Let’s counter the mythology that Iran wants nukes and would strike Israel if it had them

Israel/Palestine
on 28 Comments

According to a January 10th posting on Coteret, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was ‘infuriated’ by comments made last Thursday at a news briefing by outgoing Mossad Director Meir Dagan. Dagan told reporters that Iran would be ‘unable to develop a nuclear bomb before 2015.’

By making this assertion, Meir Dagan has done more than disagree with Netanyahu; he has accepted earlier judgments rendered by declassified US National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs), one from 2007 and the other from 2005. The 2007 NIE stated plainly that “Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon,”[i] something no intelligence expert would have claimed, but that a host of rightwing media pundits and pro-Israel fear-mongerers often tried to maintain. In 2005 an NIE stated that even if Iran were to pursue a nuclear weapons’ program, a prospect that was by no means certain, it would take at least ten years for them to build a bomb. It is unclear why Dagan chose to back this more realistic stance publicly if he were previously so concerned about a nuclear Iran; nonetheless it is slightly reassuring to read that he has done so. Neither Israeli nor American political, military, or intelligence circles have so far proposed constructive engagement with the Middle East. Nevertheless we have to hope that there continue to be a few more semi-rational policy-makers than neocon extremists determining US foreign policy in Washington for the time being. Without them, the prospects for the Middle East in the next few years would be grim indeed, but for the immediate future, anyway, a military strike on Iran is unlikely. Let us hope this remains true, not only because of the catastrophe such a strike would unleash but because it gives activists a little more time to counter the prevailing mythology that Iran: a) wants nuclear weapons; and b) would strike Israel if it had them. Both claims are simply untrue. 

A recent article from the Associated Press printed in the Wisconsin State Journal quoted US Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warning Americans about the imminent threat of the Iranian bomb, a statement that is not only ignorant but irresponsible and dangerous given the drum-beating and war-mongering that is so often pervasive in Washington and elsewhere across the United States. Mullen, who frequently consults with the top Israeli military brass, was speaking from a US airbase in Manama, Bahrain –a base that would be on the frontlines of any military confrontation if hostilities were to break out between Iran and the US or one of its many Gulf Arab allies. To prevent or at least lower the chances of another illegal and devastating act of aggression in the region, it is critical that more people understand that Iran does not want a stockpile of nuclear weapons. Indeed it is fair to say that to build a single nuclear bomb is against Iran’s strategic security interests, and those who hold ultimate power in Tehran understand this keenly. Neither the regime in Tehran nor the Iranian people are suicidal, and both understand that to possess a single nuclear weapon would serve as an ideal pretext for either the US or Israel to “obliterate” the country, as Secretary of State Clinton has threatened to do. What Iran would like to acquire is the technological capability and the materials essential to produce such weapons. This would upset the balance of power in the Middle East in which Israel alone has a first strike nuclear capability. Ultimately, Iran seeks deterrence, or the military capability by which to prevent or reduce the likelihood of unchecked aggression against it and other Middle East states. “Nuclear threshold” technology could therefore have a profound effect on regional stability by putting an end to Israel’s role as an unchecked regional hegemon. The prospect of Iran and, over time, other states in the Middle East and Asia obtaining nuclear weapons or, somewhat less threateningly, the technological know-how to produce these unspeakably destructive weapons is hardly one to relish. Sadly, however, it is more likely at present than the prospect of getting Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and give up its deadly arsenal altogether. Iran, it should be noted, is already a signatory of the NPT and as such has the right to enrich uranium even up to weapons’ grade; it does not have the right to produce nuclear weapons, however. Militarily speaking, Iran is neither a threat to Israel nor to the United States, and has, at best, strictly defensive, conventional armed forces. Why then is Iran consistently portrayed in the US as a looming and deadly threat to Americans? 

