The Scud Issues Has Legs – State Dept Summons Syrian Diplomat

Ford Prefect – a Syrian – writes:

The US administration and policies towards peace in the Middle east are genuine and pragmatic – but they will not succeed without Syria’s help.

It’s time for Syria to embark on a public relation campaign – aligning its objectives for peace and security in the region with those articulated by the Obama administration. It’s more important now than ever for Syria to restore its image of a country that is transforming itself into a modern state. Although Syria has a long road ahead of it, Syria today is by far a different one from the one just 10 years ago.

Not too many people in the US, including those in Congress, know the basic facts of Syria’s transformation. Syria today is not an aggressive state. It harbors no evil intention to anyone – Israel included. Its leadership is young and open-minded while recovering from the remnants of 30 years of mismanagement and inefficiencies. Its economy is expanding. There are private schools, private universities, private radio stations, private banks, and private websites. More private enterprises are employing Syrians with advanced degrees in engineering and management than at any time since Syrian independence.

Syrian arts from poetry to painting are literally bursting with talents. Galleries showcasing the work of Syrian artists are everywhere. Syrian TV and movie productions are so busy under heavy demands that they are now producing at over capacity.

Today, someone up there on the food chain in Syria is quietly transforming every public Syrian institution into a modern 21st century with the help of leading global experts and organizations. From education to healthcare to tourism to social services – no institution will be left untouched. This is happening behind the scenes, slowly but aggressively.

Syria today needs to live in peace more than ever and it will demonstrate that while the West was struggling with religious freedom, protection of minorities, and passing laws of “affirmative action”, Syria’s definition and practice of secularism has been a permanent part of its fabric. And as America reminisces with its uni-colored, white Anglo-Saxon founding fathers, modern Syria was born on shoulders of Sultan Al Atrash (Druze), Fares Al Khoury (Christian), Saleh Al-Ali (Alawite), Ibrahim Hanano (Kurd), and Hashem Atassi (Sunni) to name just a few.

As more and more people in the US and in Israel begin to understand the Syrian people for what they are, the better chances we have to fulfill the wish for a lasting peace in the Middle East. The time is now for Syria to demonstrate its commitment to peace and its leadership in the Middle East.

Plotting The Next Mideast War
by Bret Stephens in WSJ

…One of the more easily imaginable consequences is that a war in Lebanon could very quickly involve Syrian and Iranian participation. So the next question is: How might that play out?

Here Israel could conceivably reap certain advantages, which in turn calls into question whether Israel might not want a wider war over Lebanon after all. Today, Jerusalem’s two supreme strategic objectives—preventing Tehran’s nuclear bids from reaching fruition while also preventing any further deterioration in the relationship with Washington—are very far from being in synch. But in a scenario in which Israeli cities are hit by Hezbollah’s Scuds, Israel would have ample justification and cover to strike back at the ultimate source of those missiles—not just Damascus, but Tehran. As Rahm Emanuel likes to say, a crisis can be a terrible thing to waste.

And that raises a final question: What does the Obama administration do? So far, it hasn’t helped matters by giving the impression of a clear wedge between Israel and the U.S. Nor has the administration’s assiduous courtship of Damascus done anything other than embolden Mr. Assad’s taste for adventure. Is the president capable of learning from his Mideast failures so far? That one’s worth $64,000.

In 1967, a series of seemingly minor events, tactical misjudgments, and particularly an Arab perception that the West would not honor its international commitments or come to Israel’s defense triggered a war the consequences of which have defined the Middle East ever since. We are adrift in those same waters today.

Why Syria Needs to Get a Grip
by Steven Heydemann, vice president, Grants and Fellowships program, and special adviser, Muslim World Initiative, U.S. Institute of Peace.
Foreign Policy (The Middle East Channel)

Engagement of Syria, whether by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, or France, is based on a gamble. By giving Syria’s leaders options other than Iran and Hizballah, and by holding out the prospect of long-term regime security, engagement creates incentives for Syrian moderation. In theory. Thus far the bet has not paid off. Instead, Syria’s leaders have pocketed their gains and raised the stakes, strengthening Hizballah’s arsenal and deepening its strategic ties with Iran.

Should the U.S. put engagement on hold in response? Should Ford’s appointment be delayed in the Senate? As tempting as these options might appear, they should be avoided. There is little to be gained and much to be lost by slowing either Ford’s confirmation or his departure for Damascus. Indeed, Syria’s recent trajectory makes this a critical moment for the U.S. to have an ambassador on the ground in Damascus. To be sure, American leverage over Syria is limited. Expectations for what Ford can accomplish must be realistic. Yet even under these conditions, American diplomacy is unnecessarily hamstrung by the continued absence of an ambassador. As regional tensions escalate, the U.S. will need all the resources it can muster to avoid another round of conflict. Diplomatic representation in Damascus is not a reward for good behavior, but rather the return of an important instrument of political leverage which could help to prevent the problems already on the horizon. And there is always a chance, however slight, that a “good ambassador” can help to curb Syria’s triumphalism, not least by communicating directly to the Syrian leadership that engagement is not an open ended commitment, and cannot remain a one-way street….

The Syrian mood could be heard in President Assad’s response in an interview with al-Manar to Ambassador Ford’s March 16confirmation hearings: “A fine ambassador with a bad policy is worthless. The results will not be good.” These comments were preceded by the “resistance summit” of late February in Damascus between President Assad, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, during which Assad ridiculed U.S. efforts to weaken Syria’s alliance with Iran. During that summit Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, signaled a significant shift in Syrian security doctrine, committing Syrian forces in the event of renewed conflict between Israel and Hizballah. This week, senior Israeli officials went public with reports that Syria has begun supplying Hizballah with Scud missiles, potentially extending the range and accuracy of its already formidable arsenal. The administration has responded to these reports by summoning a senior Syrian diplomat to the State Department yesterday to condemn “in the strongest terms the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the SCUD, from Syria to Hizballah.”

