The Iranian Threat?

By Michael Drohan

The generation of enemies at the level of international politics moves fast. Long gone are the days when Iraq was the supposed greatest threat to humanity with its fictitious possession of “weapons of mass destruction”. The new threat now to world peace and freedom has moved to Iran or so says Benjamin Netanyahu. Last week he was in Washington DC hobnobbing with President Obama and issuing dire warnings of the deadly threat that Iran may one day possess nuclear weapons.

On Sunday night last ( July 11) Netanyahu was interviewed on “Fox News Sunday” and on Monday the Post-Gazette made an article on the interview its principal story in its international section ( p. A4). “We’ve had effective nuclear peace for more than half a century because everybody understood the rules, I don’t think you can rely on Iran” saith Netanyahu with a straight face. The rules he didn’t elaborate on.  These rules are that Israel and Israel alone shall possess nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

So the big question is how to rein in Iran, the new almighty threat. Sanctions wont work says the great oracle Netanyahu. Then ominously he states “a nuclear Iran couldn’t be contained”. Why we might ask? Oh because Iran and Iranians are like no other people. They are not rational. “You can’t rely on the fact that they’ll obey the calculations of cost and benefit that governed all nuclear powers since the rise of the nuclear age” says the Israeli leader. You can clearly see the solution coming, the threat of military invasion “might actually have the only real effect on Iran, if they think it’s true” says Netanyahu.

It doesn’t take much to read between the lines in the end game of Netanyahu’s visit: in a word to ramp up the support for a military attack by the combined forces of Israel and the U.S. on Iran. No doubt it is a lunatic scheme and seems to suggest that nothing was learned from the total mess of attacking Iraq and reducing the country to rubble. What is really regrettable, however, is the role of the media and papers such as the Post Gazette which offer themselves as megaphones for the wild schemes of Fox News, Netanyahu and the war mongers.

15 Comments

  1. Mr. Drohan is on solid ground in assessing the risks and potential pitfalls of a military assault on Iran, but his sneering tone and his head-in-the-sand dismissal of the Iranian threat leaves him devoid of credibility.

  2. Having been in the room when Mr. Cohan’s group, UJF’s Iran Task Force, sponsored a speaker whose stock in trade is “sneering,” and having seen members of Mr. Cohan’s organization threaten to have an old man removed from the room for having the temerity to challenge, with facts, the hyperbolic and hateful statements of that speaker, I found Mr. Drohan’s article comparative balm to the soul.

    What I don’t understand, and perhaps Mr. Cohan can explain it to me: Why is UJF so eager to create an atmosphere of hate and division? The ‘facts’ you use against Iran are, frequently, demonstrably wrong. Why do you feel it is necessary to distort truth, and do so in order to create hate?

  3. Dear Fiorangela,

    Exactly who is creating an atmosphere of hate and division, both within its borders and internationally?

    Ultra-leftists’ embrace of human-rights abusing regimes like Iran’s is scary and perplexing.

    Jeff

  4. Iran Task Force is creating an atmosphere of hate and division, Jeff.

    I still have a copy of the Iran Task Force flier bruiting its determined effort to “educate” Pittsburghers, using frightening images and rhetoric, to endorse the UJF position that Iran is a “threat to humanity.”

    That’s fearmongering on its face. That it is untrue is one more point against UJF: one has to ask why UJF feels compelled to resort to such tactics and why it seeks to gin up hate.

    I’m not conversant with the “ultra-left” gloss.
    I come from a tradition that tries to live by the principle, “Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” The opposite — to sow hate — just seems self-destructive, not to mention destructive of the Other.

    Yesterday, most of the Republican Caucus signed on to H Res 1553, giving Israel the “green light” to attack Iran. That’s the logical progression of a campaign of hate. Do you support H Res 1553? I certainly do not.

    Regards,
    Fiorangela

  5. Mr. Cohan, thanks for raising the issue of human rights abuses carried out against the Iranian people.

    The United States and Israel pose the primary and harshest threats to the human rights of the Iranian people. In 2007, CA Rep Ed Royce said that the goal of US sanctions on Iran is to cause the Iranian people to form mobs, riot, and overthrow their government, which sounds to me like an abuse of the rights of Iranians to live in security within their own borders.