US’ foaming at the mouth over Iran has much more to do with the influence Iran has gained regionally — in part as a direct result of our irresponsible and lethal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In both countries the US has directly enabled pro-Iranian forces by carrying out military policies that have left both countries devastated and internally divided for years –if not decades— to come. In Iraq, the ardently anti-American, Iranian ally, Muqtada Sadr, has recently joined the coalition government of his Shi’a counterpart, Nuri al-Maliki. Sadr only recently returned from nearly 4 years in Iran where he pursued his studies in Islamic theology. In Afghanistan many of the anti-Taliban forces the US has aided with arms, money and training are pro-Iranian as well. 

It is astounding how deadly, how destabilizing and how short-sighted US policies have been in the region. The ring of US military bases that has sprung up around Iran, across the Middle East and Central Asia, reinforces the ubiquitous presence of empire and the high-tech surveillance mechanisms that our police-state clients employ on our behalf. As the Obama administration promotes a massive arms build-up in the Persian Gulf and on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, the knowledge that what happened to Iraq could happen to any nation that interferes with our aims intensifies a deep-seated resentment rooted in 19th and 20th century European colonialism. Like our predecessors, our policies demonstrate that ‘democracy’ is preferable only when it produces the ‘right’ results and that it is our God given right to continue the predatory theft and exploitation of the valuable natural resources of other countries. Iran is a threat to US corporate, military and political elites because it seeks to maintain genuine national independence — and that is unthinkable for our long term imperial goals. Iran is a threat to Israel because it seeks to end Israel’s unchecked policies of expansion, settlement, and ethnic cleansing; policies characteristic of colonial-settler states in general and of Israel’s protector in particular.

In seeking to develop civilian nuclear energy, Iran is attempting to avoid the trap of having to import refined oil by relying on its own renewable resources. Greater economic, strategic and military ties with China may enhance Iran’s independence and assist the development of its vast natural gas resources that could make Iran an important energy exporter in the future. Within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in which Iran has observer status, the stage is being set for just these kinds of connections.

One last observation, but by no means the least important: those in the United States, Israel and elsewhere railing on about the dangers of allowing Iran to acquire weapons of mass destruction ought to look at their own histories, recent and past, before carrying on about the need to “strike,” “hit,” or “obliterate” another nation, city or village. Read the latest (Dec. 30th, 2010) report on birth defects, infant mortality and cancer rates in Fallujah, Iraq that have skyrocketed since the 2004 US attack on that desperate city. That report and half a dozen others released since July 2010, verifies that the effects of US weapons-of-mass destruction on Fallujah are worse than what was recorded at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. ‘War Contaminants’ – such as depleted uranium, white phosphorus, and other deadly chemicals and metals have poisoned the environment around Fallujah for generations to come. 

Those who speak so cavalierly about the possibility of war – with Iran or any other country – need to read just one of these detailed and disturbing reports, see the pictures of babies born with congenital malformations, heart defects, neural-tube defects and worse. They should be required to understand the effects of these poisons on the people at the receiving end of massive aerial bombardments and ground invasions; of shock and awe and molten lead. Speak to the women experiencing the spontaneous abortions; live with the parents tending children with leukemia, babies with deformed limbs, unexplained diseases, damaged brains and defective hearts. This is the reality of modern warfare and weaponry; this is what war is to the un-embedded and unprotected civilians unable to flee the fighting, forced to try to survive the towering waves of a deadly onslaught, and then to subsist on food grown in contaminated soil, to breathe in poisoned air, drink polluted water and live on an earth tainted by the venom of hatred and greed. Sadly, I doubt that Meir Dagan, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mike Mullen or Barak Obama have given a moment’s thought to these lasting and horrible repercussions of war. 

[i] Qtd in Cole, Juan; Engaging the Muslim World; Chapter VI, “From Tehran to Beirut: the Iranian Challenge,” page 207. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009

About Jennifer Loewenstein

Jennifer Loewenstein is faculty associate of Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; LEAP project administrator (http://www.leapsummerprogram.org); freelance journalist; and founder of the Carol Chomsky Memorial Fund (www.chomskyfund.org) Currently on leave in Washington DC, Jennifer’s email is [email protected]

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28 Responses

  1. seafoid
    January 12, 2011, 12:02 pm

    Israel isn’t going to get its war against Iran. The US doesn’t have the money, the know how or the staying power. The EU doesn’t have the same values as Israel. Israel will have to come to terms with a slow decline and the loss of supreme regional hegemony. Counting the number killed in Israel’s regional wars since 1948, it wasn’t a very successful reign. The Byzantines were far more stylish.

