CAN YOU PASS THE IRAN QUIZ?
By Jeffrey Rudolph (April 2010; last update November 2017)
What justified, until 2015, relentless American political and economic aggression against the Islamic Republic of Iran?
It cannot be argued that Iran is an aggressive state that is dangerous to its neighbors, as facts do not support this claim. It cannot be relevant that Iran adheres to Islamic fundamentalism, has a flawed democracy and denies women full western-style civil rights, as Saudi Arabia is more fundamentalist, far less democratic and more oppressive of women, yet is a US ally. It cannot be relevant that Iran has had a nuclear research program and may have pursued the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, as Pakistan, India, Israel and other states are nuclear powers yet remain US allies—indeed, Israel deceived the US while developing its nuclear program.
The answer to the above-posed question is obvious: Iran had to be punished for leaving the orbit of US control. Since its Islamic Revolution in 1979 when the Shah was removed, Iran unlike, say, Saudi Arabia, acts independently and thus compromises US power in two ways. Firstly, Iran impedes the attainment of some US goals in the Middle East region, and secondly, Iran provides a “bad” example for other countries that may wish to pursue an independent course. The Shah could commit any number of abuses—widespread torture, for example—however his loyalty to the US exempted him from American condemnation, yet not from the condemnation of the bulk of Iranians who brought him down.
In July 2015, due to the dangerous chaos the US has created in the Middle East and the threat posed by Islamic State, the US (with other parties) and Iran agreed to a nuclear deal designed to remove sanctions on Tehran in exchange for long-term curbs on its nuclear program. And, on 16 January 2016, the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, certified that Iran had fulfilled its obligations under the nuclear deal. Accordingly, Iran will receive relief from nuclear-related US, EU, and UN sanctions.
The following quiz is an attempt to introduce more balance into the mainstream discussion of Iran.
THE IRAN QUIZ
1. Has Iran launched an aggressive war of conquest against another country since 1900?
-No. According to Juan Cole, the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, “Iran has not launched an aggressive war since 1775, when Karim Khan Zand sent an army against Omar Pasha in Basra in neighboring Iraq.” http://www.juancole.com/2015/02/surprising-better-israel.html
“Branded by hard-liners in Washington as an ‘Islamo-fascist’ state that threatens world peace, Iran has in fact not invaded any country since the eighteenth century — in marked contrast to the United States [and Israel].” (Scott Peterson, Let The Swords Encircle Me: Iran — A Journey Behind The Headlines, Simon & Schuster, New York: 2010, 26. Hereinafter, “Peterson 2010.”)
-While the Islamic Republic of Iran has never invaded another country (nor even threatened to do so), “it has been involved in various regional conflicts ([such as the Lebanese Civil War,] the Iraq War, the Syrian Civil War, the Houthi insurgency in Yemen).” Iran, like other powers, tries to exert influence in its region. It is likely that the more threatened Iran feels – by, for example, harsh sanctions – the more active it will be in the region. Essentially, “like Russia, like the US, like Israel, [Iran] seeks to protect itself in its ‘near abroad’…” http://mondoweiss.net/2015/03/annotated-benjamin-netanyahus#
“[A] critical component of Iranian foreign policy is to support…politically disenfranchised groups—whether that’s groups in Afghanistan,…in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Palestine, [in Yemen]. [Iran] work[s] to empower those groups to participate in political processes. At the end of the day, this means that Iran gains favor in those countries, because it has supported the political empowerment of previously marginalized groups, who then come to power in elections.” http://goingtotehran.com/saudi-disorientation-the-yemen-war-and-americas-self-imposed-decline-in-the-middle-east-hillary-mann-leverett-on-cnn-and-rts-crosstalk (23 April 2015)
“To forestall an Israeli attack on its nuclear program or an attempt at regime change in Tehran, Iran has long backed regional proxies that extend its power across the region. Foremost among these is Hezbollah, the Lebanese ‘Party of God,’ which has been an integral part of what Iran calls its ‘forward defense,’ taking the place of missiles that could effectively target Israel, which Tehran still lacks. Through Hezbollah, Iran can use Lebanon as a launching pad within fifty miles of major Israeli cities. Yet [this] strategic posture is only as strong as the supply line that supports it.” http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/04/13/syria-hidden-power-of-iran/
-Iran’s military is designed for defense not offense. “The Islamic Republic’s leaders have designed its foreign policy and national security strategy to preserve Iran’s territorial and political integrity in the face of [threats from the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia]. The aim is not to establish Iran’s regional hegemony; it is to prevent any other regional or extra-regional power from attaining hegemony over Iran’s strategic environment. Even the US Defense Department acknowledges the defensive character of Iranian strategy; as a [January 2014] Pentagon report puts it, ‘Iran’s military doctrine is defensive. It is designed to deter an attack, survive an initial strike, retaliate against an aggressor, and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities while avoiding any concessions that challenge its core interests.'” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article42101.htm (10 June 2015)
“Iran has the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the region, according to former UN weapons inspector Michael Elleman. The program is controversial because Tehran possesses multiple missiles that, in theory, are capable of delivering a nuclear payload. Also, Iran’s missiles can reach targets throughout the Persian Gulf, all of the Levant, including Israel, Turkey and parts of southern Europe. The United States has argued that Iran’s missile tests are in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 [and thus] has imposed sanctions on individuals and firms for supporting Tehran’s ballistic missile program. Iranian officials, however, have consistently stressed that their missiles are for defensive purposes only.” (“Missiles are a particularly important part of Iran’s deterrent strategy because its air force is relatively weak.” In fact, Iran’s combat aircraft is vastly outclassed by Arab, Israeli, US, and European air forces.)
“Despite repeated US estimates over the years that Tehran could soon develop ICBMs–and the persistent assumption that it would test one before 2015–Iran’s missile arsenal continues to be limited to short- and medium range.” (However, Iran has long been working on improving its missiles’ accuracy and survivability.) Essentially, “Iran’s arsenal of conventional short- and medium-range missiles [do] not constitute an imminent threat either to the United States or its allies—unless they are planning to attack Iran, to which Tehran would likely respond with missiles.” (“The deterrent function of Iran’s missiles gained further importance during the nuclear crisis, with threats of military action against Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran vowed to retaliate against a preventive strike by launching its missiles at Israeli cities and US bases throughout the region.”) It should be obvious that the “best way to change Iran’s missile policy is by mitigating its respective security concerns…” http://lobelog.com/dont-let-misplaced-concerns-over-missiles-jeopardize-iran-deal/ (10 Nov. 2017)
-While the Iranian regime deserves condemnation for its behavior toward domestic critics — for example, see: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/iran/ — US foreign policy is not determined by a country’s domestic behavior. For example, consider the US’s support of gross abuses by the Bahraini regime against domestic protesters and activists. (And, a report commissioned by the Bahraini government concluded that the 2011 “disturbances” were a response to genuine grievances and that there was no evidence of an Iranian role behind the unrest.)
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/features/letters-from/bahrains-fake-sectarian-war (June 2013)
The conflict the US and Israel has with Iran “springs from the exigencies of geopolitics rather than ideology: Iran’s age-old ambition to be recognized as a–or the–regional hegemon versus the determination of the US and Israel to foil its ambition and preserve their regional preeminence. Many informed Israelis freely acknowledge” this reality. For example, according to Eliezer Tsafrir, former head of Israeli intelligence in Iran and Iraq: “However ideological and Islamic, everything Iran was doing was nationalistic, and even similar to the Shah”. (Norman G. Finkelstein, Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel Is Coming to an End, OR Books, New York: 2012, 49. Hereinafter, “Finkelstein 2012.”)
According to David Crist, a historian for the US federal government and an advisor on Middle East issues, “Hard liners in Iran reject the status quo of American supremacy in the region….While in this conflict the United States remains largely the good guy, it has not always been the perfect guy. Both Bush administrations dismissed Iranian goodwill gestures and refused to accept any dialogue that addressed Iran’s legitimate security concerns. The United States supported Saddam Hussein and his Arab bankrollers in a bloody war against the Islamic Republic that killed several hundred thousand Iranian soldiers. The mantra of regime change remains a frequent slogan in many quarters in Washington. Unfortunately, Iran’s response to these trespasses has invariably been to use the tools of the terrorist: an exploding car bomb on a crowded street…Iran’s quest for nuclear technology has heightened the stakes and the tension but it has not been a catalyst for the conflict.” (David Crist, The Twilight War: The Secret History of America’s Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran, Penguin Press, New York: 2012, 5-6. Hereinafter, “Crist 2012.”)
-“[T]he United States is the only country ever to launch an actual cyberwar when the Obama administration used a cyberattack to destroy thousands of centrifuges, used for nuclear enrichment, in Iran. This was an illegal act of war, according to the Defense Department’s own definition.” (Stuxnet was the first, major cyberattack used to destroy critical infrastructure. Previous cyberattacks’ effects were limited to other computers.) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-election-intelligence-commentary-idUSKCN10F1H5 (4 Aug. 2016)
Iran responded to the cyberattack, that came to be known as Stuxnet, “by establishing the Cyber Army in 2010 to conduct computer attacks on its domestic and international enemies. Major US banks such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley sustained tens of millions of dollars in damages as a result of cyberattacks in late 2012 that US officials said they traced to Iran. The Department of Justice indicted seven Revolutionary Guard hackers, one for allegedly trying to break into the control system of a New York dam.” (Jay Solomon, The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, And The Secret Deals That Reshaped The Middle East, Random House, New York: 2016, 25. Hereinafter, “Solomon 2016.”)
“[The US] learned, from communications intercepts, that the Iranians had expressly developed and launched Shamoon [–a computer virus that wiped out nearly every workstations’ hard drive at Saudi Aramco–] as retaliation for Stuxnet and Flame[,] [the latter NSA virus wiped out nearly every hard drive at Iran’s oil ministry and at the Iranian National Oil Company].” (Fred Kaplan, Dark Territory: The Secret History Of Cyber War, Simon & Shuster, New York: 2016, 213.)
2. Which country was responsible for starting the Iran-Iraq War?
-It is not disputed that Iraq started the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s by invading Iran on 22 September 1980. (In fact, in 1991 the UN reported that Iraq’s initiation of the war was unjustified, as was its use of chemical weapons.) “In invading Iran, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein assumed that the divided Iranians and their dilapidated armed forces would be unable to put up much of a fight. He was wrong….Iran’s leaders quickly resurrected the armed forces by halting military trials and purges and enforcing conscription….[Iranians] were driven to defend the country, the revolution, and the Islamic Republic by a potent combination of nationalism, revolutionary mission, and religious zeal that was stoked by the foreign threat.”
-During the war “It was Iraq’s increasingly effective use of chemical weapons that raised Iran’s death toll, using American satellite imagery that pinpointed Iranian troop locations. That deadly arsenal was made with ingredients supplied by American and European companies, its use given a green light from Washington that all methods were acceptable in the fight against [Iran].” (Peterson 2010, 60)
“[While] Iran was subjected to years of chemical attacks, Grand Ayatollah Khomeini…and his associates chose not to weaponize Iran’s stockpiles of chemical agents, a move that would have enabled it to respond in kind. And for years now the Islamic Republic’s highest political and religious authorities have rejected the acquisition and use of nuclear weapons, both on strategic grounds and because, in their view, nuclear weapons violate Islamic morality.” (Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, Going To Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Metropolitan Books, New York: 2013, 17. Hereinafter, “Leverett 2013.”)
