June 22, 2011

Iran's Nuclear Declarations: Making Up the Record at the Paper of Record

"Iran's desire to acquire nuclear weapons" is treated often as a known fact in the western media. Two respected analysts, Suzanne Maloney (Brookings Institution) and Ray Takeyh (Council on Foreign Relations) write in the New York Times of Ahmadinejad's desire for dialogue with the western powers as against the more hardline stance of the clerical leadership. That interest, they argue, was not motivated by a desire to reconcile but rather has been "a means of boosting his stature at home and abroad while touting his vision of a strong nuclear-armed Iran."

There is a reasonable argument about what Iran's ultimate intentions are with respect to its nuclear program. But it is not in doubt that the Iranian leadership generally, and Ahmadinejad specifically, have denied that Iran intends to acquire nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad does not tout his vision of a nuclear-armed Iran. He denies, and denies vociferously, that Iran wants or needs the bomb. To mischaracterize the record in this fashion is really disgraceful, and doubly so considering that the fabrication manages to undermine the credibility of three titans of the (formerly) liberal establishment--Brookings, CFR, and the Times.

Wide Asleep In America, who takes note of the offending op-ed, assembles the evidence on Iran's public declarations:
Ahmadinejad, speaking in August 2006, declared, "Nuclear weapons have no place in Iran's defense doctrine and Iran is not a threat to any country...We are not a threat to anybody; even our solution to the Zionist regime is a referendum."

In the same speech, he said, "the Iranian nation has always resolutely resisted bullying. The Iranian nation will never exchange its dignity and nobility for anything. However, some oppressor countries can not believe that a nation can be powerful and peaceful at the same time. They can not imagine that a nation can possess nuclear technology with no nuclear weapons. They just come to the wrong conclusions through wrong analyses."

In a lengthy interview with CBS's Mike Wallace for 60 Minutes, Ahmadinejad explained, "Basically we are not looking for - working for the bomb...The time of the bomb is in the past. It's behind us. Today is the era of thoughts, dialogue and cultural exchanges."

The next month, Ahmadinejad was asked by NBC's Brian Williams about whether the Iranian nuclear program was peaceful. He replied, "Did Iran build the atomic bomb and use it? You must know that, because of our beliefs and our religion, we're against such acts. We are against the atomic bomb."

In 2007, Ahmadinejad was interviewed on CBS by Scott Pelley, who asked him, "Is it the goal of your government, the goal of this nation to build a nuclear weapon?" Ahmadinejad answered:
"It is a firm 'no.' I'm going to be much firmer now. I want to address all politicians around the world, statesmen. Any party who uses national revenues to make a bomb, a nuclear bomb, will make a mistake. Because in political relations right now, the nuclear bomb is of no use. If it was useful, it would have prevented the downfall of the Soviet Union. If it was useful, it would have resolved the problems the Americans have in Iraq. The U.S. has tested new generations of bombs, many thousands of warheads you have in your arsenals. It's of no use. And also the Zionist entity, they have hundreds of warheads. It's not going to help them. The time of the bomb is past. The parties who think that by using the bomb you can control others, they are wrong. Today we are living in the era of intellectual pursuits. You should spend your money on your people. We don't need the bomb. For 28 years we have defended ourselves in the face of enemy onslaught. Every day we are becoming more powerful. And, again, we don't need such weapons. In fact, we think that this is inhuman."
A few days later, when interviewed by Charlie Rose, Ahmadinejad repeated himself, adding, "We've said many times before, we don't need the weapon. It's not enshrined in our defense doctrine, nuclear defense. And ideologically, we don't believe in it either. We have actually rejected it on an ideological basis. And politically, we know that it is useless."

