iran

The U.S. and Iran are talking. Why is the New York Times peddling Iran Islamophobia?

At long last, the United States and Iran are engaged in serious talks about Iran's nuclear program. But instead of celebrating the fact that President Obama is keeping his promise to the people who voted for him to pursue diplomatic engagement with Iran, the New York Times has suggested to its readers that Iran's Supreme Leader is uniquely and intrinsically untrustworthy when he says that Iran will never pursue a nuclear weapon. Why? Because, according to the Times, Iran's leaders are Shiites, and Shiites have a religious doctrine called "taqiyya," which allows them to lie.

No scholar or analyst was cited by the New York Times in support of this argument, which should have been a red flag for Times editors for an argument claiming that the leadership of a country against which the United States has threatened war is essentially different from us because they belong to a different religion.

Last Saturday - the same day the United States and Iran were having "constructive and useful" discussions on Iran's nuclear program in Istanbul, according to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - the New York Times published a piece titled, "Seeking Nuclear Insight in Fog of the Ayatollah's Utterances," over the byline of James Risen.

That piece contained the following paragraph:

 

Complicating matters further, some analysts say that Ayatollah Khamenei's denial of Iranian nuclear ambitions has to be seen as part of a Shiite historical concept called taqiyya, or religious dissembling. For centuries an oppressed minority within Islam, Shiites learned to conceal their sectarian identity to survive, and so there is a precedent for lying to protect the Shiite community.

 

A Contrarian Optimist View of the Upcoming Iran Nuclear Talks

When President Obama nominated global health superhero Dr. Jim Young Kim to lead the World Bank, Harvard development economist Dani Rodrik remarked, "It's nice to see that Obama can still surprise us."

Is it possible that Obama could pleasantly surprise us in the upcoming talks with Iran over its nuclear program? Much of the media coverage would suggest otherwise.

Nonetheless, there are actually quite a few positive signs that we can point to:

1. There have been no reported major explosions in Iran or assassinations of Iranian scientists recently, as have seemed to occur in the run-up to previous talks. This could be a sign that U.S. pressure on Israel and the Iranian MEK terrorist group is working to keep things quiet on that front. There is some evidence that this might be the case.

2. No-one appears to be talking about Israel much at all. Israeli officials appear to be keeping a relatively low profile, and Israeli Defense Minister Barak recently put forward a proposed list of Western demands that is at least on the planet of plausibility - in particular, Barak made no demand that Iran cease enriching uranium.

3. Thanks in no small part to the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Reid, Congress has also been relatively quiet. And this week Congress is out of session.

AIPAC Lobby Day Call-In Against S. Res. 380 and H. Res. 568

AIPAC's 2012 congressional agenda sets a new precedent in boldness.
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Call your reps today to oppose AIPAC's push for war with Iran! Here's what you do:

1. Call the congressional switchboard using this toll-free number provided by the Friend's Committee on National Legislation: 1-855-686-6927.

2. Ask to be connected to one of your representatives' offices.

3. Urge your Senators to oppose and vote NO on S. Res. 380. Urge your Representative in the House to oppose and vote NO on H. Res. 568.

4. Tell your representative's office that you oppose this legislation because:

i. It supports going to war with Iran in order to prevent it from developing a “nuclear weapons capability,” a vague threshold many experts believe Iran has already reached. In other words, the legislation supports going to war at the earliest convenience, even if Iran has no intention of actually developing a weapon.

Ellison-Jones Dear Colleague: "Support Diplomacy to Prevent Nuclear Proliferation and War with Iran"

Dear Colleague: Support Diplomacy to Prevent Nuclear Proliferation and War with Iran


[Sign-on deadline March 1]

Dear Colleague,

Now that the international community has enacted the strongest sanctions against Iran to date, we must redouble our diplomatic efforts to achieve the transparency measures that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains a civilian one.

Without a corresponding diplomatic undertaking, pressure alone could lead to unintended and potentially devastating consequences, including war. Top U.S. national security officials have said that a military strike against Iran could lead to a regional war in the Middle East and attacks against U.S. interests.

While we acknowledge that progress will be difficult, we believe that keeping diplomatic channels open is the best way to avoid a new war and ensure that Iran does not gain a nuclear weapon. Please join us in sending this message to President Obama.

Sincerely,

Keith Ellison                             Walter Jones

Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Dear President Obama:

As tension with Iran continues to escalate, we urge your Administration to utilize all available tools of diplomacy to resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program and prevent another costly war in the Middle East.

Does AIPAC Want War? Lieberman "Capability" Red Line May Tip AIPAC's Hand

For all it has done to promote confrontation between the United States and Iran, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has worked to avoid the public perception that AIPAC is openly promoting war. In AIPAC's public documents, the emphasis has always been on tougher sanctions. (If you make sanctions "tough" enough - an effective embargo - that is an act of war, but it is still at one remove from saying that the U.S. should start bombing.)

But a new Senate effort to move the goalposts of U.S. policy to declare it "unacceptable" for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability - not a nuclear weapon, but the technical capacity to create one - gives AIPAC the opportunity to make a choice which all can observe. If the Lieberman resolution becomes an ask for AIPAC lobbyists at the March AIPAC policy conference, then the world will know: AIPAC is lobbying Congress for war with Iran.

Sponsors of the Lieberman resolution deny that it is an "authorization for military force," and in a legal, technical sense, they are absolutely correct: it is not a legal authorization for military force. But it is an attempt to enact a political authorization for military force. It is an attempt to pressure the Administration politically to move forward the tripwire for war, to a place indistinguishable from the status quo that exists today. If successful, this political move would make it impossible for the Administration to pursue meaningful diplomatic engagement with Iran, shutting down the most plausible alternative to war.

