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Haass says Iran can’t have nukes but North Korea can because it has ‘China in its corner’ (Hmmmm)

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Two days ago NPR interviewed Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, about why the U.S. is pursuing a different strategy/policy with North Korea than with Iran when it comes to nuclear weapons. Haass was frank about the double standard: Iran can’t have nukes, but we can live with North Korea’s.

The administration would seem more comfortable with a significant North Korean nuclear capability than it would with an Iran that had no capability.

Haass said one reason for the difference is, North Korea has a powerful protector in China, and Iran doesn’t:

The problem [for Iran] is Iran does not have the equivalent of a China in its corner in the same way that North Korea does.

Alright, but what about the fact that Iran’s regional rival, Israel, has what North Korea has: a superpower “in its corner,” the U.S. As a result, Israel has nuclear weapons, no questions asked. Israel regularly exerts its influence in US policymaking circles to the point that President Obama said it would be an “abrogation” of his constitutional duty to consider Israel’s interests over the U.S. when it comes to Iran. And we are constantly told that Iran threatens the U.S., when its adversary is Israel.

Israel and its influential U.S. lobby went unmentioned in the NPR interview. They couldn’t say that Trump’s largest donor, Sheldon Adelson, is a huge Israel supporter, and has urged the U.S. to nuke Iran. The press does not like to touch on the Adelson angle for fear of stoking anti-Semitism. So NPR interviewer Mary Louise Kelly and Haass said Trump’s harsh stance on Iran was because he wants to undo Obama’s legacy.

Sheldon Adelson is everywhere. He hosted Trump in Las Vegas this spring. He attended the Florida governor on his trip to occupied territories last month, which surely had 2020 purposes. He was at the opening of the embassy last year. His wife won the presidential medal of freedom in February. Three days ago the Adelsons were alongside Trump’s Middle East envoys when they took part in that grotesque celebration of an archaeological dig in occupied Jerusalem. The Times noted their presence, “the billionaire Republican donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson,” but said little more about their agenda. Though Adelson has been working in US politics to destroy the idea of a Palestinian state for more than 20 years, and doing so successfully.

Michelle Goldberg leaves Adelson out of her New York Times column on “warmonger” national security adviser John Bolton. But Bolton is Adelson’s boy. Back in 2016, the NYT said Bolton “enjoys a powerful ally in Sheldon Adelson.” And though Bolton was kept out of the White House for the first year and more of the administration because Trump reportedly didn’t like him, Bolton got to advise the president by calling him from Las Vegas– on Sheldon Adelson’s phone, Politico reported.

Michelle Goldberg also seeks to preserve the reputation of neoconservatives. They mean so well.

Bolton is sometimes described as a neoconservative, but that’s not really right. Neoconservatives purported to champion the expansion of American values, while Bolton just wants to impose American might.

But Bolton was long identified with the neocon movement. And whether they want to “champion the expansion of American values,” neocons believe in the imposition of American might. They wanted large military budgets specifically to stand by Israel back in the 70s, they told us Israel’s war with terrorists was our fight. They openly supported regime change.

Here is the neocons’ thrilling call to go to war to remove Saddam Hussein after 9/11, no matter what he’d done.

But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism. The United States must therefore provide full military and financial support to the Iraqi opposition. American military force should be used to provide a “safe zone” in Iraq from which the opposition can operate. And American forces must be prepared to back up our commitment to the Iraqi opposition by all necessary means.

Speaking of supporters of the Iraq war, NY Rep. Eliot Engel says the U.S. shouldn’t go to war with Iran, because we got “burned” in Iraq. He spoke at the Jerusalem Post conference last month:

Now I’m not advocating a war because I think we went into wars in Iraq and other places frankly, and we were burned. So we have to be very very careful, to balance it. We cannot allow Iran to continue its malevolent activities. We cannot allow Iran to continue unabated to do the things they’re prone to do.

Engel also said the US should have gone to war in Syria.

Frankly I think that we mishandled Syria to a very large degree. What has happened there breaks my heart. You have Assad being the butcher of hundreds of thousands of his own people, it’s just absolutely disgraceful. And when we had the opportunity to really go after him, we didn’t do that. You know the Free Syria Army… five six seven years ago, came to us and they were winning on the battlefield, and they asked us for help and myself and others tried to get that. And we could never quite attain it, because everyone assumed, well, Assad’s going to fall on his own. It’s not going to happen. And with Russia there to back him, and doing all kinds of things it’s really a problem.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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22 Responses

  1. John Douglas on July 3, 2019, 5:09 pm

    RE: Engel says, “You have Assad being the butcher of hundreds of thousands of his own people,…” And of course, Saddam, “… gassed his own people…” I’ve never been sure of the point of the, “his own people”. The best In can come up with is that it’s seriously worse to slaughter “your own people” than to slaughter “someone else’s people”. Maybe the US’s actions in Iraq, which caused the deaths of so many more than Saddam ever did, were not so bad because the dead were not, by and large, “our own people.” Note Engel’s claim the “we” got burned in Iraq. (No one else?) But then I think of the beloved Abe Lincoln whose insistence that the South remain in the Union killed so many of “his own people.”

