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N.Y. Times Publishes Hasbarist’s Dream Op Ed on Iran

The N.Y. Times published an op ed calling for the U.S. to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.  The op ed, published by a so-called proliferation specialist at the University of Texas, Alan Kuperman, is a hasbarist’s dream.  But as with all such hawkish diatribes, it masks glaring weaknesses.

Here are some examples.  In this passage, the author derides the west’s proposed nuclear compromise with Iran which involved shipping its enriched uranium to Russia for further enrichment:

The proposal did not require Iran to halt its enrichment program, despite several United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding such a moratorium.

Kuperman here contradicts himself due to imprecision.  He uses the term “halt” its enrichment program and then the term “moratorium.”  Actually, the UN demands that Iran SUSPEND its enrichment program which is closer to a moratorium than a halt.  But even these UN demands are controversial and not necessarily in accord with UN procedure according to Muhammad Sahimi, who is well-informed about such matters.

It should be added that only ISRAEL demands that Iran HALT its uranium enrichment program, a demand that contravenes the UN Charter which offers nations the right to perform nuclear research for peaceful purposes.  So in this sense, Kuperman’s claim that the UN demands a “halt” to Iran’s nuclear program precisely reflects Israel’s position.

The author maintains a strange argument that far from slowing Iran’s nuclear weapons program, exporting its uranium would actually facilitate it.  The evidence he offers is entirely unconvincing ,ending with an even more questionable conclusion that exporting Iranian uranium would actually have greatly facilitated the country’s mad dash to a nuclear bomb:

…The [Geneva] proposal would not have averted proliferation in the short run, because that risk always was low, but instead would have fostered it in the long run…

A few more questionable assertions mar his work.  He claims that the UN has demanded that Iran close its Natanz nuclear plant.  Again, I find this questionable since in and of itself having such a plant does not violate NPT.  I find it creditable that the UN might have demanded that it make any research or enrichment happening there more transparent.  But not that it close the plant entirely.

Kuperman further expounds the bizarre theory that Iran’s statement that it would enrich its uranium to the 20% level (rather than exporting it) was a bluff because crazy Ahmadinejad’s real aim is to:

Compel the international community into providing the fuel…

Say what?  This is a tad too conspiratorial for me.

Once again, here the author posits a stark, false policy choice:

…The U.S. faces a stark choice: military air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities or acquiescence to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

That is certainly nowhere near the set of dire choices the U.S. faces.  It only faces these choices if one gives up on diplomatic engagement and determines that a nuclear weaponized Iran is something over which it is worth essentially going to war.

More Kuperman errors:

Iran supplies Islamist terrorist groups in violation of international embargoes.

Since he doesn’t specify which groups he’s talking about  I surmise it is Hamas and Hezbollah.  The problem with his statement is that once again it is false.  I don’t know whether UN Resolution 1707, which ended the 2006 war required an arms embargo against Hezbollah.  I’d like a reader to tell me if this is even true.  But certainly the fact that Israel has violated terms of the Resolution with threatening and illegal overflights of southern Lebanon (in one such sortie the UN forces had actually been about to shoot down an Israeli plane), renders Iran’s possible violations less egregious.

But where Kuperman really falls flat is in regard to Hamas.  There is no international embargo on aiding Hamas.    I would challenge him to list a single UN resolution that forbids it.  Yes, there are nations boycotting Hamas and this policy is extremely controversial and even a violation of international law as enforced by Israel.  But to call this an international embargo in the absence of any UN decision is sophistry.

From here, of course the academic hawk advances to the claim that a WMD capable Iran would provide Hamas or Hezbollah with a nuclear weapon.  While I concede this is a fantasy that any neocon in good standing could dream up, that doesn’t mean the rest of the reasonable people in the world should do anything other than laugh in utter derision at this foolhardy proposition.  There is absolutely no proof that Iran could or would provide nuclear weapons to an outside agent.  This IS what happened in the case of a Pakistani nuclear physicist who helped Iran and North Korea advance their own programs.  But there is no evidence that Iran has ever done such a thing.  In fact, Iran is a far more stable country than Pakistan or North Korea and the chances of this happening are very, very small (and that’s if Iran ever develops a nuclear weapon).

Kuperman begins his call for a military strike by acknowledging “aerial bombing may not work.”  But the rest of his op-ed ignores this caveat and treats it as if it hasn’t been delivered.

He posits the dubious claim that a knockout blow to Iran could be delivered basing it on the 1981 Osirak reactor attack by Israel against Iraq.  He neglects to mention that any attack on Iran would have to be 1,000 times more complicated since the aggressor would not be attacking a single site relatively poorly protected as Osirak was at the time.

The author renders a dubious historical analogy: an attack on Iran would not necessarily destroy the Iranian reform opposition since NATO attacks on Serbia did not prevent the Serbian democratic opposition from toppling Milosevic after that war ended.  The differences between the two situations are enormous.  Serbia was a relatively small European nation with a relatively weak military force.  It was destroyed relatively easily by NATO and in a relatively short period of time.  When the west attacked Serbia, there was no democratic opposition to speak of.  There was a despot and his tinpot regime and genocide against Kosovo.

Iran is a vast country with a very credible military capability.  It could never be cowed as Serbia was without the expenditure of vast amounts of military commitment and force.  In addition, in Iran there is a fairly strong reform movement which, while it might not currently be able to overthrow the clerical despots, can certainly wage on ongoing political struggle that will end up with that result.  Unlike in Serbia, an attack would undoubtedly, as Muhammad Sahimi stated at the Iran conference I organized last week, set back the reformers by fifty years.

Next, the op-ed hawk acknowledges Iran could mount mischief against U.S. interests in the Middle East:

Iran could retaliate by aiding America’s opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it does this anyway.

This is completely bogus.  While Iran has a complicated presence in Iraq in which it has sometimes acted against U.S. interests, it has sometimes aided them depending on the differing circumstances it faced.  As far as Afghanistan is concerned Kuperman’s claim is entirely bogus.  Iran hates the Taliban and has never aided them.  Such a pathetic error again renders the author’s entire argument dubious.

He again makes an unfounded claim that Iran wouldn’t dare retaliate against a U.S. attack for fear of “stronger American counter-escalation.”  Does anyone doubt that if Iran and the U.S. were in a game of chicken who would win?  Who could withstand the most pain before giving up?  If you say our side you’re oblivious to recent history.

Here’s another astonishingly vacuous claim:

…Air strikes could degrade and deter Iran’s bomb program at relatively little cost or risk, and therefore are worth a try.

Where do these people come up with such lunacy?  Keep in mind this guy has a PhD from MIT.  He’s not Daniel Pipes, Michael Ledeen or David Horowitz.  Yet given the quality of his analysis he might as well be.

Lest anyone believe that the Israeli foreign ministry might’ve had a hand in penning this splendid contribution to the Iran policy debate, Kuperman raises and dismisses the suggestion that Israel attack Iran.  No, he replies.  Israel doesn’t have the military capacity.  Only we here in the U.S. can do it.

One of the op ed writer’s arguments for the U.S. taking responsibility for this matter is that a strike against Iran would deter “other would-be proliferators.”  Yeah, that worked with Pakistan and North Korea, didn’t it?  Not to mention, as our speakers did at last week’s conference that the lesson most would-be proliferators are learning is that a nation without a nuclear weapon like Iraq under Saddam fares much worse than one having such a weapon (cf., North Korea).  For the U.S. to reverse course and announce it was willing to become the world’s anti-proliferation cop replete with threats of military force, risks making a laughingstock out of us.  How could we look the world in the face after we’ve allowed so many nations to nuclearize?

I do so love statements like this which could just as easily been made by Bibi Netanyahu or any number of neocon hawks:

Eschewing force [against Iran] is tantamount to appeasement.

I’m prepared to accept that a nuclear Iran is a destabilizing force in the Middle East just as I believe that a nuclear Israel plays the same role.  But to introduce manipulative terms like “appeasement” into the debate is to debase it entirely.  Appeasement of course raises the specter of Munich and 1938 (again we’re in Bibi territory).  Were Iran to get the bomb, the world would not end.  Israel would not be destroyed.  Iran would not take over the Middle East.  These are all the fever dreams of pro-war hawks.  But not the carefully considered views of pragmatists, of whom I hope Barack Obama is one.

