By Kam Zarrabi
cartoon by Mohsen Izadi, Iranian daily Ghanoon
I was in Iran earlier this year when the news broke out on April 2nd that a preliminary agreement had been reached between Iran and the negotiating team of five world powers plus Germany over Iran’s nuclear programs. Even though no details were announced, and the fact that this signing was simply an agreement to continue the negotiations, celebrations erupted in Tehran and other big cities, as well as in the small village in the mountains of central Iran where I saw the news flash on the BBC Farsi channel on satellite television.
Now, a little over three months later, the final agreement has been signed and the prospects of the lifting of crippling economic sanction against the Islamic Republic, plus the looming of a new dawn in Iran’s opening to the West, have created an atmosphere of hope and expectation for a better future.
But how the Iranians view this agreement and how it is being viewed in the United States tell two very different stories. And this difference should be of great interest and concern to the Iranians, much more so than to the American public, as events begin to unfold.
Before opening this subject, it is well to understand that while the average Iranian has long learned to be skeptical and suspicious of the official or the propaganda versions of the affairs, the American public is easily and routinely swayed by whatever the powerful mainstream “infotainment” media portray as factual truth. It has proven rather disheartening to me in trying to debate foreign policy issues with even some of the better educated people here, when their response to some of my comments goes something like: “I don’t know enough about the subject to offer a counter argument. So, why should I believe you and not the experts’ views in New York Times Fox or CNN?” Sadly, I have to admit they do have a valid point!
Iranians are celebrating the prospects of a long awaited relief from the economic pain that the sanctions had imposed upon the nation. While they blame the United States government for what they believe to have been an unjustified and unfair treatment, they are divided as to what the true motivating factors could have been behind America’s animosity toward Iran.
The majority opinion points to America’s insatiable appetite for a hegemonic control over the region and its energy resources. A much smaller segment of the population comprising of the more educated elites, believe that Israel and its Zionist supporters in the United States have been at the helm and steering America’s foreign policy in the Middle East toward Israel’s preferences, even at the expense of America’s own strategic interests. It is also widely believed that the United States, overextended and tired of its costly involvements in the Middle East and, above all, inability to bring Iran down to its knees, has finally opted for negotiating with Iran in order to avoid another disastrous confrontation in the region. In short, the belief is that the United States used trumped up allegations against Iran to rationalize keeping pressure on the Islamic Republic.
The mass media here in the United States tell a totally different story. The commonly accepted narrative portrays the Islamic Republic as a rogue and dangerous regime that has been trying to gain access to nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in order to destroy Israel and ultimately threaten the United States. The public at large views Iran as the enemy, and its leadership as a bunch of untrustworthy fanatics driven by religious zealotry. In short, the average American’s understanding of Iran is exactly what Israel and its Zionist propaganda machine have portrayed.
The official version of what has led to the nuclear agreement reached between the P5+1 group and Iran is being sold to the American public as the best alternative to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. There is an ongoing debate here among the public and the members of the Congress as to whether this agreement was, in fact, the best solution to the Iranian threat. But there is no expressed doubt among the media pundits, the blindfolded public, and the members of the Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, that the Iranian nuclear program has, in fact, been a threat to America’s regional allies and even to the security of the United States.
Now let us look at some of the issues being discussed and debated over the media these days. In each case I start by stating the official version and publicly accepted narrative, followed by a seldom if ever noted alternative [in italics], which the public here would view as counterintuitive.
1-Iran has been trying to develop nuclear weapons for aggressive purposes.
Any country that has access to peaceful, legal, nuclear technology is also capable of and engaged in research and development of that technology, some of it inevitably leading to the capability of creating nuclear bombs. However, the capability to do something does not necessarily mean the intention to achieve that end.
2-If Iran is allowed to develop nuclear weapons it would attack Israel to accomplish the often stated objective of wiping it off the face of the map.
First of all, there is a big difference between the words “Israel” and the “Zionist Entity”, the latter term referring to what the Iranian regime has been calling the regime of occupation, and certainly not the Jewish people. Iran has the largest population of ethnic, native Jews, not historically recent immigrants as in Israel, than any state in the region. Second, wishing for something to vanish and actually attempting to accomplish it are two different things. Third, attacking Israel with or without nuclear weapons would be of no conceivable benefit to Iran; Iran would gain nothing by doing so. Any such attempt against a heavily nuclear armed state, supported by the might of the biggest superpower, would spell total devastation of Iran.
3-Were Iran to develop nuclear weapons, it would start an arms race in the region, as Iran’s Arab rivals would also acquire nuclear weapons, which would be a potential problem for the region and the world.
There are two problems with this allegation: First is that the trigger-happy Israel’s well-known nuclear arsenal, as well as the Pakistani nuclear bombs, a state with very questionable control over its diverse and sometimes fanatical tribal populations, have not resulted in an arms race in the region. Second, the regional Arab states, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the Gulf Emirates, Jordan, and even Egypt are not independent sovereign states that could possibly decide on their own to do anything that their guardian, the United States, would not allow.
4-Iran supports terrorist organizations, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian Hamas.
