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I had dinner with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday night in New York, along with dozens of other peace activists. This is an annual event, and I've taken part in it more than once.
There's some divergence of opinion on Ahmadinejad. The New York Daily News on Tuesday called Ahmadinejad "a pure evil crackpot Holocaust denier who wants to see Israel obliterated from planet Earth."
In contrast, a Jewish lawyer addressing the dinner gathering said that a friend had told him not to come on Yom Kippur when he should be home atoning for his sins. "I'm going to go," he said he told his friend, "and atone for the sins of Israel."
The media tells us that Ahmadinejad is "an existential threat to Israel." Let's consider that.
I start from the assumption that an existential threat to a human being is a greater concern than an existential threat to a government. Denying a past existential threat to millions of human beings is offensive and dangerous. Creating a new existential threat to millions of human beings is worse -- is, in fact, the danger we try to avoid by properly remembering the past.
President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that no speech, not even a video attacking Islam, should be censored, and no speech can justify violence. But the absence of speech, in Obama's view, can justify war. The Democratic Party Platform calls for war on Iran if Iran does not cease violating the nonproliferation treaty. Obama declared on Tuesday that if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons it would destroy the nonproliferation treaty. It would start a nuclear arms race. Iran would be, or rather it already is, a threat to Israel's existence.
But how exactly can Iran stop violating a treaty that it is not violating? What can it say to prove it does not have what even the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates say it does not have and is not working to produce? How can Iran prove a negative? Many of us still recall that impossible task being assigned to Iraq in 2003.
As Ramsey Clark, the U.S. attorney general at the time the nonproliferation treaty was created, argued at the meeting with Ahmadinejad, the United States is itself violating the treaty -- a treaty that would be better called the nonproliferation and elimination treaty, as it requires the elimination of nuclear weapons. Iran is a party to the treaty and in compliance with it. Israel has refused to sign the treaty or to allow inspections. Iran received its nuclear power technology from the United States, which also gave it the plans to build a bomb -- this through a CIA project that might fairly be characterized as pure evil crackpotism. The United States has also spread that technology to India and Pakistan. The nukes in Western Asia are in Israel and on U.S. ships off the coast of Iran.
U.S. and Israeli forces have Iran surrounded, and are threatening war in violation of the U.N. Charter. Israel and the United States have attacked Iranian computers, assassinated Iranian scientists, flown drones over Iran, imposed sanctions on the Iranian people (including cutting off oil supplies and clean energy technologies). The United States has organized a massive military exercise off the coast of Iran, and has just taken the terrorist label off an Iranian terrorist group, opening the door to funding its operations. The very real threat of war on Iran is an existential threat to millions of human beings, a threat -- in other words -- of mass murder.
What kind of threat is Iran to Israel? According to Ahmadinejad, his religious and political leaders have made the possession or use of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons a terrible sin. When attacked by Iraq with chemical weapons -- some of them supplied by the United States -- Iran refused to use such weapons in response. Iran, which remembers chemical weapons as an argument for peace in the way that Japan remembers nuclear weapons, makes a distinction between defensive weapons and weapons that indiscriminately kill the innocent. The latter are forbidden. Iran this month persuaded 120 nations of the world to back a plan to do exactly what the nonproliferation and elimination treaty requires: eliminating nuclear weapons.
Talking about the nuclear question, Ahmadinejad told us, has grown tiresome and repetitive. Iran is in compliance with the law and has put the IAEA in charge of inspections. The root cause of U.S. aggression toward Iran, he said, has nothing to do with nuclear weapons. Why did the United States back Saddam Hussein in a war against Iran? Because the Iranian people had overthrown a U.S.-backed dictatorship. Why has the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran in the past, he asked, when nuclear enrichment was not an issue? In the past year, he noted, the United States has sold over $70 billion in weapons to nations in the Persian Gulf, while Iran spends less one-fifth that amount. How, he asked, is Iran the aggressor?
When U.S. headlines tell us that Ahmadinejad will destroy Israel, we picture Hiroshima, or Dresden, or Fallujah. That's how we think of a nation ceasing to exist. We think of its people destroyed from above. But Ahmadinejad says he wants to end killing and injustice. He speaks of peace and love, fairness and kindness. How does this make sense? Well, look at what he says on Israel:
"During a historical phase, they [the Israelis] represent minimal disturbances that come into the picture and are then eliminated."
