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A Critique of Academic Reasoning

By Kam Zarrabi


The article by Vali Nasr and Ali Gheissari, New York Times, December 13th op-ed, Foxes in Iran's Henhouse, is a very well argued piece, but unfortunately very academic as well.


The article is, first and foremost, based on a hypothesis or presumption that Iran is in fact posing a real, versus potential or possible, nuclear threat to American interests and security, a threat that the United States must try to eliminate. Building their argument on that assumption, the authors offer their solution to the problem; basically a cliché-style divide-and-conquer strategy of creating a gulf between the increasingly more powerful Revolutionary Guards and the clerical leadership.  This, in spite the fact that, as the authors point out themselves, the Guards owe all their power and influence to the direct support of the same clerical leadership.


In another paragraph, it is suggested that we, meaning the United States, must get the Europeans to put economic pressure on the Revolutionary Guards to enlarge the fissures between them and the clerics. There is, however, no directive as to how we can get European powers to forsake their own national economic interests in favor of America's Middle East policies. America's economic sanctions against Iran have meant great serendipitous benefits for many European enterprises, much to the chagrin of American corporations.


It is easy to understand why, sitting at the faculty of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School, one must present one's conjectures based on the parameters one is provided with - meaning, the official ingredients to suit the official menu.


The authors end their dissertation with yet another cavalier statement: "America and the West must not only recognize the growing political divisions in Iran, but also exploit them."


In my mind, the professors have created some very fundamental questions that deserve adequate attention before their opinions can be considered with any degree of seriousness:

1-     Is the Iranian regime's interest in acquiring a nuclear weapons capability a legitimate objective, deserving of respect as a sovereign nation's right to defend itself?

2-     Is such a potentiality a threat to America's legitimate security and strategic interests?

3-     If the answer to the second question is yes, are there other alternatives in dealing with the dilemma than a direct US interference, whether diplomatic, economic or even military, to destabilize Iran, which would inevitably entail chaos, suffering and bloodshed that might spread regionally?

4-     Rather than take the current neocon-driven attitude toward Iran and the Middle East at face value, as have the authors in their analysis, and in view of the fact that America's current strategy in confronting threats of terrorism, real or hyped, has proven counterproductive, shouldn't alternative interpretations of realities on the ground be evaluated?


The thesis presented by Nasr and Gheissari begins with rather shaky presumptions, and follows, syllogistically, along the lines of a highly questionable critical path theory. The only way their solution to the so-called dilemma of Iran's nuclear ambitions could be taken seriously would be to accept certain conjectures as facts:

1-     Iran is intent on developing nuclear weapons; not simply as a deterrent against attacks, but as offensive weapons.

2-     These weapons, and the missiles to deliver them, will be at the disposal of the Revolutionary Guards.

3-     These Revolutionary Guards are gaining power and, soon, control over Iran's administration and foreign policies.

4-     The leadership of the Revolutionary Guards is opposed to any negotiations or dialogue with the West and the US.

5-     Their intention is to make Iran the regional power through force and support for terrorism, and to blackmail the West by using its nuclear weapons as leverage.

6-     This evil, if not confronted and eliminated, will threaten the security of the region and, ultimately, world peace.


For starters, let us consider, just consider, another set of assumptions, and measure its validity against the above set of assumptions:

1-     Research in nuclear technology and its applicability to peaceful purposes is the inalienable right of every sovereign state.

2-     Under the NPT agreements, the United Nations agency is allowed to monitor such research and developments to safeguard against illegal activities.

3-     Mere suspicions, clearly politically motivated, and especially by states with declared hostility against Iran (Israel and the United States) is not enough to overrule the IAEA's findings that Iran is not in violation of its obligations as a signatory to the NPT.

4-     Every state that has access to peaceful nuclear technology has the potential to pursue research in nuclear weapons development, should it feel the need to do so.

5-     Iran has been attacked in the past, and is presently surrounded by hostile forces, and is being openly and blatantly threatened by the United States and Israel, for not only a regime change, but by a preemptive military strike.

6-     If Iran's interest in creating the option for itself to pursue nuclear weapons development is purely for defensive purposes, why not alleviate that fear through negotiations, non-aggression treaties and/or regional disarmament?

7-     If our intentions are truly to promote freedom and democracy in the region, why not allow the market forces to open the doors to regional economic developments and increased prosperity, which is guaranteed to weaken, rather than legitimize, the stranglehold of the ultraconservatives?











... Payvand News - 12/16/04 ... --

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