic. It serves to remind its audience that Iran has a fundamentalist religious government. Possibly the most religiously influenced government in the world today. Westerners who are familiar with Christian fundamentalists should have no trouble understanding the Iranian view of the world. It is more religious than uniquely Muslim.
Regrettably, due to distancing of some States from the teachings of the Divine Prophets, the shadow of the threat of nuclear bombs is cast over the whole world, and no one feels secured. Some States define in their strategies the nuclear bomb as an element of stability and security, and this is one of their big mistakes.

The production and possession of a nuclear bomb, under whatever pretext be done, is a very dangerous act which first and foremost makes the country of production and stockpiling exposed. You may recall that how perilous was the unintentional transfer of a nuclear-tipped missile with a bomber from a military base to another one in the United States and which became a matter of concern for the American people. Secondly, the sole function of the nuclear weapons is to annihilate all living beings and destroy the environment, and its radiations would affect the coming generations and its negative impacts would continue for centuries.

The nuclear bomb is a fire against humanity rather than a weapon for defense.

The possession of nuclear bombs is not a source of pride; it is rather disgusting and shameful. And even more shameful is the threat to use or to use such weapons, which is not even comparable to any crime committed throughout the history.
Ahmadinejad also makes the interesting contention that the use of atomic weapons against civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a signal evil act in human history. It is an contention that cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Ahmadinejad's more important contention, that the UN is fundamentally flawed in its bias toward compliance with the interests of the United States and four other major victors in World War II not only cannot be dismissed out of hand, but is difficult to even dispute. The best counter-argument is probably that there is no easy way to reform the UN, especially since the US can veto reforms themselves.

Fundamental reform of the UN will eventually be an important step in improving international relations but that is difficult to even envision today. Iran is beginning to argue for that.
Dear friends,

It is now clear that the production and stockpiling of nuclear weapons and policies practiced by some nuclear weapon States, along with the weakness of and the imbalance in the NPT provisions have been the main causes of insecurity and served as an incentive for the development of such weapons.

Today, nuclear disarmament, elimination of nuclear threat and non-proliferation are regarded as the greatest service to establishing sustainable peace and security and amity.

The question is, however, whether granting extraordinary authority in the IAEA to the nuclear weapon States and entrusting them with the critical issue of nuclear disarmament is appropriate? It would be naïve and irrational to expect an effective voluntary initiative towards disarmament and non-proliferation, simply because they consider nuclear weapons an element of superiority.

As an Iranian saying reads: “A knife never cuts its own handle”

Expecting the major arms dealers to work for the establishment of security is an illogical expectation.
Ahmadinejad details several proposals for moving toward a world where disarmament is accomplished without bias, with binding commitments not only on the non-weapons states. Then ends on a note of religious idealism that I found unexpected.
Dear friends,

Through cooperation and solidarity and harmony, our aspiration for establishing a world blessed with justice and peace is achievable, and the motto of "nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for none" is the basis for interaction among human beings as well as between human and nature.

Let’s hope for a day on which through realization of justice, no one will be infuriated, and even if so happened, let’s hope again no weapon would be found to satisfy it.

Greeting to justice and liberty,

Greeting to love and affection,

Greeting to followers of the school of compassionate, and human who loves human,

I wish you all, success and prosperity.

Monday, May 03, 2010

What the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty actually says

Westerners often give biased or distorted summaries of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They minimize the what the treaty requires of the US and wildly exaggerate what it requires of non-weapons states. Fortunately, we can read it ourselves. The treaty itself is not that long. We can look at all of its articles here.
Article I

Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.
It is widely believed that the United States routinely violates Article I in its cooperation with Israel's nuclear program.
Article II

Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
The United States accuses Iran of having sought assistance in the manufacture of a nuclear weapon specifically in a document that describes converting the form of uranium that can be enriched into a metal. Can the document be considered "assistance in the manufacture" of a weapon? Arguably it can, in which case Iran's receipt of it was a failure to apply Article II.
Article III

1. Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agency’s safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfilment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Procedures for the safeguards required by this Article shall be followed with respect to source or special fissionable material whether it is being produced, processed or used in any principal nuclear facility or is outside any such facility. The safeguards required by this Article shall be applied on all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of such State, under its jurisdiction, or carried out under its control anywhere.

2. Each State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to provide: (a) source or special fissionable material, or (b) equipment or material especially designed or prepared for the processing, use or production of special fissionable material, to any non-nuclear-weapon State for peaceful purposes, unless the source or special fissionable material shall be subject to the safeguards required by this Article.

3. The safeguards required by this Article shall be implemented in a manner designed to comply with Article IV of this Treaty, and to avoid hampering the economic or technological development of the Parties or international co-operation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities, including the international exchange of nuclear material and equipment for the processing, use or production of nuclear material for peaceful purposes in accordance with the provisions of this Article and the principle of safeguarding set forth in the Preamble of the Treaty.

4. Non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty shall conclude agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet the requirements of this Article either individually or together with other States in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Negotiation of such agreements shall commence within 180 days from the original entry into force of this Treaty. For States depositing their instruments of ratification or accession after the 180-day period, negotiation of such agreements shall commence not later than the date of such deposit. Such agreements shall enter into force not later than eighteen months after the date of initiation of negotiations.
Article 3 describes the safeguards agreements non-weapons states are to enter with the IAEA. These agreements are to apply to fissionable material - uranium, plutonium and thorium in a country's possession. These agreements do not extend beyond fissionable materials to explosives testing or missile programs.

The Additional Protocols, which are not a requirement of the NPT, do create broader obligations on its signatories, including obligations to provide information not directly related to fissionable material. Iran has not ratified the Additional Protocols and by the terms of the NPT and of the Protocols themselves, the Additional Protocols are not in legal force in Iran. The UN Security Council resolutions demand that Iran comply with all Additional Protocols terms and with terms that extend beyond those. Iran and the West disagree on the validity of these obligations. These are the "obligations" or "requirements" that US officials refer to in speeches about Iran.
Article IV

1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.

2. All the Parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Parties to the Treaty in a position to do so shall also co-operate in contributing alone or together with other States or international organizations to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty, with due consideration for the needs of the developing areas of the world.
One thing to point out is that the right to enrich uranium does not come from the treaty, but rather the pre-existing right is not affected by the treaty. Another thing to point out is that Western opposition to Iranian enrichment is unrelated to Iran's particular history. Israel believes it has a strategic need for a monopoly in nuclear capability, and especially that no hostile state have such capability. The West is attempting to fit the treaty to this Israeli strategic need. If Brazil or Japan were close to Israel and had populations that considered Israel to be an ongoing regional injustice, the US would oppose their nuclear programs as it opposes Iran's program.

The treaty explicitly spells out that the inherent right to technology is to be applied without discrimination and the Western position is as clear a case of discrimination as could be possible. Iran rejects the US position that rivals of Israel cannot be nuclear weapons capable. The US position really is an affront to the language and the spirit of the treaty.
Article V

Each Party to the Treaty undertakes to take appropriate measures to ensure that, in accordance with this Treaty, under appropriate international observation and through appropriate international procedures, potential benefits from any peaceful applications of nuclear explosions will be made available to non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty on a non-discriminatory basis and that the charge to such Parties for the explosive devices used will be as low as possible and exclude any charge for research and development. Non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty shall be able to obtain such benefits, pursuant to a special international agreement or agreements, through an appropriate international body with adequate representation of non-nuclear-weapon States. Negotiations on this subject shall commence as soon as possible after the Treaty enters into force. Non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty so desiring may also obtain such benefits pursuant to bilateral agreements.
Non-weapons states are not to be disadvantaged by their agreement not to produce or acquire explosive devices. Article 5 is among the least controversial in the treaty. So far there have not been many non-military uses for nuclear explosions so sharing such applications is not a pressing issue.
Article VI

Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
Article 6. Barack Obama describes this as the US having an obligation to "reduce its nuclear stock". Now the United States has a far larger stock than it did when it ratified this agreement but the obligation is in plain language here. The US has an obligation to enter negotiations in good faith, among other things, on a treaty on general and complete disarmament. It just has not happened. There is no possible interpretation that puts US policy since the treaty was ratified in line with its obligations under Article 6. The United States simply has not complied and has expressed no intention of ever complying with this article.
Article VII

Nothing in this Treaty affects the right of any group of States to conclude regional treaties in order to assure the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories.
Additional regional treaties regarding nuclear proliferation are not required but not restricted by the NPT.
Article VIII

1. Any Party to the Treaty may propose amendments to this Treaty. The text of any proposed amendment shall be submitted to the Depositary Governments which shall circulate it to all Parties to the Treaty. Thereupon, if requested to do so by one-third or more of the Parties to the Treaty, the Depositary Governments shall convene a conference, to which they shall invite all the Parties to the Treaty, to consider such an amendment.

