Seldom have so few done so much to block progress for so many.
The forces allied to sabotage the P5+1 talks in Vienna about Iran’s nuclear program — Israel’s government, its political lobby in the United States (AIPAC), the bomb-bomb-bomb neocon crowd in Washington, virtually all of the U.S. mainstream media — don’t represent a majority of anything in the Middle East, but they’ve got money, they’ve got influence in the halls of Congress and the White House and they’ve got decades of mutual loathing to work with.
Ever since the post-Shah hostage crisis in 1979-81, Americans and Iranians have been demonizing one another. The American academic, William O. Beeman, dissects the process in his superb book, “The ‘Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs.’” Beeman, who heads the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, speaks fluent Persian and has 40 years of expertise on the people and politics of the Middle East. His book shows how leaders in both countries “used vilification of the other as a political stratagem for domestic political purposes.”
“Forces in both the United States and the Middle East,” Beeman writes, “constructed a mythological image that served to demonize the other parties in vivid terms, calculated to be immediately understood by the man on the street.”
In the United States, an electorate easily brainwashed by sound bytes and misinformation got the message. More recently, journalists like David Sanger of the New York Times, our most prestigious newspaper, and George Jahn of the Associated Press, sole source of foreign news for most of our local papers, serve to propagate the idea that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, or is close to having one. There isn’t a scintilla of evidence to support this notion. But the evil “Mad Mullahs” image is firmly implanted in the United States.
Even The Guardian UK, now the most reliable English-language newspaper in the world, is susceptible to the influence of mutual demonization. As background to the Vienna talks, it published a timeline of Iran’s nuclear program, beginning in 1967 when the United States provided Iran under the Shah with a 5-megawatt light-water reactor for research. Some subsequent items on the timeline contained errors or misrepresentations that were caught by another US.academic with longstanding nuclear and Middle East expertise, Behrad Nakhai, Ph. D., former professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee.
The false or misleading items, with Dr. Nakhai’s comments in bold italics, follow:
August 2002 - Iran's secret nuclear program is revealed by a rebel group, Mujahideen e-Khalq, which exposes the existence of the enrichment plant in Natanz and the heavy-water plant in Arak. Iran agrees to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Natanz and Arak plant were under construction. According to the terms of NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which Iran is a signatory), Iran was under no obligations to report these plants to IAEA.
July 2005 US intelligence presents the IAEA with the contents of a stolen Iranian laptop that purported to show extensive experimentation with bomb design. The laptop's provenance is unclear.
A mysterious laptop claimed to be stolen from Iran, but does not contain a single document in Persian and its content “cannot be revealed.” Only allegations.
August 2006 Ahmadinejad defies UN ultimatum to halt uranium enrichment or face sanctions, and formally opens the Arak heavy-water plant. The international community, however, refuses to help build a heavy-water reactor.
Iran merely continued its lawful activities granted by NPT. "Defies" is Western press invention.
December 2006 First round of UN sanctions are approved.
Amid heavy arm-twisting, bribes, and promises.
September 2009 The leaders of US, UK and France announce the discovery of an underground enrichment plant at Fordow.
An amusing "amateurish show" at UN -- except, Iran had already informed IAEA and IAEA had announced the existence of Fordow.
November 2011 In its quarterly report, the IAEA provides more detail supporting evidence that Iran may have had a nuclear weapons program before 2004, and may have continued some work after that.
"May" on part of IAEA shows a lack of sincerity in its evaluation. No proof has been provided by IAEA so far.
In addition to Dr. Nakhai’s pointed comments about it, the Guardian’s timeline raises the question of increased pressure from the United States and Israel after Yukiya Amano of Japan replaced Mohamed El Baradei of Egypt as director of the IAEA in December, 2009. It was Dr. El Baradei who disproved the infamous U.S. claims about Niger, Iraq and yellow cake. A skeptic of all the American arguments for invading Iraq, Dr. El Baradei was opposed by the United States when he sought a third term as director general —even though he and the IAEA had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.”
With Mr.El Baradei out of the way and immersed in the politics of the Arab Spring, strange things began to happen to Iran’s nuclear research apparatus. From the Guardian timeline:
August 2010 Iranian centrifuges are hit by a computer worm, Stuxnet, reportedly developed by Israel and the US.
November 2010 Assailants on motorbikes bomb two Iranian nuclear scientists in their cars on the way to work. One dies and one survives. They are part of a string of attacks on the country's nuclear researchers.
(My aside: Of all the players in this game, whose spies would best be able to track Iranian scientists so accurately, and want most to intimidate them?)
September 2012 The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, brandishes cartoon image of a bomb at the UN general assembly and says Iran will be close to weapons capability by the following spring or summer.
When Iran elected the reformist, Hassan Rouhani, as its new president last June, a dramatic change took place in the signals from the Muslim republic. Demons aside, Dr. Rouhani visited New York, spoke on the telephone with Barack Obama . . . et voila! . . . an interim agreement was reached in the P5+1 talks last November that swapped curbs on Iran’s nuclear program for slight easing of the UN sanctions on Iran.
Now, the quest for a final agreement is taking place in Vienna, and Bibi and his friends are throwing everything they’ve got into the negotiating machinery in hopes of disabling it.
Demonization is still at work, and might even be succeeding. Some recent reports out of Washington suggest that Dr. Kidglove, who was oh, so resolute about a diplomatic resolution in November, may be changing his stance and now want, like Bibi, to sabotage the Vienna talks.
And we thought Kidglove couldn't top his Ukraine blunder.