This week there has been a flood of commentary about the Iran deal. The liberal side of the aisle sees this as a major achievement for the Obama administration, a feat that will stand alongside his rapprochement with Cuba as part of his lasting legacy. On the conservative side of the aisle, this is the apocalypse itself and Obama has doomed us all to a nuclear armageddon.
However, anyone with a grip on even a small shred of reality, regardless of political standing, should be able to see that both sides are lying through their teeth and this whole production has been one long charade that has caused unnecessary suffering for only one group of people, the general population of Iran. When the US instigated a series of sanctions against Iran, the supreme leader and president never were forced into austerity, they remained quite well-off and could rely on a host of luxuries provided by a variety of sources. Instead, it was the everyday people of Iran who suffered. I happened to be acquainted some time ago with an Iranian emigre whose father died due to taking a batch of medication that was of inferior grade, something that could have been avoided had the sanctions regimen not been in place. What did his government do so that his father deserved to die?
The reality is not ultimately simple, but the truth is much more easy to digest than the lunacy being fed to us by both CNN and Fox News. However, to understand this, we need to hold a thorough discussion of the international context in which this occurs and include in it a critical view of our connection to Israel. As a forewarning, those who believe that Israel and the Jews in general are running the show will find no comfort here, I do not see a grand conspiracy where the Jewish State controls American policy. In fact, I see it as the exact opposite, Israel and its leadership act solely on the allowance of the United States and have always only gone as far as Washington will allow them. After the devastation in Gaza last summer, Benjamin Netanyahu’s stunt speaking to Congress last spring behind Obama’s back, and the election of a deeply reactionary government in Israel shortly thereafter, the Israelis may be finding themselves more and more recieving support only in the neoconservative halls of power in the District of Columbia, but the puppet master of all things speaks with an American accent, not a Hebrew one.
What is to be gained from Iran?
Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian Shah was one of America and Israel’s closest allies in the region, something that dated back to 1953 coup, instigated by the British Petroleum oil firm and coordinated by the Central Intelligence Agency. As our ally, Iran was a major source of petroleum products and helped alleviate the strain on the American economy caused by the Arab oil embargo of 1973. By reopening our oil trade with Iran, it would drastically affect oil markets worldwide. Furthermore, unlike Saudi Arabia, with its cruel and totalitarian Wahhabi theocracy, Iran is a metropolitan society, with high degree of education and cultural diversity that will enrich the exchange of ideas and thinkers. There have also been analysts who have noted that the influx of Iranian energy products will undermine Russia, which currently is a major player in the European market, something that plays into the wider geopolitical designs of the what could be called the ‘Brzezinski plan’ that Obama and the Democratic Party subscribe to. Whereas the neoconservatives and Republicans are intent on creating a sort of ‘boots on the ground’ empire in the Middle East to allegedly ‘foster democracy’ (read: create a Levantine Monroe doctrine), the Democrats have been following a much more intricate plan for about four decades now. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security advisor under Jimmy Carter, is a Polish-born political scientist whose major goal was first freeing his homeland from Communism and then undermining Russia’s ability to assert itself as a global power. The recent events in Ukraine and other moves against Russia in the past few years can be understood in this context as elements of the Brzezinski plan.
- Does Iran hate Jews?
In a word, no. It is fundamentally heretical to the Shia school of Islam that the Iranians follow because Jews and Christians are protected by the Koran as ‘People of the Book’. Dr. Siamak Morsadegh, an Iranian and a Jew, is a democratically-elected member of the Majlis, the Iranian parliament, and a practicing physician. Iran has a small minority of Jews that are allowed to practice their religion freely in a community dating back to the time of Cyrus the Great.
However, Iran does have a stated opposition to Zionism and the actions of the State of Israel. In order to properly discuss this, we need to unpack the term Zionism and distinguish it from Judaism as a religion.