-The war, which led to an estimated one million Iranian deaths, “was one of the most momentous events in Iran’s contemporary history and has shaped Iran’s views of itself and the outside world. Most of the country’s key decision makers and commanders took part in the war, and they now make policy with the war’s lessons in mind.” For example, vulnerability to Iraq’s daily air and missile raids against major cities, and the international community’s failure to deter and punish Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops and civilians, highlighted the need for an effective deterrent.
“[Accordingly,] Iran’s experience in the war triggered the start or resumption of many of the country’s critical defense programs—including those related to ballistic missiles, drones, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD)—which pose a challenge to the United States and its allies…Tehran saw itself as isolated and unable to rely on others to meet its defense needs during the war, and the downing of an Iranian civilian airliner by a US Navy cruiser, killing all 290 people on board, in the war’s final months seemed to indicate that the United States would go to any length to hurt Iran. This perceived isolation strengthened the Iranian leadership’s view that the country needed to stand on its own and become self-reliant in matters of defense.”
https://www.lawfareblog.com/understanding-iran-nuclear-deal-through-lens-iran-iraq-war (16 July 2017)
3. Who wrote the following in 2004? “It is in the interests of the United States to engage selectively with Iran to promote regional stability, dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, preserve reliable energy supplies, reduce the threat of terror, and address the ‘democracy deficit’ that pervades the Middle East…”
-A task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and chaired by two prominent members of the American foreign policy establishment, former CIA director Robert Gates and former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, recommended “a revised strategic approach to Iran.” Their report included the above statement. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2005/mar/24/clouds-over-iran/?pagination=false
Due to the failures of US foreign policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, the task force’s recommendation was finally pursued. In November 2013, the Geneva interim agreement was signed between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). This agreement represented the first formal agreement between Iran and the US since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
-Peace between Iran and the US would allow the “two states to cooperate against their common adversary, that is, Takfiri groups (such as al-Qaeda [and the Islamic State]), primarily in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, but also across the region as a whole. Intelligence, military, and logistical cooperation between Iran and the US could create unprecedented formidable force with which to confront extremism across the region. Rapprochment…would assist in the reconstruction of Iran’s relations with its Arab neighbors and encourage those Arab countries [such as Saudi Arabia] that currently support Salafist groups proxy wars against Iran to desist from doing so….Peace with Iran will address the security concern of the US with regard to Iran’s nuclear activities. By creating an atmosphere characterized by cooperation, Iran would welcome close cooperation with the IAEA, implementing maximum transparency measures and adopting appropriate limits in its nuclear program.” (Seyed Hossein Mousavian and Shahir ShahidSaless, Iran And The United States: An Insider’s View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace, Bloomsbury, New York: 2014, 272-3. Hereinafter, “Mousavian 2014.”)
For readers who cannot imagine Iran and the US working together, it is not disputed that Iran provided vital intelligence and logistical support before, during, and after the US-led military operations in Afghanistan that resulted in the overthrow of the Taliban.
New York Times front page story on Sept. 1, 2014: US and Iran Are Unlikely Allies in Battle for Iraqi Town: “The fight for Amerli, in northern Iraq, appeared to mark the first time American warplanes and militias backed by Iran were working with a common purpose on the battlefield against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.”
-“An annual report delivered [in early 2015] to the US Senate by James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence [at the time], removed Iran and Hezbollah from its list of terrorism threats, after years in which they featured in similar reports. The unclassified version of the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities, dated February 26, 2015, noted Iran’s efforts to combat Sunni extremists, including those of the ultra-radical Islamic State group, who were perceived to constitute the preeminent terrorist threat to American interests worldwide. In describing Iran’s regional role, the report noted the Islamic Republic’s ‘intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia,’ but cautioned that ‘Iranian leaders—particularly within the security services—are pursuing policies with negative secondary consequences for regional stability and potentially for Iran. Iran’s actions to protect and empower Shia communities are fueling growing fears and sectarian responses,’ it said.” (“[I]ran and Hezbollah were both listed as terrorism threats in the assessment of another American body, the Defense Intelligence Agency.” And, Iran is classified by the US State Department as a leading state sponsor of terrorism.) http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-report-scraps-iran-hezbollah-from-list-of-terror-threats/ (16 March 2015)
-“Saudi Arabia—not Iran—is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world today and Wahhabism remains the source of most radical Islamic extremism. For years Iran has borne the unenviable title of ‘world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism.’ However, out of the 61 groups that are designated as terrorist organizations by the US State Department, the overwhelming majority are Wahhabi-inspired and Saudi-funded groups, with a focus on the West and Iran as their primary enemy. Only two are Shi’a—Hezbollah and Kataib Hezbollah, and only four have ever claimed to receive support from Iran. Nearly all of the Sunni militant groups listed receive significant support from either the Saudi government or Saudi citizens.”
“[In 2017] the debate in Washington is whether to designate Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as terrorist organizations. [However,] The Muslim Brotherhood has rarely engaged in terrorism and the IRGC’s main focus appears to be Iranian dissidents abroad and fighting ISIS in Syria.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-real-largest-state-sponsor-of-terrorism_us_58cafc26e4b00705db4da8aa?p3bjpx32kf7wah5mi (16 March 2017)
In any event, “America’s branding of Iran as a state sponsor of terror [has been] based on Israel’s interests. ‘[I]ranian support for terrorism translates to support for Hezbollah, whose major crime is that it is the sole deterrent to yet another destructive Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and for Hamas, which won a free election in the Gaza Strip [in 2006]—a crime that instantly elicited harsh sanctions and led the US government to prepare a military coup’…”
4. True or False: Israel opposed the implementation of US sanctions on Iran during the 1980s.
-True. During the 1980s, Israel was “not at all concerned about Iran’s nuclear program [nor] about many of Iran’s other activities that [Israel] now profess[es] concern about. In fact, in the 1980s, the United States wanted to impose [sanctions] on Iran for…[its] connection to the  bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. [T]he then Israeli government, in a live interview by the then Minister Ariel Sharon, said that Israel would oppose sanctions being…imposed on Iran. [Nevertheless, the US did impose sanctions in 1984. However, Israel reversed its position] not because of any change in Iranian behavior, but because the Iraqi military was [routed by the US after Iraq’s 1990-1991] invasion [and occupation] of Kuwait…[Hence,] in early 1992, you have the first visit to Washington by then Prime Minister Rabin [who] started to raise concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and the prospect of sanctions. And…in 1995…the United States first imposes its comprehensive economic embargo on Iran. So [Israel has long been concerned] about the rise of Iran in the region, [as Iran can potentially] check Israel’s…reckless impulses vis-à-vis its neighbors.” Israel, in short, wants the current balance of power in the Middle East maintained, yet with an even more “isolated and crippled” Iran. http://www.democracynow.org/2015/3/12/ex_us_official_with_iran_letter
-“In its clash with Iran, the US has always had a very close partner, Israel. The partnership started in 1979, but it took different routes. Up until the end of the Iran-Iraq war and the first US invasion of Iraq, Israel’s attention was primarily focused on Iraq, which was viewed by Israel as the most immediate obstacle to achieving its goal of annexing ‘Judea and Samaria’ [the West Bank]. Thereafter, Israel turned its attention to Iran, the other main obstacle in fulfilling the Zionist dream of Eretz Yisrael. Starting in the early 1990s Israel not only joined the US in its massive campaign against Iran, but it actually took over the sanctions policy of the US. With the help of its lobby groups, Israel pushed through the US Congress one set of sanctions after another, hoping that ultimately the US would attack Iran, as it had done in the case of Iraq [in 2003].” http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/11/21/is-israel-losing-the-battle-to-wage-war-on-iran/
-According to Tel Aviv University Professor David Menashri, Israel’s foremost expert on Iran: “Throughout the 1980s, no one in Israel said anything about an Iranian threat — the word wasn’t even uttered”. In fact, Israel sold weapons to Iran during the 1980s Iran-Iraq War. http://mondoweiss.net/2015/03/netanyahu-democracy-matthews
5. How many Iranian suicide-bombers have there been since the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988?
-According to Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, “There’s not a single known instance of an Iranian suicide-bomber since the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988.” During the Iran-Iraq War, Iran used suicide-bombers as the ultimate “smart bomb.” In fact, there is little difference between such an Iranian suicide-bomber and a US marine who rushes a machine-gun nest to meet his certain death. In contrast to Iran which used suicide-bombers for tactical military purposes, Sunni extremists use suicide bombing for vague objectives such as to “purify the state.” (Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, Crown Publishers, New York: 2008, 205.)
-“[The] most comprehensive, data-based study of suicide terrorism carried out to date determined that there has never been an Iranian suicide bomber. Iranian support for paramilitary groups that the United States considers terrorist organizations or threats to American forces–Hizballah, Hamas, Shi’a militias in Iraq–has been focused in theaters where the United States, Israel, or Sunni states allied to Washington are seeking to undermine important Iranian interests.” (Leverett 2013, 17-18)
-In July 2016, Ali David Sonboly, who was born in Germany to Iranian Muslim parents, “murdered nine people in a mass shooting in Munich” before killing himself. Sonboly should not be considered Iranian or Muslim as he was raised in Germany, held far-Right racist attitudes, and rejected his Muslim heritage. That all of his victims were of immigrant backgrounds and that he idolized the Norwegian far-Right terrorist Anders Breivik who massacred 77 people in 2011, provides evidence that his “killings were racially motivated.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/28/munich-gunman-had-far-right-sympathies-and-killings-were-raciall/ (28 July 2016)
-“[I]t is wildly inaccurate to describe [Iran] as the source of jihadi terror. According to an analysis of the Global Terrorism Database by Leif Wenar of King’s College, more than 94 percent of deaths caused by Islamic terrorism since 2001 were perpetrated by ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Sunni jihadists. Iran is fighting those groups, not fueling them. Almost every terror attack in the West has had some connection to Saudi Arabia. Virtually none have been linked to Iran.” http://www.sunjournal.com/news/columns-analysis/2017/05/28/america-has-now-signed-saudi-arabia-foreign-policy/2137452 (28 May 2017)
-“[Westerners] think of images of demonstrations and chanting crowds and assume (encouraged by our news media) that Iranian Shi’ism is a dangerous, uncontrollable, fanatical force. But in truth the religious hierarchy that Iranian Shi’ism has developed means that religious Iranians are more controlled, more subject to religious discipline and the guidance of senior clerics (most of whom are pragmatic and moderate, and many of whom are out of sympathy with the Islamic regime) than Sunni Muslims, who since the dissolution of the Caliphate in the 1920s have lacked that kind of structure. Some experts have pointed to that lack as a factor in the rise of radical, theologically incoherent groups like Al-Qaeda….An important strand of Iranian Shi’ism is a traditional quietist principle that commends decent, honest conduct and the patient endurance of adversity.” (Michael Axworthy, Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic, Penguin Books, New York: 2013, xxi. Hereinafter, “Axworthy 2013.”)
