The US, Israel and Iran

Sasan Fayazmanesh is chair of the Department of Economics at California State University, Fresno.

Q. How do you evaluate the relationship between the US and Israel at this time? What is this relation based on?

A: Allow me to say beforehand that I am currently writing a book-tentatively entitled The United States and Iran: Sanctions, Wars and the Policy of Dual Containment- which chronicles the US, Israel and Iran relation since 1979. The book-which is to be completed by the end of summer-examines, in a comprehensive manner, the evolution of the US policy of “dual containment” of Iran and Iraq, particularly as it pertains to Iran. I believe, without such a comprehensive analysis, it is difficult to give meaningful and satisfactory answers to many questions that I am often asked about the current entanglement between Iran on the one side and the US and Israel on the other. With this caveat, I would answer your question by saying that under no previous administration has the relation between US and Israel been as close as under the current, Bush Administration. Why this is the case and what the relation is based on requires the kind of comprehensive analysis that I was referring to above. But let me just say that, as it is well known, the Middle East Policy of the current administration has been determined by the “neoconservatives,” individuals who virtually see no distinction between the “interest” of the US and Israel and might even put the “interest” of the latter above the former. Now, I put “neoconservative” in quotation marks because, for reasons that I will not go into here, it is an ambiguous and overrated expression. Also, I put the term interest in quotation marks, since one has to distinguish between perceived and actual interests on the one hand and the interest of ordinary citizens and those of the elite on the other. The individuals who make the US foreign policy, particularly the “neoconservatives,” represent a privileged group of people with a unique and peculiar view of the world. To these “neoconservatives” waging wars against Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, and possibly Iran and Syria, might appear to be in the “interest” of the US, even though in actuality such policies might be very harmful to the interest of ordinary citizens of the US, particularly in the long-run.

The current relation between the US and Israel, of course, goes beyond the issue of the strength of the “neoconservatives” in the White House. The US Congress, too, has traditionally been, and remains to this day, a close ally of Israel. However, given that the US war against Iraq is going very badly-and the fact the US was egged on to start this war by some Israeli politicians and their “neoconservative” allies in the US-it appears that a few US Congressmen have become lately somewhat uneasy about their blind, unequivocal support for Israel.

Q. How do you evaluate the integration of US and Israeli policy?

A: As it is clear from my answer above, the integration of the US and Israeli policy is nothing new, it is many decades old. But, as I also indicated above, under the current administration this integration has reached a level not seen before. Even at the beginning of the Bush Administration the integration was not as strong as it became later. We all remember that immediately after the September 11 (2001) events the Bush Administration spoke of the creation of a Palestinian State and started a courtship dance with Iran. But the talk and dance ended as soon as the Israeli forces inside and outside the US intervened. Binyamin Netanyahu’s September 21, 2001, testimony before the US congress-when he stated that “if the US includes terrorism-sponsoring regimes like Syria, Iran, or the Palestinian Authority in a coalition against worldwide terrorism, then the alliance ‘will be defeated from the beginning'”- set the stage for a radical reversal of the US newly conceived policy. Similarly, Ariel Sharon’s October 6, 2001, warning that the US should not “repeat the terrible mistake of 1938” stifled any attempt to moderate the US policy. Finally, the January 6, 2002, Karine-A affair-when Israel allegedly captured a ship carrying Iranian arms to the Palestinian Authority group-put a complete stop to any rapprochement between the US and Iran or attempt to establish a Palestinian State. The result was the January 29, 2002, State of the Union Address by President Bush, when the “neoconservative” concept of “axis of evil,” coined apparently by David Frum, was put forward. From then on the “neoconservatives” seemed to have complete control of the US Middle East policy and integrated this policy fully with that of Israel.

Q. How do you see the role and the position of the Israeli lobby in the US? Are there similar lobbies in Israel that advocate for US interest?

