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AP believes it found evidence of Iran’s work on nuclear weapons | Glenn Greenwald | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

 

AP believes it found evidence of Iran’s work on nuclear weapons

A primitive graph provided by ‘a country critical of Iran’s atomic program’ indicts the news outlet more than Tehran

Iran Morsi

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi talks with Iranian officials at the 16th Non-aligned Movement summit in Tehran Photograph: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex Features

 

(updated below – Update II)

Uncritical, fear-mongering media propaganda is far too common to take note of each time it appears, but sometimes, what is produced is so ludicrous that its illustrative value should not be ignored. Such is the case with a highly trumpeted Associated Press “exclusive” from Tuesday which claims in its red headline to have discovered evidence of “Iran Working on Bomb”.

What is this newly discovered, scary evidence? It is a “graph” which AP says was “leaked” to it by “officials from a country critical of Iran’s atomic program to bolster their arguments that Iran’s nuclear program must be halted before it produces a weapon” (how mysterious: the globe is gripped with befuddlement as it tries to guess which country that might be). Here’s how AP presents the graph in all its incriminating, frightening glory:

Iran ap This, says AP, shows that “Iranian scientists have run computer simulations for a nuclear weapon that would produce more than triple the explosive force of the World War II bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.” Moreover, “an intelligence summary provided with the drawing” – provided, that is, by the mysterious “country critical of Iran’s atomic program” – “linked [the graph] to other alleged nuclear weapons work – significant because it would indicate that Iran is working not on isolated experiments, but rather on a single program aimed at mastering all aspects of nuclear arms development.”

Where to begin? First, note that AP granted anonymity here not merely to an individual but to an entire country. What’s the proffered justification for doing so? The officials wanted it, so AP gave it: “officials provided the diagram only on condition that they and their country not be named.” That’s very accommodating of AP.

Binyamin Netanyahu UN with bomb Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu with a diagram illustrating Iran’s nuclear programme. Photograph: Jason Szenes/EPA Second, this graph – which is only slightly less hilariously primitive than the one Benjamin Netanyahu infamously touted with a straight face at the UN – has Farsi written under it to imbue it with that menacing Iranian-ish feel, but also helpfully uses English to ensure that US audiences can easily drink up its scariness. As The Atlantic’s Robert Wright noted: “How considerate of the Iranians to label their secret nefarious nuke graph in English!”. It’s certainly possible that Iranian scientists use English as a universal language of science, but the convenient mixing of Farsi and English should at least trigger some skepticism.

Third, even if one assumes that this graph is something other than a fraud, the very idea that computer simulations constitute “evidence” that Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon is self-evidently inane. As John Glaser extensively documents, “experts from across the spectrum have agreed with the military and intelligence consensus [from the US and Israel] that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and presents no imminent threat.” Buried in the AP article is a quote from David Albright explaining that though “the diagram looks genuine [it] seems to be designed more ‘to understand the process’ than as part of a blueprint for an actual weapon in the making.”

The case for the attack on Iraq was driven, of course, by a mountain of fabricated documents and deliberately manipulated intelligence which western media outlets uncritically amplified. Yet again, any doubts that they are willing and eager to do exactly the same with regard to the equally fictitious Iranian Threat should be forever dispelled by behavior like this.

As always, the two key facts to note on Iran are these: 1) the desperation to prevent Iran from possessing a nuclear weapon has nothing to do with fear that they would commit national suicide by using it offensively, but rather has everything to do with the deterrent capability it would provide – i.e., nukes would prevent the US or Israel from attacking Iran at will or bullying it with threats of such an attack; and 2) the US-led sanctions regime now in place based on this fear-mongering continues to impose mass suffering and death on innocent Iranians. But as long as media outlets like AP continue to blindly trumpet whatever is shoveled to them by the shielded, unnamed “country critical of Iran’s atomic program”, these facts will be suppressed and fear levels kept sky-high, thus enabling the continuation and escalation of the hideous sanctions regime, if not an outright attack.

UPDATE

Compare the super-scary graph in the possession of the Tehran villains that was unveiled by the sleuths at AP to what one randomly finds on the Internet from a Google Images search of the phrase “normal distribution cumulative probability”, on a nice little website devoted to teaching people about how to use Excel documents (via @AtomTrigger):

Iran ap This means that not only Iran, but also aspiring Excel users on the Internet, are plotting to develop nuclear weapons.