Zionism was formalized as a secular political ideology in 1897 by the Austro-Hungarian journalist Theodor Herzl as a reaction to the anti-Semitic Dreyfus Affair in France. Over the next two decades, various ideas and proposals were floated for the location of a Jewish homeland, including Uganda and Argentina. However, at the end of the First World War, the Zionist movement engaged first France and then Great Britain in a series of discussions that ultimately led to them serving as a proxy colonial army for the Europeans in historic Palestine, a major port on the Mediterranean of the then-crumbling Ottoman Empire. After the formalization of the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist movement engaged in a 30-year effort that included the organs of a modern state and the dispossession of the native indigenous people, the Palestinian Arabs, from the land. It should be noted here that the pre-Zionist Jewish community of Palestine, the Old Yishuv, viewed Zionism as a heretical trend and opposed it on religious and ethical grounds. With the coming of the Second World War and the Nazi persecution of European Jewry, the Zionist movement saw their opportunity to take advantage of the situation and make a final claim for statehood. In 1948, the United Nations granted the Zionists a partition of over 50% of the total landmass of historic Palestine. In the wake of the declaration of the State of Israel, the various Zionist militia movements engaged in a brutal series of ethnic cleansings of the Palestinians, which included rape, murder, and theft of both property and land, a tragedy the Palestinians today call the Nakba. Since 1948, the Israeli government has engaged in a continued regime of repression that has included multiple wars and occupations of lands. Since 1967, despite the protestations of the Old Yishuv and outside resistance by groups like the Orthodox Jewish Neturei Karta sect, Israel has effectively turned what was once a secular atheist movement into a religious one through what is called the settler movement. After illegally dispossessing Arabs of their lands, the IDF will then build small cities, illegal under international law, and install as residents messianic Israelis who believe they will hasten the coming of the Messiah by creating a wider Jewish nation-state. This is in direct violation of Israeli and international laws.
That Iran would oppose such a state of affairs is not by definition anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism has classically been defined as an irrational hatred or fear of Jews, traditionally related to either Christian blood libel prejudices or conspiracy theories about the role of Jews in international finance or governance. What the Iranians oppose is a series of socio-political moves made by the Israeli government that brutalizes the livelihood of Muslim and Christian Palestinians. Consider this statement by Ayatollah Khomeini himself:
- Does Iran want to destroy Israel?
The Iranians, despite their rhetoric for the masses, have a very clear record at the UN, the body that created Israel, one that indicates they recognize Israel. Every year, there is a vote taken for a motion on the resolution of the Palestine Question. And every year, Iran votes along with the rest of the world for the following resolution: Israel shall continue to exist at peace with its neighbors within its pre-June 1967 borders. Of course, Israel and America consistently reject this, thus extending the conflict, but Iran is tacitly recognizing Israel as a state every time it casts these votes. And regardless of the political propaganda, the UN is where things actually count in terms of international law.
- Does Iran support terrorism?
This is a loaded question because terrorism as a concept itself is loaded. The actions of the raiders at the Boston Tea Party can be termed as terrorist. In the First Red Scare, labor union agitators were called terrorists. There is a saying that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Instead of being superficial, we need to discriminate between those who commit what we could call external violence and those who commit internal violence. I would use as an example of external perpetrators al-Queda or ISIL, groups that cross national boundaries and commit acts that are targeted towards civilians that serve narcissistic and reactionary ends.
However, Iran is pigeonholed for giving support and training to Hizbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. What makes these two groups different is they generally are involved in acts of violence within their own territory or proportional response to military attacks by a foreign power. In fact, the European Union, New Zealand and the United Kingdom list the armed wing of Hizbollah as terrorists but do not list the civic governance branch as such. One of the more notable instances of violence Hizbollah has perpetrated was the bombing of a Marines barracks in 1983. That was an act perpetrated inside Lebanon by Hizbollah, who are native to the country. And to complicate matters further, at the time Lebanon was ruled by the fascist Gemayel family that had previously collaborated with Gen. Ariel Sharon in the murder of innocent Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. I do not revel in the murder of Marines and should note here that my father, as a Navy officer, was nearly deployed as a response to the bombing. But the United States was propping up a reactionary quisling regime that had participated in genocidal acts. Under international law, people under repression have the right to take up arms and attack military targets that give aid to their oppressors. That’s not my personal preference and certainly not something I love, but the truth is often a bitter pill to swallow. When the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese blew up military outposts during the Tet Offensive and killed Americans who were aiding the likewise puppet government we had installed in South Vietnam, millions of people on both sides of the Iron Curtain, including here in America, were not calling it terrorism, they hoped that finally the American government would wake up to reality and accept that the Vietnamese people were in totality opposed to our designs for Indochina.
