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Middle East

Feb 29, 2012 Obama, the Jewish lobby and the bomb By Kaveh L Afrasiabi PALO ALTO, California - With the Iran war hysteria getting louder, United States President Barack Obama, due to address the Jewish lobby on Sunday ahead of his meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week, is facing one of the toughest choices of his presidency: whether to appease the pro-Israeli warmongers or, instead, to use his authority to put a break on the omnibus of another war in the Middle East? So far, Obama has served Israel well by putting into place harsh sanctions against Iran that fulfill Israel's demand of "crippling sanctions", although the lack of compliance by Iran's Asian energy partners has lessened their impact, and by providing Israel with the necessary military assistance that in turn equips Tel Aviv to launch an aerial attack on Iran's nuclear facilities in the future (as per Western media reports). Simultaneously, Obama has let Israel off the hook on the Palestinian issue, in light of his failure to even emulate his predecessors' obligatory, and yet vacuous, references to the "Middle East peace process" in his recent State of Union speech. This strategy, replicated in other Western capitals, has allowed Washington and Tel Aviv to portray Israel as a potential victim state, ie, of a coming Iranian-led Holocaust if not checked immediately, instead of as an oppressive state that has defied several UN Security Council resolutions and has refused to withdraw from the Arab territories it has conquered by force with impunity. In an election year marked with hawkish pro-Israel Republican Party candidates, save Ron Paul, vying with each other in their overzealous Iran-bashing, Obama has paddled along the war currents that steer clear of any diplomatic resolution of the Iran nuclear standoff, despite the US rhetoric of "all options" being on the table and US's preference for a "diplomatic solution". In reality, however, the diplomatic path is increasingly blocked by a combination of factors, including the US and Israel's vested interest to fish in the muddy waters of the Iran crisis, for example, rationalizing Israel's callous disregard for a viable

peace with the Palestinians, and perpetuating the oil Arab states' Western security dependency, albeit under benign rhetoric that refer to "international norms" and legitimate counter-proliferation concerns. The problem with the latter is that even US officials have admitted that they have no evidence that Iran is building nuclear bombs. Case in point, Kenneth C Brill, a former US envoy at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who also served as director of the intelligence community's National Counterproliferation Center from 2005 until 2009, has stated, "I think the Iranians want the capability, but not a stockpile." Similarly, the US intelligence community has yet to officially revise its December 2007 conclusion that Iran's nuclear program has been peaceful since 2003. This is in sharp contrast to the Israeli claims that Iran is on the verge of acquiring the bombs and that Tehran's latest announcement regarding its installation of new generation of centrifuges at the new facility known as Fordo "confirms" Israel's fears, to paraphrase Netanyahu. Not so. The Fordo facility is covered by the IAEA, as clearly confirmed by IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano last week, which in essence means that any Iranian attempt at military diversion will be detected by the atomic agency, which relies on the multiple methods of regular and short-notice inspections, as well as surveillance cameras, to monitor Iran's controversial enrichment activities. Iran goes on record again against the bomb Meanwhile, Iran's leaders have increased their effort to reassure the outside world that Iran is not seeking to build and stockpile nuclear weapons. Thus, in a speech last week, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatolloh Ali Khamenei once again labeled as "sin" any nuclear proliferation activity, denouncing nuclear bombs as "harmful and dangerous" and reiterating Iran's commitment to fight for a world without nuclear weapons. As a follow-up to his previous fatwar (religious edict) banning the manufacturing and stockpiling of nuclear weapons, Khamenei's speech resonates with Iran's "other nuclear ambition" that has so far evaded the radar of Western politicians and their complaint experts, who never cease to accuse Iran of harboring nuclear

weapon "ambitions." An example of the latter belongs to Ray Takeyh, who in his opinion columns and magazine articles busily rekindles the fear of an Iranian bomb requiring "containment" by recycling the familiar arguments about Iran's "regional hegemony." A problem with such analyses is that they overlook Iran's post-revolutionary selfimage as an international actor seeking to revise the global status quo along equitable (Third Worldist) lines, including by challenging the nuclear monopoly not in the form of trying to join it by becoming another nuclear-have nation, but rather by a deft politics of "nuclear latency" that allows Iran and its supporters in the Non-Aligned Movement to play a pivotal role in the global disarmament movement (see Iran takes up the nuclear cudgel, June 17, 2011). Poised to assume the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement later this year, Tehran is now uniquely positioned to enhance its international prestige by refusing to take the bait, tantamount to self-fulfilling prophecy, and go for the bombs under increasing military threats. Complementing those threats are a slew of Western and Israeli discourses on Iran's "national security" warranting a nuclear "shield." Empirically, however, there is solid evidence that refutes such suggestive discourses that are based on a poor understanding of Iran's post-revolutionary orientation, and the purpose of Iranian power, aptly summarized by the late French philosopher Michel Foucault, who observed the revolution first-hand and wrote about the revolution's mission of a "revolt against the entire world order". Three decades later, Foucault's premonitions seem completely exonerated. The contrary evidence that runs against the Iran proliferation assumptions. If Iran had a weapons program, it would never agree to suspend its enrichment program and to implement the intrusive Additional Protocol, per the Paris Agreement of 2004. This is not to mention Iran's six-point proposal to extend the suspensions for another two year, when president Ahmadinejad came to power (see Sideshow to Iran's frogmarch to UN, Asia Times Online, Feb 7, 2006).

Nor would Iran consent to the installation of surveillance cameras that per the IAEA's own admission can detect any illicit attempt to divert to non-peaceful purposes; nor would Iran consent to ship out the bulk of its low-enriched uranium in line with the 2010 Tehran Declaration with Turkey and Brazil, or agree to suspend 20% enrichment in return for an outside supply of nuclear fuel, as proposed by Ahmadinejad in his September 2011 visit to New York. In a nutshell, the steps Iran has taken simply militate against the suspected proliferation portfolio of any nation. Together with the categorical anti-nuke statements by the Iranian leaders, the reality is different to one painted by US and Israeli officials and experts. Consequently, much like the Iraq war by false pretexts, the Iranian nuclear crisis is now being exploited - by Obama and his presidential challengers for election purposes and by Israel to continue with its expansionist settlement policies. For sure, no one should expect Obama to mention the latter as he addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) next week - that would be a self-inflicted wound, easily turned into a kiss of death if, all of a sudden, Obama made the occasion into a "reality moment" by advising his Jewish listeners to stop their Iranophobia game and think of justice for the oppressed Palestinians. Courage to speak the truth is definitely in short supply in the White House these days.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in

Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press). For his Wikipedia entry, click here. He is

author of Reading In Iran Foreign Policy After September 11 (BookSurge Publishing, October 23, 2008) and Looking for Rights at Harvard. His latest book is UN Management Reform: Selected Articles and Interviews on United Nations CreateSpace (November 12, 2011).
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