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Analyst on NPR lets the cat out of the bag – briefly – about Washington’s Iran obsession

on 14 Comments
Karim Sadjadpour

Karim Sadjadpour

On Sunday’s “All Things Considered,” new host Arun Rath interviewed Karim Sadjadour,  senior associate in the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, about the six-month agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. The Carnegie Endowment is a thoroughly-mainstream, at best moderately-liberal Beltway thinktank, and to judge by a quick review of his recent writings and media comments on Iran, as well as most of his discussion with Rath, that same description seems to fit Sadjadpour.

In the course of the interview, Rath said:

You’ve written very interestingly about one sticking point – is how Iranian leaders feel that they’re defending their country against unfair policies. Could you talk about that?

That question was evidently a reference to “The Neuroscience Guide to Negotiations With Iran,” an article by Sadjadpour and colleague Nicholas D. Wright published last week at The Atlantic’s website.  That piece, which I too found very interesting, reviews neuroscientific findings suggesting that humans have a “natural instinct to reject perceived unfairness,” even if they pay a substantial price for doing so. The authors then argue that “this impulse to reject perceived unfairness has seemingly motivated Iran’s nuclear ambitions far more than an actual need for an indigenous nuclear energy program.”

Surprisingly, Sadjadpour didn’t jump at Rath’s invitation to explain this analysis (and to promote his latest publication). Instead, he took off in a very different direction:

You know, I’ve argued before, Arun, that the real source of tension between America and Iran is actually not the nuclear issue. It’s Iran’s policy toward Israel.… I think especially for U.S. members of Congress, it’s very difficult to allow Iran to have advanced nuclear capability while they continue to be so belligerent toward Israel.

And how does the NPR host follow up on this provocative thesis? By quickly changing the subject:

Mm-hmm. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry both acknowledge that there’s a long road ahead. You … expect there’s going to be a strong desire on both sides to cooperate. And why do you feel that way?

Prompted by Sadjadpour’s note that he’s made the point about Israel before, I checked out some of his previous publications. In a 2008 (updated last year) political profile of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he wrote:

For many close observers of U.S.–Iranian relations the Islamic Republic’s uncompromising stance on Israel represents the greatest impediment to U.S.–Iranian relations…. At the same time, however, Khamenei has made a concerted effort to put into context the statements of President Ahmadinejad that Israel should be “wiped off the map.” He has stated consistently that Iran’s goal is not the military destruction of the Jewish state or the Jewish people, but the defeat of Zionist ideology and dissolution of Israel through a “popular referendum.”

Unfortunately, Sadjadpour doesn’t appear to have any particular sympathy for this perspective: In a brief op-ed for the New York Times last November, he dismissed the Iranian leadership’s position on Israel and Palestine as part of its “antiquated ideology” and “revolutionary dogma.”

Still, his realism about the source of Washington’s obsessions with Iran is a rare and welcome departure from the mainstream media’s usual treatment of the ginned-up nuclear controversy. NPR newscasters interviewed Sadjadpour five times last year. Now that they know he just might wander off script, I wonder whether they’ll keep bringing him back this year.

Henry Norr
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14 Responses

  1. Citizen
    January 20, 2014, 2:05 pm

    Yep. Not hard to see where NPR is coming from, and it’s NPR’s survival, has nothing to do with best interests of US, world, or even Israel for that matter. Big Zio Dollars; money talks and BS walks. Same as with WH and Congress. Nobody knows this more than big Zio moneybags, e.g., Adelson, Soros etc. Justice Breyer was just on CSPAN talking about its decision to equate money with free speech. Breyer said he personally voted against the decision, but said it’s true there’s no free political speech in America.
    He never brought up how we should change the US campaign finance system in this context, and neither did the Q & A from students at prestigious US universities. Nobody with any power in USA seems to want to face the fact money talks and BS walks, i.e., the US has de facto become a real plutocracy. Why should liberals like Breyer care? He’s got a nice, comfy life, his own self-described life as the eternal student doing his homework–but getting paid nicely for it. And so are they all, at best.