A. This is a very broad and complicated question that requires at least a book to answer. There are, of course, a number of articles and books written on the subject of various Israeli lobby groups in the US, particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The most recent essay, and probably the most comprehensive and academic one, is that of John Mersheimer and Stephen Walt, which can be found online. But even this analysis is not detailed enough and, unfortunately, details that are provided appear only in the footnotes. My own book will deal with the subject matter in a greater detail, but only in so far as Iran is concerned. In other words, I investigate the role that various Israeli lobby groups and individuals have played, particularly since the early 1990s, in formulating the US foreign policy towards Iran. The role, I would argue, is quite extensive. Indeed, I argue, that we have to trace this role to Martin Indyk, the communication advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a staffer at AIPAC, the head of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (which is an offshoot of AIPAC), the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the US Department of State under the Clinton Administration and the former US ambassador to Israel. In his 1993 inaugural address as the national security advisor to Clinton, Indyk stated:

The Clinton administration’s policy of “dual containment” of Iraq and Iran derives in the first instance from an assessment that the current Iraqi and Iranian regimes are both hostile to American interests in the region. Accordingly, we do not accept the argument that we should continue the old balance of power game, building up one to balance the other. . . The coalition that fought Saddam remains together, as long as we are able to maintain our military presence in the region, as long as we succeed in restricting the military ambitions of both Iraq and Iran, and as long as we can rely on our regional allies Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the GCC, and Turkey-to preserve a balance of power in our favor in the wider Middle East region, we will have the means to counter both the Iraqi and Iranian regimes. We will not need to depend on one to counter the other.
As I argue in my book, Indyk’s claim that the policy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq was something new was exaggerated and the roots of the policy go back to the Carter Administration and particularly Zbigniew Brzezinski. Setting aside this issue, however, I argue that with the help of Martin Indyk, a few other individuals in the Clinton White House and a few powerful people in the US Congress, various Israeli lobby groups, especially AIPAC, became the underwriters of the sanction policy of the US against Iran. This is particularly true of the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. But Indyk, I argue, represented the moderate wing of the Israeli lobby groups in general and the Washington Institute in particular. He was close to the Israeli Labor party.

When the Bush Administration came to power, more radical members of the Washington Institute, such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, took over the formulation and implementation of the White House Middle East policy. These “neoconservatives” were closely linked to the Likud party members, particularly Binyamin Netanyahu. As such, their idea of “containment” of Iran and Iraq went beyond the roundabout way of passing sanctions to ruin the economy of these countries, bringing about discontent, causing revolt and then overthrowing their governments; they advocated a more direct way for “regime change”: using the military might of the US to attack these countries. Even though some of these individuals have left office, there are still many such characters in the current administration. One such person is Elliott Abrams, the current deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy. He is, of course, a well-known figure who was convicted, and subsequently pardoned, on charges related to the Iran-Contra scandal. Another one is Stephen Hadley, the current national security adviser to President Bush. Under former President George H.W. Bush, Hadley served as an assistant to Wolfowitz, who was then Undersecretary of Defense. Yet, another individual is Stuart Levey, the present Treasury Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. Levey has been working zealously to stop foreign banks from dealing with some Iranian banks. In 2005 Stuart Levey gave an address at AIPAC that began with: “It is a real pleasure to be speaking with you today. I have been an admirer of the great work this organization does since my days on the one-year program at Hebrew University in 1983 and 1984. I want to commend you for the important work that you are doing to promote strong ties between Israel and the United States and to advocate for a lasting peace in the Middle East.” Then he goes on to talk about what his office does and how “[w]e levy economic sanctions to pressure obstructionist regimes, and we have the ability to freeze the assets of wrongdoers.”

The Israeli lobby groups’ influence is, of course, not confined to its members and associates in the White House. The lobby has a great influence in the US Congress as well. Its own current website verifies this influence by stating:

For more than half a century, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has worked to help make Israel more secure by ensuring that American support remains strong. From a small public affairs boutique in the 1950s, AIPAC has grown into a 100,000-member national grassroots movement described by The New York Times as “the most important organization affecting America’s relationship with Israel.”

Political advocacy is one of the most effective ways in which AIPAC works to accomplish its mission. Each year, AIPAC is involved in more than 100 legislative and policy initiatives aimed at broadening and deepening the U.S.-Israel bond.

Among the “more than 100 legislative and policy initiatives” that each year AIPAC helps to underwrite are the numerous sanctions bills against Iran that I alluded to above. Obviously, given the short space here, I can’t elaborate on this and you have to wait until I finish my book.

As far as the second part of your question is concerned, I don’t have an answer. That is, whether there are similar lobby groups in Israel that advocate for US interest is not something that I have followed.

