Iran Quiz

By Jeffrey Rudolph (April 2010; last update March 2016)

What justified, until 2015, relentless US 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, over the years, 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: i) Defiance of US dictates affects the US’s attainment of goals in the Middle East region; and, ii) Defiance of US dictates establishes 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; and therefore, 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.


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.”

   “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 referred to as, 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’…”

   “[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.”  (23 April 2015)

-It is not disputed that Iraq started the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s by invading Iran on 22 September 1980. “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 referred to as, Leverett 2013.)

-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 U.S., 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 U.S. 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.'” (10 June 2015)

-While the Iranian regime deserves condemnation for its behavior toward domestic critics (e.g.,, U.S. foreign policy is not determined by a country’s domestic behavior. For example, consider the U.S.’s support of gross abuses by the Bahraini regime against domestic protesters and activists. (A report commissioned by the Bahraini government concluded that the disturbances were a response to genuine grievances and that there was no evidence of an Iranian role behind the unrest.) (June 2013)

   The conflict the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 referred to as, Finkelstein 2012.)

   According to David Crist, a historian for the U.S. 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 referred to as, Crist 2012.)

2. 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.

   Due to the failures of U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, it appears that the task force’s recommendation is finally being 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 represents the first formal agreement between Iran and the U.S. since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

-Peace between Iran and the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 referred to as, Mousavian 2014.)

   For readers who cannot imagine Iran and the U.S. working together, it is not disputed that Iran provided vital intelligence and logistical support before, during, and after the U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan that resulted in the overthrow of the Taliban.

   New York Times front page story on Sept. 1, 2014: U.S. 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, 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.”) (16 March 2015)

3. 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 [1983] 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.

-“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].”

-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.

4. How many known cases of an Iranian suicide-bomber have there been since 1989?

-Zero. There is not a single known instance of an Iranian suicide-bomber since the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988. (Robert Baer, The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, Crown Publishers, New York: 2008.)

   According to Robert Baer, an American author and former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, it is important to understand that Iran used suicide bombers as the ultimate “smart bomb.” In fact, there is little difference between an Iranian suicide-bomber and a U.S. 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.”

-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)

-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 referred to as, Axworthy 2013.)

5. 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.”

6. What was the U.S.’s defense spending in 2011?

-Approximately $700 billion. US defence spending “is bigger than that of the next 17 countries combined.”

-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 referred to as, 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 referred to as, 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 U.S. “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)

7. 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.

   (“Some minorities are considered ‘People of the Book’ and are thus entitled to protection and some autonomy in religious practices. But Baha’is are not protected under the law, are not allowed to practice their faith, and have faced persistent persecution.”

-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.

-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)

   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 published by Iran’s IRNA news agency 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 Iranian regime wants] ‘to show that Iran is multireligious.'”

8. 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 U.S. 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 U.S.] 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 U.S. 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.”

-In 2012, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor acknowledged that 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 U.S. 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

9. 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.

-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 U.S. and Israeli governments, has since come to correctly recognize “the Holocaust [as] the most heinous crime in modern human history…”

10. 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.”

-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.)

   “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 has the fastest rate of increase in scientific publication in the world. And if political relations between Iran and the US are strained, it seems that the two countries’ scientists are getting on fine: the number of collaborative papers between them rose almost fivefold from 388 to 1831 over the same period.”

-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 U.S. and E.U. sanctions during the last decade.

11. 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.) All 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 [2013] in Cairo.”

   “[T]he Arab Peace Initiative [is 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.’”  (18 June 2013)

12. 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 U.S. and Britain. (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 referred to as, Kinzer 2008.)

-According to Kinzer, Iranians had been complaining that the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC) had not been sharing profits on Iranian petroleum with Iran fairly; and Iran’s parliament (Majles) had tried to renegotiate with the AIOC. When the AIOC rejected renegotiation, Mossadegh introduced the nationalization act in 1951. In response, Britain and the U.S. organized a global boycott of Iran which sent the Iranian economy into a tailspin. Later, the military coup was orchestrated that reinstalled the shah. (One irony is that Britain itself nationalized several industries in the 1940s and 1950s; for example, the coal-mining, railways, and iron and steel industries.