The Wall Street Journal follows that paragraph with this: "Note that word -- 'eliminated.' When Iranians talk about Israel, this intention of a final solution keeps coming up. In October 2005, Mr. Ahmadinejad, quoting the Ayatollah Khomeini, said Israel 'must be wiped off the map.' Lest anyone miss the point, the Iranian President said in June 2008 that Israel 'has reached the end of its function and will soon disappear off the geographical domain.'"
But in fact, when pressed on this, what Ahmadinejad has said is: "Our proposal is for everyone to allow people to freely hold elections and choose their governors. It's been 6 ½ to 7 decades during which the people of Palestine have been dislodged from their homes. And their territories are under occupation, and an occupying regime has been bullying them and forcing them into the current conditions. If such a fate would have come into the lives of ordinary Americans, what proposal would you have had for them? I am sure you would propose for their elimination of international bullying and occupation. Imagine in your mind that the occupation of Palestine has come to an end. What would there remain? So this is the essence of what we are saying."
In other words, were Palestine freed of apartheid and occupation, were all of its people permitted to freely determine their future, that future would not include a government that gives superior status to Jews. Such a future could be horrible, or it could be more democratic and respectful of individual rights than Israel is, or than Iran is, or than the United States is.
"If there are other inhabitants there," Menachem Usshiskin said of Jewish plans for Palestine in 1930, "they must be transferred to some other place. We must take over the land." The occupation of Palestine is not so much an existential threat as an existential fait accompli. The state of Israel was created through ethnic cleansing. It was created as a state to privilege one religious group, something that states should not be.
But two wrongs cannot make a right. Evicting Israelis from their homes, inside or outside the Green Line, is not a solution. Much less is killing them a solution or anything that Ahmadinejad is proposing.
Yehouda Shenhav's new book, "Beyond the Two State Solution: A Jewish Political Essay" tells the story of Israel's creation. The language of the Green Line, Shenhav writes, is "a language through which Israel is described as a liberal democracy, while the Arabs (and Mizrahi and religious Jews to boot) are described as inferior and undemocratic. This is the language of someone who came to the Middle East for a short while, not to integrate but to exist here as a guest. The position it expresses is not only immoral with regard to the Palestinians, but also potentially disastrous for the Jews. It commits them to life in a ghetto with a limited idea of democracy based on racial laws and a perpetual state of emergency."
This is an Israeli suggesting that the worldview of Israel agrees with Ahmadinejad's prediction for Israel. Israel is not behaving as if it means to settle down and become part of the region it inhabits. Shenhav wants to restore awareness of 1948, but not to try to reconstruct the world of 1948. He does not propose eliminating Israel. He does not propose uniting the people of Israel and Palestine into a single nation. He does propose allowing Palestinians to return to their homes in a manner least disturbing to Israelis already living in those villages or buildings, including with compensation paid to residents evicted by an agreement with returning refugees. He proposes a bilingual society, with a fragmented political federation. He expects this to be very difficult, while preferable to any other approach. And he rightly sees the first step as recovering honesty with regards to not-so-distant history.
Another book just released by Brant Rosen, a Rabbi in the United States, is called "Wrestling in Daylight: A Rabbi's Path to Palestinian Solidarity." Here we have a brand new genre: the transformation of a website, including blog posts and the comments under them, into a work of literature on the printed page. Here we have an example of civil discourse, of diplomacy, of people with the views of the New York Daily News and the views of the Iranian government ceasing to speak past each other, coming to understand each other, realizing that neither wants to destroy the other. I highly recommend reading it and emulating it.
A Mennonite speaking at Tuesday's meeting with Ahmadinejad said he wished others could travel to Iran, and that more Iranians could visit the United States. He said that after decades of visiting Iran frequently, he not only viewed Iranians as friends but understood the source of tension to be the Iranian government's insistence on remaining independent of U.S. control. As if to prove the value of his recommendation for personal interaction, the next person to speak, an evangelical pastor from Texas named Bob Roberts said that he used to be afraid of Muslims. Then he met some in Afghanistan, and they became his friends.
Exiled critic of the Iranian government Shirin Ebadi released a message on Tuesday worth reading and signing on in support of.
I discussed these matters on New York's WBAI on Tuesday. Here's that audio.
Iran War Weekly
September 24, 2012
Hello All – The Iran/US/Israel conflict will take center stage this week, as the United Nations opens its new session. While Presidents Ahmadinejad, Netanyahu, and Obama will be in the spotlight, much of the actual business among the contending players and their allies will take place off-stage, in the wings. For the Obama administration, the dramatic tension will be focused on keeping their re-election script undisturbed. Presidents Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu, of course, have different roles.
