As the deadline looms for the P5+1 nations to achieve a framework for a nuclear deal with Iran, the steady drumbeat of hostile coverage directed at Iran in the media increases. Jim White at Empty Wheel, in two good posts, noted a tendentious Washington Post op-ed by Ray Tayekh, Michael Hayden, and Ollie Heinonen, along with a separate piece by perennial NY Times Iran doomsayer, David Sanger.
Regarding the Post op-ed, everyone knows about Michael Hayden’s role as a holdover spook from the Bush administration, who ran both the NSA and CIA during that period. He also is a partner in the Chertoff Group, founded by Bush’s Homeland Security czar, Michael Chertoff.
Ray Tayekh, though he served in the Obama administration for a time and is Iranian-American, has chosen to throw in his lot with the Iranophobes. According to Nima Shirazi, he is a founding member of the Iran Strategy Task Force, whose avowed mission was to pressure the Obama administration to adopt a tougher approach to Iran. ISTF includes the neocon Freedom House as its co-founding sponsor, and individual members like Josh Block of The Israel Project and Rob Satloff of WINEP. Tayekh is also a member of another Iran committee founded by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, one of the leading hawkish, pro-Israel security outfits in DC.
Olli Heinonen’s main claim to fame is his post as ex-deputy director of the IAEA. This international organization tasked with monitoring nuclear proliferation around the globe has had a love-hate relationship with Iran. Some of its personnel, including exceedingly pro-Israel analysts like David Albright, have sometimes espoused talking points that could’ve been written for them by the Mossad. Though the IAEA’s reports are usually carefully couched in language that isn’t nearly as provocative or propagandistic. Curiously, some IAEA reports are based on supposedly anonymous intelligence offered to them by unnamed intelligence agencies. Upon closer examination, the information seems tailor-made to advance Israeli interests in scaring the world about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Many observers see the hand of the Mossad in such intelligence leaks. Heinonen is one of those I was speaking about above.
In their Post op-ed, none of these important ideological affiliations were noted. The only credits offered were for their most white bread involvements with groups like the Council on Foreign Policy (Tayekh), IAEA (Heinonen), and Bush administration (Hayden). Just as doctors now must disclose their financial arrangements with drug companies when they publish research in journals, so op-ed writers and newspapers should acknowledge all associations having strong ideological tendencies (whether they are right or left-wing). This allows readers to judge for themselves how much credibility to attach to the writers views.
In his post-IAEA career, Heinonen adopted an exceedingly hawkish profile. One of his key roles has been as a board member of the notorious United Against a Nuclear Iran. This is an anti-Iran lobbying group largely funded by Sheldon Adelson, who’s advocated bombing Iran. UANI’s mission has been to exploit anonymous intelligence data provided to it by unnamed sources which pressure corporations and business executives not to engage in commercial dealings with Iran. Except that UANI has run its operations a bit like Joe McCarthy. It often resorts to blackmail and extortion in its dealings with alleged offenders.
One such person it confronted, Victor Restis, called UANI’s bluff. He responded to threats by not only denying any dealings with Iran, he sued for defamation. Among his claims was that UANI co-founder and Bush operative, Mark Wallace, is also the CEO of an investment firm founded by Thomas Kaplan. Kaplan’s wife is a major investor in a shipping company that competes with Mr. Restis. There was an intimation that UANI’s efforts against Restis were either a shakedown, or a way to hurt his business to the benefit of Kaplan’s wife’s company.
Restis’ case had sailed through federal courts until the Obama administration, fearing the exposure of CIA-Mossad collusion along with deliberate leaks of secret intelligence material to UANI, stopped the case dead in its tracks. Noah Feldman notes the political peculiarities of this case and why it posed such a nest of vipers to the Obama administration.
White notes that in Sanger’s NYT piece he relies on two of three above-mentioned Horsemen of the Anti-Iran Apocalypse, Tayekh and Heinonen, with that other independent nuclear proliferation expert, John Boehner, thrown in for good measure. The House Speaker is jetting his way as we speak to the Holy Land to commune with another Iran nuclear expert, Bibi Netanyahu. The latter, by the way, has been entirely frozen out of the nuclear talks by a suspicious Obama administration, which has noted Israeli espionage against U.S. diplomats negotiating with the Iranians.
This passage in Empty Wheel is especially pungent and noteworthy:
It is impossible for me to escape the conclusion that Olli Heinonen and Ray Takeyh are part of an organized propaganda campaign aimed at disrupting the P5+1 talks and preventing an agreement. This propaganda is eagerly published by a compliant press, with the New York Times, Washington Post and AP among the most recent examples I have noted.
I have little doubt that all of these analysts and journalists mentioned above are being inundated with reports and talking points by Israeli figures: some transparent like Israeli diplomats and some less so. Israeli intelligence appraisals (probably emanating directly from the prime minister himself, since his spymasters tend to be much less hawkish on Iran than he is) are finding their way into their inboxes as well, I am certain.
My association with Shamai Leibowitz allowed me to expose a precursor of this anti-Iran effort in this perception management operation. In one case I wrote about, Israel’s deputy ambassador, Jeremy Issacharoff actually ghost-wrote a Boston Herald op-ed for local Jewish communal leader, Jeff Robbins. He also happened to be a partner in Cameron Kerry’s (John Kerry’s brother) powerful Boston law firm. The Boston Kerry is a key supporter of Aipac and the Israel Lobby.
