Book Review: Manufactured Crisis: the Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare January 6, 2015 19:00

By Gareth Porter, JustWorld Books, 2014, paperback, 312 pp. 

Get the book here!

Reviewed by Andrew Stimson

For those who casually have been following the story of Iran’s nuclear program and the sanctions regime imposed by the West, Manufactured Crisis will decidedly upend many long-standing assumptions. For the last decade, an unquestioning mainstream press has repeated the official narrative: Iran’s once-clandestine nuclear program is in violation of the country’s international agreements, and the Islamic Republic’s ultimate intent is to create a nuclear weapon. Award-winning journalist Gareth Porter expertly digs at the crumbling roots of this narrative, revealing how the U.S. and Israel have propagated specious intelligence to spread fear and misinformation about Tehran’s intentions. This groundbreaking work exposes the hidden political motivations driving the U.S. and Israel to block Iran from its internationally recognized right to peaceful nuclear technology.

At a Feb. 4 event in Washington, DC celebrating the launch of his book, Porter discussed the origins and motivations behind the U.S. policy of antagonism toward Iran. The Reagan administration publicly claimed that its opposition to Iranian nuclear enrichment was due to the dangers of the Iraq-Iran war. Using its U.N. Security Council position, the U.S. blocked International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from working with Iran and effectively barred technological cooperation between Iran and other countries. However, Iran was in fact acting within its rights as a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Following the 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini wanted to dismantle the program, which had its roots in the formerly close relationship between the U.S and the shah. The Iranian clerical establishment viewed the program as an extravagance inspired by U.S. imperial ambitions. Yet, weather-related energy shortages in 1980 convinced Tehran to implement a significantly scaled-down program with French and IAEA cooperation. Porter stated that the Reagan administration’s true intent was to block “anything that would help Iran modernize and grow, in the hope that this would spur regime change.” At the time, Porter said, the U.S. “admitted quite openly that it had no evidence whatsoever that Iran had violated the NPT” and other agreements. Thus, Iran’s nuclear program became a focal point in the U.S. campaign to resume its former position of power in the country.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Porter continued, U.S. interest in manufacturing an Iranian threat intensified as the defense and intelligence communities searched for a new menace. They seized their opportunity in the form of a number of Telexes, intercepted by German, British and Israeli intelligence, that allegedly revealed Iran was actively seeking nuclear technology dubbed “dual use,” or capable of having civilian and military potential. While German intelligence quickly concluded that the Telexes revealed no evidence of a weapons program, U.S. and Israeli intelligence produced assessments claiming otherwise. A number of former officials involved with the assessments later admitted they were wrong. Iran, for its part, proved to the IAEA’s satisfaction that the technology was intended for university research and had no military application. Yet to this day, U.S. and Israeli officials cite the Telexes and other cherry-picked intelligence reports as a basis for sanctions against Iran.

Porter details a number of instances in which U.S. and Israeli administrations ignored the abundant evidence of Iran’s peaceful nuclear intentions. Moreover, he convincingly asserts that Israel’s focus on stimulating fear of an Iranian attack is primarily driven by its desire to maintain the value of Israel to the U.S. as a “strategic ally.” Every Israeli government since 1992 has found an advantage in sensationalizing the Iranian threat and demonizing Iran’s leaders. In one particularly condemning chapter, Porter presents powerful evidence that Israel’s goal is to sidetrack global concern over Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal and to create excuses for its occupation of Palestine.

The U.S. and Israeli approach to Iran’s nuclear program, Porter concludes, is “driven by political and bureaucratic interests, not by a rational, objective assessment...of the motives and intentions of Iranian leaders.” He is dubious about the recent U.S.-Iran interim agreement, which allows for “some enrichment” and was popularly touted as a sign of a paradigm shift in U.S. policy. But since “Israel still exercises huge veto power over U.S. policy,” Porter predicts there will be no substantial change. Porter’s ultimate argument is that the “web of falsehoods” surrounding the Iranian nuclear program, reinforced by three decades of interests that have nothing to do with a true threat, prevent the U.S. from making any fundamental policy shift. The price of the U.S.-Israel special relationship, in this instance, is borne largely by the Iranian people suffering under crippling sanctions.