Demonizing Iran To Prevent the Nuclear Agreement

Since April 2 when the Lausanne Accord was signed by Iran and P5+1 – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – the opposition, namely, the neoconservatives, the Republican Party, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and their lobbies in the United States has been in high gear to prevent the signing of the comprehensive agreement whose deadline is now July 7, after the two sides could not complete their negotiations by the original deadline of June 30.

Right after the announcement of the Accord, the opposition went to work. Two days after the announcement Bill Kristol, the Godfather and “little Lenin” of the necons, declared that the best way of defeating the efforts of the Obama administration is creating the conditions that would kill the nuclear accord, forcing the President not to sign any agreement. Speaker of the House John Boehner was reported telling a Jewish group that the Republicans do not have the votes to override the President’s vote of Congress’ rejection of the nuclear agreement. Thus, the best way to defeat the administration is to prevent any final agreement in the first place.

The breadth and depth of the campaign against an agreement with Iran are completely unprecedented. When Richard Nixon re-established diplomatic relations with China in 1972 and Bill Clinton did the same with Vietnam in 1995, we did not see the type of backlash against them that we are seeing today against a nuclear agreement with Iran. At the height of the Cold War the enmity toward the Soviet Union was less intense than against Iran now, even though the Soviets were far more powerful than Iran is or will ever be. Compared with Iran, even the reaction to re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba has been relatively mute. And why this is so? It is all because of Israel and its lobby and allies in the United States.

So, what is the best way of killing the final agreement? The usual way: demonizing Iran by lies, exaggerations, half-truths, innuendoes and insinuations.

One way of demonizing Iran is by rebuking the President for wanting to reach an agreement with such a “despicable” state as Iran. Over at the Washington Post, neoconservative and Israel’s agent Jennifer Rubin has been working hard to advance this narrative. After claiming that the President is delusional, and starting with her column of April 6 – Iran framework: not good, not a deal – Rubin has been propagating all types of sheer nonsense about Iran, the administration, and the nuclear negotiations.  A few days later Rubin claimed that the Obama administration is prepared to give Iran anything and everything for a deal. This is baseless as one important obstacle to the negotiations has been the U.S. excessive demands, well beyond the international agreements and Iran’s obligations toward them.

In another column on June 21 Rubin claimed that “Democrats, Republicans and neutral experts reject Iran sellout.” Who are these neutral experts? One is Olli Heinonen, former IAEA Deputy Director for Safeguards, who has a strong and deserving reputation for being anti-Iran, and a member of pro-Israel lobby United against a Nuclear Iran (UANI). He is also the man who claimed that Iran is only 2-3 weeks away from a nuclear bomb. Two other such “neutral experts” are Eric Edelman and Dennis Ross. Edelman, a member of the conservative Foreign Policy Initiative, claimed that any nuclear agreement with Iran can be torched by Obama’s successor. As an ardent supporter of Israel, Ross does not need any introduction. The UANI published a page-long warning in the New York Times, talking about the “dangers” of an agreement with Iran that is not tough enough. The funds for these activities are provided by Sheldon Adelson, the pro-Israel billionaire and the man who called for dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran.

Another way of demonizing Iran is to insist that Iran continues to have a nuclear weapons research program, and has something very horrendous to hide. Over at New York Times, David Sanger, Michael Gordon – remember his collaboration with the Times’ chief propagandist Judith Miller and her sensational stories about Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction? –  and company continue to publish their agenda and opinion as “facts.” Sanger continues to insist that Iran’s nuclear weapon research program, if it ever existed, has continued sporadically since 2003, despite the fact that the National Intelligence Estimates of 2007, reaffirmed in 2009, 2011 and 2012, concluded that the program was halted in 2003. Sanger also insinuates the same by continuing to claim that “some of Iran’s most sensitive nuclear work has been done in its military sites,” despite the fact that even the totally politicized International Atomic Energy Agency under Yukiya Amano, a minion of the West, does not make such a claim. And why Sanger insists on this? By relying on the discreditedlaptop of death,” supposedly stolen in Iran and delivered to Western intelligence agencies and the fact that Iran is not willing to go beyond its legal obligations and allow the IAEA to inspect its military sites.

Sanger and the Times still insist on the relevance of the totally discredited “possible military dimensions (PMD)” of Iran’s nuclear program, allegations based on the same laptop. They never interview true experts and at least allow them to voice their opinion. [Julian Pecquet of al-Monitor makes the same type of claims.] Robert Kelly, a former IAEA expert; nuclear physicist Yousaf Butt, and a failed CIA sting operation against Iran’s nuclear program that prompted the IAEA to reassess some of its so-called evidence for the PMD, have completely discredited the allegations about the PMD.