    In 2008, Israeli former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh told an AIPAC conference that “Iranians are incapable of reforming their government,” and that others — US and Israel — must do it for them. That’s a violation of the political sovereignty of the Iranian people (as well as a gross misunderstanding of the courage and determination of the Iranian people). Sneh said that “Iran’s leaders should be made to fear that they will be unable to feed their 70 million people.” In other words, Sneh proposed starving the Iranian people, just as US sanctions starved Iraqis and just as Israeli policymakers are systematically starving Gaza’s Arab population. These actions are a direct threat to the human right to life of the Iranian people.

    Through AIPAC and other groups that you are associated with, Mr. Cohan, policies are being carried out that severely constrict the ability — and rights — of Iranians to engage in commerce; to participate in the international financial community; and to develop Iran’s own natural and economic resources (which the world needs, by the way).
    The most incredible and mean-spirited attack on the human rights of Iranians was put in place just last week, Mr. Cohan: the testing services that certify the language capabilities of foreign persons for academic and employment opportunities in other countries, has been sanctioned against functioning in Iran.

    This is an action that is the product of a mindset that is not only hateful, but downright stupid. Shame on whoever did this thing to violate the human rights of the Iranian people.

  6. Fiorangela,

    You have cherry-picked two quotes from two government functionaries who cannot and do not speak for their governments or their countries. This speaks volumes about the intellectual validity of your argument.

    The testing-services issue is an unfortunate byproduct of the sanctions effort and should be immediately rectified. But it is shocking and appalling that you cannot even recognize or acknowledge the much more severe human-rights violations of the Iranian regime.

    Hatred of Israel overcomes any rational consideration in your mind, I suppose.

    Jeff

  7. Jeff, the quotes are not “cherry-picked,” they are two examples of statements made in public fora. They are ONLY two examples selected — “picked” — because they exhibit the pattern of many, many similar statements.

    The men who made the statements are NOT “powerless government functionaries,” they are legislators who crafted and caused to be made into the law or agenda of their respective lands the actions that they described. Ephraim Sneh was the Knesset member who persuaded Knesset to use Iran’s nuclear project as a wedge issue to increase Israel’s military spending, and to task AIPAC to fund that buildup with US taxpayer dollars. It is shocking and appalling that you are not aware of the primary role these men and the governing bodies they represent have played in the 15-years old demonization campaign targeting Iran, that has led to the situation that 46 of Mr. Royce’s colleagues support a resolution giving Israel the “green light” to attack Iran.

    A military attack on Iran would have profound and long-lasting harmful effects on the American people and the entire Middle East, and worst of all, would result in the deaths of many, many innocent Iranian people. The forward-looking implications of such an act are that the next generation of Americans would be looked upon with the same sense of loathing as were Germans after World War II. These are the rational considerations on my mind.

    I harbor no emotion for Israel one way or the other; my concern is for the values and actions of the United States. American lawmakers, influenced by Israel’s advocates such as Iran Task Force, are deviating from those values.

    Fiorangela

  8. Fiorangela, your opposition to military action is reasonable.

    But now you’ve really shown your cards. By insinuating in your last sentence that the “Jewish Lobby” is undermining the United States, you’ve promulgated an ugly canard.

    The Iran Task Force has advocated for diplomatic and economic approaches precisely because they are the best alternatives to military action.

    To accuse us or me of promoting military action is unfounded and unwarranted.

    Once again, it is so sad that your putative concern for the Iranian people doesn’t extend to their beating, arrest, torture and murder at the hands of an absolutely brutal regime.

    But I guess you’re too busy espousing anti-Jewish conspiracy theories to notice that the Iranian regime foments deadly violence at home and abroad.

    Ironically, if you lived in Iran, you would probably be in prison or worse.

