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An Interview with Sasan Fayazmanesh

Kojouri: Despite the fact that Iran has been clearly cooperating with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the US has continuously accused Iran of violating Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Why is that?

Fayazmanesh: I personally do not know the extent to which Iran has cooperated with IAEA. The Iranian authorities have, of course, repeatedly asserted that they are cooperating fully. But whether Iran is, or is not, cooperating is not the issue when it comes to the US accusation of the Iranian non-compliance. As I have indicated in a number of places, the main motivation behind this accusation is an Israeli policy which is now being pursued zealously by the neoconservatives in the US. I have written extensively on the history of this policy (see, for example, “The Politics of the US Economic Sanctions against Iran, in The Review of Radical Political Economy, Volume 35, Number 3, 2003). In a nutshell, the policy tries to protect Israel and its military-nuclear monopoly in the Middle East by accusing Iran of a number of things, including support for “international terrorism,” opposition to the “peace process” in the Middle East and pursuit of “weapons of mass destruction.” This policy has been formulated and implemented in the US by such Israeli lobby groups as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its affiliate “think tank,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. These lobbies are quite powerful and have influential members in the current Administration. For example, the infamous neoconservatives, Wolfowitz and Perle, have long been on the Board of Advisors of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Perle is also on the advisory board of another powerful lobby, The Jewish Institute For National Security Affairs (JINSA). The Israeli lobbies also have great influence over the US Congress. For example, on May 6, 2003, the US House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 376-3, a resolution sponsored by the Israeli lobby groups. Among other things, the resolution calls for all parties to the NPT, including the United States, “to use all appropriate means to deter, dissuade and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” Speaking against this resolution, Congressman Ron Paul, who cast one of only three dissenting votes, stated: “Let’s not fool ourselves: this concurrent resolution leads us down the road to war against Iran. It creates a precedent for future escalation, as did similar legislation endorsing ‘regime change’ in Iraq back in 1998.” This is indeed what the Israeli lobbies want; and as long as these lobbies are underwriting the US foreign policy in the Middle East the pressure on Iran will continue, regardless of whether Iran does or does not cooperate fully with IAEA.

Kojouri: In the last meeting of governing council, as you know, ElBaradei’s report on Iran’s nuclear activities was positive, but the US continued its accusations against Iran. Now we see the same accusations before the upcoming meeting. What do you think about these controversies?

Fayazmanesh: As I have watched this saga unfold, each time the initial IAEA report appears to be favorable to Iran, the US and Israel (USrael) step in and exert considerable pressure on the head of the IAEA, Dr. ElBaradei, and its other members to change the report drastically. This time will be no exception. John Bolton, the Undersecretary of State and the Administration’s senior non-proliferation official has been very busy lately traveling to Russia to end its atomic energy cooperation with Iran. While in Russia, on May 20, 2004, he told the ITAR-TASS news, that the “United States plans to focus on issues of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and all issues linked to this.” Bolton, of course, is a well-known neoconservative. He has served on the board of advisers of JINSA and is also a former senior vice president of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), another neoconservative think tank. I suspect that he, as well as numerous other neoconservatives, will play a very active role in the upcoming IAEA hearing on Iran’s nuclear activities.

Kojouri: Why is it that such accusations are not made against countries like Israel, India and Pakistan which have atomic bombs?

Fayazmanesh: Again, accusing a country of pursuing weapons of mass destruction or punishing it for having actually developed such weapons has, unfortunately, become very much politicized. For example, because of the close relation that the US has developed with President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan has become completely immune from any retribution even after admitting that at least one of its scientists has engaged in proliferation of nuclear technology. Similarly, Israel, which did not sign NPT, not only has not been reprimanded for its nuclear research and development, but it is not even scrutinized for having hundreds of nuclear warheads or installing such warheads on submarines.

Kojouri: How real is Israel’s threat to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities?

Fayazmanesh: That is hard to say. As an international outlaw protected by the US, Israel is, of course, capable of waging an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, even though such an attack is technically difficult. In that case, there is very little that Iran or, for that matter, any other country or the UN could do. But it appears that most of the Israeli threats so far have come from secondary sources affiliated with Israel. It might well be that this is part of Israel’s usual psychological warfare and terrorizing tactics. It may also be that Israel’s threat is a component of the USraeli plan designed to put intense pressure on the IAEA to state in its next report that Iran is in violation of NPT. This could then start a scenario similar to the case of Iraq in early the 1990s. That is, if the case goes to the United Nations, Iran might face severe economic sanctions. Such sanctions, as we saw in the case of Iraq, could be devastating, both economically and militarily. Moreover, after the imposition of such sanctions, USrael would have a better justification for military attacks against the Iranian nuclear facilities. We just have to wait and see what the next IAEA report states, how much pressure would be exerted on it by USrael to make the report harsh, and how the situation unfolds afterward.

This interview originally appeared in Farsnews.

Sasan Fayazmanesh may be reached at: sasanf@csufresno.edu

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Sasan Fayazmanesh is Professor Emeritus of Economics at California State University, Fresno, and is the author of Containing Iran: Obama’s Policy of “Tough Diplomacy.” He can be reached at: sasan.fayazmanesh@gmail.com.

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