Again, there are two problems with that position: First is the designation as “terrorist organizations”, which begs to ask how and why they were branded as such by the American administration. The reason is obvious: for Israel any entity that opposes or resists its agendas is a terrorist entity. Secondly, both Hezbollah and Hamas represent the largest segments of their nation’s populations in their respective territories. In addition to their socioeconomic and humanitarian missions, each has its military or militant flank that is a definite nuisance to Israel, resisting and retaliating against Israeli aggression and atrocities.
5-Iranian proxies have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Even though the new kid on the block, the “very” Junior Senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, pressured the nominee for the next Chairman of the Joints Chiefs during the Senate Confirmation procedures to reaffirm that allegation, General Joseph Dunford refused to buy into that line. General Dunford had not even listed Iran among our biggest potential security threats; Russia, China, North Korea and ISIS.
Now, let’s put the shoe on the other foot: How many Iranians have been killed by American forces or America’s proxies in the region? How about nearly three-quarters of million casualties by the American encouraged, advised and armed Saddam Hossein during eight years of 1980-88? What about the downing of the Iranian passenger airliner by the American battleship, Vincennes, in the Persian Gulf in 1988, clearly by error, killing 290 civilians, for which Ronald Reagan or his VP, George H. W. Bush never apologized and, instead, the captain of that ship was decorated? Bush’s statement says it all: "I will never apologize for the United States, I don't care what the facts are..., I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy." And what about America’s friends and proxies, Israel and the former terrorist organization, the MEK, responsible for sabotage and assassinations of dozens of civilians and physicists in Iran? I wonder what that green-horn Senator from Arkansas has to say about that!
6-We cannot trust the Mullahs in Iran, just as we should not have trusted North Koreans to honor their word or their obligations.
First of all, comparing Iran with North Korea is as ridiculous as comparing a lion to a scorpion. Secondly, as to who reneged on its promises and betrayed whom in North Korea’s case, the subject is open to debate. Thirdly, what egregious act has Iran committed to be regarded as a liar, unreliable or untrustworthy?
Now let’s compare Iran with its arch regional rival, Israel, the master of lies, deception, denials, false-flag operations, etc., from its clandestine nuclear weapons development under the convenient cover of deniability, to the expansionistic war of 1967 under the guise of preemptive self-defense, to the blatant attack on the American reconnaissance ship, Liberty, that was monitoring Israeli operations during that war.
7-Iranians continue to chant Death to America; they pride themselves in being our enemy.
For those who do not understand the language and its usage in Iran, the only equivalent to the phrase “Down With.....” is “Death to.....”. This is not to endorse that kind of sloganeering; but the disdain for America’s behavior against Iran, going as far back as 1953, long before the Islamic Revolution, runs quite deep: The military coup of 1953, the overt backing of Saddam Hossein to attack Iran -1980-88, open attempts to bring about a regime change in Iran in violation of international law, de-listing of the Mojahedin-a-Khalgh, the MEK, organization as a terrorist group, even though members of this organization were responsible for killing Americans during the Islamic Revolution and had spearheaded and were directly responsible for the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran. This de-listing was done to create a thorn on Iran’s side. Adding to this the imposition of harsh economic sanctions that hurt the people more than the regime, the Iranians have had some very legitimate reasons to be disdainful and suspicious of America’s intentions. Of course, they do regard Israel as an extension of America’s power in the region and look at Zionism as a plague infesting the region; and we don’t need to elaborate on what is quite obviously the reason for that mindset.
8-Unfreezing the Iranian assets and handing them a check for more than one-hundred-billion dollars is wrong, when that money would enable Iran to increase its support of its terrorist proxies in the region.
As President Obama tried to clarify this issue, most of Iran’s frozen assets are accounts receivable from various other countries who, under American pressure, had agreed to freeze those assets, even against their own national interests. It would have been impossible to keep that pressure on those countries indefinitely. In other words, we, meaning the United States, is not writing a check for that sum and handing it over to Iran. It is also extremely unlikely that Iran, instead of ramping up their own economy, would allocate any significant amounts to its regional proxies.
9-There are four Americans currently being held in Iran under trumped up charges.
First of all, it is important to realize that under Iranian law three of the men being held are Iranian nationals, even though they hold dual citizenships. Granted, the charges against the four may well be trumped up or based on complicated technicalities, as seems to be the case with the former US Marine who under the Iranian law is legally an Iranian citizen and his serving in the armed forces of another country could be regarded as sedition. One man is a Christian convert who is charged, among other things, with illegal, under the Iranian law, attempts to proselytize other Moslems. Another man is a journalist working for the Washington Post who is charged with illegally collecting certain sensitive data. Finally, there is a former CIA operative whose whereabouts are not known or disclosed. Doubtless, the Iranian government could exercise its latitude to release these individuals, as it has in the past in other similar cases.
There is one sticking point here that has seldom if ever been brought out by our major media: According to the Iranian authorities there are several Iranian nationals who are being held in the United States on what Iran also claims to be trumped up charges. This issue should soon be resolved, perhaps through some covert exchange deal.
