FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rejectionist in Vienna

by JASON HIRTHLER

This weekend we got word that, in the ever-fragile negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 cohort of Western allies, the latest round of which occurred in Vienna last week, the Obama administration has now belatedly added ballistic missiles to the discussion, a non-starter for Iran. Already the fireworks have begun between the State Department and Iran’s Foreign Ministry. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister called discussion of Iran’s “defensive” capabilities a clear red line for the nation. A senior administration official claimed ballistic missiles were on the table, as did U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman and White House spokesman Jay Carney. Shades of Syria, no? Smuggling dialogue-destroying issues into the debate at the last minute or by virtue of some calculated misinterpretation of previous resolutions, in this case the Joint Plan of Action agreed to in November.

Of course, the wider context of this conference is forever ignored in Western mainstream media. A few contextual asides might be worth noting. For one, the utter imbecility of the idea that Iran is a grave threat to the region, let alone an imminent one. Not only has it not invaded another nation unprovoked in centuries, but it has been described by our own national intelligence community as—not only being years away from possessing a bomb—but as assuming a military posture of pure deterrence. This, of course, is the point of the ballistic missiles, not the ability to weaponize them with nuclear warheads, as the now deeply compromised IAEA has been suggesting it has undertaken with the help of a Russian nuclear weapons expert, a claim now cast in considerable doubt and sunk in a morass of technical jargon. Of course, this hasn’t stopped the Wall Street Journal and other global media outlets from repeating the alarmist report. The IAEA should have known better. It’s own late 2011 report contained zero evidence that Iran had diverted any nuclear material toward the production of a nuclear weapon. Why would it be feverishly working to modify a missile to carry a bomb it didn’t have and wasn’t developing? Likewise, although it had confirmed that Iran was fully in compliance with standard IAEA protocols for the use on non-weapons grade fissile material, it had, perhaps under the direction of nefarious Western influences, added needless additional protocols to make the noose even tighter on a compliant member. (One of which is the demand to verify the absence of nuclear bomb-making activities, eerily reminiscent of Donald Rumsfeld’s remark that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” the latter of course being unverifiable.) As though cyberwarfare, debilitating sanctions, and incessant mischaracterizations in the media weren’t enough to convince the Tehranians they are in the cross-hairs of an angry hegemon.

Should the fact-finding missions of the American intelligence community not provide sufficient assurance of the superfluous need to secure agreements on Iranian fissile materials as part of some national security measure, consider the opinions of Arabs. For years now they have in poll after poll overwhelming aimed an accusatory finger at the United States as the greatest threat to the region, while generally no more than 10 percent of those polled consider Iran a threat. And why should they? Some have even responded that a nuclear-armed Iran would help generate a balance of power in the region and perhaps help constrain American hegemony and the fanatics inside the Likud.

If you want a convincing look at who might be the aggressor in the region, have a close look at this map. Or this slightly attenuated one, thankfully due to the draw-down of troops from Iraq. Each nicely illustrates the smothering dragnet of military bases that the U.S. has cast across the region, dropping stakes in any territory willing to be bribed, vulnerable to intimidation, or incapable of evading bombs. Within this appallingly aggressive context, we are demanding that Iran concede their main defensive weapon, long-range ballistic missiles. There is simply no justifiable pretext by which America can attempt to determine Iranian foreign policy.

Israel even recently made the absurd demand that Obama issue new sanctions against Tehran if he could not verify that Iran had not tested ballistic missiles at ranges beyond 500 kilometers. Of course they had, as doubtless have many of the 31 nations that possess them, especially since even short-range ballistic missiles travel twice that. Nor does anyone bother to note the regional monopoly of WMDs held by Israel. This is a country with dozens if not hundreds of nuclear weapons, and a track record of both unprovoked violence and disproportionate response, not to mention serial violations of international law and cynical disinterest in any sort of nonproliferation. Given this profile, why isn’t the United States harrying Israel to cut its nuclear stockpile, as the Arab League reasonably recommended?

You can easily see how blithely unscrupulous and degrading our initiatives must seem to the Iranians. Not that Iran is an angelic nation or hasn’t got its own devices (they are certainly guilty of heinous repression of their own people), but the U.S. is hardly bargaining in good faith. The U.S. behaves rather like a capering and knavish rogue, making a mockery of international relations and the institutions that ostensibly exist to guide them. One has to ask on what legitimate authority the United States initiated this latest round of talks in the first place? Why, when Iran is compliant and with its NPT guardrails?

But these questions never arise. Mainstream doyens like Charlie Rose now banter with beltway imperial enthusiasts like Republican representative Mike Rogers about daft scenarios in which Iran would “sprint” to a nuke, while presumably pacific Western interests rubbed their palms in consternation, if Rogers were to be believed. Although vulgar ideologues like John Kerry and Benjamin Netanyahu pretend they are part of a community of nations that want to pinion the Iranians in a complex of impossibly difficult demands, they are virtually isolated on the international landscape. Aside from slavish American allies in London and Paris, neither the non-aligned movement, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa), the African Union, Latin America, or the Arab League have seconded the United States’ hectoring aggression toward Tehran, but have in many cases submitted to reductions in Iranian imports for fear of being themselves sanctioned or excluded from American financial markets. The Arab League even declared that Israeli nuclear weapons—overseen by the feral, cartoon-wielding Bibi—should be a more pressing priority than the faint hint of Iranian bombs.

If we were remotely serious about peace in the Middle East, we might accept and consider what all of those organizations avidly support: a nuclear weapons-free zone across the Middle East. Anything less is just another ruse by a disingenuous State Department and its feckless gang of imperial dissemblers.

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry. He lives and works in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obama-care
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
stclair
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail