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The Drumbeats of War with Iran Are Getting Louder

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

31 Jul 2010 06:18212 Comments

Dire signs in ramping up of rhetoric, military preparations.

[ opinion ] Back in September 2002, Andrew H. Card, George W. Bush's chief of staff, was asked why the Bush administration had not yet begun a propaganda campaign to prepare the American public for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Practically anyone who had been following political developments, particularly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, knew that Bush was bent on attacking Iraq, yet there was still no major propaganda program in place. Card responded, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August," meaning that much of the public is then on summer vacation and does not pay much attention to what is going on in or coming out of Washington.

It is the end of July now, but the propaganda campaign to prepare the public for possible military attacks on Iran is already in high gear. The drumbeats of war are getting louder by the day and, unless the public is fully informed of the potentially catastrophic consequences for the Middle East and the rest of the world, we may soon see another illegal war waged by the United States and Israel against a Muslim country -- in addition to all the secret and not-so-secret attacks against nations such as Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Some are even saying that the situation is eerily similar to the one right before the 1967 war between the Arab countries and Israel, when the entire Middle East was seething. This time, too, Israel is making sure that the drumbeats of war are as loud as possible.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Israel have been shuttling between Washington and Tel Aviv, pushing for crippling economic sanctions that even they concede will not change Iran's nuclear policy. These sanctions are being put in place, both by the United States and its allies. The open prediction that they will fail is meant to indicate just one thing -- military attacks are inevitable.

While visiting Washington this week, Barak told the Washington Post, "It's still time for sanctions." But he continued, "Probably, at a certain point, we should realize that sanctions cannot work." Never mind that Tzipi Livni, Israel's former foreign minister, stated in 2007 that even if Iran did develop a nuclear arsenal, it would pose little threat to Israel. She even criticized Ehud Olmert, her predecessor, for exaggerating the Iranian nuclear issue for political gain.

When Netanyahu recently visited Washington, President Barack Obama did not demand accountability for Israel's recent acts of violence involving the Freedom Flotilla and other humanitarian aid efforts to Gaza. What he did instead was to greet Netanyahu with his signature smile and warm words -- as all U.S. presidents are obligated to do when meeting with any Israeli leader. But the president did not stop there. He gave Netanyahu carte blanche regarding Iran, to the extent that the meeting was dubbed "Netanyahu 1, Obama 0." The President said,

Finally, we discussed issues that arose out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference. And I reiterated to the Prime Minister that there is no change in U.S. policy when it comes to these issues. We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it's in, and the threats that are leveled against us -- against it, that Israel has unique security requirements. It's got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region. And that's why we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security. And the United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine their security interests.

Note how at one point the President used "us," not "it," in reference to Israel -- although he quickly corrected himself -- as if the interests of Israel and the United States were identical. Note also how he states that Israel has "unique security requirements." Well, every nation has unique security requirements. Why can Iran not say the same? Its national security requirements are also unique. This was recognized by both the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the Islamic Republic. When the Shah was in power, Iraq, backed by the Soviet Union -- with which Iran shares a long border -- was involved in a series of confrontations with Iran. In the post-Revolution era, Iran has continually been threatened and attacked, first by Iraq, then by the United States and its NATO allies during the "tankers war" of 1987-88, then by U.S.-backed terrorist groups, ranging from Jundallah to PJAK.

The rhetorical rationale for attacking Iran keeps coming out of Washington. Most astonishingly, there is a resolution before the U.S. Congress, signed by one-third of the Republican caucus, that urges support for Israeli military attacks on Iran.

The resolution, H. Res. 1553, represents a green light for a bombing campaign. It provides explicit support for military strikes, stating that Congress backs Israel's use of "all means necessary" against Iran "including the use of military force." This is while many top U.S. military leaders have warned that strikes could be catastrophic to national security interests and engulf the Middle East in a "calamitous" regional war. The hubris of the warmongering supporters of Israel in Congress knows no limit, however. If the bill were actually to pass, it would probably be the first time in history that the parliament of one nation urged a second nation to attack a third, and promised support for such an action.

CIA Director Leon Panetta said in a recent TV interview,

I think the sanctions will have some impact.... Will it deter [Iran] from their ambitions with regards to nuclear capability? Probably not.

And Michael Hayden, CIA director under George W. Bush, said recently that during his tenure "a strike was way down the list of options," but that such action now "seems inexorable." He continued, "In my personal thinking, I have begun to consider that that may not be the worst of all possible outcomes." He said that the likelihood of a U.S. strike on Iran has risen in the face of Tehran's refusal to halt its contentious nuclear program. "We engage," he stated. "They continue to move forward. We vote for sanctions. They continue to move forward. We try to deter, to dissuade. They continue to move forward."

Senator Joseph "bomb-Iran-for-Israel's-sake" Lieberman (I-Connecticut) said in April,

I think it's deeply important that the fanatical leadership in Iran understands that we are very serious about their nuclear weapons program, and when we say it's unacceptable for Iran to go nuclear, we mean it -- that we can and will do everything to stop Iran from going nuclear.

The next step is tough sanctions, economic sanctions. Frankly it's a last chance for Iran to avoid giving the rest of the world, including the United States, a hard choice between allowing Iran to go nuclear and using military power to stop them from doing that.

I cannot stress enough that this is a turning point in history. If we allow Iran to become a nuclear power, the world becomes terribly more unsafe for everybody. It's the end of the global nuclear nonproliferation attempts. All the work that President Obama's doing on the START treaty, trying to keep nukes from terrorists -- if Iran goes nuclear, that's over.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has declared time and again that there is no evidence that there is a nuclear weapons program in Iran, and has certified time and again that there has been no diversion of Iran's nuclear materials to nonpeaceful purposes. The National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007 states that Iran stopped its work on a nuclear weapon in 2003, even though it actually did not present any evidence that Iran had such a program prior to that point. Lieberman thus brazenly lies when he talks about Iran's "nuclear weapons program."

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) recently stated, "I believe Hashem [Orthodox for God] actually gave me that name [Schumer]. One of my roles, very important in the United States Senate, is to be a shomer [guardian] -- to be a, or the shomer Yisrael [guardian of Israel]. And I will continue to be that with every bone in my body...." To thunderous applause at a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), he declared,

Diplomacy has failed. Iran is on the verge of becoming nuclear and we cannot afford that.

Now, if a U.S. senator can invoke God to justify what he is doing when he urges war on another nation, why can the clerics and hardliners in Tehran not justify their crimes by invoking God? If the clerics are exposed as fanatics when they suggest God embraces violence, how is it that Schumer is not?

Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) declared,

We have to contemplate the final option, the use of force to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Does the "final option" of Senator Bayh not remind us of the Nazis' "final solution," the murder of six million innocent Jews? Would a military attack on Iran not kill a devastating number of innocent people, both there and in the rest of the Middle East?

And then we have the rants of Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina), who told the AIPAC conference,

War is a terrible thing, but sometimes it is better to go to war than to allow the Holocaust to develop a second time.

As if a war with Iran would not result in a Holocaust for Iranians and the rest of the Middle East. And the imbecilic senator, who has difficulty pronouncing the word "nuclear" correctly, wants not just war, but total destruction:

If military force is ever employed, it should be done in a decisive fashion. The Iran government's ability to wage conventional war against its neighbors and our troops in the region should not exist. They should not have one plane that can fly or one ship that can float.

In a Washington Post op-ed piece, former senator Charles S. Robb and retired general Charles Wald opined,

The administration needs to expand its approach and make clear to the Iranian regime and the American people: If diplomatic and economic pressures do not compel Iran to terminate its nuclear program, the U.S. military has the capability and is prepared to launch an effective, targeted strike on Tehran's nuclear and supporting military facilities.

Both are members of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a hawkish group established in 2008. Led by neoconservative Michael Makovsky, it was formed specifically to advocate tough sanctions and military attacks on Iran. The center released a document with the provocative title, "Meeting the Challenge, When Time Runs Out."

To demonstrate U.S. resolve and readiness to go to war, it urges the Obama administration to

augment the Fifth Fleet presence in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman [whose headquarters are in Bahrain], including the deployment of an additional [aircraft] carrier battle group and minesweepers to the waters off Iran; conduct broad exercises with its allies in the Persian Gulf [and] initiate a "strategic partnership" with Azerbaijan to enhance regional access....

The report continues,

If such pressure fails to persuade Iran's leadership, the United States and its allies would have no choice but to consider blockading refined petroleum imports into Iran,

which the report conceded would "effectively be an act of war and the U.S. and its allies would have to prepare for its consequences" -- meaning outright war. Makovsky was formerly a consultant to a controversial Pentagon office created in the run-up to the Iraq war to find evidence of operational ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. When such evidence proved nonexistent, it was cooked up anyway and used to justify the invasion.

In urging war with Iran, the neoconservative allies of Israel even shed crocodile tears for Iranians. Writing in the neoconservative Weekly Standard, Jamie M. Fly and William Kristol -- dubbed the little Lenin of the neocons -- stated,

Unfortunately, President Obama waffled while innocent Iranians were killed by their own government. It's now increasingly clear that the credible threat of a military strike against Iran's nuclear program is the only action that could convince the regime to curtail its ambition.

And who are these two "humanitarians"? Beginning in 1996, Kristol, with his neoconservative Project for the New American Century (PNAC), was the leading advocate of the invasion of Iraq, which killed up to one million innocent Iraqis. He has applauded the president's policy on war in Afghanistan that is rapidly piling up casualties, both among the innocent Afghan people and U.S. soldiers. He has campaigned for every war ever realized or imagined with a Muslim nation. Yet Kristol wants us to believe that he really feels the pain of the Iranian people. Fly is a Bush-era hawk, who worked at the Pentagon and the National Security Council. These two men now direct the Foreign Policy Initiative, which succeeded the PNAC, after that organization was totally discredited.

Other discredited leftovers from the Bush regime are making similar pronouncements. Stephen Hadley, Bush's national security advisor, and Israeli Brigadier General Michael Herzog stated in a position paper published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an offshoot of AIPAC, that

by the first quarter of 2011, we will know whether sanctions are proving effective. The administration should begin to plan now for a course of action should sanctions be deemed ineffective by the first or second quarter of next year. The military option must be kept on the table both as a means of strengthening diplomacy and as a worst-case scenario.

Elliot Abrams, who was senior director responsible for Near East and North African affairs in the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration -- and who was convicted for his key role in the infamous Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s -- told the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) on April 25,

I believe Israel will act [attack Iran], and I hope the U.S. will. We keep saying it's unacceptable for Iran to have a bomb, but we don't mean it. We mean it's terrible, we don't want it. But when Israel says it's unacceptable, they mean it.

Then there is Steven Rosen, long a highly influential figure within AIPAC and now an aide to Daniel Pipes -- an Islamophobe who runs an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim website - who told ZOA,

The majority of Americans support force on Iran, yet there's a taboo against saying we must force them now.... The U.S. would be more efficient than Israel at suppressing Iran. We have to have the ability to stare directly into the light bulb.

Does the light bulb not remind you of the infamous nuclear mushroom cloud invoked by Condoleezza Rice to justify the invasion of Iraq?

And let us see what so-called scholar Danielle Pletka has to say. Pletka, a strong supporter of the invasion of Iraq, is the vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, where some of the "brains" behind the invasion, such as Richard N. Perle -- the "Prince of Darkness" -- hold court. She has been constantly hyping the nonexistent threat from Iran. In July 2009 testimony to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, she shed crocodile tears for the Iranian people, declaring that

it is only by applying the toughest possible sanctions that we stand any chance of persuading Iran's leaders to consider serious negotiations with the international community.

Her opinion has, shall we say, evolved since then. In an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal this March, Pletka declared,

The only questions remaining, one Washington politico tells me, are who starts it, and how it ends.

Former CIA agent Reuel Marc Gerecht, now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has advocated bombing Iran as the "better safe than sorry" option. He downplays the backlash throughout the Middle East that many experts, including those in the U.S. military, anticipate would result from such a preemptive strike. Gerecht was at the American Enterprise Institute and involved with Kristol's PNAC; he once infamously said, "The Iranians have terrorism in their DNA."

A few years ago, Gerecht, who used to write under the pseudonym Edward Shirley and is supposedly an Iran pundit, participated in a symposium on Iran at the University of Southern California, where I teach. He did not know the simplest information about Iran's internal political structure, the various factions, or their positions. When I confronted him with the most basic facts, he became upset.

The Arab nations of the Persian Gulf have also gotten into the act of advocating war with Iran. Yousef al-Otaiba, ambassador to the United States from the United Arab Emirates, recently told neoconservative Washington Times reporter Eli Lake,

I think it's a cost-benefit analysis [when it comes to attacking Iran]. I think despite the large amount of trade we do with Iran, which is close to $12 billion...there will be consequences, there will be a backlash and there will be problems with people protesting and rioting and very unhappy that there is an outside force attacking a Muslim country; that is going to happen no matter what. If you are asking me, "Am I willing to live with that versus living with a nuclear Iran?" my answer is still the same: "We cannot live with a nuclear Iran." I am willing to absorb what takes place at the expense of the security of the U.A.E.

Now, why a country that is benefiting immensely from Iran, that has absorbed thousands of educated Iranians, and that has purchased billions of dollars worth of the most modern weapons, feels threatened by a nation that is surrounded on three sides by U.S. forces is beyond my comprehension.

That is not all. On June 5, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia reportedly told French Defense Minister Hervé Morin, "There are two countries in the world that do not deserve to exist: Iran and Israel." This statement was reported by Georges Malbrunot of Le Figaro, who said that it was confirmed by two sources from diplomatic and military circles.

Almost simultaneously, the Times of London reported that Saudi Arabia has practiced standing down its air defense systems to allow Israel to use its air space for an attack on Iran.

I believe that King Abdullah probably did not even mention Israel at all (Israel never raised a protest in response to the reported statement). The Arab nations of the Persian Gulf, which rely on the United States and France for everything, have no issue with Israel, despite their rhetoric. It is Iran with which they have a problem. This is, of course, not new. It goes back decades, even centuries. These nations also resented the military power of Iran during the Shah, and provided $50 billion to Iraq to continue its war with Iran in the 1980s.

The danger in such reckless statements, however, is that they provide ammunition for those in Washington who want war. They can claim that it is not just Israel that feels threatened by Iran and its (nonexistent) nuclear weapon program -- "The Arabs feel the same way."

One might think that this is nothing more than rhetoric and psychological warfare. Yet persistent reports for the past two months indicate that the United States has stepped up covert operations and preparations for action against Iran. There have been credible reports that American forces have been concentrating around the Persian Gulf and the Caucasus, most remarkably in Azerbaijan. There have also been reports of Israeli activities in Azerbaijan, and of the U.S. and Israeli air forces practicing joint bombing drills. Add the fact that the United States recently increased the number of its carrier strike groups opposite Iran to three, and one gets a terrifying picture of what might happen.

If war with Iran does come, it will be to a large extent Washington's fault. When he was running for president, candidate Obama offered to negotiate with Iran without any preconditions. But the offer, without any fundamental change in the way the United States views Iran, was meaningless. Yes, the Obama administration did not demand that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program before negotiating to swap its low-enriched uranium (LEU) with fuel for the Tehran research reactor that provides medical isotopes for 850,000 ill Iranians. Yes, as always, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said one thing last October -- yes to the swap -- but did something else -- backtracked. Eventually, however, he and the hardliners were forced to accept the original October 2009 deal, in the process making concessions that amounted to capitulation.