These moves, which have escalated tensions between Israel, Syria, and Lebanon, bear the classic hallmarks of a triumphalist mindset, recognizable from America’s own post-Cold War experience: an exaggerated sense of capabilities, unrealistic expectations, and an increased tolerance for risk. This is a highly combustible combination, all the more so because it follows nearly a full decade in which President Assad struggled, initially to secure his own position against internal rivals, and then, after February 2005, against extraordinary diplomatic and economic sanctions led by the U.S. that sharply curtailed his room for maneuver. Now, finally emerging from those dark days, Syria’s newly confident leaders have little appetite for either moderation or compromise. This is evident not only in the strategic realm, but in the economic and political arenas, as well. Over the past year, the Syrian regime has deepened its repression of local dissidents. And late last year, Syria “postponed” signing a long sought after Association Agreement with the EU that would have required Syria to address European concerns about human rights.

The triumphalist mood of Syria’s leaders admittedly reflects how much conditions on the ground have changed over the past couple of years, especially since Lebanon’s Parliamentary elections of June, 2009….

Diplomatic representation in Damascus is not a reward for good behavior, but rather the return of an important instrument of political leverage which could help to prevent the problems already on the horizon. And there is always a chance, however slight, that a “good ambassador” can help to curb Syria’s triumphalism, not least by communicating directly to the Syrian leadership that engagement is not an open ended commitment, and cannot remain a one-way street.

Steven Heydemann is Vice President of the Grants and Fellowships program and special adviser to the Muslim World Initiative at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

How War Could Start The Center for New American Security’s Andrew Exum warns, “everyone hold your breath. Because this is how wars start.” He writes, “the next Israel-Lebanon war starts when either a) Hizballah or Israel does something stupid or b) Hizballah acquires ‘equilibrium-breaking’ weaponry like powerful long-range rockets or anti-aircraft weaponry. Israel might decide, in the event of the latter, that it must act preemptively and that the very fact that Hizballah possesses such weapons is casus belli enough.”

So Much for Obama’s Syria Outreach The Wall Street Journal’s Charles Levinson and Jay Solomon say the move “threatens to alter the Middle East’s military balance and sets back a major diplomatic outreach effort to Damascus by the Obama administration. … Syria and Hezbollah both denied the charges. But the allegations already are affecting U.S. foreign policy: Republicans pressed on Capitol Hill to block the appointment of a new American ambassador to Damascus.”

‘Fueling the Middle East Arms Race’ The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall explan, “From an Israeli perspective, the balance of terror in the Middle East just tipped dangerously. … To many in the region, Israel’s undeclared and internationally uninspected arsenal, including hundreds of nuclear warheads, looks considerably more threatening than a few truckloads of North Korean-made Scuds. While this remains the case, there is no reason to believe the headlong Middle East arms race will stop.”

Washington Summons Syrian Diplomat over Hizbullah Arms Transfer

The United States has summoned a senior Syrian diplomat and demanded an “immediate” end to arms transfers to Hizbullah, criticizing any such shipments as an impediment to peace.

“The most senior Syrian diplomat present in Washington today, Deputy Chief of Mission Zouheir Jabbour, was summoned to the Department of State to review Syria’s provocative behavior concerning the potential transfer of arms to Hizbullah,” department deputy spokesman Gordon Duguid said in a statement.

He said the United States condemns the transfer of any arms, “especially ballistic missile systems such as the Scud, from Syria to Hizbullah.”

“We call for an immediate cessation of any arms transfers to Hizbullah and other terrorist organizations in the region,” he added.

“Syria’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism is directly related to its support for terrorist groups, such as Hizbullah.”

The diplomatic quarrel is likely to put a damper on President Barack Obama’s administration’s year-long campaign to engage Syria, a former U.S. foe, and energize its thwarted push for a broad Arab-Israeli peace, particularly between Israel and the Palestinians.

U.S. Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited Damascus April 1, and after a meeting with President Bashar al-Assad he described Syria as “an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.”

Obama in February appointed the first U.S. ambassador to Damascus in five years, a move Kerry said was “evidence that engagement with Syria is a priority at the highest levels of our government.”

The Senate approved envoy Robert Ford as the new ambassador last Tuesday.

But a day later, Washington expressed alarm to Syria over its possible sale of Scud missiles to Hizbullah militants, warning it would put Lebanon at “significant risk.”

Washington expressed renewed concern Saturday over possible Scud missile supplies to Hizbullah, a Lebanese Shiite militant group backed by Syria and Iran. The United States has labeled Hizbullah a terrorist organization.

Duguid warned Monday that such arms transfers “can only have a destabilizing effect on the region, and would pose an immediate threat to both the security of Israel and the sovereignty of Lebanon. …

Scuds for Hizbollah? The regional balance is at stake
Emile Hokayem in the National

….Ultimately, the real victim of a war fuelled by the missile crisis would be Lebanon. It faces massive destruction by Israel, civil conflict if Hizbollah goes after its domestic opponents and possibly a return of Syrian forces if the world once again outsources the Lebanese mess to Damascus. It happened in 1976, and it could happen again.