I can’t conclude my critique of this execrable article without quoting its ending:

We have reached the point where air strikes are the only plausible option with any prospect of preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Postponing military action merely provides Iran a window to expand, disperse and harden its nuclear facilities against attack. The sooner the United States takes action, the better.

This is the Benny Morris School of anti-Iran hysteria.  I’m certain that such garbage will not receive a serious hearing in Washington policy circles.  But as with Morris’ awful N.Y. Times op-ed on this subject, one wonders why the newspaper would publish such war-mongering propaganda.  Do the editors believe they have to appear balanced?  What is useful, interesting or innovative with regard to this piece?  To me, it only further proves the bankruptcy of neocon foreign policy options.

Alan Kuperman should take heart though: his column, which easily could’ve been ghosted for him by the MFA, certainly brought joy to the hearts of the Israeli hasbara apparatus in this country.  In fact, if Michael Oren ever gives up the ghost and Kuperman could be persuaded to accept a position at the Israeli neocon Shalem Center along with Israeli citizenship, I’m sure that Kuperman could be in the running to replace Oren as Israel’s ambassador to this country.  At the very least, the latter will be invited to Israel and feted for doing such a bang-up job representing Israel’s interests, whether intentionally or unintentionally  in the American media.

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{ 90 comments… add one }
  • Shawn December 25, 2009, 11:40 PM

    Fantastic piece!

  • Rafi December 26, 2009, 1:38 AM

    A point is bogus and at the same time true? you think Iran doesn’t have contacts in Afpac? no Persians there? no Shiits? no anti-Taliban-anti-America minded people?, you make mistakes too, glaring one even, the UN resolution is 1701, not 1707, is another one.

    If you think that when a ship filled with Iranians weapons is approaching Gaza or South Lebanon Israel should let it be, because of “international law”, that is just bizarre, defeatist, diasporic, they break 1701 and we do too, they rearm and we do too.

    You got what you wanted, a vaunted engagement with Iran, sitting at the table and trying to work things out, are you ready to call that approach a failure? when will you? i mean, the Iranians turn negotiations into a sham, a internal PR tool, publicly defying Obama, making announcements that are bogus and theatrical, stalling the process, rejecting deadlines, all the while creating new facts on the ground, and you only wakes up when someone is beating the war drum, how do you say Hasbara in Persian?

    I respect and disagree with your position, viewing the prospect of Iran with nukes, some welcome it, some are adishim, even deny it and some are willing to do everything to stop it.

    • Elisabeth December 26, 2009, 1:52 AM

      I thought that those arms shipment claims had turned out to be bogus, the latest including doctored pictures and all…

      • Rafi December 26, 2009, 3:15 AM

        i don’t know what you mean by doctored pictures, if you think that Francop was bogus then i am at a loss of words.

        • Richard Parker December 26, 2009, 1:37 PM

          Then shut up.

          See Juan Cole’s report:
          http://www.juancole.com/2009/11/20-year-old-letterhead-points-to.html

          Israel’s famed ‘intelligence’ agency, Mossad, made a cock-up by labelling the cargo wrongly:

          “Many US news outlets published the accompanying picture, which seemed to indicate that the arms were being supplied by the Ministry of the Sipah [i.e. of soldier].

          The name of that ministry was changed 20 years ago, however, to the Ministry of Defense. One Iranian journalist opined, “So this begs the question of what the emblem of a nonexistent body was doing on the cargo?”

        • Elisabeth December 27, 2009, 2:43 AM
        • Elisabeth December 27, 2009, 2:50 AM

          This is what I was referring to (from Wikipedia): After photos of the shipment was released by Israel the IRNA news agency claimed the shipping manifest from the “Ministry of Sepah” was forged citing that the Sepah ministry was renamed to “Defense Ministry” more than 20 years ago and that “if a country plans to send a secret arms cargo to another, it will not brand the shipment with a full description”.

          • Elisabeth December 27, 2009, 4:12 AM

            But this comment from the Israeli navy seems to explain the old labels: Press TV is right about the fact that the ‘Ministry of Sepah’ is now called something else. While most of the smuggled shipment was brand new (60mm, 81mm and 120mm mortar bombs, hand grenades and 107mm rockets) our Navy found those ‘Sepah’ customs labels on some old crates of ammo which were manufactured outside Iran (7.62mm bullets, 122mm rockets and 106mm anti-tank shells). We figured that they were affixed when the crates were first received by Iran years ago. We decided to release the photos since they showed that even the old munitions were sent by Iran, although they were manufactured elsewhere.

    • Mary December 26, 2009, 3:46 PM

      The word is Shiites, not shiits.

      Rafi, how can you believe in these vast conspiracies, that Iran is involved in any way with Afghanistan and Pakistan, and why would they be? And even so, why do you think they would want to blow up the world? They’re not crazy, even if they don’t share Israel’s crystalline moral ideology.

      • Richard Silverstein December 26, 2009, 9:18 PM

        Yes, & if that formulation of the word was meant purposely by the commenter as a disgusting pejorative, I’ll ban him faster than his head can spin. If it was merely a stupid mistake, it is just a garden variety error by someone who can’t be bothered to know enough about Islam to know how to spell important names such as this.

    • Richard Silverstein December 26, 2009, 8:53 PM

      Iran doesn’t have contacts in Afpac

      You don’t know anything about Iran, Pakistan or Afghanistan. Iran supported the Northern Alliance which opposed the Taliban. Pakistan founded an anti Iran terror group which attacks Iran. Pakistani Sunnis kill Shiites in Pakistan and want Iranian blood.

      Israel shouldn’t ignore Iranian arms shipments. It has a right to stop them when it finds them. But neither you nor Israel has a right to complain about Iranian misdeeds when Israel violates the same agreements w. impunity.

      Engagement w. Iran has hardly been tried. It will require a long period to test whether it works. I don’t work by deadlines that you, Israel or even Obama sets. Iran is terribly fragmented now & expecting a unified Iranian response to anything as complicated as a nuclear deal is ridiculous. There’s practically a civil war going on. Patience is what is required, which neither you, Israel nor necons are known for. But yr impatience & eagerness to shed blood in pursuit of what you define as Israel’s interests will backfire just as surely as neocon impatience backfired in Iraq.

      • Rafi December 27, 2009, 1:09 AM

        Sorry about misspelling Shiites, and i don’t think Iranian leaders are crazy or want to blow up the world.

        Iran is involved deaply in Afpak, and i don’t blame them, have you looked at the map? i am not complaining about their misdeeds out of a “rights” paradigm, i just don’t support them when they are against Israel’s interests like arming H&H and i don’t rely on the UN to stop them.

        Iran’s actions are sometimes alligned with the U.S. and sometimes opposing it, before 9/11, when Iran was backing the NA, the U.S. was not… a blanket statement that Iran is harming America in Afpak is simplistic but disregarding it entirely as false is worse.

        “Pakistan founded an anti Iran terror group which attacks Iran”

        True, but i think Jundallah is “legitimate resistance”, fighting for freedom for Balochistan-Iran and has support from Pakistan.

        You think Iranians are innocent lambs?, they don’t send their RG to Balochistan-Pakistan (and other places in Afpak) for “legitimate resistance”, sometimes against Americans as well?

        “Pakistani Sunnis kill Shiites in Pakistan and want Iranian blood”

        More Persian Hasbara, the part about Iranian blood at least.

        “Patience is what is required”

        Up until a smiling A-Jad will oversee a nuclear experiment, i’m sure. I read rumours that Iran and U.S. reached a deal about sending uranium to Turkey, so maybe negotiations worked after all.

        • Shirin December 27, 2009, 1:49 AM

          So much hasbara BS so little time!

          i don’t think Iranian leaders are crazy or want to blow up the world.

          Perhaps not, but you are all for blowing up Iran.

          And sure, Rafi, Iran is deeply involved with the virulently anti-Shi`a Taliban. Just like the viciously anti-Shi`a Zarqawi crossed the entire width of Iraq with near-mortal wounds (inflicted by the Americans, of course) on his one leg to seek refuge and medical treatment in Iran. You betcha!