  2. Jim Haygood
    January 12, 2011, 12:07 pm

    ‘[Iran's acquisition of] “nuclear threshold” technology could therefore have a profound effect on regional stability by putting an end to Israel’s role as an unchecked regional hegemon. Sadly, however, it is more likely at present than the prospect of getting Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and give up its deadly arsenal altogether.’

    This implies that Israel’s status as an unacknowledged, first-strike-capable nuclear power is actually the main driver of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    And that by far the most effective way to put a damper on Iran’s largely defensive motivations would be to compel Israel to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    Nuclear exceptionalism for Israel is an outstanding and inexplicable diplomatic distortion, and is gravely destabilizing.

    • Citizen
      January 12, 2011, 12:38 pm

      And gravely missing from the public debate and congressional and white house public statements regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the nonproliferation efforts generally.

  3. Citizen
    January 12, 2011, 12:11 pm

    I wish somebody could read Jennifer’s article post on cable TV entertainment news shows; I wish it would be printed on the front page of the NYT, WP, Wall St Journal, etc. It should also be handed to every US congress person with a brief verbal introduction, and these events video recorded and put on YouTube and Facebook etc. First thing for me is to twitter it.

    • annie
      January 12, 2011, 12:39 pm

      First thing for me is to twitter it.

      good call.

      thanks for the comprehensive report jennifer.

  4. Citizen
    January 12, 2011, 12:35 pm

    I don’t think Sarah Palin got Jennifer’s memo–here she is reciting every big lie available about the big threat of Iran, arguing for us to get tough with Iran–I guess it’s her combined Xmas message and New Year message to the American sheeple: link to usatoday.com

    BTW, Sarah had a message up on her Facebook page characterizing her recent bad press regarding the Arizona murders as–you ready for this? As a “blood libel” on her. Gee, I wonder who put that term in her head? I’m certain she did not grow up with it in her Alaskan church. Can you say, her Jewish handlers? I just went on her facebook page and that message from Sarah seems to have vanished.

    • annie
      January 12, 2011, 12:56 pm

      sarah on iran. how special. as i pointed out on the’ Mossad chief’s statement removes Iranian nuclear threat’ thread the israel project works closely w/journalists and others to streamline the messaging thru their ‘Iran Research’ department.

    • Potsherd2
      January 12, 2011, 1:27 pm

      Nobody’s going to be listening to Sarah anymore.

      • marc b.
        January 12, 2011, 2:48 pm

        i hope you are right. that doesn’t mean though that there will be a shortage of dimwits to replace her. she is stupid, narcissistic, and amoral, in short everything that is wrong with 21st century american culture.

  5. BradAllen
    January 12, 2011, 12:43 pm

    Retweeting this is an excellent idea and I encourage others to do the same.

    I am not convinced that either Israel or the US are planning any attacks on Iran any time soon. Iran has been transformed to the “stick” that they will continue to use to stir up fear in the arab world, specially the gulf states and in politics where it is always helpful to have a common demon to focus on.

    An attack would have devastating results and will likely succeed in the short term but fail miserably in its objectives for the long term. Iraq is already beginning to sway away and radical islamic clerics will soon take over that country creating yet another block against a folly US foreign policy.

    During the Bush and Rumsfled era they used the security level to spread fear in the US to keep the public in check, now Obama, or at least those around him who are running the show, are using Iran. Fear is a powerful weapon and Clinton’s visit to the Gulf is like a salesrep selling insurance.