Syria to spend $1bn to upgrade railways
2010-04-20 08:56:20.797 GMT

Georges Mokabari, director general of the Syrian Railways General, has announced plans to spend more than $1bn by 2020 on rehabilitating its railway network, Meed has reported. The investment includes rehabilitating about 1,450 kilometres of railway lines and building eight new lines comprising 1,350km, he said. Once the upgrade of the existing lines and construction of the new lines is complete, the Syrian railway network will have 3,845km of lines and will be able to transport about 5.3 million passengers a year, the magazine reported.

How to React to a Reactor
By Andrew J. Tabler, April 19, 2010

In his confirmation hearing in March, Robert S. Ford, the U.S. ambassador-designate to Syria, listed five issues that will be at the core of the Obama administration’s engagement with Damascus. Four were familiar: the United States wants Syria to prevent jihadi fighters from entering Iraq, end its support for Hezbollah, return to peace talks with Israel, and respect human rights at home.

But the fifth issue was a new one: Ford argued that Washington should insist that Syria end its foot-dragging on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s investigation into its nuclear activities. For nearly two years, Syria has refused to cooperate with the IAEA’s probe of a suspected nuclear reactor that was destroyed by Israel in September 2007. Now the IAEA may request a rare “special inspection” of Syrian sites, making the country’s nuclear defiance the international community’s main point of contention with Damascus — eclipsing even the investigation into Syrian officials’ involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri.

Indeed, the international community cannot afford to let Syria’s proliferation attempts go unaddressed…

Comments (39)

5 dancing shlomos said:

for peace to come to the middle east, israel must cease to exist. jumurderka must be told to shut its israeli trap and to stop its aggressions against iraq, syria, lebanon, iran, pakistan, afganistan, yemen, sudan.

america is never honest, same as its master:israel, and its words cannot be trusted,should never be trusted.

usrael’s demands should be tossed into a trash bin.

syria must continue its relations with iran, hezbullah. syria must seek closer ties with russia, china, turkey.

bow to a bully become a dog.

April 20th, 2010, 10:24 pm


5 dancing shlomos said:

who gave the usa the authority to label any country, group, individual as “terrorist”. what sort of fool listens to a bully puppet that generously ascribes its characteristics and actions to innocents.

April 20th, 2010, 10:37 pm


norman said:

I always thought that Syria should improve it’s infrastructure with Roads, railways , airports ,Airlines and seaports , doing that will employ many Syrians and is paid with Syrian money that will devalue the Syrian pounds and improve export , It looks like they are moving on the Railroads , which probably will give Syria the most for the money , low utilization of energy and large and fast transportation of goods and people ,

The leadership of Syria seems to be learning from past mistakes and moving on a comprehensive plan ,

April 21st, 2010, 1:28 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

I don’t see any Arab-Israeli war in the horizon. The only expected wars, are more of the same civil wars, like we already have in Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Hamas-Fatah, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And wars of independence from tyrants.

Israel has no interest in a war with any Arab state/entity.
Bibi is not a man of war. Israel has nothing to achieve from war, and therefor, we’re protecting what we’ve already achieved. To add on this, Bibi realizes that he will not get the backing from America and from Europe, that Olmert got in 2006 and 2008-9. In other words, Israel’s strategy would be defense and containment.

I don’t see Syria goes to war either. It’s impossible to try and attract foreign investment, and go to war at the same time. Foreign investors demand stability, not instability and chaos.

April 21st, 2010, 1:31 am


norman said:

Amir ,
You are probably right but some times wars are started by accidents or when people lose hope for a good future ,

April 21st, 2010, 1:55 am


Shai said:

Norman, Amir,

I beg to differ with you. I don’t think there’s been a likelihood of war, a general all-out war, as much as there is now in a very long time. Not because any side is exhibiting particular desire or intent to go to war, but because the level of frustration (spoken and unspoken) is reaching dangerous levels.

Amir, wars between Israel and her neighbors don’t start with preparatory announcements. But what does happen, is that one side or more reaches a level of frustration that can surpass so-called rational success-or-failure considerations, and emotion triggers a violent explosion. This is especially true, after one side feels its efforts to bring about a peaceful change have been exhausted. One doesn’t need to agree or disagree with Sadat’s rationale for going to war, but as he himself stated many times, this was the reason Egypt went to war in 1973.

We must be careful not to allow our arrogance, or unproven record of omniscience, mislead us into total apathy and disregard for what may well happen in an instant. I know of a few in my country who, following our “magnificent victory” in the Six Days War, were super-confident the Arabs would not attack, also hours before the October War began.

This is not the time to feel too secure in our region. This is the time to worry enough, and to change.

April 21st, 2010, 8:04 am


offended said:

But what does happen, is that one side or more reaches a level of frustration that can surpass so-called rational success-or-failure considerations, and emotion triggers a violent explosion.

Hmmm. I don’t know. I think Israel’s wars were pretty deliberate and well-thought out.

And the single war Arab had initiated (1973) was in order to liberate occupied land.

April 21st, 2010, 8:50 am


norman said:

Shai ,
So you agree with me , people do grave things when they lose hope,

April 21st, 2010, 11:42 am


5 dancing shlomos said:

there is currently and arab israeli war in iraq. israel is planning, aggressively pushing for war against iran. syria gets attacked every now and then directly by israel or israel’s proxy – usa.

the current destabilization of pakistan by the u.s. is certainly in israel’s interest and since israeli jews dominate us govt also is an israeli aggression.

one of my previous comments did not meet with approval. cant think why did not.

April 21st, 2010, 2:39 pm


5 dancing shlomos said:

from #8, “there is currently and(an) arab israeli war in iraq”

i change this to there is currently an israeli criminal war of violent aggression against iraq fought covertly by israel and overtly by israel’s proxy – old glory great america

April 21st, 2010, 2:44 pm


idaf said:

Another “WMD” distraction from Israel and its chorus in DC..