          Richard: “Pakistani Sunnis kill Shiites in Pakistan and want Iranian blood”

          Rafi: “More Persian Hasbara, the part about Iranian blood at least.”

          Unlike you, Rafi, I have spent time in Pakistan, and have close ties there, so I can say with complete confidence that you have no clue what you are yapping about in regard to Pakistan including on the subject of attitudes toward Shi`as, Iran, or Iranian blood.

          There is no reason on earth that Iran should send its uranium to Turkey or anywhere else. They have every right as a sovereign state to enrich Uranium for non-weapons use.

          • Mary December 27, 2009, 6:54 AM

            I concur with Shirin. This whole “war games” mentality, that of imagining scenarios among Muslims just because they are Muslims, ignores some basic realities.

            When I first heard that silly rumor of the Taliban being involved with Iran I laughed my head off. The Taliban eat Shiaa Muslims for lunch, figuratively speaking. They consider them heretics, not allies. In any event, the typical Taliban wouldn’t know a nuclear warhead if he fell over it, much less how to use one.

            Iran is not doing anything they do not have the right to do as a sovereign nation. Ironically (and of course this has been said before), Israel’s so-called ambiguity about its possession of a nuclear arsenal (not so ambiguous at all) is not questioned, even though Israel has refused to allow inspectors into its facilities. Seeing Israel has a great propensity for military aggression, it is only logical that the world would insist on knowing the status of its nuclear weapons program, but no questions are asked. This alone should be enough to tell the average person that the whole thing is purely political and has nothing to do with security or the safety of any country.

          • Rafi December 27, 2009, 8:29 AM

            “And sure, Rafi, Iran is deeply involved with the virulently anti-Shi`a Taliban. Just like the viciously anti-Shi`a Zarqawi crossed the entire width of Iraq with near-mortal wounds (inflicted by the Americans, of course) on his one leg to seek refuge and medical treatment in Iran. You betcha”

            Not heard this Zarqawi story, what is the real deal?, i wrote about Iranian invovlement in Afpak, not the Taliban, about “anti-Taliban-anti-America minded people” that Iranians can co-opt and how “before 9/11, when Iran was backing the NA, the U.S. was not” against the Taliban, so i don’t see the point of telling me that Iran and the Taliban are enemies (wink).

            “Richard: “Pakistani Sunnis kill Shiites in Pakistan and want Iranian blood”

            Rafi: “More Persian Hasbara, the part about Iranian blood at least.”

            Unlike you, Rafi, I have spent time in Pakistan, and have close ties there, so I can say with complete confidence that you have no clue what you are yapping about in regard to Pakistan including on the subject of attitudes toward Shi`as, Iran, or Iranian blood”

            I was talking about gov/foreign policies, and my point about blood was that Richard only talked about Iranians and Shiites being kicked around by Sunnis in Afpak, not the other way around, that is partisan, blood is a loaded term.

          • Shirin December 27, 2009, 9:40 AM

            The point is, Rafi, that those who wish to vilify Iran will say just about anything, no matter how outlandish. There were numerous stories attempting to link Zarqawi with Iran, or whomever was the Iraqi Shi`a “badguy” du jour, despite the fact that Zarqawi had written volumes throughout his career making clear that one of his goals was to remove all things and all persons Shi`a from the earth and to do so as violently as possible. The story about him trekking undetected by U.S. military intelligence on his one leg and with near-mortal abdominal wounds across the entire width of Iraq to seek refuge and medical treatment in Iran was only the most ludicrously outlandish of many. (The portrayal of him as both a powerful “terrorist” – he was never much more than a small-time thug – and an Al Qa`eda operative – he was rejected by Al Qa`eda years before entering Iraq – were also pure propaganda.)

            If I misread your comment about so-called “afpak” (stupid term) as suggesting an Iran-Taliban alliance it is because U.S. and Israeli “terrorism experts” have attempted to sell us that pile of manure numerous times before now.

            Care to provide some actual support for your assertion that Sunnis in so-called “Afpak” are being kicked around by Shi`as? And while you are at it, how about some actual support for your contention that Iran is “deeply involved” in so-called “Afpak”?

          • Mary December 27, 2009, 1:54 PM

            Iran is the middle east’s boogeyman, dreamed up by the US and Israel because they fear a shift of power in the region if Iran were to develop nuclear technology to the point where they could theoretically build weapons. Both the US and Israel don’t like this possibility because it would mean Israel and the US could no longer run the show in the middle east.

            As an extension of that, some rabid fools are trying to segue Iran into the Afghanistan war by insinuating that somehow Iran is involved with the Taliban or other “insurgencies” or “terrorists” in the region. Rafi, you use the nonsensical term “Afpak” as if Afghanistan and Pakistan were under one leadership or are one single entity. Nothing could be further from the truth in that regard. Afghanistan and its Taliban have no use for “help” from an Iranian Shiaa theocracy, and neither does Pakistan, who receives plenty of US military support although the military is more loyal to Afghanistan. I fail to see how Iran would fit into the politics of the region, and I hope you can enlighten us. Otherwise, at least IMO, this “Afpak” thing you speak about is nothing but a fantasy dreamed up by neocons with too much time on their hands.

        • Richard Silverstein December 27, 2009, 7:26 PM

          Iran is involved deaply in Afpak

          I have no idea what this statement means. Iran lives in the region so of course it’s as involved in regional affairs as any major power like the U.S. would be in its own. But that does NOT mean that its engagement with its region is all toxic or inimical to U.S. interests. You haven’t come anywhere near proving this is this is what your thesis is. So I’m giving a warning. This blog & comment threads are evidence-based. If you don’t provide the evidence you can’t make the claim. As far as I’m concerned if you make this claim again you’re operating in bad faith & I will act accordingly in terms of yr rights & privileges here.

          As far as Iran’s involvement with Hamas or Hezbollah, in case you hadn’t noticed, neither is in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area & so don’t fit your claim for their being bad actors in that zone.

          You say that Jundallah is legitimate resistance. Iran says otherwise. If you can say that Jundallah is legitimate resistance then certainly Iran or the Palestinians can say that Hamas is legitimate resistance. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, after all.

          I have never heard that Iran acted against Americans in Pakistan. I’d like to see you provide some evidence if you can.

          Do you deny that there are Sunni extremists in Pakistan who hate Iran and foment violence against it? If so, you’re even more ignorant and blind than I thought.

          • Rafi December 28, 2009, 3:50 AM

            “Shirin: Care to provide some actual support for your assertion that Sunnis in so-called “Afpak” are being kicked around by Shi`as?”

            Ask Richard, he brought it up.

            “Richard: Do you deny that there are Sunni extremists in Pakistan who hate Iran and foment violence against it? If so, you’re even more ignorant and blind than I thought.”

            I replied to what you wrote as “True” and added later that “they want Iranian blood” is a loaded, inflammatory remark, you don’t read comments that are on the same Sharsheret?.

            “Mary: you use the nonsensical term “Afpak” as if Afghanistan and Pakistan were under one leadership or are one single entity. Nothing could be further from the truth in that regard.”

            I agree that they are not one, but i use Afpak as a shortcut to Afghanistan and Pakistan, no generalities, no insinuations.

            “Richard: But that does NOT mean that its engagement with its region is all toxic or inimical to U.S. interests . You haven’t come anywhere near proving this is this is what your thesis is.”

            Rafi: Iran’s actions are sometimes aligned with the U.S. and sometimes opposing it… a blanket statement that Iran is harming America in Afpak is simplistic but disregarding it entirely as false is worse”

            Hmmmm… how could you not understand what my thesis is? maybe i should use caps? again, Iran’s engagement with its region (to all directions) is sometime for and sometime against America, if you think all of their engagement with Afpak today is aligned with America, then you’re naive.

