It’s difficult not to cringe at the mass of views and opinions circulating throughout the news media, both here and in Europe, specifically with regard to the ‘United States/Israel versus Iran’ argument and the possibility of war between these nations.
So much ‘tuppenny wisdom’ is circulating that it really does depend on whose views you prefer, which team you’re supporting in the run up to the possible big game.
Occasionally, among this riff-raff of know-it-alls, arises a commentator whose desire for factuality far outweighs any need for pseudo-intellectual pontification.
Such a man is Norman Dombey, Professor emeritus of theoretical physics at the University of Sussex. In a recent letter to the Guardian newspaper, the good professor wrote:
Last December the Israeli deputy ambassador to the UN, Daniel Carmon, was interviewed by the BBC about the Iranian uranium enrichment project. He said: “The Americans and British made nuclear weapons with 20 centrifuges: imagine what the Iranians can do with 3,000.” In fact, neither the US nor Britain used centrifuges to enrich uranium for their early nuclear weapons. The US primarily used gaseous diffusion in the Manhattan Project during the second world war, while Britain did the same in the early 1950s.
Ian Black interviews an unnamed colleague of ambassador Carmon’s (June 25) and reports his claim that “Syria was planning to supply Iran with spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing into weapons-grade plutonium”. This claim belongs to the same fantasyland as wartime American centrifuges. Iran has a programme to produce low-enriched uranium, which it says is for peaceful purposes, although it would be relatively easy, as I pointed out in a previous letter (November 22) to refigure the centrifuges to produce high-enriched uranium for a weapon. But unlike North Korea, Iran has never had a reprocessing plant to convert spent fuel into plutonium.
Nor was Syria in a position to send Iran spent fuel because North Korea was unable to provide fresh fuel for the Syrian reactor under construction at Al Kibar. North Korea did have a fuel fabrication facility at Yongbyon, but it has been closed since 1994 and is now being dismantled together with the reprocessing plant under the six-party agreement reached last October. There is some fresh fuel at Yongbyon under IAEA safeguards. None is missing and it remains under the supervision both of IAEA inspectors and of a US team based at Yongbyon.
I make no apology for reproducing Professor Dombey’s letter in its entirety because, despite its relative brevity, it tells us a great deal.
It tells us that here is a man who doesn’t deal in opinion. Norman Dombey is stating facts, pure and simple, which is more than can be said for the deputy Israeli ambassador or his unnamed colleague.
Perhaps one of the most frightening facts to explode from the political debacle that resulted from post-9/11 hysteria was how little our governments know about other nations. The intelligence gathering organizations many assumed were doing their jobs efficiently, turned out to bear little relation to the James Bond-type establishments Ian Fleming depicted in his novels.
It’s become obvious our leaders listen to the same ‘tuppenny wisdom’ from similar ‘know-it-alls’ as write their op-eds and half-baked opinions in newspapers all over the Western world.
Through oft-repeated sound-bites our politicians take these opinions and twist them deftly into irrefutable facts. At no time was this more obvious than in 2002-2003, when every politician’s smoking gun was turning into a mushroom cloud. A few years on, the smoking gun once again metamorphosed, this time to ‘another Holocaust’.
In 2006, Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu told delegates to the annual United Jewish Communities General Assembly:
“It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany. And Iran is racing to arm itself with atomic bombs….. believe him and stop him [Ahmadinajad] This is what we must do. Everything else pales before this. He is preparing another Holocaust for the Jewish state.” 
The truth is that neither Netanyahu nor any other Israeli politician had, or has, evidence to back up such comments. But they don’t need evidence. They know such words will be picked up by the media and spread around the world, as substantiated facts.
We have two choices, and one is to believe implicitly the spawn issuing from our politicians’ tongues. It’s the easier, more comfortable option for many. The other is to seek out truth by closing our ears to those who pervert the facts for their own advantage, and instead make informed opinions after consultation with the Norman Dombey’s of this world who, by virtue of their positions, hold at least some of the facts.
Of course, Professor Dombey is an academic. That would make him too ‘liberal’ for many in the political establishments. Their greatest fear is knowledge. It might force them to do the right thing.
 “Iran, Syria and nuclear weapons” Guardian, July 12th 2008
 “Ahmadinejad is preparing another Holocaust” Haaretz, November 14th 2006
Filed under: Political subterfuge