Hariri: Syria-Hezbollah Scuds accusations like Iraq’s WMD

ROME (Reuters) – Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri denied Wednesday that Hezbollah had received long-range Scud missiles from Syria and said the allegations were concocted by Israel to threaten his country.

“These accusations are reminiscent of the weapons of mass destruction allegations against Saddam Hussein: they were never found, they did not exist,” Hariri said in an interview with Italy’s La Stampa newspaper.

“Israel is trying to reproduce the same scenario for Lebanon. The rumours about Scud are only a pretext for threatening my country,” he said, calling the claims “false.”

Israeli President Shimon Peres has publicly accused neighbouring Syria of sending Hezbollah Scuds.

Washington summoned the top Syrian diplomat Monday to address what it called “provocative behaviour” over the potential transfer of the missiles, which it said could be a threat to Lebanon and Israel.

Hezbollah, a Syrian- and Iranian-backed Shi’ite Islamist group, is on the U.S. terrorism blacklist but is part of Lebanon’s unity government. The group fought a war with Israel in 2006 and has strong support in mainly Shi’ite south Lebanon.

Syria denied earlier this month that it had furnished Hezbollah with Scuds, saying Israel might be using the accusation as a pretext for a military strike.

Hariri, who has frequently clashed with Hezbollah in the past, said the group had legitimately won elections in southern Lebanon and could only be disarmed via political dialogue.

Hariri and his allies accused Syria of assassinating his father and former prime minister, Rafik al-Hariri, in 2005.

His disagreements with Syria’s ally, Hezbollah, threatened to plunge Lebanon into a new civil war. But he has since mended ties with Syria and formed a government that includes the group.

“We have turned the page with Syria. Assad and I have decided to work together to improve our relations in respect of our mutual sovereignty. Of course, you cannot expect everything to change with one meeting, but we will manage it,” Hariri said.

Hariri said a special court set up in The Hague to investigate his father’s killing must be allowed to do its job.

A U.N. investigation into the assassination first implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials but later held back from giving details. The special court in The Hague has yet to indict anyone, while Syria and Hezbollah have denied any role.

Hariri accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of working against the peace process in the Middle East.

“The real problem is that Israel doesn’t want to give the Palestinians land or recognise the two state solution,” said Hariri, who visited Rome for a meeting with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Tuesday.

Syrian FM regrets U.S. reaction to possible Scud missile transfer

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al- Moallem Tuesday expressed his regret that the U.S. Department of State summoned a Syrian diplomat over a possible transfer of Scud missiles to Hezbollah.

Al-Moallem said in a statement the United States was warned against ignoring the Israeli motives behind these allegations, which aim at diverting attention from Israel’s crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories and the siege of the Gaza Strip, the official SANA news agency reported.

The foreign minister said that the U.S. Department of State summoned Syria’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington, Zouheir Jabbour, on Monday on the basis of the Israeli claims.

Al-Moallem noted that Syria had earlier issued a statement refuting Israel’s claims that Syria was supplying Scud missiles to the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah.

The statement said that by spreading such allegations, Israel intended to raise tensions in the region and create an atmosphere for a possible Israeli aggression.

However, a U.S. official said Tuesday that the United States has not reached any “particular judgment” on the issue.

“We are raising it because we have seen reporting on it, and we are studying it closely. The United States has not reached a judgment as to whether such a transfer has taken place, but this is not a new issue,” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

April 21st, 2010, 3:25 pm


Majhool said:

Food Perfect,

well written and uplifting essay. I take it ( and correct me if I am wrong) as a framework of a proposed PR campaign for the Syrian government. Which is sad, because PR campaigns are propaganda.
How about some reality, and true indicators?

To be honest, this talk about behind the seens is not very attractive, i prefer transparency.

I was watching a BBC documentary on syrian schools, and got to tell you that we are way behind.

The economy expanded from nonexistent levels, i give you this. But to propel syria into the 21 century we need to give more freedoms and institute accountability, and rule of law.


April 21st, 2010, 3:26 pm


why-discuss said:

That could well apply to media rumors and distortion on Syria for the purpose of demonization.

Who’s Telling the Truth About Iran’s Nuclear Program?
By Muhammad Sahimi

Muhammad Sahimi, professor of chemical engineering and materials science, and the NIOC professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, has published extensively on Iran’s political developments and its nuclear program.

Since February 2003, Iran’s nuclear program has undergone what the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) itself admits to be the most intrusive inspection in its entire history. After thousands of hours of inspections by some of the most experienced IAEA experts, the Agency has verified time and again that (1) there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran, and (2) all the declared nuclear materials have been accounted for; there has been no diversion of such materials to non-peaceful purposes. Iran has a clean bill of health, as far as its nuclear program is concerned.

This is not what Israel, its lobby in the United States, and its neoconservative allies had expected. Such a clean bill of health deprives them of any justification for advocating military attacks on Iran. The illegal act of sending Iran’s nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council and the subsequent, highly dubious UNSC resolutions against Iran have also not been effective. So what is the War Party to do?

It has resorted to an international campaign of exaggerations, lies, and distortions. This campaign involves planting lies in the major media and on the Internet, making absurd interpretations of what the IAEA reports on Iran, and issuing dire � but bogus � warnings about the speed at which Iran’s uranium-enrichment program is progressing. Such warnings have been around for over two decades. In 1984, West German intelligence predicted that Iran would make a nuclear bomb within two years.

