The Ongoing Demonization of Iran


Not everyone wants the United States to improve relations with Iran. Some prefer war instead. Not because Iran is a threat to the American people, or the Israelis, but because a friendly Iran would no longer furnish the convenient enemy the hawks in the United States and Israel need.

So, despite overtures from the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s regime must still be demonized as a group of religious fanatics — mad mullahs — who cannot be reasoned with and who want nothing more than to lob nuclear warheads at the United States and Israel.

Nonsense. Over a decade ago, Iran’s leaders made credible offers of cooperation with the United States that included peace with Israel. In fact, after the 9/11 attacks, the Iranian government tried to cooperate with the Bush administration on a number of fronts. The two sides actually began working together at the end of 2001, until hawkish American officials put a stop to it, as reporter Gareth Porter explained in 2006.

Thus, Rouhani’s current efforts are not a “charm offensive” — as they are prejudicially labeled even by the media — but rather a renewal of Iran’s wish for détente.

We rarely hear about the previous offers, perhaps because they conflict with the mainstream media’s dominant narrative of Iran as an implacable threat. Apparently those who want war with Iran — the neoconservatives, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the members of Congress beholden to AIPAC, and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — make better news copy than would-be peacemakers. Too bad. War would be catastrophic.

Let’s remember that the Islamic Republic of Iran arose only after a U.S.-backed despotism was overthrown in 1979. Rather than seeking to make amends for what had been inflicted on the Iranians, successive U.S. administrations worked to isolate and subvert Iran until a more pliant regime could be installed. Diplomats who favored rapprochement were ignored or marginalized — which suited the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni Arab regimes allied with the United States. (Iran is dominated by Shi’ite Muslims, the sectarian rivals of the Sunnis.)

Nevertheless, moderate Iranian officials continued to hope for détente. Faltering first steps were taken after the 9/11 attacks — Iran opposes al-Qaeda — but neoconservatives in the Bush administration, led by Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and foreign-policy officers allied with Israel’s hawks, blocked progress. President Bush’s embrace of the neocons was signaled by his 2002 state of the union address, in which he included Iran in the “Axis of Evil” along with North Korean and Iraq.

That hostile American response undercut Iranian moderates and bolstered the hardliners. Yet the moderates persevered, partly out of fear that Bush would attack Iran when he was finished with Iraq. They made a new offer. “The proposal, a copy of which is in the author’s possession, offered a dramatic set of specific policy concessions Tehran was prepared to make in the framework of an overall bargain on its nuclear program, its policy toward Israel, and al-Qaeda,” Gareth Porter wrote. “To meet the U.S. concern about an Iranian nuclear weapons program, the document offered to accept much tighter controls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for ‘full access to peaceful nuclear technology.’” “Full transparency” and “full cooperation” were offered.

The Iranian proposal also endorsed the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, in which the Arab League offered to recognize Israel’s 1967 borders and accept a two-state solution with the Palestinians. “The [Iranian] document,” Porter added, “also offered a ‘stop of any material support to Palestinian opposition groups (Hamas, Jihad, etc.) from Iranian territory’ and ‘pressure on these organizations to stop violent actions against civilians within borders of 1967.’ Finally it proposed ‘action on Hizbollah to become a mere political organization within Lebanon.’”

In return, Iran asked for American help against anti-Iranian terrorists, an end to U.S. “hostile behavior,” and the termination of sanctions.

The Bush administration rejected the proposal and reprimanded Swiss diplomats for delivering it.

According to Muhammad Sahimi, an Iran expert at the University of Southern California, President Rouhani and his foreign minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, “played key roles in the ‘grand bargain’ proposal.”

All that stands between America and Iran are those who are bent on war.

Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).


Sheldon Richman keeps the blog “Free Association” and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society.

November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!

Joseph G. Ramsey
Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises
Dan Glazebrook
Turkey Shoot: the Rage of the Impotent in Syria
Andrew Stewart
The Odious President Wilson
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
Sam Husseini
A Thanksgiving Day Prayer
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”