6. What was Iran’s defense spending in 2011?
-Approximately $13 billion. “Iran spends only about 20 percent of the amount allocated by the six sheikhdoms in the Gulf Cooperation Council – a consistent trend since the Iran-Iraq War ended in 1988.” http://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/conventional-military
7. What was the US’s defense spending in 2011?
-Approximately $700 billion. http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending#USMilitarySpending US defence spending “is bigger than that of the next 17 countries combined.” http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/06/military-spending
-It should be noted that there is very little doubt that Israel could defeat Iran in a conventional war in mere hours. (Juan Cole, Engaging the Muslim World, Palgrave Macmillan, New York: 2009, 206-7. Hereinafter, “Cole 2009.”) “Israel’s defense budget easily exceeds those of its four immediate neighbors combined; it is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of arms…” (Peter Beinart, The Crisis of Zionism, Times Books, New York: 2012, 4. Hereinafter, “Beinart 2012.”)
-It is disturbing to note that, despite having spent “nearly eight trillion” dollars on nuclear weapons “in the last half of the twentieth century,” the US “admits to having lost track of eleven nuclear bombs over the years.” (Nearly all were later accounted for.) (Rachel Maddow, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Crown Publishers, New York: 2012, 219, 231.)
8. What is the Jewish population of Iran?
-10,000. It is one of the many paradoxes of the Islamic Republic of Iran that this anti-Israeli country supports the largest Jewish population of any Muslim-majority country after Turkey. Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, thousands of Jews left for Israel, Western Europe or the US fearing persecution. But Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s supreme leader, issued a fatwa upon his return from exile in Paris decreeing that Jews and other religious minorities were to be protected thus reducing the outflow of Iran’s Jews to a trickle. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/jewpop.html#asia
(Iran’s Constitution recognizes Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians as “People of the Book” who “are thus entitled to protection and some autonomy in religious practices. But Baha’is [who were seen as a threat historically] are not protected under the law, are not allowed to practice their faith, and have faced persistent persecution.” http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2015/feb/12/rival-islamic-states-isis-v-iran)
-The Jewish community in Iran dates back over 2000 years, continues to run kosher shops, Hebrew schools and synagogues, and has guaranteed representation in parliament. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/09/05/us-and-israeli-tensions-over-iran-strike-bared/
Many Jews have left Iran due to discrimination and economic difficulties. “Some of the Jews who have stayed in Iran are elderly and unable to tolerate travel or establishing a new home in a foreign country. Some Jews are determined to protect their sacred places and synagogues, or family homes.”
http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/238471/why-some-iranian-jews-stay (29 June 2017)
-The Islamic Republic, while anti-Zionist, is not anti-Semitic as manifested in its treatment of Iran’s Jewish community. (Being opposed to the policies of the state of Israel is not the same as being anti-Jewish.) “In 2006, the head of the [Jewish] community criticized–with impunity–Ahmadinejad’s rhetoric about the Holocaust in an open letter distributed to Iranian and international media.” “Although a sizable portion of Iran’s Jewish community left the country immediately after the revolution, Iranian Jews have in recent years overwhelmingly rejected financial incentives–almost $10,000 per person, just over $30,000 per family, offered by diaspora groups on top of Israeli government incentives–to emigrate to Israel.” (Leverett 2013, 93, 94)
In September 2013, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made clear to the world that the Ahmadinejad era—marked by Holocaust denial and threats to Israel—was over. Zarif tweeted that “Iran never denied [the Holocaust]. The man [i.e., former President Ahmadinejad] who was perceived to be denying it is now gone.” And in an interview to the US media, he “condemned the Holocaust as a ‘heinous crime’ and a ‘genocide,’ dismissing as a poor translation the appearance of the word ‘myth’ about the Holocaust on the Iranian Supreme Leader’s English website.”
On 15 December 2014, Iranian “officials in Tehran unveiled a monument honoring Iranian-Jewish soldiers who died in action during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s….Photos of the ceremony [showed] Iranian officials and members of the Jewish community praying together and placing wreaths on the graves of the soldiers, who were hailed as ‘martyrs.’ [The regime wants] ‘to show that Iran is multireligious.'” (In fact, Iran’s 2013 and 2017 elections demonstrated that Iran, despite being a theocratic state, has one of the most open political systems in the Middle East.)
9. Which Iranian leader said the following? “This [Israel’s] Occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.”
-Ruhollah Khomeini. This wasn’t a surprising statement to come from the leader of the 1979 Revolution as Israel had been a firm ally of both the US and the Shah. (Cole 2009, 201)
-According to Juan Cole, Ahmadinejad quoted this statement in 2005 yet wire service translators rendered Khomeini’s statement into English as “Israel must be wiped off the face of the map.” Yet, Khomeini had referred to the occupation regime not Israel, and while he expressed “a wish for the regime to go away” he didn’t threaten to go after Israel. In fact, a “regime can vanish without” any outside attacks, as happened to the Shah’s regime in Iran and to the USSR. It is notable that when Khomeini “made the statement in the 1980s, there was no international outcry”. In fact, in “the early 1980s, Khomeini supplied Israel with petroleum in return for American spare parts for the American-supplied Iranian arsenal. [As both Israel and Iran considered Saddam’s Iraq a serious enemy, they] had a tacit alliance against the Saddam regime during the first phase of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980 to 1988.” It should also be noted that Ahmadinejad subsequently stated he didn’t want to kill any Jews but rather he wants a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. While Ahmadinejad’s preferred solution is a non-starter, Israel’s refusal to pursue a comprehensive peace creates space for Arab hardliners whose agendas do not include a realistic peace with Israel. (Cole 2009, 201, 202, 218)
-“[T]he aggressive policies of the George W. Bush administration were arguably the decisive factor in the rise of [radicals like Ahmadinejad] after 16 years of the moderates’ rule.” “The straw that broke the camel’s back, was the failure of the West [primarily the US] to accept [President] Khatami’s moderate team’s attempt to secure Iran’s nuclear program.” (One key factor that made the 2013 Geneva talks possible was “the change of the US position toward Iran’s nuclear program from ‘no enrichment of uranium’ to ‘no nuclear bomb.’”) (Mousavian 2014, 9, 12, 13)
Although Ahmadinejad was hated in the West, “Wikileaks revealed that he has often been the official most inclined to compromise with and negotiate with the West, being blocked by the Revolutionary Guards Corps and other hard liners to his right.” http://www.juancole.com/2012/10/iran-bazaar-strikes-signal-misery-not-sanctions-victory.html
-In 2012, then Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor acknowledged that then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never said that Iran seeks to “wipe Israel off the face of the map.” This falsely translated statement has been exploited by the US and Israel to demonize Iran and gain support for sanctions and possible military action. The following is from an interview of Dan Meridor (DM) by Teymoor Nabili (TN) of Al Jazeera:
TN: “As we know, Ahmadinejad didn’t say that he plans to exterminate Israel, nor did he say that Iran policy is to exterminate Israel. Ahmadinejad’s position and Iran’s position always has been…that he has no plans to attack Israel. He simply said that if you hold a referendum in this part of the world with everybody who lives here, he will accept the outcome of that referendum.”
DM: “Well, I have to disagree, with all due respect. You speak of Ahmadinejad. I speak of Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani, Shamkhani….They all come, basically ideologically, religiously, with the statement that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive. They didn’t say, ‘We’ll wipe it out,’ you’re right. But ‘It will not survive, it is a cancerous tumor that should be removed,’ was said just two weeks ago again.”
TN: “Well, I’m glad you’ve acknowledged that they didn’t say they will wipe it out.” link to transcript
10. True or False: During President Ahmadinejad’s first term, Iranian television presented a serial sympathetic to Jews during the Holocaust.
-True. Iranian television ran a widely watched serial on the Holocaust, Zero Degree Turn, based on true accounts of the role Iranian diplomats in Europe played in rescuing thousands of Jews during WWII. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJljqWQAqCI&feature=related
-While Likudniks maintain that modern-day Iran is following its ancestors in seeking to destroy Israel, Iran has in fact come to the rescue of Jews three times in history. (1) Cyrus the Great, the King of Persia during the 6th century BCE, is praised in the Hebrew Bible for saving the Jews from captivity in Babylon and allowing their return to the Holy Land (where he even helped them rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem). (2) When Xerxus I, the King of Persia during the 5th century BCE, was informed by his Jewish Queen Esther that viceroy Haman—who was an Agagite, not a Persian—wanted to destroy Persia’s Jewish community he saved the Jews, had Haman killed, and permitted the Jews to take revenge on those who sought their destruction. (3) Iranian diplomats saved Jews during the Holocaust.
Rather than demonizing the people of Iran, Likudniks should recognize that “Israel’s problem is with the Iranian regime which hosts Holocaust cartoon competitions and repeatedly calls for Israel’s destruction and not with ‘Persians’. ‘Persians’ don’t want to kill Jews. [The] Majority of Persians and other Iranians just want to feed their families and to improve relations with the outside world, in direct contrast to the regime in Tehran…” https://iran-israel-observer.com/2017/03/12/purim-netanyahu-iran/
-It is worth noting that “In his 1983 doctoral dissertation, [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas wrote of ‘the Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed [in the Holocaust]’ …” Abbas, who is respected by the US and Israeli governments, has since come to correctly recognize “the Holocaust [as] the most heinous crime in modern human history…” http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/27/world/meast/mideast-abbas-holocaust/
11. What percentage of students entering university in Iran is female?
-Over 60 percent of students entering university in Iran is female. In fact, many Iranian women—even married women—have professional jobs. (M. Axworthy, A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind, Basic Books, New York: 2008.)
“In Iran, women have opportunities in higher education, most professions and high-ranking political positions. They hold seats in parliament, run their own businesses, attend universities and participate in (segregated) sports. They are mandated to wear modest Islamic dress, although styles are not [too] restrictive, and women do not need a male escort to leave their homes….But women face serious discrimination in areas such as divorce, inheritance, and child custody. A woman, regardless of her age, needs her male guardian’s consent for marriage. Women also require permission to obtain a passport and travel abroad.” http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2015/feb/12/rival-islamic-states-isis-v-iran
“Compared to developed countries and compared to Iran itself before [its 1979] revolution, when there were many female judges, ministers, police and military officers and ambassadors, [most women in the upper classes have likely seen their employment opportunities diminish under the Islamic Republic]. In the Islamic Republic…some hardliners go so far as to compare women in search of further personal freedom to prostitutes, which makes even minimal progress [difficult].”
