By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Kudos for Stockman’s Iran story

I don’t like to state the obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated. Farah Stockman’s story on how a semi-American company took advantages of loopholes to bring a dangerous technology to Iran shows that the Boston Globe is still capable of competing at a national level — not all the time, not on every story, but when it picks its shots.

According to Stockman, an oil-services company called Schlumberger developed a drilling tool being used in Iran’s oil fields that contains radioactive materials capable of being converted into a so-called dirty bomb. The technology arose out of work in Schlumberger labs in Connecticut and Texas — yet because Schlumberger is not an American company, it was able to avoid U.S. rules prohibiting such technology transfers.

Scary stuff.

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  1. Bob

    Isn’t this supposed to be a coordinated effort between all western nuclear nations? This is no small deal and Sweden should face the same threats an punishment as Iran. Where’s the Hauge and its International “Law’s”We already know Iran is bent on our detruction — but Sweden”? It constitutes treason! The War against terrorism should have a treason clause comprehensive on all western countries.The good news is that Isreal and Sweden will get hit before US. Both countries have added to the worsening of the local situation in the Middle East and Iran’s missles can not reach US. But how much longer can we allow the human abuses going on every day in Israel? It is becomming difficult to continue strong support for them as they have existed disfunctionally since thier modern inception 60years ago! They are the root of Iran’s and most Muslim nation’s hatred toward US. There is NO resovling Middle East issues w/o settling the situation in Israel. NONE — they won’t have it, and Israel is to scared to do anything outside of “defensive” actions. That wall is a TOTAL disgrace !!!I see another American World bail-out simular to WWII (not financialy) where we are saving our pathicically stupid friends in Europe and somehow further screwing Arabs by removing Dictators while the people (who are not civilized enough for an outright democracy)simataneously hate us a vote in a new one. The missle defence shield in Europe is NOT necessary — it only provokes our Russian “friends”. There would be NO threat from Iran if Europeans didn’t give them new technology. God willing — the Russians join us again and we become the allies we should have been for the last 15 years!! There is no reason Christian Russia — and all it’s Orthodox sphere, and the entire West should not be arm in arm against what is an inevitable future threat to us all. It’s not about religion — I’m not a very faithful person — but CULTURE. They want to end ours. Stop squabbling within !!! This is why the Turks have Constantinople and poor Armenia has been reduced to a dot on the map, robbed of THIER historical cultural lands. Allowing Turkey into the EU NOW would be a fatal mistake for the EU and the core values of it would become moot.Most Americans do not know that 10% of the “Palistianians” are Christians.Bottom line — Israel and Iran BOTH need to be held accountable for nuclear (no double standards)transparancy AND adherience to International Standards — AND Human Rights abuses — EQUALLY.THIS would solve EVERYTHING !!! The extremists would go into the woodwork and work on perserving culture rather then politics…

  2. Greg

    I worked for a Schlumberger rival between 1990 and 1992 on the radiation detecting components of their Measurement While Drilling technology. But I haven’t had financial ties to the oil industry since switching to the computer industry in 1994. The author’s point about Schlumberger working around economic sanctions is an excellent one, and the US does need to address that problem. (While I don’t claim the US can fully solve the issue, I’m pretty confident we can do better.) However the author’s assertion that the material “could be used for a dirty bomb” seems sensationalistically ridiculous to me. Not because it couldn’t be done, but because it doesn’t make any sense. Hear me out. Perhaps things have changed somewhat but my perception is that the oil drilling equipment is incredibly expensive, yet the raw radioactive material is quite cheap. It wouldn’t make any sense economically for a terrorist state to do what you’re proposing. It’s like saying you’re going to buy a Porche so you can steal their ignition electronics system to make a bomb timer. Why not steal a Honda Civic? Why not go to Radio Shack? Sure it’s possible in theory, but it doesn’t seem like good risk assessment to worry about that issue while there are a hundred cheaper risks. If this is good investigative journalism, it can withstand cross-examination (or second sourcing with an independent party who doesn’t have the same international relations agenda) of the one expert mentioned who supported the dirty bomb risk claim. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like that was done and the piece seems sensationalistic without it.

