Framing Iran: Thomas Friedman’s War Wish

Thomas Friedman, the New York Times op-ed-page representative of the foreign-policy elite, is unhappy with how the soon-to-be-completed Iran nuclear talks are going. He says President Obama, like his predecessor George W. Bush, hasn’t been tough enough. Obama holds all the cards, Friedman says, but somehow the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is dictating terms. He writes:

It is stunning to me how well the Iranians, sitting alone on their side of the table, have played a weak hand against the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain on their side of the table…..

For the past year every time there is a sticking point … it keeps feeling as if it’s always our side looking to accommodate Iran’s needs. I wish we had walked out just once. When you signal to the guy on the other side of the table that you’re not willing to either blow him up or blow him off — to get up and walk away — you reduce yourself to just an equal and get the best bad deal nonviolence can buy. [Emphasis added.]

Friedman glosses over the fact that it is not “him” (foreign minister Javad Zarif perhaps?) who would be blown up in a war against Iran. It would be countless ordinary Iranians, who have done nothing to harm the American people. Those same innocent people would be harmed, admittedly in more subtle ways, if the P5+1 “blew off” Iranian negotiators because that would mean no relief from long-standing U.S.-led sanctions that have devastated the Iranian economy, creating food and medicine shortages among other inhumane consequences. Sanctions are acts of war. Would someone tell Friedman?

Friedman is ever the optimist, however. He believes it is still possible to get at least a “good bad deal,” the chances of a good deal having been blown by Obama’s “empty holster” strategy. It would be a deal “that, while it does not require Iran to dismantle its nuclear enrichment infrastructure, shrinks that infrastructure for the next 10 to 15 years so Iran can’t make a quick breakout to a bomb…. A deal that also gives us a level of transparency to monitor that agreement and gives international inspectors timely intrusive access to anywhere in Iran we suspect covert nuclear activity[.] One that restricts Iran from significantly upgrading its enrichment capacity over the next decade….” (As he notes, it would be deal approved by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which he fails to point out is the spin-off think-tank of the chief Israel lobbyist, AIPAC.

Before judging Friedman’s analysis, certain facts must be kept in mind. Iran has never had a program designed to build a nuclear bomb. You wouldn’t know from his column that Iran is a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), subjecting it to intrusive inspections for many years. During those years the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has unfailingly certified that Iran has diverted not one uranium atom to military purposes. As Gareth Porter heavily documents in his conveniently ignored book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, Iran’s leadership has directed its nuclear research and facilities to the production of electricity and medical isotopes. The so-called evidence against Iran, Porter shows, is little more than the alleged contents of a suspect laptop, which has yet to be presented for independent verification. The nonthreat has been affirmed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence.

A few minutes’ thought will indicate that Iran’s leadership has many reasons not to want nuclear weapons, which Khamenei condemned in a fatwa some time ago. What exactly would Iran do with a bomb? The U.S. government has thousands, and Israel, which routinely threatens Iran, has a few hundred, including submarine-mounted nukes that would be available for a second strike if anyone were crazy enough to launch a first strike against the Jewish State. Unlike Iran, Israel refuses to sign the NPT and allow IAEA inspections.

In other words, Iran has been demonized and framed. Friedman is doing the bidding of those who want a U.S. war of aggression against the Islamic Republic — namely, Israel, the Israel Lobby/neoconservatives, and Saudi Arabia.

Sheldon Richman, author of Coming to Palestine, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

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