(20 July 2017)
-Overall, the United Nations Development Programme “reports that Iran’s Human Development Index value — ‘a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living’ — rose from 0.437 in 1980 to 0.707 in 2011, placing the Islamic Republic in the ‘high human development category.’ One facet of this progress remains especially unappreciated in the West: the way that access to higher education is altering the status of Iranian women. While the Islamic Republic places restrictions on women (in matters of dress, for example, and access to some public events and services) that many Westerners would consider unacceptable, the majority of university students in Iran are now female, the majority of students at Iran’s best universities are now female, and women’s presence is increasingly being felt across an array of academic and professional disciplines–for example, the majority of Iran’s medical students are now female….Under the shah, women were technically free from the veil and other formal restrictions on their behavior…[however,] powerful social forces kept most women in prerevolutionary Iran from pursuing educational and career opportunities.” (Leverett 2013, 192-3)
In 2012, Iran continued to rank in the “high human development category” of the Human Development Index. (Iran ranks better than Brazil and Turkey, two states often lauded by the mainstream media.) http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/
“In classifying countries according to their human development attainment, UNDP [United Nations Development Program] uses four categories: very high, high, medium, and low. Iran’s HDI value – for the year 2014 – is 0.766. This puts Iran in the ‘high human development’ category. It also positions the country at 69th out of 188 countries and territories. Iran’s HDI value for 2013…was 0.749. This positioned the country at 75th out of 187 countries and territories….Thus Iran…moved up 6 ranks in HDI in a single year. This represents one of the highest increases for any country in the past 8 years….[B]etween 1990 and 2014 Iran’s HDI value increased from 0.567 to 0.766 – a significant increase of 35%.” (Iran’s achievement is all the more impressive when it is appreciated that “the impact of sanctions has been severe”.)
-Iran’s achievements in science have been impressive and reflect the country’s rational leadership. Consider: “Which country’s scientific output rose 18-fold between 1996 and 2008, from 736 published papers to 13,238? The answer – Iran – might surprise many people, especially in the western nations used to leading science. Iran [over those years had] the fastest rate of increase in scientific publication in the world. And if political relations between Iran and the US [have been] strained, it seems that the two countries’ scientists [were] getting on fine: the number of collaborative papers between them rose almost fivefold from 388 to 1831 over the same period.”
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20291-iran-is-top-of-the-world-in-science-growth.html (28 March 2011)
-In 2012, Iran “has the twenty-fifth-largest economy in the world according to the CIA and the IMF. With a per capita income of roughly $11,000–comparable to that of Brazil, South Africa, and several former communist states in Central and Eastern Europe–its status as a middle-income developing country is well established.” To fulfill the revolution’s commitment to improve the social and economic conditions of the lower classes, Iran “has made large and sustained investments to extend modern infrastructure (roads, electricity, piped water, and…Internet) into rural and low-income urban areas…The result has been a sharp and well-documented reduction in poverty. Today the percentage of Iranians living in poverty–less than 2 percent by the World Bank’s $1.25-per-day standard–is lower than that in virtually any other large-population middle-income country (including Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, and Venezuela).” (Leverett 2013, 190-1)
The World Bank, in its 2015 report, classifies Iran as an upper-middle-income country. This is quite impressive considering the negative economic effects of the strict US and EU sanctions during the last decade. http://data.worldbank.org/about/country-and-lending-groups
However, Iran’s record on Human Rights is poor, not unlike that of its neighbors. “In a 2016 report, UN Special Rapporteur for Iran Ahmed Shaheed said that many provisions of Tehran’s Islamic penal code ‘facilitate serious abuses’ and criminalize the peaceful exercise of fundamental rights. Iran had at least 821 political prisoners or prisoners of conscience in March 2016, according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. [President] Rouhani’s authority to enact large scale social or cultural change has been limited. Hardliners dominate the judiciary, intelligence agencies and security services. The president also does not appoint judges.” “Execution rates have steadily increased over the past decade. Political dissidents and journalists are often denied due process or imprisoned for vaguely-defined criminal charges, including ‘enmity towards God,’…and acts undermining state security. Minorities face discrimination in education, employment and property ownership. Laws are often ignored to quash opposition.” http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2016/jun/14/rouhani-fails-human-rights-reforms (14 June 2016)
12. True or False: Iran has formally consented to the Arab League’s 2002 peace initiative with Israel.
-True. In March 2002, the Arab League summit in Beirut unanimously put forth a peace initiative that commits it not just to recognize Israel but also to establish normal relations once Israel implements the international consensus for a comprehensive peace—which includes Israel withdrawing from the occupied territories and a just settlement of the Palestinian refugee crisis. (This peace initiative has been subsequently reaffirmed including at the March 2009 Arab League summit at Doha.) “[A]ll 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, including Iran, ‘adopted the Arab peace initiative to resolve the issue of Palestine and the Middle East…and decided to use all possible means in order to explain and clarify the full implications of this initiative and win international support for its implementation.'” (Norman G. Finkelstein, This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, OR Books, New York: 2010, 42.)
-“[I]ran is a member state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which time and again expressed its support for the Arab Peace Initiative, including [in] May  in Cairo.”
“[T]he Arab Peace Initiative [is now even more relevant] since the [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] mentioned for the first time [in 2013] the possibility of mutual agreed land swaps. The move was widely understood as a nod to changed realities on the ground that would allow Israel to retain major settlement blocs in the West Bank in a future final status agreement. Yet Jerusalem remains steadfast in rejecting the overture, or at least in assertively ignoring it.”
“For Yossi Beilin, a former justice minister and the chief architect of the Oslo Accords, it is clear why Israel’s right-wing governments were and are not interested in the Arab Peace Initiative: it refutes their dogma that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, rather than being a territorial dispute, stems from the Arab world’s refusal to accept a Jewish state in the region, regardless of its borders. Israel’s right-wing ideologues do not want to believe in the Arab offer’s sincerity because this would destroy their entire Weltanschauung, Beilin suggested….‘[Israel’s right-wing leaders] are not ready, ideologically, to pay the territorial price for peace.’” http://www.timesofisrael.com/why-is-israel-so-afraid-of-the-arab-peace-initiative/ (18 June 2013)
13. Which two countries were responsible for orchestrating the 1953 overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, primarily because he introduced legislation that led to the nationalization of Iranian oil?
-The US and Britain. Iranians were justifiably angry as the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) had not been sharing profits on Iranian petroleum with Iran fairly. When the AIOC rejected renegotiation with Iran’s parliament (Majles), Mossadegh introduced the nationalization act in 1951. In response, Britain and the US organized a global boycott of Iran which sent the Iranian economy into a tailspin. Later, the military coup was orchestrated that reinstalled the shah. (Stephen Kinzer, All The Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New Jersey: 2008. Hereinafter, “Kinzer 2008.”)
One irony–or, rather, prerogative of economic sovereignty–is that Britain itself nationalized several industries in the 1940s and 1950s; for example, the coal-mining, railways, and iron and steel industries.
14. Who stated the following on 17 March 2000? “In 1953 the United States played a significant role in orchestrating the overthrow of Iran’s popular prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. The Eisenhower administration believed its actions were justified for strategic reasons. But the coup was clearly a setback for Iran’s political development. And it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.”
-Madeleine Albright: US Secretary of State, 1997 – 2001. (Kinzer 2008, 212)
-Few would “deny that the 1953 coup in Iran set off a series of unintended consequences. Its most direct result was to give Mohammad Reza Shah the chance to become dictator. He received enormous amounts of aid from the United States–more than $1 billion in the decade following the coup–but his oppressive rule turned Iranians against him. In 1979 their anger exploded in a shattering revolution led by Islamic fundamentalists.”
When President Carter allowed the deposed Shah to enter the US, Iranian radicals “stormed the American embassy in Tehran and held fifty-two American diplomats hostage for more than fourteen months….The hostage-takers remembered that when the Shah fled into exile in 1953, CIA agents working at the American embassy had returned him to his throne. Iranians feared that history was about to repeat itself.” They thus acted to prevent another coup.
The Iranian Revolution and hostage episode “led the United States to support Iraq in its long and horrific war with Iran…Within Iran, it strengthened the most militant elements in the revolutionary coalition.”
The fundamentalist “clerics who consolidated power in Iran during the early 1980s not only imposed a form of religious fascism at home but turned their country into a center for the propagation of terror abroad….Soon afterward, they began financing and arming Hamas, Hezbollah, and other [groups]….Among those who were inspired by [Iran’s revolutionary leaders’] example were Afghans who founded the Taliban, led it to power in Kabul, and gave Osama bin Laden the base from which he launched devastating terror attacks.” (Kinzer 2008, 202-3)
-Despite Secretary Albright’s March 2000 Address, the US continued to talk of regime change and its “forces and agents just across the borders in Iraq and Pakistan encourag[ed] Arab, Kurdish, and Baluchi minorities of Iran to mobilize against Tehran. Among them were the Pakistan-based Sunni Jundallah…guerrillas, which declared responsibility for, among other operations, bombing a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers, an attack that killed eleven in February 2007. Later that year, [then] President Bush signed a presidential finding asking for $400 million to escalate military and CIA covert operations inside Iran to destablilize the regime.” (Peterson 2010, 17)
Unlike George W. Bush, Obama understood the counterproductive effects of harsh rhetoric, calling for regime change, and supporting “democracy promotion” efforts. Therefore, “As Iran’s June 2009 elections grew closer, the Obama administration further toned down the anti-Iranian rhetoric that had defined the later years of the Bush administration. US officials said they didn’t want to allow Khamenei or Ahmadinejad to make the United States an issue during the campaign, which could give political ammunition to Iran’s conservative and hard-line political players….[T]he State Department also rolled back some of the democracy-promotion initiatives that the Bush administration had championed…, such as funding to train Iranian journalists and opposition websites. Khamenei had publicly denounced these programs as attempts to stir a ‘color revolution’ inside Iran, along the lines of those that had broken out in former Soviet states such as Georgia and Ukraine during the Bush administration….The Obama administration, for example, cut funding for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center…” (Solomon 2016, 177-8)
Therefore, one explanation for the Iranian regime’s brutal treatment of those it deemed dissidents, is that some influential hard-liners saw “a world laced with malevolent conspiracies, one in which journalists [and others], both domestic and foreign, were operatives in an international web of spies determined to bring down the Islamic Republic. [While such] claims were outsized [they were] not altogether incredible in a country that understood itself to be beset by powerful enemies. The United States under President George W. Bush had invaded two neighboring countries and declared Iran a member of an ‘Axis of Evil.’ It had also adopted an explicit policy of ‘regime change’ in Iran and expressed a desire to distribute money to Iranian opposition groups. What preoccupied Iranian hard-liners most of all were the bloodless revolutions in former Soviet satellites, where opposition forces, sometimes overtly or covertly supported by Western foundations and government affiliates, had succeeded in removing repressive regimes unfriendly to American interests. The Islamic Republic was not wrong in imagining itself a potential target of such efforts. But the determination to stave off a ‘velvet’ overthrow would become both paranoid fixation and carte blanche for internal repression.” (Laura Secor, Children Of Paradise: The Struggle For The Soul Of Iran, Allen Lane: 2016, 236.)
-In 2017, Iranian leaders’ suspicions of American foreign policy continue to be rational as “A senior delegation of United States Senators travelled to Tirana, the capital of Albania…to meet the Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, who heads the National Council of Resistance of Iran”, and to also meet “members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK)…”
“The NCRI is a political coalition calling for regime change in Iran and considered the main threat to Tehran’s mullahs. The MEK is the main member of this coalition of a variety of Iranian dissident groups and individuals.”