In the case of Hamas, the situation is again the same. As a side-note of some importance, it needs to be understood that the Western media has for a long time now labelled a whole slew of groups with wildly different programs and agendas as ‘Hamas’. When I refer to Hamas, I am referring to the government elected democratically by the people of Gaza in 2006, an organization that is not regarded as terrorists by Russia, Norway, Switzerland, Brazil, Turkey, China, and Qatar. What’s more, if we are honest, the fault for the fostering of Hamas is not with Iran, it is with Israel and America! The revelations by WikiLeaks have made extremely clear that the United States and Mossad funneled monies and resources to Hamas beginning in the 1980’s intentionally so to undermine the secular Palestine Liberation Organization and Yasser Arafat. The reason for this is simple, the greatest threat to American hegemony in the region has always been a secular Arab nationalism in a vein not unlike the ideology of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress. As such, the policy has always been to exploit religious divides and hope they will foster division. In fact, the opposite has come to pass. Hamas was elected in 2006 by both Christians and Muslims in Gaza because the people had become so disgusted with the corruption, servility, and ineptitude of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah Party, which had become so unbearably compromised by the mid-1990’s and the Oslo accords that the late secular scholar Edward Said could not bear to attend the historic signing on the White House lawn between Yitzak Rabin and Arafat, overseen by the gloating Bill Clinton. Since that time, Gaza has been under a blockade of such depravity that the restrictions imposed on Cuba look like a vacation. Again, Hamas has not broken international laws, they have engaged in offensive violence against military opponents in the field of combat. During last year’s Operation Protective Edge, while the IDF was dropping munitions on anything and everything that moved, the Hamas fighters were only engaging with IDF soldiers. And as for the so-called ‘rockets’ that Hamas is raining down on Israelis, an unidentified Israeli official told Dan Williams of Reuters that they are ‘pipes, basically’. These projectiles are in fact home-made implements shot up in the air from inside what British Prime Minister David Cameron called ‘a prison camp’ that are meant as alarms calling for help, the people are saying ‘we are dying, please, save us’. So again, the comparison can be accurately made with the Vietnamese. We are again dealing with a national liberation movement that is intent on relieving itself of occupation and brutalization by a force which has broken international and its own laws to enact a reign of terror.
There is only one thing different here between the Vietnamese and their Soviet sponsors and Hizbollah, Hamas, and their Iranian sponsors, one thing that cuts to the core of the issue: the Vietnamese were atheist Communists while the Lebanese and Palestinians are Muslim Islamists. And that is a fact that perhaps leaves the reader with a deeply disturbing and painful realization about themselves.
- Do the Iranians desire a regime change?
There does exist a level of state oppression within Iran, that is inherent in any state. However, the Iranians remember the US-sponsored brutality of the Shah very well, so they have absolutely zero interest in returning to the good graces of the Americans by accepting a hand-picked puppet. For the foreseeable future, Iran will retain the Islamic Revolution and remain loyal to it.
- Is Iran building a nuclear weapon?
No. To begin with, they have devoted multiple years to promulgating a theological verdict that the atomic bomb is un-Islamic. Second, they are not insane, Iran is within reach of the many nuclear bombs that Israel has stockpiled at their atomic outpost at Dimona. If they were even trying to build a bomb, the Israelis would reduce them to smithereens within minutes. Third, both Israeli and American intelligence agencies have made clear in both classified and unclassified reports that there is no threat of a nuclear weapon being built by Tehran. Iran is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which does allow for the creation of nuclear power and non-weapons grade atomic materials, such as those used in medical technologies. On the other hand, the traditional protests against nuclear power in general still apply, like a risk for accidents like those at Fukushima or Chernobyl or questions regarding the disposal of nuclear waste, but they are not building the weapon of ultimate destruction.
Of course, the reaction has been nuclear from Netanyahu.
Ted Cruz, for example, has tried to add an amendment to any agreement that would require Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (meaning a polity that explicitly denies rights to non-Jews such as the Christian, Muslim, and atheist Palestinians). And because the Republicans have split the Congress, it could very well come to pass that this deal could get sunk. And if that were to happen, both sides of the Bush/Clinton 2.0 ticket are adamant hawks who would be willing to bomb Iran. Of course, it is also becoming clear that the two candidates who have essentially bought their party’s nominations are failing dismally with primary voters. Jeb Bush is unable to distance himself from the neocons that defined the cabinets of his father and his brother while embracing the Tea Party, whereas Hillary Clinton is falling apart due in no small part to Bernie Sanders, who surprisingly packed an Arizona convention center to the gills last weekend. I remain skeptical of Sanders for a variety of reasons, but unless the status quo is upturned, this very good deal with Iran could be foiled, resulting in further victimization of the Iranian people.