2. Any amendment to this Treaty must be approved by a majority of the votes of all the Parties to the Treaty, including the votes of all nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty and all other Parties which, on the date the amendment is circulated, are members of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The amendment shall enter into force for each Party that deposits its instrument of ratification of the amendment upon the deposit of such instruments of ratification by a majority of all the Parties, including the instruments of ratification of all nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty and all other Parties which, on the date the amendment is circulated, are members of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Thereafter, it shall enter into force for any other Party upon the deposit of its instrument of ratification of the amendment.

3. Five years after the entry into force of this Treaty, a conference of Parties to the Treaty shall be held in Geneva, Switzerland, in order to review the operation of this Treaty with a view to assuring that the purposes of the Preamble and the provisions of the Treaty are being realised. At intervals of five years thereafter, a majority of the Parties to the Treaty may obtain, by submitting a proposal to this effect to the Depositary Governments, the convening of further conferences with the same objective of reviewing the operation of the Treaty.
The NPT can be amended, but amendments only come into force on countries that ratify the amendments.
Article IX

1. This Treaty shall be open to all States for signature. Any State which does not sign the Treaty before its entry into force in accordance with paragraph 3 of this Article may accede to it at any time.

2. This Treaty shall be subject to ratification by signatory States. Instruments of ratification and instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America, which are hereby designated the Depositary Governments.

3. This Treaty shall enter into force after its ratification by the States, the Governments of which are designated Depositaries of the Treaty, and forty other States signatory to this Treaty and the deposit of their instruments of ratification. For the purposes of this Treaty, a nuclear-weapon State is one which has manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January 1967.

4. For States whose instruments of ratification or accession are deposited subsequent to the entry into force of this Treaty, it shall enter into force on the date of the deposit of their instruments of ratification or accession.

5. The Depositary Governments shall promptly inform all signatory and acceding States of the date of each signature, the date of deposit of each instrument of ratification or of accession, the date of the entry into force of this Treaty, and the date of receipt of any requests for convening a conference or other notices.

6. This Treaty shall be registered by the Depositary Governments pursuant to Article 102 of the Charter of the United Nations.
General and uncontroversial procedures for maintaining the treaty.
Article X

1. Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country. It shall give notice of such withdrawal to all other Parties to the Treaty and to the United Nations Security Council three months in advance. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events it regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.

2. Twenty-five years after the entry into force of the Treaty, a conference shall be convened to decide whether the Treaty shall continue in force indefinitely, or shall be extended for an additional fixed period or periods. This decision shall be taken by a majority of the Parties to the Treaty.
The right to leave the treaty. Each party can decide for itself that it will no longer abide by the terms of the treaty and can have the terms released after three months. A non-weapons state does not "forswear" having nuclear weapons. It promises not to have a weapon until three months after it notifies the UN that it has decided it needs one.
Article XI

This Treaty, the English, Russian, French, Spanish and Chinese texts of which are equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the Depositary Governments. Duly certified copies of this Treaty shall be transmitted by the Depositary Governments to the Governments of the signatory and acceding States.
And that's it.

Under what terms does a nation lose its right to enrich uranium, or to hold a stockpile of low-enriched uranium that could in theory be used to make a weapon after further processing? There are no terms saying anything like that in the treaty itself.

Iran has established and is now consolidating a legal nuclear weapons option. Such an option does not conflict with the letter or the spirit of the NPT at all while US efforts to prevent Iran from gaining such a capability is in violent opposition to the terms and spirit of the treaty.

Xinhua's NPT backgrounder is unusually objective

Pretty much every description of the NPT presented by Western news sources exaggerates the requirements of non-weapons states and understates the requirements the treaty imposes on the weapons states. Xinhua, which is a Chinese news service, provides a welcome departure from the Western norm in its backgrounder of the NPT.
In the 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union stepped up their nuclear testing in a bid to improve their nuclear arsenals. Seeking to maintain their respective nuclear advantages, the two superpowers began to push for negotiations on a treaty that would stem the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In June 1968, the United Nations passed the NPT, which was opened for signatures in Washington, Moscow and London the next month. 59 countries signed up to it.

With 11 articles, the treaty stipulates that each nuclear-weapon state (NWS) refrain from transferring nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices to any recipient, and not to assist any non-nuclear weapon state in producing or acquiring such weapons or devices.

The treaty also says that a Non-NWS should not produce or acquire nuclear weapons.
That is a brief but good explanation of what the NPT does. One wishes Xinhua would write a longer treatment since it is so refreshing in its choice not to warp the NPT to fit what is in effect a pro-Israel agenda.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Could a US-imposed solution to the Zionism/Palestine conflict work?

We've seen a threat that unless Netanyahu and Abbas negotiate and come to an agreement, the US, along with Europe and Russia are preparing, as a contingency, to impose a plan that they will pressure both sides to accept.
US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has warned Israel that he will pave the way for an independent Palestinian state if the peace process is still deadlocked in September.

Mr Obama is proposing that, unless there is a breakthrough, the international community take over the Middle East peace process, Israeli officials have said.

Mr Obama has formulated a secret plan with European allies to convene an international peace conference by the end of the year, Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper reports.

Nobody yet has produced a detailed plan that would be acceptable to both Israel and the Palestinians, especially if refugees are included in the ranks of the Palestinians. In short, Israelis want a two state solution, as long as the Palestinian state is demilitarized, has no outside borders and refugees are forced to resettle outside of Israel. Palestinians want a two state solution as long as it is fully sovereign, including the right to field armed forces, controls its borders and the refugees are given the option, which they may or may not take, of returning to Israel.

There is nearly no support among the Palestinians for the type of two state solution Israel would accept, and there is nearly no support among Jewish Israelis of the type of two state solution Palestinians would accept. The illusion of support for a two state solution is created by allowing Israelis and Palestinians to imagine different solutions, and then answer poll questions about these exclusive visions.

Any single detailed plan will demolish the illusion. Americans are not good at understanding the anti-Zionist point of view and a consequence of this is that it is quite possible that the White House does not realize that producing its own plan and exposing it to criticism would lead both to its rejection and to a crystallization of the Palestinian and Israeli rejection of a two state solution. Americans have, up to now, been putting off the day that an explicit plan will be exposed to the preferences of the parties but possibly, unfortunately for the Americans, it may be that they have been doing so naively rather than cynically.

As when the US encouraged the 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power, the US may be heading toward producing a plan that kills the idea of a two state solution. The alternative is to maintain the status quo and pretend, in some way that progress is being made.

Until the trigger is pulled, it is impossible to tell the two scenarios apart. Does the United States understand that it cannot produce a plan and is therefore stalling, for example with the current negotiations about negotiations that are planned to begin in a few weeks, or does the US really intend for the current steps to produce a plan that can be rejected?

It is similar to the delays in getting a UN Security Council sanctions resolution passed. Is the US really trying, or does it understand that a new resolution would only increase hostility to the detriment of US interests and is therefore stalling to seem active when it actually is not? When the stalling stops and a resolution passes the vote, the question will have been answered, but until that time it is possible and seems like the US is making a production for its own audiences.

If we get to the end of this year, and the US actually produces a plan, and every Palestinian faction points out dozens of reasons the plan is not acceptable. The Saudis and Egyptians will be forced to maintain silence as a favor to their US handlers, while the Syrians, Iranians and everybody in the region outside of US or Israeli direction will loudly be decrying the plan as an insult. If it actually comes to a vote it easily will fail.

At that point the US will be faced with the scenario the peace process seems to me to have been designed to avoid. Once it is clear that a two state solution cannot succeed, the US will either have to endorse Jewish ethnic supremacy in one state or advocate the end of Israel's status as a necessarily Jewish state.

US interests dictate that the "peace process" never comes to a conclusion. Once the US openly advocates Jewish apartheid to prevent non-Jewish Palestinians from assuming political power throughout the territory of Palestine, the US colonial structure will remain in place. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will not revolt from their subordinate status, but maintaining them will become more difficult and expensive exactly as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey's opposition to that structure becomes more intense.