  3. larry

    Hi All,I just need to comment here that the terms of this discussion are wrong. We should not be talking only about ways of containing or retarding development in the Arab world. The tool under discussion is a valuable industrial asset. We have no moral or ethical right to withhold technology from one race of people reserving it for racially selected elites. This is the most fundamental form of racism in the world today. It is the cause of all war.Attempts all over the world by small powerful elite classes of people threaten humanity. Just look at Zimbabwe. There you have an old corrupt elite trying to hold on to power despite all reason. There is cholera in the countryside and cities. Soldiers are starving and looting, but still the rulers cling to power. Thousands are dying, millions displaced.Western powers and their allies in the Middle East have been provoking war and corrupting governments for centuries. The people of the region have ample cause both recent and ancient to hate us. Every day the Israeli continue to gobble up more land once occupied by the Palestinians through murderous violence and the use of concentration camps, collective punishment, control of all movement on land sky and sea. The government supports heavily armed paramilitary groups that attack and murder Arab civilians with impunity. Until the Israeli give up their absurd project of a racially pure Jewish state their will be war. As long as societies are ruled by rich and powerful elites the rest of the world will resist.All the horrific weapons of war created by powerful governments will eventually be used against them. This is clear from history. Any government in the world can now assemble small GPS guided unmanned aircraft capable of delivering a weapon anywhere on the planet. This is just one example of how the interconnectedness of modern industrial society makes it impossible to defend against popular resistance. Where there is privilege there will be conflict.Another reason not to suppress development in the Arab world is that development will change their societies a lot faster than force. Industrialization will modernize the Arab world. Oppression and domination has brought about the opposite causing a false and romantic fantasy of religion to dominate society. When Western influences contaminate and corrupt every civil institution of your society religion is the only refuge.There is no security in domination.World wide disarmament is the only future we have.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Larry: Maybe I’ve missed something, but I don’t think I’ve heard the leadership of Iran call for worldwide disarmament. I have, though, heard them call for nuking Israel.By the way, Iran is not an Arab country.

  5. Marc Larocque

    Dan, actually, the president of Iran is calling for worldwide disarmament of nuclear weapons. (Below is an excerpt of his interview with Charlie Rose from September.)Thanks for noting it’s not an Arab country. All these ignorant Americans are unaware of the rich, peaceful Persian culture.* * *AHMADINEJAD: If we have any kind of weapons and armaments, it`s only for our defense. They are conventional. We want nuclear disarmament, all countries to be nuclearly disarmed. And we consider that to be against humanity, the principles of humanity, to manufacture these weapons, microbial, biological weapons, chemical weapons. We oppose that strongly. And this is a matter — article of faith for us. ROSE: So you are saying that it is against humanity for the Soviet Union to have nuclear weapons? It`s against humanity for the People`s Republic of China to have nuclear weapons? It`s against humanity for the Pakistani government to have nuclear weapons? It`s against humanity for the Israeli government to have nuclear weapons? It`s against humanity for the Indian government to have nuclear weapons. It`s against humanity for the British government to have nuclear weapons? It`s against humanity for the French government? And it`s against humanity for the Iranian government to want nuclear weapons? AHMADINEJAD: Yes, yes, exactly. Our position is very clear. If we consider something is right, it is right for everyone. If it`s wrong, it should be wrong for everyone. ROSE: So if other people do it, you have a right to do it? AHMADINEJAD: No, no, no, absolutely not, no. Because our position, our attitude is very clear. You cannot solve the nuclear bomb with a nuclear bomb. The problem of nuclear bombs is another nuclear bomb. The solution should be humanitarian, political, and cultural solutions, as we are doing now. We believe that a nuclear weapon has no use. It`s obsolete. Anyone that has a nuclear weapon, does not create any political advantage for them. It cannot be used. It`s not usable. What can you use? Where can you use nuclear weapons? Who and where can you use it? It`s finished. The time has come to an end. The time for armaments have come to an end. ROSE: Why can`t you convince the IAEA? Why can`t you convince the International Atomic Energy Agency that that is the truth and the reality and the reality and the passionate belief of Iran? So that they seek sanctions in the United Nations? AHMADINEJAD: Mr. Rose, you know better than others. Other people don`t know. You should know. We don`t have any problem with IAEA. The IAEA is under the pressure of the nuclear power states. Those have the nuclear powers — ROSE: The United Nations is — it`s an arm of the United Nations. AHMADINEJAD: The IAEA is under pressure. Allow me, sir. The representative of the United States puts a lot of pressure on them. But agency, nevertheless, in their official documents, the agency has shown, has stated clearly 12 times that they have seen no diversion in nuclear activity. What should they do? What else can they do? My question to you is this: IAEA, what have they done for the disarmament of the nuclear power states? Those who have the nuclear powers, are they more dangerous than those who do not have? Those who have the nuclear weapons should be disarmed. What have they done to disarm those countries? We have evidence, documents from the IAEA, 12 documents, 12 reports that they have stated clearly they have seen no diversion.