    Jeff

  9. Hello all,
    I am posting a link to a very good article by Noam Chomsky, our 2010 Merton Center Awardee, also called The Iranian Threat.
    http://www.zcommunications.org/the-iranian-threat-by-noam-chomsky

    The article brings to mind that our violation of the UN Charter reaffiming the call to all states to resolve disputes related to nuclear issues peacefully bans the use of threat by force.

    Next week, August 6, we will be commemorating the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The group, Remembering Hiroshima – Imagining Peace will be hosting the premier of the movie Countdown to Zero. The most pressing issue of as we address the threat of nuclear warfare is urging the superpowers to agree to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The treaty of 1970 is a grand bargain: the nuclear “haves” agreed to negotiate to eliminate their weapons, while the “have nots” agreed not to acquire them. Only a few countries have not signed on; several others may be in violation in trying to develop nuclear weapons. The nuclear powers, notably Russia and the U.S., are arguably in violation of the treaty for having failed to “negotiate in good faith” the elimination of their nuclear weapons as required by Article VI of the NPT. President Obama and Russian President Medvedev have recently signed the New START treaty, which provides for reductions
    to 1550 in each country’s deployed long-range nuclear arsenal, and for a rigorous inspection
    system to prevent cheating and build trust.

    Israel has yet to sign on to the NPT and has 107 deployable nuclear weapons and the US is employing a “stabilization” of the Middle East that relies on nuclear weapons.
    So what about declaring a Nuclear Free Weapons Zone and withdrawing support of those who who do not sign the NPT?

  10. Jeff, your comment on 7/25 raised several issues that will be discussed in time.

    This one is central, and I’ll address it here. You wrote:

    “The Iran Task Force has advocated for diplomatic and economic approaches precisely because they are the best alternatives to military action.”

    Point 1. That begs the question: What is the problem that Iran Task Force seeks to solve by diplomatic and economic approaches?

    What is the problem? Iran has done nothing to the US that warrants US punishing Iran economically. Thus, your statement amounts to, “Instead of attacking Iran for no good reason, we advocate slowly strangling Iran for no good reason.”

    Point 2. Diplomacy was a sham from the beginning, a “gotcha” tactic wrapped in rhetorical flourishes, as Dennis Ross spelled out in, “Statecraft;” as Parthemore and Miller suggested in their “game-changing” essay, and as Dore Gold elaborated in “The Rise of Nuclear Iran.”

    3. Sanctions are war by other means. In 1993, Patrick Clawson analyzed the intent and effects of sanctions on Iraq for the Institute for National Strategic Studies. Clawson wrote: “Sanctions have generally been considered a substitute for the use of military force….[and] to cause a deterioration in the Iraqi military so that when fighting took place, the allies could quickly prevail.” It’s reasonable to assume that the same intentions and expectations apply in the case of Iran.

    4. Twenty years of experience has demonstrated that sanctions do not work to achieve the desired effect, but they do cause serious harm to civilian populations. Keith Weissman worked for AIPAC in 1995 and helped draft the first set of US sanctions against Iran. Weissman participated in a conference in Seattle, Washington, in December, 2009, and stated that “sanctions don’t work,” they are “not worth the effort,” but, he added, that first round of sanctions on Iran did harm US interests, and also derailed Iran’s gesture toward a thaw in relations.

    In summary, Jeff, your assertion that Iran Task Force seeks the “best alternative to military action” fails on numerous measures, the most important one being that there is no reasonable justification to punish Iran.

    In the Spring issue of Insight Turkey, Dariush Zahedi explained that, although a breakdown of Iran’s government is not imminent, if it were to occur, the “social and economic requisites for a stable democracy to emerge” are not present. Zahedi urges that, “Rather than experiment with ineffectual and counter-productive attempts at democracy promotion, this study suggests that a policy of long-term international diplomatic and economic engagement is the best available tool for transforming Iranian society and politics in such a way that a transition to a sustained and stable democracy and, by implication, a resolution of Iran’s nuclear issue, becomes more likely.”

    Is Iran Task Force willing to support measures that will help transform Iran rather than seek to further fracture Iran?

  11. FL,

    I’ll try to address a couple of your points.