UPDATE II

At the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Yousaf Butt and Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress document that the graph trumpeted by AP “does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax”. That’s because, they explain, “the diagram features quite a massive error, which is unlikely to have been made by research scientists working at a national level.”

Moreover, “the level of scientific sophistication needed to produce such a graph corresponds to that typically found in graduate- or advanced undergraduate-level nuclear physics courses.” And they echo what I documented in that prior update: “Graphs such as the one published by the Associated Press can be found in nuclear science textbooks and on the Internet.”

That this AP graph quite strongly appears to be a hoax seems a much more significant story than the discovery of the graph itself, given the ends toward which this was clearly being put, and given the way that the war in Iraq was sold to the public.

Terror Attacks, U.S.-Israeli War Games Raise the Prospects for War

Amid rising tensions over bogus Western claims that Iran plans to build nuclear weapons, upcoming American war games with Israel have the potential of escalating into a deadly confrontation.

A miscalculation, or deliberate provocation by the West designed to maneuver the Iranians into “firing the first shot,” could have disastrous consequences far beyond the confines of the Persian Gulf.

That provocation wasn’t long in coming.

Despite an agreement reached by Iran with the P 5+1 group of nations (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany), to restart talks in Turkey over the nuclear issue, the CIA-Mossad-MEK terror campaign took a dark turn this week; a sign that the imperialist powers, spearheaded by the United States, aim to scupper negotiations even before they start.

On Tuesday, an Iranian university professor, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, a chemistry expert and director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, was murdered after two assailants on a motorcycle attached magnetic bombs to his car.

Analyst Richard Silverstein wrote on the Tikun Olam web site Wednesday that “my own confidential Israeli source confirms today’s murder was the work of the Mossad and MEK, as have been a number of previous operations I’ve reported here.”

Silverstein averred that “the method recalls another series of assassinations that occurred of Fereidoun Abbassi Davani (who was seriously wounded) and his colleague Majid Shahriari (who was killed). Today’s killing occurred two years to the day after the assassination of another scientist, Masoud Ali Mohammadi.”

According to Fars News Agency, the blasts which killed Roshan “also wounded two other Iranian nationals in Seyed Khandan neighborhood in Northern Tehran.”

The scientist”s driver, Reza Qashqavi, who was severely injured in the blast, “died of his wounds in Resalat Hospital a few hours later,” Fars reported.

What makes Roshan’s murder especially troubling is that according to political analyst Seyyed Mohamed Marandi, the “IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] officials had met him [Ahmadi Roshan] earlier.”

Marandi charged that all of the Iranian scientists who had been targeted and then subsequently murdered in terrorist attacks “have had their names given by the IAEA to third parties,” Press TV reported.

“It is obvious that Western intelligence agencies are carrying out these attacks, or if the Israelis are carrying them out, it is with the knowledge of the Europeans and Americans. Because these agencies are very closely aligned to one another, they cooperate extensively, they exchange information,” Marandi said.

While no one has claimed authorship of the terrorist outrage, the Associated Press reported that IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz testified in closed session to the Israeli Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that America’s proxy, Israel, was engaged in sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program through a series of “unnatural acts.”

“2012 is expected to be a critical year for Iran,” Gantz told the committee, citing “the confluence of efforts to advance the nuclear program, internal leadership changes, continued international pressure and things that happen to it unnaturally.”

Roshan was the fourth scientist killed in a series of assassinations since January 2010 and follows a series of attacks on defense and nuclear facilities.

In early November, a massive bomb blast at the sprawling Bid Ganeh missile base 25 miles west of Tehran killed upwards of 30 members of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including Major General Hassan Moqqadam, a senior leader of Iran’s missile program.

Later that month, a huge explosion was reported at Iran’s uranium conversion facility in Isfahan. Though Iranian officials denied an attack took place, The Times reported that “satellite imagery … clearly showed billowing smoke and destruction.”

U.S. officials, as is their wont, responded in typical fashion–they blamed the victims.

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said she had “no information one way or the other” about the scientist’s murder, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced Iran for their “provocative rhetoric” and issued a categorical denial that the U.S. was organizing terrorism inside the Islamic Republic.