  6. Marc Larocque

    Furthermore, it’s only scary stuff if you want it to be. Seems like this article smacks of fear mongering. Maybe that’s what the Globe wants, to make this big scoop to appeal to racist conservatives worldwide. It is newsworthy, though, that this company is using a loophole to break the law.

  7. Marc Larocque

    Correction: The Charlie Rose interview took place in late-August.

  8. Marc Larocque

    Dan, just curious, when did the president of Iran explicitly say he wanted to bomb Israel with a nuclear weapon. We’ve all heard the fiery rhetoric about the Zionist regime collapsing and being washed away to the sea. He’s overtly anti-Israel. But I’ve never heard him or any other leader of Iran call explicitly for nuclear war with Israel.I may have overlooked it. If so, please link evidence.

  9. Marc Larocque

    No kudos.

  10. Dan Kennedy

    Marc: My mistake. It wasn’t Ahmadinejad who called for nuking Israel. It was Rafsanjani, generally thought to be a “moderate,” speaking in 2001.

  11. Marc Larocque

    From that article you linked to: “While Israel is believed to possess between 100 to 200 nuclear war heads, the Islamic Republic and Iraq are known to be working hard to produce their own atomic weapons with help from Russia and North Korea, Pakistan, also a Muslim state, has already a certain number of nuclear bomb.So Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction???Anyways. Just had to point that out.The article also points out that the cleric in question was openly and strongly rebuked by media broadcast in Iran:”It seems that Mr. Hashemi-Rafsanjani is forgetting that due to the present intertwinement of Israel and Palestine, the destruction of the Jewish State would also means the mass killing of Palestinian population as well”, observed one Iranian commentator. …”The man who considers himself as the most able politician in the Islamic Republic utters such nonsense and empty threats at a very time that the hard line and extremist government of Israel under Mr. Ariel Sharon is looking for justification of its repressive policy against Palestinians”, said Mr. Ahmad Salamatian, a veteran political analyst based in Paris.It continued.”At a time that the right wing Israeli government is claiming that the very existence of Israel and the Jews are threatened and uses this pretext as an instrument to advance its policy of repression in Palestine, such statements and ushering such dangerous menaces by one of Iran’s top officials is nothing but bringing water to Israel’s propaganda mill, providing it with more justifications explaining its present maximalist policy”, he told the Persian service of Radio France Internationale. So this guy was publicly shamed for saying that back then. He wasn’t the president then, either. And, after that, when he ran for reelection Ahmadinejad won!Maybe it was all a gaffe. As Americans we must admit we are familiar with similarly violent outbursts about our prescribed enemies. Like “Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran.” We say a lot of stupid shit, too. We have our share of crazy ass leaders in this country. And McCain was not elected by the public, either.We all must understand the history of U.S.-Iran relations. Because this might have a bearing on leaders of BOTH our country’s and how they speak to their respective publics.Who did we support in the Iran-Iraq war? Did we play a significant role in the orchestration of the overthrow of Iran’s Popular Prime Ministister Mohammed Massadegh? Let’s think.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Marc: Most responsible people believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. It didn’t matter. All President Bush had to do was let the UN inspections play out. That’s one of the reasons why his recent statements about regretting the intelligence mistakes are so appalling.

  13. Marc Larocque

    Dan, what I meant was that just because a country has crazy leaders — like we do — and makes some outrageous outburst like this doesn’t mean it’s not an empty statement that needs to be investigated.Sadaam, the maniac he was, for instance, wanted other countries to think he had weapons in order to posture himself as able to defend his country from outside aggresors.

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