The campaign uses all the instruments of the U.S. political establishment to advance its agenda. The Bush administration routinely talked about “Iran’s nuclear weapon program” or “Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons,” without ever bothering to present any credible evidence for their assertion. Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons has become an article of faith even to President Obama, who, in my opinion, is not pro-war. Leon Panetta, the new CIA director, recently said, “From all the information I’ve seen, I think there is no question that they [Iranians] are seeking that [nuclear weapon] capability.” What information, Mr. Panetta? Enlighten us, please.

An important base for the campaign has been the U.S. Congress. Take, for example, the report by Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the then chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, issued on Aug. 23, 2006. The first bullet on page four of the report stated, “Iran has conducted a clandestine uranium enrichment program for nearly two decades in violation of its IAEA safeguards agreement, and despite its claim to the contrary, Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.”

Not a single word in this statement is true. Iran did not violate its Safeguards Agreement, signed in 1974 with the IAEA, when it did not declare the construction of the Natanz facility for uranium enrichment. The agreement stipulated that Iran was only obligated to declare the existence of the facility 180 days prior to introducing nuclear materials into the facility. Iran did just that in February 2003, and nuclear materials were brought into the facility during summer 2003. The assertion that Iran is seeking nuclear weapon was a lie then, as it is now. No evidence of a secret nuclear weapons program has been discovered. Although the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate released in early December 2007 stated that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, it did not present any evidence that the program existed prior to 2003.

A caption to a figure on page nine of Hoekstra’s report stated that “Iran is currently enriching uranium to weapons grade using a 164-machine centrifuge cascade at this facility in Natanz.” This was another lie. Neither then nor now, when there are over 5,000 centrifuges at Natanz, has Iran enriched uranium to weapons grade.

According to the bullet at the top of page 11, “Spent fuel from the LWR [light water reactor] that Russia is building for Iran in the city of Bushehr can produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for 30 weapons per year if the fuel rods were diverted and reprocessed.” First of all, according to the Iran-Russia agreement, the spent fuel will be returned to Russia. Second, the plutonium from LWR spent fuel is not suitable for making nuclear weapons. Even if it were, it should not be labeled as “weapons grade,” because converting it to weapons grade is costly, laborious, and time-consuming. Third, the IAEA monitors the Bushehr reactor operations. There is no possibility of overtly or covertly diverting any nuclear materials.

Such lies and distortions forced the IAEA to take the unusual step of sending an angry letter to Hoekstra. Signed by Vilmos Cserveny, a senior official at the IAEA, the letter took “strong exception to the incorrect and misleading assertion” that the IAEA had removed a senior safeguards inspector for “allegedly raising concerns about Iranian deception,” and branded as “outrageous and dishonest” the report’s suggestion that he was removed for not adhering “to an unstated IAEA policy barring IAEA officials from telling the truth” about Iran.

The U.S. mainstream media, and in particular the New York Times, has played a leading role in the campaign of lies and deceptions against Iran’s peaceful nuclear program. One would think that, after all the lies and exaggerations that Judith Miller and Michael Gordon planted in the Times about Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, the Times would learn its lesson. Absolutely not!

For example, after the Nov. 15, 2007, IAEA report on Iran, which, once again, gave Iran a clean bill of health, Elaine Sciolino and William J. Broad of the Times declared, “Nuclear report finds Iran’s disclosures were inadequate.” This was while the IAEA report itself stated several times that the information provided by Iran was “consistent” with the IAEA findings. The word “inadequate” was not used even once in the report.

Why did Sciolino and Broad � the “top” interpreters of what the IAEA really says in its reports � think that Iran’s disclosures were “inadequate”? Because, according to them, Iran had asked the IAEA for a meeting in December 2007 to provide information about its P-2 centrifuges, and, therefore, had missed the November deadline. However, the December meeting was about Iran’s current activities on its P-2 centrifuge, whereas the November 2007 report was about Iran’s past activities. In fact, regarding Iran’s past activities on the design of the P-2 centrifuge, the same November 2007 report stated, “Based on visits made by the Agency inspectors to the P-2 workshops in 2004, examination of the company’s owner contract [the company contracted to build the P-2 centrifuge], progress reports and logbooks, and information available on procurement inquiries, the agency has concluded that Iran’s statements on the content of the declared P-2 R&D activities are consistent with the agency’s findings.” So, the IAEA said one thing, but Sciolino and Broad claimed a completely different thing. By the way, the article has disappeared from the Times’ archives! Even the Times itself does not believe in it.

But Sciolino did not stop there. After the IAEA issued a new report on Iran on May 26, 2008, Sciolino claimed in an article the next day that the IAEA had expressed concerns about Iran’s “willful lack of cooperation.” No such words or their equivalent can be found in the report. The report stated that the IAEA was trying to understand the role of Iran’s military in its nuclear program. Sciolino did not ask any IAEA official why the agency was not concerned about Brazil’s navy controlling its uranium-enrichment program and limiting IAEA access to its nuclear facilities (in violation of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). She did not ask any U.S. official why the U.S. was not protesting Brazil’s violations of its NPT obligations. Instead, she fabricated nonexistent statements about Iran.

The campaign has an international dimension too. The Australian claimed on Aug. 7, 2006, that Iran had tried to import uranium ore from Congo. Nothing came out of this “report.” The conservative British newspaper the Daily Telegraph has made some of the most blatantly false claims. For example, on Nov. 16, 2006, David Blair reported in the Telegraph that Iran tried to get uranium from Somalia’s Islamic forces, in return for arms. To give his report credibility, Blair quoted UN officials about Iran’s military helping Somali forces. But his claim that Iran wanted uranium in return included no direct quote. It was just a lie. Even the Bushies did not buy it.