  6. hass
    January 12, 2011, 1:10 pm

    There is a deliberate effort at obfuscation when civilian uranium enrichment is equated to having nuclear weapons. Note that if you read most of the assessments on Iran carefully, they refer to an potential Iranian “capability” or “intention” to acquire nuclear programs in the indefinite future, and not to an existing nuclear weapons program. Theoretically, ANY country with any sort of nuclear program is “just X years away” from making nukes and certainly far less for having the “capility” to make nukes. As I mentioned previously, there are about 40 countries that already have this “threshhold” capability. Argentina, Brazil just developed the same technology. Unlike those countries, however, Iran has signed and implemented the Additional Protocol which allowed more intrusive inspections, and has offered to place additional restrictions on its nuclear program well beyond its legal obligations (such as their offer to open the program to joint participation by the US and others.) Is this what a country that “wants nuclear weapons” does?

    • Shingo
      January 12, 2011, 6:52 pm

      Unlike those countries, however, Iran has signed and implemented the Additional Protocol which allowed more intrusive inspections, and has offered to place additional restrictions on its nuclear program well beyond its legal obligations (such as their offer to open the program to joint participation by the US and others.) Is this what a country that “wants nuclear weapons” does?

      Actually Hass, Iran only agreed to the Additional Protocols temporarily while they weer waiting for the E3 to come up with a proposal, which they failed to do. Iran has since rejected the Additional Protocol, which is their right. The agreement to implement the Additional Protocol was never ratified by their government.

  7. gingershot
    January 12, 2011, 1:11 pm

    This statement by Meir Dagan is as important in destroying the largely successful Neocon/Israeli drive to war against Iran as the 2007 NIE that stopped Cheney and the Neocons in their tracks before they could pull the trigger on Iran in spring 2008

    This is some of the most imporant news over the last decade in derailing the Neocon/Israeli ‘Clean Break’ plan – it’s a freezing cold shower aimed at the family jewels of William Kristol and all the other ‘real mensch’ who want to go to Tehran

    Hillary Clinton, Netanyahu, and Debkafile are all out doing as much damage control as they can – they are all on the same page with this – but Israeli/Neocon aggression against Iran has just been dealt a tsunami size below – it’s equivalent to an ISRAELI ‘2007 NIE on IRAN’

    Overcoming this will be next to impossible if “I” can help it

    • annie
      January 12, 2011, 1:14 pm

      This is some of the most important news over the last decade in derailing the Neocon/Israeli ‘Clean Break’ plan – it’s a freezing cold shower aimed at the family jewels…….it’s equivalent to an ISRAELI ‘2007 NIE on IRAN’

      i agree gingershot, i think it is huge.

    • Psychopathic god
      January 12, 2011, 1:25 pm

      gingershot, as Norman Finkelstein pointed out quite forcefully, on the day after the 2007 NIE was released, Israel went into overdrive to undermine it AND Israel arranged for “Civil Defense” exercises in Israel to keep the Israeli public’s fear quotient at the requisite, high level.

      I believe Haggai Ram, in “Iranophobia: The Logic of an Israeli Obsession,” devotes several pages to a description of the glossy “Attack Preparedness” booklet that Israeli officials released immediately after the 2007 NIE was released.

      I agree with you, Dagan’s statement CAN BE spun to mean something good. But I also know that it WILL be spun to ratchet up fear and hatred of all things Iranian. It will get worse before it gets better, because Israelis are completely dehumanized and no longer possess the rational brain function to make a reality-based, morally sound judgment.

      The Arizona shooter is labelled, “mentally deranged,” and some have attributed his derangement to alcoholism and drug abuse.

      Israel’s ‘brain’ is addled by years and years of ziocaine addiction.

      Here’s a startling irony: when one considers alcoholics, one recognizes that an alcoholic must “hit the wall” before and intervention and regimen of treatment and recovery is possible.
      Israel has built a wall around the “wall” that it needs to “hit.” Israel is in double-denial.

