10 Myths about Iran

Go read this article by Juan Cole now.

The short version:

  1. Iran is aggressive and has threatened to attack Israel, its neighbors or the U.S.
    Reality: Iran has not launched an aggressive war modern history (unlike the U.S. or Israel).
  2. Iran is a militarized society bristling with dangerous weapons and a growing threat to world peace.
    Reality: Iran’s military budget is a little over $6 billion annually. Sweden, Singapore and Greece all have larger military budgets.
  3. Iran has threatened to attack Israel militarily and to “wipe it off the map.”
    Reality: No Iranian leader in the executive has threatened an aggressive act of war on Israel.
  4. But didn’t President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten to “wipe Israel off the map?”
    Reality: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did quote Ayatollah Khomeini to the effect that “this Occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” (in rezhim-e eshghalgar-i Qods bayad as safheh-e ruzgar mahv shavad). This was not a pledge to roll tanks and invade or to launch missiles, however.
  5. But aren’t Iranians Holocaust deniers?
    Reality: Some are, some aren’t. Former president Mohammad Khatami has castigated Ahmadinejad for questioning the full extent of the Holocaust, which he called “the crime of Nazism.”
  6. Iran is like North Korea in having an active nuclear weapons program, and is the same sort of threat to the world.
    Reality: Iran has a nuclear enrichment site at Natanz near Isfahan where it says it is trying to produce fuel for future civilian nuclear reactors to generate electricity. All Iranian leaders deny that this site is for weapons production, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly inspected it and found no weapons program. Iran is not being completely transparent, generating some doubts, but all the evidence the IAEA and the CIA can gather points to there not being a weapons program.
  7. The West recently discovered a secret Iranian nuclear weapons plant in a mountain near Qom.
    Reality: Iran announced Monday a week ago to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it had begun work on a second, civilian nuclear enrichment facility near Qom. There are no nuclear materials at the site and it has not gone hot.
  8. The world should sanction Iran not only because of its nuclear enrichment research program but also because the current regime stole June’s presidential election and brutally repressed the subsequent demonstrations.
    Reality: Iran’s reform movement is dead set against increased sanctions on Iran, which likely would not affect the regime, and would harm ordinary Iranians.
  9. Isn’t the Iranian regime irrational and crazed, so that a doctrine of mutally assured destruction just would not work with them?
    Reality: Iranian politicians are rational actors. If they were madmen, why haven’t they invaded any of their neighbors? Saddam Hussein of Iraq invaded both Iran and Kuwait. Israel invaded its neighbors more than once. In contrast, Iran has not started any wars.
  10. The international community would not have put sanctions on Iran, and would not be so worried, if it were not a gathering nuclear threat.
    Reality: With centrifuges, once you can enrich to 5% to fuel a civilian reactor, you could theoretically feed the material back through many times and enrich to 90% for a bomb. However, as long as centrifuge plants are being actively inspected, they cannot be used to make a bomb. The two danger signals would be if Iran threw out the inspectors or if it found a way to create a secret facility. The latter task would be extremely difficult, however, as demonstrated by the CIA’s discovery of the Qom facility construction in 2006 from satellite photos. Nuclear installations, especially centrifuge ones, consume a great deal of water, construction materiel, and so forth, so that constructing one in secret is a tall order.


  1. Ian

    Chris, why do you hate America?

  2. bjs

    So the upcoming inspection of a previously uninspected reactor means that it is brand new and obviously the only 2. Right.

One Trackback

  1. […] So let me close with some nice bits on the economy (Yes, I love Calculated Risk, why do you ask?), some nice bits on health insurance reform, one on how real reform could create jobs (Thanks, Mr. President, I’m a bit ahead of you on that one. Why just now beating the drum?), a couple things on housing, one on the TARP, one on “fetal personhood” (They aren’t. Moving on now), and 10 myths about Iran. […]