The Telegraph cooked up another falsehood about Iran’s nuclear program, which provoked an angry IAEA response. On Sept. 14, 2008, Con Coughlin, the Telegraph’s liar-in-chief, claimed that the IAEA could not account for 50-60 tons of uranium, which was supposed to be in Isfahan, where “Iran enriches its uranium.” As the Persian proverb goes, “a liar has a short memory.” Coughlin had apparently forgotten the simple and well-known fact that Iran enriches uranium at Natanz, not Isfahan (where the yellowcake is converted to uranium hexafluoride). The IAEA immediately issued a statement through its spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, rejecting the report. Two days earlier, in another article in the Telegraph, Con Coughlin and Tim Butcher claimed that there were “fresh signs” that Iran had renewed work on developing nuclear weapons.

Typically, Coughlin quoted unnamed sources, the existence of whom can never be checked. In other articles in the Telegraph Coughlin claimed a link between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence; alleged that North Korea was helping Iran to prepare a nuclear weapon test, and said that Iran was “grooming” bin Laden’s successor, none of which turned out to be true.

Then there is the rabid anti-Iran “group” called United Against Nuclear Iran. It is supposedly a “non-partisan, broad-based coalition” from “diverse ethnicities, faith communities, [and] political and social affiliations.” But, the group’s Web site is registered to Henley MacIntyre, who was involved in Republican National Committee/White House e-mail scandal during George W. Bush’s presidency. Its executive director is Mark Wallace, who worked with John “Bomb-Iran-for-Israel’s-Sake” Bolton when he was the U.S. ambassador at the UN. Others involved are Richard Holbrooke, who is now President Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Dennis Ross, a longtime instrument of the Israel lobby. The group has produced a video asserting that Iran has produced highly enriched uranium, a claim that has been debunked thoroughly not only by the IAEA, but also by others.

Another tactic of the War Party has been spreading rumors and innuendoes about the existence of an internal row in the IAEA over Iran. For example, in February 2008, just as the IAEA was going to report that it had clarified Iran’s past nuclear activities, unnamed “senior Western officials” started being quoted saying that some experts within the IAEA were not happy about the report to be released. It forced the IAEA to depart from its routine mode of operation and have a senior official call Reuters to deny the rumors.

In yet another exaggeration of Iran’s nuclear potential, much has been said recently about the accumulation of low-enriched uranium (LEU) in Iran. The suggestion is that Iran can enrich its stockpile of LEU to highly enriched uranium (HEU) for bomb-making. This claim has been thoroughly debunked. Briefly, all of Iran’s LEU is safeguarded by the IAEA. Its conversion to HEU would require extensive new designs, reconfiguration, and reconnection of the centrifuges in Natanz, none of which can evade the IAEA’s watching eyes. Even if Iran could somehow do all of this, it would only be enough HEU for one nuclear device, which would have to be detonated in a test. Going from a device to a bomb is a difficult task by itself.

In the latest attempt to cast doubt on Iran’s nuclear program, suddenly cyberspace and the mainstream media are full of stories about Iran running out of uranium. Up to now, Iran has been using the 600 tons of uranium oxide, or yellowcake, it purchased in the 1970s from South Africa for conversion to uranium hexafluoride and enrichment at Natanz. The stories are based on a report by Mark Hibbs in Nuclear Fuel (Dec. 15, 2008). The Rupert Murdoch-owned Times of London, another British newspaper in the business of fabricating stories on Iran’s nuclear program, picked up the story and ran with it. Then there was a third report by the Institute for Science and International Security to the same effect. The argument is that if Iran does not have enough yellowcake and cannot import it, then why does Iran bother to have a uranium-enrichment program, unless it is for bomb-making?

Iran has been constructing a facility in Ardakan, which will come online sometime this year, for processing uranium ore into yellowcake. Clearly, had Iran thought that it would not have enough uranium ore, it would not have undertaken the construction of the Ardakan plant. In fact, in December 2006, Iran announced that there are 1,400 uranium mines in Iran, and last month it announced the discovery of uranium ore reserves at three new sites in central Iran. While many sources put Iran’s known reserves of uranium ore at about 3,000 tons, the actual number is at least 30,000 tons.

The above is only a small part of all the lies, exaggerations, and distortions of the facts about Iran’s nuclear program. All the sound bites about the West respecting Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology are just that, sound bites. The truth is, the West does not want Iran to have access to advanced nuclear technology. Now that Iran has succeeded in setting up a domestic nuclear fuel cycle, including designing new centrifuges, the West wants Iran to dismantle them. Why should Iran give up its legal rights under the NPT and its sovereign rights to develop its uranium resources and indigenous nuclear industry?

About the author:

Muhammad Sahimi, professor of chemical engineering and materials science, and the NIOC professor of petroleum engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, has published extensively on Iran’s political developments and its nuclear program.


April 21st, 2010, 5:57 pm


offended said:

Not because any side is exhibiting particular desire or intent to go to war, but because the level of frustration (spoken and unspoken) is reaching dangerous levels.

I disagree, Shai….

Their outcome aside, Israel’s wars look quite thought out and deliberate to me. And the single war that Arabs initiated (1973) was in the hope of liberating occupied lands.

April 21st, 2010, 7:24 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Did you hear about Lt. colonel Allen West? ..Now you have.

My bet, a candidate for the president of the US in 2016, if not 2012.