    • Shingo
      January 12, 2011, 6:57 pm

      This statement by Meir Dagan is as important in destroying the largely successful Neocon/Israeli drive to war against Iran as the 2007 NIE that stopped Cheney and the Neocons in their tracks before they could pull the trigger on Iran in spring 2008

      Dagan’s stament has the neocons in a real tailspin at the moment. I read a piece by Max Boot at the Weekly Standard, in which he dismisses Dagan’s statement n the grounds that – get this – Dagan presented no evidence of his assertion.

      Just think about the level of cognitive dissonance ion display here. Boot is trying to imply that Dagan’s assessment, which contradicts allegations about Iran nukes not based on evidence, is itself not based on evidence.

      Talk about desperation!

  8. Potsherd2
    January 12, 2011, 1:31 pm

    The problem is that Israel doesn’t really think Iran will get nukes or use them. Israel is obsessed with the theoretical possibility that Iran might get nukes. It’s the “might” that’s the problem. Israel is all about “might.”

    Hezbollah “might” hit Israel with rockets in the case of a war, so we have to make war on Hezbollah.

    Hamas “might” shoot rockets at Sderot, so Gaza must be destroyed.

    Palestinians “might” acquire rockets and shoot them from the West Bank, so the occupation can never be relaxed.

    It is this irrational obsession driving all Israeli policy, not any realistic estimation of probability.

    • Citizen
      January 12, 2011, 2:42 pm

      A Laughner friend who use to go pistol shooting with him said recently that Laughner grew increasingly paranoid; he began calling the friend and his friend and accusing them both of stalking him; he felt increasingly threatened by the outside world; he grew more and more fond of his dreams, preferring them to being conscious while walking around in the day. He grew very proficient with shooting his gun. Despised those around him as lesser beings. Sound familiar?

    • Shingo
      January 12, 2011, 7:00 pm

      Israel is obsessed with the theoretical possibility that Iran might get nukes. It’s the “might” that’s the problem. Israel is all about “might.”

      That’s because as you point out, the fear is not that Iran might use a nuke against Israel, it’s that the existence of an Iranian nuke might discourage Jews from moving to Israel, or encourage Jews living in Israel to leave.

      • Tuyzentfloot
        January 12, 2011, 7:46 pm

        an Iranian nuke might discourage Jews from moving to Israel, or encourage Jews living in Israel to leave. I don’t believe that argument.

        Here’s another one: a large Iranian role in the region would diminish the israeli role, and thereby affect the concentration of wealth as well as the clout to get its policies vis-a-vis the palestinians accepted. And if the country becomes less wealthy people leave.

      • Potsherd2
        January 12, 2011, 9:15 pm

        Although eee tells us that Israelis are there to stay, nukes or no nukes.

  9. marc b.
    January 12, 2011, 3:14 pm

    intelligent, compassionite, concise delivery, jennifer. not enough attention and analysis is devoted to the economic motivation for not just the domination of iraq, lebanon, etc. but the destruction of infrastructure, industrial capacity, and so on. iran is part of the competition re: the production and transport of petroleum and gas. lebanon and palestine are potential economic competitors for israel, hence the need to discourage investment in lebanon and palestine, discourage development of tourism to those countries, . . . a recent article in the British press illustrates how sensitive israel is to competition.

    Board of Deputies of British Jews today welcomed the launch of an official investigation into a Palestinian holiday advert, after complaining that it ignored the existence of Israel.

    According to the advert from the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, appearing in this month’s edition of National Geographic’s Traveller magazine, “Palestine is a land rich in history with a tradition of hospitality. From the famous cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Nablus and Gaza, the Palestinian people welcome you to visit this Holy Land.”

    It continues: “Starting from the earliest religious pilgrims, the country has seen famous visitors come and go.

    “Palestine lies between the Mediterranean coast and Jordan River, at the crossroads between Africa and Middle East. It takes a visit to this wonderful country to appreciate the most palpable facet of its culture: the warmth and humour of the Palestine people.”