            “Richard: This blog & comment threads are evidence-based… I have never heard that Iran acted against Americans in Pakistan. I’d like to see you provide some evidence if you can”

            I see how you are quick to ask “proof”, when that doesn’t suit your idealism that is. and every Israeli or American or whatever source (like this one
            http://www.rferl.org/content/Afghan_Official_Says_Taliban_Gets_Support_From_Inside_Iran/1894595.html) would be brushed aside, “neoconised” propaganda, you know, hear no evil and ban the messenger.

            I guess it’s too ignorant to think Iran is doing to Pakistan what Pakistan is doing to Iran, right? or that Iranian forces will cross border and stimulate anti-Americanism activity in Afpak, those nice people at the Revolutionary Guards.

            Another “proof” that Iran and Pakistan are volatile, and America is in the middle:

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/19/iran-blames-west-suicide-bomb

          • Richard Silverstein December 28, 2009, 2:45 PM

            The report you link to about alleged Iranian support for the Taliban is published by Radio Free Europe, a highly partisan source. The claim is made by a single Afghan provincial administrator & no tangible proof is offered other than his word. I’d say this rpt. is highly speculative at best. I’m not totally discounting it. But given the past history of enormous animosity bet. Iran & the Taliban, this single story proves nothing. But I will commend you as far as actually finally providing a single source to support this one claim. Now, if you could just do this every time you want to make such speculative claims, you wouldn’t get any lectures fr. me about evidence-based blogging.

          • Gene Schulman December 28, 2009, 9:50 PM

            Richard, I hope this last comment is not addressed to me, for I never made such a claim that there is a link bet. Iran and the Taliban.

          • Richard Silverstein December 28, 2009, 9:54 PM

            No, no of course not. I’m sorry if you felt it was. A few of our anti-Iran/pro Israel commenters have attempted to posit an alliance bet Iran & the Taliban.

          • Shirin December 29, 2009, 12:11 AM

            Shirin: “Care to provide some actual support for your assertion that Sunnis in so-called “Afpak” are being kicked around by Shi`as?

            Rafi: “Ask Richard, he brought it up.

            Ummmmm, no, actually, YOU did: “Richard only talked about Iranians and Shiites being kicked around by Sunnis in Afpak, not the other way around…“. Richard has never suggested that Sunnis are being kicked around by Shi`as, but you clearly have. So, I repeat: Would you care to provide some actual support for this assertion?

            And by the way the phrase “in afpak” is completely nonsensical since there is no such entity as afpak. I am sure you think you are making yourself sound knowledgeable and “with it” by mimicking that stupid term, but you really just make yourself look pathetically over-eager.

          • Richard Silverstein December 29, 2009, 5:56 PM

            Afpak sounds like some sort of U.S. military acronym. Can we retire it here?

          • Shirin December 29, 2009, 6:20 PM

            That is exactly what it is. Well, not an acronym, but a military contraction/combination. Most annoying, especially when some smart ass uses it in order to appear they are “in the know”.

          • Mary December 29, 2009, 7:39 AM

            “Afpak” is a nonsensical term, and using it lumps two distinctively separate countries into a single entity, which is inherently inaccurate. It’s also annoying, to be honest. If you’re too lazy to type “Afghanistan,” for example, just use AF.

            In both Afghanistan and Pakistan the Shiaa Muslims are a minority. In Afghanistan they tend to be poor, but historically, in Pakistan there were always wealthy Shiaa Muslims. Even today, the Shiaa are the principal landholders in Pakistan. However, they are still harassed and persecuted by extremist Sunnis.

  • Elisabeth December 26, 2009, 1:39 AM

    This op ed is so terrible that you should get the NYT to publish your rebuttal of it. Of course the Israeli foreign ministry will love this piece because for them to have the US attack Iran for them would be a dream come true. I think Iraq has taught every nation in the region that having no nuclear bomb can put you at a serious risk of being attacked, which is extremely sad.

  • Gene Schulman December 26, 2009, 7:50 AM

    I did rebut the op-ed piece in a letter to the NYT the same day (with a copy to Richard). They didn’t even acknowledge receipt of my letter, as is their wont via “automated reply”.

    The same when the article was published in today’s IHT.

    My main criticism was that the piece could have been lifted verbatum from an AJC newsletter. It has become obvious that the NYT has become a propaganda organ of AIPAC and the rest of the neocon Israel lobby gang.

    Rafi’s garbage is not worthy of the dignity of a reply.

    • Mary December 26, 2009, 3:50 PM

      The IHT is owned by the NY Times. That is why you received no response from them.

  • Pea December 26, 2009, 8:40 AM

    “I’m prepared to accept that a nuclear Iran is a destabilizing force in the Middle East just as I believe that a nuclear Israel plays the same role.”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t recall anyone with authority in Israel threatening the existence of any country in the Middle East. I don’t mean that as a rejoinder of any kind. I’d just like an explanation.

    • Mary December 26, 2009, 3:53 PM

      Israel threatens Iran’s existence with threats of attack should it acquire a nuclear weapons program.

      On a daily basis, Israel is a clear threat to Palestine.

      • Shirin December 26, 2009, 8:34 PM

        Israel threatens Iran’s existence with threats of attack should it acquire a nuclear weapons program.

        My understanding is that Israel threatens to attack Iran without giving it a chance to acquire a nuclear weapons program. I believe the threat is to attack Iran for continuing its nuclear program with or without any evidence of nuclear-weapons-related activities.

        • Mary December 27, 2009, 8:21 AM

          You’re right, Shirin. Israel threatens Iran with attack because of what it fears Iran might do. This is why the whole thing is so outrageous. It’s been trying to sell this fear for years now, and has had some degree of success, especially among the neocons in the US. I personally am not convinced of any threat coming from Iran. However, I find Israel and its policies to be the greatest threat to world peace, and I wish something could be done about it.

          • Warren December 27, 2009, 12:36 PM

            This is what’s so disturbing about Rafi’s mentality. The security of Iran and Iranians doesn’t even enter the picture. For Israel supremacists like him, the security of the Jewish state (or more accurately, the elimination of theoretical future threats to the state of Israel) is orders of magnitude more important than the security or physical well-being of anyone else, of any other nation or people in the region. If you strip this thinking down, what you’re left with is plain old fashioned racism and ethnic supremacism.

            The unbearable, unthinkable ethical truth for Israel supremacists is that other people, other human beings, merit ‘security’ to no less an extent than Jewish people. Other states have just as much right to ‘national security’ as does Israel. Israel is the nation regularly threatening Iran with physical attack, not the other way around. But in hasbara central, night is day, black is white, the sky is red and so on…

          • Mary December 27, 2009, 2:03 PM

            Well said, Warren. The imagined threat Israel sees coming from Iran isn’t new, and they’ve been pushing for a confrontation since before the US invaded Iraq. The Israeli mentality is sociopathic, self-centered and a bit nihilistic.

          • Guy December 27, 2009, 2:08 PM

            This is what’s so disturbing about Warren’s mentality. The security of Israel and Israelis doesn’t even enter the picture. For Iranian regime supremacists like him, the security of the Iranian regime (or more accurately, the elimination of theoretical future threats to the regime of Iran) is orders of magnitude more important than the security or physical well-being of anyone else, of any other nation or people in the region. If you strip this thinking down, what you’re left with is plain old fashioned racism and ethnic supremacism.

            The unbearable, unthinkable ethical truth for the Iranian regime supremacists is that other people, other human beings, merit ’security’ to no less an extent than the Iranian despots. Other states have just as much right to ‘national security’ as does Iran. Iran is the nation regularly physically attacking Israel, not the other way around. But in anti-Israel central, night is day, black is white, the sky is red and so on…

          • Richard Silverstein December 27, 2009, 7:46 PM

            Yes, well, that’s all very cute Guy, but I’m afraid it’s nonsensical. Warren is not an Iran supremacist as you are someone who considers Israel’s interests & security as a value in & of itself & superior to any other nations’. Actually, Warren views Iran’s interests & Israel’s as pertinent, but gives neither supremacy. Is that what threatens you about his values & others of us who agree w. him?

          • Guy December 27, 2009, 9:09 PM

            Well. Warren at the very least was jumping to conclusions.

            If Warren et al. can give me any indication they are critical of anything the Iranian regime does then maybe we can find some common ground. So far that side of the discussion seems intent on showing us what saints the Iranian leaders are.