By Gareth Porter, IPS
- Iran has again offered to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, which the United States has identified as its highest priority in the nuclear talks, in return for easing sanctions against Iran, according to Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who has conducted Iran’s negotiations with the IAEA in Tehran and Vienna, revealed in an interview with IPS that Iran had made the offer at the meeting between EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul Sep. 19.
By Dave Lindorff
There is a massive deception campaign in the US, and in its global propaganda, which seeks to portray the United States as a poor set-upon nation that would like world peace but just has to keep a military stationed around the globe to “police” all the world’s “trouble spots.”
Long Knives Target Iran
by Stephen Lendman
February 11, 2012 marked the 33rd anniversary of Iran's 1979 revolution. It ended a generation of repressive rule under Washington's installed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.
By: NIAC Action Alert
The Senate is poised to commit the U.S. to a red line for war demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposed by the Obama Administration. The resolution by Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Bob Casey (D-PA) expresses support for Netanyahu’s red line for military action against Iran and may come up for a vote TODAY.
Please call your Senators to tell them you oppose the Iran red line resolution. Call 1-855-68 NO WAR to be directed to your Senators offices and tell them to oppose S.J. Res 41.
By Dave Lindorff
The situation in the Middle East has reached a dangerous point, to be sure, but there are also signs that a sea change may be taking place here in the US which could herald a whole new relationship between the US, Israel and the rest of the Arab and Islamic world.
Iran War Weekly
September 16, 2012
Hello All – In 1947 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists first placed a clock on its cover, with the hands at seven minutes before midnight. Nuclear war was that close, the atomic scientists thought. And over the past 65 years the hands of the clock have moved back and forth, from two minutes before midnight (1953) to 17 minutes before midnight (1991). There is no similar clock counting down war against Iran, but if there were, the hands moved back a few minutes this week.
By Andrew Schoerke, member Veterans For Peace
The U. S. Navy is currently assembling four Carrier Strike Groups in the Arabian Sea and when in place it will be the most powerful carrier task force assembled since WW II. Although not yet announced, there is little doubt that the purpose of this sea power is to ride “shotgun” for a multi-nation countermining exercise to be held in the Gulf of Oman beginning September 24. Arguably, the exercise is also intended to show Iran that it should not attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz through which over a third of the world’s oil supply transits.
The decision by the Harper government to sever diplomatic ties with Iran and to expel all Iranian diplomats from Canada is a dangerous and unwanted escalation of the current crisis. The Canadian Peace Alliance condemns this decision and calls on the government of Canada to normalize relations and to call for a peaceful and negotiated settlement.
This is not the first time that the government of Canada has led the drive to war with Iran. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has stated publicly that Iran is the "greatest threat to world peace." The severing of diplomatic ties shows that, in fact, the Harper government is the real threat to peace and stability.
"The global community is calling for negotiation and dialogue to avert war," said Sid Lacombe, coordinator of the Canadian Peace Alliance. "Keeping diplomatic channels open for that discussion is an absolute prerequisite to finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. The Harper government has just told the world that they don't care for peace and are instead paving the way to war."
Iranian-Canadians also spoke out against the decision to sever ties.
"We are worried that these actions by the Harper government are a sign of imminent attack," said Niaz Salimi, president of the Iranian Canadian Community Council. "We are opposed to any actions which brings us closer to war."
A war with Iran would cause untold civilian deaths and could escalate into a much larger regional conflict. There is no credible evidence that Iran is using nuclear technology to create a weapon, yet the Canadian public is being asked, once again, to put its faith in fictitious claims about Weapons of Mass Destruction. The fact that no weapons were ever found in Iraq - and that the evidence of such a program was deliberately fabricated - renders any accusations against Iran extremely questionable.
This October 6th, Canadians will demonstrate their opposition to the possibility of war against Iran by joining anti-war events across Canada.
For more information, visit http://www.acp-cpa.ca.
Iran War Weekly
September 10, 2012
Hello All – Nuclear talks between Iran and the United States-led “P5+1” remained stalled this week, with expectations that nothing will happen until after the UN convenes later this month. The P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) appears to be relying on economic sanctions to force Iran to bargain on terms that would essentially bring Iran’s nuclear program to a halt. While minor issues, such as the alleged nuclear activity at Iran’s military base at Parchin (see below), continue to be in play, Iran’s offers to resume negotiations have been ignored.
Bogus Iranian Nuclear Threat
by Stephen Lendman
Red lines, timelines, deadlines, sanctions, sabotage, subversion, cyber attacks, assassinations, saber rattling, falsified IAEA hype, ad nauseam warmongering, Netanyahu/Barak bluster, spurious accusations, manipulated to fail P5+1 talks, and inflammatory headlines up the stakes for war.