So why did Washington reject the pact brokered by Turkey and Brazil, and effectively chastise them -- "How dare you make a deal with Tehran?"

At the same time, Obama's goal has always been the same as that of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, namely, to dismantle Iran's uranium enrichment facilities and program. There is a negligible difference between demanding suspension of the uranium enrichment program before entering the negotiation room, and demanding the same just as soon as one enters the room. The president also set a superficial deadline, December 2009, for significant progress on the issue. Why is it that Washington politicians -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- oppose deadlines when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, but enthusiastically support one when dealing with Iran? Because when it comes to Iran, their bellicose fantasies have yet to be realized.

In fact, it is becoming abundantly clear that the president's promise to pursue diplomacy with Iran has always been similar to many other promises that he made during his campaign: bogus. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly made it clear that the "diplomatic effort" is not directed at reaching a solution but about convincing the Europeans that diplomacy will not work.

So, it is now crystal clear -- if it had not long been already -- that the administration's plan has been to go through the diplomatic motions, as Israel's man in the White House, Dennis Ross, wanted, in order to set the stage for crippling sanctions and possible war against Iran.

What should be the position of those of us who oppose Tehran's hardliners and their repressive rule? There is no fundamental contradiction between, on the one hand, opposing the hardliners and advocating a democratic political system, and on the other, opposing sanctions and war against Iran. The last thing that Iran's democratic Green Movement needs at this point is military attacks, or sanctions that will hurt only ordinary people, further empower the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and provide the hardliners with the excuse of an overt threat to national security to crack down even harder on the movement. The invasion of Iraq did wonders for the Guards for precisely the same reason, helping it to consolidate its grip on power in Tehran. Any attack on Iran now will completely decimate the democratic movement.

Make no mistake. The hardliners' reckless foreign policy -- if it can even be called a "policy" -- has contributed significantly to the creation of the atmosphere of threats, sanctions, and potential war. The Islamic Republic's current position regarding its nuclear program is the same as that during 2003-5 when Mohammad Khatami was president, namely, that having the complete cycle for producing nuclear fuel -- including uranium enrichment -- is Iran's fundamental right, with which I agree completely. But Khatami was willing to work with the Europeans to clarify the scope of the program -- he even suspended it for nearly two years, though without receiving the benefits for Iran that had been promised by the European Union in turn. Ahmadinejad and his team have simply committed one blunder after another. His reckless policy, adventurism, and rhetoric regarding Israel have provided the perfect excuse for the warmongers to advocate tough sanctions and even war on Iran.

I am not inveterately opposed to all sanctions. If some measures can be identified that target only the hardline clerics and their cronies, as well as ways that can help break their hold on the means of mass communications and free flow of information, they can be supported. Given that the Guards control a large part of Iran's economy -- both official and black-market -- it would be difficult to identify sanctions that hurt only the hardliners. However, if such sanctions can be identified, each time new ones are instituted, others that the United States has imposed for decades that hurt only the common people, such as those on selling civilian aircraft, must be lifted. This has not happened because the United States has single-mindedly made Iran's nuclear program the only issue. In fact, the nuclear program is not even among Iranians' top priorities Establishing a democratic political system and the rule of law is. If that happens, it will automatically solve the nuclear problem, as well.

Moreover, the United States and its allies have no right to demand Iran suspend its nuclear program, so long as Iran has abided by its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its Safeguards Agreement. Every report by the IAEA has confirmed that there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran. I believe that Iran should suspend its uranium enrichment program for a mutually agreed upon period and ratify the Additional Protocol of the Safeguards Agreement to allow intrusive inspections by the IAEA, making the program more transparent. But demanding that Iran give up its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is not acceptable.

Thus, all those who do not want to see a new war in the Middle East -- which, if it comes to pass, will make the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan look like child's play -- must oppose military threats and preemptive strikes, as well as any sanctions that hurt ordinary people.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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Thank you for this commentary. Ironically, what the IRI is doing to its own people motivates some ordinary Americans to want to 'stop them.' Of course, war is not the way.

Some sanctions made add pressure on the IRI so that it has less success handling its home crisis. Personally, I don't wish for 'faster please,' but hope for more time for the IRI to 'self-implode.'

In the meantime, Iranians at home and as refugees elsewhere suffer. The UN is incredibly inept, or whatever one would like to call their 'non-performance' when it comes to helping the refugees. Would appreciate your taking the UN to task for its failures -- they do have the mechanisms to successfully, promptly provide refugees with the means to a new life. Say something, please.

Again, thank you for your commentary.

Observer / July 31, 2010 6:50 PM


You omit to mention that Iran has been declared by the IAEA to be in breach of the NNPT at present. Also there is the small matter of the previous attempts to purchase nuclear weapons through the A.Q. Khan network. And the entirely *explicable* fact that Iran is sitting on massive lakes of oil but chooses to build nuclear power stations instead of refineries for its own domestic use. Hmmm!

One might also mention that the rhetoric and threats are much stronger on the Iranian side than on the Western side. Has anyone said they want to annihilate Iran?

And in your article you seem to suggest that Iran has been more reasonable generally, citing the Turkey-Brazil deal; but this was meaningless because it left out half of the low-enriched fuel stock that Iran had at the time.

Obviously you are aware of the above points, but why not mention them, even if only to dispute or refute them somehow? I think you must accept that by choosing to speak against military action you are being a little biased in order to make that argument.

The truth is that very many people both inside and outside Iran would like nothing better than to see Khamenei, Ahmadinejad, the mullahs & the IRGC removed from power and punished for their horrible crimes. As you rightly point out, this is what Iranians are really interested in, not the nuclear issue. And bombing the nuclear facilities won't get rid of the mullahs, but would it really hinder it? That is the question that interests me.

Therefore I'd like to ask you: What would be the reaction of the Iranian people to having the nuclear facilities bombed out of existence? Would they take Ahmadinejad's side on this one? Really? Do you think Western-leaning Iranians will stop reading/watching Western news or stop wearing Western clothes or stop listening to Western music and using Western technology? A lot of people take it as read that bombing Iran would help the hardliners, but I find this hard to believe because the real issues that drive people to despise the hardliners have practically nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy.

My view is that there would be some anger in the immediate aftermath, but that most people would understand why it happened, and would (in the long run) blame the hardliners for provoking it. I can certainly see it would still provoke anti-U.S. sentiment (and the neo-cons are such an easy target, though you might also have mentioned John Bolton and the MEK), but that's not the same as pro-Ahmadinejad or pro-Velayat e-Faqih sentiment. It is possible to be anti-U.S. and anti-Ahmadinejad at the same time, as you have more-or-less argued yourself. Therefore, would you agree with my general views on the likely effect of a brief bombing campaign against Iran? I realise you are sure to disagree with me, but I'd like to hear exactly why if you have the time, because other articles on the subject don't offer any detail. Thanks.

Ian / July 31, 2010 7:13 PM

The u.s. empire wants Iran's oil - plain and simple. They will stop at nothing to get it just like they did in Iraq. They will kill our children and women for oil. They will destroy our country for oil. That is why I hope you are wrong Sahimi. I pray that we are developing the bomb as it will be our only defense against the u.s. empire. That mushroom cloud will protect us, help us grow and enhance our national interests.

Radical_Guy / July 31, 2010 7:36 PM

Mr. Sahimi:

It looks like the attack is imminent. Is there any chance that a beneficial scenario may evolve out of an attack which will:

1. Cause the IRI to collapse.
2. Does not cost Iran billions $ of damages to it's infrastructure.
3. Will not cause fragmentation of Iran.
4. Will not spread the war to the gulf states.
5. Will not further destabalize Iraq and Afghanistan.
6. Does not result in a lengthy civil war within Iraq once the Israeli venum is spewed.

I'm not being facetious, just trying to see whether there might be a bright side.

I personally cannot see it as being anything but utterly devastating for Iran with all the above scenarios occurring. Let's hope that the Army sides with the Greens and topples the regime before playing into the Israeli wishes.

Ali / July 31, 2010 7:48 PM

Muhammed, you are nothing but a dai jaan napoleoni, conspiratorial, arrogant engineering professor w/ very little political savvy and no business pontificating as you do. you have been predicting war for 8 years, it's not going to happen, go back to your boring engineering job and leave the analysis to professionals who know what they're talking about.

Saman / July 31, 2010 8:08 PM

Provides for the right of countries to engage in military action in self-defense, including collective self-defense (i.e. under an alliance).

Lipservice / July 31, 2010 9:42 PM

Shame on pbs for publishing this piece of crap!
Could you be any more biased?! I don't Think so

majid / July 31, 2010 10:22 PM

Dear Saman @ 7:48 PM,

Having scolded Dr. Sahimi for his naive insolence and banished him to bed without dinner, please be more generous to the rest of us by linking to samples of what you consider shrewd analysis by "professionals who know what they're talking about".

Your humble, bored and impressionable servant.

Ali from Tehran / July 31, 2010 10:37 PM

Dr. Sahimi,

I'm not going to engage in personal attacks like some ignorants that your writing seems to attract. However, it is very disappointing that after all that has happened to Iran, you still think that there CAN be any "smart" sanctions. I agree with most of your writing, but unfortunately your agreement with SOME possible sanctions is only an opening that the warmongers need to push in the worst possible sanctions and of course war itself.

Agreement to any sanctions, "smart" or not, is a direct and explicit admission that the governments imposing such sanctions have moral and legal authority to do so. Since YOU or any of the unfortunate Iranian victims are not going to be in any position to say what "good" sanctions can be "identified", you have only helped realize the worst possible scenario for the Iranian people.

Lastly those short-sighted fools who casually opine that war is "not going to happen" are the same ones who helped destroy a once-vibrant Iraqi society for 11 years of sanctions before physically ending it by bombs and civil war. This is the future they want for Iran.

Molayem / July 31, 2010 11:05 PM

Mr. Sahimi

With all the brainwashing the Ayatollah's have done to Iranians (including yourself) I want to ask a simple questions :

If God forbid Saddam Hussein had succeeded to develop a nuclear arsenal during Iran-Iraq war, who do you think he would have used it against ?

You guessed it right and believe me types of you and the entire Iranian nation owes a lot to The Jewish State (and I am not mentioning all the military equipment Israel sent to Iran during the war).

I just feel disgusted with people like you.

Ebi / July 31, 2010 11:17 PM


Unlike what you say, Iran has not been declared to be violating the NPT. The IAEA has said that Iran was in six cases of minor noncompliance with its Safeguards Agreement, which is vastly different from violating the NPT. And, the February 2008 report of the IAEA declared that all the six cases have been addressed to its satisfaction.

A NPT member state violates the NPT if, (1) it makes a nuclear weapon; (2) It helps another member state to do so, and (3) it transfers its nuclear technology to a non-member state. None has happened in Iran's case. Note, however, that the US has done (2) and (3).

The IAEA has never said that Iran wanted to buy nuclear weapon from A.Q. Khan. This is speculation on your part. The question of oil vs. nuclear power is a good one, and I have addressed it in a series of very well-known articles. Just Google search Iran's Nuclear Program with my name. For an analysis of its economic aspect, go to Harvard International Review, Winter 2005 and see my article there, or read Part IV of my series.

I do not know what the reaction of the people will be to bombing ONLY the nuclear sites. But, there has been persistent talk of carpet bombing of not just the nuclear sites, but also all the important industrial and military sites (see, for example, Senator Graham's view above). In that case, I believe that people will be reacting extremely negatively about the bombing and the US.

Finally, it is not a question of being anti-this or pro-that. The US has had double standards. It should help create an atmosphere in which the nuclear arsenals of Pakistan, India, and Israel are part of the dialogue. So long as it does not so, people like me will criticize it.


I do not believe that there will be any bright side to bombing of Iran, period.


The professionals that you may have in mind have been saying the same. Just check the internet.

If you look at Iran's contemporary history, you will see that the vast majority of Iranian politicians, both in the government and in the opposition, have been engineers. Even now that is the case. Not only are Ahmadinejad and cohorts mostly engineers, but so also are Mousavi and his team, as well as members of the Majles. At the same time, engineering schools have always been the hotbeds of political activities in Iran. Why?

There is a reason for it: In Iran, a large part of the best and brightest study engineering. So, naturally, they are also most aware of what is going on.

So, why is it that me having an engineering background bothers you? Please enlighten me.


Do not blame PBS/Frontline/Tehran Bureau if you do not like the article. After all, if you believe in freedom of expression, you should not attack publication of something, but the content of what has been published. In that spirit, please tell me, why is this biased? I said that Ahmadinejad and cohorts are partly responsible for creating the present situation. I said that Iranian people's main concern is not even the nuclear program. What else could I have said, that did not say?

Muhammad Sahimi / July 31, 2010 11:34 PM

Iran's "Green" movement needs a greater sense of urgency and action.

Bozorg / July 31, 2010 11:53 PM

Ali from Tehran:

Thank you. I made the same request.


I actually agree with you. If you read more carefully, you see that I say that I find it hard to see how any such smart sanctions can be identified, or the US is interested in finding.


Israel did not bomb Osirak in Iraq for the sake of Iranians. It did so because it thought it is in its interest. Let's just be absolutely clear on this.

But, since you find this acceptable, tell me: Do you think that Israel should be free to bomb any nation in the ME that it feels like it?

Muhammad Sahimi / August 1, 2010 12:03 AM

Mr. Sahimi

The only reason the islamic regime has not been able to unleash more violence against its own people is the pressure from the west. You yourself as a professor are a product of the US education and the Shah's regime. You are living comfortably enjoying all the benefits of the freedom and democracy that this great nation has provided you, but fail to see how this country was established and how its democracy has survived.
Brave soldiers and ideologs(believing in democratic values, and freedom) have been the driving force and not Passivity and ignorance to potential threats.
The Iranian regime is bad to the core and the only way to get rid of it is by force. I hate to see innocent people getting killed but when left with a choice of destrying a civilization and the future of its people, the war option becomes more palatable. Imagine the world(especially for nonanglosaxon people) if Hitler had won the war. Don't be mistaken that he was only after the Jews, he was planning to go after all nonanglos including the christian church which he believed was a conspiracy to destroy western civilization.
we must confront the Iranian regime or leave them to destroy the life of future generations of Iran.
Sometimes one generation has to sacrifice to make it better for the future generation.
In terms of your Iraq comments, I disagree with your assesment. I think historian will look at Iraq 100 years from now and will concluded that the world had a positive outcome, if the the iraqi's manage to realize the opportunity that has been handed to them.


Kaveh / August 1, 2010 12:17 AM


Who wants to annihilate who? If you are talking about the "erasing the Zionist regime from the page of time" then fine, I wish he would not have said that. But please answer to the all threats made against Iran. And you could start with the "Axis of Evil" speech that took place a whole 3 years before the Ahmadinejad speech.


Do you see the irony of bringing up the UN in relation to Iran? Do you need to be reminded of the UN Resolutions against Israel?


Exactly who is a "professional"? Engineers aren't entitled to their opinions?


Perhaps you didn't know notice that this article was titled under the Commentary section.


