There’s delusion and 'delusion' when it comes to Iran

By Con Coughlin, May 10, 2013
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Ever since Iran's insistence on developing nuclear technology triggered the worlds biggest security nightmare, there have been a number of naive souls who have sought to contend that, on the contrary, we really have nothing to fear.

They argue that any suggestion that the Islamic Republic is working on a clandestine nuclear programme that could be used to fulfil the ayatollahs' oft-stated desire to destroy Israel, is nothing more than anti-Iranian rhetoric whipped up by Western powers that are determined to cut Iran down size.

The latest ingénues - a polite description - to peddle this ludicrous fiction are the journalist Peter Oborne and his fellow author David Morrison in their new book A Dangerous Delusion. Mr Oborne is one of Britain's finest political polemicists and I suspect his unhappy descent into the world of international fantasy has much to do with his association with Mr Morrison, a left-wing activist who takes a perverse interest in twisting the facts to suit his disagreeable political agenda.

Mr Morrison stands accused of suggesting that he believes the death toll figures at Srebrenica during the Bosnian civil war in 1995, which have been physically verified by UN war crimes investigators, were deliberately exaggerated by the West to demonise the Serbs. His attempts to clarify his position on this issue have lacked conviction. And his dubious grasp of historical fact was again laid bare during a recent podcast I did with him for the Telegraph website when he made the preposterous claim that the current Iranian leadership are not Holocaust deniers.

Iran is close to resuming this nuclear programme

Given the authors' alarming ignorance about the rudimentary principles that underpin the current Iranian regime, it is a wonder that their warped interpretation of the facts ever made it into print. Certainly, the book's title more aptly applies to the specious arguments advanced by the authors themselves than the way the West has attempted to handle the Iranian crisis during the past decade.

But when there is a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the facts, it is vital that peddlers of untruths are brought to book, lest their ridiculous claims somehow acquire credence. For example, take the authors' fanciful suggestion in the opening chapter that, since Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, it has been scrupulous in complying with its international obligations.

Setting aside the fact that Iran signed the treaty when the Shah was still in power, and long before the ayatollahs seized control, the authors appear to have paid no heed to more than a decade of alarming reports published by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog, which have detailed a number of grave violations. These include enriching uranium to a level far in excess of that required for peaceful nuclear programmes, and failing to declare the existence of key facilities, such as the underground uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.

Add to this evidence that Iran has conducted research on missile delivery systems that can only be used in atom bombs, and you see why the West has concerns about the direction of Iran's nuclear programme.

In the most authoritative intelligence assessment yet made public, the CIA has concluded that Iran had an active nuclear weapons programme until 2003, which was frozen after the invasion of neighbouring Iraq. All the evidence suggests Iran is now very close to resuming this programme, assuming it has not already done so.

These are just a few of the facts the authors of this incompetent attempt to rewrite history have deliberately chosen to ignore. We should all do the same by treating their conclusions with the contempt they deserve.

Con Coughlin is the defence editor of the Telegraph. His new book 'Churchill's First War: Young Winston and the fight against the Taliban' is published by Macmillan

Last updated: 9:45am, May 10 2013