Fars News Agency Interviews Lendman
Iranian journalist Kourosh Ziabari conducted the interview. Topics included Tehran's successful NAM summit, Iranian/US/Israeli relations, Syria, potential war against both countries, and related issues.
Fars (FNA) calls itself "Iran's leading independent news agency." Its reports shame what appears in Western media.
Questions and answers are below. Some final comments follow.
Kate Gould is the lead lobbyist on Middle East Policy issues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, focusing on preventing war with Iran and Israeli-Palestinian peace. She says the sanctions now imposed on Iran are cruel collective punishment and a step toward war. Kate represents FCNL on the board of Churches for Middle East Peace. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, PBS Frontline’s Tehran Bureau, Foreign Policy in Focus, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Mondoweiss, Common Dreams, Truthout, and other national media outlets.
Total run time: 29:00
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Iran War Weekly
September 2, 2012
Hello All – A report this week on Iran’s nuclear program re-charged the debate on whether Israel should or would attack Iran before the US presidential election in November. The quarterly report of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) highlighted what it said was a significant jump in Iran’s nuclear enrichment capacity. However, a closer look at the report (as in several articles linked below) shows that the IAEA’s conclusion is simply not true. Some analyses of the report, the treatment of the report by the New York Times and other mainstream media, and a critical assessment of what’s actually happening in Iran can be found in the good/useful reading linked below.
NAM Leaders Support Iran
by Stephen Lendman
After six historic days, over 100 participating nations expressed support for common interests as well as host country Iran. The New York Times said NAM "handed….Iran a diplomatic victory."
The Christian Science Monitor suggested efforts to isolate Iran failed.
by Stephen Lendman
Washington and Israel wage dirty covert wars. Iran's been targeted for years. Imperial aims are prioritized. Rule of law principles don't matter. Israel wants sole regional dominance. America wants it globally. Lawless tactics continue.
"Decision by Netanyahu, Barak to strike Iran is almost final-Israel TV"
"Israeli speculation over Iran strike reaches fever pitch"
Over the past several weeks there has been an eruption of alarming reports, high-level meetings, and public debate over whether Israel is close to deciding—or has already decided—to launch a military assault on Iran before the November U.S. presidential election.
By Alice Slater
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), formed in 1961 during the Cold War, is a group of 120 states and 17 observer states not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. The NAM held its opening 2012 session yesterday under the new chairmanship of Iran, which succeeded Egypt as the Chair.
Significantly, an Associated Press story in the Washington Post headlined, “Iran opens nonaligned summit with calls for nuclear arms ban”, reported that “Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi opened the gathering by noting commitment to a previous goal from the nonaligned group, known as NAM, to remove the world’s nuclear arsenals within 13 years. ‘We believe that the timetable for ultimate removal of nuclear weapons by 2025, which was proposed by NAM, will only be realized if we follow it up decisively,’ he told delegates.”
Yet the New York Times, which has been beating the drums for war with Iran, just as it played a disgraceful role in the deceptive reporting during the lead-up to the Iraq War, never mentioned Iran’s proposal for nuclear abolition. The Times carried the bland headline on its front page, “At Summit Meeting, Iran Has a Message for the World”, and then went on to state, “the message is clear. As Iran plays host to the biggest international conference …it wants to tell its side of the long standoff with the Western powers which are increasingly convinced that Tehran is pursuing nuclear weapons”, without ever reporting Iran’s offer to support the NAM proposal for the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2025.
Surely the most sensible way to deal with Iran’s nascent nuclear weapons capacity is to call all the nations to the table to negotiate a treaty to ban the bomb. That would mean abolishing the 20,000 nuclear bombs on the planet—in the US, UK, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel—with 19,000 of them in the US and Russia. In order to get Russia and China to the table, the US will also have to give up its dreams of dominating the earth with missile “defenses” which, driven by corrupt military contractors and a corporate- owned Congress, are currently being planted and based in provocative rings around Russia and China.
The ball is in the U.S. court to make good faith efforts for nuclear abolition. That would be the only principled way to deal with fears of nuclear proliferation. The US must start with a genuine offer for negotiations to finally ban the bomb in all countries, including a freeze on further missile development. It should stop beating up on Iran and North Korea while it hypocritically continues to improve and expand the US arsenal, with tens of billions of dollars for new weapons laboratories and bomb delivery systems, and fails failing to speak out against the nuclear activities of other nations such as the enrichment of uranium in Japan and Brazil and the nuclear arsenal of Israel.