“[The] high-profile visit by the senior US Senators comes at a time when Washington has slapped major new sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missile drive, support for terrorism and human rights violations. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards is now subject to sanctions under Executive Order 13224, and Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Considering the Guards control over 40% of Iran’s economy, these new sanctions come as a heavy blow to Tehran’s future ambitions. Analysts believe this visit sends a strong signal to Tehran over how the NCRI is gaining momentum through a growing consensus in Congress over the necessity of adopting a policy of regime change vis-à-vis Iran.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/senior-us-senators-meet-iranian-opposition-leader-in_us_598f68fae4b063e2ae058020 (12 Aug. 2017)
15. Which countries trained the Shah’s brutal internal security service, SAVAK?
-According to William Blum, a highly respected author and journalist, “The notorious Iranian security service, SAVAK, which employed torture routinely, was created under the guidance of the CIA and Israel in the 1950s. According to a former CIA analyst on Iran, Jesse J. Leaf, SAVAK was instructed in torture techniques by the Agency. After the 1979 revolution, the Iranians found CIA film made for SAVAK on how to torture women.” http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Blum/Torture_RS.html
According to Reed College Professor Darius Rejali, one of the world’s leading writers on the subject of torture and the consequences of its use for modern society, “the Iranian revolution of 1978-1979 was the revolution against torture. When the Shah criticized Khomeini as a blackrobed Islamic medieval throwback, Khomeini replied, look who is talking, the man who tortures. This was powerful rhetoric for recruiting people, then as it is now. People joined the revolutionary opposition because of the Shah’s brutality, and they remembered who installed him. If anyone wants to know why Iranians hated the US so, all they have to do is ask what America’s role was in promoting torture in Iran. Torture not only shaped the revolution, it was the factor that has deeply poisoned the relationship of Iran with the West. So why trust the West again? And the Iranian leadership doesn’t.” http://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/02/hbc-90002387
-The roots of Israel’s close relationship with Iran under the Shah are explained by the “Periphery Doctrine.” This Israeli national security doctrine, created in the 1950s, involved the forming of alliances with non-Arab states in the periphery of the Middle East, including Turkey, Iran and Ethiopia, as well as with ethnic and religious minorities, like the Maronites in Lebanon and the Kurds in Iraq.
The Periphery Doctrine, “advanced by Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion…was regarded as a way of offsetting the diplomatic and economic boycott of the Arab World and as a traditional balance-of-power strategy aimed at countering Pan-Arabism. The fact that, like Israel, Turkey [and] Iran…maintained friendly ties with Washington and the West and had long-standing conflict with Arab states (Turkey with Syria; Iran with Iraq;…) helped strengthen Israel’s partnerships with these pro-American and non-Arab countries.” (In addition to advancing its security, the Periphery Doctrine enabled Israel to avoid peace agreements with its Arab neighbors, and thus concomitant painful compromises.)
“[I]t was obvious to Israeli policymakers that, as long as Israel remained in a state of war with the major Arab countries, economic considerations, military interests and religious affinity would place clear limits on the willingness and the ability of Turkey and other periphery nations and minorities to expand ties with Israel.” (In fact, “Turkey only began shunning the Jewish state after Israel’s 2009 war in Gaza, and after Israeli troops killed eight Turkish militants who tried to break Israel’s blockage of the strip in 2010.”)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leon-t-hadar/the-collapse-of-israels-p_b_617694.html (Beinart 2012, 9)
-Israel and Iran “have not always been rivals, nor are they natural competitors. They do not have territorial disputes. They do not compete economically. They have traditionally maintained distinct regional zones of interest (the Eastern Mediterranean for Israel and the Persian Gulf for Iran). Their shared geopolitical interests led to years of cooperation before and even after Iran’s 1979 revolution. Arab governments have regarded both countries with great suspicion, while both viewed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as the greatest obstacle to their national security interests.
“Only in the past decade have Israel and Iran come to view each other as rivals. Israeli perceptions of the Iranian threat stem, in part, from Iran’s expanding missile capabilities and nuclear advances. But just as critical is Israel’s view that Iranian regional influence is on the rise, infringing on Israeli interests and threatening stability in areas bordering Israel. Israeli leaders worry that if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon capability, its influence would only grow, severely limiting both Israeli and US military and political maneuverability in the region.”
“The Middle East’s geopolitical transformation over the past decade has further intensified the rivalry. When the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 eliminated a common adversary of Israel and Iran, the latter began to see itself as the Middle East’s ascendant power, a view shared by many of the former’s political and military elite. The 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel — in which Iranian tactics and arms were seen as effective against Israel — reinforced the perception of Iran as the region’s great power. The Arab uprisings since 2011 have added to Israeli concerns, although this turmoil has created even greater vulnerabilities and limitations for Iran.” http://www.rand.org/publications/randreview/issues/2012/spring/iran.html
16. Does Iran have nuclear weapons?
-No. “[We] judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program…” “We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.” (US National Intelligence Estimate – Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, November 2007.)
In 2010, according to then US Defense Intelligence Agency Chief Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, “The bottom line assessments of the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] still hold true. We have not seen indication that the [Iran] government has made the decision to move ahead with the [nuclear weapons] program. But the fact still remains that we don’t know what we don’t know.”
The following are the words of US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2012, “I think the pressure of the sanctions [on Iranians], I think the pressure of—diplomatic pressures from everywhere—Europe, the United States, elsewhere—is working to put pressure on them, to make them understand that they cannot continue to do what they’re doing. Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that’s what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is, do not develop a nuclear weapon.” http://www.democracynow.org/2012/1/9/headlines#7,
In March 2013, “US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed [that] Iran has not decided to develop a nuclear weapon and that it would be unable to do so secretly. Testifying before the Senate, Clapper said Iran could not divert safeguarded material to produce weapons-grade uranium without it being discovered.” http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/15/headlines#3156
-On 2 December 2015, “In a report required under [the July 2015 nuclear] deal, titled ‘Final Assessment of Past and Present Outstanding Issues Regarding Iran’s Nuclear Programme’, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gave its clearest assessment of Iran’s past activities in more than a decade of investigation.”
“‘The Agency assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort,’…Those activities continued after 2003, though in a less coordinated manner, and there was no credible indication of any beyond 2009, the agency said.”
According to US State Department spokesman Mark Toner, “‘Once the (deal) is implemented, we will have assurance that these types of past activities cannot occur again,’…”
“The report said Iran’s activities had not gone as far as building a nuclear weapon, and there had been no credible indications that nuclear material had been diverted to that end.” http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/12/02/us-iran-nuclear-iaea-idUSKBN0TL24G20151202
-“Iran’s research into nuclear weapons began in the late 1980s, in response to the nuclear efforts of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which fought an eight-year war with the Islamic Republic. When the 2003 US invasion of Iraq eliminated Tehran’s most dangerous enemy, Iran’s research into building nuclear weapons was halted. But Iran continued to steadily acquire key technologies necessary to build a bomb, particularly the ability to enrich uranium. Here, Iran was exploiting the ambiguity of the NPT, which permits member states to build the full fuel-cycle of a nuclear energy programme that effectively gives them ‘breakout capacity’ or ‘nuclear threshold’ status.”
http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/how-iran-set-its-own-place-at-the-worlds-top-table (23 Jan. 2016)
-American, Israeli, and other Western “intelligence services have claimed since the early 1990s that Iran is three to five years away from acquiring nuclear weapons…But twenty years into this constantly resetting forecast, no Western agency has come remotely close to producing hard evidence that Iran is trying to fabricate nuclear weapons….Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate who served as director general of the [IAEA] from 1997 to 2009–and under whose leadership the IAEA correctly assessed Iraq’s lack of WMD when every Western intelligence agency got it wrong–has said on multiple occasions that there is no evidence the Islamic Republic is trying to build nuclear weapons.” (Leverett 2013, 81-2)
-It’s plainly rational for Israel to try and maintain its monopoly of nuclear weapons in the Middle East as such allows it to act practically without any restraint against its neighbors. Indeed, it has been argued that a nuclear-armed Iran could force Israel to moderate its aggression, thus enhancing regional stability. Furthermore, if Iran had nuclear weapons (or even the capacity to quickly develop them, if necessary, like Canada or Japan) then the US and Israel would not be able to attack Iran to remove its government.
-“Binyamin Netanyahu’s dramatic declaration [at the UN] to world leaders in 2012 that Iran was about a year away from making a nuclear bomb was contradicted by his own secret service, [Mossad, which]…concluded that Iran was ‘not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons’. [The Mossad’s report] conceded that Iran was ‘working to close gaps in areas that appear legitimate, such as enrichment reactors, which will reduce the time required to produce weapons from the time the instruction is actually given’. But the report also states that Iran ‘does not appear to be ready’ to enrich uranium to the higher levels necessary for nuclear weapons. To build a bomb requires enrichment to 90%. Mossad estimated that Iran then had ‘about 100kg of material enriched to 20%’ (which was later diluted or converted under the terms of the 2013 Geneva agreement). Iran has always said it is developing a nuclear programme for civilian energy purposes.”
“Other members of Israel’s security establishment were riled by Netanyahu’s rhetoric on the Iranian nuclear threat and his advocacy of military confrontation. In April 2012, a former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, accused Netanyahu of ‘messianic’ political leadership for pressing for military action, saying he and the then defence minister, Ehud Barak, were misleading the public on the Iran issue.” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/23/leaked-spy-cables-netanyahu-iran-bomb-mossad
Meir Dagan, the former chief of Mossad (Israel’s version of the CIA), “has spearheaded opposition to a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran since May 2011…He has called such a move ‘the stupidest thing I have ever heard’ and ‘patently illegal under international law’ since Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is operating under the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency.” He also opposes a unilateral strike because: (i) “A surgical attack such as Israel’s 1981 strike against Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor is not possible because Iran’s nuclear program is much more dispersed”; (ii) “A strike could lead to a regional war and regional, or even global, arms race”; and, (iii) “A strike could cause Iranians to rally around the current regime, strengthening its hand”. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2012/0904/Bomb-Iran-Why-5-top-Israeli-figures-don-t-want-to-do-it/Meir-Dagan-former-Mossad-chief
Nevertheless, “In 2013, when Iran had a two-month ‘breakout period’ for obtaining a nuclear weapon,…[then] President Barack Obama was being urged by…King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bomb [Iran].”
