Top Menu

Dear Reader, we make this and other articles available for free online to serve those unable to afford or access the print edition of Monthly Review. If you read the magazine online and can afford a print subscription, we hope you will consider purchasing one. Please visit the MR store for subscription options. Thank you very much. —Eds.

April 2006 (Volume 57, Number 11)

Notes from the Editors

As we write this in late February, threats of a U.S. military intervention in Iran are intensifying in response to Washington’s claims that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons capabilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency has voted to take the issue of what it views as Iran’s noncompliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Safeguards Agreement to the United Nations Security Council in early March. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has repeatedly stated that a military strike against Iran by the United States is now “on the table.” Washington’s waving of its big stick coupled with its feeding of misinformation to a U.S. media system that has not hesitated to pass these distortions on to the general public have already had their effect. A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll taken in January indicated that “57% of Americans favor military intervention if Iran’s Islamic government pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms” (Los Angeles Times, January 27, 2006). A few days later President Bush declared in his State of the Union address that “the Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.”

Under these circumstances it is important to review a few salient facts. Iran has no nuclear weapons nor is it near to obtaining them. According to the influential London-based think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Iran is at least ten years away from producing enough highly enriched uranium for a single nuclear bomb. Similarly the CIA, and the U.S. intelligence community in general, have estimated that it would take Iran ten years to build a bomb. (“Iran ‘Years from Nuclear Bomb,’” BBC News,, January 12, 2006; “Iran is Judged Ten Years from Nuclear Bomb,” Washington Post, August 2, 2005).

There is no hard evidence at present that Iran is in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty itself. All of its known activities with respect to nuclear research conform to what is permitted under the treaty. As the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has declared in its draft report Iranian Nuclear Weapons? (February 21, 2006), “Iran does have the right to acquire a full nuclear fuel cycle for peaceful purposes under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty (NPT).” So far Iran has been able to provide plausible explanations for all its nuclear research and development activities, consistent with a civil nuclear power program—leaving uncertainty as to whether it is undertaking to develop nuclear weapons or not.

Iranian nuclear research and development began in the 1950s under the Shah. In 1953 the CIA planned and executed a coup that deposed the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq. The United States placed the Shah in power, who ruled autocratically as a U.S.-allied “strongman” in the region. Beginning in the 1950s, the United States urged Iran to develop nuclear research facilities and provided it with technology and expertise. Consequently, Iran expanded its nuclear research and facilities rapidly in the 1970s. In 1974 the Shah declared that Iran would have nuclear weapons “without a doubt and sooner than one would think.” In the late 1970s Iran, according to U.S. intelligence, had a clandestine program for the development of nuclear weapons. After the 1979 Iranian revolution that deposed the Shah, the new government under Ayatollah Khomeini put Iran’s nuclear research and development work on hold, ceasing construction on its major plants at Bushehr. Iran later relaunched its nuclear programs with the commencement of the Iraq-Iran War during which Iraq targeted Iran’s nuclear facilities, destroying the core of the Bushehr facilities in 1987 (CSIS, Iranian Nuclear Weapons?).

If the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program is still uncertain, the fact that Iran has reasons to pursue nuclear weapons development is not. It has already been attacked by Iraq with missiles and chemical weapons. It is surrounded by countries with weapons of mass destruction: including Russia, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan, all of which have nuclear weapons (as well as chemical and probably biological weapons capabilities), Syria and Egypt, both of which have chemical weapons, and Turkey, with its NATO-based nuclear weapons and massive military capabilities. There are now around 200,000 U.S. and allied troops in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. The United States has military bases almost completely ringing Iran in Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The two U.S. wars against Iraq demonstrated overwhelming U.S. conventional weapons capabilities. In addition U.S. nuclear weapons deployment in and around the Persian Gulf, especially through the presence of the U.S. fifth fleet in the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, represent a constant threat to Iran. The United States declared Iran a member of the “Axis of Evil” in 2002 and claimed it had a right to “preventive war” against such “evil” states. This threat was subsequently carried out in the case of Iran’s neighbor Iraq. Iran’s leadership has every reason to believe that one of the chief reasons for U.S. aggression is its attempt to control the main sources of world oil as a means to global hegemony, making Iran, with its massive oil reserves, like Iraq before it, an obvious target.

Although those proposing military intervention against Iran commonly point to Israel’s air strike against Iraqi reactors in 1981, that attack is now considered to have been a failure (Joseph Cirincione, “No Military Options,”, January 19, 2006). According to the prestigious Oxford Research Group in a February 2006 briefing paper, Iran: Consequences of a War (, a U.S. military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities and high-technology infrastructure, which would also necessitate an attack on Iran’s military capabilities to prevent a military response, would lead to a protracted war that would inevitably engulf most of the Middle East.

We find it deeply disturbing that U.S. public opinion is being systematically prepared for crimes against the Iranian people that could potentially match the horrors unleashed by the United States and Britain upon Iraq—and that might bring on a general conflagration throughout the Middle East. As always, a formidable and daunting task faces anti-imperialist activists within the U.S. one-party state (run by what Gore Vidal has called its “two right wings”). There is every reason to believe that opposition to a U.S. “preventive war” against the people of Iran is almost universal outside the United States, while tens of millions of people inside the United States itself oppose such an expansion of the Middle East conflict. But mere opposition is not enough; actual mobilization in the cause of peace must take place if such opposition is to have an effect. One thing seems certain at present, the failure to act for peace will lead to the spread of war.

February 28, 2006

The international publication, the Post-Autistic Economics Review, recently conducted a survey among its subscribers (located in 150 countries) regarding who they considered to be the greatest twentieth-century economists. The results were published in its February 24, 2006, issue. Over 1,200 subscribers voted. Ties were given the same rankings. We are glad to be able to announce that Paul Sweezy was ranked 15 in the poll behind: 1. John Maynard Keynes, 2. Joseph Alois Schumpeter, 3. John Kenneth Galbraith, 4., Amartya Sen, 5. Joan Robinson, 6. Thorstein Veblen, 7. Michal Kalecki, 8. Friedrich Hayek, 9. Karl Polanyi, 10. Piero Sraffa, 11. Joseph Stiglitz, 12. Kenneth Arrow, 13. Milton Friedman, and 14. Paul Samuelson. Both Joan Robinson and Michal Kalecki in the top 15 were MR (and MR Press) authors. The rankings also include: 29. Ernest Mandel, 38. Robert Heilbroner, 43. Samir Amin, 49. Maurice Dobb, 60. Paul Baran, 78. Samuel Bowles, 86. Andre Gunder Frank, and 86. Immanuel Wallerstein—all MR authors. You may obtain a free subscription to the Post-Autistic Economics Review, and read back issues, at

From time to time we receive bequests from readers who want to contribute to the continuance of Monthly Review, Monthly Review Press, or the Monthly Review Foundation. Those who wish to do the same may simply state in their wills that the bequest is to “The Monthly Review Foundation, 146 West 29th Street, #6W, New York, NY 10001.” For additional information contact Martin Paddio at (212) 691-2555 or use our contact page.

2006, Volume 57, Issue 11 (April)
Comments are closed.