The official narratives circulating around the media and discussed in the various think tanks and open forums is based on the assumption that Iran’s nuclear program has had, and could continue to have, a clandestine military dimension, and that the negotiated nuclear agreement has been solely aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from achieving the goal of accessing a nuclear weapon. And, in exchange for verified and iron-clad evidence of Iran’s compliance with the terms of this agreement, economic sanctions imposed on Iran would be lifted, not all at once, but in stages.
In none of these debates and discussions is it ever suggested that the concerns over Iran’s ambition to develop nuclear bombs might be an excuse or a pretext masking the real issues of concern for the American administration. The mere mention of such a probability is enough to discredit any political analyst. No network, not even C-SPAN or Aljazeera, would dare invite an observer/analyst who’d challenge the prevailing conventional wisdom that Iran is a rogue state that must be corralled and defanged.
Clearly, after years of negative portrayals of Iran that have resulted in the crystallization of that terrible image in American minds, reversing that imagery will not be easy. Any effort by the Administration to bring about a change of heart would have to be gradual and with ample face-saving maneuverings to have a chance.
On the Iranian side, as I have brought out in my previous writings, the effort toward the acceptance of a rapprochement with the “Great Satan” would be much less cumbersome, as the nation is ready and the hardliners, unlike the case here, more easily corralled.
1-America’s direct involvements in the Middle East in the past two decades, especially after the events of 9/11, have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, destruction of the region’s infrastructure and the displacement of millions, more chaos and instability, and increasing anti-American anger from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean. During its misguided campaigns under the guise of war on terror and promotion of democracy, America lost several thousand lives and trillions of dollars, with nothing to show for all that. The “good terrorists” created, funded and trained by the United States and its regional allies to fight for America’s cause became America’s enemies, from the Taliban in Afghanistan to the Sunni tribes in Iraq and Syria, headed by the leftover Ba’thists of the Saddam era, who have created the Da’esh or ISIS movement.
In short, America has been losing lives, its wealth, leadership and prestige in the Middle East arena. Creating enemies without due cause and making friends of convenience out of undeserving opportunists have proved disastrously counterproductive.
A serious reassessment of America’s foreign policy trends in the Middle East has long been overdue. Two main obstacles in the way to achieving this goal remain in effect: First is the prevailing public opinion which has taken decades to gel through relentless indoctrination by the special interest groups such as our huge military-industrial complex and the Zionist lobbies, those who benefit from any war, anywhere, and those who have long concluded that the main regional beneficiary of America’s engagement in the Middle East has been Israel.
Second problem is the United States Congress, people’s representative lawmakers whose success in gaining and maintaining their positions has depended on the media support and campaign funding provided by the same sources of power and influence. We can add to these obstacles another group, religious fundamentalists, more prevalent in the so-called Bible Belt states, whose infantile belief in the apocalyptic end-time prophesies of the Book of Revelations has been playing well in the hands of Zionist manipulators to accomplish their diabolical goals.
Some of the Republican hopefuls for their Party’s nomination in the upcoming presidential campaigns, such as Mike Huckabee and Lindsey Graham, may not realize that their world views and those of the leaders of the Islamic State or ISIS are rooted in the same warped interpretation of their respective religions. I wished that people like that were plain old stupid; but they are not, at least not Senator Graham. Similarly, I cannot write off the rest of the Republican candidates as stupid or ignorant. Some among them have jumped on the bandwagon by demonstrating how much they love Israel and hate Iran in order to appeal to the public sentiment and to compete with outstretched hands for Zionist money and endorsement. I do not believe that the members of the Democratic Party are any different; they are just less prone to criticize the Administration’s policies.
But what is presented to the public both here and in Iran is the propaganda narrative of the new rapprochement between the United States and the Islamic Republic. In the United States, effort is being made, not to challenge the public precepts regarding Iran, but to convince the public that the nuclear agreement is achieving the goal of keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In Iran, the public is being led to believe that its negotiating team succeeded in reaching all of its objectives by standing firm against the arrogance and unfair demands of the superpower.
In my opinion, the truth lies not somewhere in between, but in a completely different ballpark, altogether.
Needless to say, neither President Obama, nor John Kerry or anyone else in the Administration could ever admit that the facts behind the official presentation tell a different story, masked behind the publicly accepted or politically correct veneer. There is no need to repeat what I have presented here and in my previous writings. The bottom line is that it was time to end years of counterproductive and mutually destructive policies toward the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was time to rescue America’s true national interests from the unrelenting pressures of special interest groups and lobbies. And President Obama simply had to wait until half-way through his last term in office to openly engage in correcting the wrong and pursuing the right path of diplomacy toward Iran.
It was time to end the nonsense in a face-saving manner by both parties to the agreement.
If John Kerry and M. Javad Zareef do receive the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts, which they do deserve, I would like to see Mr. Zareef donating his share to his favorite charity.
| Kam Zarrabi is the
author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion.He has conducted lectures and seminars on international affairs,
particularly in relation to Iran, with focus on US/Iran issues. Zarrabi's latest book is Iran, Back in Context.
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