-Even if Iran had nuclear weapons, it would never consider a first-strike on Israel since Israel would always be able to retaliate with its submarine-based “nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.” http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/israel-deploys-nuclear-weapons-on-german-submarines-a-836671.html
“Like other nuclear-armed nations, the Israeli Navy has reportedly deployed nukes to what is generally agreed to as the most survivable seagoing platform: submarines. Israel has five German-built Dolphin-class submarines, which experts believe are equipped with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles….This ensures a so-called ‘second-strike capability’—as long as one submarine is on patrol, some portion of Israel’s nuclear deterrent remains invulnerable to a nuclear first strike, guaranteeing the ability to launch a nuclear counterattack.” http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-worlds-most-mysterious-nuclear-weapons-program-its-not-20198?page=show (15 Apr. 2017)
In contrast, “Iran’s medium-range missiles have been designed for conventional deterrence or war fighting, as the leading Israeli expert on Iran’s missile program, Uzi Rubin, has been saying for many years. Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies…has observed that Iran would have to redesign at least the internal components of [its] missile to adapt it to carrying nuclear weapons.” http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/39394-trump-s-hard-line-on-iran-will-give-saudis-free-hand-in-yemen (8 Feb. 2017)
17. Is Iran a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)?
-It’s simply the case that “Iran can’t construct a nuclear weapon at all as long as it is being actively inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which it is”; and the inspections do include “the Fordo” facility. “There is no facility with uranium or enrichment facilities that is off limits to the IAEA inspectors. No country under active inspection by the UN has ever developed a nuclear weapon. Israel, which always refused such inspections, has some 400 nuclear warheads….So how will we know if Iran has decided to weaponize its nuclear enrichment program? We can at least be suspicious if they withdraw from the NPT and kick out the inspectors.”
-According to a 9 Feb. 2016 US intelligence assessment, Iran has met the demands for implementation of the July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA…has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about a year. The JCPOA has also enhanced the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities, mainly through improved access by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and investigative authorities under the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement. As a result, the international community is well postured to quickly detect changes to Iran’s declared nuclear facilities designed to shorten the time Iran would need to produce fissile material. Further, the JCPOA provides tools for the IAEA to investigate possible breaches of prohibitions on specific R&D activities that could contribute to the development of a nuclear weapon.” http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2016/feb/09/us-intelligence-assessment-iran
-As of January 2017, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has delivered “on its narrow objective: effectively and verifiably blocking all potential pathways for Iran to race toward nuclear weapons, while opening the door to the country’s international rehabilitation and economic recovery.”
“[The JCPOA] has put Iran’s nuclear program under the most stringent inspection mechanism ever implemented, while lengthening the breakout time to produce weapons-grade uranium from a few weeks to more than a year. Since January 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified six times that Iran has fulfilled its JCPOA obligations. The relaxation of US, European Union (EU) and UN nuclear-related sanctions has allowed Iran to regain oil market share, recover billions in frozen assets and attract foreign direct investment, turning its once shrinking economy into the region’s fastest growing.” (“Trade between the EU and Iran has risen by a staggering 63% over the first three quarters of 2016.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/17/iran-nuclear-deal?CMP=share_btn_fb)
“Yet, implementation, as with any complex technical agreement, has not been flawless. Iran committed several technical violations, none, alone or together, material. Paradoxically, they proved the accord’s efficacy: the IAEA quickly detected each and Iran remedied it. There have been more serious problems with sanctions relief. Iran still lacks normal international banking ties, as major financial institutions remain circumspect, hampering its reintegration into the global economy and dashing inflated public expectations of rapid economic recovery. This is because of concerns over Iran’s regional resurgence and ballistic-missile tests, but the accord could not have been negotiated successfully if those issues had been on the table.”
“The conundrum is that without addressing the broader political antagonism that pits Iran against its neighbours and the West, the JCPOA at best will remain fragile and its implementation halting, but without full implementation, resolving the underlying political antagonism may prove impossible.” https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/173-implementing-iran-nuclear-deal-status-report (16 Jan. 2017)
(“Iran has corrected one violation of its landmark [July 2015] nuclear deal with six world powers and is honoring all other major obligations, the UN atomic energy agency reported [on 27 May 2016]….[T]he agency noted that Iran had produced heavy water beyond its allotted limit of 143.3 tons [but] was now below that amount.”)
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/a9c3d7c0d27a49148ff002ef1c33439d/un-agency-reports-no-iranian-violations-nuclear-deal# (27 May 2016)
-“The Trump administration [on 18 April 2017] has notified Congress that Iran is complying with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by former president Barack Obama, and says the US has extended the sanctions relief given to the Islamic republic in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/19/iran-nuclear-deal-trump-administration-approves-agreement-but-review-looms
On 17 July 2017, the Trump administration again confirmed that Iran was in compliance with the nuclear deal. However, President Trump seems determined to frustrate the deal as he also “slapped new economic sanctions against Iran on [18 July] over its ballistic missile program and said Tehran’s ‘malign activities’ in the Middle East undercut any ‘positive contributions’ coming from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord.”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-iran-new-sanctions-compliance-nuclear-deal_us_596f5638e4b00db3d0f48afd (18 July 2017)
Despite ongoing threats by Trump to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear accord, “On August 9, [2017,] 47 [American] national security leaders issued a statement warning against US withdrawal…, as long as Tehran is complying. They recommended a comprehensive policy to constrain the Islamic Republic and further US interests. The group, organized by The Iran Project, included a former national security advisor, former ambassadors, former lawmakers and foreign policy experts.” The statement begins with the following: “The international agreement with Iran continues to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. No American national security objective would be served by withdrawing from it as long as Iran is meeting the agreement’s requirements. To the contrary, given continuing assurance by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran is in compliance with the agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, such a unilateral act would have grave long term political and security consequences for the United States.”
Nevertheless, on 13 October 2017, Trump refused to certify the nuclear deal, but not end it, because, he argued, Iran was breaching the spirit of the JCPOA. “[Trump] tasked Congress with agreeing [to] a series of new ‘trigger points’ which if crossed would lead to the re-imposition of sanctions.”
“[Trump’s] renewed US offensive against Iran is not so much about its nuclear capability or even its missile program; it is about Iran rollback and hobbling its economy. Ever since President Obama signed the Iran agreement, howls of disapproval were heard from both Israel and a number of Gulf States, which were not dismayed so much at the sunset clause on Iran’s nuclear refinement as they were at Iran’s escape from economic sanctions. The real danger, in their eyes, is Iran’s economic break out and potential success. The more money Iran has, the more it can consolidate the success of its Shiite allies in the region: Hezbollah, the Syrian government and the Iraqi government. [Accordingly,] Trump’s latest announcement follows increased US sanctions on both Hezbollah and Syria, as well as increased aid to Syria’s Kurds in their effort to expand territorially. It is the latest in a policy of rollback that has been developing for some time. It is a policy that both Saudi Arabia and Israel have been pushing on Trump. It is one that also suits his personality as well as the inclinations of his military advisers because it means supporting friends and hurting enemies. It represents the opposite of Obama’s effort at balancing Sunnis and Shiites along with Saudi Arabia and Iran, not to mention his effort to distance the US, ever so slightly, from Israel.”
http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/u-s-effort-rollback-iran-will-cause-conflict-failed-states-joshua-landis/ (14 Oct. 2017)
18. Is Israel a signatory of the NPT?
-“By the late 1960s the United States assessed Israeli nukes as ‘probable,’ and US efforts to slow the nuclear program and get Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty went nowhere. Finally in September 1969, Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir reportedly reached a secret agreement that the United States would cease its demand for inspections and Israeli compliance with antiproliferation efforts, and in return Israel would not declare or test its nuclear weapons.”
“Israel does not confirm nor deny having nuclear weapons. Experts generally assess the country as currently having approximately eighty nuclear weapons, fewer than countries such as France, China and the United Kingdom, but still a sizeable number considering its adversaries have none. These weapons are spread out among Israel’s version of a nuclear ‘triad’ of land-, air- and sea-based forces scattered in a way that they deter surprise nuclear attack.” http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-worlds-most-mysterious-nuclear-weapons-program-its-not-20198?page=show (15 Apr. 2017)
-India, Pakistan, and North Korea are also non-parties to the NPT. North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 and has conducted several nuclear tests since 2006. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/09/05/us-and-israeli-tensions-over-iran-strike-bared/ http://www.juancole.com/2013/04/washington-dropped-obsessing.html
-In 1961, an article in the pro-Israel US periodical Commentary cautioned “Israel to ‘submit its new reactor to international controls as soon as possible’ [and] concluded that ‘an Israeli atomic bomb would be a terrible thing…because it would show that nothing at all has been done to prevent the spread of that weapon.'” (Finkelstein 2012, 38)
It may well be that Israel’s deep suspicion of Iran’s purported nuclear weapons program reflects “psychological projection” by Israeli leaders. Israel’s nuclear weapons programme, which was established in the late 1950s “for alleged peaceful purposes,…was then transformed into one that produced nuclear weapons by the start of the 1960s. Verification of Israel’s nuclear facilities by American and British inspectors had been very poor, which allowed the Israelis to proceed towards the development of nuclear weapons with relative ease.” (Neill Lochery, The Resistible Rise of Benjamin Netanyahu, Bloomsbury, New York: 2016, 330.)
-US General Lee Butler, former head of the Strategic Command, made the following obvious statement in 1998: “The circumstances in which nuclear weapons capability is created and sustained aren’t static. As a consequence…it is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East, one nation has armed itself, ostensibly, with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, perhaps numbering in the hundreds, and that that inspires other nations to do so.” http://www.brookings.edu/about/projects/archive/nucweapons/deter
-“In October 1973, it looked as if [Prime Minister] Golda Meir’s Israel might be in need of its [nuclear deterrent, as the war was not going well]. Israel was forced to consider its Dimona [nuclear installation’s] capabilities, and it decided to make threatening use of them. But even then, Meir [acted] responsibly…[I]srael revealed its nuclear missiles for a brief moment, for Russian and American satellites to photograph, but never seriously considered using them….The  Yom Kippur War proved unequivocally that Dimona was Israel’s unseen anchor, an inseparable part of its existence.” (Ari Shavit, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, Spiegel & Grau, New York: 2013, 193-4.)
“The 1973 Yom Kippur War saw Arab armies achieve strategic surprise, sending Israeli ground forces reeling in both the Sinai desert and the Golan Heights. Israeli nuclear weapons were placed on alert and loaded onto Jericho I surface-to-surface missiles and F-4 Phantoms. Determined Israeli counteroffensives were able to turn the situation on both fronts around, and the weapons were not ultimately used.” http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-worlds-most-mysterious-nuclear-weapons-program-its-not-20198?page=show (15 Apr. 2017)
19. Does the NPT permit a signatory to pursue a nuclear program?
-Yes. The NPT “specifies that ‘Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.’” Therefore, as long as Iran meets its responsibilities under the NPT and continues to allow inspections by the IAEA, it is acting within its rights. The sorts of research facilities maintained by Iran are common in industrialized countries. The real issue has been trust and transparency rather than purely one of technology. Yet, Iran had not always been forthcoming in fulfilling its obligations under the NPT.
The Ford administration of the mid-1970s “produced a memo saying that the shah’s regime…must ‘prepare against the time…when Iranian oil production is expected to decline sharply.’ Iran’s petroleum reserves are extensive, so that fear was misplaced. But Iran already uses domestically 2 million of the 4 million barrels a day it produces, and it could well cease being an exporter and even become a net importer in the relatively near future. [This helps explain Iran’s focus on nuclear energy.] Ford authorized a plutonium reprocessing plant for Iran, which could have allowed it to close the fuel cycle, a step toward producing a bomb.”