Q. You have used the term USrael. What interpretation did you have in mind? What are the implications of this concept for international relation?

A. It seems that some individuals have attributed coining the term “USrael” to me. Unfortunately, I am not the originator of the term. It existed before it appeared in some of my essays. I used it in the sense that under the Bush Administration the US and Israel’s foreign policy towards the Middle East converged and became virtually indistinguishable. As I explained earlier, this started to happen a few weeks after the events of the September 11, 2001, when the “neoconservatives” aligned the US policy in the Middle East with that of Likud. Given this alignment, there is no significant policy difference between the US and Israel over Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Syria or Lebanon. This was not the case under the previous administrations. For example, during the Clinton Administration the Likud and their “neoconservative” counterparts in the US were trying to toughen the US stand towards Iran. But near the end of the Clinton era US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, under the pressure from the US corporate lobby, tried to modify the direction of the US belligerent policy towards Iran, much to the dismay of the Israeli lobby groups. Her March 17, 2000, speech-in which she nearly apologized for the CIA’s 1953 coup in Iran and spoke of the “regrettably shortsighted” US policy of supporting Saddam Hussein during the Iraq-Iran war-was part of her attempt at rapprochement. We have not seen such rapprochements since the “neoconservatives” took over the US Middle East foreign policy and made it almost identical to that of Israel.

The nearly complete alignment of the US and Israel foreign policy has had a profound implication for the Middle East. For example, the US used to pretend to be an “honest broker” between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But now that veneer has mostly disappeared and the US does not even pretend to be a neutral mediator. Since post September 11, Israel has had a free hand in dealing with the Palestinians. It also has had a free hand in waging the summer of 2006 war against the people of Lebanon. Indeed, as the world watched, the US became the partner of Israel in that war. With regard to Iran, as I have argued above, the implication is clear. Israel and its various affiliates in the US are now the leading force in pushing the US in the direction of confrontation with Iran.

Q. How do you evaluate political developments in the US and Israel? For example, does the change in the balance of power in the US Congress or the coming to power of a different faction in Israel have any impact on strategic interest?

A. It is evident from what I stated earlier that historically both the Democratic and Republican Parties have supported the policy of “containment” of Iran since 1979. This support appears to continue in the future as well. For example, on January 24, 2007, The Jerusalem Post reported from Herzliya Conference in Israel that at “a time when most US Democrats are calling for less military involvement abroad Edwards of South Carolina told conference participants his country must do everything it can to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” According to this report, Edwards, a leading Democratic presidential candidate stated: “All the options are on the table to ensure that Iran will never get a nuclear weapon.” Similarly, the Associate Press of February 2, 2007, reported that Hilary Clinton, another leading Democratic presidential candidate, addressed an AIPAC event a day earlier and stated: “I have advocated engagement with our enemies and Israel’s enemies.” The prime “enemy” of both countries was, of course, Iran. According to the same report, Hilary Clinton, then stated that the “U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons. . . In dealing with this threat . . . no option can be taken off the table.” On the same day, the Associated Press reported that the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lashed out at Hilary Clinton and accused her of “timidity” regarding the security threat posed by Iran. Romney, according to the report, told the conservative Republicans that at “this point, we don’t need a listening tour about Iran. . . Someone who wants to engage Iran displays a troubling timidity toward a terrible threat of a nuclear Iran.” The same Mitt Romney also appeared at the Herzliya Conference, according to The Jerusalem Post, and stated that “Iran must be stopped, Iran can be stopped, and Iran will be stopped. . . The heart of the jihadist threat is Iran. . . I believe that Iran’s leaders and ambitions represent the greatest threat to the world since the fall of the Soviet Union and before that Nazi Germany.” In a more recent interview with ABC News on February 16, 2007, Mitt Romney called the whole nation of Iran “genocidal” and “suicidal,” adding that “you say to yourself this is a setting where, of course, you have to consider the possibility of military action, but we’re not there.” The rest of the Republican presidential candidates are not much different. The same Jerusalem Post that I referred to above also stated that another “Republican hopeful Sen. John McCain said the US should ‘intensify’ its military support for Israel to ensure that the country maintained it strategic edge over those who were bent on destroying it such as Iran.”