Netanyahu understands that any American threat to bring the peace process to a conclusion is an empty one. The United States really does want to be unburdened of the increasing costs of supporting Israel against the wishes of its region, but it just is not possible to make Israel popular or even acceptable to most non-Jewish people in the surrounding countries. The mistake of pushing the peace process to a conclusion would reflect the fact that American planners do not understand the depths of the regional belief that Israel's perpetuation is an ongoing injustice.

Ahmadinejad on Israel, Jews and the Holocaust

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has given a lot of interviews in which the question: "Are you an anti-Semite" has been posed in many forms. The idea that Ahmadinejad and by extension Iran is anti-Semitic is extremely important for the effort to demonize Iran and increase hostility, with possibly fatal consequences for Americans and Iranians, between the United States and Iran. The edifice of the demonization of Iran is held together by the glue of the accusation that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iranians are anti-Semitic. This glue is actually quite flimsy when examined directly.

Following are many interviews in which the subject of anti-Semitism directly or indirectly came up. It is tedious reading but I think it is important that it be in one place even if readers just skim and skip through it. I'm struck by the consistency with which answers the questions. His opinions by now are actually completely clear, though there are parties with motives to deliberately distort his views.

I'd love to see Ahmadinejad directly refute the charge that he hates Jews even when the question is raised indirectly just as he does when it is raised directly. Every time he refutes that charge he makes the effort to portray himself, his country and opposition to Zionism as anti-Semitic more difficult. To the degree words matter, these are the words most valuable in preventing escalating US/Iranian hostilities.

Reading these 14 interviews, and you can likely find another dozen or so interviews that I missed with a more thorough search, you can verify these basic positions:

Israel: A referendum should be held in which the wishes of the Palestinians are respected. If that leads to Israel going the way of the Soviet Union or Apartheid South Africa, then Israel will be "removed from the map" in a fair and just manner.

Jews: Judaism is distinct from Zionism. He opposes Zionism and holds no ill feelings of any kind against any people who are Jewish either in Iran, in Israel or anywhere in the world.

The Holocaust: 1) People should not be put in jail for expressing dissenting views on the Holocaust any more than they are put in jail for expressing dissenting views on physics or denying God. 2) The Holocaust happened in Europe so Palestinians should not pay for the crime.

We'll start with NBC Nightly News in September 2006.
Williams: There is something you said that upset and scared a lot of people. It upset a lot of Jews in the United States and around the world when you called the Holocaust a myth. There are people, some people I know who escaped Hitler's reign. There is research. There are scholars who can teach you about it. And yet, you've expressed doubt about the Holocaust. Why?

Ahmadinejad: I've answered three of your questions on this. You know that I belong to the university. I'm an academician by nature. I'm interested in having a scientific approach to all events. But we've chosen three questions. The first question was: In the first World War, over 60 — In the second World War, over 60 million people lost their lives. They were all human beings. Why is it that only a select group of those who were killed have become so prominent and important?

Williams: Because of the difference humankind draws between warfare and genocide.

Ahmadinejad: Do you think that the 60 million who lost their lives were all at the result of warfare alone? There were two million that were part of the military at the time, perhaps altogether, 50 million civilians with no roles in the war — Christians, Muslims. They were all killed. The second and more important question that I raised was, if this event happened, and if it is a historical event, then we should allow everyone to research it and study it. The more research and studies are done, the more we can become aware of the realities that happened. We still leave open to further studies absolute knowledge of science or math. Historical events are always subject to revisions, and reviews and studies. We're still revising our thoughts about what happened over thousands of years ago. Why is it that those who ask questions are persecuted? Why is every word so sensitivity or such prohibition on further studies on the subject? Where as we can openly question God, the prophet, concepts such as freedom and democracy? And the third question that I raised in this regard: if this happened, where did it happen? Did the Palestinian people have anything to do with it? Why should the Palestinians pay for it now? Five million displaced Palestinian people is what I'm talking about. Over 60 years of living under threat. Losing the lives of thousands of dear ones. And homes that are destroyed on a daily basis over people's heads. You might argue that the Jews have the right to have a government. We're not against that. But where? At a place where their people were — several people will vote for them, and where they can govern.

Williams: Yes, but…

Ahmadinejad: Not at the cost of displacing a whole nation. And occupying the whole territory.

Williams: Is that a change in your position that Israel should be wiped away? And second, would you ever be willing to sit down with Jews, with scholars, with survivors of Hitler's camps where six million died? Our American film director Stephen Spielberg is one of many collecting the stories of those still alive, who will tell you of the dead, and the program to kill the Jews in Germany and elsewhere.

Ahmadinejad: I feel as there is a feeling a feeling of a need to get the truth here. Among American politicians as well as some media here. The main question is if this happened in Europe, what is the fault of the Palestinian people? This is a problem we have today, the root cause of many of our problems, not what happened 60 years ago. The Palestinian people are — their lives are being destroyed today. There's a pretext of the Holocaust. Lands have been occupied, usurped. What is their fault? What are they to be blamed for? Are they not human beings? Do they have no rights? What role did they play in the Holocaust? Some attempt to sort of change the subject. From the first day I said, "Well, assuming that the Holocaust happened..." Then again, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people? Not at all. Nothing. Believe me, Palestinian people are human beings. They have feelings. They like to live in their own land, to have the right to self determination, to feel secure in their homes. So that small kids are not killed. So that women are not taken from their own homes, taken from their own home. What is the future of such measures?
Then Britain's Channel 4 News from September 2007.
Q: You have said that you want Israel off the map. You really cannot accept the existence of Israel?

No we don't need it and we have a solution for the Israeli and the Zionist Regime. We told them that they should let the Palestinians express their views in a referendum so that the people can chose - we think that this is a humanitarian solution. We are fundamentally opposed to war.

Iranian president Ahmadinejad

Q: You have said that you want Israel off the map. You really cannot accept the existence of Israel?

We do not accept or officially recognise Israel. They are occupiers and illegitimate. But our approach is humanitarian. I ask you where is the Soviet Union now - has it been wiped out or not? It vanished without a war. Let the Palestinian people chose. It will happen

Q: But you speak with more determination. The collapse of Soviet Union was a surprise - you're saying you want Israel off the map now.

Because we analyse the problems of the region carefully and realistically, We do not deceive ourselves. We say a regime that does not have a proper philosophy of existence, which is an occupier which bullies people, and which is without culture and civilisation and which has all the powers of the region against it and only relies on its military power- this cannot survive.

Q: Do you regret denying the holocaust?

I had asked a couple of questions about the holocaust and I'm sorry that some European politicians and governments instead of responding to a couple of scientific questions by a university lecturer, they made it a political issue. I asked these two questions and I ask them of you now. First, if the holocaust is a historical fact then they should allow it to be investigated because we allow everything to be investigated

Q: But documentation is enormous...

Do we have more evidence about the holocaust or about freedom, mathematics and physics?

Q: There are people watching this programme, whose parents, sisters and aunts perished in the concentration camps.

Why are you accusing me? My question is clear - I say if a historical event has happened we should let the scientists investigate it - maybe new dimensions will be uncovered and new issues will be discovered - why don't they allow it? This is suspicious.

Then my second question is, if the holocaust did happen where did it take place? What role did the Palestinian people play? The Palestinians were innocent. Why should they be punished, why should their land be occupied, why should they be killed and why should they be turned in to wanderers? These are my two questions

Q: The issue will remain and I think the majority of people in world will not agree with you.

Well you are wrong. Carry out a referendum in Europe and the European people would agree with me. If the British government and the German government and all the European governments, if we go to international organis ations and carry out a free referendum in Europe you will see that the European people will agree with me. I just raised two questions, I did not pass a judgement.
A relatively hostile interview with CBS News' Scott Pelley from September 23, 2007.
(CBS) PELLEY: Mr. President, you say you love all nations. I have to assume that includes the Nation of Israel.