    You wrote:

    “What is the problem? Iran has done nothing to the US that warrants US punishing Iran economically.”

    I guess you and I have been living on different planets for the past 31 years. Here on Earth, Iran has trained and armed the Shi’ite militias in Iraq and, incredibly, the Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan, making Iran complicit in the deaths of thousands of Americans.

    Limiting our response to economic sanctions is a supreme act of restraint under the circumstances.

    Anti-Americanism is a core principle of the Iranian regime, and for a reason. Our core principles of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly are anathema to the hybrid military-theocracy in Iran.

    Obama bent over backwards to try engaging the Iranian leadership, and got smacked in the face, figuratively speaking.

    To dismiss our president’s overtures as “a sham” may be convenient for your argument, but it doesn’t square with the facts.

    Iran has failed to comply with the inspection regimen of the NPT, as the UN Security Council has pointed out in four sanctions resolutions.

    We would love to see Iran transformed and our sympathies lie with the Green Movement, even if regime change is not a panacea, as you suggest.

    Jeff

  12. Jeff,
    Continuing this discussion with you is fruitless; it seems you are either not bothering to assess the evidence or you are simply acting in bad faith.

    Numerous of your statements are wild, unsupported, and illogical; for example, you claim that Iran Task Force wishes to punish Iran through sanctions (which your own sponsoree, Pat Clawson, wrote are preludes to war) for Iran’s acts in Iraq.

    As I noted earlier, AIPAC caused the first set of sanctions to be imposed on Iran in 1995.

    The Iraq war started in 2003.

    Amazing prescience.

    Your assertions are hasbara boilerplate (of surprising poor quality; I’ve seen better).

    In his series of lectures on the causes of the violence of the 20th century, Gabriel Liulevicius lists as chief among them the dissemination of propaganda that mobilized masses to act in mindless ways, the chief characteristic of mobs. Iran Task Force participates in a similar effort: disseminating propaganda and disinforming the masses with a goal, or at least the patently obvious outcome, of bringing about great suffering. ITF pushes the boulder over the cliff, but seeks to disavow responsibility for the ineluctable smashup that will follow.

    Iran Task Force’s fingerprints are on the boulder, Jeff.

    Stop it. Just stop it. Stop it now, before more people suffer and die.

    Fiorangela
    (nb. my friends call me JV, not FL)

  13. JV,

    We agree about at least one thing (more, really): Continuing this dialogue is fruitless.

    I have shown a willingness, an eagerness, to directly address your wild, unsupported and illogical statements, even your ugly Jewish Lobby conspiracy theories.

    Conversely, you conveniently ignore the facts I raise, precisely because you can’t refute them.

    And you have conveniently ignored New People’s offer to publish side-by-side op-eds written by you and me. I’m disappointed, but not surprised.

    JC

  14. Jeff,
    I was not aware of TheNewPeople’s offer to publish side by side op-eds; I welcome the opportunity.

    I’ll say this as politely as possible: You have raised no facts, you’ve only made assertions, some of which are really just insinuations of the ‘throw it on the wall and see if it sticks’ variety. The outcome of that kind of rhetorical gaming is at least economic harm to a dynamic and important state and its 70 million citizens as well as collateral harm to US interests; the worst case, but increasingly inevitable outcome of that game of wild rhetoric is the death of many, many Iranian people; the very real possibility of blowback that will harm Americans; and, as Hillary Mann Leverett has observed, harm to Israel and to American Jewish people.

    With stakes that high, it is impossible for me to comprehend what motive you could have for persisting in ‘pushing the boulder’ toward those dreadful outcomes. That you ARE ‘pushing that boulder’ I have no doubt whatsoever.

    Why is Iran Task Force so intent on demonizing Iran?

    Fiorangela

  15. Dear Fiorangela,

    Could you please give us your email address here at the New People? The email is: tmc.newpeople@gmail.com As Jeff has mentioned, we are very much interested in publishing both of your opinions in our upcoming print edition but haven’t been able to contact you through your gmail account listed on your comments.

    Thanks,
    -Mana Aliabadi

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