As we can see from the above, presidential candidates from both parties are singing the same tune. The question is which wing of the Israeli lobby groups will be put in charge of formulating the Middle East policy when one of these candidates is elected. Will it be Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross type or Wolfowitz and Perle kind?

Given that the US policy towards Iran is devised by different wings of the Israeli lobby groups, and given the affiliations of these groups with Israeli parties, it is natural to expect the same kind of mind set among the Israeli leaders. These leaders, too, are unified in their policy of “containment” of Iran. Whether it is Likud, Labor or Kadima party, the essence of the policy will remain the same. The only difference appears to be how each party or individual intends to “contain” Iran. Some Israeli politicians are more aggressive and fanatical in their “containment” policy than others. For example, in their campaign to demonize Iran, both Binyamin Netanyahu, the “hawkish” former Prime Minister, and Shimon Peres, the “dovish” former prime minister, have repeatedly compared today’s Iran to Nazi Germany. But, according to the Agence France Presse of December 5, 2005, Benjamin Netanyahu promised “a pre-emptive air strike against Iran’s nuclear installations if he were to be re-elected.” Shimon Peres might think twice about such a strike.

Q. How does the US establish a balance between its relation with Arab allies and Israel?

A. Historically, successive US administrations have maintained a symbiotic relation with both their Arabs client states and Israel. At times US’s alliance with the Arabs states has caused some annoyance on the part of Israel and its lobby groups. For example, in the early years of the Iran-Iraq war the US decided to sell Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) to Saudi Arabia to assist Saddam Hussein with intelligence. This decision did not sit well with some Israeli politicians and their allies in the US who were interested in “containing” Iraq first. Similar frictions and fissures have appeared at other times. The interesting issue is what has happened in recent times. Some “neoconservatives” in the Bush White House, such as David Wurmser-currently, Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney-who saw the policy of “dual containment” as too roundabout and time consuming, advocated adopting a new policy: “Dual Rollback of Iran and Iraq.” According to this policy, the US was supposed to attack Iraq, bring the Shiite majority to power, use this power-which supposedly would be friendly to the US and Israel-as a counterweight to Shiite Iran, and then do a “regime change” in Iran. The policy, however, has so far not worked as planned. That is, the Iraqi Shiites have not challenged Iran or shown a great affection and admiration for the US and Israel. Given this reality, we now hear something new in the US-Israeli circle: a dangerous “Shiite crescent,” headed by Iran, is appearing in the Middle East, stretching from Lebanon to Iraq and beyond. This crescent, we are told, must be defeated by an alliance of the US, Israel and Sunni Arab states. The implication of this policy is that Israel and its neoconservative allies in the US might no longer oppose a close relation between US and its traditional Arab client states, such as Saudi Arabia. The new policy is, of course, based on the old dictum of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The US and Israel have played this game many times before in their pursuit of colonial domination, sometimes with costly blowbacks. The sad fact is that some Arab states appear to be going along with this old colonial trick and are joining the alliance against the “Shiite crescent.”

Q. What is the role of Israel in pressuring Iran regarding the nuclear issue?

A. The role is extensive, particularly if you also include Israel’s lobby groups and associates in the US. But showing how extensive it is requires writing a detailed account, which obviously I can’t provide here. In my book I trace one of the first official claims about Iran making an atomic weapon to the “neoconservative” Kenneth L. Adelman. According to the July 1984 Department of State Bulletin, on May 2, 1984, Adelman-who was at the time the US Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency-gave an address before the “Mid-America Committee” in Chicago in which he spoke of some “frightening thoughts,” such as Iran, Libya, or Palestine Liberation Organization acquiring a nuclear bomb. Adelman then stated that “today, talk about the spread of nuclear weapons to Iran is in the news. A British defense journal recently alleged that Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran is only 2 years away from acquiring nuclear weapons.” Twenty three years later, we are still told by the “neoconservatives” and their counterparts in Israel that Iran is 2, 5 or 10 years away from the nuclear bomb. In my book I will provide details of twenty three years of such claims by the Israelis and their associates in the US. Let me just mention one interesting claim. Starting in 1992 Israelis and some “Iranian dissidents,” who have been working closely with the Israeli intelligence, began to claim that Iran actually possesses three or four nuclear warheads. According to this claim, Iran had acquired these warheads from Kazakhstan, after the break up of the Soviet Union.