            Warren also attacks Rafi personally and generalizes to place Rafi as part of some bigger conspiracy. If Rafi is wrong in his facts – provide references to show that. If you disagree with his opinions – debate them. In my experience, Israelis are a non-PC, know-it-all, kind of people but for the most part you can still debate and convince them to change their opinion.

            Attacking the nuclear capabilities of Iran resulting in hurt for the Iranian people is also theoretical. I tend to agree with that theory but others may not and that is legitimate. E.g. Israel’s attack on the nuclear facilities in Syria and Iraq did not (AFAIK but open to be convinced otherwise) directly inflict terrible pains on those people. The impact on Iranians is surely a huge consideration in this sort of decision by the USA (which is probably why it won’t happen).

            As they say nothing in life is certain except death and income tax. We deal with probabilities all the time. What is the probability of certain events occurring. We make decisions based on theoretical outcomes and the probability we assign to them. At least if we’re logical thinkers we do. So Warren’s use of the concept of “theoretical threat” is nonsense. The threat of the Iranian nuclear bomb is theoretical and the threat of a US attack on Iran is also theoretical as are the outcomes.
            Warren tries to present the threat to Israel as theoretical while he describes the consequences for Iranians as absolute certainty. Rhetoric.

            It is unfair to criticize someone for placing his own life above the life of his foe. Any normal person would do that. It doesn’t make them a “supremacist” (and I find the use of that term deplorable). Let’s reserve that term to people like the KKK.

            I don’t know that Israelis discriminate against Persians in any way. So that entire line of racism argument is ridiculous.

            With any luck the regime will be overthrown and the issue will resolve itself without any external involvement.

          • Mary December 28, 2009, 6:39 AM

            Guy, the problem with the pro-Israel arguments here is that they are not based on fact or logic, but on a kind of exceptionalism that is actually quite illogical. If you go back and read Rafi’s assertions, he does not back up anything he says with facts but instead does little more than promote a fearmongering “what if, what if” argument.

            There is not an ounce of logic to justify attacking Iran. Period. You may not like Ahmadinejhad’s big mouth but that doesn’t justify the killing of civilians and possibly starting World War III because of your endless and nonsensical handwringing over Iran’s nuclear program. Equally ridiculous is the implication that it is OK to attack this country because its regime is “tyrannical.” It is not, and should not be, the decision of a foreign country to take out a government of another country based on a desire to control the region, which is what is being implied here. The US did it in Iraq; it is a terrible, terrible crime which should be addressed in the ICC.

            One more thing – if you look at Iran objectively, you will not see any particular threat, but if you look at Israel, you may see a rogue state that has a history of overreacting in a security situation, has a truly abysmal human rights record, engages in duplicity and subterfuge, and even spies on its allies. I still say that Israel is the middle east’s loose cannon, and unless it is dealt with firmly, Israel may end up being the cause of World War III.

          • Gene Schulman December 28, 2009, 9:15 AM

            Bravo, Mary. But don’t forget, Israel is not in this alone. They are a surrogate for US hegemony in the region. And so long as the they are useful to US policy, they will continue on this path.

            I urge everyone to have a peek at the Chris Hedges video on the Gaza “war”. http://www.commondreams.org. He connects the dots.

          • Mary December 28, 2009, 10:01 AM

            Israel is the US’ proxy in the middle east, a huge quasi-military base and a so-called example of democracy. What a lot of hooey. I still say they’re a loose cannon, especially when both Dubya Bush and Obama have proven themselves to be reluctant to rein in the neighborhood bully when it performs acts of gratuitious violence on its neighbors. By the same token, Israel has no qualms aout spying on the US or its allies and acting on its own whims without any thought to long term consequences.

            Chris Hedges is one of the few clear and intelligent voices in the media speaking truth to power. It would do everyone well to read everything he writes. I’m one of his most loyal admirers.

          • Gene Schulman December 28, 2009, 11:28 AM

            You’re rather fuzzy there, Mary. Is that a nod of agreement or a refutation? US will let Israel get away with what they want, so long as it is also in US interests. Don’t let US hasbara (I just learned what that means) dissuade you otherwise.

            Re Hedges, it’s not a matter of loyalty, it’s merely that he is one of best and bravest. I fear the day when the crackdown on dissident journalism arrives. He’ll be one of the first, like those he mentioned in his talk.

          • Mary December 28, 2009, 1:03 PM

            I don’t think I was fuzzy at all, Gene, just stating the obvious. It is a popular assumption in the US that the “special relationship” shared with Israel is based on common political and military goals, which it is, but only in part. Because the pro-Israel Zionists exert so much power in Washington, the US turns a blind eye to Israel’s antics, whether they’re capturing a fake shipment of Iranian ordance or slaughtering innocent people in Gaza.

            Hedges is a courageous man; he is one of the few journalists in the US who remains true to his craft. I recommend all his books, especially his last one, “Empire of Illusion.” I feel that there already is a crackdown on journalists; they have been pressured by their publishers not to write the truth. It seems that for every article written from a Palestinian perspective, there are fifty supporting Israel. The record doesn’t appear to be much better as it concerns Iran.

            I don’t think the US has any legitimate interests in what Israel does, especially since Netanyahu came to power. Whenever Netanyahu does anything that is counterproductive to achieving peace, the US will voice a weak objection and then back down altogether. An iron wall is under construction at the Rafah crossing, paid for by George Bush’s handy pen just hours before he left office. If Israel wanted to put an iron wall around the entire Gaza Strip, and allow the Gazans to starve to death faster than they’re already doing, do you think the US would agree to it? I do, and I think they’d even pay for it. Even though there’s nothing in it for us.

          • Gene Schulman December 28, 2009, 1:49 PM

            One last comment. The pro-Israel Zionists make up a good portion of the neocon ideology which is connected to the overall oligarchy. They do not want peace in the region. It is in the interests of US policy that Israel helps to perpetuate unrest and war. Thus the US supports Israel in all its endeavors. Israel reciprocates.

          • Mary December 29, 2009, 7:44 AM

            Well said, Gene. In other words, one hand washes the other.

          • Richard Silverstein December 28, 2009, 2:32 PM

            If Warren et al. can give me any indication they are critical of anything the Iranian regime does

            Guy, you’re not even passing the sniff test here. Of course any reasonable person is critical of many things the Iranian regime does. But that’s not what you’re after. You’re after full-throated condemnation of the entire regime & everything it does & stands for. And you’re just not going to get that fr. Warren or any reasonable person (certainly not here anyway).

            If Rafi is wrong in his facts – provide references to show that.

            But that’s precisely the problem w. Rafi & you sometimes. He doesn’t produce facts or evidence. He produces opinions largely unsupported by facts. I do not generally waste much of my time refuting unsupported claims by people such as Rafi. Tell him to provide proof & then we can engage with his views.

          • Guy December 29, 2009, 5:10 PM

            I see little proof supporting the other viewpoints. There’s a lot of “if you look objectively” kind of argument and theories about WW III (just on my screen now).

            My main issue however was with the line of argument that criticizes the option for use of force against Iran by defending its regime. e.g. the regime did not really threaten Israel because it spoke about some hypothetical future where Israel doesn’t exist (nudge nudge, wink wink) the labeling on weapon boxes or some other technicality. I.e. because the regime is so nice hence xxx. The other questionable line of argument is the Iranian regime is nicer than the Israeli “regime” hence xxx.

            Because of Iran’s track record, closure to media, censorship and zero transparency, the burden of proof is on them to show their intentions are as noble as some claim.

          • Guy December 29, 2009, 5:13 PM

            I thought I did hit reply on the correct item. I was replying to Richard’s point above about me passing the sniff test.

          • Mary December 29, 2009, 5:55 PM

            “Because of Iran’s track record, closure to media, censorship and zero transparency, the burden of proof is on them to show their intentions are as noble as some claim.”

            Zero transparency? In what sense? Did they not allow inspectors into their facilities? On the other hand, has Israel allowed weapons inspectors to peruse their nuclear weapons program?

            Track record? Please elaborate on that. And explain “closure to media” having anything to do with why they’re a potential target for military aggression.