In the 1970s, “General Electric and Westinghouse won contracts to build eight nuclear reactors in Iran. The shah intimated that Iran would seek nuclear weapons, without facing any adverse consequences beyond some reprimands from the United States or Western Europe. In contrast, Khomeini was horrified by the idea of using weapons of mass destruction, and he declined to deploy chemical weapons at the front in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, even though Saddam…extensively used mustard gas and sarin on Iranian troops.” (Cole 2009, 209, 210)
-It is often “argued that Iran does not need nuclear power. But it uses some petroleum for power generation, and Iranians are driving more and more. There is every prospect that what happened to Indonesia, which now uses all its own oil in addition to importing some, will happen to Iran. Iran’s energy exports provide a crucial financial cushion, allowing the country to remain independent. Other oil giants, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are also building nuclear power plants. There is nothing illogical or unusual about Iran going in this direction.” http://www.juancole.com/2012/09/top-myths-about-irans-nuclear-enrichment-program.html#comment-124007
-As Noam Chomsky argues, “the most obvious way to address ‘the gravest threat’ [of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, is to establish] a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.” However, “The United States will not allow measures to place Israel’s nuclear facilities under international inspection.” http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13700-noam-chomsky-the-gravest-threat-to-world-peace
20. True or False: History shows that Iran accelerates its nuclear program when sanctions are weakened and decelerates it when sanctions are strengthened.
-False. “The standard argument is that sanctions are the leverage that forced Iran to the negotiating table and escalating them therefore boosts Western leverage. But there were no nuclear-related sanctions in force when the same Iranian negotiators first came to the table from 2003 to 2005 and offered the West more attractive terms back then than they are doing now [Jan. 2015] under sanctions pressure. Nor is it clear how sanctions pressure alters Iranian behavior. It is difficult to say with any certainty whether Tehran would have gone farther in advancing its nuclear program in the absence of sanctions pressure, but there’s no question that the period of escalating sanctions has coincided with steady advances in Iran’s nuclear program.”
https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/why-new-iran-sanctions-bid-has-split-washington (28 Jan. 2015)
-“The world has…seen what happens when America and its European partners demonstrate bad faith in nuclear diplomacy with Tehran — Iran expands its nuclear infrastructure and capabilities. When Iran broke its nearly two-year enrichment suspension in 2005, it could run less than a thousand centrifuges; [yet, by the year 2013], it has installed 12,000 centrifuges, more than 9,000 of which process uranium gas to produce enriched uranium. In February 2010, Iran began enriching uranium to the near-20 percent level needed to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) after the US and its partners refused to sell the fuel; Iran consistently offered to suspend near-20 percent enrichment if it could obtain an adequate fuel supply for the TRR. After Obama torpedoed the Tehran Declaration, Iran accelerated production of near-20 percent uranium and began indigenously manufacturing fuel plates for the TRR.”
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article34920.htm (13 May 2013)
-It wasn’t the increasingly harsh sanctions regime alone that led to the July 2015 Nuclear agreement. It was sanctions combined with the US accepting Iran’s right to enrich uranium (for non-military purposes) and treating Iran with respect.
US sanctions essentially gave countries “the choice of doing business with either Iran or the United States, but not both….The result was that by 2010 most of Europe had largely cut itself off from Iran because of the fear of more US sanctions and fines. And while Washington’s heavy hand angered European businesses, US officials believed President Obama’s repeated efforts to hold direct negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program made it easier for Washington to pursue sanctions…” “Obama [correctly] argued that international opposition to the Bush administration’s Mideast policies had undercut US efforts to impose multilateral sanctions on Tehran—[a point President Trump needs to understand].”
The overriding logic that was driving President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry was “that the only alternative to diplomacy would be a war. A breakdown in talks [between the US and Iran] would likely lead to more US sanctions on Tehran and an acceleration of Iran’s nuclear program.” “The United States had rushed into a  war in Iraq…, and the president and his team believed they had narrowly avoided the same mistake in Iran…”
Obama believes the deal can lead to the following short- and long-term benefits: (1) It can strengthen moderate leaders in Iran, “as the country’s economy improves and reconnects to the West.” (“In a positive sign, Rouhani’s political allies gained seats in the Iranian parliament in January 2016, after many campaigned on the merits of the nuclear deal.”) (2) It permits the US to avoid another Mideast war which thus enables the US to “shift its focus to Asia and Latin America, where booming economies offer Americans the opportunity to profit rather than fight.” (3) It opens “up a pathway for Washington and Tehran to cooperate on stabilizing combustible countries in the Mideast, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and later Syria. Rapprochement could also help build bridges to the wider Muslim world.” (Solomon 2016, 151, 169, 174, 276, 293, 296, 298)
-Can Iran be trusted in an environment of good-faith negotiations? Consider: (1) “By early 2016, Iran had made good on its pledges under the [July 2015] nuclear deal to scale back its program. It took thousands of its centrifuges off line, shipped out most of its fissile material, and poured cement into the core of the Arak reactor. This was no small achievement, given that both the United States and Israel feared Iran had been just months away from building a nuclear bomb.” “Tehran was expected to get around $100 billion of its frozen oil revenues returned, in addition to the lifting of most international sanctions.” (Solomon 2016, 294, 295) (2) “The Joint Plan of Action (JPOA, the interim deal reached in November 2013) has already resulted in a verifiable scaling back of Iran’s nuclear activities: It has diluted and oxidized Iran’s entire stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium and frozen the most worrisome aspects of Tehran’s nuclear program. UN nuclear inspectors, on the ground around the clock, have provided monthly certification that Iran has fulfilled its commitments.”
https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/why-new-iran-sanctions-bid-has-split-washington (28 Jan. 2015)
21. Who wrote the following in 2004? “Even if the Iranians are working on a bomb, Israel may not be their real concern. Iran is now surrounded by American forces on all sides — in the Central Asian republics to the north, Afghanistan to the east, the Gulf to the South and Iraq to the west….Wherever US forces go, nuclear weapons go with them or can be made to follow in short order. The world has witnessed how the United States attacked Iraq for, as it turned out, no reason at all. Had the Iranians not tried to build nuclear weapons, they would be crazy. Though Iran is ruled by Islamic fundamentalists, most commentators who are familiar with the country do not regard its government as irrational….[I]t was Saddam Hussein who attacked Iran, not the other way around; since then Iran has been no more aggressive than most countries are. For all their talk of opposition to Israel, Iran’s rulers are very unlikely to mount a nuclear attack on a country that is widely believed to have what it takes to wipe them off the map. Chemical or other attacks are also unlikely, given the meager results that may be expected and the retaliation that would almost certainly follow.”
-Martin van Creveld: Former distinguished professor of military history and strategy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
-In 2011 then Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak was asked during an interview, “If you were them [Iranians], wouldn’t you want a nuclear weapon?” Barak responded, “Probably…I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel…They look around, they see the Indians are nuclear, the Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear…not to mention the Russians…” http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/11/17/uk-israel-iran-barak-idUKTRE7AG0R420111117
-According to Reuel Marc Gerecht, the leading neoconservative authority on Iran and a former CIA expert on the Middle East, Iran “knows very well the consequences of having insufficient deterrence. And the Iranians possess the essential factor to make deterrence work: sanity.” Iranian leaders know that “if Saddam Hussein had had nuclear weapons, the Americans would not have challenged him.” (Likewise, had Muammar Qaddafi not eliminated Libya’s nuclear weapons program in 2004, it is unlikely the US and Nato would have backed rebels who overthrew and killed him in 2011.) (Finkelstein 2012, 50, 51)
-According to General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “[W]e [at the Pentagon] are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor.” http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/17/watch-gps-martin-dempsey-on-syria-iran-and-china/
-It should not be surprising that experts like Martin van Creveld and Ehud Barak would deem it rational for Iran to want nuclear weapons. “For more than half a century, Britain and the US have menaced Iran. In 1953, the CIA and MI6 overthrew the democratic government of Mohammed Mossadegh, an inspired nationalist who believed that Iranian oil belonged to Iran. They installed the venal shah and, through a monstrous creation called SAVAK, built one of the most vicious police states of the modern era. The Islamic revolution in 1979 was inevitable and very nasty, yet it was not monolithic and, through popular pressure and movement from within the elite, Iran has begun to open to the outside world – in spite of having sustained an invasion by Saddam Hussein, who was encouraged and backed by the US and Britain. At the same time, Iran has lived with the real threat of an Israeli attack, possibly with nuclear weapons, about which the ‘international community’ has remained silent.”
22. What percentage of Iranians in 2008 said they had an unfavorable view of the American people?
-20 percent. (Cole 2009, 197)
-“Americans who have visited Iran know that most Iranians have deep affection for the United States, which they see as a beacon of freedom and opportunity. In 2001, after the Twin Towers fell, Iranians were the only population in the Muslim world that spontaneously demonstrated in support of the United States, holding candle-lit processions in the capital, Tehran.” http://blogs.voanews.com/us-opinion/2017/01/30/an-unwarranted-sanction-against-iran/
23. True or False: Iran and the US worked together to defeat the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.
-True. According to Ali M. Ansari, Professor of Iranian history at the University of St. Andrews, then Iranian President “Khatami, moved quickly to offer his condolences to the US President [after the 9/11 attacks].…[T]he Iranians soon recognized the opportunity that now confronted them. The United States was determined to dismantle Al Qaeda, and in the face of Taliban obstinacy decided on the removal of the Taliban. Nothing could be more amenable to the Iranians, who had been waging a proxy war against the Taliban for the better part of five years.…The collaboration which took place both during and after the war against the Taliban seemed to inaugurate a period of détente between Iran and the United States…It came as something of a shock therefore to discover that President Bush had decided to label Iran part of the ‘Axis of Evil’…Now it appeared that the [Iranian] hardliners within the regime had been correct after all; the United States could not be trusted…” (Ali M. Ansari, Modern Iran: The Pahlavis and After Second Edition, Pearson Education, Great Britain: 2007, 331-2.)
-After the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on September 11, 2001, the US “requested help and Iran’s diplomats and Revolutionary Guard quietly provided extensive intelligence and political assistance to the US military and CIA, to improve targeting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. [And once] the Taliban was ousted in late 2001, Iran again proved crucial to getting the victorious Northern Alliance to accept a limited number of cabinet posts and Hamid Karzai as the new president – a critical step toward immediately stabilizing post-Taliban Afghanistan. Iranian diplomats made clear their interest in expanding contacts with the United States….[However,] any remaining chance of reconciliation evaporated in early 2002, when George W. Bush declared Iran part of his Axis of Evil. Iranian officials considered it a slap in the face, and it had grave consequences for President Khatami and his beleaguered reform movement. The US denunciation became ammunition for hard-liners, who used it as final proof of American mendacity – and of reformist naïveté.” (Peterson 2010, 72-3)
-“Even as the United States and Iran appeared to reach common ground while creating a new Kabul government, powerful figures inside the Bush administration were already positioning themselves for what they believed was an inevitable clash with Tehran in the post-9/11 world. Among them were a couple of Iran experts at the Pentagon, Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin…These officials believed the Islamic Republic was ideologically incapable of making any accommodation with the United States and that the Revolutionary Guard was setting traps to ensnare the United States in Afghanistan, just as they had done in Lebanon during the 1980s. Only regime change in Tehran could bring real stability to the broader Middle East, they argued.”