AHMADINEJAD: Israel is not a nation. Well, we like the people, yes, because they are victims as well. They used to live in their own countries, in their own cities. They were given empty promises, false promises. They said that we are going to give you jobs, we are going to give you security. And they pushed the local Palestinian people out and made them refugees and also made refugees of another community. In other words, from thousands of miles away, people have been emigrating to this country and they are living in fear every day. And we feel for them. Last year in my speech I said that the Zionist entity should open the borders and the gates. Let the people decide where they want to go and settle. They are good people as well. We have no bones to pick with them. We are against terrorism. We are against wrong policies. We are friends with all people, Jewish people, Christians, different people of different faiths. We are, well, we're in contact with them. Here in Iran there are Jewish communities; there are Christian communities; we're all friends. Also, non-Muslim countries, we help them when a natural, let's say, calamity breaks. We love all people. We are opposed to Zionism, occupation, terrorism, dropping bombs on behalf of people when they are inside their own homes, killing men, women, and children. Very openly I have said time and again that I oppose these.

PELLEY: If the Palestinians reach an agreement with Israel for a two-state solution, will you then recognize Israel as well?

AHMADINEJAD: Well, the decision rests with the Palestinian people. This is exactly what I'm saying.

PELLEY: What would you do, sir?

AHMADINEJAD: What I'm saying is that you should allow -- oh, please, let me finish my thought. What we are saying, our solution for Palestine is a humane one. We are saying that you should allow the Palestinian people to participate in a fair and free election and determine their own fate. Whatever decision they take, everyone should go with that.

PELLEY: And if that decision . . .

AHMADINEJAD: No other party must interfere. We are not telling the Palestinian people what decisions they should take. Let them make their own decision. Whatever decision they take, we will go for that.

PELLEY: And if that decision is a two-state solution, you're good with that? You could support a two-state solution?

AHMADINEJAD: Well, why are you prejudging what will happen? Let's pave the ground first for a free and fair choice. And once they make their choice, we must respect that. All the people, all the Palestinian people must be given this opportunity, allow them to make their own decisions. Let us not tell them what course of action they need to take.
Larry King in September 2008.
KING: We're back. Mr. President, you mentioned the Zionist regime. You called-let me get this correct, you called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Now, since you say you are a peaceful nation, you don't mean militarily. You mean politically wiped off the map? What do you mean?

AHMADINEJAD: I think that I have to elaborate on two points here.

Today marks in fact the fourth year that I visited in New York City and the questions that are being asked of me are the same questions that were asked four years ago. Whereas the world, in fact, has undergone some tremendous changes, many developments have unfolded since then in the United States, in Europe and everywhere else around the world. Developments are new.

I have responded to this question many times before. The fact that we oppose the fundamentals of the Zionist regime is because of peace and justice. We see a viable peace. Perhaps as a journalist who has years of experience, you must be aware of what goes on there. The extent of the calamity, in other words, for over 60 years more than five million Palestinian have been displaced. People who were forced out of their homes.

And those who have stayed are being bombarded every day militarily. They are being killed in their homes at times. Women and children at times. Are besieged and medicine, water and food does not always reach them sufficiently. Children lose their lives as do women as a result at times.

Sometimes women die giving birth. Palestinian figures are assassinated and it goes to such extent that it's actually announced beforehand. Three big wars started by the Zionist regime. The last of which was in 2006 when they attacked Lebanon. So when will this calamity, this catastrophe end? Our solution is a humanitarian one.

KING: How?

AHMADINEJAD: What we say is that in the Palestinian territory there must be a free referendum and the Palestinian people should determine their own fate. This is the spirit and the letter of the Charter of the United Nations.

I'd ask you, I'd like to ask you, really, how is it possible to force out the people from one land and gather other people from around the world and let them live in the homes and others and establish a government. This is really a logic that is unacceptable. What are the Palestinians to do? The world community that the United States claims to speak for, how come does not embody the voices of the Palestinians?

KING: Why ...

AHMADINEJAD: Sixty years of this place ...

KING: Would you agree, and there are obviously disagreements there, would you agree to sit down with all of the people of the Middle East, Israel included, to work at some solution? You don't want harmful solutions, you don't want bombs, you don't want to obliterate a people. You want to do something politically. Why not sit down and talk, Israel included?

AHMADINEJAD: The Zionist regime is an uninvited guest, it is an occupier.

KING: But if you don't talk to them ...

AHMADINEJAD: ... is killing people-allow me-I'd like to ask you. If someone comes and occupies the United States as American people, would you give them any rights or would you force them out?

KING: But the world declared it a state. Israel is-that's a fact. You're not going to change that fact. Israel is a state.

So all I'm asking is, why not get together now and discuss their disagreements and hopefully come to some peace and bring about justice for Palestinians?

Why can't you? Israel, you're not going to change that.

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): The Apartheid regime of South Africa was a fact as well, where is it today? The Soviet Union was a fact as well, where is it today? Did the Soviet Union collapse as a result talks and dialogue, or as a result of resilient resistance? In other words, at times you have to resist.

You see, over 100 peace plans have been offered for the resolution of the Palestinian crisis, and all of them have been defeated. None of them have given results. Today the head of the Palestinian Authority, the Egyptian leader, many others have negotiated with the Zionists plenty of times, but has there been results? Hundreds of meetings and negotiations, what's the result so far...


AHMADINEJAD (through translator): ... except the expansion of the Zionist regime, the expansion of settlements, except for the escalation of tensions and terror and the killing of people? This regime is -- fundamentally is illegal.

KING: All right. Let me get a break. And then we'll ask for your answer, what is the solution? Don't go away.


KING: We're back.

Mr. President, since violence is not the answer, and even if the Soviet Union did it without violence, South Africa did it without violence, what's the solution? How do we bring about this concept of peace everywhere? You don't want to see Israelis die, I assume you don't want to see Israelis die. You don't want to see Palestinians die. What's the answer?

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Let me elaborate on two points in response the question. When we speak of a disappearing, what we're speaking of is that crime must disappear. Murders and killing must disappear, terror must disappear, aggression and occupation must disappear.

But our solution is like a very humanitarian and a very democratic one. What we're saying is that throughout the Palestinian territories, people should gather to determine the type of government that they'd like to have and have an election for that, free elections, for all, under the supervision of international organisations.

Let us give the Palestinians an opportunity to have self-determination. This is the only viable solution.

KING: But does Israel remain Israel?

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Well, let the people decide. Why should we decide for the people? We must allow people to decide for themselves. It's their right to decide. I think that there are two reasons for--that account for the failure of the peace plans offered for Palestine.

The first reason is the disregard for the root cause of the problem. The Palestinian people were living in their lands. And they didn't have any problem. It was others who came and created problems for them. Well, so we really have to identify the roots of that and then seek the solution based on that reality.

And second reason is that the right of the Palestinian people for self-determination has been overlooked. Both have been overlooked. I've heard a lot that unfortunately, a group of people are trying to infuse the idea among the American people that Iran even wants to attack the United States, that Iran is a violent country or whatnot.

These are all false propaganda. When have we ever attacked? What we're saying is that we must allow free elections to happen in Palestine under the supervision of the United Nations.

And the Palestinian people, the displaced Palestinian people, or whoever considers Palestine its land, can participate in free elections. And then whatever happens as a result could happen.

KING: But you do not wish...

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Why--we can't decide for the people.

KING: You do not wish the Jewish people harm?

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): No. You see, we have no problems with Jewish people. There are many Jews who live in Iran today. In Iran, for every 150,000 people, we have one representative at the parliament, or the Majles.

For the Jewish community, even though there are only 20,000 in Iraq, they still have one independent member in parliament who has the same prerogative as the other members of parliament.

But please pay attention to the fact that the Zionists are not Jews. They have no religion. They have no religion. They're neither Jews nor Christians nor Muslims. They just have--wear masks of religiosity. How can you possibly be religious and occupy the land of other people?

How can you call yourself a religious person and kill women and children?

KING: Well, they come from a...

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Women and children, women and children were (INAUDIBLE) as a result, cannot have access to medicine.

KING: Mr. President, do they not--I know you've denied this for some reason, but do they not--the Zionists, as you call them, do they not come from some history of persecution? Do they not come from the death of millions of men, women, and children? Is there not a birth (INAUDIBLE)--there's no birth (INAUDIBLE) in that. You don't think that happened?

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): First and foremost, they specifically don't allow anyone to freely discuss the history that happened. They just say, this is our telling of the history and this is what happened. And everybody just listen to it.

KING: You say it didn't happen?

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): Let's just assume--what I'm saying is let more research be done on this--that history. There is a claim that the extent of the calamity was what it was. There are people who agree with it. There are people who disagree. Some completely deny it. Some absolutely agree with the whole account of it.

What we're saying is that we should have an impartial group go do their own research about the extent of the calamity that occurred and then announce a result of that.