  2. pabelmont
    January 20, 2014, 2:38 pm

    Henry, yes, this is like the small (and quickly brushed aside) comments about AIPAC as a motivator for the Democratic-sabotage movement in the Senate. It serves, maybe subliminally almost, to accustom the American audience to think of Israel as the problem, the problem with war-with-Iran and the problem with USA-Iran reduction of tension. It says, Israel wants war and Israel wants tension. And up-to-a-point, Obama says the opposite.

    So, to that extent, it (mildly, gently, subliminally) accustoms Americans to think of an us-or-them paradigm, USA or Israel. And what is subliminal today can become more overt later. Especially if MSM folks get used to it and fail to see violently corrective action taken against the perpetrators of this subliminalism.

  3. Justpassingby
    January 20, 2014, 2:45 pm

    Karim Sadjadpour is a warmonger and typical cnn-analyst that doesnt know much about middle east at all.

  4. DICKERSON3870
    January 20, 2014, 3:14 pm

    RE: “That question was evidently a reference to ‘The Neuroscience Guide to Negotiations With Iran’, . . . That piece . . . reviews neuroscientific findings suggesting that humans have a ‘natural instinct to reject perceived unfairness’, even if they pay a substantial price for doing so. The authors then argue that ‘this impulse to reject perceived unfairness has seemingly motivated Iran’s nuclear ambitions far more than an actual need for an indigenous nuclear energy program’.” ~ Henry Norr

    SEE: “Injustice Collecting”, By Nando Pelusi, Ph.D.,, published on November 01, 2006
    You can’t let go of a grudge, says Nando Pelusi, Ph.D., because there are deep-seated emotional payoffs.

    [EXCERPTS] We have a complicated relationship with the grudges we hold. We get obsessed and aggravated by the many slights [not to mention far more grievous victimization – J.L.D.] that befall us, but we’re ever reluctant to bury our pain and move on. Like an illicit affair, our beloved grudges usually end up creating misery for all involved.
    The tendency to itemize every unfair knock we’ve ever suffered is known as injustice collecting. Sometimes the injustices are personal, as in, “My boss unfairly promoted Rick over me.” This kind of self-talk leads to anger. At other times, the catalogued outrages lead to overwrought generalizations, such as, “Nothing ever goes well; this is too unfair.” This type of thinking leads to hopelessness and rage.
    Enough grudge holding and soon you’ll see more iniquity than actually exists. The injustice collector becomes a trigger-happy perceiver. If you walk down the street recounting the affronts you’ve suffered lately, you’ll kick up quite a cloud of dejection.
    Injustice collecting springs from a sensible motive: the monitoring of fairness as a form of self-protection, an impulse that evolved among social creatures who depended on one another. Nursing grudges may have raised our odds of survival and reproduction, however unconsciously. . .
    . . . Evolutionary psychologists argue that in our hunter-gatherer past, the dictates of food sharing provided the playground for our development of moral principles. Gossip about who shared, who didn’t and who deserved what portion may have helped birth the concept of fairness in the wake of complex distribution systems. As every schoolchild knows, people’s shares can differ greatly. In a meritocracy, those who work harder gain more; in an oligarchy, it’s those of higher status; and in a charity, those with the most needs receive preferential treatment. The key is that the distribution system be socially sanctioned. We maintain these ideas of “fairness” today. . .
    . . . But injustice collecting is about more than just resentment toward cheaters; just as often, it’s resentment on a mass scale—about anger at the very order of the universe. If a tree falls on a school bus or an earthquake levels our home, we’re stricken by the absolute injustice of it all. Islamist radicals, for example, resent the West’s development, and many are willing to die for their version of justice.
    Self-pity plus religious outrage—a combination that fuels suicide bombers—might also be a cognitive virus, replicating itself because humans are so easily attuned to believing in absolute justice.
    Fairness is a desirable abstraction, and one we’d better reach for, but it is not a concrete measurement, however much we might wish the courts, God, or the Constitution to decree it. . .


  5. bilal a
    bilal a
    January 20, 2014, 3:21 pm

    Arun, that the real source of tension between America and Iran is actually not the nuclear issue.

    So what is the real issue, according to the former President of the Council on Foreign Relations? Holocaust denial.