However, in an interview with the Hebrew-language Ma’ariv daily, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said that “Washington is preparing to undertake any measure to thwart Iran’s nuclear program,” Xinhua reported.

“We’ve said and I say again that all options are open … President (Barack) Obama clearly and consistently says that he will do everything and resort to all necessary means to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, and he means every word,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro’s statement, if not quite an open admission, is a sign of Washington’s boundless hypocrisy as it supposedly wages a so-called “War on Terror” while organizing terrorist attacks on governments it has targeted for regime change.

Iran, and China, Strike a Defiant Note

With a new round of economic sanctions targeting Iran’s ability to sell its oil on international markets signed into law by President Obama last week, and with the European Union threatening to do the same, it was unlikely that the Iranian government, or their principle trading partner, would sit idly by and allow the West to damage their respective economies.

Although The Washington Post reported Tuesday that “a senior U.S. intelligence official” said that “the goal of U.S. and other sanctions against Iran is regime collapse,” the quote was quickly yanked from their web site.

The Post claimed the earlier account was “incorrectly reported” and that “an updated version clarifies the official’s remarks,” a fallacious climb-down that revealed far more than Washington intended to say the least!

The European Union announced that a meeting of foreign ministers would be held January 23, a week earlier than originally planned, to finalize an agreement on a comprehensive oil embargo.

While the EU and some Asian oil-buying nations are caving-in to Washington’s demands, America’s geopolitical rival and largest creditor, China, has rejected calls to put the squeeze on Tehran.

With U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in Beijing this week, The Washington Post reported that the former Kissinger Associates henchman in Obama’s cabinet “is expected to press China’s leaders to reduce the country’s oil imports from Iran.”

He is unlikely to find a receptive ear, however.

China’s vice foreign minister responsible for U.S. relations, Cui Tiankai, said on Monday that “the normal trade relations and energy cooperation between China and Iran have nothing to do with the nuclear issue. We should not mix issues of different natures, and China’s legitimate concerns and demands should be respected.”

Having blasted the new sanctions regime imposed last week, China, the third largest buyer of Iranian crude, said new restrictions would not affect business in the least.

The Associated Press reported that “about 11 percent of China’s oil imports in 2011 came from Iran, or about 560,000 barrels per day, a flow that increased in the latter half of the year, according to oil industry analysts Argus Media.”

“The daily average for November was 617,000 barrels,” AP reported, “close to a third of Iran’s total oil exports of 2.2 million barrels a day, Argus said,” a sign that China is hardly intimidated by U.S. threats.

Rejecting U.S. and European claims that normal business relations with the Islamic Republic provided financial support for its nuclear program, Cui declared that “argument does not hold water.”

“According to this logic,” the vice minister said, “if the Iranians have enough money to feed their population, then they have the ability to develop nuclear programs,” Cui told reporters. “If that is the case, should we also deny Iran the opportunity to feed its population?”

Cui’s pointed remark was an obvious jab at the U.S. sanctions regime which targeted Iraq for more than a decade prior to the 2003 invasion. Sanctions, which former UN official Dennis Halliday called “genocide” back in 1999, were estimated to have caused the death of upwards of 1.7. million people, including some 500,000 children, a “price” which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said was “worth it.”

Undeterred by American threats, Press TV disclosed Sunday that “a senior Iranian lawmaker says the aim of the upcoming naval drills by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) is to prepare for the potential closure of the strategic Hormuz Strait.”

Iranian naval officials announced January 5 that they “would be holding a major military maneuver in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz in February.”

“IRGC’s Naval Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said the drills, the seventh in a series of military exercises dubbed the Great Prophet, will be different compared to previous naval maneuvers held by the IRGC,” Press TV reported.

Pointedly, the deputy head of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Esmail Kowsari, said that “the military maneuver has been designed to prepare the armed forces for receiving the order to shut down the strait within the shortest time possible.”

The semiofficial Iranian news outlet also reported Sunday that the “Commander of Iran’s Ground Forces Brigadier General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan announces plans to hold a massive military maneuver in the near future.”

“In line with the global developments and their own interests,” Pourdastan told Press TV, “Western countries are, today, using soft war [tactics] as the core of their strategy and it is [only] natural for us to have a defense [tactic] when the enemy starts a war.”

On Monday, Fars News Agency reported that IRGC Commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, reiterated his earlier warning that “any enemy move, even the slightest aggressions, against the Islamic Republic would be reciprocated with a destructive response and will endanger the interests of the aggressor all around the world.”

