A short article about the media encouraged frenzy over Iran.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post:
There is no evidence that exists anywhere that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. I say this confidently because a report released by the U.S. government, “which represents the consensus of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, indicates that Iran is pursuing research that could put it in a position to build a weapon, but that it has not sought to do so.” This intelligence was not and has not been disputed by the Israelis.1 And of course Iran is in the “position” to build a nuclear weapon, as is every country in the world that is pursuing their right under international law to make use of nuclear power.
And, like the changing of the seasons, Iran hysteria has reared its ugly head yet again. This time it is due to the recent UN Security Council deal with Iran. The brokered deal will damage the Iranian nuclear energy sector in exchange for ending some economic sanctions placed on the country. Predictably, despite the best US intelligence analysis available, the discourse never mentions the evidence that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon. It is instead taken for granted that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and it just is a question of will this deal actually make them end the program. The more blatant idiocy is expressed in the opinion pages of the major media outlets. The Economist in article detailing Obama's opinion of the deal, writes that Obama believes the deal "aims to thwart an Iranian rush to build a nuclear bomb.2 " Sharma Gaurav in Forbes magazine writes, "Tehran has never openly admitted that is actually after nuclear weapons." 3 Yes, Iran has never “admitted” it is after nuclear weapons. Those devious bastards. Never mind that according to the best US intelligence estimates available there is no Iranian nuclear weapons program! However, Iran's nuclear weapons program is treated as a fact by major media outlets, albeit in a much more subtle manner. CNN writes that the current deal is, “aimed at keeping Iran's nuclear program peaceful.4 ” Keeping it peaceful? Is there any evidence to suggest that they had any intention of doing otherwise? Reuters and the Washington Post refer to US attempts to “curb Iran’s nuclear program.” While this is technically true (the deal with Iran would hurt Iran’s nuclear energy programs) the implied message is that the deal is curbing Iranian nuclear weapons programs, weapons programs which the US intelligence community agrees do not exist. The New York Times takes fetishism of this subject to a new level with an infographic chart explaining how the deal affects Iran's nuclear weapons program including a section entitled "How to Ensure That Iran Won’t Cheat".
And this is the more liberal side of the US media. An ad run by a Republican interest group in the state of Kentucky urges voters to reject Republican candidate Rand Paul because he "doesn't understand the threat" posed by Iran. "Even one Iranian bomb would be a disaster" the ad intones over the picture of a mushroom cloud.5
The hidden hand
But hysteria aside, why now? Why this deal now? Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why the UN Security Council (and Germany) have made the current nuclear deal with Iran. There are a number of geostrategic interests at play here. Iran has for some years now been trying to diversify its oil exports by exporting to China. Following the sanctions imposed on Iran at the end of 2011, China had to cutback its Iranian oil imports causing a major blow to the Iranian economy. However, as of 2014 China has begun upping its Iran oil imports to levels that violate UN sanctions. This not only allows China to maintain a relatively secure and affordable source of oil, but also to flex its muscles as an international power to be reckoned with. In addition, if China were to negotiate a separate deal with Iran on oil imports then European countries and the oil companies operating in them would be quick to follow suit; eager to cash in on Iranian oil.6 This would leave the US and its companies out in the cold. This situation is rather similar to the one faced by the US throughout the cold war and into the 1990s in its relationship with Libya. Sanctions on Libya did not have the desired affect as Gaddafi was able to successfully run an economy based on exports to countries aligned with Russian interests. Eventually the sanctions began to crack and EU countries started cashing in, leaving US oil companies out in the cold. After this the US finally lifted its sanctions on the country, but the best oil deals had already been struck with companies operating in the EU. A deal brokered now with Iran between all of the international major players would allow competition for exploitation of Iranian oil reserves to be on a level playing field (with China and Russia having a slight advantage due to geographical proximity and a friendlier history of diplomacy).
The issue, probably the main motivating factor behind the hysteria that these talks have caused in the Republican Party, is that an oil deal with Iran could drive oil prices down even further. Iran would be able to flood the market with its oil at a time just after Saudi Arabia’s record March production of 10.3 million barrels per day. Guarav Sharma writes in Forbes magazine that were sanctions to be lifted, “the only direction the oil price would be headed is downwards. 7 ” This would further damage the interests of US oil companies who are already suffering from the low prices that the Saudi oil glut has caused.
- 1Dilanian, Ken, and Los Angeles Times. "U.S. does not believe Iran is trying to build nuclear bomb - Los Angeles Times." Featured Articles From The Los Angeles Times. Web. 1 Aug. 2012. .
- 2"A Question of Trust." The Economist. April 3, 2015. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- 3Sharma, Gaurav. "How Should Oil Markets Price in the Iran Factor?" Forbes, April 8, 2015.
- 4 "Iran Nuclear Deal Framework Announced - CNN.com." CNN. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- 5"In First Steps on Campaign Trail, Rand Paul Shadowed by Iran Deal." Reuters. April 8, 2015. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- 6 "Iran Piles Pressure on US with China Oil Talks." CNBC. April 8, 2015. Accessed April 9, 2015.
- 7Sharma, Gaurav. "How Should Oil Markets Price in the Iran Factor?" Forbes, April 8, 2015