Originally published in Wide Asleep in America
By Nima Shirazi
Earlier this week, Kayvon Afshari, communications director for the American Iranian Council, appeared on Another Thing with veteran broadcaster Larry Mendte to discuss the state of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program and the prospect, in the face of powerful opposition, of a final deal being reached in the coming weeks.
While Afshari's pro-diplomacy optimism was backed up by important facts not often heard in the media, Mendte made a number of comments that betrayed his role as an ostensibly objective and informed interviewer.
Right off the bat, for instance, Mendte describes the ongoing talks as a negotiation about an "Iranian nuclear arms deal." That's a bizarre - albeit revealing - way to begin, namely because that's not what this is. If anything, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a nuclear arms deal, one signed back in 1968 by Iran and ratified two year later, as it proscribes all non-nuclear weapons signatories to forever forgo the acquisition of nuclear weapons.
What Iran is negotiating with six world powers about is accepting verifiable limits and constraints on its peaceful, civilian, non-weaponized, non-military, safeguarded nuclear energy program in exchange for the lifting of international and unilateral sanctions and the normalization of its nuclear dossier.
This is not an "arms deal," as Iran has no "arms" to give up. The United States intelligence community and its allies have long assessed that Iran doesn't even have a nuclear weapons program, let alone nuclear weapons. Iranian officials, for decades, have consistently maintained they will never pursue such weapons on religious, strategic, political, moral and legal grounds. The IAEA has found no credible evidence that Iran has ever had a nuclear weapons program.
As the conversation gets underway, Mendte repeats the tired claim that Iran is just biding its time under intense and intrusive scrutiny until - years from now - when it will suddenly emerge with a deadly nuclear arsenal manufactured out of thin air:
The way I understand the deal, and I think some of the people that are critical of it, is that there'd be a decade-long moratorium and then, the president has admitted in an article, in an interview, that after that decade-long moratorium, Iran could start up a nuclear program just like that. As a matter fact, they could advance the program during that decade and then be able to start up, for 10 years. This just puts off the inevitable. Is that fair?
Obviously this is not "fair" and Mendte's understanding of the deal, or anything having to do with Iran or its nuclear program for that matter, is effectively nonexistent.
Afshari rightly points out to Mendte that Iran already has a nuclear program, one that is legal and guaranteed under the NPT, also noting, "It's not as though there's going to be no inspections after ten years. There's still going to be strict inspections, but they'll be loosened after that initial ten years."
Mendte is quick to jump in. "We had strict inspections in Iraq. That didn't turn out really well," he patronizingly tells Afshari, continuing, "The reason we went into Iraq, people forget, in the first place, is because the inspectors were thrown out and not allowed in. [There were] supposed to be UN inspections and he [Saddam Hussein] didn't allow it."
While Afshari is a gracious guest and tries to steer the conversation back on track, he really shouldn't have been so accommodating to Mendte's version of history. Basically, he should have told him was flat-out wrong. Beyond the fact that Mendte seems to have forgotten that Bush administration claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were false (and that there was no "nuclear arms deal in place" with Iraq), his claim about international inspectors is also completely and totally bogus. How so, you ask?
Saddam never kicked inspectors out of Iraq.
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