As late as 1998 the news still percolated within the Israeli, “Iranian dissidents” and some American circles. For example, on April 9, 1998, The Jerusalem Post stated: “Iran received several nuclear warheads from a former Soviet republic in the early 1990s and Russian experts maintained them, according to Iranian government documents relayed to Israel and obtained by The Jerusalem Post.” “The documents,” the Israeli newspaper went on to say, “deemed authentic by US congressional experts and still being studied in Israel, contain correspondence between Iranian government officials and leaders of the Revolutionary Guards that discusses Iran’s successful efforts to obtain nuclear warheads from former Soviet republics.” The paper then went on to say: “The documents appear to bolster reports from 1992 that Iran received enriched uranium and up to four nuclear warheads from Kazakhstan, with help from the Russian underworld.” The following day The Jerusalem Post ran another piece on the same story. This time it claimed that “Iran paid $25 million for what appears to have been two tactical atomic weapons smuggled out of the former Soviet Union in a highly classified operation aided by technicians from Argentina, according to Iranian government documents marked top secret and obtained by The Jerusalem Post.” All this, of course, was pure, sheer fabrication by Israel, their US allies and their “Iranian dissidents” partners. The sensational story, however, soon disappeared as the CIA and US government admitted that there was no truth to it. Afterward, the Israelis and their allies went back to estimating how soon Iran will have the atomic bomb; and since the bomb never materialized, they kept pushing the estimate back. Of course, as I will show in my book, the alleged Iranian bomb, similar to the proverbial “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, is an excuse. The real intention is to complete the “dual containment” by “containing” or destroying the one country that is still standing.

Q. The US is facing the anger of the Middle Eastern people as the result of its support for Israel. Is it possible to continue this? Or will the US reach a point when it will be ready to change the equation.

A: As long as the anger of the people of Middle East does not translate into overthrowing the corrupt, tyrannical and reactionary regimes in the Middle East who have symbiotic relation with the US and Israel, I don’t see much fundamental change in the US foreign policy. So far, the anger has resulted mostly in sporadic, isolated and individual acts of violence. Such acts have removed the veneer of US being an “honest broker” between Israel and her opponents. Yet, at the same time, these actions have hardened the position of the US, brought her even closer to Israel and resulted in more acts of violence on the part of the US and Israel.

Q. How do you access the prospect of development in the Middle East in the next year?

A. It is very difficult and dangerous to predict the future, especially if one is familiar with the past and its complexities. This is particularly true if one is dealing with individuals who appear to be irrational or believe in a Hobbesian world. Will there be another election in Israel to bring back Binyamin Netanyahu to office? Will he fulfill his promise of “a pre-emptive air strike against Iran’s nuclear installations if he were to be re-elected”? Will “neoconservatives” push for the use of a “shock and awe” air strike against Iran and carpet bomb Iranian nuclear and military sites, however irrational that action might appear to be to the rest of the world? Or will Iran capitulate, give up its right under Article IV of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and accept the US-Israeli demand-which is now backed by a UN sanction-to stop all enrichments activities? If Iran does accept this demand, what other demands will be put forward by the US and Israel, given that the nuclear issue, as I argued, is merely an excuse for “containment” of Iran? If Iran does not accept the demand, and if rational people around the world can stop the US and Israel from military adventurism, will there be more severe sanctions drafted against Iran by the UN? Will Russia and China be bribed, cajoled, arm twisted again to go along with these sanctions? Will these sanctions bring about what the US and Israel have been after for years, namely, to ruin the Iranian economy, bring about unrest, and make Iran ripe for a US invasion, as was the case in Iraq? These are difficult questions to answer and make predicting events in the future nearly impossible. The ultimate question, however, is this: is Iran ready to deal with all and every contingency? Does Iran know how this game is played and does it have a well-thought-of, well-articulated and unified game plan of its own? Is Iran fully aware that the US and Israel have patiently and meticulously worked for decades to push Iran into the current corner, where UN sanction has been finally imposed on it? Is Iran ready for the further tightening of the UN sanction noose? Could the economy of Iran, which is already under severe constraints, withstand further pressure? Are Iranians willing to tolerate additional economic hardship, such as the reduction in foreign investment, falling employment and rising inflation? Having carefully studies the history of the US-Israel-Iran entanglement, and having heard many voices from Iran, empty rhetoric and wishful thinking, I am not sure if the answers to the above questions are all affirmative.