            Guy, you seem to think Iran needs to prove its innocence, and until it does, it is somehow “guilty” and fair game for an attack by Israel. This is just plain outrageous thinking. Why do they have to “show their intentions are noble,” when they have the right to develop a nuclear weapons program? Did Israel indicate its intentions? No, it developed its program in secret and got away with it. And it is one heck of an ignoble rogue state.

          • Guy December 29, 2009, 6:31 PM

            Just a few links to show Iran’s “open access” policy:
            http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8397767.stm
            http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/19/iran-nuclear-watchdog-united-nations
            http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/16/iran-nuclear-united-nations-report

            My note was general, not limited to their nuclear program.

            By track record I refer to all the acts committed by the Iranian regime since its inception. If I referenced all of those this post would be rejected as spam. You know what I’m talking about. The same acts that Warren references and those we witness these very days.

            Closure to media is relevant because it shows they have something to hide. If you have nothing to hide you have no problem with the media reporting freely.

            I don’t understand why you keep dragging Israel into this. Even if Israel did not exist I would still make the same argument. We are discussing Iran here.

            So I maintain that the Iranian’s regime secrecy and their past actions are relevant factors in the world’s dealing with them. What I did not say (or imply) that this by itself is enough to warrant the use of force. I’m just saying I’m not willing to take their statements at face value. I.e. I don’t trust them and I can’t imagine why anyone else would.

            I also don’t see why they have the “right” to develop nuclear weapons, i.e. it is not some sort of basic human right in my opinion.

          • Mary December 30, 2009, 6:45 AM

            If I had my way, no country would have the right to develop nuclear weapons. But hey, since when was it up to you and me? And I hate to keep on dragging Israel into it, but they developed a secret nuclear program, didn’t they?

            And during the attack on Gaza last winter, they imposed a media blackout where foreign journalists were not allowed in or out of Gaza. “Closure to media is relevant because it shows they have something to hide. If you have nothing to hide you have no problem with the media reporting freely.” Israel is, however, far from being the only country who, shall we say, takes an active interest in how it is portrayed in the media, but it made a Herculean effort to prevent photos of the carnage of Operation Cast Lead, and accompanying eyewitness accounts, from reaching the world.

            Still, what you are saying sounds suspiciously like a desire to make attacking Iran a big probability. Just because you don’t like them and don’t “trust” them, whatever that means. Other than their squabble with Iraq recently, they have not exhibited aggression towards any other nation.

          • Shirin December 28, 2009, 5:34 PM

            “If Rafi is wrong in his facts – provide references to show that.

            That’s not how it works, Guy. The person who makes a claim is responsible for supporting it. It is not up to those who disagree to prove him wrong.

            Israel’s attack on the nuclear facilities in Syria…

            What nuclear facilities of Syria? You mean that isolated, completely unguarded, unfenced building with no water source anywhere near it that the Israelis bombed and CLAIMED, rather lamely, was a nuclear facility? Right.

          • Shirin December 29, 2009, 12:44 AM

            Attacking the nuclear capabilities of Iran resulting in hurt for the Iranian people is also theoretical.

            That attacking the nuclear capabilities of Iran is an act of aggression, and therefore the ultimate war crime is not at all theoretical. Neither is the fact that Iran has a right to defend itself if attacked.

            The impact on Iranians is surely a huge consideration in this sort of decision by the USA (which is probably why it won’t happen).

            That would be hilariously funny if it had not been proven so many times and so tragically to be so very, very wrong.

            As they say nothing in life is certain except death and income tax” blahblahblah “We deal with probabilities all the time. blahblahblah “What is the probability of certain events occurring.” blahblahblah

            Do you think this kind of empty, mindless blahblahblah makes you sound like an intellectual? It doesn’t. It makes you sound like a fool.

            Warren tries to present the threat to Israel as theoretical while he describes the consequences for Iranians as absolute certainty.

            The supposed “threat to Israel” is, at very best, not theoretical, but extremely speculative given that 1) there is no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons or plans to in the foreseeable future, 2) Iran has not attacked another country in nearly 300 years, and there are no signs it intends to break that trend, 3) only one country has ever used nuclear weapons against another, and traditionally nuclear weapons have been developed and maintained as a deterrent only. In contrast, that there will be negative consequences for the inhabitants of any country that is attacked by another country is for all practical purposes a certainty based on historical experience.

            I don’t know that Israelis discriminate against Persians in any way. So that entire line of racism argument is ridiculous.

            It is your statement that is ridiculous. What opportunity do Israelis have to either discriminate against Persians or treat them fairly? Other that, of course, Persian Jews living in Israel whom European Israelis most certanly have discriminated against as they have all non-European Jews. But that aside, it is not necessary to actively discriminate against members of a particular group in order to be racist against them.

          • Guy December 27, 2009, 2:14 PM

            Just ridiculing the rhetoric. Why proponents of human rights are so anxious to protect and justify the current Iranian regime is beyond my imagination.

    • Shirin December 26, 2009, 8:30 PM

      I don’t recall anyone with authority in Israel threatening the existence of any country in the Middle East.

      Are you SERIOUS?! Israel has threatened Iran with nuclear annihilation if it doesn’t stop its perfectly legal nuclear development program. While Palestine does not constitute a country in the sense of a state, Israel certainly has done far more than threaten its continued existence as an entity, including attempting to wipe out its very history and deny that there is a Palestinian identity; and taking steps designed to result eventually in the dispersion and loss of the Palestinian people. Ben Gurion’s prediction that “the old will die, and the young will forget” was a reflection of just such a goal.

    • Richard Silverstein December 26, 2009, 8:57 PM

      Surely you jest. Israeli gov’t ministers have threatened to attack Iran so many times I’ve lost count. Don’t you read Haaretz? Israel has also threatened to send Lebanon back to the Stone Age in 2006. How is that different than an Iranian ayatollah saying in 1978 that he’d like Israel to disappear from history??

      • Shirin December 26, 2009, 9:14 PM

        How is that different than an Iranian ayatollah saying in 1978 that he’d like Israel to disappear from history??

        It’s VERY different. Ayatullah Khomeini did not make any kind of threat against Israel or even suggest that any Israeli Jew should suffer any injury, let alone death and destruction. He stated that the Zionist regime in Jerusalem should disappear from the pages of history. That implies no destructive action on anyone’s part, including Iran’s. Instead what it implies is a natural evolution. Israeli governments, on the other hand, have habitually – you might say addictively – wrought massive deadly destruction on Palestinians, in Lebanon, Syrian territory (the Golan Heights) and elsewhere throughout Israel’s history, and have explicitly threatened that and worse against Iran.

    • hass December 27, 2009, 12:05 AM

      The “threat” is inherent in the possession of the nukes and needs no further elaboration.

      • Mary December 27, 2009, 8:23 AM

        Is the “threat” dependent upon who possesses the nukes? It should not be.

      • Richard Silverstein December 27, 2009, 7:18 PM

        So then you’d be willing to concede that any nation, including Israel that possesses nuclear weapons poses a threat at least to regional, if not global peace??

  • Gene Schulman December 26, 2009, 11:45 AM

    Dear Pea,

    Surely you’re joking. Every day some one in Israeli authority threatens to bomb Iran: Netanyahu, Lieberman, Benny Morris……….

    Of course, Palestine is not a country. Lebanon is not a country.

  • DICKERSON3870 December 26, 2009, 12:03 PM

    I once loved the NYT, but now I look forward to the possibility that some day it will ‘go under’ (hopefully not ‘down under’). The only recent thing I can credit them for is the 2007 resale by Tishman Speyer Properties of the old New York Times (15 story) Building to Lev Leviev (Africa-Israel diamond magnate & builder of illegal settlements in Judea/Samaria) at the height of the real estate bubble (for three times what the NYT sold it for in 2004). The building (along with others) has lost so much in value since Leviev’s 2007 purchase, that his empire is now on the verge of bankruptcy. Well done, NYT (and Tishman Speyer)!