What Israel did for Iran in the past has nothing to do with this. Remember all the oil Iran gave to Israel? That too has nothing to do with this. The issue is today.

B / August 1, 2010 12:29 AM

You can see all over the world wide internet what is a Political Analysis means. Presented article is not just an analytical piece of paper, since it involves so many informative documentary ideas of politicians all around the world. The author has been a representative of the Voice of Ordinary Peoples in Iran who seeks establishment of government based on democracy, almost a half century. Papers of Professor Sahimi have been the national and international demands of Iranians which are not written biased or for any self business pontificating demand as you said!
Furthermore, respect the analytical power of a Professional Engineer, a Professor with such a dominant interest in analytical mathematics.
Recommended to you: hold your ground in your boss doghouse.

HD / August 1, 2010 12:33 AM

If we begin to see a bombing campaign in Gaza and Southern Lebanon then I think that is the final indication that we are close to seeing a bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities.
Somehow through course of bombing there will need to be an escalation to a ground war in order to pull off regime change, it will be important to see what triggers this escalation.

Shaun / August 1, 2010 12:52 AM


Thanks for your reply.

Whether you call it "non-compliance" or "violation" of the NPT, the "minor" issues you refer to have included failure to disclose the existence of the enrichment facility at Qom, as well as concerns over production of detonators and other bomb-related matériel. By your standards, "violation" of the NPT could only occur (firstly) if Iran actually develops a bomb, by which time it would be a little late. It's a bit like saying that someone holding a gun at someone's head saying they want to "annihilate" that person shouldn't be stopped from clicking the safety to "off". And just to clarify, "non-compliance" means they're not entitled to develop civilian nuclear power anyway, so it's not a very strong argument on your part.

As to the supposed economic case for Iran going nuclear (something you assert without any evidence in your Harvard International Review article), I would like to hear that argument made properly. Nuclear power has been more expensive than oil power in the West, even though we have had to import oil. The abject failure of Iran to build _any_ refineries, instead engaging on a long nuclear programme which has been devastating both economically and diplomatically, speaks very strongly against the notion that nuclear has been chosen because of cost or in order to provide some additional capacity. That said, I have yet to see the argument made seriously.

You state that the IAEA has never said that Iran wanted to buy a nuclear weapon from Iran. Whilst this is true as far as it goes -- Iran, as far as we know, never actually tried to buy a ready-made nuclear bomb from A.Q. Khan, perhaps because he didn't have one to sell -- nevertheless Iran engaged in nuclear technology transfer with A.Q. Khan and his associates for a long time in secret, apparently with the same aim in mind. I'm not sure what difference this clarification actually makes, except that it provides another diaphanous fig-leaf for Iran to hide behind. Western intelligence services have been doing battle with Iran for some time over their attempts to acquire nuclear technology: one might read Richard Tomlinson's account of one MI6 operation, for instance. The notion that Iran's activities are all above board is ludicrous in the extreme, but if you want to believe everything they say and refuse to see the obvious then nothing but an admission from Iran would make any difference to you; and clearly they are not about to admit anything unless they have to, as in the case of the Qom facility. Also, the fact that Iran recently claimed they were carrying out a disinformation campaign against the CIA with respect to their nuclear facilities (I'm talking about Shahram Amiri) is a bit of a giveaway that there is a genuine battle going on.

As for "carpet bombing", I haven't heard anything about attacks on non-nuclear facilities except as a response to an Iranian retaliation against a US ally (e.g., Saudi Arabia in the CSIS study). I don't think the comments of Senator Graham necessarily reflect military planning. But in any case, I remain optimistic that an attack on Iranian nuclear sites will not result in a collapse of the Green movement or a fundamental shift in the world-view of young Iranians. In fact, I suspect that a tactical strike on the nuclear facilities might help provoke some sort of sanity amongst some sections of the Iranian political elite. God knows, we could do with a bit of that: no-one actually wants to have to bomb Iran except crazy people.


Re: Ahmadinejad and talk of annihilating Israel, etc. I don't think his statements can easily be compared with the far blander rhetoric from the West, although there have been some clear threats emanating from the U.S.A. The threats from the West, however, have been in response to Iran's position. I think the West would immediately back down if Iran agreed to sensible proposals for a fuel swap -- which seems quite reasonable to me. On the other hand, Ahmadinejad and the Hojattieh actually seem to regard it as their mission to do as much damage as possible, and are seemingly quite happy to talk about their plans publicly: specifically, their wish to kill all the Jews. Also they do horrible things like rape people before murdering them, just so they won't go to heaven. One struggles to think of a comparable example in the West, unless one goes back to medieval times. It's not really surprising that large sections of the Iranian public hates and despises the IRGC and the mullahs.

Ian / August 1, 2010 1:06 AM

In his post @ 12:17 AM above, Kaveh covers all the favored neocon talking points (Hitler Redux, Holocaust, West as sentinel of human rights, US as beacon of democracy, the cowardice of peaceniks, the righteousness of Operation Iraqi Freedom, et al.), and hails forth the dogs of war, saying:

"I hate to see innocent people getting killed, but when left with a choice of destroying a civilization and the future of its people [sic], the war option becomes more palatable ..."

"Sometimes one generation has to sacrifice to make it better for the future generation".

Ravishing idea, Kaveh.

But I suggest corralling some of your own nearest-and-dearest in a comfortable, air-conditioned pen in central Tehran and fattening them up on dizi and kebabs. (Yes, I'm risking the assumption that not all your closest kin have absconded Iran already.)

For every 100 innocent Iranians shot dead, torn to pieces or mortally irradiated during Operation Eye-Rainian Freedom, one of your loved ones in the pen can volunteer - or be culled at random - to be 'suicided' painlessly with strong antidepressants chased down with many generous shots of Smirnoff.

By this very simple expedient, you can participate in the generational sacrifice you promote for others, and demonstrate the courage of your convictions. And a hundred years from now, Western historians will valorize your family for having helped make the world safe for democracy.

Ali from Tehran / August 1, 2010 1:59 AM

If USA atatcks Iran, I do not think there would be a lot of anger among urban Iranians [the majority of Iranians] towards USA. But the anger against Ahmadinejad and Khamenei would definitely soar to the sky.

Why should ordinary Iranians,who do not have any rights in a country that Imam Khamenei "owns",lose their lives so that Revolutianry Gaurds become fatter and fatter,Khamenei's son become the next dictator, and more Iranian youth get raped?

If USA attacks Iran, USA will definitely have a lot of problems in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Lebanon. But not in Persian Gulf. US army will defeat Iranian Army but they can't defeat partisan units in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But I do not understand why USA government is not helping Iranians with free, uncensored flow of information. Information is the deadliest weapon in a war against a closed Islamic system in a country with more than %50 of the population under 30. It will be way cheaper for USA and way more effective.

Amin / August 1, 2010 2:01 AM

We should all our best to stop war at all cost. War has never been solution and it only destruct nations and many people would suffer.
I do not understand what gives Israel or US right to Tell Iran can not have nuclear capability while both are sitting on hundreds/thousands of nuclear war heads. US and Israel are most terrorist states
in world and have terrorized many countries and World should stand firm against them.
Unfortunately they have all media and fabrication to create war with any nation that does not like them. God bless Iranians.

kamal / August 1, 2010 2:19 AM

Wow, I can't believe some people still adhere to that old mistranslation. What President Ahmadinejad stated was “this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e eshghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad). What it means is the end of Zionism in similar fashion to the end of the USSR and the Shah’s kingdom.

Muhammad, why do you conflate Iran's factional politics with that of the nuclear issue? Iranians of all political stripes inside Iran overwhelmingly support their nuclear rights. So why would you even think of supporting certain sanctions against Iran in the name of nuclear proliferation, in order to justify your support for what is a marginalized minority political faction inside Iran? Your motive is misplaced.

And how can you suggest that the Khatami approach to the nuclear issue was superior to that put forward by Ahmadinejad? Inside Iran, the former approach has been totally discredited.

As ususal, I hate to say it, but you're out of synch with the political perspective of the majority inside the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Pirouz / August 1, 2010 3:03 AM

CASMII Fact Sheet on the U.S./Iran Stand-off PART 1

6 - The 2009 Iranian presidential election and its aftermath are being exploited by pro-war forces

Many Western commentators point to the disputed 2009 Iranian elections and claim that, since there is a domestic opposition to the Iranian government, Iranians would support foreign intervention or regime change effort. This is false and disingenuous. No significant opposition figure has ever asked for any kind of war, sanctions or even monetary help from outside the country.

While the idea of “targeted” sanctions has some currency among a minority of exile-based Iranians, it is by no means supported by Iranians in general. There were reports of similar “support” for pressure and for “smart” sanctions against Iraq by exiles like Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, reports that were cynically cultivated by the neoconservatives in order to justify their drive toward war.

7 - The Obama administration has backtracked on its own engagement policy and now actively opposes peaceful solutions

Barack Obama's presidential campaign included promises to move U.S. policy away from confrontation with Iran and toward “direct and unconditional negotiations”. Disappointingly, the Obama White House has backed away from that earlier position. Its current policy is virtually the same as that of the Bush/Cheney administration: before there can be any negotiations, Iran must first give up its nuclear enrichment program.

For example, before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, Iran received U.S. assistance under the Atoms for Peace program to build a nuclear research reactor in Tehran (20). For more than 30 years the TRR has produced medical isotopes for the treatment of some 800,000 cancer patients. That research reactor is now running out of fuel.

In the fall of 2009, the U.S. proposed that Iran swap, in a third country, 1,200 kilograms (2,646 pounds) of its low-enriched uranium (LED) for the higher-enriched uranium needed to fuel the TRR. Iran accepted this offer, in principle, but demanded guarantees to ensure it would actually receive the needed fuel. The Obama administration walked away from the table, adopting a “take it or leave it” position (21).

On May 17, 2010, Turkey, Brazil and Iran signed a third-country swap agreement that was the same deal earlier offered by the U.S., except for a clause that provided for the return of Iran’s LED in the event the enriched fuel was not delivered within a year. Even though evidence has surfaced that President Obama himself encouraged the Brazil/Turkey efforts, (22) he has now rejected this agreement, reprimanding both allied countries and pushing for new sanctions.

8 - The sanctions policy is deeply flawed, as well as counter-productive

The stated goal of what are now three separate sets of U.N.-imposed sanctions, as well as more than 30 years of unilateral sanctions imposed by the U.S., is to pressure Iran's government to abandon its uranium enrichment program. In reality, the sanctions are meant to promote “regime change” by creating popular discontent in the hope that the Iranian people will rise up and topple their government.

Consistent with this policy, sanctions are meant to have a direct and painful impact on the population. U.S. and Israeli hawks often claim that sanctions are directed only at the “regime,” but, as numerous analysts have shown, the effects are primarily felt by ordinary Iranians (23).

This policy is not only criminal, but also flawed. People rarely engage in anti-government activity when their countries are threatened, as shown by the examples of both Cuba and Iraq, as well as the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. With Iraq in particular, sanctions resulted in a genocidal level of civilian casualties, but still did not produce the intended results (24).

No matter how devastating a new sanctions might look on paper, they cannot possibly match the severity of the 1980s Western-backed Iraq war and economic sanctions that Iranians endured without risk to the political establishment.

9 - Sanctions are a gateway to war

Sanctions are not only a form of warfare, they can lead to actual war. The only way to make sanctions viable would be to impose a total military blockade of all Iranian trade and forcefully intercept Iranian shipping. By any definition, that would be a declaration of war.

In retrospect, many Iraqis now see the sanctions of the 1990s not simply as “pressure” designed to force Iraq to end its non-existent WMD program, but as a cynical ploy to physically disrupt and weaken Iraq for an eventual military action. Those sanctions did succeed � costing of the lives of 1.5 million civilians, including at least a half-million children (25).

It is unlikely that U.S. and Israeli advocates of sanctions are not aware of the clear and direct risk of war. Indeed, some of the most vocal advocates for sanctions are the same ones who promoted the Iraq War.

10 - A military strike on Iran would be illegal, with dire consequences

A U.S. or Israeli military strike on Iran would be a direct violation of the U.N. Charter, which forbids an unprovoked attack on another country.

Further, the Iranian government has vowed to respond to any attack with full force. Many analysts warn of a quick chain-reaction that could lead to a devastating regional war, from Afghanistan to Gaza, as Iran and its regional allies retaliate against the U.S., Israel and allied governments, requiring a U.S. commitment of significant resources and military engagement for decades to come.

lipservice13 / August 1, 2010 3:07 AM


To begin with Bush made the "Axis of Evil" speech in Jan. 29, 2002. Ahmadinejad made his "erase Zionist regime from the pages of time" in Oct. 2005. Bush was bad mouthing Iran before Ahmadinejad was even in power. So it's not America responding to the rhetoric of Iran. Please provide examples with dates if you think it's otherwise.

Secondly, when did Ahmadinejad say to kill all Jews? Please provide specific examples.

And what does "doing horrible things like rape people before murdering them" have to do with the rherotic of war? No one is arguing that Ahmadinejad is a great government or even an average government. In fact, if you read Dr. Sahimi's articles you will note the various and widespread failures of the this administration.

This article is about the rhetoric of war and American presidents and legislators have been just as complicit as the leaders of Iran, as Dr. Sahimi has noted.

B / August 1, 2010 3:12 AM

I think it is rediculous that we are pressuring Iran against a corner. It is Iran's right to have a nuclear program if they wish. We as the west need to stop being hyprocitical of other countries and there business. We have no right pointing our fingers at Iran for a nuclear program when the west has nuclear weapons ourselves. We should first disarm and get rid of our nuclear weapons than diplomacy with other nations. We should be promoting peace, stability, and equality not condemning other countries.

Stephen / August 1, 2010 3:13 AM


Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I think you're right about how opinion might be affected by an attack. Of course, an attack might well spark a fairly long war in the middle east, so it would all be up in the air.

As for the point about the USA -- and the West generally -- not helping with information flow, this is something that I've thought about and talked to technical people about (when I was involved with the "Anonymous" group during the protests), and I think there are some points to consider. Firstly, you may remember that Twitter was kept online at the behest of the US government during the protests, and also BBC Persian started broadcasting about the same time (coincidentally, I suppose). So there was some support, but unfortunately the German company Siemens had already sold some equipment to help the IRI deal with mobile phones, and they also managed to lock down the internet and jam satellites so effectively that it's hard to see what more could have been done, short of smuggling Tor nodes into the country or launching communications balloons from Iraq or somewhere nearby (ideas which were mooted at the time by "Anonymous", but dismissed as unfeasible).

You're right about information being the best weapon here, and if there was something that could be done then I think it probably would have been done, but unless you've got any suggestions then I think it's a difficult proposition.

Ian / August 1, 2010 3:15 AM

"The Islamic Republic's current position regarding its nuclear program is the same as that during 2003-2005 when Mohammad Khatami was president, namely, that having the complete cycle for producing nuclear fuel -- including uranium enrichment -- is Iran's fundamental right, with which I agree completely."

Thank you, Mr Sahimi! Hopefully you will rejoice, when your Holy Republic has effaced Israel from the world's map!

Arshama / August 1, 2010 3:33 AM

Let's be clear on these points :

1. The fake anymosity propagated in the Iranian
public towards Israel by the Iranian regime is
only an excuse to cover for the regime's

2. Some of my best friends are palestinians and
they tell me that the general Palestinian
public deeply resent the Iranians and the
Iranian regime in particular.

