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Context of 'April 14, 2005: Kissinger Worries about Iranian Nuclear Program'

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In a conversation with National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger about civilian casualties in Vietnam, US President Richard Nixon says, “I don’t give a damn. I don’t care.” (CBS News 2/28/2003)

The FBI wiretaps Sunday Times reporter Henry Brandon. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover decides to wiretap Brandon after President Nixon, looking for National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, finds him at Brandon’s home. (Reeves 2001, pp. 86)

Henry Kissinger.Henry Kissinger. [Source: Bettmann / Corbis]In his first press conference in over five months, President Nixon announces the resignation of Secretary of State William Rogers. He is to be replaced by Henry Kissinger, who also retains his position as National Security Adviser. Kissinger says around this time that chief of staff “Al Haig is keeping the country together, and I am keeping the world together.” (Reeves 2001, pp. 605)

Secretary of State Henry Kissinger circulates National Security Decision Memorandum 292 on “US-Iran Nuclear Cooperation” outlining the administration’s negotiating strategy for the sale of nuclear energy equipment to Iran. The document states the government would permit “US material to be fabricated into fuel in Iran for use in its own reactors and for pass through to third countries with whom [the US has] agreements.” According to the document, the administration would “[a]gree to set the fuel ceiling at the level reflecting the approximate number of nuclear reactors planned for purchase from US suppliers,” but would consider increasing the ceiling “to cover Iran’s entitlement” from their proposed $1 billion investment in a 20 percent stake in one of the private US uranium enrichment facilities that would be supplying Iran. The strategy paper also explains under what terms the Ford administration would be willing to grant Iran approval to reprocess US supplied fuel. (US National Security Council 4/22/1975; Linzer 3/27/2005) Three decades later, Kissinger will tell the Washington Post that the Ford administration was never concerned about the possibility of Iran building nuclear weapons or the potential for proliferation. “I don’t think the issue of proliferation came up,” he will recall. “They were an allied country, and this was a commercial transaction. We didn’t address the question of them one day moving toward nuclear weapons.” (Linzer 3/27/2005)

US President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meet with Indonesian president Suharto in Jakarta and give him tacit approval to invade and annex East Timor. Suharto complains that the integration of East Timor into Indonesia is being resisted by Communist sympathizers. According to declassified US Government documents, Suharto tells Ford and Kissinger, “We want your understanding if we deem it necessary to take rapid or drastic action.” Ford responds, “We will understand and will not press you on the issue.” Kissinger then advises Suharto not to take action until he and the president have returned to Washington. “It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly.” Kissinger explains. “We would be able to influence the reaction in America if whatever happens, happens after we return.” (Republic of Indonesia 12/6/1975 pdf file; John Pilger 1994; Holloway 12/7/2001; BBC 12/7/2001) The following day, Indonesia invades East Timor (see December 7, 1976).

President Gerald R. Ford signs a presidential directive giving the Iranian government the opportunity to purchase a US-built nuclear reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. Iran, with support from the US, wants to develop a massive nuclear energy industry that has complete “nuclear fuel cycle” capability so fissile materials can be supplied self-sustaining basis. US companies, chief among them Westinghouse, stands to make $6.4 billion from the sale of six to eight nuclear reactors and parts. The shah has argued that Iran needs a nuclear energy program in order to meet Iran’s growing energy demand. Iran is known to have massive oil and gas reserves, but the shah considers these finite reserves too valuable to be spent satisfying daily energy needs. In a 1975 strategy paper, the Ford administration supported this view saying that “introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran’s economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.” Top officials in the Ford administration—including Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Chief of Staff Dick Cheney, and Paul Wolfowitz, who is responsible for nonproliferation issues at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency—are strong supporters of Iran’s ambitions. Kissinger will tell the Washington Post 30 years later that the Ford administration was not concerned about the possibility of Iran using the facilities to produce nuclear weapons. “I don’t think the issue of proliferation came up,” he says. But Charles Naas, deputy US ambassador to Iran at this time, will tell the Post that nuclear experts had serious concerns about potential proliferation. Naas will explain that the administration was attracted to the nuclear deal “terms of commerce” and interested in maintaining good relations with the shah. (Linzer 3/27/2005)

Indonesia invades and occupies the former Portuguese colony of East Timor. An estimated 200,000 people—roughly one-third of the country’s population—will be killed in the violence and famine that follow. (Jardine 11/1993; John Pilger 1994; Gallegos 9/1994; BBC 5/17/2002) The invasion was tacitly approved in advance by US President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the day before during a meeting with Suharto (see December 6, 1975).

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger writes an op-ed piece which is published in the paper edition of Washington Post. In it, Kissinger argues against a unilateral preemptive strike against Iraq without first creating a new international security framework that allows for nations to conduct preemptive strikes only under specific limited conditions. Otherwise, Kissinger argues, such an action would set a dangerous precedent that other nations might attempt to use in justifying their own policies. (Watson 8/13/2002; Purdum and Tyler 8/16/2002; Fox News 8/16/2002; Gumbel 8/17/2002)

Vice President Dick Cheney says during a “town hall meeting” at Minnesota State University: “They’re already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. Nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy.” (White House 10/5/2004) The Washington Post later notes that “Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and outgoing Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz held key national security posts when the Ford administration made the opposite argument 30 years ago” (see 1976). (Linzer 3/27/2005)

Speaking at a forum on Middle East peace sponsored by The Week magazine, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warns that if Iran succeeds in building nuclear weapons it could touch off an arms race that could lead to the end of civilization. “I do not believe that living in a world with 20 or 30 nuclear states is a situation that civilized life can support,” he says. (Rose 4/15/2005) But during the 1970s, Kissinger and other US officials had supported Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear energy program (see 1976 and April 22, 1975). At the time, they were not concerned about the potential for Iran to use the technology to develop nuclear weapons. Nor were they concerned about proliferation. Kissinger told the Washington Post in March that he did not “think the issue of proliferation came up.” (Linzer 3/27/2005)


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