Mounting U.S.-NATO Threats

Iran’s announcement that they will hold new naval exercises, followed a report by The Daily Telegraph that the UK will deploy “the HMS Daring, a Type 45 destroyer,” and this “will send a significant message to the Iranians because of the firepower and world-beating technology carried by the warship.”

In November, The Guardian disclosed that “Britain’s armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran.”

In a controlled leak, Ministry of Defence officials told The Guardian that “military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign.”

During the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, Diego Garcia was used by the the U.S. Air Force as a launch pad for B-2 stealth bombers during the initial phase of Washington’s “shock and awe” campaign over Baghdad.

It now appears those contingency plans have moved off the drawing board with the deployment of the HMS Daring towards the Persian Gulf.

The Telegraph disclosed that the ship “has been fitted with new technology that will give it the ability to shoot down any missile in Iran’s armoury. The £1 billion destroyer, which will leave Portsmouth next Wednesday, also carries the world’s most sophisticated naval radar, capable of tracking multiple incoming threats from missiles to fighter jets.”

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond warned Iran that “any blockade of the Strait of Hormuz would be ‘illegal and unsuccessful’.”

According to the Telegraph, naval sources have said that “more British ships could be sent to the Gulf if required. The second Type 45, HMS Dauntless, will also be available to sail at short notice.”

As Global Research reported in December, the United States has significantly increased military aid to Israel in preparation for an all-out war with Iran and that “the Pentagon dispatched some 100 military personnel to Israel from US European Command (EUCOM) to assist Israel in setting up a new sophisticated X-band early warning radar system as part of a new and integrated air defense system.”

Although “casually heralded as ‘military aid,'” Michel Chossudovsky wrote, “the project consisted in strengthening the integration of Israel’s air defense system into that of the US, with the Pentagon rather than Israel calling the shots.”

In a new development, Russia Today reported last week that “thousands of American troops are being deployed to Israel, and Iranian officials believe that this is the latest and most blatant warning that the US will soon be attacking Tehran.”

“Under the Austere Challenge 12 drill scheduled for an undisclosed time during the next few weeks,” RT disclosed, “the Israeli military will together with America host the largest-ever joint missile drill by the two countries.”

An anonymous Israeli official told the Associated Press “the drill would test multiple Israeli and U.S. air defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets. Israel has deployed the ‘Arrow’ system, jointly developed and funded with the U.S., designed to intercept Iranian missiles in the stratosphere, far from Israel.”

While U.S. and Israeli officials have called the drills “routine,” RT reported that “following the installation of American troops near Iran’s neighboring Strait of Hormuz and the reinforcing of nearby nations with US weapons, Tehran authorities are considering this not a test but the start of something much bigger.”

Iranian fears are fully justified.

With the United States and NATO ringing Iran with military bases and with the U.S. beefing-up arm sales to its regional allies, including recently announced plans to sell some $30 billion of advanced F-15SA war planes to Saudi Arabia and “bunker buster” bombs to the UAE, the stage is set for a confrontation.

In this context, the murder of an Iranian scientist just as a new round of talks were announced, is a clear sign that Washington is hell-bent on imposing its control over the Persian Gulf–through aggressive war–as part of long-standing plans to ensure imperial hegemony over the energy-rich regions of of Central Asia and the Middle East.

An attack on Iran would be disastrous | Richard Norton-Taylor

An attack on Iran would be disastrous

Britain must resist US pressure for military action. Even if Iran had nuclear weapons, engagement is the only course to take

Iran - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Natanz Nuclear Enrichment Facility

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, visits a nuclear enrichment facility south of Tehran. Photograph: HO/Reuters/Corbis

“Would a British prime minister ever refuse a plea from a US president to join America in a controversial military operation?” This was the response, rhetorical and unanswerable as far as they were concerned, by Whitehall mandarins whenever they were asked why Tony Blair agreed to invade Iraq. It was not a matter of whether the invasion was wrong or right; it was that the occupier of 10 Downing Street would simply not turn down such a request from the White House.

For the US, Britain could offer not only political and “moral” support but a juicy physical asset – Diego Garcia, the base conveniently placed for American bombers, on the British Indian Ocean Territory.