3. The Iranians thrive for (and deserve) a better
and democratic system. They can only learn
from the Israeli liberal and democratic
society (the only real one in the Middle East)
which during its 61 years of existence with no
oil and other resources has achieved like no
other nation has achieved.

4. And Yes Israel bombed Osirak for its own
interest but along the way it saved the
Iranian nation a potential and unparallel
catastrphe and yes they should be grateful for

5. And by the way even today many many muslim
Iranians travel to Israel to get the best
medical treatment.

God Bless Iranians and Israelis
and may wisdom prevail

Ebi / August 1, 2010 3:51 AM

There will be a war very soon in the middle east. It's called the Psalm 83 war. That's when the surrounding nations of Israel attack Israel and Israel will win and take back some of their land. This war will probably happen because Israel will attack Irans nuke facilities. The U.S. sent it's fleet over to the Persian Gulf in June. That's because when Israel attacks Iran, Iran will block the Straits of Hormuz, preventing oil tankers from importing oil to other countries. The U.S. Navy will blow the Iranian ships out of the water to free up the Hormuz. After the Psalm 83 war will be the war of Ezekiel 38 39. That is when Russia, Iran and several other Muslim countries attack Israel. God will intervene in that war and will destroy 5/6 of their army. They will fall on the mountains of Israel and it will take Israel 7 months to bury the dead and 7 years to burn their weapons.

Watchman / August 1, 2010 4:07 AM


I'll see your "Axis of Evil" and raise you a "Great Satan", by Khomeini on 5th November 1979! Of course, there were legitimate grievances against the West, but generally speaking the Iranian rhetoric is *much* more crazy than even the worst neo-con drivel.

The "killing Jews" thing was a reference to some remarks made about how convenient it was that the Jews were all congregating in Israel, because it would save the trouble of hunting them down around the world. I don't think this was specifically Ahmadinejad, but unfortunately I don't have the reference to hand. You can of course dispute this because I can't provide the quote (sorry, it was a lazy remark -- it may even be Israeli propaganda), but I think it's fair to say that the Ahmadinejad regime is anti-Zionist in the sense suggested by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (which has apparently enjoyed a good deal of publicity since the revolution), and I understand Zionism comes up a lot in the general discourse, although I don't speak Farsi so have to rely on English-language websites such as this one.

Of course, vis-a-vis anti-Zionism, the IRI supports groups like Hizbollah which hold to these sorts of views, a reflection of the general hatred of the Jews with which Islam is unfortunately steeped. I've seen some of the English-language Muslim propaganda (in particular I recall "Dajjal: Antichrist") and a lot of it consists of the most paranoid ranting about how the Jews control everything. A quick Google search shows up plenty of hits on the subject. Ahmadinejad just seems to have been caught up in all of that.

On the other side, I can see somewhat parallel anti-Muslim "End-Time" views amongst certain Americans, and of course Bush talked about a "crusade" in the Middle East. I am not trying to say Western politicians are saints: far from it, they are frequently the worst sort of stupid, pig-ignorant cretins one can imagine. The famous American comedian Bill Hicks made some very well-observed remarks back in the 1990s about fundamentalist Christians in the White House with their fingers on the nuclear button, which was something that (rightly) concerned a lot of people in the West at the time.

Similarly, when those inspired with fervour to bring about the coming of the Mahdi are seeking to gain nuclear weapons, I can't help but voice what I feel are reasonable concerns about the situation. It seems quite clear that they are trying to get nuclear weapons, and I don't think there can be any positive outcome if they manage it.

In short, I think we lose a lot if the discourse is limited to a question of USA v. Iran. It's in no-one's interest for Iran to have nuclear weapons. It's just a pity that the Iranians are caught up in the general craziness: everything I see and hear of them makes me wonder just how it could be that such a friendly and intelligent people could end up in such a situation. I think the West has a lot to answer for in that respect, but repenting for the past doesn't change the facts as they exist today. It's a SNAFU.

Ian / August 1, 2010 4:19 AM

The truth is that the West does not want Iran to become powerful, as nuclear capability confers, under its current belligerent, fundamentalist, regime. Why should such a repressive regime that disrespects human rights and is loathed by Iranians themselves be allowed to threaten, intimidate and manipulate the rest of the world? Change the regime and the nuclear issue will be solved.

Rick / August 1, 2010 4:22 AM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,

In 'The Mysterious Stranger,' written more than a century ago, Mark Twain describes with great wit the build-up to war:

"The loud little handful--as usual--will shout for the war. The pulpit will--warily and cautiously--object, at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, "It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it." Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers--as earlier--but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation, pulpit and all, will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

Much has changed in the U.S. since Twain composed this, allegedly in response to America's bloody imperial grab of the Philippines, but the social dynamics of preparing the "dull bulk of the nation" for aggression abroad have scarcely changed.

In this case, the "loud little handful" are the Israel-Firsters and their hangers-on. This should be evident from the nuttiest comments on this thread.

And you, presumably, are one of the "few fair men [who] argue and reason against the war with speech and pen".

When the din for war grows louder and the Lord Haw-Haws at VOA PNN stop inviting you to roundtable discussions, that will be my cue to start digging a bunker and stockpiling water, medicine and canned food.

Ali from Tehran / August 1, 2010 5:07 AM

I can't see Obama actually giving the green light on attacking Iran. People are already sick of Afghanistan and Iraq. It will be difficult to argue in favor of more money for a third war. Many of Obama's supporters, who are already worried about the current wars, may desert him in 2012. The power of the Lobby is so immense, though. The only hope is that those concerned for the Middle East ratchet up support comparable to AIPAC and others.

Rick / August 1, 2010 7:30 AM


My suggestions are very simple.

USA gov should make/FUND 100 TV satellite channels to broadcast all the GREEN news and more 24/7. USA or WEST will have no problem finding professional STAFF for these news outlets, there are more than 1000 Iranian journalists taken refuge in Turkey, let alone the whole Europe and North America!

I am not saying that these 100 channels be on all at the same time. I am saying that there should be at least 24 channels on in any HOUR of the day. SO it is like a periodic scheduling. These 24 for channels should be scattered on different satellite servers, Arab, Europe and Asia!

Iranians do NOT read, they love WATCHING and Listening. And my other suggestion would be to make all these simple TXT websites to send news in FARSI through newsletters or whatever. But as I said Iranians do not READ, they like to WaTCH. SO anything related to satellite will be the best.

Amin / August 1, 2010 7:38 AM

I was amazed that no mention of any Hillary Clinton statement was made in this opinion.

eudaenomic / August 1, 2010 10:35 AM

Iran wont win the war.... But it will rock America and Israel like no other.

IamYourMaster / August 1, 2010 11:38 AM

Ali from Tehran:

Thank you very much. The quote from Mark Twain is great. I did not know about it. With your permission I may use it in the future.

Indeed, when the VOA stops inviting me to their round table discussions, that would be a good clue for the upcoming war. But, you should also know that I accept their frequent invitations roughly 1 out of 5. I do not know whether you saw Saturday's program, but the other two guests were repeating the neocons positions word by word!

Thank you again.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 1, 2010 11:45 AM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,

You are welcome to use the Mark Twain quote; it's in the public domain.

Yes, I did watch your roundtable on VOA PNN two nights ago; it was apparent to me that your strident warnings about warmongering pushed the limits of Lord Haw-Haw's tolerance.

VOA PNN must prepare the Iranian psyche to accept -- even endorse -- U.S. or Israeli military aggression. It will soon have to restrict itself to a shortlist of guests who are willing to describe a possible attack as a necessary, transient evil in service of a much greater long-lasting good, roughly the same reasoning a doctor uses to calm a fearful child before administering a painful antiviral shot.

Ali from Tehran / August 1, 2010 5:54 PM

The paranoia displayed in this op-ed piece is amazing.

There's so many parts of it that are paranoid fantasy that I hardly know where to begin.

But I guess I'll begin with what is the author considering war? Is a few drone attacks against a few sites war? This is the farthest thing I could see the Obama administration doing. If one is thinking of an Iraq style invasion, where would the U.S. push out from? Iraq? Kuwait? Saudi Arabia? Afganistan? Oh, yeah, Azerbijan? Are there hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops in Azerbijan? Come on, be realistic. None are very practical at all. Then there is Israel. A de facto state of war pretty much exists already between Israel and Iran. Both sides are funding and supporting those that are trying to, at the very least, overthrow the government of the other. But let's look at the capabilities, shall we? Israel has the capability to bomb a limited amount of targets. Iran has the ability to fund and arm, with very inferior arms, the forces opposed to Israel. This doesn't seem like much of a war to me. Just the general level of violence that is already present in the region. Iran possesing a nuclear weapon with delivery capacity would increase this tension. But anyone with a brain knows this will not happen for years, and years, if at all.

Then, regardless of the capablities of the various parties, the author then goes on to quote various politcians from the near past. He quotes very marginal politcans about general opinions of Iran. Most of the "war with Iran" opinions the author uses are of at best marginal people in U.S. policy thinking. If one wanted to, they could write a similar article about how the U.S. wanted to attack the U.K. Quote some marginal Irish politicans, throw in some think tank quotes, and viola! The U.S. is on their way to war with the U.K. over N. Ireland.

Iran's capabilty to kill millions is years away. And the real U.S. and Israeli policy makers know this. This is why they will fight the Iranian government on the ground, as they are currently fighting them. Israel will try to disrupt Iran's support of Syria, Lebanon, and the P.A. The U.S. will try to deny Iran of the money it needs to develop an effective attack against the U.S. That's the state of the "war" today. And that's probably going to be the state of the "war" for many years to come.

muhammad billy bob / August 1, 2010 8:14 PM

Iran is run by religious fanatics bent on mass murder. Violence is just and right against them. It is legal and right. Iran must be disarmed by violence and the mullahs killed. The Iranian people want to join the international community and their insane leaders are crushing them. Bomb the known nuclear facilities - yes. Bomb the IRG into the stone age - yes. Energy is life. Iran threatens both. The faster you end the fight the less shot you will get.

General LeMay / August 1, 2010 8:26 PM

US military chief admits to Iran attack plan http://bit.ly/9BWVCx

moderator / August 1, 2010 8:58 PM


Nice idea, but even if one could position 100 satellites above Iran, I think (from what little I've read) that it would still be possible to jam them all relatively easily.

Another idea would be to use some sort of encrypted variable-frequency walkie-talkies for protest leaders to communicate and spread messages in the days before protests, and megaphones to communicate messages to crowds on the day. The only disadvantages are that:
1. It's probably very difficult to obtain that kind of radio equipment.
2. It would leave the leaders extremely vulnerable to arrest (and certain death).
3. It would require a degree of top-down coordination that has thus far been absent.

Anyone got any other ideas?

Ian / August 1, 2010 10:12 PM

Dear Ali From Tehran,

Many thanks for sharing this eloquent expression of dismay by Twain. It was very moving.

Dear Dr. Sahimi,

A masterful piece!

Take courage from scoldings by the "loud little handful" - you have clearly hit a nerve!

jay / August 1, 2010 10:23 PM

Hello, everybody. Simply, speaking what would be the outcome of the scene? War on Iran. Planned? of course. No war is not planned. By who? Beneficiaries. Who would they be? Think about it. This is not business anymore. It is CONTROL over humanity. By who? You can answer that based on what you believe in and your background.

Clear Minds / August 1, 2010 10:33 PM


The U.S. military has a "plan" to attack just about every nation in the world. Given the nature of the U.S. governments' policy of international interventionalism, this is very much common knowledge.

The U.S. military has a "plan" to attack Russia, Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, Thailand and almost every other country in the world. These are plans drawn up for the oft possiblity that the civilian leadership desires such conflict.

Do such "plans" mean that the U.S. military is soon to threaten an attack against any of these nations? No....These are plans that are "what ifs". What if Cuba attacked the southern Florida Cuban community? What if a Mexican revolt wanted to recapture the s.w. U.S.? What if Russia attacked Estonia? What if Iran threatened the U.S. with nuclear weapons?

These are all extremely unlikely events. But the U.S. military draws up plans to defend against such things for a several reason. The main reason is that the U.S. voters want a large U.S. government, including a large DOD, with such a large DOD the only job for many is to think of the most unlikely events occurring in the most unlikely way. It's a paycheck for a voter, and several of their family and friends. But these people are relatively few compared to the voters who vote money for themselves in regards to social security, medicare, and other benefits for those over 62.

muhammad billy bob / August 1, 2010 10:58 PM


david / August 1, 2010 10:58 PM

General Sherman (Union Army Boss) marched through the South and devastated it to end the Civil war. U.S had to glow Japan by A-bomb to end the world war II. Let us hope the mullahs rule will end peacefully, but that's a wishfull thinking. War maybe the last hope.

david / August 1, 2010 11:05 PM

I last heard Iran has 70 million souls, 40 million of which are under 30 years of age.

If this is true do you plan a land war?

You know no war has ever been won using air power alone?

Do you expect the locals to dance in the streets like they did when the US invaded Iraq?

When you talk war you unfortunately must talk money, so inconvenient.

What if China decided it disagrees with the US position, or what if China saw the weakened financial US position as a vulnerability and decided to "quietly" do a financial attack on the US. They could sell huge amount of US debt on the market even at a loss or...?

When you plan to attack Iran where do you see the state of affairs in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghnistan, Somalia, the Philippeans?

Do you think there is a parallel between attacking Iran which perforce will de-emphasize the "War" on the Taliban and its allies, and the mistaken attack on Iraq that allowed the resurgence of the Taliban in AfPak?

What do you think of the chances of success considering the US public's being fed up with the AfPak/Iraq war as a baseline for the US public opinion and success in Iran if the 40 million young Iranians decide to fight and the war goes on, and on...?

What do you think of the chances of success if during the fighting in AfPak, Iraq and the 75 countries where Obama has special forces, if there is another (one or more) 9/11 events in the US?

At what point in this preemptive war that some advocate, if it goes too slow, becomes too costly in lives or treasure, or starts to threaten Israel or its neighbors, do you foresee the US using "tactical" nuclear weapons?

Are you convinnced that Israel can be controlled if it becomes an all out war to not use nuclear weapons?

I propose that if we become a war ally or engage in more preemptive war Congress should pass two laws.

1. The selective service (draft) with no exemptions for being rich, a student, a professional, or whatever be reinstated. It seems fair to me to make this an equal opportunity war, not just one that the poor sons and daughters have to fight and die in.

After all if its so important to save us from Iran's massive and totally unsubstantiated continuing nuclear build up the rich and their kids will benefit along with the poor (maybe even more).

2. That the President must at least every week go on national television and face to face recite the names of the military and others killed in the action. He must state their age, home town, and what they were trying to specifially accomplish when killed. For example:

John Samson age 22 a private in the Army, who was born and raised in Long Beach, California was killed yesterday trying to destroy the town of xxx.

At the end of the weekly list of fallen hereos he must then tell the nation the cost of the preemptive war to date, the fact that he still believes the sacrifice of your youth is worth it, and the current outlook in time and force required to do the job.