Q. In your view is the confrontation of the US with Iran directed toward the strategic position of Iran and its potential impact in the region or is this effort directed to weaken the political and spiritual influence of Iran in the region?

A. It seems like most empires in the past the US does not tolerate disobedience and will not accept any challengers in the world, whether it is Iran, Syria, North Korea, Sudan, Somalia, Cuba or Venezuela it does not make much difference. Thus, it is not necessarily the strategic position of Iran or its political and spiritual influence in the region that has led to the confrontation between the two countries. The confrontation, as it is well known, goes back to 1979, when the US “lost” Iran. Ever since the US has been trying to bring back the old order and make Iran another obedient, client state. To use an American expression, until Iran says “uncle” to the US and Israel it is considered to be an “out law,” a “rogue nation” that must be punished. Of course, the strategic position of Iran and its political alignment with groups such as Hamas and Hezbolah puts her on the top of the US’s agenda.

Q. Will Iran be able to have the capacity to form an alliance against Israel in the region? Or will Iran be forced to collaborate with Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas to form an anti-Israel alliance as opposed to moderate Arab countries?

A. As mentioned earlier, having failed to achieve the desired result in Iraq, the US and Israel are now trying to create the myth of the Shiite crescent headed by Iran. As I also indicated, the traditional Arab client states of the US appear to be accepting this new myth and are going along with the idea of joining US and Israel in the “containment” of Iran. Whether Iran can change this trend appears to be doubtful given the nature of these Arab regimes and their long, historical, and symbiotic relation with the US. That leaves Iran with a very limited choice of allies, such as Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas. But, obviously, this alliance doe not do much for Iran in terms of security. Actually, a major reason for the US-Israel policy of “containment,” and the resulting insecurity that Iran faces, is Iran’s support for groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. As I have argued elsewhere and will argue in my book, when the policy of “dual containment” was announced in the early 1990s, Iran was said to commit three “sins:” 1) sponsoring terrorism worldwide-which was meant support for Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad-2) opposing Middle East peace efforts-which was meant the Oslo “peace process”-and 3) developing weapons of mass destruction-which, at the time, was left ambiguously defined. The sin of opposing the Olso “peace process” was soon dropped out of the equation, since Israel opposed it as well. But the other two sins remained; and, to paraphrase Paul Wolfowitz’s explanation for invading Iraq, for bureaucratic reasons the US and Israel settled on the issue of weapons of mass destruction as the core reason for “containing” Iran. In actuality, the main reason for Israel’s belligerent policy towards Iran has been the latter’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah. As long as that support remains, the attempt to “contain” Iran and the resulting insecurity will remain.

Q. Will Israel serve as pressure lever against Iran? Or will she, by exaggerating the nuclear threat of Tehran, try to create Western shield for itself?

A. Israel, as I have alluded to above and will show in my book, has been the prime force behind “containing” Iran since the end of the US invasion of Iraq in 1991 and the subsequent UN sanctions imposed on the country. Also, given what I said earlier, it is clear that Israel does not need a Western shield and is not really worried about Iran building a nuclear weapon. It is well known-and lately Olmert admitted it indirectly- that Israel has many nuclear warheads. With those warheads, and her advanced Western technology, Israel cannot possibly feel threatened by Iran supposedly developing a primitive nuclear bomb. As President Jacques Chirac stated in his January 31, 2007, interview with The New York Times: “Where would Iran drop this bomb? On Israel? . . It would not have gone off 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed to the ground.” As I have argued above, the issue of Iran allegedly developing a nuclear weapon is an excuse by the US and Israel to “contain” Iran in the same manner that they “contained” Iraq. The “containment” of Iraq, of course, did not go exactly as planned, but Iraq will be economically and militarily out of action for decades to come. For some of the architects of the US invasion of Iraq, this is a good enough “containment.”

MEHRAN GHASSEMI is an Iranian journalist. This interview is available in Farsi at: