Is this all the nuclear agency could come up with?

After all the weeks of frenzy and speculation, all the talk of a first strike, all the hyperventilating in the international media - together with the banging of war drums in the Knesset and the mapping out of strategies by rightwing military adventurists - that's all the IAEA could come up with?

    Really? After all the weeks of frenzy and speculation, all the talk of a first strike, all the hyperventilating in the international media - together with the banging of war drums in the Knesset and the mapping out of strategies by right-wing military adventurists - that's all the IAEA could come up with? 

    The most striking thing about the report on Iran's nuclear programme is that, despite all the breathless claims of "unprecedented detail", most of the information contained in it is utterly irrelevant, made so by the fact that it's not new.

    The report admits that the vast majority of its findings relate to activities before 2003, before Iran voluntarily halted its nuclear work in hopes of reaching a diplomatic solution, a halt that all of the US intelligence agencies confirmed.

    The report doesn't even conclusively commit to the idea that significant work continued after 2003, saying only that such work "may be ongoing".

    Even these post-2003 elements of the "findings" are inconclusive. The "revelations" about the involvement of a Russian scientist have also been known for years. What has not been told widely is that he isn't a nuclear scientist at all.

    Meanwhile, there is still no evidence at all that Iran's enriched uranium, which is under the close watch of the IAEA, has been diverted away from its peaceful nuclear programme.

    So the clear message here is that the big picture remains pretty much the same as it was under the ElBaradei term at the IAEA.

    The only thing that has changed is that the IAEA has a new head, known to be sympathetic to Washington's priorities, who has chosen to spice up the presentation.

    The large helpings of spin seem to have been added in the hope that a lot more detail might tempt the international community to focus on the trees rather than the forest.

    What's almost as important here is what has been left out of this big picture.

    Principally, there's the fact that Israel is a nuclear armed state that has never allowed the IAEA to go anywhere near its nuclear facilities, and hasn't even signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty that Iran has.

    Meanwhile, its leaders are openly talking about launching a military assault on a sovereign nation.

    And amid all the speculation that such an attack might be authorised without informing Washington, why has no-one been addressing the post-attack scenario?

    While Washington may confidently turn a blind eye to attacks on Gaza and Lebanon in the knowledge that the fallout from such actions will be limited, an attack on Iran by Israel is an entirely different proposition.

    By common consent, the action would set the entire Middle East on fire.

    Without doubt, it would be the US and its allies that would be called upon to extinguish the flames: is Washington prepared and able to do that?

    What plans is it making to deal with the catastrophic impact of a rash Israeli action?

    But perhaps the most confusing question of all is: Why now?

    Has all this sound and fury just occurred unprompted? Or is there method and guidance behind the scenes, and if so, cui bono?


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