Finally I believe that we should have a recorded ballot vote in the Congress with specific language outlining the declaration of war. There should be no more weasel language or giving the President expandable, just in case he needs it, powers to kill folks, ours or theirs.

And last, the United Nations should establish a commission to study and define the characteristics and consequences of being a "Rogue Nation".

The commission should defind what actions qualify a nation for being so dubya-ed (dubbed). It should also specify what the international consequences are for specific leaders involved in such actions.

And, (sorry) last last, lets internationally fund a non-profit corporation whose mission is to subsidize private corporations that get food, medicine, clean water etc. to nations that need it. Lets go into competition with the war industry, and by making a profit of peaceful assistance remove the unrest that breeds terrorists and drive the war industry out of business.

Makaainana / August 1, 2010 11:15 PM

muhammad billy bob

The link wasn't posted for the truth of the matter asserted in the article. It was relevant to the discussion.

moderator / August 1, 2010 11:26 PM

Muhammad Billy Bob:

I do not usually respond to your comments, because they are not comments, but rants. But, since you always pretend that you know the American politics better than the rest of us - which you do not - let me comment on your most recent rants:

First of all, everyone knows - but you, of course - that the talk and rhetoric of war in Washington often lead to actual wars. They creates their own momentum, takes on the life of their own. The best and most recent example: Iraq. That is why people must pay attention to such propaganda.

Secondly, If influential Senators and Congressmen are "marginal," then I do not know who is a prime play Also, the "scholars" of the AEI pushed hard for Iraq war and celebrated the day invasion of Iraq began, as did the little Lenin - Bill Kristol. This time, the Israel lobby is firmly behind it. You think Barak and Netanyahu visit the President so often because they miss him?

Third, the same "marginal" people in Washington, and in particular in the Congress, recently succeeded in approving tough and illegal sanctions on Iran.

Fourth: Yes, the Pentagon has a plan for attacking practically every country. But, how many times has it announced the plans for Brazil, Argentina, etc.? There is a point in announcing it - as it happens - today by the military chief, Admiral Mullen. Do you get the point?


Ditto for you. And, what makes you an expert on Iranian politics? What expertise or track record do you have to find me out of sync - of course, I am out of sync with you - aside from you being Ahmadinejad's propaganda chief on the internet?

Amazingly, you - "the great supporter of Iran and Iranians and their vote" - instead of paying attention to the rhetoric of war, only pick on me because I am out of sync with you! Then again, it is not amazing. What can one expect from an Ahmadinejad supporter?

Muhammad Sahimi / August 2, 2010 12:24 AM

I'd like to pose these questions/hypotheticals/comments for the readership and the author and would like your thoughts on them.

1. How do the Western/Israeli intelligence agencies know that the IRI does not already possess a nuclear weapon procured from the former Soviet Republics at some point during the chaos of USSR's disintegration or even post that period? I have not read any article that even remotely allows for that possibility. How come? There is a small thread of thought among Iranians that the IRI does possess such a weapon and the current agitation is more about being able to say that we "built" it versus we "bought" it.

2. Based on the experience of Saddam Hussein's war with Iran in the 80's, I would bet that the IRI would actually welcome an attack on its nuclear facilities for several reasons. (A) It would shore up the regime and its street-cred both in Iran and middle-east-wide as those who stand up to Israel and the US hegemony. When Saddam attacked Iran, all opposition voices were silenced and the shaky and new IRI was stabilized. With no Iraq war, the IRI may not have survived much longer. Fast forward to today and another attack will eliminate any Green (or any pale shades thereof). If the attack is aerial, it would hit a few sites at the cost of a few $B to the IRI but at the same time, the price of oil would spike well past $100/B and the damages would be recovered in a few months or years (this is very inexact math). Post such an attack, IRI would exit the NPT - and no one (neo-cons, AIPAC and their ilk excluded) would criticize that decision.

2a. The issue of people getting killed in an attack, in my opinion, does not rank as #1 in IRI's calculus. Does it in anyone's, really?

3. What would China and Russia's response be to these attacks? Unless the West has some serious "compensation" planned for them, and even that may not be enough to appease them, that is a major and potentially volatile unknown. Since there are people in either country's political structure who will have ideological (even though nowadays ideology is intertwined with economic interests) problems with such a brash expression of hegemonic power and the possible future threats to their interests.

4. Israel is armed to the teeth by the United States and if there is ever a direct attack on Israel, it is almost guaranteed that the US will get involved. So this issue of Iran threatening Israel's existence (revolutionary rhetoric and incorrect translations and all that notwithstanding) make no sense. The author refers to this by referencing Tzipi Livni's comments but the comments have not opined on that item.

5. Israel receives multi-billions of US aid every year; military, non-military, civilian-cash from Churches and Synagogues, loan-guarantees and etc. It makes no economic sense to make peace with Palestinians and lose all of that. A war or even the bombing of Iran would guarantee no peace with Palestinians for a few more years, maybe decades as Hezbollah, Hamas and a host of other regional entities will be involved in the "pro-Iran" response to Israel and peace will continue to be a dream. Peace make no sense to Israel.

6. The West and specifically the US is facing major financial problems. US debt is a record in the history of the planet. Israel runs the risk of reduced aid; i.e. reduced income. So it makes sense to create a "Holocaust" to get attention and receive more aid and continue governance under such auspices. Israel needs outside help to survive. After the economic disasters of 2009, the “outside” ability to sustain Israel is decreasing while the cost of such sustenance is increasing. During the 60 years of 1948-2008, this equation was positive to the benefit of such sustenance. During this period, the booming economies of the West, specifically that of the United States allowed for such support. The estimates for the total amount of US aid to Israel since 1948 by Israeli-friendly sources is well over $120 Billion, with the annual figure exceeding the billion mark beginning in 1974 (including but not limited to outright financial aid, military aid, partnerships, [possibly un-repaid] loans and loan guarantees, and myriads of other vehicles designed for such activity) . In addition, other sources estimate the interest paid on this aid to be upwards of $50 Billion. These figures are not adjusted for the present value of the aid in the past 60 years (i.e. $100 Million in 1950 was worth far more than today’s $100 Million) nor do they include the private funds collected from various US political and religious groups destined for Israel. A comprehensive estimate in 2002 by a Washington-based economist puts the complete cost of Israeli support to the US at $1.6 Trillion only since 1973. Therefore the total cost to the US from 1948 to 2010 can be extrapolated to be around $2 Trillion in today’s dollars, with the costs increasing annually. While this figure may be controversial, it is indisputable that Israel is the largest foreign recipient of US funds and such numbers are harder and harder to sustain in an era where as of June 6, 2010, the US Budget deficit is slightly over $13 Trillion .
As a comparison, the current US budget deficit on a per-US-resident (population of 308 million) basis is $42,300 whereas the $2 Trillion spent on Israel, on a per-Jewish-citizen basis (using the 5 million non-Arab population figure) is $400,000. So the money the US has spent since 1948 on every Israeli is almost ten times as much as each and every American currently owes. We have not discussed and certainly do not deny US aid to Arab and other countries (much smaller than the aid to Israel) and have focused solely on Israel, at that is the topic of this writing. Even if we use lower figures than the $2 Trillion amount, the disparity between these two metrics is quite significant and noteworthy.

some references:
Multiple web-based sources but primarily the website for the Jewish Virtual Library http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/index.html and the following Israeli Aid calculations: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/U.S._Assistance_to_Israel1.html and http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/Loan_Guarantees_for_Israel.html
US Debt Clock: http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

Thanks and sorry for being long-winded.

Have_Questions No_Answers / August 2, 2010 1:35 AM


I am not sure how labelling one of the other contributors to this thread as an Ahmadinejad stooge helps matters, and I trust that if I choose to continue this discussion that at no future point will I be labelled a Western stooge.

On that basis, I note that you have not replied to my remarks regarding the economic feasibility of the Iranian nuclear programme relative to oil-powered electricity generation. I have pointed out that your Harvard International Review article does not, in point of fact, address the economic issues in any substantive manner. You suggest that Iran can make money from using nuclear domestically whilst exporting oil for revenue, yet there is no cost analysis of any sort to substantiate this assertion.

I maintain that the attempt to attain nuclear power generation is much more expensive (both financially and diplomatically) for Iran than using its domestic oil reserves, and hence its quest is a quixotic one at best.

Can you please elaborate this topic, since it forms an important part of your article. Also, since you have used the word "right" (in the sense of "prerogative") three times in your essay in support of the Iranian nuclear power programme, I wonder whether you'd like to comment on any of the specific points that the IAEA has raised recently: particularly regarding the Qom facility. You have not addressed this, but are we supposed to believe that the IRI is entirely honest and simply forgot to disclose the existence of this facility by accident? Some reference to Shahram Amiri might be in order here – another point I raised to which you have chosen not to respond. To summarize it all, do you really believe what the Iranian government says about its nuclear programme? It seems that you do. I regard this as an unserious perspective.

Ian / August 2, 2010 3:13 AM

As a Iraq USMC combat vet who has dived into the study of the situation(s) in the middle east, I would like to emphatically state one point that is often overlooked here. That point being that, war with Iran is totally and completely unacceptable and unbearable by the peoples of all nations involved. Others more experienced than I have pointed out the FACT that with as many silkworms as Iran has, they can/could send any economy attached to the US dollar into a spiral with gas prices as over 200 per barrel. In my strategic studies, I keep running into this problem, that if we allied with iran and stopped demonizing them, they could be one of the single most important factors in containing radical islam, but to say that out loud seems to draw immediate critisim. If there is war with Iran, my already failing faith in humanity will be destroyed.

Clayton / August 2, 2010 3:14 AM

Here is what is happening:
“Suicide-by-cop” is a suicide method in which a person deliberately
acts in a threatening way, with the goal of provoking a lethal response
from a law enforcement officer, such as being shot to death.
The United States is acting as the world’s Police.
World War 3 is in the making, and elements in the middle east
are bent on Suicide By the Global Police.

we mustrepent / August 2, 2010 3:28 AM


First of all, I cannot continuously debate with all the commentators here. In fact, most authors do not even come back to respond. I am one of the very few. But, I respond only if I feel that there is something that people can learn, and only if the person I debate with has an open mind.

You did not know the difference between violating the NPT and being in non-compliance with the Safeguards Agreement - something that the IAEA itself considers as very important - and when I explained it to you, you dismissed it simply because it did not fit your own preconceived notion. You also made baseless claim about Iran trying to acquire nuclear bomb from A.Q. Khan. Only extreme neoconservatives and right-wing nuts have made such allegations, but not the IAEA. Under such circumstances, why would I want to respond to you? What is the point?

Secondly, my analysis of the economy of nuclear power generation of electricity in Iran, summarized in my HIR of 2005 (and repeated "independently" by at least three other experts later on), is expanded in great details in Iran's Nuclear Energy Program, Part IV, in www.payvand.com, posted in December 2004. It considers all aspects of the problem. Please read it. The article is long and cannot be reproduced here.

You say my arguments are based on making money. Well, my arguments are not solely based on making money (read the Part IV), but even if they were, they were based on the cost of EVERYTHING. So, if at the end, a nation can still make money and use it, why not?

Iran is entitled to having the complete cycle for producing nuclear fuel, because that is what a NPT signatory that has abided by and large by its obligation is entitled to. You simply cannot dismiss it or put the right in quotation marks. We either have international agreements or we do not. If we do, then that is what they say. If we do not, or believe that the agreements are for more powerful nations not for countries like Iran, then we live in a jungle.

You can come up with your own interpretation of things, but for you demanding explanation while giving no credible arguments for your own absurd and baseless statements that you make freely, is a little beyond the pale. If you read my Iran's Nuclear Program, Part VII, on the same site (posted in 2007), you will see that I give great details of what I declare here based on the NPT, Iran's Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, and the IAEA Statute, and other relevant international agreements, with nearly 100 references. I am a scientist and am not interested in slogans (the way you seem to be). I make my arguments based on documents, not based on emotions, political loyalty, alliance, etc. The adjudicator is not you, me, or the neoconservatives, Ahmadinejad, the U.S., or Israerl, but one and ONLY the IAEA reports. The IAEA has confirmed time and again the non-existence of a nuclear weapon program, the non-diversion of nuclear materials to non-peaceful purposes, and after the most intrusive inspection in the histroy of the IAEA of any NOT member state (in the words of Mohamed ElBaradei), found only six cases of minor non-compliance. The six cases are no longer on the table, as the February 2008 report declared.

As for the Qom facility, I already explained why I believe Iran did not violate its obligations, if the construction of the site began after March 2007. I explained that in an article on this site. Search: Qom enrichment facility, Tehran Bureau, Muhammad Sahimi, and you find it quickly.

The present article is about the rhetoric and possibility of war with Iran coming out of Washington, not about the whole history of the the U.S.-Iran relations. Even if Iran were in major violations of its NPT obligations - which is not - war would be criminal and illegal. Why does the US not start war on South Korea, Taiwan, Egypt, and Brazil that have truly violated their obligations, with a couple of them caught doing experiments with bomb making by the IAEA? Why is there not even some mild sanctions, some strong verbal condemnation? Because, as I said, the US is biased. As John Bolton said a few years ago, "We are not concerned with our allies."

As I said in the article, one can oppose fiercely Tehran's hardliners but also support Iran's fundamental rights. I'll be damned if I do not do both.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 2, 2010 6:49 AM

thanks dr sahimi for such an accurate anaysis of the events unfolding recently.let us all take a breath and just ask this simple question.if asked from the iraqis now,would they have prefered to be still under the saddam regime and have some normality in their lives,or what they are experiencing now,i will guarantee that many would have prefarred to remained the same.we destroyed the whole infrastrure of a nation,stole their arts and killed millions iraqies,do you beleive it was for democracy,give me a break.how can any decent iranian-american would remain silent,if the same false propaganda are in effect,to justify the attack on the great iranian nation.

fay moghtader / August 2, 2010 7:30 AM

Muhammad Sahimi,

You didn't address the question as to where this U.S. attack was going to come from, Azerbijan???......

But anyway. Three or four congressmen out of 535 is the very definition of marginal. And Bill Kristol? What's he up to these days? His career is basically dead. I haven't heard much from him since his ideas have been roundly turn down by the vast majority of the american public. Who are generally not as stupid as the members of the former Bush administration.

muhammad billy bob / August 2, 2010 8:02 AM


The Silkworm is an ancient missle system. Most even remotely modern navies have effective defenses against such missiles should they come close to being on target, which they are not usually. The missles may be a threat to unescorted armless tankers, but should these ships come under attack, I doubt they'd be unescorted for long.

muhammad billy bob / August 2, 2010 8:16 AM

Regarding this plan to attack Iran.......

The chairman was asked if the U.S. military has a plan to attack Iran. He responded "we do". If he was asked if they had a plan to attack Brazil he probably would have given the same response. With the very same responses he gave in follow up to that question. He went on to say that an attack would "have unintended consquences...." "I hope we don't go to that, but it's an important option...."

He didn't go out of his way to announce anything new that the U.S. plans an attack on another nation. He was asked a question, and he answered it in the typical way a chairman of the joint cheifs would answer. Ask him if the U.S. is conducting strikes in Pakistan using drones, and he will say "I can neither confirm nor deny...." It is so scripted that you or I could predict the answer to the question.