Now but what I'd like is really to put this debate aside for a moment. Let's assume that it happened, the extent of which everyone is speaking of. Where did it happen? Did it happen in Palestine? Or did it happen in Europe?

KING: Well, it created Israel.

AHMADINEJAD (through translator): If it happened--it happened in Europe, if the crimes were committed in Europe, why should the Palestinian people be victimised as a result? Why don't the Europeans just give them a territory? Or in Alaska, perhaps. They could give them a territory anywhere they like.

But why pay from the pocket of some other people? It's as if somebody--you throw a party from the pocket of someone else. The Palestinian people had no role in that crime. They're innocent, completely.
The New York Times in September 2008:
NYT: On another subject, you are a Persian; you are not an Arab. Your country has never directly at least fought a war with Israel, and yet you seem obsessed by the Jews. Why?

President Ahmadinejad: We have nothing to do with their business at all. Jewish people live in Iran; they have lived there historically. They have a representative in our Parliament. Although there are only 20,000 people, they still have one representative in Parliament. Whereas for the rest of the population you have a minimum requirement of 150,000 people to have one representative. So the Jewish people are treated just like everyone else, like the Christians and the Muslims and the Zoroastrians. They are respected. Everyone is respected.

The question is really over Zionism. Zionism is not Judaism. It is a political party. It is a very secretive political party, which is the root cause of insecurity and wars. For 60 years in our region people have been killed, they have been threatened for 60 years, they have been aggressed upon for 60 years. Several large wars have occurred. A large number of territories there are occupied. More than five million people have been displaced and become refugees. Women and children are attacked in their own homes. They demolish homes over the heads of women and children with bulldozer, in their own house, in their own homeland. These are not crimes that one can shut ones eyes to. We disagree with these criminal acts and we announce it loud and clear. The anger of the U.S. government does not prevent us from saying loud and clear what we think about these acts. As long as these crimes are not rooted out we will continue voicing our concern.

I am surprised that in your media there is hardly any attention to the human rights crimes committed by the Zionist regime, nor to the ongoing crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. NATO troops went to Afghanistan to establish security, but they just expanded insecurity. Terrorism has increased. The production of illicit drugs has multiplied. Some days there are 10 people killed, some days there are 100 people killed. Sometimes wedding ceremonies are bombarded and insecurity has now affected Pakistan as well. In the process of occupying Iraq over one million people have been killed, a lot of women and children, several million people have been displaced. Is there enough forces in America to represent those innocents who have been deprived of their rights innocently those countries?

There are seven billion people living on this planet, close to 200 countries. Why is it that politicians here in the United States only rise to defend the Zionists? What commitment forces the U.S. government to victimize itself in support of a regime that is basically a criminal one? We can’t understand it. When human rights are violated in Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo, how come there is just not enough attention given to it? In a lot of countries that are friends of the United States there are vast human rights violations. Human rights has become completely politicized with multiple standards that apply to different parts of the world. I would like to repeat myself: People in Iran like their government. You will see in the election.
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez for Democracy Now in September 2008:
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to turn for a moment to the Palestinian struggle. Our program has often reported on the fight for self-determination of the Palestinian people. But over the decades, most groups within the Palestinian national movement have concluded that the eventual peace between Israelis and Palestinians will come through a two-state solution, although there are still problems of the right of return, of the fate of Jerusalem, the boundaries of that state that have not been worked out. What is your view of how peace will be achieved, through a one-state solution or through a two-state solution?

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] I believe that we should look at the problem from another perspective. To find cure for a disease, we do not necessarily just deal with how it looks, but with the root causes of a disease. We must destroy the root causes of it.

You’re aware that over a hundred peace plans have been offered to this day for the Palestinian crisis. But all have failed. Why? If we can answer that why, then we’ll find the right solution.

The first reason is that none of the solutions have actually addressed the root cause of the problem. The root cause is the presence of an illegitimate government regime that has usurped and imposed itself on, meaning they have brought people from other parts of the world, replaced them with people who had existed in the territory and then forced the exit of the old people out, the people who lived there, out of the country or the territories. So there have been two simultaneous displacements. The indigenous people were forced out and displaced, and a group of other people scattered around the globe were gathered and placed in a new place.

It’s kind of one of those rare instances in history that some powers decided to do for their own interest. Look at the consequences. Ever since it came into being, this regime, there’s only been nothing more than wars, aggression, displacement and usurpation. It seems this is what this regime is out there to do, to fight wars, to threaten, as if if they stop doing that, they will get destroyed themselves. It seems that that was their mission, to start with. That’s the problem.

A second reason is that none of those peace plans offered so far have given attention to the right to self-determination of the Palestinians. If a group of people are forced out of their country, that doesn’t mean their rights are gone, even with the passage of sixty years. Can you ignore the rights of those displaced? How is it possible for people to arrive from far-off lands and have the right to self-determination, whereas the indigenous people of the territory are denied that right?

We have to really resolve these two issues. Then the problem will be resolved. Otherwise, it won’t. We look at a government that has come to power through the vote of the people, called Hamas. It was economically besieged, no medicine getting in, attacks carried out every day on them. How exactly are they to resolve the situation, unless they pay attention to those two causes?

This Zionist regime does not have a chance of remaining in the region, because it has not established roots with the region. It’s like an alien creature that’s come into your body. Imagine an extra piece of metal like a pin going into your body, a nail. Your body will reject it. As long as the nail is in your body, your body just doesn’t function. And as long as it’s not removed, you won’t have a cure. You just can’t bring others from elsewhere, kill the rights of the indigenous people and force yourself on the place. Our links and ties with the body of the Palestinian people is very strong.

None of the people in Palestine agree with what you just said. If there were to be elections right now today, the Hamas would get reelected, even with more votes than it got last time.

AMY GOODMAN: So, do you think Israel should be eliminated?

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] We believe that people have to decide and choose their own fate, the right to self-determination. If they would like to keep the Zionists, they can stay; if not, they have to leave. What do you think the people there want?

AMY GOODMAN: You would support a two-state solution, if they do?

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: [translated] Wherever people decide, we will respect it. I mean, it’s very much in correspondence with our proposal to allow Palestinian people to decide through free referendums. We’ve been saying this for several years as a proposal. But those who use democracy as a pretext everywhere else are not—don’t think the Palestinians need democracy.
Steve Inskeep for NPR in September 2009:
INSKEEP: Before coming to this conversation, I spoke with Elie Wiesel, a Nobel Prize winner, Holocaust survivor, and author of a book that I would recommend to you called Night, which is his description of his family's murder and his own near-death in the Holocaust.

Mr. Wiesel described you as the number one Holocaust denier in the world. Are you proud of such a distinction?

AHMADINEJAD: I have no opinion about what people and others think about me. It doesn't matter. But would you like to hear my views on the Holocaust? Are you willing to hear it?

INSKEEP: We have, in a previous interview, discussed how you feel it is being used unjustly to justify Israel, so we need not cover that ground again. But if you would like to describe to me what specifically you believe happened between 1942 and 1945, I would be interested.

AHMADINEJAD: But then 1942 to 1945 is still about the Holocaust, right? I do raise a couple of questions about the Holocaust, and you are a member of the media, and I believe that you should actually tell people what these questions are, and try to receive answers from them as well.

The first question is, is the Holocaust a historical event or not? It is a historical event. And, having said that, there are numerous historical events. So the next question is, why is it that this specific event has become so prominent?

Normally, ordinary people and historians pay attention to historical events. Why are politicians giving so much attention to this particular event? Why are they so biased about it? Does this event effect what is happening on the ground this day, now?

What we say is that genocide is the result of racial discrimination. Sometimes we look at history to learn the lessons of history.

INSKEEP: Are you acknowledging that millions of people were killed? Millions of Jews, specifically, were killed during World War II?

AHMADINEJAD: If you bear with me so that I can complete my statements, you will receive your answer. I'm asking, and I'm asking a number of serious questions. And I'm not addressing these questions to you, but to a wider audience — everyone — anyone who cares about the fate of humanity; who care about human beings and the rights of people. These are serious questions. If we are looking at history with the aim to learn — derive lessons from it, then what this indicates is that in the future, we should not carry out the same mistakes that were done in the past.

While I personally was not alive 60 years ago, I happen to be alive now, and I can see that genocide is happening now under the pretext of an event that happened 60 years ago. So the fundamental question I raise here is that, if this event happened, where did it happen? As a form of an objection question, who was it carried by? Why should the Palestinian people make up for it?