Yet a third way of demonizing Iran is by claiming that if the illegal crippling economic sanctions imposed on Iran are lifted, Iran will have access to billions of dollars of  its foreign currency reserves frozen in Western financial institutions, and will spend it all on its allies in the Middle East, hence making that turbulent region more unstable. An article by David Rothkopf, the CEO and Editor of Foreign Policy group is typical of this line of demonizing Iran. In his article Rothkopf claims that after the sanctions are lifted, Iran will have access to $120 billion of its foreign currency reserves. Over a period of 15 years, the apparent duration of the nuclear agreement, Iran will make at least another $300 billion by exporting its oil. Thus, Rothkopf argues that Iran will have made $420 billion by the end of the nuclear agreement, and claims that while Iran will shore up its economy, it will also continue its meddling in the Middle East.

The claim is made while Saudi Arabia, the US staunch ally in the Middle east, has used its approximately $770 billion foreign currency to support terrorist groups in Syria, the military coup in Egypt that toppled the democratically elected government of Mohamed Morsi, has been attacking the defenseless people of Yemen, intervened in Bahrain to suppress the democratic movement there, and provided political cover for the NATO alliance to attack Libya that turned that prosperous nation into a no man’s land populated by some of the worst Sunni terrorist groups, from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State.

Iran is besieged by economic problems, caused partly by the crippling economic sanctions. President Hassan Rouhani has promised his nation that after the nuclear agreement is signed and the sanctions are lifted, his administration will be focused on improving the economy. Indeed, if Rouhani cannot deliver on his promises, his government will be toppled by Iran’s hardliners who oppose the many concessions that Iran has made to P5+1 in order to reach the nuclear agreement.

A forth way of demonizing Iran is by claiming that Iran is similar to the Islamic State and “1000 times worse” and “bigger.” Making this absurd claim has been Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s way of preventing the nuclear agreement. This is while Iran has been fighting the IS in Iraq, and in fact many experts believe that only Iran can defeat the IS. At the same time, Israel has been working with Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda branch in Syria, in an attempt to defeat the Iran-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

In advancing this narrative, Netanyahu has been helped by the Mujahedin-e Khalgh Organization (MEK, also known as MKO) and its lobby in the United States. The MEK is an Iranian armed opposition cult that sided with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and acted as his internal security forces against his regime’s opponents. Up until September 2011 it was on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organization. The MEK leader Maryam Rajavi has made the same claims as Netanyahu’s, calling the Islamic Republic the IS’ “Godfather.”  She even testified via satellite before a congressional subcommittee, repeating the same nonsense.

Parallel to Israel, and perhaps even coordinated with it, the MEK lobbyists in the United States have been making the same type of claims, advocating that the US should help the MEK to topple the regime in Tehran, even though the cult is universally despised in Iran. Ken Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state and a fellow at the conservative Family Research Council, Clare Lopez, a former CA operative and senior Vice President at CSP, and Raymond Tanter, a cofounder of the defunct Iran Policy Committee that advocated military confrontation with Iran, have been advocating this narrative.

At the same time the same discredited people who sold the American people the idea that Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction, and that it was a terrible regime against its own people, are also trying to do the same with Iran. Former CIA Director James Woolsey, one of the leading liars about Iraq and proponents of its illegal invasion, is now telling us that “a nuclear Iran is a nightmare.” Frank Gaffney, director of hardline neoconservative Center for Security Policy and a leading Islamophobe, has claimed that the nuclear agreement with Iran is a “fraud” perpetuated by the President on the American people, because “It will not prevent Iran from getting the bomb, period.” He is the man who was “delighted” that the US invaded Iraq.

And, of course, those who have advocated the military option against Iran have not been idle, and have been aided by the media. CNN had a report on how bunker-busting bombs that can supposedly destroy even Iran’s Fordo site deep under a mountain are on standby to attack Iran, if the negotiations fail. At Business Insider Jeremy Bender has been publishing one scary story after another about how the bunker-busting bombs can be used against Iran. Bloomberg has also reported on the possible use of such bombs against Iran. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK), an MEK supporter, has claimed that bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities can be done easily in only “a few days.” Cotton has also called on the President not to cooperate with Iran because “it has blood of hundreds of Americans on its hands,” whereas it was in fact the MEK that assassinated American advisers in Iran in the 1970s.

When Mohammad Khatami, a reformist, was Iran’s president, and Rouhani and Iran’s current Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, were his chief diplomat and nuclear negotiator, the George W. Bush administration prevented the three European countries, Britain, France and Germany, from reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran that would have severely limited Iran’s nuclear program. Now that Rouhani and Zarif, two moderate politicians, are leading Iran and its efforts for a nuclear compromise, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and their allies in the United States are doing their utmost to prevent the agreement from materializing. Iran has made all the necessary concessions to reach the agreement. If nuclear negotiations fail, it will be either because the Obama administration has excessive demands, or it may buckle and break under the pressure by the War Party in the United States. This time, the world will blame the US and its allies.

Muhammad Sahimi, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and the NIOC Chair in Petroleum Engineering at the University of Southern California, is co-founder and editor of the website, Iran News & Middle East Reports.

Read more by Muhammad Sahimi