This is what so worries Whitehall, and Britain’s top brass in particular – a growing fear that Barack Obama will find it difficult to oppose increasing pressure for military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities within the next 12 months. British military commanders may be gung-ho, perennially optimistic and eager to please their political masters. They are also pragmatic, fully aware of the potential failure as well as the catastrophic consequences of such military action. And it would be hard for anyone to defend the legality of such pre-emptive strikes.

Amid such death and destruction what would be the end game, and the battles on the way? US and British military commanders have for years warned of the disasters that would follow missile strikes on Iran.

Iran’s forces may not be up to much but, with the help of Hamas and Hezbollah, they could wreak havoc. British and US troops in Afghanistan would be exposed to even greater danger than they are now – their bases in the Gulf, notably in Qatar and Bahrain, would be easy targets. The Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf, the canal through which more than 50% of the world’s oil is shipped, would be closed. What would arise from the ashes?

Some may say that is a price worth paying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The suggestion is that there is a “window” now that would enable Israel on its own to strike Iran’s nuclear sites. Next year, the “window” would be left open to the US (and the UK) before Iran’s nuclear weapons reached the point of no return.

Such reasoning, if this is what it can be called, is that of the dangerous fool. How crushed and devastated would Iran have to be before it could no longer restart a nuclear programme, even one just involving fissile material as a weapon for terrorists?

Israel is fast developing its arsenal, giving it a nuclear “triad” – weapons that could be delivered by land and air, and by submarines.

That’s fine and understandable because Israel is not Iran – unstable, unpredictable, under a president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who wants to create havoc across the Middle East. So runs the argument.

Why attack, or even threaten to attack, a country whose leaders are increasingly worried, more worried, about the state of the economy and internal dissent than any perceived threat from Israel? Iran is a far more sophisticated and divided society than the picture generally painted in the west.

An attack on Iran would halt and reverse moves to reform. The Arab spring would become an Arab winter with disastrous consequences for US and European interests as well as Arab societies, including Saudi Arabia. The alternatives are many – to continue to apply economic sanctions, a policy of carrot and stick, but with much more emphasis on the carrot. Embraces are far more difficult to withstand than attacks.

Engagement with Iran is essential even if it continues to appear determined to possess nuclear weapons, or the ability to produce them – “the art, but not the article”. It is status, after all, rather than military practicality, that led Blair to keep the Trident nuclear missile system for Britain, according to his autobiography.

If the pressure continues to mount, we can only hope there are enough influential voices left in Whitehall to tell the prime minister, and in Washington to tell the president: “No!”

The World Today – Ex-CIA warns US ‘dangerously wrong’ on Iran 12/10/2011

Ex-CIA warns US ‘dangerously wrong’ on Iran

Eleanor Hall reported this story on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 12:22:00

ELEANOR HALL: Now to the United States where a former intelligence analyst is warning the Obama administration to step back from blaming Iran for the foiled assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

The US attorney-general says Iran is behind what would have been a blatant act of international terrorism and which investigating authorities said was intended to be a prelude to other attacks.

The Iranian regime is denying any involvement in the plot and says the allegations are US propaganda.

At a press conference announcing the plot and the charging of two Iranians, attorney-general Eric Holder said that the US would “hold Iran accountable for its actions”.

The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton also warned that the US will consider ways to isolate Iran from the international community.

HILLARY CLINTON: This kind of action which violates international norms must be ended and other areas where we can cooperate more closely in order to send a strong message to Iran and further isolate it from the international community will also be considered.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

But a former CIA analyst with decades of experience studying Iran, says the US may have got this dangerously wrong.

Robert Baer spent 21 years working as a CIA case officer in the Middle East.

When he spoke to me this morning, he said this plot does not appear to him to be driven by the Iranian government and he says the US administration must now step back from its comments and open a direct diplomatic channel with the Iranian regime or risk igniting an uncontrollable war.

Robert Baer, were you surprised when you heard about this assassination plot?

ROBERT BAER: Oh absolutely. I mean right now is not the time for Iran to provoke the United States. We’re on edge already vis-à-vis Iran and it came as a total surprise to me.

ELEANOR HALL: The Iranian authorities have dismissed this as US propaganda; is it credible that the Iranian government is behind it?