All of this is in way of saying that this is not some dire sign of impending war that Mr. Sahimi is making it out to be. It is SOP. Has been for years and years. Doesn't mean they will attack, doesn't mean they won't.

muhammad billy bob / August 2, 2010 9:14 AM

There will be no attack against Iran this year,for the same reason as previous summers - it will be too costly and too unpredictable for the US/Israel. They will try to weaken Iran through the sanctions and put more pressure on Iran, and evaluate their options going forward. Even though they have prepared the public for an attack, they will not be in a hurry. They can push Iran again for giving up half it's stockpile of Uranium, and more importantly, because they know precisely that Iran does not have an active bomb program.

Ali / August 2, 2010 11:35 AM

First, for me this goes back to 1967 when Israel had significant international support for it's 6 day war as it was labelled.
The result was the first insult to Islam and Muslims in Palestine and Syria(golan heigts) and an ignominiuos defeat for Egypt, again Muslim by majority. World nations allowed this to fester and get worse, Lebanaon, Gaza strip, settlement expansion denials of real history of Jerusalem to Palestinians and Muslims, building a border fence, illegal per International courts all by Israel.
Then Welcome BUSH and pre-emptive strike wars Iraq and Afghanistan, justified by 9/11 and faulty WMD intelligence (Iraq). But note also these are Islamic states with relatively moderate interpretations of the Qu'ran lots of Shiite and Sunnis same for Iran.
In Iraq and Aghanistan we are trying (but at different stages of completion or development) to impose Western style governance and worse still laws i.e not letting sharia law be primary, because we use also our values of womens rights to education, freedom of dress and marriage I.e.one man one wife, no selling daughters etc as part our justification for being at war. This latter should not happen.
So there we are, at war, and Islam has declared Jihad. There is only one past example of this and it was the "Crusades" and it was resolved when both sides effectively gave up, or got fed up!!
When you add Al qaeda (whats that?) for me a very fringe, extreme, extreme element of Islamic beliefs and an enormously insignificant minority. Then we use Taliban without mostly any connection to Pashtun (they are virtually interchangeable) and are the majority "Tribe" in Afghanistan, and please note have significant numbers in Pakistan, especially in the FATA areas. So that reality determines Pakistans policy/action which will often conflict with the US view its inevitable. Finally Afghanistans best period of freedom was based on a relatively strong,regional tribal governance and mostly loyalty to a weak national government and laws,which were nationally Sharia laws,and the consequential multiple different interpretations because of local (tribal) Imams ability to dictate/decide.
So Iraq, get out completely nothing else of real value can America do, and Iraq will heal more quickly not descend into civil war between Sunnis and Shiite, as media etc predict, but even if it did it does not impede US national security, they have to fix that themselves.
Afghanistan same get out no later than 31/12/2011. Force Karzai and his Loya Jirga and tribal leaders/ pashtun/taliban to get real and be in charge by that date. Our military meantime provides security/ help where you Afghan regional (tribal lords) or national government authorties ask with a defined objective and local or national support need. Ask for it is thhe rule and 60 % of the force must be Afghani, and off we go.
Recovery aid is off the table at 31/12/2011 we give out money and it is direct to workers or international workers. ( assuming Afghan police and Army can guarantee safety.) Bottom line corruption is not a reason for continuing to fight. Dear Mr. Karzai eliminate corruption or no aid.
Now your contributors above and my analysis say exactly why the US should not go to war with Iran.
Do that and the whole Islamic world will be in Jihad mode and we will have a real global in effect war not the Terror campaign we have now.
Pull out as I suggest (no war with Iran) then challenge the Jihadists to justify thier acts or even the continuance of Jihad.
Finally ,Finally Somalia,Yemen etc are simply extremists responding to Jihad, it will be less of an issue or justifiable locally among Muslims if we leave them alone.
My message let Muslims practice thier religion, and stop fighting wars in/ against? Islamic nations, and the worst mistake, make war on Iran, that would become WWIII. Mark my words.
The above intro from the PBS Tehran office scares me to death.

J.V.Hodgson / August 2, 2010 11:59 AM

This is insighfull article. it is time to get serious and not allow this castrophe to take place... only one point above to say something about. that is the Arabs's position on Iran.

"The Arab nations of the Persian Gulf have also gotten into the act of advocating war with Iran"

first, The Narrative about Arabs in this article which is mostly eminating from nationalistc feeling is fallacy systematically developed by Israel and its supporters. in fact, while there is some relative hostility between Arabs and Iranians which is part due to historical interpretations, yet the phrase of Iran's nuclear threatens Israel and that "The Arabs feel the same way" is intended for political objective and reasoning.

it is specifically intended to bring the Arabs on board against Iran. the fact is that israel has failed in the Turkey front with A.K.A Party in power. it wants to convice arabs through "Stick and Carrot" approach to win their consent.

a short time after he took office as Israel's prime minster, Netanyahu put all his effort to constitue a common cause against Iran with Moderate Arab rulers.. he failed miserably..

Beyond the meddle east, in US there are a great number of muslim organizations and peace activists who are prodimananly from Arab Countries and who voice their criticsm of launching war against iran.. these organizations were subject of smear compaing by the neo-cons..

Observer / August 2, 2010 1:18 PM

Today Senator Kerry said, as close as anyone who could say in the US government, that the US never intended to negotiate with Iran at least in the past year, when he said (and I am paraphrasing): Well, a year ago there was no reason to negotiate with them because of the Green Revolution, but now it is clear that this regime is nowhere near falling, we should consider negotiations.

It is important to understand, as most actually don't, that last October every Iranian government official opposed the deal with the 5P+1. In fact, only one man said he saw it as a positive move, Ahmadinejad. Mr. Mousavi quickly jumped and called it "capitulation." The same word Dr. Sahimi has used to characterize the February deal Iran made with Turkey and Brazil. Ofcourse, either way, accepting the deal or not, it cannot be characterized as capitulation. Indeed, capitulation is what the Shah did in 1960's when he passed the law that made Americans immune from any crimes and procecusion in Iran. That raised the voice of a little known Ayatollah from Qom, Khomeini, who was exiled. But let's be clear, Iran was offered to swap its 1200kg of Uranium by shipping it "immediately" out of the country to Russia for and "approximately" one year when Iran would receive the fuel rods. There were no guarantees that Iran would indeed receive the fuel rods in one year. It is also important to realize that in October, 1200kg of uranium would mean just about all of Iran's stockpile. It is very, and I mean very, important to understand that the deal required Iran to move the stuff immediately after signing, but providing no guarantees for an actual fuel rod to be received. However, the deal in February was in fact very different: First, It guaranteed Iran that if a fuel rod is not received withing 12 months, Turkey would "immediately" send back Iran's enriched uranium. Second, the deal stated that the signatorees recognize Iran's righ to enrich Uranium (something that western powers have never said). Third, Iran developed a stockpile of enriched uranium of about 5000kg, by February. The 1200kg of material no longer constituted Iran's entire enriched products, thus, Iran would maintain leverage during the time it was to wait for the fuel rods. This is why the February deal was rejected. And it also shows Western powers are not interested to solve Iran's nuclear issue, because they are with the opinion that Iran should never enrich to begin with. This is why they always say "Iran has a right to peaceful use of nuclear energy." This only means that Iran can buy light-water reactors and become consumers of western nuclear energy products.

There is no doubt that Ahmadinejad's statements are at times too blunt, and at other times simply damaging to Iran diplomatically. But let us not kid ourselves, people who are willing to say or do anything to go to war with Iraq, and whom Dr. Sahimi correctly points out are at it again in an attempt to take this nation to yet another wreckless war, are not going to be deterred even if Ahmadinejad only spoke of Persian roses.

It is also important to recall that everything Dr. Sahimi recommends for Iran to do, in his last paragraphs, Iran has already done. Iran did supend its program. Iran did implement the "additional protocol." Iran even gave constructive suggestions to solve the issue. One such suggestion made by Mr. Khatami and repeated by Ahmadinijad, was to have western nations, including the US, to buy into the Iranian nuclear program, as much as 49%, so that they would be at the production lines and involved in every step. It was Europe and the US who finally said they just wanted Iran to stop enriching, the end. It was Khatami who declared Iran would resume enrichment since he had completely failed. Ahmadinejad, in his "unique" way, simply implemented it and did it almost immediately uppon taking power. The difference is that, if Iran were to implement Dr. Sahimi's current recommendations, it would definitely be seen as "capitulation" under current circumstances and pressure.

The issue is that the US and its allies have wanted to overthrow the regime in Iran for 33 years. And nothing has changed. The issues will change, but the final "solution" for Iran will always be the same. What is clear is that a true nuclear nation that would defend its own national interests is detremental to US hegemony worlwide. What the public fails to understand is that the entire US supepower status entirely depends on controlling the worlds energy resources (that includes future nuclear energy use). Most even don't know that the Dollar is not backed by gold, rather it is "pigged" on oil. In another words, all ME nations are constitutionally required to sell oil in Dollar, which in turn obliges the rest of the world to hold that particularly currency in reserves. That is the backbone of the US Dollar. But Iran's revolution changed all that. Iran threatens everything, simply for being Iran, regardless if it were ruled by Khatami or Ahmadi or Khamanei or even by Mother Theresa.

Let us have a global view of this issue and stop focusing on Iran. We live in an era where the US government has been increasingly influenced by global corporation who don't care about public opinion. They see China as a perfect model: Corporation do what they want and people have no rights. They increasingly seek to use security reasons, and even immigration issues, to curb civil liberties in this nation. The invasions of Iraq, Afganistan, 9/11, all constitue issues to be used to advance that agenda. 18 stupid people hijack planes and slam them into buildings, and that is used to pass the "patriot act." The most unpatriotic act passed in history of this country. There are 100 Al-Qaida left in Afganistan, that is supposed to explain our 9 year war in that nation. It should not come as a surprise they see Iran as yet another opportunity to make Orwell spin in his grave.

Our ultimate hope is the US constitution and the return of the American will to its foreign and domestic policy. Judging by the stupor and drugged reaction of the American people to their loss of homes, bank profits, and the bailout for those same banks, I think we cannot hold our breaths of an immediate change. But there are Iranian-American organization that are trying. Join them, contribute, and lobby to stop this nonesense. In the process, we may give a small contribution that at the end, when the American people do wake up, that would save the Constitution of the United States, the nation all of us migrated to. Do not give up! It is up to us to participate. Read the constitution, the first amendment, it is everything, and "they" want to destroy it. Iran is simply an excuse, and they see the Iranian people as expandable.

I am glad Dr. Sahimi has written this piece. We almost never agree on many details including the Greens. Yet again, he has written a well research piece that I agree with the thrust of it while I defer on some details. I am sure we will be clashing heads soon. But this is an important piec he has written.

Pouya / August 2, 2010 1:22 PM

Ali From Tehran

Amazing Twain quote. One of the best posts I have ever seen a reader put up. Thank you for enlightening us.

Anonymous / August 2, 2010 1:31 PM

Ali From Tehran

That was me thanking you for the Twain quote.

Pouya / August 2, 2010 1:32 PM

Let's be clear on some things:

Ofcourse the US has a military plans about every nation. That's understandable.

Head of the joint chiefs, Mr. Mullen, said over a year ago, that he would be opposed to an Iran war for a variety of reasons. But should the decision be made, it is the opinion of the military that when we go in, we should go it decisively and the aim would be to dismantle Iran as a nation!!

The so called plan on Iran, as described by the chief calls for 10000 targets to be destroyed within the first 3 hours alone.

Pouya / August 2, 2010 1:59 PM

Almost all the big names quoted in Dr. Sahimi's article are newcomers to the bomb Iran flash mob. And almost all of them are ill informed, trying to look tough, and are after votes – or are well paid stooges of Israel.

Like most everybody that has taken a long hard look at the issues surrounding a military attack on Iran I have concluded that there will be no military attack. Why? Because the outcome and cost is totally unpredictable, and the generals in the Pentagon can not tolerate this reality.

If those calling the shots in Iran had any sense they would turn around and say, "Okay if war is what you want we are prepared to fight. But before you trigger World War III what will you give me if I abandon my nuclear program?"

Let's bargain. Let's haggle. Let's chooneh.

How much for not having a Third World War?

Come on Hillary "Obliterate" Iran, let's chooneh.

(One of the best articles that has very intelligently presented the case for war not taking place can be found here:


Mohammad Alireza / August 2, 2010 8:23 PM

In the book of Daniel, chapter 8 we read of the goat with the horn trampling underfoot the ram with two horns. God interprets this vision for Daniel. The goat represents the western powers while the horn represents the leader of the western powers and the ram represents medeo-Persia. Later, Daniel describes the goat's horn breaks off meaning the leader of the western powers losing it's domiance in the world as a superpower. later in Chapt 8, we read the there are 4 spheres of power and a little horn rising up in these spheres of power. The 4 spheres of power represent the full manifestation of the new world order and the little horn represents the antichrist who will rise to power within this new world order. We know, that the entire book of Daniel is meant for the endtimes which we're in, because, God says to Daniel "Seal up thy words, Daniel until the time of the end". The point is this tells us that an attack on Iraq (The Medes) will be followed by an attack on Iran (Persia) leading to the fall of the United States (leader of western powers) leading to WW3 and after the war, the rise of the antichrist and the full power of the new world order (one world government in Revelation). People, get right with the Lord and hold on tight! We are about ready to see this prophecy come to pass. And the tribulation close to beginning!

Stephen / August 2, 2010 8:29 PM

There is so Much Hypocrisy out there.

Do What I tell you and Not as I do.

The USA did a similar song and dance routine for the Iraq War and the Public, for the most part, just stood there.
Today there are estimates of well over 1 Million Dead in Iraq, all because we were lied to and did nothing to Stop War.
The Media played a Major part leading up to the Iraq War as they are now doing with Iran.

I can not imagine another War with countless Numbers of Dead. (on both sides).

War can and Should be avoided....

Do What I Tell you, Not as I do. / August 2, 2010 8:54 PM


I'm sure there are several plans. You've referenced one. I'm sure there are a sliding scale of plans from simple one hit drone attacks up to outright 800.000 soldier land attacks. That's what the Cheifs do, they present the civilian authorities with all the options. The civilian authorities make the decision on which plan to use if they want to use a plan.

muhammad billy bob / August 2, 2010 9:50 PM

This article has really brought out the crazies hasn't it? All of the religious texts references, the simple slogans of leftists, the disinformation is quite spectacular.

But I'd like to address the extrememly heavy references to the Iraq invasion of 2003. First of all, this was 7 1/2 years ago, under a totally different administration, with a totally different U.S. public sentiment. But yet the paranoid delight in referencing this as proof of something, not sure what.

I'm sure everyone is aware that Iran is not Iraq. That 2003 is not 2010. That the Bush administration is not the Obama administration. Well, maybe they are.