    • LiberatePalestine on July 3, 2019, 6:23 pm

      What you correctly condemn is typical Yankee self-centredness. Other examples (the list would be long):

      * «Support our troops». Why not «Support their troops»?

      * The constant talk of fifty-odd thousand people who died during the US’s imperialist adventure in Vietnam. Seven million Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians who were killed, and countless others who have suffered serious injuries or birth defects thanks to the destruction wrought by the US in Southeast Asia, don’t deserve a mention; all that matter are fifty thousand gringo invaders.

    • RoHa on July 3, 2019, 8:41 pm

      As an off-the-cuff argument, I can offer the following.

      All people have a duty to avoid harming others, to the extent of their power.
      All people have a (usually less stringent) duty to improve the welfare of others, to the extent of their power.

      (Thank you, W. D. Ross.)

      A leader of a country has greater power than the rest of us over the people of that country, and greater power over the people of that country than over the people of other countries. Thus, his/her duties to the people of that country are more stringent than his her duties to the people of other countries.

      So, while one really should not go round slaughtering any people (no matter how tempting the prospect), the leader of a country is in greater breach of his/her duties if s/he slaughters his/her own people than if s/he slaughters the people of another country.

      Or, as the bodyguard said to Ford Prefect, “I am responsible for the safety of Mr. DeSatio’s body. I am not responsible for yours.”

      (Douglas Adams. Quoted from memory.)

      • Tuyzentfloot on July 4, 2019, 5:43 am

        I use a concept of roll-off to describe how our concern for others decreases with distance. It is ok to care about those close to us first , while also caring for the local community at a degree which is a bit lower, and so on to social group, ethnic group, country, humanity, animals , environment.
        There are those who promote a hard short distance roll-off : me and or my family and the rest can drop dead. Longer distance hard roll off: my religion or group and the rest can drop dead. Those who believe in no roll-off: we should love everyone equally. I believe in a relatively soft roll-off. There can be many variants for that. Even ‘Don’t do harm to others’ can be interpreted in a minimalist (direct harm)or a maximalist way(give up in competitive situations, don’t do things others object to).
        The mere fact that 7 billion people exist does a lot of harm to the planet.

    • James Canning on July 4, 2019, 4:23 pm

      Ill-considered US sanctions against Syria helped to bring on economic crisis and civil war. The catastrophe in Syria to a considerable degree was set up by the Israel lobby.

    • CigarGod on July 13, 2019, 9:46 pm

      I don’t think one gets legit use of the phrase: “butcher of ones own people”, when the west and israel not only cultivated (indoctrinated, trained and supplied) the opposition, but hired non-syrians.
      The point has long passed, since those people were syrias “own people,” and many never were.
      I’m not syrian, but my taxes are used by non-syrians to butcher syrian people

  2. LiberatePalestine on July 3, 2019, 6:28 pm

    Iran and North Korea have the right, and even the duty, to obtain nuclear weapons. Being in the cross-hairs of the hostile US, which itself has abundant nuclear weapons, they would be foolish not to do so.

    The correct demand is for the elimination of all nuclear weapons everywhere.

  3. Mayhem on July 3, 2019, 9:16 pm

    @LiberatePalestine, with your warped thinking I suppose you would say North Korea and Iran also have the right to brutalize their own people because that’s supposedly their own business.

    • LiberatePalestine on July 4, 2019, 12:46 am

      How on earth does that follow from what I said?

    • eljay on July 4, 2019, 9:08 am

      || Mayhem: @LiberatePalestine, with your warped thinking I suppose you would say North Korea and Iran also have the right to brutalize their own people because that’s supposedly their own business. ||

      You supposed it with your warped thinking.

      But you’re right to suggest that North Korea and Iran do not have the right to brutalize their own people, just as Israel does not have the right to brutalize not only its own people but also non-Israelis.

    • Misterioso on July 4, 2019, 5:43 pm


      Desperate to make a “point,” you fall flat on your keister. Hasbara Central must be running out of patience with you. You better look for another job.