WaPo: Still Getting Ahead of the Facts on Iran

It seems that the Washington Post still requires a bit of help sticking to the facts on Iran. An article in yesterday's Post, entitled "Center for American Progress, group tied to Obama, under fire from Israel advocates," featured the following passage (emphasis mine):

At the same time, Israel’s supporters worry that Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon and greater instability in the Middle East pose existential threats to Israel.

Hm. "Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon." Sounds awfully familiar. Where have we heard that before?

Oh, yes. Recall that, way back in December, Just Foreign Policy initiated a campaign to get the Washington Post to correct a photo gallery headline, which originally read, "Iran's quest to possess nuclear weapons." The ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, agreed that the headline was "misleading," and the Post corrected it to read, "Iran's quest to possess nuclear technology." The mishap was blamed on the tricky nature of the headline creating process.

This time, however, the object of Iran's quest wasn't being mulled by an uninformed photo or copy editor--a journalist or editor, who should have known better, was responsible.

To his credit, Mr. Pexton responded to my email in a prompt fashion, and the offending passage was revised shortly thereafter--about six hours after the article was originally published. The passage now reads (emphasis mine):

WaPo: Sneaky Persians Menace Pentagon's Noble Aim to Keep U.S. Troops in Afghanistan Forever

In a front page exposé on January 4, the Washington Post revealed that sneaky Persian agitators are conspiring to thwart the Pentagon's noble aim of keeping 10,000-30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan on "non-permanent," "non-U.S." bases after "all foreign troops are supposed to be withdrawn" in 2014, just as these sneaky Persians conspired to thwart the Pentagon's noble aim of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq.

The Post story is quite instructive, even if it is not exactly "news" in the common sense of the term. It presents the world from the point of view of diehard Pentagon revanchists who want to keep US troops in Muslim countries forever against the will of the majority of Americans and against the will of the majority of people who live in these countries. It presents this diehard Pentagon revanchist view as if there were no interests in the world besides those of Pentagon revanchists and wily Persian agitators, such as the interests of the majority of people who happen to live in the United States, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Of course, in the world view of the diehard Pentagon revanchist, the concerns of these mere residents are largely irrelevant, if they have no military implications. How many divisions do these mere residents control? These mere residents are just pawns in a game of Pentagon-sneaky Persian chess.

It is a story, moreover, that is spectacularly contradicted by the Post's own previous reporting, as well as that of other major American newspapers.

The story informs us:

 

Judy Miller Alert! The New York Times is Lying About Iran's Nuclear Program

It's deja vu all over again. AIPAC is trying to trick America into another catastrophic war with a Middle Eastern country on behalf of the Likud Party's colonial ambitions, and the New York Times is lying about allegations that said country is developing "weapons of mass destruction."

In an article attributed to Steven Erlanger on January 4 ("Europe Takes Bold Step Toward a Ban on Iranian Oil "), this paragraph appeared:

 

The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran's nuclear program has a military objective, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign. [my emphasis]

The claim that there is "a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran's nuclear program has a military objective" is a lie.

As Washington Post Ombudsman Patrick Pexton noted on December 9,

 

But the IAEA report does not say Iran has a bomb, nor does it say it is building one, only that its multiyear effort pursuing nuclear technology is sophisticated and broad enough that it could be consistent with building a bomb.

Indeed, if you try now to find the offending paragraph on the New York Times website, you can't. They took it down. But there is no note, like there is supposed to be, acknowledging that they changed the article, and that there was something wrong with it before. Sneaky, huh?

But you can still find the original here.

House Vote Today to Approve Iran Sanctions Bill Would Restore Bush "Cooties Doctrine"

Today the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote -under "suspension," requiring a supermajority to pass - on a provision which would restore as policy the Cooties Doctrine of the early Bush Administration - U.S. officials can't meet with officials of the adversary du jour, because our officials might get contaminated.

What's remarkable isn't that some people in Washington would want to prohibit U.S. officials from having contact with Iranian officials. After all, some people in Washington want to have a war with Iran as soon as it can be arranged. What's remarkable is the possibility that the majority of Congressional Democrats might vote to approve the "Iran Cooties Provision." Aren't Democrats supposed to be the diplomacy party, not the war party?

The Cooties Provision is Section 601c of H.R. 1905, the so-called "Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011." Here's what the Cooties Provision says:

 

(c) RESTRICTION ON CONTACT.--No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that-- (1) is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran; and (2) presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations. (d) WAIVER.--The President may waive the requirements of subsection (c) if the President determines and so reports to the appropriate congressional committees 15 days prior to the exercise of waiver authority that failure to exercise such waiver authority would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States.

Would it not be totally preposterous to add this provision to the United States Code?

Leaving everything on the table with Iran--except diplomacy

On the House suspension calendar for tomorrow is this year's “Give Iran Hell Via Broad, Indiscriminate Sanctions!” legislation, known formally as HR 1905, the “Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011.” When a bill is placed on suspension, it means that it is being considered “non-controversial,” which this bill sure does seem to be, at least in Congress: 358 Members are currently cosponsors. However, hidden in the depths of this legislation is a provision that ought to be anything but non-controversial: a measure which aims to prohibit any contact between certain US and Iranian officials. I say “ought to be” because many cosponsors don't even know that this provision exists.

Let me give you the backstory. Back in May, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced HR 1905 as the obligatory annual Iran sanctions ramp-up bill. AIPAC then proceeded to make the bill a cornerstone of its 2011 lobbying—and when AIPAC comes knocking, we know that most Members of Congress have a hard time saying “no.” The legislation quickly earned the cosponsorship of over 80% of the House. Then, at the end of October, the bill went into committee markup. As often happens, some things got removed, some got added. One of the things that got added was section 601(c):