INSKEEP: You just went back to, if this event happened. If you'll forgive me, because time is short, we wish to go on, but do you acknowledge that it happened? Do you now find it a reliable claim?

AHMADINEJAD: I'm not a historian. Most certainly, I've read a lot of books about this issue, and that is why I have questions about it. My questions are very clear ones. We should allow researchers to examine all sorts of questions because it's quite clear that when they do, they will reach different conclusions.

Why have we shut off all forms of research that are impartial on the subject of the Holocaust? It seems that even if a historian reaches a result that is other than what has been said by, say, European historians, they could even end up in prison for it. A couple of academics in Europe were actually prosecuted because of it. These are famous historians who carried out some historical research and arrived at conclusions other than what was said by the officials and by the, you know, official tenets.

INSKEEP: These are not official channels. These are thousands of survivors who witnessed the deaths of their families.

AHMADINEJAD: Well, these are claims. Do you expect me to endorse these claims on a one-sided manner? I do not wish to pass a judgment; I'm just saying we must allow historians to carry out research on it. Why should everyone be forced to accept just the opinion of a few on a historical event? I mean, this does violate the freedom of opinion.
Interview after speaking at Columbia University in September 2007:
The first question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people. There are many Jews in Iran living peacefully with security. You must understand that in our constitution, in our laws, in the parliamentary elections, for every 150,000 people we get one representative in the parliament. For the Jewish community, one-fifth of this number they still get one independent representative in the parliament. So our proposal to the Palestinian plight is a humanitarian and democratic proposal.

What we say is that to solve the 60-year problem we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself. This is compatible with the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it. We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum. Whatever they choose as a nation everybody should accept and respect. Nobody should interfere in the affairs of the Palestinian nation. Nobody should sow the seeds of discord. Nobody should spend tens of billions of dollars equipping and arming one group there.
We say allow the Palestinian nation to decide its own future, to have the right to self-determination for itself. This is what we are saying as the Iranian nation. (Applause.)

MR. COATSWORTH: Mr. President, I think many members of our audience would be -- would like to hear a clearer answer to that question, that is -- (interrupted by cheers, applause).

The question is: Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel as a Jewish state? And I think you could answer that question with a single word, either yes or no. (Cheers, applause.)

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: And then you want the answer the way you want to hear it. Well, this isn't really a free flow of information. I'm just telling you where I -- what my position is. (Applause.)

I'm asking you, is the Palestinian issue not an international issue of prominence or not? Please tell me, yes or no. (Laughter, applause.)

There's a plight of a people.

MR. COATSWORTH: The answer to your question is yes. (Laughter.)

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, thank you for your cooperation.

It is -- we recognize there is a problem there that's been going on for 60 years. Everybody provides a solution, and our solution is a free referendum. Let this referendum happen, and then you'll see what the results are. Let the people of Palestine freely choose what they want for their future. And then what you want in your mind to happen, it will happen and will be realized. (Applause.)

MR. COATSWORTH: Which was posed by President Bollinger earlier and comes from a number of other students. Why is your government providing aid to terrorists? Will you stop doing so and permit international monitoring to certify that you have stopped?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Well, I want to pose a question here to you. If someone comes and explodes bombs around you, threatens your president, members of the administration, kills the members of the Senate or Congress, how would you treat them? Would you award them or would you name them a terrorist group? Well, it's clear. You would call them a terrorist.

My dear friends, the Iranian nation is a victim of terrorism. For -- 26 years ago, where I work, close to where I work, in a terrorist operation, the elected president of the Iranian nation and the elected prime minister of Iran lost their lives in a bomb explosion. They turned into ashes.

A month later, in another terrorist operation, 72 members of our parliament and highest ranking officials, including four ministers and eight deputy ministers, bodies were shattered into pieces as a result of terrorist attacks. Within six months, over 4,000 Iranians lost their lives, assassinated by terrorist groups, all this carried out by the hand of one single terrorist group. Regretfully that same terrorist group, now, today, in your country, is being -- operating under the support of the U.S. administration, working freely, distributing declarations freely. And their camps in Iraq are supported by the U.S. government. They're secured by the U.S. government.

Our nation has been harmed by terrorist activities. We were the first nation that objected to terrorism and the first to uphold the need to fight terrorism. (Applause.)

MR. COATSWORTH: A number of questioners, sorry, a number of people have asked.

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: We need to address the root causes of terrorism and eradicate those root causes.

We live in the Middle East. For us, it's quite clear which powers sort of incite terrorists, support them, fund them. We know that. Our nation, the Iranian nation, through history has always extended a hand of friendship to other nations. We're a cultured nation. We don't need to resort to terrorism.

We've been victims of terrorism ourselves, and it's regrettable that people who argue they're fighting terrorism, instead of supporting the Iranian people and nation, instead of fighting the terrorists that are attacking them, they're supporting the terrorists and then turn the fingers to us. This is most regrettable.

MR. COATSWORTH: A further set of questions challenge your view of the Holocaust. Since the evidence that this occurred in Europe in the 1940s as a result of the actions of the German Nazi government, since that -- those facts are well-documented, why are you calling for additional research? There seems to be no purpose in doing so, other than to question whether the Holocaust actually occurred as an historical fact. Can you explain why you believe more research is needed into the facts of what are -- what is incontrovertible?

PRESIDENT AHMADINEJAD: Thank you very much for your question. I am an academic, and you are as well. Can you argue that researching a phenomenon is finished forever, done? Can we close the books for good on a historical event? There are different perspectives that come to light after every research is done. Why should we stop research at all? Why should we stop the progress of science and knowledge? You shouldn't ask me why I'm asking questions. You should ask yourselves why you think that it's questionable.

Why do you want to stop the progress of science and research? Do you ever take what's known as absolute in physics? We had principles in mathematics that were granted to be absolute in mathematics for over 800 years, but new science has gotten rid of those absolutism, gotten -- forward other different logics of looking at mathematics, and sort of turned the way we look at it as a science altogether after 800 years. So we must allow researchers, scholars to investigate into everything, every phenomenon -- God, universe, human beings, history, and civilization. Why should we stop that?

I'm not saying that it didn't happen at all. This is not (the ?) judgment that I'm passing here. I said in my second question, granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people? This is a serious question. They're two dimension.
NPR in 2008:
NPR: Let me delve into two more areas. As you know, Mr. President, you are known in much of the world, and not only in the United States, as the man who wants to "wipe Israel off the map." Are you?

Ahmadinejad: Is the problem of the U.S. government the Zionist regime? I believe the extremity to which the U.S. government has gone to extend support to the Zionist regime has caused the U.S. government problems around the world.

NPR: Do you accept the label of the man who wants to wipe Israel off the map? You're not?

Ahmadinejad: Please pay attention to the fact that there are two issues that go side by side in this discussion. The first part is the proposal we have given to resolve the problem of Palestine. For 60 years, wars and killings have been going on over there.

Every peace proposal that has been put on the table so far has failed to give results. Why? Because it neglects the rights of the Palestinian people. Our proposal has been to offer the Palestinian people a free referendum. Everyone who lives in Palestine [should be able] to participate in a referendum to decide the future and the nature of its government.

Let me create an analogy here — where exactly is the Soviet Union today? It did disappear — but exactly how? It was through the vote of its own people. So therefore in Palestine too we must allow the people, the Palestinians, to determine their own future.

And then the second side of this same issue, and I'd really like to invite you to pay attention to it. Especially you — you must, because you are always being subjected to [the] unilateral sort of information that is coming from the administration here.

Let's ask ourselves, where exactly did the Zionist regime come from? Palestine has existed historically with people who live there for thousands of years. Then at gunpoint several million of the indigenous people there were forced out of their homes and became displaced. And it didn't stop there; others were brought from elsewhere in the world to replace them. How can you accept this regime?
Spiegel, a German periodical in June 2006:
SPIEGEL: It concerned your remarks about the Holocaust. It was inevitable that the Iranian president’s denial of the systematic murder of the Jews by the Germans would trigger outrage.

Ahmadinejad: I don’t exactly understand the connection.

SPIEGEL: First you make your remarks about the Holocaust. Then comes the news that you may travel to Germany -- this causes an uproar. So you were surprised after all?