      • LiberatePalestine on July 4, 2019, 7:03 pm

        → Hasbara Central must be running out of patience with you. You better look for another job.

        To be fair, I too would utterly fail at the job of defending the indefensible. Beyond the shopworn chauvinist propaganda about blooming deserts and divine favour, there’s nothing to be said for the criminal, genocidal Zionist project.

  4. RoHa on July 4, 2019, 4:09 am

    “We cannot allow Iran to continue its malevolent activities.”

    What malevolent activities?

    A couple of weeks ago I went to the hospital for a check-up*. Even though I can walk perfectly well, they insisted on having me wheeled around the place. When the porter passed a TV set showing some American big-wig pontificating, he went into a rant about “mongrel Americans”, their “blood lust” towards Iran, and how they wouldn’t be satisfied until they had started another war.

    So there’s an Australian view of the matter.

    (“Mongrel” is a very strong insult in demotic Australian.)

    (*After various tests, they think I’m probably still alive.)

    • Mooser on July 4, 2019, 3:58 pm

      “After various tests, they think I’m probably still alive.”

      Gosh, the bill, hospital and medical services, must be tremendous!

      • RoHa on July 6, 2019, 2:32 am

        The wonders of Australian medical science, and all paid for by Medicare.

  5. johneill on July 4, 2019, 4:16 am

    israel remains the only rogue nuclear state in the middle east.

  6. John Douglas on July 4, 2019, 9:28 am

    RoHa, Thanks for your comment. W.D. Ross hasn’t made his way through my brain for many a decade. Two things: I prefer Singer’s argument that physical distance is irrelevant to moral duty. And, you are correct that a leader has a greater political duty to those he or she leads. But being a “good soldier” is often inconsistent with moral duty.

  7. James Canning on July 4, 2019, 10:45 am

    Sheldon Adelson relentlessly advocates idiotic American policies toward Iran, to benefit Israel.

  8. Elizabeth Block on July 4, 2019, 4:44 pm

    North Korean has nukes. They’re not going to give them up (not unless the US does too!). Not for Trump, not for anyone. Why should they? The US devastated North Korea during the Korean war. Americans don’t know this – probably not even the soldiers who fought there know it, it was mostly done from the air – but the Koreans know it very well, and will do what they must to keep it from happening again.
    Some people may remember that they were on Bush’s shit list – until they tested their first nuclear weapon. Sometimes deterrence works.
    As for Iran, if they feel they need them to prevent the US from attacking, they’ll get them.
    I sometimes wonder that Trump’s admiration for dictators doesn’t include Iran’s leader.

    • LiberatePalestine on July 4, 2019, 5:55 pm

      Korea is still divided and occupied by the US. As you said, the US devastated the northern half of the country during its imperialist invasion ostensibly «backed by the UN» (only because the Soviet Union left in protest): hardly a building anywhere was left standing. With everything destroyed, some soldiers of the Yankee invading army dumped their bombs into the sea, since there was nothing left to attack.

      The US has used nuclear weapons not so very far away (in Japan), and MacArthur even demanded the authority to use nuclear weapons against Korea and China during the criminal Yankee invasion of Korea.

  9. Jasonius Maximus on July 6, 2019, 4:33 pm

    I love how we in the US couldn’t possibly tolerate a nuclear Iran, yet have fucking zero qualms about Israel (known for invading and occupying every single one of her neighbors and attacking the USS Liberty and killing dozens of US personnel), Pakistan (know for their mass export of radical terrorists and harboring Osama fucking bin Laden of all people) and India (not exactly known for it’s tolerance either) are all literally swimming in nukes!

    Oh, but “Israel is in a rough neighborhood!” scream her defenders!

    Yeah, and Iran isn’t? Iran is bordered by Iraq (who has previously invaded and use chemical fucking weapons against the Iranians), Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan (yeah, THAT Taliban regime and bastion of peace and tolerance) and has Saudi Arabia just across the gulf!

    Those radical regimes make Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon look like a bunch of middle-schoolers in comparison. Lest we not forgot that the mighty nuclear armed US (the same US that overthrew their democratic leader back in 1953) might as well be considered a hostile neighbor too, considering our insane military presence and history of forced regime change in the region.

    Iran is no innocent choir girl, but let’s be perfectly honest for once in our lives, neither are Israel, Pakistan and India! They all have an ocean of blood on their hands, are renown for their own systematic oppression, violence, and history of invasion and shouldn’t be allowed within a thousand miles of with nuclear weapons either. But they are and we routinely and notoriously ignore these very inconvenient facts every single time the discussion of Iran and a “nuclear free Middle East” comes up.

    It’s actually quite embarrassing!

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