    P.S. FROM WIKIPEDIA: …New York Magazine reported in 2007 that a security company hired by Leviev [at his Angolan mines] had been accused by a local human rights group that year “of participating in practices of ‘humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations.’[12] Leviev did not directly respond to the charges, but noted his charitable activities in Angola.[13]…
    SOURCE – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Leviev

  • Guy December 26, 2009, 1:40 PM

    Some references to the relevant security council resolutions:
    Security Council Resolution 1696 for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment:
    http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8792.doc.htm

    Security Council Resolution 1737 sanctions against Iran for failing to stop enrichment:
    http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8928.doc.htm

    So the UN has demanded that Iran cease to enrich and since Natanz is an enrichment site ( http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Board/2008/gov2008-38.pdf ) that includes stopping enrichment at that site.

    This out of the way I have to say it seems that bombing Iran will not help. Even the author of the op-ed acknowledges the chance of success are slim. What he’s missing is the rain of large missiles Iran is likely to shower on Israel as a result of that attack as they try, like Iraq tried, to turn this into Israel vs. the Muslim world. Perhaps the author simply does not care and is solely focused on US interests even if that includes the sacrifice of some Israeli.

    Similar strategies in the past have had poor results and the US has a very poor track record there. If anyone could botch it they would. It could strengthen the religious regime’s stranglehold on the Iranian people.

    Whatever strategy used, including those involving use of force, should be centered on disabling the current regime rather than its nuclear weapons capabilities.

  • The Hasbara Buster December 26, 2009, 10:26 PM

    Richard, please reword your critique.

    Iran was actually required to suspend its unranium-enrichment program under UNSC resolution 1696. When it failed to, UNSCR 1737 was passed, imposing sanctions on the country.

    I can understand why you find this illogical: it would seem to conflict with the NPT whereby Iran is entitled to enrich uranium. Actually, there’s no conflict, since UN resolutions prevail –according to the UN Charter– over other treaties and agreements.

    However, it has been pointed out that Iran’s right to enrichment does not derive solely from the NPT. Actually, the right to nuclear power is a sovereign right independent of any treaty. The NPT merely recognizes this right — it does not grant it.

    Since UNSC resolutions don’t trump sovereign rights, Res. 1696 is non-binding. See here for a more detailed discussion.

    As a minor detail, you should give Kuperman’s full name in the first paragraph, before mentioning him by his last name in the third paragraph.

    • Richard Silverstein December 26, 2009, 11:31 PM

      I’m not physically in a place where it’s easy for me to re-edit this post nor do I have enough time to do so promptly. But I will. I should note that Kuperman claims the UN demanded that Iran “halt” nuclear enrichment. Actually, the UN demanded that Iran SUSPEND enrichment, which sounds like almost the same thing, but isn’t. “Halt” denotes stopping and offers no prospect of restarting. “Suspend” is clearly a different kettle of fish entirely since it connotes a restrarting of the enrichment program.

      Israel of course demands that Iran end its enrichment program entirely, which is neither in the cards, nor a demand that corresponds to any other governments’ position nor the UN’s.

  • Gene Schulman December 27, 2009, 11:27 AM

    Richard, the thread of comments keeps jumping all over the place from date to date, making it difficult to follow who said what to whom. They certainly not in chronological order.

    Anyhow, Kuperman’s op-ed piece was full of c—. And my letter to NYT raised the hackles of David Harris, which was my intention (see my cc to you).

    • Richard Silverstein December 27, 2009, 7:35 PM

      Yes, they jump around because comments are not only displayed chronologically but according to which comment you’re replying to. So if you don’t want to reply to someone & just want to be listed chronologically you press “reply to post” or whatever the text is for that button under the last paragraph of the post. If you’re replying to a specific comment then click Reply under that particular comment.

      • Gene Schulman December 28, 2009, 1:14 AM

        Thanks. That hadn’t occurred to me. Will remember in future, so I can talk to Mary and ignore Rafi.

        Happy New Year, everyone.

        • Mary December 28, 2009, 6:25 AM

          Happy New Year, Gene!

  • Guy December 27, 2009, 6:59 PM

    Richard, what is your take on the latest news from Iran?

    Is this article already “old news”?
    Will we see the mullah regime fall shortly? To be replaced by what?
    What would be the impact on the region?

    I have this “fall of the Berlin wall” feeling here.

    • Richard Silverstein December 27, 2009, 7:49 PM

      Not so fast. The regime is threatened but it is quite capable of administering angry violent blows & preserving its power at least for some time to come. Though the more violence, the closer we come to the end.

      If the reformers eventually come to power then I think Iran will end up doing the right thing most of the time regarding its foreign policy. I think the reformers are much less interested in supporting misadventures in Lebanon & Palestine. And their new priorities will make it easier to resolve the Israeli Arab conflict, AS LONG AS Israel can be prodded into a more forthcoming position (no mean feat considering the intransigence so evident fr. its policymakers).

  • Zhu Bajie December 28, 2009, 3:01 AM

    Afghans are not Shi’ites, in general. Certainly neither Tajiks (Persian speakers) nor Pushtuns (the largest ethnos, and source of the Taliban) are Shi’ite. Hazaras historically are Shi’ite, but they are Turks.

    The Islamic Republic was NOT friendly to the Taliban! They were so unfriendly that they actually helped the US invasion!

  • Zhu Bajie December 28, 2009, 3:04 AM

    Something that does not come up much, but Isphahan is one of the great artistic cities of the world. Nuking Isphahan to destroy supposed Iranians WMD would be like nuking Venice or Florence: a crime against art.

    Not that the average “nuke’m” proponent cares much about art, I imagine.

  • Warren December 28, 2009, 12:10 PM

    Guy, you’re completely loopy. Its seems that my relatively short comment rattled you. It’s unfortunate you deem my comment mere ‘rhetoric’, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it, I figured it was clear-headed probing insight. However, if you think it’s clever to just copy my comment (you appear rather obsessed with it and myself) and invert the Israel & Iran tags, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. For one, I’m certainly not calling for an attack by anyone on Israel (I find such a notion and prospect abhorrent) as Rafi has spoken in favor of an attack on Iran in previous threads in the event that Iran is deemed to be close to developing its own nuclear power and/or weapon capability.

    Also, your contention that I am defending the Iranian regime and in favor of it is ludicrous. Nowhere in this blog do I express anything remotely like that. In fact, I find the Iranian regime barbaric and repellent. The Iranian people deserve so much better than their current leaders. Empiricism and reality correspondence are clearly not your bag. I’m assuming you’re the same Guy who exhibited such a tortuous relationship with the English language some while back? Perhaps that’s why you felt compelled to copy my comment wholesale? I think Israeli Jews, Palestinians, Lebanese, Iranians, Americans, the French, all have a fundamental right to security and freedom, one nation does not have more of that right than another.

    My comment was directed at someone who evidently, based on his previous warmongering comments, does not share in my (and others on this blog’s) universalist values. I’m against anyone attacking either Iran or Israel. It’s just a different sensibility. I believe in the univeral & sacred value of human life. The warmongers targeting Iran clearly do not, for them, the human life of certain peoples is intrinsically more valuable than the human life of other peoples, in this case Israeli vs. Iranian. That’s plain old murderous racism, and I’m against it. That was the point of my comment, which apparently eluded you.

    BTW, there’s no compelling evidence Iran has a nuclear weapons program. Israel is nuclear-armed to the teeth and a regional military behemoth; Iran poses no exisential threat to Israel, but Israel sure does toward Iran. Hence my usage of the term ‘theoretical’ regarding the alleged Iranian threat. Also, Israel is the country whose leaders regularly invoke the necessity of attacking Iran and they have been building up pressure and laying the groundwork in both Israel and the U.S. to rationalize just such a murderous action. Iran has not indicated any plans or intention of physically attacking Israel.

    But again, your already demonstrated dim grasp of the language on this blog perhaps makes it difficult for you to process these essential distinctions…

    (Maybe if you could just engage people’s points rather than copying and mimicking their writing like some sort of demented parrot… just a thought… granted, we don’t want you to strain your neural synapses past the breaking point…)

    • Guy December 29, 2009, 4:48 PM

      If you there is some previous exchange between you and Rafi that supports your points please provide a reference. You can’t expect someone reading this thread to know about those. I guess you guys are old friends.

