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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Thomas Friedman and the Wish for War with Iran

Thomas Friedman, the New York Times op-ed-page representative of the foreign-policy elite, is unhappy with how the soon-to-be-completed Iran nuclear talks are going. He says President Obama, like his predecessor George W. Bush, hasn't been tough enough. Obama holds all the cards, Friedman says, but somehow the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is dictating terms. He writes:

It is stunning to me how well the Iranians, sitting alone on their side of the table, have played a weak hand against the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain on their side of the table.....
For the past year every time there is a sticking point ... it keeps feeling as if it’s always our side looking to accommodate Iran’s needs. I wish we had walked out just once. When you signal to the guy on the other side of the table that you’re not willing to either blow him up or blow him off — to get up and walk away — you reduce yourself to just an equal and get the best bad deal nonviolence can buy. [Emphasis added.]
Friedman glosses over the fact that it is not "him" (foreign minister Javad Zarif perhaps?) who would be blown up in a war against Iran. It would be countless ordinary Iranians, who have done nothing to harm the American people. Those same innocent people would be harmed, admittedly in more subtle ways, if the P5+1 "blew off" Iranian negotiators because that would mean no relief from long-standing U.S.-led sanctions that have devastated the Iranian economy, creating food and medicine shortages among other inhumane consequences. Sanctions are acts of war. Would someone tell Friedman?

Friedman is ever the optimist, however. He believes it is still possible to get at least a "good bad deal," the chances of a good deal having been blown by Obama's "empty holster" strategy. It would be a deal "that, while it does not require Iran to dismantle its nuclear enrichment infrastructure, shrinks that infrastructure for the next 10 to 15 years so Iran can’t make a quick breakout to a bomb.... A deal that also gives us a level of transparency to monitor that agreement and gives international inspectors timely intrusive access to anywhere in Iran we suspect covert nuclear activity[.] One that restricts Iran from significantly upgrading its enrichment capacity over the next decade...." (As he notes, it would be deal approved by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which he fails to point out is the spin-off think-tank of the chief Israel lobbyist, AIPAC.

Before judging Friedman's analysis, certain facts must be kept in mind. Iran has never had a program designed to build a nuclear bomb. You wouldn't know from his column that Iran is a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), subjecting it to intrusive inspections for many years. During those years the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has unfailingly certified that Iran has diverted not one uranium atom to military purposes. As Gareth Porter heavily documents in his conveniently ignored book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, Iran's leadership has directed its nuclear research and facilities to the production of electricity and medical isotopes. The so-called evidence against Iran, Porter shows, is little more than the alleged contents of a suspect laptop, which has yet to be presented for independent verification. The nonthreat has been affirmed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence.

A few minutes' thought will indicate that Iran's leadership has many reasons not to want nuclear weapons, which Khamenei condemned in a fatwa some time ago. What exactly would Iran do with a bomb? The U.S. government has thousands, and Israel, which routinely threatens Iran, has a few hundred, including submarine-mounted nukes that would be available for a second strike if anyone were crazy enough to launch a first strike against the Jewish State. Unlike Iran, Israel refuses to sign the NPT and allow IAEA inspections.

In other words, Iran has been demonized and framed. Friedman is doing the bidding of those who want a U.S. war of aggression against the Islamic Republic -- namely, Israel, the Israel Lobby/neoconservatives, and Saudi Arabia.


Anonymous said...

A country does not need thousands of centrifuges to produce medical isotopes, all countries who have developed Atomic Weapons have done so and continue to do so in absolute secrecy, possessing nuclear weapons provides a hedge against attack as in in the case of North Korea. Iran seeks nuclear weapons, with the oil they have they do not need nuclear energy.

Anonymous said...

Nonsense. Saudi Arabia has even more oil than Iran, but they're building lots of solar power.

Just because you have oil doesn't mean you should keep on wasting it. That oil is valuable and can be sold for hard cash.

Sheldon Richman said...

"A country does not need thousands of centrifuges to produce medical isotopes."

How about electricity? The Shah started putting together a nuclear infrastructure with U.S. assistance.

More basically, Iran was spinning no centrifuges in 2003, when it made a grand offer to negotiate with the United States. It wanted to discuss all pertinent issues, including its willingness to recognize Israel under a two-state solution in accord with an initiative proposed earlier by Saudi Arabia.

The Bush administration dismissed Iran's offer out of hand, in response to which Iran pushed ahead with its nuclear (but nonweapons) infrastructure. In all likelihood, this was an amassing of bargaining chips to be traded away for normalization and sanctions relief.

By the way, who could blame Iran for wanting a nuclear deterrent in light of repeated military threats from the United States and Israel, not to mention their covert and proxy warfare against it?

Anonymous said...

Exactly you make my point, they seek nuclear weapons for deterrence. The relief of sanctions will give their leadership economic relief and resultant support at home. Their oil will sales will fiancé thie nuclear and missile program as well as their foreign policy. I say go along with this deal, reform American foreign policy and hope cooler heads prevail. My point is they are well into the development of nuclear weapons

Sheldon Richman said...

"Exactly you make my point, they seek nuclear weapons for deterrence.... My point is they are well into the development of nuclear weapons."

Who cares what you say? Where is your proof? Evidence, man, evidence! I said only, "Who could blame them." I did not say they actually sought a nuclear deterrent.

Anonymous said...

Commercial power and medical isotopes _ FAT CHANCE

Rick Kest said...

The United States government not only should not be dictating terms to Iran, but as the only country to have actually used them, should be the first on the list of countries not to have them. No lessons were learned. McCain and his ilk still call for their use.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lest it is not the U.S. It is the world including China and Russia.

Anonymous said...

Iran's centrifuge program was launched in 1985 at facilities controlled by the AEOI in Tehran.[24] Around 1987, Iran received a centrifuge design through what the IAEA has termed a "foreign intermediary."[25] During this first phase of Iran's centrifuge effort, Iran also obtained about 2,000 components from abroad.[26] According to a February 2004 Malaysian police report, Iran received two containers of centrifuge parts, worth $3 million, through the Khan network.[27] This transfer allegedly took place between 1994 and 1995.[28]

Sheldon Richman said...

But were they enriching uranium? Iran was willing to purchase enriched uranium for power reactors but the US thwarted the effort. Even if Iran was running centrifuges earlier (clearly this is in dispute), the number was very small compared number they were running after Bush turned down Iran's grand offer and by the time the recent talks started. As has been pointed out, Iranian enrichment got the US to the negotiating table -- centrifuges were bargain chips, which Iran is happy to trade. And don't forget that sanctions and the asset-freeze date back to 1979. See Porter's book for details on these issue, including the relationship to the Khan network.

Sheldon Richman said...

Porter confirms my point: that while parts (some of which turned out to be junk) were acquired, enrichment did not begin until 2006, three years after Bush's rebuff. Also note that Obama sabotaged a deal in which Iran would have acquired enriched uranium from Brazil and Turkey. As Reza Marashi says, Iranian enrichment got Obama to the bargaining table.

Anonymous said...

What got Iran, Europe and the US to the negotiating table is the threat of War over the Iranian regime having nuclear weapons.