“The incoherence of the US strategy toward Iran became dangerously apparent and threatened the Afghanistan diplomacy. In late December , just as [US diplomat James] Dobbins was forging the Bonn agreement, Rhode and Franklin secretly traveled to Rome with White House approval to meet with a group of Iranian opponents of the regime, at least one purportedly a high-ranking Iranian intelligence official.” (“The fact that two Pentagon officials seemed to be discussing a regime change operation with disaffected Iranian[s]” may help Americans understand the great suspicion of US intentions among Iranians.)
“The Rome episode underscored the divisions between the White House, parts of the Pentagon, the State Department, and the intelligence agencies over Iran policy as the Afghanistan war gathered strength and the buildup to the Iraq invasion began. Some saw Tehran as a potential ally, others as a clear adversary. Strategists inside the Bush administration understood that Tehran could sabotage American efforts to stabilize and democratize both Afghanistan and Iraq.”
“In March 2002, just weeks before he left the State Department, James Dobbins met in Geneva with an Iranian delegation…The conference was focused on developing Afghanistan’s security forces. [Iran] offered to build barracks for and train twenty thousand Afghan troops, as part of a larger US-led program to help stabilize Afghanistan—this despite the fact that President Bush had just named Iran as a member of an ‘axis of evil,’…” Against Dobbins’s wishes, the US failed to respond to Iran on this offer. “No cooperation with Iran in Afghanistan ensued.” (Solomon 2016, 44, 45, 47, 49-50)
24. What were the main elements of Iran’s 2003 Proposal to the US and how did the US respond to the Proposal?
-According to the Washington Post, “Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by US forces [in April 2003] an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table — including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups. But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran…” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/17/AR2006061700727_pf.html
“In the absence of direct diplomatic relations between the US and Iran, Switzerland was acting as Protecting Power for US interests in Iran; so as Swiss ambassador, Guldimann had a formal position as an intermediary between the two estranged governments.” (Axworthy 2013, 360)
It is essentially not in dispute that the Iranian Proposal “represented the best chance for a settlement of the outstanding problems of US-Iranian relations…since the revolution.” While the Proposal was welcomed in the US State Department by Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney “vetoed the proposal, on the grounds that ‘We don’t speak to Evil’ (a bold and questionable declaration, given Rumsfeld’s infamous handshake with Saddam Hussein in December 1983)….Within three years Khatami was out of office, the Iranian presidency and Foreign Ministry were again in the hands of the right, the question of Iran’s nuclear ambitions was more and more pressing, the US was in serious trouble in both Iraq and Afghanistan, people were talking about a new era of Iranian hegemony in the region and Iran’s foreign policy had become much more confrontational. By that time the mood of hubris in Washington had passed and the rejection of the Grand Bargain [Proposal] came to be seen for what it was – a terrible mistake (recognized as such, it seems, even by senior figures in Israel).” (Axworthy 2013, 361)
-The following are additional examples that demonstrate American culpability for frustrating improved relations with Iran.
(i) At the heart of the Iran-Contra “project [during President Reagan’s second term] was a complex scheme to supply Iran with weapons in exchange for its help in securing the release of American hostages held by Lebanese militias. On the American side, it was also intended to open channels to important figures in the Islamic Republic and to use the provision of badly needed weapons to boost the standing of Iranian leaders willing to work with Washington. The scheme collapsed in 1986 because US officials tried to skirt American law by diverting proceeds from these arms sales to anticommunist rebels in Nicaragua, not because of Iranian duplicity or recalcitrance. Even after Washington became embroiled in the ensuing scandal, Tehran was ready to continue dialogue and cooperation; it was the United States that withdrew.” (Leverett 2013, 106-7)
(ii) While George H. W. Bush was president (1989-1993), Iran helped secure the release of American hostages in Lebanon. “Tehran spent several million dollars and exerted considerable pressure on Shi’a militias in Lebanon for this purpose….None of these actions would have happened without [Supreme Leader] Khamenei’s assent. But Iranian cooperation did not elicit the response [Iran’s President Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani had expected. The Bush administration excluded the Islamic Republic from the October 1991 Madrid conference intended to ratify what Bush called the ‘new world order’ in the Middle East, including the stationing of tens of thousands of American troops in countries neighboring Iran. In April 1992, Bush’s national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, informed Rafsanjani through [UN envoy Giandomenico] Picco that there would be no reciprocal steps by the United States–even though Iran had succeeded in freeing the last American hostages…Iran had been stiffed, and its leaders were furious.” (According to Professor Gary Sick, who served on the NSC under President Carter, the US promised that if the Iranians got the hostages out, the US would cooperate with Rafsanjani more closely than they had in the past and that they would begin to end the hostility between the two countries. The US’s negative response was due, in part, to the Iranian regime’s apparent role in assassinating Iranian dissidents in Europe and in bombings against the Jewish community in Argentina.) (Leverett 2013, 109-110)
(iii) President Rafsanjani tried again to improve relations with the US, this time with Bush’s successor, Bill Clinton, by “offering a lucrative deal to the Conoco oil company. [However,] Clinton, who had adopted a policy of ‘dual containment’ of Iran and Iraq, responded with a ban on almost all US trade with and investment in Iran.” (Iran subsequently offered the contract to the French company Total, which happily accepted it.) http://blogs.voanews.com/us-opinion/2017/01/09/islamic-republic-of-iran-loses-a-pillar-and-a-pragmatist-in-rafsanjani/
(iv) President “Rafsanjani continued looking for areas of mutual interest with the United States…By early 1994, Rafsanjani had an opening: [T]he Clinton administration needed [Iran] to supply arms to Muslims in Bosnia [as UN Security Council resolutions and US law prohibited such provision]….Legal considerations aside, Clinton worried that any direct American arming of Muslims and Croats would be detected, potentially prompting Serbian reprisals against US forces, severely negative Russian reaction, and European withdrawals from the internationally mandated peacekeeping force. What Washington needed was a third party that could get arms into Bosnia with relatively low risk of detection…So, as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence later documented, the Clinton administration decided ‘the Iranians could be the suppliers.’”
Iran “was clearly eager to help the beleaguered Bosnian Muslims, in keeping with its commitment to Muslim solidarity…[T]he arms flowed in and [the result was] the creation of a more level battlefield [that] helped bring the parties together for the negotiations that culminated in the Dayton Peace Agreement of December 1995.”
In 1996, after the Los Angeles Times reported on Clinton secretly permitting covert Iranian arms shipments into Bosnia in 1994, the “administration publicly condemned Iran for trying to establish an Islamist beachhead in Europe’s backyard…To this day, Iranian officials are livid over what they describe as American perfidy in Bosnia.” (Leverett 2013, 110-1, 113)
(v) “In 1998, the Defence Department vetoed a delegation of prominent US nuclear specialists to go to Iran to investigate its nuclear programme at the invitation of the government of newly-elected Iranian President Mohammad Khatami…The Pentagon objected to the delegation’s mission even though it was offered the option of including one or more scientists of its own choosing on the delegation, according to Dr. Behrad Nakhai, the nuclear scientist who was organising it. The Pentagon veto of the nuclear scientists’ delegation eliminated the Khatami government’s most promising initiative to promote a thaw in US-Iran relations by weakening a key US argument for viewing Iran as a threat.” http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/10/29/how-the-clinton-administration-nixed-an-iran-nuke-deal/
-The US’s serial unwillingness to respond positively to Iranian overtures only strengthened Iranian hardliners who pursued a confrontational approach to relations with the US.
25. Did the US work with the Tehran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) before and after the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq?
-Yes. One wonders what the Bush administration thought the party name entailed? Would it have been unreasonable to assume SCIRI had good relations with Iran and might support an Islamic Revolution? (In 2007 the party, demonstrating sound public relations, changed its name to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.)
-“[SCIRI] was formed in Iran among Iraqi expatriates in 1984 and originally had Khomeinist tendencies (believing that clerics should rule). It has moved more toward a democratic point of view…”
-“White House envoy Zalmay Khalilzad [had regular meetings] with [several] Iranian diplomats through 2002 and 2003, on both Afghanistan and Iraq. The irony wasn’t lost on Khalilzad that many of the Iraqi politicians and leaders whom the United States was cultivating for a post-Saddam regime were also close allies of Iran’s—some even living in Tehran.” (Iran “believed any free election in Iraq would naturally bring to power a Shiite government committed to strong ties with Tehran.”)
“Many of Iraq’s top Shiite politicians and clerics relocated to Tehran in the years after the 1979 revolution to avoid imprisonment or execution. Among them were future Iraqi prime ministers Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki…Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiite refugees fled with them into Iran.”
“The most active [of the] Iran-based militias was the Badr Corps, formed by Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim’s family, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite dynasties. The stronghold of the Badr Corps inside Iraq was in [the holy city of] Najaf.” “As the [March 2003] American invasion drew closer, Iraqi intelligence…[revealed] that leaders of the Badr Corps and SCIRI had been liaising with senior Bush administration officials in Washington, Europe, and the Middle East…Though US officials knew of SCIRI’s close ties to Tehran, Washington still sought to cultivate its leaders, including its chairman, Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, and his brother, in an effort to forge a unified Iraqi government in Baghdad after Saddam’s fall.” America’s Arab allies thus feared “that Saddam’s overthrow would strengthen [Iran].” “For decades the United States and the Sunni states had seen Saddam Hussein as the bulwark against any expansion of Iranian influence into Iraq and westward into the Levant, particularly in Shiite-dominant areas. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Sunni states had sent billions in financial aid to Baghdad during its eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s, specifically to blunt Tehran’s advances.”
“The first two democratically elected governments in Baghdad in 2005 and 2006, headed by Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki, promoted good relations with the Islamic Republic and a sharp break from the confrontational foreign policy of the Baathist governments.” “Trade between Iran and Iraq would go from virtually zero during Saddam’s rule to billions of dollars annually.” (Solomon 2016, 50, 51, 54, 55, 56-7, 59, 67, 68)
26. Is Iran an Arab country?
-No. Alone among the Middle Eastern peoples conquered by the Arabs, the Iranians did not lose their language or their identity. Ethnic Persians make up 60 percent of modern Iran, modern Persian (not Arabic) is the official language, Iran is not a member of the Arab League, and the majority of Iranians are Shiite Muslims while most Arabs are Sunni Muslims. Accordingly, based on ancestry, language and religion, Iran is not an Arab country. http://www.slate.com/id/1008394/
Jeffrey Rudolph, a Montreal college professor, was the Quebec representative of the East Timor Alert Network and presented a paper on its behalf at the United Nations. He was awarded the prestigious Cheryl Rosa Teresa Doran Prize upon graduation from McGill University’s faculty of law; has worked at one of the world’s largest public accounting firms; and, has taught at McGill University. He has prepared widely-distributed quizzes on Israel-Palestine, Iran, Hamas, Terrorism, Saudi Arabia, US Inequality, the US Christian Right, Hezbollah, the Israeli Ultra-Orthodox, Qatar, and China. These quizzes are available at, https://detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com/
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