ROBERT BAER: I don’t think it’s credible, not the central government, there may be a rogue element behind it. This doesn’t fit their modus operandi at all. It’s completely out of character, they’re much better than this. They wouldn’t be sending money through an American bank, they wouldn’t be going to the cartels in Mexico to do this. It’s just not the way they work.

I’ve followed them for 30 years and they’re much more careful. And they always use a proxy between them and the operation, and in this case they didn’t. I mean it’s the, either they’re shooting themselves in the foot or there’s pieces of the story, I don’t know what they are.

ELEANOR HALL: Well the US attorney-general is alleging that it’s the Iranian government and has warned that the US will take further action against Iran; what could he mean by that? What form could that action take?

ROBERT BAER: Well if they had gone through with this and set off a bomb in a Washington restaurant and attacked the Israeli embassy and the rest of it, that’s a casus belli, they could have gone to war with Iran.

And will they move? Sanctions are not working, they’ve done all the sanctions they can, are they going to move to some sort of naval blockade, an embargo? I can’t tell you.

But if they truly believe the central government was going to launch an attack inside the United States like this, they have to do something now that they’re on the record.

ELEANOR HALL: Well they are on the record. They’re now saying that they will take further action. It’s surely not likely that they would launch a war?

ROBERT BAER: There could be retaliatory attacks or, you know, hit/bomb a Quds Force base in Tehran, any number of things of course which would lead to a huge escalation.

I just cannot get over the fact though, and I have to come back to this, the Iranians are not that sloppy to plan something like this and then call back to Tehran. So I can’t explain what’s going on here.

ELEANOR HALL: So are you suggesting that the US attorney-general is actually speaking out too soon in blaming the Iranian government?

ROBERT BAER: I think he is. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the administration sort of backing down from this in the coming days.

On the other hand, if they increase the rhetoric, we are looking at an escalation which is uncontrollable.

ELEANOR HALL: And which could lead where?

ROBERT BAER: It could lead to a conflict in Iran. I mean, if we were to launch an embargo, there’s a limited amount of troops in Iraq, would the Iranians retaliate against them? Would they retaliate against us in any number of places?

This is the problem, you know, Iran truly is the third rail of American foreign policy and no-one’s done anything over the years to ameliorate relations with Iran.

ELEANOR HALL: If it’s not Iran behind this assassination plot, what are the possibilities?

ROBERT BAER: You could have an individual claiming it’s the Iranian government, an Iranian radical. You might actually have a radical in Tehran attempting to frame the government.

ELEANOR HALL: And to what extent should the Saudis be concerned about such a plot against their ambassador in the US, whether it’s driven by the official authorities of Iran or not?

ROBERT BAER: I think that they should be worried about attacks inside Saudi Arabia, and again that goes back to escalation.

ELEANOR HALL: Well Iran and the Saudis have long been rival powers in the region, but are the various Arab Spring uprisings ratcheting up the tensions between the two?

ROBERT BAER: I think they are because if you look at something like Syria, Iran, no matter what they say, supports the minority regime. My contention is we’re sitting on a volcano in the Middle East. But that’s all could be ignited by this kind of tension. And people in the White House, that’s exactly what they don’t need going into an election.

ELEANOR HALL: So what’s your advice right now to the president?

ROBERT BAER: Well I think he made a huge step in this press conference in the wrong direction. You know, now is the time we should have a back channel to Iran, figure out who these people are, a red line, like we used to have with the Soviet Union, and sort this out. We need a direct channel to the Iranians to talk this through.

ELEANOR HALL: And the way that you’re speaking at the moment, this is a really serious point of crisis?

ROBERT BAER: I think it’s an act of war. If that bomb had gone off, if indeed this was a real plot, it had gone off, it would have been an act of war and the United States would have been forced to respond with military… an attack. There would have been no question in my mind.

So were we that close to a war with Iran? I don’t know.

ELEANOR HALL: But at this point you’re saying actions need to be taken to step it back, from the United States?

ROBERT BAER: Absolutely. We could not control the consequences of a war with Iran, it’s uncontrollable.

Look, all these scenarios are worst case, and fortunately they rarely come about and I hope we step back on this one.

ELEANOR HALL: Robert Baer, thanks very much for joining us.

ROBERT BAER: Thank you.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s former CIA analyst Robert Baer. His most recent book on Iran is called Dealing with the Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower. And you can listen to a longer version of that interview on our website.