You can be damn sure all the hasbara wheels are turning morning, noon, and night in an effort to blunt any narrative the Obama administration might offer to promote a nuclear deal. If the current talks fail, the hasbarafia will cheer. If they succeed, the pressure will only mount against the agreement.
Adelson protege, Shmuley Boteach, published yet another NY Times full-page ad exhorting Obama not to be Neville Chamberlain, but rather Winston Churchill in standing up to Iran. Presumably, Boteach and Adelson have in mind marching like the WWII prime minister to war against another existential Nazi-like foe of humanity, Iran. The choice of Churchill is a loaded one, of course. It’s Bibi Netanyahu’s inspiration. Someone he quotes regularly when he wants to add gravitas and historical cachet to his speeches. Since Churchill has almost no resonance in a contemporary context, my strong suspicion is that Churchill was a hero of Netanyahu’s father, the noted historian Ben Zion Netanyahu (ne Milikowski).
It seems to have slipped the minds of Boteach and Netanyahu that Churchill led the world through the most lethal war in the history of humanity. Is this the historical model that the world wishes to hold up for itself in the present era? Do we want to fight the Battle of Gog and Magog again? Or do we choose different models? The answer, of course, is that Churchill was a hero for a different era, one that is not relevant to today. Unless of course, you seek or anticipate world conflagration, which most of the rest of us don’t.
Finally, Time Magazine has published a truly puerile piece of anti-Iran propaganda by Rabbi David Wolpe, the leader of a wealthy westside Los Angeles synagogue. Wolpe’s piece trots out the hoary old anti-Iran trope, Purim:
Purim recalls the efforts of a Persian anti-Semite to kill the Jews. Sound familiar?
This is a time to remind ourselves of the power of irrationality. Perhaps many Americans, as exemplified by the Barack Obama administration, do not understand a certain darkness in the soul. Let me explain.
No, rabbi, I think we get the point. Wolpe trots out another smear based on fakery, the “wipe Israel off the map” meme. He takes his argument through various twists and turns leading to the ultimate grail of pro-Israel hasbara: anti-Semitism. In this passage, he implicitly accuses Iran’s leaders of holding the most noxious views:
That same person will also believe, in the face of all evidence, that Jews control the banks, or that the Mossad brought down the towers on 9/11, or that the Holocaust was a fraud, or that every depredation and misfortune that that person, or their people, has suffered is somehow the fault of the Jews. And if only the world would be rid of Israel, then the Sunni and Shiite would lie together as the biblical lion and lamb.
It doesn’t seem to matter either to Wolpe or Time’s editors that none of Iran’s leaders, and especially not Pres. Rouhani, believe any of these things. It seems the good rabbi is hoping readers will forget that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hasn’t been Iran’s president for a few years now.
Next, Wolpe wins the daily double of Holocaust hysteria, yoking Auschwitz with Hiroshima:
An Iranian bomb combines the two great taboos of the 20th century, Auschwitz and Hiroshima. It is a nuclear bomb in service of destroying the Jewish people.
He didn’t originate this concept. I first read it from Shimon Peres who called an Iranian bomb a “flying Holocaust.” In Wolpe’s usage, he builds his argument on a number of empty fallacies. First, Iran doesn’t have a bomb nor has it expressed any interest in getting one. Second, Iran’s current leaders have never expressed any intent to drop a nuclear weapon on Israel nor to exterminate Israel or the Jewish people. Third, there is a terrible conflation of Israel and Jews, a lazy, hazy trope Wolpe adopts. Israel is not the Jewish people and the Jewish people is not Israel.
Further, Wolpe of course ignores the rank hatred spewed against Iran by Israeli leaders like Netanyahu and Wolpe himself. Hawkish intellectuals like Benny Morris and Joshua Muravchik have both advocated bombing Iran, even with nuclear weapons, on the op-ed pages of the NY Times and Los Angeles. There is no lack of firebrands on both sides of this argument, a fact that neither one should forget.
He concludes his diatribe with this shocker:
We are about to strike a deal with people who harbor an implacable hatred. Iran may seek leverage for all sorts of…hegemonic goals as well. As long as the current regime holds power, however, there is one unwavering, non-negotiable goal. And unlike the sunshine of reason, deep hatreds are patient.
In his essay, Wolpe has exposed one thing very powerfully: his deep, irrational hatred of Iran. His rant is devoid of truth or accuracy. It has no basis in fact or in the historical record. It is precisely this sort of seething hostility which will lead us down the path to war. It is precisely this sort of frothing at the mouth that must be countered at every opportunity. I wrote about another American rabbi, Daniel Weiner, who shares the same almost homicidal animus toward Iran. In fact, I got into a public shouting match with him over it.
What is it about some rabbis that makes them hate mullahs so much? Perhaps there is a shared zeal, a shared willingness to breathe fire into one’s religious community. Rabbis may see things in Iran’s mullahs they don’t like in themselves or their own rabbinic colleagues. I view such hysteria, whether from rabbis or mullahs, with great trepidation and distrust.
Israel’s leaders and their willing collaborators among Diaspora leaders may want to march toward Armageddon. But we must not allow it.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.