13. Who made the following address on March 17, 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: U.S. 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 U.S., 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 2000 Address, the U.S. has continued to talk of regime change and its “forces and agents just across the borders in Iraq and Pakistan [have] been encouraging 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, 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)

14. 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.”

-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, “[T]he Iranian revolution of 1978-1979 was the revolution against torture. When the Shah criticized Khomayni as a blackrobed Islamic medieval throwback, Khomayni 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 U.S. 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.”

-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. An important dimension of the Periphery Doctrine was to enable Israel to avoid peace agreements with its Arab neighbors, and thus concomitant painful compromises.

   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.”

   “[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.”)  (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 U.S. military and political maneuverability in the region.”

   “The Middle East’s geopolitical transformation over the past decade has further intensified the rivalry. When the U.S. 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.”

15. 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.” (U.S. National Intelligence Estimate Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities November 2007)

   According to U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Chief Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, “The bottom line assessments of the [National Intelligence Estimate] still hold true…We have not seen indication that the government has made the decision to move ahead with the [nuclear weapons] program.”

   In March 2013, “U.S. 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.”

-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.”

-“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.”  (23 Jan. 2016)

-“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.”

   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”.

-The following are the words of U.S. 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.”,

-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 U.S. and Israel would not be able to attack Iran to remove its government.

-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.”

16. 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.”

17. Is Israel a signatory of the NPT?


-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 “three nuclear tests since 2006”.

-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)

-U.S. 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.”

-“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 [1973] 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.)

18. 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 is trust and transparency rather than purely one of technology. Yet, Iran has 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.”

-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.”

19. 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 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.” (Jan. 28, 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; today, 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.” (May 13, 2013)

-Can Iran be trusted in an environment of good-faith negotiations? Consider: “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. U.N. nuclear inspectors, on the ground around the clock, have provided monthly certification that Iran has fulfilled its commitments. Some Iranian leaders have warned that new sanctions could end the JPOA, restoring the dynamic of sanctions escalating in tandem with increases in Iran’s nuclear capability.” (Jan. 28, 2015)

   “On April 2, 2015 the P5+1 and Iran “released a joint statement on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The framework lays out the parameters for the final text of the plan, which is due June 30, 2015.”

20. 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 U.S. 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…”

-It should not be surprising that Creveld and 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.”

-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.” (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.”

21. What percentage of Iranians in 2008 said they had an unfavorable view of the American people?

-20 percent. (Cole 2009, 197)

22. What percentage of Iranians in 2008 expressed negative sentiments toward the Bush administration?

-75 percent. (Cole 2009, 197) One wonders what percentage of Canadians—or Americans—held the same view?

23. True or False: Iran and the U.S. worked together to defeat the Taleban after the 9/11 attacks.

-True. According to Ali M. Ansari, Professor of Iranian history at the University of St. Andrews, “[K]hatami, 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 Taleban obstinacy decided on the removal of the Taleban. Nothing could be more amenable to the Iranians, who had been waging a proxy war against the Taleban for the better part of five years.…The collaboration which took place both during and after the war against the Taleban 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 U.S. 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 U.S. denunciation became ammunition for hard-liners, who used it as final proof of American mendacity – and of reformist naïveté.” (Peterson 2010, 72-3.)

24. What were the main elements of Iran’s 2003 Proposal to the U.S., and how did the U.S. respond to the Proposal?

-According to the Washington Post, “Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces…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…”

   “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 US has a record of snubbing Iranian offers. “In 1998, the Defence Department vetoed a delegation of prominent U.S. 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 U.S.-Iran relations by weakening a key U.S. argument for viewing Iran as a threat.”

25. Did the U.S. work with the Tehran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq before and after the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq?


-One wonders what the Bush administration thought the party name entailed? Would it have been unreasonable to assume it 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.

-The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq “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…”

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.

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,

This site lost hundreds of Twitter and Facebook “Shares” due to a WordPress modification.