I’m really not worried about war. We don’t want war, we both know this. But if they want war, so let’s have a war. I trust Israel, and most of all, I trust Israelis.
During the 2006 Tamuz campaign, I went to see my parents who live in the north in Kiriat-Haim. It was quite sad. You could feel that people were in a (relative) state of shock. No trains north of Haifa, closed shops, very few people outside, empty shops etc.
During 2008 Gaza campaign, I took a day off, and went to see how it’s going in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot and the small communities near the border with Gaza. It was totally different from what I saw 2 years ago. Every thing was open and ready for business (except for schools and kindergartens), people hanging outside, cars driving in the streets and so on.

What I’m trying to say, is that people get used to good as well as to bad things. Attempts to terrorize a population have their limitations. In a certain period of time, it loses it’s effect, and people learn to live with it.
That is why I’m not worried, and I’m not afraid of war.


People lose hope because of: bad economy, no health, backward education, no future for their children, no freedoms, oppression.

The Golan has nothing to do with hope, or losing hope. If Syrians are losing hope, blame it on the junta.

April 21st, 2010, 8:07 pm


Friend in America said:

After months of dispairing over the continuing deterioration of relations in the mid east, it is a joy to read the fine, hopeful statements by Ford Prefect, Shai (#6), Norman and others. They, and others on this site, are living proof there are good people all around the world.
For Isreal today, the truism “all politics is local” reminds us of the position Iben Neten is in. To gain a majority he took in the party representing the settlements. They have created a tone of hostility the rest of us will just have to live through because I think the Prime Minister’s views on settlements and preconditions to peace talks are not much different. But this creates opportunities.
For Syria what a opportune time to demonstrate peaceful intentions and desire to live in peace with its neighbors. Consider: In a few months Egypt will ask international authorities for assistance in obtaining an agreement by the arab nations declaring the mideast a nuclear free zone. What an opportunity for leadership for Syria by joining Egypt. What a setback it would be to become an obstical.
Another possibility is to negotiate a common market with Jordan, Lebanon and maybe Iraq. I cannot write too enthusiastically about the economic boom in Canada and Mexico that resulted from the North American Free Trade Agreement that was signed by these two countries and the U.S. about 15 years ago. The Treaty did not disturb the political environment or the governmental institutions in either country. Mexico still has a longer way to go economically but it was far weaker than Canada’s when the Agreement was signed. I have friends in both countries who tell me the change has been amaising.
These suggestions do not solve the Golan, Hizbullah, Hamas or repatriation issues all of which are extremely difficult to solve, but they would ctreate a completely different environment that might make positive negotations possible. First things first. Politics always follows economics.

April 22nd, 2010, 3:56 am


5 dancing shlomos said:

julan, hamas, hizbullah, right of return to one’s home and land are not difficult to solve.

hamas and hizbullah are not problems to be “solved”. israel-jewry is the problem. the puppet west is the problem.

jews leave palestine and return to from where you came. take nothing with you since nothing is yours.

April 22nd, 2010, 12:26 pm


Akbar Palace said:

jews leave palestine and return to from where you came

Dear 5 dancing shlomos,

We have.

April 22nd, 2010, 12:53 pm


Nour said:

“Syria today is not an aggressive state. It harbors no evil intention to anyone – Israel included.”

What a silly sentence. Does this mean that Syria WAS previously an aggressive state who harbored evil intentions toward “Israel”? When are we going to wake up? Our nation was dismembered into various artificial states; with different territories given to other countries by foreign colonialists, as if they owned the land and had the right to dispose of it as they saw fit; and a racist, exclusively Jewish state was created in the southern part of our homeland. Yet after all this aggression against us, we Syrians make statements such as the above, implying that we were ever on the wrong side of this issue. We have EVERY right to defend EVERY single inch of our territory against any and all foreign aggression; and to surrender this right is downright insane.

We Syrians were NEVER aggressive against anyone. We NEVER left our land looking to harm or terrorize people elsewhere. Our fight was always on OUR land and it involved the defense of OUR national rights, which every other nation upholds for itself. We Syrians (meaning citizens of the entire Syrian nation and not just the Syrian Arab Republic) have always supported efforts for international peace, but only after all our national rights are guaranteed and our sovereignty over every inch of our territory is restored. But to ask us to accept an imposed peace at the point of a gun after our land is divided and handed over to others amounts to a demand for outright surrender and means for us nothing but humiliation and extinction. As a great man once said, “there is nothing easier than for some nations to surrender their rights in life for the sake of an everlasting peace, and Syria refuses to be one of those nations.”

April 22nd, 2010, 11:12 pm


Friend in America said:

NOUR- what is the Syria territory?

April 23rd, 2010, 2:44 am


norman said:

Push on her name and go to her blog , in the mean time this is what some consider the Syrian nation ,

(( National Updates
This is a blog discussing the latest events concerning the Syrian Nation, which includes today’s Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Cyprus ))

April 23rd, 2010, 3:17 am


Jihad said:

How ridiculous to represent the crimes brought by Western Imperialism and Zionist racim and agression as a public affairs issue. Yes, a McDonald’s like publicity campaign directed to Zionist racists in Occupied Palestine and in Washington will solve the problem. Congragulations “Ford Perfect – Syrian.” Now you can go into a deep sleep. Enough exhausting thinking!

April 23rd, 2010, 4:37 am


Alex said:

5 dancing shlomos, I hope you can try to stay away from comments that generally target any religion.

Please take a look at the rules of this blog:

April 23rd, 2010, 4:58 am


Ghat Albird said:

Congressman Ron Paul says that sanctioning Iran is an act of War.