      I didn’t see any probing insight in your comment but that’s just the limit of my neural synapses. If I may contribute an insight of my own (while trying not to strain my synapses) personal attacks on people you disagree with seem to be OK with the universal values you support.

      I don’t think I’m the same Guy you’re speaking of. Can we have some references? Assumptions seem to be a universal value as well :-)

      I’m happy to hear a clear condemnation of the Iranian regime and support for Israel’s right to security. I would like everyone to live happily ever after but I also realize that our moral reality sometimes involves some people getting hurt to prevent them from hurting yourself or others.

      While I don’t necessarily share all your values I do share the conclusion which is that an attack on Iran right now is foolish simply because of its high likelihood of failing and the chances of a negative (possibly unintended) consequences.

      I think Israel’s policy so far has been to portrait the issue a nuclear Iran as a global issue and to convince the global community to take some sort of action to prevent that.

      While we’ve certainly seen a build up of pressure the goal of this pressure is for Iran to cease it’s Uranium enrichment (which I don’t see as some sort of universal right).

      I don’t think the Iranian regime should be immune from outside use of force because it is hiding behind the concept of a “state”. FWIW I will apply the same principles to Israel.

      It’s similar to the moral and legal principles that guide us in day to day life, if someone commits a crime the police may use force to arrest him and deprive him or her of their civil rights.

      • Richard Silverstein December 29, 2009, 6:08 PM

        I think Israel’s policy so far has been to portrait the issue a nuclear Iran as a global issue and to convince the global community to take some sort of action to prevent that.

        Not exactly, they have a 2 pronged strategy. One prong is the one you mentioned. But the 2nd suggests Israel will go it alone & attack Iran itself at some undetermined pt in the not too distant future. Of course, the beauty of the first prong is that it lays the groundwork for prong 2 should Israel ever choose to pursue it.

        the goal of this pressure is for Iran to cease it’s Uranium enrichment (which I don’t see as some sort of universal right).

        Actually, it is according to the UN Charter. All nations have the right to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

        I will apply the same principles to Israel.

        You’d accept the outside use of force against Israel??? Really.

        • Guy December 29, 2009, 6:42 PM

          Even if the UN Charter specifies it *I* don’t see it as a basic universal right.

          Richard> You’d accept the outside use of force against Israel??? Really.

          Under certain hypothetical circumstances, yes. I can give some examples if you wish to explore this.

          • Richard Silverstein December 30, 2009, 2:00 AM

            The UN Charter is an internationally accepted arbiter of universal rights of nations. It disagrees with you.

          • Guy December 31, 2009, 12:02 PM

            I’m really more concerned about people than nations and about moral principles than political documents. Nations are part of the problem and perhaps should not be part of the solution. But I digress.

            At any rate, for my education, which chapter/article of the UN Charter discusses the basic rights for Uranium enrichment?

      • Warren December 29, 2009, 7:46 PM

        Guy, you can look back over the threads to find Rafi’s declared support for an attack on Iran in the event that Iran is feared close to developing its own nuclear power. I’m under no obligation to find the reference for you. Others here can attest to his position on the issue. If I’ve mistaken you for a commenter some time back who didn’t know the word “catholic” and it led to comic consequences, then my apologies, I somehow remember his name being “Guy’, too, but could be mistaken.

        As for personal attacks, get a grip, bub. As they say, if you can’t stand the heat… and if you’re going to morally rationalize preventive war, you’re not going to find much sympathy from me. I’ll let Richard’s readers decide whose comments possess more substance and cogency…

  • Warren December 28, 2009, 12:38 PM

    I echo Gene in frustration over how the blog thread jumps around. My response to Guy is above his last (of multiple comment) references to me and my initial comment. I guess I should remember to formally hit the ‘reply’ tag to a particular comment rather than just comment at the end of the thread…

    • Richard Silverstein December 28, 2009, 2:52 PM

      I’m sorry about the way the comment feature works. But I urge you to reply clicking the specific Reply button associated w. the comment you’re replying to. That allows a thread & sub thread conversation to be conducted. Without this threaded comment feature everything is one long chronological sequence & you can’t really develop arguments & replies nearly as well.

  • Rafi December 29, 2009, 3:07 AM

    “Shirin: but you really just make yourself look pathetically over-eager”

    At least i am not making entire comments in bold.

    “Richard has never suggested that Sunnis are being kicked around by Shi`as, but you clearly have.”

    My mistake, if you think Iran is not doing to Pakistan what Pakistan is doing to Iran (supporting militias), you are naive.

    The Balochistan branch of the foreign council of the Revolutionary Guards is stimulating violence on the Pakistani side, maybe you would describe it as Sunni (Balochs) on Sunni (Pakistani central gov) violence with the help of Shiites (RG).

    Check with sources you find credible, who am i kidding, Hear no evil.

    • Shirin December 29, 2009, 12:03 PM

      At least i am not making entire comments in bold

      Devastating rejoinder, and so cogent! You sure have cut ME down to size!

      Check with sources you find credible

      In other words, you are unable to meet my request that you provide support for your assertions. How surprising.

    • Richard Silverstein December 29, 2009, 5:59 PM

      The Balochistan branch of the foreign council of the Revolutionary Guards is stimulating violence on the Pakistani side

      Can you support this statement w. any evidence?

  • Rafi December 30, 2009, 8:09 AM

    Qods (Jerusalem) Force ,Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC – Pasdaran-e Inqilab) -”the third largest [Pasdaran] relates to the Kashmiri’s, the Balouchi’s and the Afghans”.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/world/iran/qods.htm

    Shiites against Sunnis in Pakistan: Sipah-e-Mohammed Pakistan -”for all practical purposes stopped operating in 1996 after Ghulam Raza’s arrest. Its cadres now reportedly operate on their own” (note: click on Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni organization targetting Shiites, for updated developements).

    http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/pakistan/terroristoutfits/SMP.htm

  • Rafi December 30, 2009, 8:11 AM

    Sorry for multiple posting.

    Pakistan Assails Iran Over Growing Baluch Insurgency (2005)- “Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency set up a unit in the provincial capital, Quetta, last year to monitor suspected Iranian activity in Baluchistan. Officials say that in addition to directly supporting the insurgency, Tehran’s state-controlled radio has launched a propaganda campaign against Islamabad.”

    http://iranvajahan.net/cgi-bin/news.pl?l=en&y=2005&m=01&d=23&a=1

    2008 most violent year in a decade for Balochistan [province in Pakistan]- “Security experts believe the situation in Balochistan could have been worse had the three militant groups … not declared a ceasefire in September.” (note: no mention of Iran, so if you only want to discredit me – pass it).

    http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009%5C01%5C03%5Cstory_3-1-2009_pg1_15

  • Rafi December 30, 2009, 8:11 AM

    Sorry again.

    Iran Sanctions: Why Pakistan Won’t Help (2009)- “The Pakistani security establishment is wary of Tehran’s relationship with India, and it suspects Iran of allowing its territory to be used by Indian-backed Baluch separatist fighters in southwestern Pakistan. Tehran, for its part, has repeatedly complained to Islamabad about cross-border attacks mounted by Jundullah, a shadowy Baluch militant group that uses Pakistani Baluchistan as a staging ground for attacks inside Iran.” (note: Iran and the US both “back” Karzai, to a varying degrees of course, and there is an example of allignment between Washington and Tehran).

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1922166,00.html#ixzz0bBYC3MTW

    Pakistan arrests Iranian guards (2009, later) -”Some reports said that all of those detained on Monday in Mashkel, close to the countries’ shared border in the southwestern Balochistan province, were Iranian Revolutionary Guards… Iranian TV reported that some of the country’s border police had been pursuing suspected drug dealers along the border, before following them into Pakistan.”

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2009/10/2009102615221690425.html

  • Gene Schulman December 30, 2009, 11:48 AM

    “Squabble” with Iraq? That was a full-fledged, eight year, war started by Iraq at the instigation of the US, and fueled by US money and arms. Thank you.

    • mary December 30, 2009, 6:39 PM

      The recent cross-border by Iran into Iraq qualifies as a squabble, IMHO.

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