Ahmadinejad: No, not at all, because the network of Zionism is very active around the world, in Europe too. So I wasn’t surprised. We were addressing the German people. We have nothing to do with Zionists.

SPIEGEL: Denying the Holocaust is punishable in Germany. Are you indifferent when confronted with so much outrage?

Ahmadinejad: I know that DER SPIEGEL is a respected magazine. But I don’t know whether it is possible for you to publish the truth about the Holocaust. Are you permitted to write everything about it?

SPIEGEL: Of course we are entitled to write about the findings of the past 60 years’ historical research. In our view there is no doubt that the Germans -- unfortunately -- bear the guilt for the murder of 6 million Jews.

Ahmadinejad: Well, then we have stirred up a very concrete discussion. We are posing two very clear questions. The first is: Did the Holocaust actually take place? You answer this question in the affirmative. So, the second question is: Whose fault was it? The answer to that has to be found in Europe and not in Palestine. It is perfectly clear: If the Holocaust took place in Europe, one also has to find the answer to it in Europe.

On the other hand, if the Holocaust didn’t take place, why then did this regime of occupation …

SPIEGEL: … You mean the state of Israel…

Ahmadinejad: … come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime? Permit me to make one more point. We are of the opinion that, if an historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the more clearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it.

SPIEGEL: That has long since happened in Germany.

Ahmadinejad: We don’t want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not. If it did, then those who bear the responsibility for it have to be punished, and not the Palestinians. Why isn't research into a deed that occurred 60 years ago permitted? After all, other historical occurrences, some of which lie several thousand years in the past, are open to research, and even the governments support this.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, with all due respect, the Holocaust occurred, there were concentration camps, there are dossiers on the extermination of the Jews, there has been a great deal of research, and there is neither the slightest doubt about the Holocaust nor about the fact – we greatly regret this – that the Germans are responsible for it. If we may now add one remark: the fate of the Palestinians is an entirely different issue, and this brings us into the present.

Ahmadinejad: No, no, the roots of the Palestinian conflict must be sought in history. The Holocaust and Palestine are directly connected with one another. And if the Holocaust actually occurred, then you should permit impartial groups from the whole world to research this. Why do you restrict the research to a certain group? Of course, I don’t mean you, but rather the European governments.

SPIEGEL: Are you still saying that the Holocaust is just "a myth?"

Ahmadinejad: I will only accept something as truth if I am actually convinced of it.

SPIEGEL: Even though no Western scholars harbor any doubt about the Holocaust?

Ahmadinejad: But there are two opinions on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part. Hence, an impartial group has to come together to investigate and to render an opinion on this very important subject, because the clarification of this issue will contribute to the solution of global problems. Under the pretext of the Holocaust, a very strong polarization has taken place in the world and fronts have been formed. It would therefore be very good if an international and impartial group looked into the matter in order to clarify it once and for all. Normally, governments promote and support the work of researchers on historical events and do not put them in prison.

SPIEGEL: Who is that supposed to be? Which researchers do you mean?

Ahmadinejad: You would know this better than I; you have the list. There are people from England, from Germany, France and from Australia.

SPIEGEL: You presumably mean, for example, the Englishman David Irving, the German-Canadian Ernst Zündel, who is on trial in Mannheim, and the Frenchman Georges Theil, all of whom deny the Holocaust.

Ahmadinejad: The mere fact that my comments have caused such strong protests, although I’m not a European, and also the fact that I have been compared with certain persons in German history indicates how charged with conflict the atmosphere for research is in your country. Here in Iran you needn’t worry.

SPIEGEL: Well, we are conducting this historical debate with you for a very timely purpose. Are you questioning Israel’s right to exist?

Ahmadinejad: Look here, my views are quite clear. We are saying that if the Holocaust occurred, then Europe must draw the consequences and that it is not Palestine that should pay the price for it. If it did not occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came from. I believe that the German people today are also prisoners of the Holocaust. Sixty million people died in the Second World War. World War II was a gigantic crime. We condemn it all. We are against bloodshed, regardless of whether a crime was committed against a Muslim or against a Christian or a Jew. But the question is: Why among these 60 million victims are only the Jews the center of attention?

SPIEGEL: That’s just not the case. All peoples mourn the victims claimed by the Second World War, Germans and Russians and Poles and others as well. Yet, we as Germans cannot absolve ourselves of a special guilt, namely for the systematic murder of the Jews. But perhaps we should now move on to the next subject.

Ahmadinejad: No, I have a question for you. What kind of a role did today’s youth play in World War II?


Ahmadinejad: Why should they have feelings of guilt toward Zionists? Why should the costs of the Zionists be paid out of their pockets? If people committed crimes in the past, then they would have to have been tried 60 years ago. End of story! Why must the German people be humiliated today because a group of people committed crimes in the name of the Germans during the course of history?

SPIEGEL: The German people today can’t do anything about it. But there is a sort of collective shame for those deeds done in the German name by our fathers or grandfathers.

Ahmadinejad: How can a person who wasn’t even alive at the time be held legally responsible?

SPIEGEL: Not legally but morally.

Ahmadinejad: Why is such a burden heaped on the German people? The German people of today bear no guilt. Why are the German people not permitted the right to defend themselves? Why are the crimes of one group emphasized so greatly, instead of highlighting the great German cultural heritage? Why should the Germans not have the right to express their opinion freely?

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we are well aware that German history is not made up of only the 12 years of the Third Reich. Nevertheless, we have to accept that horrible crimes have been committed in the German name. We also own up to this, and it is a great achievement of the Germans in post-war history that they have grappled critically with their past.

Ahmadinejad: Are you also prepared to tell that to the German people?

SPIEGEL: Oh yes, we do that.

Ahmadinejad: Then would you also permit an impartial group to ask the German people whether it shares your opinion? No people accepts its own humiliation.

SPIEGEL: All questions are allowed in our country. But of course there are right-wing radicals in Germany who are not only anti-Semitic, but xenophobic as well, and we do indeed consider them a threat.

Ahmadinejad: Let me ask you one thing: How much longer can this go on? How much longer do you think the German people have to accept being taken hostage by the Zionists? When will that end – in 20, 50, 1,000 years?

SPIEGEL: We can only speak for ourselves. DER SPIEGEL is nobody’s hostage; SPIEGEL does not deal only with Germany’s past and the Germans’ crimes. We’re not Israel’s uncritical ally in the Palestian conflict. But we want to make one thing very clear: We are critical, we are independent, but we won’t simply stand by without protest when the existential right of the state of Israel, where many Holocaust survivors live, is being questioned.

Ahmadinejad: Precisely that is our point. Why should you feel obliged to the Zionists? If there really had been a Holocaust, Israel ought to be located in Europe, not in Palestine.

SPIEGEL: Do you want to resettle a whole people 60 years after the end of the war?

Ahmadinejad: Five million Palestinians have not had a home for 60 years. It is amazing really: You have been paying reparations for the Holocaust for 60 years and will have to keep paying up for another 100 years. Why then is the fate of the Palestinians no issue here?

SPIEGEL: The Europeans support the Palestinians in many ways. After all, we also have an historic responsibility to help bring peace to this region finally. But don’t you share that responsibility?

Ahmadinejad: Yes, but aggression, occupation and a repetition of the Holocaust won’t bring peace. What we want is a sustainable peace. This means that we have to tackle the root of the problem. I am pleased to note that you are honest people and admit that you are obliged to support the Zionists.

SPIEGEL: That’s not what we said, Mr. President.

Ahmadinejad: You said Israelis.
ABC News' George Stephanopoulus in April 2009
AHMADINEJAD: When I was talking against the Zionist regime in the racism conference, the first proviso for successful talks would be to give the other party the freedom to speak. Mr. Obama has the right to have his own opinion, obviously.

He is ready to express his points of view. But the Geneva conference had been organized to combat racism, to oppose racism. My point of view is that the Zionist regime is the manifestation of racism.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet when you speak at that conference, Western diplomats walk out. Even the U.N. secretary-general condemns your remarks.

AHMADINEJAD: That's fine! That's fine! They are free to have their own points of view. Why do they want to deny me my ideas

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why do you insist on questioning the Holocaust even when it's established as a historical fact and even when politicians here in Iran worry that kind of talk isolates Iran?

AHMADINEJAD: I'm going to talk about that as well. Don't be hasty. I have posed two questions over Holocaust.