    The Advertising Standards Authority received 60 complaints from individuals and organisations, including the Board of Deputies, which accused the advert of being “deeply disturbing” and “an affront to international law”. The ASA is now investigating the complaints.

    link to guardian.co.uk

    delusional. zionists rush about demanding equal access to every conversation about zionism, and now palestine has to include israel in its adverts for tourism. and the utter brass b@lls of it. this after the israeli government tourism office ran an ad with a map of isreal that incorporates the o/t and golan into its realm. too much.

    link to guardian.co.uk

  10. Citizen
    January 12, 2011, 6:04 pm

    Thanks Jennifer; we will spread your excellent article around by all means other than the mainstream media, which of course will do nothing of the kind, as articulated well in regards to Wikileaks and Israel: link to counterpunch.org

  11. Shingo
    January 12, 2011, 6:35 pm

    Hey guys,

    I thought you might be interested to knwo that Nima Shirazi, who wrote that excellent piece last week on the 30 years of false claims about Iran nukes, appeared on a podcast at antiwar.com.

    link to antiwar.com

    I’ll take a little credit here for writing to antiwar.com and recommending they have him as a guest, but needless to say, Nima deserves recognition for his excellent work.

  12. Shingo
    January 12, 2011, 7:14 pm

    An excellent and though provoking piece Jennifer. Just a few comments.

    “Nuclear threshold” technology could therefore have a profound effect on regional stability by putting an end to Israel’s role as an unchecked regional hegemon.

    I think the whole “breakout capability” and “Nuclear threshold” arguments are largely hype. Nuclear weapons are extremely complex devices. Apart from high enrichment, they require manufacturing, countless tests of detonation devices and at least one nuclear detonation test.

    One does not have the ability to make nukes until one has produced a nuke.

    US’ foaming at the mouth over Iran has much more to do with the influence Iran has gained regionally — in part as a direct result of our irresponsible and lethal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Very good point Jennifer. As Hilalry Mann Leverit explains, the US’ foaming at the mouth over Iran has to do with the fact that American militarism has empowered Iran more than Iran could have hoped. To add insult to injury, America needs Iran more than Iran needs America because the US cannot hope to resolve the issues in Iraq and Afghanistan without Iran’s cooperation.

    The other reason the US is so incensed about Iran, is that Iran has demonstrated that it can function outside the circle of American influence. That kind of independence is what America’s ruling elite are mist frustrated by, because it means that it unable to manipulate Iran, and what’s more, the population throughout the ME are recognizing this.

    The old guard in the ME (ie. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt) are facing real challenges to their power and rule, and as such, America’s grip is waning. Iran represents this shift.

    Iran is a threat to US corporate, military and political elites because it seeks to maintain genuine national independence — and that is unthinkable for our long term imperial goals.

    Within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in which Iran has observer status, the stage is being set for just these kinds of connections.

    I was under the impression that Iran was already a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In any case, it goes to show how much US influence has slipped when you consider that American’s requested for observer status was denied.

  13. Tuyzentfloot
    January 12, 2011, 7:39 pm

    Iran is a threat to US corporate, military and political elites because it seeks to maintain genuine national independence — and that is unthinkable for our long term imperial goals. Iran is a threat to Israel because it seeks to end Israel’s unchecked policies of expansion, settlement, and ethnic cleansing; policies characteristic of colonial-settler states in general and of Israel’s protector in particular. Trita Parsi had another explanation. Iran was a threat to Israel from the 90’s on because Israel was afraid that Iran might take its place in the hierarchy. Israel wanted to stop Iran from getting along with the US.
    And Iran interfered with Israel’s settlement and expansion in the context of that competition.

  14. RoHa
    January 12, 2011, 8:13 pm

    “Let’s counter the mythology that Iran wants nukes and would strike Israel if it had them”

    Not a new idea. A lot of people have been opposing this mythology as strongly as they can for a long time.

    But the propaganda machine has been too loud.

  15. Citizen
    January 13, 2011, 3:49 am

    Latest replacement appointment news in Israel indicates the regime is thirsty for war on Iran: link to news.antiwar.com

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