Victim Netanyahu has also begun “the cleansing of Israel”:-

While VP Joe Biden says, “israel has agreed to wait on attacking Iran:-

Mr. Netanyahu [ of victimized fame] now blames Iran for creating friction between Israel and friend:-

April 23rd, 2010, 1:08 pm


5 dancing shlomos said:

apologies alex and joshua.

i mean jewry not jews. sometimes i forget. i am targeting jewry which is political not religious, not spiritual.

i hope my following response to AP #18 is not violating rules.

ap, in a demented sense you are correct. jewry is from hell and to hell jewry shall return for everywhere jewry exists, jewry creates hell.

palestine has been turned into hell by jewry.

April 23rd, 2010, 3:02 pm


Ghat Albird said:

A “scholar at the american Enterprise Institute has the petultimate solution to “regime change” in Iran.

Al-Manar April 22, 2010

Who are the terrorists?

Michael Rubin (American Enterprise Institute) has proposed the assassination of Iranian political leaders to replace the present government in Iran.

According to Rubin this strategy is more effective and quicker.

Through the murder of Iranian military commanders and other government officials ” regime change” would naturally occur.

He proposed sending 60 individuals with “fake” passports from New Zealand, Canada, Poland, Moldavia, the UK as a group of tourists on a guided tour of Iran.

Concurrent to what Dr. rubin proposes David Cameron in England proclaims:-

‘I will empower UK Jews’
Stampa 23 aprile 2010

David Cameron this week insisted a Conservative government would do “much more to protect and empower the Jewish community” and described learning about his Jewish ancestors as one of the highlights of his year.

The Conservative leader’s comments came in a message to members of the Movement for Reform Judaism, which he used to make pledges on tackling anti-Semitism and education and to appeal for the support of community members in the upcoming election.

Cameron said: “To me, one of the biggest contributions of Judaism is its understanding of what makes a responsible society.

Last summer, I gave a speech to Jewish Care where I talked about this idea. I quoted a phrase of Rabbi Hillels which I think captures it beautifully: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I?”

That urgent, selfless moral compulsion to change the world for the better is right at the heart of the Jewish way of life. If I become Prime Minister, I want to see that idea of responsibility extend right across our society.

“A key part of that will be about building a stronger, more cohesive society – and that means doing much more to tackle the rise in anti-Semitism. I was appalled when the Community Security Trust told me that there were more anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of 2009 than in the whole of any previous year. We need big changes to root out this extremism – stopping preachers of hate from entering this country, banning those extremist groups who are already here, and doing much more to tackle radicalisation in our universities.”

The man hoping to succeed Gordon Brown as prime minister also touched on a prominent theme of the party’s platform. “I want to build a bigger society,” he said: “And we can’t do that without backing faith-based organisations in the good work that they do. Take faith schools, for example. They are a really important part of our education system and often have a culture and ethos which helps to drive up standards. Through our school reform plans, there will be a real growth in new good school places, and I’m sure some of these will be in faith schools.”

Cameron also spoke of learning about his ancestors, the Levitas, as a personal highlight. He said: “I am a great admirer of the Jewish people and your extraordinary achievements. I’ve long seen your community as a shining light in our society.” Messages from Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg will be published in the Movement’s newsletter in the coming fortnight.

April 23rd, 2010, 3:39 pm


Akbar Palace said:

My refusal to negotiate is your fault NewZ

palestine has been turned into hell by jewry

Dear 5 dancing hlomos,

I guess that’s why most Arab-Israelis want to stay in Israel.

April 23rd, 2010, 4:24 pm


5 dancing shlomos said:

palestinians want to stay in their homes on their land.

the problem is that jews want to occupy palestinian land and in many cases occupy palestinian homes. many times jews prefer to destroy the land, homes, and the palestinians.

April 23rd, 2010, 4:54 pm


Hassan said:

It is unfortunate that Syria Comment has turned into a forum for hate-speech.

April 23rd, 2010, 6:31 pm


Joshua said:

Hassan, I agree with you. Distressing. It is annoying to be erasing all the time, but it may be necessary.

I do ask people to contain their anger and be civil. This is just a blog, not a battlefield.

Best, Joshua

April 23rd, 2010, 7:29 pm


1000 Inshallah-ing Ahmeds said:

5 Dancing Shlomos

The Problem is that the Palestinians haven’t accepted reality. They lost. Now they need to negotiate the terms of the defeat.

April 23rd, 2010, 9:58 pm


norman said:


The exchange that i see on Syria comment screams for having real people with real names write and block everybody else ,

April 23rd, 2010, 11:36 pm


norman said:

Israel can never win against the Palestinians and the other Arabs to the point that they can force their will on them , they have not been able to do that with all their military power and successful wars , the only chance for Israel to survive is to find a way that can keep the Palestinians happy and satisfied so it can be accepted in the Middle East , the longer they wait the more difficult it is going to be for Israel ,

April 23rd, 2010, 11:42 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Norman, your #34 is so true and it is the only way out.

April 24th, 2010, 12:10 am


norman said:

Ford Prefect ,

Thank you my friend ,

April 24th, 2010, 12:23 am


5 dancing shlomos said:

blogs are battlefields.

just depends on how verbally polite one wants/needs to be to commenting occupiers/terrorists.

of course this is a prof’s blog. a professor at a large state univ (i have 4 relatives getting phds fr ou).

we could all be abu mazin kissing sharon. or arafat politely selling out at oslo.

April 24th, 2010, 4:08 pm


5 dancing shlomos said:

fr #33, “real names write and block everybody else”

you must think this is syria. you forget, this is america. censorship and reprisals exist here. revenge not always honest, out in the open is a fact. back stabbing, creepers in the dark.

even tenured university professors (jewish, christian, other) need to be circumspect.

April 24th, 2010, 5:15 pm


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