At Columbia University, on September 25, 2007, Ahmadinejad stated,
"Making nuclear, chemical and biological bombs and weapons of mass destruction is yet another result of the misuse of science and research by the big powers. Without cooperation of certain scientists and scholars, we would not have witnessed production of different nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Are these weapons to protect global security? What can a perpetual nuclear umbrella threat achieve for the sake of humanity? If nuclear war wages between nuclear powers, what human catastrophe will take place? Today we can see the nuclear effects in even new generations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima residents which might be witness in even the next generations to come. Presently, effects of the depleted uranium used in weapons since the beginning of the war in Iraq can be examined and investigated."
In a response to a question from an audience member at Columbia, he reiterated, "We do not believe in nuclear weapons, period. It goes against the whole grain of humanity...I think the politicians who are after atomic bombs or are testing them, making them -- politically they are backward, retarded."

Speaking to Charlie Rose in Tehran on August 22, 2008, Ahmadinejad stressed, "We want nuclear disarmament [for all countries]...and we consider it to be against humanity to manufacture nuclear weapons...we oppose that strongly," continuing, "Our position is very clear. You can not solve the problem of a nuclear bomb with another nuclear bomb. The solution should be humanitarian and political and cultural...We believe that a nuclear weapon has no use, obsolete. Anyone who has a nuclear weapons does not create any political advantage for themselves."

The following month, on September 23, 2008, Ahmadinejad told Larry King, "We believe, as a matter of religious teaching, that we must be against any form of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. The production and the usage of nuclear weapons is one of the most abhorrent acts to our eyes." He also said, "In addition, we also believe that the atomic bomb has lost its use in political affairs, in fact. The time for a nuclear bomb has ended. Whoever who invests in it is going the wrong way."

The same day, during an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, Ahmadinejad insisted that Iran was "a country that is simply seeking peaceful nuclear energy" and not nuclear weapons.

In an interview the following day, September 24, 2008, with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now!, Ahmadinejad again made his postion clear:
"I think that the time for the atomic bomb has reached an end. Don't you feel that yourself? What will determine the future is culture, it's the power of thought. Was the atomic bomb able to save the former Soviet Union from collapsing? Was it able to give victory to the Zionist regime of confronting the Palestinians? Was it able to resolve America’s or US problems in Iraq and Afghanistan? Naturally, its usage has come to an end.

"It's very wrong to spend people's money building new atomic bombs. This money should be spent on creating welfare, prosperity, health, education, employment, and as aid that should be distributed among others' countries, to destroy the reasons for war and for insecurity and terrorism. Rest assured, whoever who seeks to have atomic bombs more and more is just politically backward. And those who have these arsenals and are busy making new generations of those bombs are even more backward."
When MSNBC's Ann Curry interviewed Ahmadinejad the next year, in September 2009, he again said, "We don't have such a need for nuclear weapons. We don't need nuclear weapons. Without such weapons, we are very much able to defend ourselves...It's not a part of our any – of our programs and plans." (After the interview, Curry published a report entitled, "Ahmadinejad refuses to rule out weapons.")

Speaking at the United Nations NPT Review Conference in May 2010, he stated, "The nuclear bomb is a fire against humanity rather than a weapon for defense," continuing, "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."

The same day, during an interview with Charlie Rose, Ahmadinejad said,
"Let me just set your mind -- I want to give your mind some rest here. We are opposed to the bomb, the nuclear bomb, and we will not build it. If we want to build it, we have the guts to say it. We’re courageous enough to say it, because we’re not afraid of anyone. If we want to have the bomb, we’ll come and tell everyone he want to build it. We’re not afraid of anyone if we want to make it. Who’s there to be afraid of? So when we say we don’t want it, we don’t want it."
Addressing the U.N. General Assembly in September 2010, he repeated, "The nuclear bomb is the worst inhumane weapon and which must totally be eliminated" and proposed "that the year 2011 be proclaimed the year of nuclear disarmament," reaffirming Iran's commitment to establishing a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East.

During the same visit, Ahmadinejad told Larry King, "We are not seeking the bomb. We have no interest in it. And we do not think that it is useful. We are standing firm over the issue that both the Zionist regime and the United States government should be disarmed."

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