    MG: I had a special run in with then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who spoke at the United Nations General Assembly in Spetember 2006. He agreed to meet with several members of the Council on Foreign Relations. David Rockefeller was there. Peter Peterson was there. Myself. And three or four other senior members of the Council. The topic came up about the Holocaust. He repeated what he had always been saying. He didn’t believe it took place. I challenged him. I happened to be at Dachau. Don’t tell me it didn’t take place. He didn’t challenge me directly. He asked, “How old are you?” As though I was too young to have been there..

    JH: The precondition for a final deal is recognizing the Holocaust?

    MG: Absolutely

    [What did Greenberg witness at the liberation at Dachau ?]

    The precise number of Jewish deaths at Dachau is unknown. According to the Nazi camp records, there were a total of 31,951 recorded deaths from all causes at Dachau, which included people of all religions and ethnic groups. Dachau was primarily a camp for political prisoners, common criminals and religious dissidents. The majority of the prisoners who died in the camp were Catholic….d. There were 2,539 Jews at the Dachau main camp when it was liberated.

  6. Blownaway
    January 20, 2014, 5:02 pm

    Its amazing that Israel has totally subverted all US policy into an Israeli centric model. The first question that policy makers ask is, is it good for Israel. Not is it good for America. They will send this country down the drain if its good for Israel. Its really impossible to unwind. Its up to the rest of the world to make the difference. Americas decline globally in support of Israel will make the rest of the world more relevant.

  7. traintosiberia
    January 20, 2014, 5:49 pm

    Pro Israeli lobby groups were working with US lawmakers ,often leading the charge against Iran ,and legalilizing various anti Iranian measures for at least two decades. Bush first was sabotaged from within as he tried to improve the relation.

    Richard Perle claimed in 1998 Forward article with his ethnic pride that pro Israel lobby groups ,working through the Congress, were at the forefront of anti Iranian legislation-

  8. Citizen
    January 20, 2014, 6:00 pm

    Imagine how fast things would change if the mainstream media brought us the problem with AIPAC as they’ve done incessantly with Chris Christie’s bridge gate and the terrorist embassy attack?

  9. seafoid
    January 20, 2014, 6:11 pm

    AIPAC goes into intense bunny boiler mode when it comes to Iran.

  10. marc b.
    marc b.
    January 20, 2014, 6:15 pm

    ‘On point’, a local NPR talk show hosted by Tom Ashbrook had robin wright, beinart, and some cretin from ‘the foundation for the defense of democracies’ on this morning. Wright is actually quite good, as she has been for years, and even Beinart acknowledged unequivocally the enormous influence of AIPAC on the current effort to undermine negotiations with Iran. (Although, as usual, the equivocation comes quickly when motivation is discussed. According to beinart, AIPAC’s actions are primarily motivated out of its interests in the benefits to US foreign policy, although in this case their support of increased sanctions is in error, so says beinart.). The most heartening part of the discourse was the callers’ suspicion of AIPAC and Israel and the host’s willingness to allow the callers’ monologues to come through relatively uninterrupted. For example, a statement identifying Israel’s development of a nuclear arsenal ‘of hundreds of nuclear warheads’ went unchallenged, as did related statements referring to US and other intelligence assessments of Iran’s absence of a nuclear weapons program.

    Interesting times. I’d say that widespread recognition of the influence of AIPAC/Israel on US policy comes just as its influence is beginning to be effectively challenged.

  11. James Canning
    James Canning
    January 20, 2014, 7:46 pm

    Quite obviously, much of the hostility in the US Congress toward Iran arises from the simple fact Iran is unfriendly toward Israel.

  12. traintosiberia
    January 20, 2014, 9:21 pm

    Krauthamer tells us now why he does not like the deal. It prevents Israel from attacking and it prevents Iran from building a weaponization [ nuclear] programme.
    The other reason ,he cites ,is that it is worst among all the negotiations since Munich.

    BTW ,torture does not elicit the truth or the motive from the disturbed or from the psychopath. It does not expose the true motive or conspiracy. Simple frustration and denial of appeasement will do. Anger will make them utter the truth.

  13. subconscious
    January 21, 2014, 2:37 am

    The author quotes Sadjadpour saying that Khamenei “has stated consistently that Iran’s goal is not the military destruction of the Jewish state or the Jewish people, but the defeat of Zionist ideology and dissolution of Israel through a “popular referendum.”” He then laments that “Unfortunately, Sadjadpour doesn’t appear to have any particular sympathy for this perspective.” Actually, neither do the editors of this site and probably the author himself, whether they realize it or not.