For the U.S. government to launch a war with another country it needs 2 things. 1) Support of the population of the U.S. It doesn't have this support. The author and others who see an imminate attack see this as their best arguement that it's soon to come. They are using some pretty fuzzy logic as to how the U.S. population are sheep and are so easily influenced by this small group or that. Not realistic. 2) The U.S. government has to have the capability for the war. For the moment the U.S. doesn't have any capability for such a war. Even if the U.S. had the available hundreds of thousands of troops, which it doesn't, where would they launch the attack from? An amphibious assualt? please. An attack launched from Kuwait, like in Iraq? There are so many problems with that. And does the author know how long it takes to assemble 500.000 + soldiers and to house and feed them and equip them? It takes a while. Everyone would see that coming, just like in Iraq war I and II.I don't see hundreds of thousands of troops being mobilizied to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, or Iraq or Azerbijan, or Ahganistan, or Turkey, etc. If such a thing were possible, and such a thing were to happen, it'd be well telegraphed 6 months in advance.

muhammad billy bob / August 2, 2010 10:29 PM

Mohammad Alireza:

I agree with you that, in principle, the likelihood of war with Iran is small. But, we need to keep in mind the following:

1. Israel attacks Iran, Iran will respond, and then the US will be dragged into a war that cannot fight or afford. Look at Israel's Air Force practices in Romania.

2. As I said in a comment above, talk and rhetoric war in Washington usually lead to actual war.

3. Those who oppose the "haakemiyat" in Tehran, but also oppose sanctions and war against Iran - such as myself - must remain alert.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 2, 2010 10:39 PM

Now here's how i see it. (good article, by the way) It appears we're very upset that Iran will build nuclear weapons, and measures must be taken to stop this...at all costs. Well, war is the ultimate cost, isn't it? All these sabre-rattleing, podium-pounding folks here and abroad are making strong, threatening statements about what we're gonna' do and what's gonna' happen if you don't do as we say, and we'll do as we like. Geeze Loo-Weeze folks! Chew on this. (by the way, nobody gets blamed or has to blame anybody else for starting a war) When Iran has nuclear capabilities, as do other countries in the world, it then sits at a very exclusive table, if you will. These folks have one thing in common. They have nuclear weapons. So, ready or not, welcome the new member to the club. Now there are a few rules, of course. To be a member...well...you can't use them. Yes, it's a whacky rule to say you can't use what you just got, but the stakes are too high, so you can't, but wow, look at you. You have nukes. Oh, and just in case you do launch or set off one of those babies, your country "goes away", because we can't have that much destruction anywhere, and we don't care what your religion is. I get the feeling that some people think we have to have a small war to prevent a big war. Yep! Great idea. The old "we'll get you first" routine. Never tried that one before! Well, this person is threatening this country and they say they're going to do this and that! Yep! Never had a world leader shaking his fist at the world before. Nope! So...we're going to go to war again, because we don't like you making nuclear weapons the way we did, and you say radical things. Didn't see all this happening when France or the United Kingdom "joined the club", but they didn't talk about blowing other countries to kingdom come. Words don't kill people, but wars do. When's the last time a war has really solved things? I guess it depends on how you define "solved". Now a country that actively tries to take over the world is another story, and fighting back makes perfect sense. Funny how we all come together when that happens, and then we all go back to distrusting one another. If the leader of any country says that another country must be destroyed, because of whatever, that leader knows he is placing his country at the ultimate risk, and nobody wants bombs falling on them. Not a good leader in my book, but people come into power in different ways. We'll probably never stop making threats and giving warnings, and saying things are unacceptable, but i think Irans leaders know the consequences. Striking first, no matter how we try to convince ourselves and others that it's the right to do, is probably coming from somebody too old to be drafted, and not concerned that it's only going to open a Pandora's box of misery, death & destruction. When I was in the military and a fight broke out, the only thing the MP's wanted to know was, "who swung first", because THAT person was the one going down. Not the person who was mouthing off. Man, does history repeat itself or what!

Ken Grandin / August 2, 2010 11:54 PM


Thanks again for your continued engagement with my comments. You state that you are a scientist, and imply that this qualifies you to comment, whilst asserting that I am merely interested in slogans. On the contrary, scientific qualifications (especially in engineering and "fluid flow through porous media") are pretty irrelevant to this field, and I could counter by stating that my background as an historian (where one learns to assess sources properly) in fact qualifies me better in some respects; although I would not make such an appeal to authority, as that is always a red flag for any intelligent reader and because facts are important, not prior qualifications. As for being interested in "slogans", I don't think that comment is fair or justified, because I am willing to engage in reasonable debate and refer to sources, openly acknowledging the weakness of certain sources whenever necessary or when challenged (as I have previously done in my comments here). I have not seen a similar willingness to depart from what I perceive (perhaps wrongly) as an ideological position on your part, although I hope that further discussion will nevertheless enable myself and others to reach a better understanding of your overall position and the sources on which you rely. As one final point on this topic, if I were (as an historian) to assess your remarks for bias, I would point out that you seem invariably to give far greater weight to IRI statements (and indeed the broad IRI position) than to statements from Western sources (unless they support your general position, such as with the selection of hawkish comments you cite in your article), and in fact you seem generally to omit any information that doesn't fit the picture you wish to present unless you feel you have an answer for it. You might well be seen by posterity to be too close to the subject to be truly objective. This might be said of almost anyone discussing this issue, but it is important to recognise the limits of one's own objectivity as much as the objectivity of sources.

With regard to the NPT and the IAEA assessments, my remarks in response to your comments about the difference between "violation" and "non-compliance" were meant to illustrate that it doesn't matter what word you use to describe Iran's actions, the fact remains that their nuclear programme has clearly had a covert aspect. With reference to the Qom facility, there is an argument over whether Iran fulfilled its obligations (and you have discussed this thoroughly on this site already), but the fact remains that they secretly built an enrichment facility. Any objective observer would conclude that they haven't been entirely open about their nuclear programme, and reasonable people might reasonably interpret that as being suspicious. On the other hand, the West having seized on this point as part of war talk is also perhaps a sign of a hidden agenda. I think it is fairly indisputable that both sides have been doing a lot of things covertly, and are willing to argue technicalities when it suits them, to the detriment of the overall discourse.

In respect of A.Q. Khan's relations with Iran, it is clear that there was a covert activity and exchange of nuclear technology. Now, it is perfectly reasonable to make the point that there is no indisputable proof that Iran attempted to purchase an actual bomb from him, and whilst I have readily accepted this point, nevertheless it would appear that the IAEA have raised concerns about documents from the A.Q. Khan network that showed "how to form uranium into explosive cores". It's hardly a smoking gun, but at the same time the implications are so huge that reasonable people will inevitably have reasonable questions, and reasonable concerns. When Iran makes it so difficult to agree a simple fuel swap, insisting at the same time upon rights under the NPT (a treaty that it seems to have frequently been in non-compliance with), whilst at the same time supporting terrorists networks in the Middle East, constructing secret nuclear facilities and getting involved with covert nuclear networks, can you not accept that an argument over the words "violation" and "non-compliance", or whether Iran ever actually asked for a bomb from A.Q. Khan, can appear like whitewash? I respect the fact that you do have the knowledge to make detailed arguments on key points when necessary, but I do think it is possible to differ with you on this subject without having "preconceived" ideas and to conclude that (in fact) Iran is not being honest and that they do indeed seek to build nuclear weapons. So much seems to point in one direction, and one might mention that the recent IISS report argues that they are the only country without nuclear capabilities that have sought to build missiles that can travel over 2,000km -- their military missile programme having had high priority and an unimpeded flow of funds, and being conducted at the same time as their nuclear ambitions take shape. In short, I do not believe my remarks to be "absurd" or "baseless", but to represent the legitimate concerns of a person who respects the rule of law and international obligations, and has great concern as much for the wellbeing of the Iranian people as for those living in Israel.

In respect of international law, you seek to emphasize the rôle of the IAEA as the only arbiter of whether Iran is acting fairly or lawfully with its nuclear programme, stating that the IAEA has confirmed the non-existence of a nuclear weapons programme, and that the six cases of minor non-compliance with the NPT are no longer on the table as of February 2008. Firstly, the IAEA cannot prove a negative (the non-existence of a nuclear weapons programme), so I think your comment a little disingenuous; but secondly, the 18th Feb 2010 IAEA report raised concerns such as that Iran is continuing enrichment "contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors and the Security Council", and in fact Iran was in non-compliance when the UNSC sanctions were voted on. It doesn't seem as if those six issues have gone away, in fact the IAEA repeats some or all of them; so when you say they are off the table, are you saying that Iran has unilaterally taken them off the table? That's what would appear from the report, so how you can cite the February report as somehow in Iran's favour is mystifying (indeed troubling), and I think a reasonable person would view Iran's actions as highly suspicious. We might carry on being suspicious until it's too late, and by that point you wouldn't have to make your counter-arguments anymore because it would be a fait accompli.

Now, coming onto the subject of the economic viability of Iran's nuclear power programme, I firstly accept without reserve that other countries with large proven reserves of oil and gas (particularly Russia) have nevertheless developed their own nuclear power programme. That is not in dispute. However, is it economically feasible? Looking at http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html I see that recent studies suggest total costs of around 6 US cents per KWh. This equates to $525 million per GW year. You give a figure of $140 million per GW year in your article at http://www.payvand.com/news/04/dec/1056.html which seems hopelessly optimistic. Would you like to discuss how you arrived at this figure?

Ian / August 3, 2010 1:53 AM

Change in Iran has to come in one way and one way alone: From within, in form of gradual evolutionary change. A war would devestate that movement.

Dr. Sahimi,

I fully understand your concern and worries about potential of attack on Iran (especially after the experience of Iraq). However, one should emphasize that the likelyhood of such an attack, at this time,is still extremely small.

Drumbeats of war also benefit the likes of Ahmadinejad who cleverly amplify them to frighten the weak, scared and paranoid into supporting them. This is clearly demonstrated in Ahmadinejad supporters' posts above who love to bring up the Boogy man Israel/US.

Atmosphere of fear (of attack) and paranoia only help Ahmadinejad and its supporters.

While we must remain alert and diligent about the mindset and evil plans of the warmongers, we should also be careful not to overstate the likelihood or imminence of war.

As I recall, Israel's request for permission to attack Iran was denied by the Bush/Cheney admin in spring of 2008. It would be inconceivable for Obama to give them the green light now. And I seriously doubt (though I am not an expert by any stretch of imagination) that Israel would go on a major military offensive against Iran without the support and blessing of the United States. If Israel were going to drag US into a war with Iran, it had the perfect opportunity in 06 during its war with Hezbullah, but it couldn't or wouldn't.

The tough talk and huffing and puffing rants of US politicians at AIPAC are more about getting donations from an audience with deep pockets than stating foreign policy, and that should have been noted.

Having said that, we must remain alert and diligent as you have said.

Ali From Tehran,

Thanks for the fantastic Mark Twain quote.

Here are some quotes that I think prove Mark Twain 's point:

"Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

~Hermann Göring ---Hitler's head of Luftwaffe and his designated successor.

"Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."
--Adolf Hitler

Ahvaz / August 3, 2010 3:15 AM


Prof.Sahimi knows how to think and solve a problem of practical importance. And his expertise in "Flow in porous media" is a practice in thinking. U, being a historian is wonderful but u need to think openly and do not think u know the solution to a problem before tackling it. And actually Dr.Sahimi,whenever he makes a point, cites a lot of sources in his articles about Iran. he knows a lot about Iran, he has been there and he feels what a middle class Iranian feels in current Iran is feeling under all these economical sanctions which makes life hard for all the GREEN movement members. I did not want to defend Dr.Sahimi as his resume indicates his character. But as Dr.Sahimi said what is the point of arguing with people who have already concluded and are not open. Prof.Sahimi's articles are truly brilliant. U may disagree with his conclusions and assertions but everybody is entitled to his/her opinion.

Dr.Sahimi said in one of his above comments that he opposes war on Iran and at the same opposes the idea that Iranian government get nuclear weapon. What else should he say?! Wasn't it obvious in his past articles ,during the Post-election protests in Iran, that he is disgusted by Ahmadinejad and likes of him?

And I would like to say that going to war with Iran is easy , very easy ,but not every easy solution is going to solve a problem and an engineer knows it first hand.

Amin / August 3, 2010 3:50 AM

The last thing the US and Israel want is for Iran to put a hold, temporary or otherwise, on its nuclear program, and then allow fully open IAEA inspections. This would deny the US and Israel of any casus belli to strike Iran.

Iran's so-called 'nuclear weapons program' is merely a propaganda and rhetoric ploy to ratchet up public opinion that would support an attack against Iran. While Iran's nuclear facilities would indeed be attacked in order to justify the attack in the first place, the real objective of the attack would be to bombard Iran to the point where Iran would capitulate and sue for peace via the UN. This would lead to immediate regime change in Iran which is what both the US and Israel are really after.

For the US it would provide greater hegemony to the region and halt any influence Iran may have over insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq.

An attack on Iran will provide Israel with an ideal opportunity to attack Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza both of which will be attacked massively and decisively followed up with a full invasion and occupation of south Lebanon up to the Litani River, the Gaza Strip and a full occupation of the West Bank complete with deportations. These actions will take place without too much public outcry as the main 'show' of an attack against Iran will be a major distraction while Israel fulfils its dream of creating a Greater Israel - which, of course, is what this whole wars in the Middle East thing was really all about in the first place.

Damian Lataan / August 3, 2010 6:23 AM


Re: your statement "the Iranian government has vowed to respond to any attack with full force."

Do you really think so?

The goals of IR is 1)self-preservation 2) increase of influence in the world (exactly why they want the nuclear bomb: a deterrant to attack and increase of influence in the ME). They will not fight to the death. This was shown in the Iran-Iraq war when khomeini agreed to a humiliating ceasefire after 8 years of shouting "jang jang ta pirouzi---war war till victory".

Their tough talk and their preperations for counterattack are meant to be deterrant. An Akhoond ( Mullah) is too smart, calculating and sneaky to get into a prolonged fistfight he will lose.

My guess is, in the event Israel/US attack the nuclear sites, the regime will first:
take cover;
immediately focus on controlling the possible ensuing population descent using their bassij(similar to Saddam in 1991);
under the cover of war kill, rape, murder and imprison more Iranians and political opponents;
cry foul and play the victim role in the world community;
and start rebuilding their nuclear program, and knowhow.

Until then Khamanai and Ahmadinejad use the boogyman of the West to pick up support from the weak, paranoid and ignorant, the likes of Radical_guy and other AN supporters on this site.


For the reasons I mentioned above, I believe an attack on Iran would be davestating for Iranian people and a gift to reactioneries, Ahmadinejad, and IRCG.

Because I do not believe the Israel/US would go for the kill (of the regime) due to the unpredictibility and possible costs to them, and I do not believe for a second that they give a rat's bottom to the welfare of Iranian people.

If you want to stop the growth and influence of the IR regime in the world, the best tool is not war, but improveing flow of information in and out in form of TV, radio, web and art, literature and communication with the Iranian people.


Ahvaz / August 3, 2010 6:50 AM

Dr. Sahimi,

Thank you for your response.

The likelihood of war breaking out based on deliberate decision making is almost nonexistent because everybody knows the consequences, with the price of oil being the biggest deterrent.

The breaking out of war due to some misunderstanding, or "accident", or rogue general doing a Dr. Strangelove, is more likely.

Israel will not take any action without a green light from Obama, which is very unlikely. Cheney and Bush wanted to attack Iran but got stuck in Iraq and later could not get the backing of the Pentagon.