My first question was, if the Holocaust happened, where did it take place? In Europe. Why should they make amends in Palestine? The Palestinian people had no role to play in the Holocaust. They had no role, for that matter, in the Second World War.

Racism happened in Europe, the amends are made in Palestine?

My second question about the Holocaust, if this is indeed a historical event, why do they want to turn it into a holy thing? And nobody should be allowed to ask any questions about that? Nobody study it, research it, permit it to research it. Why?

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's the most studied historical event in history.

AHMADINEJAD: If this is a historically documented event, why do Western states show so much sensitivity towards a historical event? They do not want the lid to be taken off. I am asking them to permit studies.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talking about something that's happening right now. President Obama has appointed Senator George Mitchell to help negotiate a peace between Israel and Palestine. Do you support that effort?

AHMADINEJAD: Well, we are asking for the legal rights of the Palestinian people. What we are saying is that the Palestinian people like other peoples have the right to determine their own fate. Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. We should -- they should allow them to engage in elections, free elections and a free referendum to determine for themselves their own fate.

We must not repeat the mistakes of the past.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you believe President Obama's new effort is repeating the mistakes of the past?

AHMADINEJAD: Well? I am yet to have a clear idea about Mr. Obama's Palestinian policy. However, the gentleman's support of the massacre of Gazans in support for the criminals who were responsible for that atrocity was a major mistake on the part of the gentleman. I think that if Mr. Obama wants to help with the Palestinian issue, he has to move in accordance with justice, fair play and also, again, I am calling for the right for the Palestinians to determine their own fate. STEPHANOPOULOS: If the Palestinian people negotiate an agreement with Israel and the Palestinian people vote and support that agreement, a two state solution, will Iran support it?

AHMADINEJAD: Nobody should interfere, allow the Palestinian people to decide for themselves. Whatever they decide.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's all I'm asking.

AHMADINEJAD: It is the right of all human beings.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If they choose a two state solution with Israel, that's fine.

AHMADINEJAD: Well, what we are saying is that you and us should not determine the course of things beforehand. Allow the Palestinian people to make their own decisions.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if they choose a two state solution, if they choose to recognize Israel's existence, Iran will as well?

AHMADINEJAD; Let me approach this from another perspective. If the Palestinians decide that the Zionist regime needs to leave all Palestinian lands, would the American administration accept their decision? Will they accept this Palestinian point of view?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll ask them. But I'm asking you if Palestinians accept the existence of Israel, would Iran support that?

AHMADINEJAD: Can I ask you questions as well?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm not part of the American government. I'll put that question to the American government.

AHMADINEJAD: I'm asking that people vote.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But I have a question for you as president of Iran.

AHMADINEJAD: That's fine!

STEPHANOPOULOS: If the Palestinians sign an agreement with Israel, will Iran support it?

AHMADINEJAD: Whatever decision they take is fine with us. We are not going to determine anything. Whatever decision they take, we will support that. We think that this is the right of the Palestinian people, however we fully expect other states to do so as well.

The U.S. administration, European governments. The right to determine their fate by the Palestinians should be respected by all of them.
An obviously edited interview by Mike Wallace in August 2006:
Q: You are very good at filibustering. You still have not answered the question. You still have not answered the question: Israel must be wiped off the map. Why?

AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, don't be hasty, sir. I'm going to get to that.

Q: I'm not hasty.

AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) I think that the Israeli government is a fabricated government.

Q: (Narrating interview.) Fabricated following the Holocaust, which he has said may also have been fabricated.

Q: Last December, you said this: "The Europeans created a myth - the Holocaust." A myth?

AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) What I did say was that if this is a reality, if this is real, where did it take place?

Q: In Germany.

AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) There are (unintelligible).

Q: In Germany.

AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Who caused this in Europe?

Q: In Europe. What you are suggesting - one moment - what you are suggesting, then, that Israel should be over in Germany because that's where the Holocaust took place?

AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) I'm not saying that, mind you.

Q: (Narrating interview.) But he has said Israel could be moved to Europe or even to the United States, but it should not be in Palestine.

AHMADINEJAD: (Translated.) Well, if an atrocity was committed in Germany, or Europe for that matter, why should the Palestinians answer for this? They had no role to play in this. Why on the pretext of the Holocaust they have occupied Palestine? Millions of people have been made refugees. Thousands of people to date have been killed, sir. Thousands of people have been put in prison. Well, at the very moment, a great war is raging because of that.
Wally Weymouth of the Washington Post, September 2006.
Are you really serious when you say that Israel should be wiped off the face of the Earth?

We need to look at the scene in the Middle East -- 60 years of war, 60 years of displacement, 60 years of conflict, not even a day of peace. Look at the war in Lebanon, the war in Gaza -- what are the reasons for these conditions? We need to address and resolve the root problem.

Your suggestion is to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth?

Our suggestion is very clear: . . . Let the Palestinian people decide their fate in a free and fair referendum, and the result, whatever it is, should be accepted. . . . The people with no roots there are now ruling the land.

You've been quoted as saying that Israel should be wiped off the face of the Earth. Is that your belief?

What I have said has made my position clear. If we look at a map of the Middle East from 70 years ago . . .

So, the answer is yes, you do believe that it should be wiped off the face of the Earth?

Are you asking me yes or no? Is this a test? Do you respect the right to self-determination for the Palestinian nation? Yes or no? Is Palestine, as a nation, considered a nation with the right to live under humane conditions or not? Let's allow those rights to be enforced for these 5 million displaced people.

If the Palestinian people decided that they wanted a two-state solution, would you support that decision?

The politicians in the United States should allow the Palestinians to vote, and then we'll all respect the results. They won't even accept a small Palestinian state. That's why we think the root cause of the crisis must be addressed. Jews, like other individuals, will have to be respected. It's not necessary to occupy the land of others, to displace them, to imprison their young people and to destroy their homes and agricultural fields and to attack neighboring countries.
Spiegel in April 2009.
SPIEGEL: You have become one of the most powerful political players in the region because you have become a champion of the Palestinian cause.

Ahmadinejad: We are defending more than the basic rights of oppressed Palestinians. Our proposal for resolving the Middle East conflict is that the Palestinians should be allowed to decide their own future in a free referendum. Do you think it right that some European countries and the United States support the occupying regime and the unnatural Zionist state, but condemn Iran, merely because we are defending the rights of the Palestinian people?

SPIEGEL: You are talking about Israel, a member of the United Nations that has been recognized worldwide for many decades. What would you do if a majority of the Palestinians voted for a two-state solution, that is, if they recognized Israel's right to exist?

Ahmadinejad: If that were what they decided, everyone would have to accept this decision…

SPIEGEL: …and you too would have to recognize Israel, a country that you have said, in the past, you would like to "wipe off the map." Please tell us exactly what you said and what you meant by it.

Ahmadinejad: Let me put it this way, facetiously: Why did the Germans cause so much trouble back then, allowing these problems to arise in the first place? The Zionist regime is the result of World War II. What does any of this have to do with the Palestinian people? Or with the Middle East region? I believe that we must get to the root of the problem. If one doesn't consider the causes, there can be no solution.

SPIEGEL: Does getting to the root of the problem mean wiping out Israel?

Ahmadinejad: It means claiming the rights of the Palestinian people. I believe that this is to everyone's benefit, to that of America, Europe and Germany. But didn't we want to discuss Germany and German-Iranian relations?

SPIEGEL: That's what we are talking about. The fact that you deny Israel's right to exist is of critical importance when it comes to German-Iranian relations.

Ahmadinejad: Do you believe that the German people support the Zionist regime? Do you believe that a referendum could be held in Germany on this question? If you did allow such a referendum to take place, you would discover that the German people hate the Zionist regime.

SPIEGEL: We are confident that this is not the case.

Ahmadinejad: I do not believe that the European countries would have been as indulgent if only one-hundredth of the crimes that the Zionist regime has committed in Gaza had happened somewhere in Europe. Why on earth do the European governments support this regime? I have already tried to explain this to you once before…

SPIEGEL: …when we argued about your denial of the Holocaust three years ago. After the interview, we sent you a film by SPIEGEL TV about the extermination of the Jews in the Third Reich. Did you receive the DVD about the Holocaust, and did you watch it?

Ahmadinejad: Yes, I did receive the DVD. But I did not want to respond to you on this question. I believe that the controversy over the Holocaust is not an issue for the German people. The problem is more deep-seated than that. By the way, thank you once again for coming. You are Germans, and we think very highly of the Germans.