    The author, who cites from the profile of Khamenei, hasn’t bothered to read the sentences immediately following that quote from Sadjadpour (page 20), where Khamenei is quoted as,
    “There is only one solution to the issue of Palestine … [which] is to hold a referendum with the participation of all native Palestinians, including Muslims, Jews and Christians, the Palestinians who live both inside and outside the occupied territories. Any government that takes power as a result of this referendum and based on the Palestinian people’s vote, whether it is a Muslim, Christian or Jewish government or a coalition government, will be an acceptable government, and it will resolve the issue of Palestine. Without this, the Palestinian issue would not be settled.”
    What does the author think the reference to “native Palestinians” means? Khamenei’s proposed “popular referendum” includes all Palestinians inside or outside of Israel/Palestine, but excludes all Jews who cannot trace their ancestral connection to the land to before the Zionist settlement.

    This view was reiterated, for example, at the “International Conference on Palestinian Intifada” held in 2011 in Tehran, where Khamenei said,
    “We neither propose a classical war with the armies of Islamic countries, nor do we propose throwing Jewish immigrants into the sea or intervention of the United Nations and other international organizations. We propose a referendum among the Palestinian people. Just like any other nation, the Palestinian nation has the right to determine its own destiny and to elect its own government. All the original people of Palestine – including Muslims, Christians and Jews and not foreign immigrants – should take part in a general and orderly referendum and determine the future government of Palestine whether they live inside Palestine or in camps or in any other place. The government that is established after the referendum will determine the destiny of non-Palestinian immigrants who migrated to Palestine in the past.”
    The references to “the original people of Palestine” and “not foreign immigrants,” as well as the future gov’t determining “the destiny of non-Palestinian immigrants who migrated to Palestine in the past,” imply excluding immigrants and their descendants, which, I believe, would constitute a clear majority of Israel’s population. This view of a “just resolution” of the conflict didn’t originate w/ Khamenei and has been the Islamic Republic’s ideological position since its inception. It’s essentially the view espoused by the majority of the Arab and Islamic worlds pre-1967 war, after which the 2-state compromise took its place. So, is Sadjadpour’s characterization of this view as “antiquated ideology” so outlandish?

    It should be pointed out, however, that, as far as I know, Iran has consistently voted w/ the global consensus in favor of the 2-state sol’n in international venues and has signed on to such a position taken by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, for more than a decade and a half. However, in rhetoric they have consistently maintained their ideological position and have vehemently denounced the 2ss (in favor of which they’ve voted) as betrayal of the Palestinian cause. Quoting from the same Khamenei speech at the Intifada Conference I linked to,
    “… our demand is the liberation of Palestine, not the liberation of a part of Palestine. Any plan to divide Palestine is completely unacceptable. The two-state idea which has been presented in the self-righteous clothing of “recognizing the Palestinian government as a member of the United Nations” is nothing but giving in to the demands of the Zionists – namely, “recognizing the Zionist government in Palestinian lands”. This would mean trampling on the rights of the Palestinian nation, ignoring the historical right of the displaced Palestinians and even jeopardizing the right of the Palestinians settled in “1948 lands”. It would mean leaving the cancerous tumor intact and exposing the Islamic Ummah – especially the regional nations – to constant danger. It would mean bringing back decades-long sufferings and trampling upon the blood of the martyrs. Any operational solution must be based on the principle of “all of Palestine for all Palestinian people”. Palestine is the land that extends “from the river to the sea”, not one inch less than that.”

  14. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    Maximus Decimus Meridius
    January 21, 2014, 9:30 am

    ”The authors then argue that “this impulse to reject perceived unfairness has seemingly motivated Iran’s nuclear ambitions far more than an actual need for an indigenous nuclear energy program.”

    Sounds like lazy Orientalism, dressed up with a nice coating of ‘neuroscience’. Those weird Muslims – not like sophisticated Americans or Israelis – are incapable of rational or pragmatic thought. Everything, for them, is based on emotion or ‘ancient grudges’. And the fact that Sadjadpour is himself Iranian doesn’t make it any less orientalist.

    Oh, and how exactly is Iran being ‘belligerant’ towards Israel?

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