Iran War Weekly
August 26, 2012
Hello All – Once again the front-burner drama this week re: Iran’s nuclear program was the debate within Israel about whether it should attack Iran’s nuclear sites, and especially whether Israel would/should attack before the US presidential election. As noted below, elite opinion in Israel is running strongly against Netanyahu and the bombs-away camp; and increasingly Israelis are accusing Netanyahu of attempting to intervene in the US election to help out Mitt Romney. While US experts largely discount the possibility of an Israeli attack, I think it’s a pretty unstable situation.
Inventing an Iranian Threat
by Stephen Lendman
Iran threatens no one. Western and Israeli leaders know it. So do over 100 Non-Aligned Movement countries coming to Tehran. They'll be there from August 26 - 31. They'll participate in NAM's 16th summit.
Their presence endorses Iran's legitimacy, extends support, shows disapproval of Western hostility and belligerence, and confers prestige when Tehran most needs it.
War of Words on Iran
by Stephen Lendman
If words could kill, imperial Washington long ago would have returned Iran to its nightmarish Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi days.
Propaganda wars rage daily. Tehran is wrongfully called an existential threat. Imagine a country wanting peace accused of belligerent intents. Repeating it enough times gets people to believe it. Big lies have impact.
U.S. Government Supports the Good Will of the American People
By Dennis Kucinich
Washington D.C. (August 21, 2012) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today issued the following statement after the U.S. Treasury Department announced the issuance of a general license allowing U.S.-based organizations to provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of an earthquake in northwestern Iran. Kucinich led fourteen Members of Congress requesting that President Obama allow the humanitarian aid to flow to those who so desperately need assistance.
“The people of Iran are suffering and we have it in our capacity to alleviate some of that suffering. It is the strength of the American people that we help those in need. I thank President Obama for heeding our call, and the call of the American people to allow humanitarian aid to reach the people of Iran,” said Kucinich.
U.S.-based humanitarian organizations had been prohibited from sending aid to Iran without a general license under current U.S. sanctions against Iran. Today’s announcement by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control will allow humanitarian organizations to transfer funds to Iran for the purposes of relief and reconstruction activities.
“Our hopes and prayers continue to be with the thousands of people in Iran who have suffered from this tragedy. We are now able to offer real help providing assistance to the people,” said Kucinich. “This is a time for unity. Perhaps this tragedy can create an opportunity for our nations to work together and begin to build trust between our nations.”
by Stephen Lendman
Western media, hard right commentators, and pro-Israeli groups feature regular anti-Iranian denigration, slander, misinformation and lies.
Respecting its sovereignty is verboten. Regime change is prioritized. All means are OK, including war, mass killing and destruction. Warmongers relish it. Rhetoric tries justifying it.
AIPAC Wants War on Iran
by Stephen Lendman
AIPAC is an unregistered foreign agent. It calls itself "America's Pro-Israeli Lobby." It's represented Israeli interests since 1953.
Virtually no one in Congress confronts it. Doing so is a career-ender. It has enormous influence over US Middle East policies affecting Israel, including war and peace.
An uprising within the Israeli establishment is preventing an insane war from being started. In how many other countries could such a thing happen? This is a proud moment for Israel’s democracy.
People don’t realize what a miracle is taking place in this country. A revolt by the Israeli military/intelligence establishment and Israel’s best reporters, helped along by President Shimon Peres and ultimately enabled by the Obama administration, is stopping an insane war from being launched by Israel’s two ideologically insane political leaders, a war they’ve been planning for years.
Dangerous Anti-Iranian Warmongering
by Stephen Lendman
America and Israel wage aggressive wars of choice. Enemies don't exist so they're created. Belligerence is standard practice. Reckless irresponsibility defines their thinking.
Ravaging countries to control them is policy. Rule of law principles and human lives don't matter. Wealth and power alone are prioritized. So is thinking might is right and what we say goes.
Israelis Against War on Iran
by Stephen Lendman
Polls show most Israelis and Americans oppose war with Iran. Political leaders pay no attention nor ask why Iran, with or without nuclear weapons, would strike Israel or any other country?
Iran hasn't attacked another nation in over 200 years. It threatens none now. It's not developing or producing nuclear weapons. Washington, Israeli, and most other world leaders know it.
Another Anti-Iranian Hate Group
by Stephen Lendman
America has no shortage. Belligerent groups infest the country. United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is one of many. Its leaders represent extremist neocon interests. By any definition they’re rogues.
Mark Wallace serves as CEO. He held several Bush administration positions, including UN envoy.