No matter how war start it's almost inevitable that it will quickly escalate and given Iran's ability to retaliate American forces will soon be at great risk. Therefore the Pentagon has two options: let the escalations take their own unpredictable course or head off that possibility by doing a "shock and awe", which would involve several weeks of bombing which would take out all of Iran's military facilities plus its infrastructure. Most likely they will go with the latter and Iran's response will be asymmetrical warfare, and it won't only be in Iran but include Afghanistan and Iraq – and it will last for decades, not years.

Any attack on Iran will transform 70,000,000 Iranians into sworn enemies of the United States and Israel with several million willing to give their life as suicide bombers. Are Americans and Israelis really prepared for such an outcome? Iranians are not Iraqis or Vietnamese, but more like the Japanese. Therefore are the Americans and Israelis willing to use nuclear weapons? -- because that is where things will lead.

You wrote: "There is no fundamental contradiction between, on the one hand, opposing the hardliners and advocating a democratic political system, and on the other, opposing sanctions and war against Iran." This fact is extremely important and needs to be broadcast, advertised, placed on banners, and continuously repeated until the currently disorganized and splintered Iranian Diaspora fully unites with the majority of Iranians that don't want this regime and don't want war.

Maybe one positive outcome of all this talk of war will be to finally bring about the vitally necessary changes Iran desperately needs: democracy, rule of law, separation of mosque and state, and the implementation of those rights in Iran's current constitution.

At some point Iranians need to wake up to the choice of either standing up and creating an Iran they are proud of or tolerating a regime that by its existence threatens Iran's survival. Leaving it to non-Iranians to decide our fate is tantamount to saying goodbye to Iran.

Mohammad Alireza / August 3, 2010 8:06 AM


I responded to you once, but clicked incorrectly and everything disappeared! Here is a summary of what I tried to say. I do not have the energy to go through that again!

1. One of my areas of research is ENERGY. Flow through porous media that you mention means, in my case, flow of oil and natural gas in underground reservoirs, which is what I have been studying for 30 years, and have a distinguished track record for it, without meaning to brag about it. At the same time, I have been, and am, carrying out research on other aspects of energy, such as how to make things more efficient energetically. Finally, the feasibility of nuclear energy for Iran has been a topic of my research for at least 15 years. In fact, I came to the US with a scholarship from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, although I never received the scholarship because it was 1978 and Iran was undergoing a revolution, and after the revolution everything was canceled! So, with all due respect sir, I am eminently qualified for the subject.

2. I am not an ideological man. Ideological thinking is responsible for Iran's present state. It is responsible for what Israel does to the Palestinians, and it is responsible for what the neocons have done to the Middle East.

3. No, unlike what you say, the exact words do matter when it comes to international agreements. Two examples:

(a) Israel claims that resolution 242 did not demand it to evacuate Palestinians' lands. Why? Because the resolution said "occupied territories" not "THE occupied territories." You see the difference?

(b) There is a difference between SENDING a country's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council and REFERRING it to it. Did you know that? The first is for information, the second is for taking action.

4. Iran explained to the IAEA how it obtained the Khan blueprint. The IAEA checked it and concluded that Iran's explanation was correct. The issue is closed, but you keep bringing it up again.

5. Iran decided to construct the Natanz enrichment facility in secret, because when it tried to do so openly, the US prevented it, even though the IAEA had approved it; see Part VII of my series. At the same time, Iran's only obligation regarding construction of any nuclear facility was a six month advance notice to the IAEA before introducing any nuclear material into the facility. I have explained this in Part VII; I was the first who pointed this out in 2003, and it is now accepted.

6. Oh, now you demand to prove a negative? Show me an article of any relevant international agreement that says so. You make things up as you go! But, from a purely practical point of view, how are you going to do it? Inspecting every inch of a vast country? With all due respect sir, if you do not have a good response, do not make any!

8. You are absolutely positively wrong regarding the six non-compliance cases. The IAEA has declared that they are no longer under active consideration, period.

9. The issue of Iran agreeing to suspend its nuclear program because the UNSC demanded it is separate. Iran contends that it is illegal. As I explained in Part VII of my series, many scholars of international laws are sympathetic to Iran's position. Here is a summary of why.

(a) The Board of Governors of the IAEA demanded that Iran suspend its nuclear program. Iran refused, saying that the Board has no such authority. Iran is correct. The IAEA Statute does not give such authority to the Board. Illegal act number 1.

(b) Then, the IAEA sent Iran's dossier to the UNSC. That was illegal act number 2, because the IAEA Statute clearly spells out the conditions under which this can happen: ONLY WHEN a member state diverts its nuclear technology and materials to non-peaceful purposes. The IAEA has certified time and again that Iran has not done so.

(c) Once the dossier arrived in UNSC, the Council filed its resolutions under Chapter VIII of UN Charter. But, the Charter specifically says that the Council should do so, when the country is threatening international peace and security, and MUST SPECIFY ITS REASONS FOR THINKING SO. But, the UNSC merely repeated the IAEA Board report, without saying why a nuclear program in which no diversion has taken place is a threat to peace. That was illegal act number 3.

(d) In addition, the IAEA had SENT Iran's dossier to UNSC not REFERRED to it (see above). So, it was for information only. So, the resolutions are illegal in this respect too.

So, as you can see, the legality of the whole thing is indispute. It is not as clear cut as you seem to think.

To demonstrate the bias against Iran, consider this: Resolutions 242 and 338 of the UNSC that order Israel to evacuate the occupied territories were filed under Chapter VI, not Chapter VII. In other words, the Council decided that Israel's action, and two wars that are the root cause of whatever is going on in the Middle East, were NOT a threat to peace. But, Iran's nuclear program is!! That is ridiculous, to put it extremely politely. In private I use much stronger words and profanity!!

10. The numbers that I gave in my 2003-2004 analysis were for that period. Things may have changed. But, there are other changes as well. For example, the price of low-enriched uranium has increased by a factor of 5 since then (making it more economical for Iran). The price oil is never below $75/barrel (it was much lower then). It even reached $147 two years ago. The price of natural gas has gone up dramatically. You see, you only look at one aspect that fits your pre-conceived notion.

What you do not seem to appreciate is that, in the case of countries like Iran, it is the ADDED VALUES of exporting oil and gas and using a fraction of the income to generate the same amount of electricity that makes it economical, not that they have enough oil and gas. Just as Russia and Canada find this economical, so also does Iran.

This is my last response.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 3, 2010 8:11 AM

M.Billy bob

Your point is well taken. However, war is a distant possibility until the bombs start falling.

Looking through many articles written about confronting Iran, there are several possible avenues and possibilities we need to examine:

1-There is concensus that a "limited" operation, attacking Iran's facilities would be the worst option from an American stand point. That is because it would not do anything to the regime, it would make the mullahs seem as victims, and it may cause the program go entirely underground.

2-An Occupation of Iran: This option requires to precede with HEAVY bombardment, and "softening" of Iran before a ground operation.

3-In an attempt to avoid a ground invasion, the advocates of this point of view contend that there is a need for EVEN A HEAVIER bombardment of Iran.

Therefore, we must conclude that whatever options are placed in front of the President, a heavy and devastating bombardment of Iran, at least to the extend of that of Iraq, is in the cards.

Pouya / August 3, 2010 10:03 AM

I assure you readers and commentators, any one who opposes sanctions and though stance against the brutal mullahs who are barbarically killing innocent demonstrators is in organic link with the brutal regime. Full Stop.

The people of Iran want change and they will have it. The only way to prevent another war in the Middle East is to let the people of Iran change the regime. Only those who have financial interest and links with the mad mullahs and their arrogant president object to sanctions which is hurting the Revolutionary Guards who control most of the economy in Iran and are responsible for killing innocent people in order to keep the regime in power.

Masoud / August 3, 2010 1:20 PM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,

Thank you for the scholarly and accurate article, as well as for all the responses, and above all, for the time and energy that you have expended in educating the readers based on facts and evidence.

More than 2000 years ago, the Roman Orator Cicero listed the following six mistakes of man:

1- The delusion that individual advancement is made by crushing others,
2- The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed,
3- Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot change or accomplish it,
4- Refusing to set aside trivial preferences,
5- neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and study, and
6- Attempting to compel others to perceive, believe and live as we do.

May peace prevail.

Raymond / August 3, 2010 8:51 PM

Jews have always been persecuted. Israel continuously provides evidence of the causal Jewish behavior. Did German Jews acquire disproportionate media, financial and political control as they have in the United States? Did they then collectively act to the detriment of Germany and thereby precipitate the Holocaust? America’s multiple and continuing mid east wars have all been initiated with the urging of AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents, and other Israeli agencies. All have benefited Israel at our expense. American Jews were central to, and grossly enriched by, the Wall Street obscenity. Israel is a Jewish state, a racist apartheid state by, of, and for the chosen people. It feigns and exploits alliance, but an ally Israel will never be.

John WV / August 3, 2010 9:13 PM


Thanks for your comments. I hope I made it clear in my more recent reply that I respect Prof. Sahimi's ability to make a detailed argument, and I'm also more than happy to acknowledge that he's been a long-time observer of Iran, and that as an Iranian he has a great advantage not only in speaking the language but also in understanding the deeper cultural issues underlying Iranian politics. My outlook is, conversely, quite clearly Western and based on much more limited experience of the politics, however I think we nevertheless share the same broad aim to see a properly democratic, happy and prosperous Iran emerge from this hideous mess. I don't -- unlike many other people -- view the current problems as a zero-sum game: for me, international trade and the exchange of culture always tends towards greater prosperity and happiness for all, and everyone recognises the excellent qualities of the Iranian people (but not the hardliners, who are of course murderous thugs). This probably doesn't come across terribly well in my comments, which were provoked by what I see as remarks that appear helpful to the Iranian hardliners and which (more generally, concerning some of Prof. Sahimi's other articles) seem to rely a lot on certain technicalities which tend to help cover up what I firmly (and reasonably, I think) believe to be a covert nuclear weapons programme in Iran.

As for possible solutions to the problem, whilst I think probably there will be an attack sooner or later (because both sides seem to look on the nuclear issue as one of existential importance), nevertheless that doesn't mean we shouldn't be earnestly trying every possible means of resolving the issue peaceably. However, this would require Iran to fully and voluntarily accept whatever strictures the IAEA imposes, and not try to wriggle out of them with technicalities such as that the Majles hadn't ratified this-or-that after the Executive branch exchanged diplomatic letters (as argued by Prof. Sahimi elsewhere on this site). We have to be prepared to "call out" anyone who argues for war based on spurious grounds, but at the same time recognise that there are legitimate grievances against Iran, especially over its relations with the Jewish peoples and its intent to deceive the West over the nuclear programme (which I think was clearly demonstrated by comments made during the Shahram Amiri affair). The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is terrifying not just for some Israelis, but also regionally, and the last thing we need is for nuclear weapons to proliferate all over the world (starting next in Saudi Arabia) -- that would be bad for everyone. For all these reasons, I think a pre-emptive attack may be the lesser evil. I don't think this makes me a wingnut or neo-con -- I recognise that deceits have been perpetrated on both sides, but the fundamental perception I have is that Iran could solve these problems if it wanted to and if the domestic political situation were to change (something which seems to be recognised quite widely here), but at the same time the West does *not* have that ability to solve the problem unilaterally, except by unpleasant coercive measures such as sanctions or an attack. In short, I do (broadly speaking) accept the narrative given by the West, but am willing to engage with anyone who wants to persuade me otherwise, and with (I hope) an open mind and a willingness to admit if and when I am proven wrong. In particular, I think Prof. Sahimi makes some good arguments.


Agreed re: flow of information, art, culture, etc. That contributed greatly to the end of the Soviet Union, and is perhaps why North Koreans have tended to be more compliant towards their rulers (because they haven't been allowed to be exposed to any Western culture except very recently). But that's a long-term strategy -- too long-term for this problem, I think, but nevertheless vital for the future of democracy in Iran and something that I hope won't be adversely affected by an attack.

Whilst the IRGC might be able to use an attack to increase its abuse of the civilian population inside Iran, I don't think they'll be able to "sell" the narrative that it's all a Zionist plot, etc., precisely because young Iranians are aware of the other side of the story (which has some holes, but isn't quite so ragged). I wouldn't like to speculate on what an attack might mean for the moderates in Iran, and whether they could use that to their advantage or whether (as you suggest) the hardliners could use it to short-term advantage. I would be interested to read an article by Prof. Sahimi on how the various groups in Iran -- the hardline and moderate politicos, the clerics, the urban and rural populations, the ethnic minority groups, etc. -- are likely to respond. I don't think this could be done without assessing the likely targets of an attack, the Iranian military response and all the resultant economic (oil) and military issues too. All sorts of strange scenarios might be envisaged, such as that the US will succeed in killing Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, or that the moderates will all end up totally isolated and under house arrest, or even that the Iranian army might be able to intervene somehow (if the US stuck to IRGC targets). The unpredictability of the situation has been one of the reasons why an attack has been viewed with a degree of caution even by hawks in the West, although I agree they probably don't care at all what happens to the Iranian people in all of that (as pointed out by others, one just has to look at what happened in Iraq).


Thanks for your response, and I appreciate the patience you've shown in going over these issues. Sorry to hear you had to re-type your response.

With regard to technicalities in documents, indeed "the devil's in the details", and you've given a particularly good example in the case of Resolution 242. Lives have hung upon commas, as in the cases of Roger Casement and a famous one in Jaffna. However, we're all familiar with the phrase "he got off on a technicality", meaning "he was guilty as hell, but escaped justice". Maybe there is a comparison between Iran and O.J. Simpson. You certainly do a good job of arguing the technicalities, and I appreciate that, but (for instance) in the case of the Safeguards Agreement (which you argue here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2009/09/has-iran-violated-its-nuclear-safeguards-obligations.html ), you do also make the statement that "Iranian leaders have also shown how capable they are of inventing any story they deem necessary to justify anything they do." I remember after the Neda shooting there were loads of bizarre and contradictory reports were coming out from Iranian government sources before they settled on an agreed story, which was when I realised just how irrational they can be. And in all of the talk about the Safeguards Agreement and what Iran's obligations actually were, the striking fact is that they *still* (for whatever reason) deliberately withheld information. Given the pressure they knew they were under to be open about such matters, and the fact that they could have announced the Qom facility and carried on constructing it in an indisputably legal manner, this seems to be a very stupid thing for them to have done. One can only conclude, from your discussion and from other people's comments elsewhere, that Iran greatly resented (and resents) what it sees as IAEA interference, and tries whenever possible to avoid being as open as it could about nuclear matters. In fact, they even claimed publicly to have used counter-espionage against the USA in this regard (a bizarre thing to admit).

You make good arguments that the IAEA has been acting unfairly if not illegally, which provides some justification for Iran's position of being unwilling to fully coöperate with the IAEA. I find your arguments generally very convincing, and just for reference I'd like to link to your articles at payvand.com for other readers:

Iran's Nuclear Program, Part I: http://www.payvand.com/news/03/oct/1015.html
Part II: http://www.payvand.com/news/03/oct/1022.html
Part III: http://www.payvand.com/news/03/oct/1039.html
Part IV: http://www.payvand.com/news/04/dec/1056.html
Part V: http://www.payvand.com/news/04/dec/1186.html
Part VI: http://www.payvand.com/news/05/sep/1070.html
Part VII: http://www.payvand.com/news/07/dec/1044.html

What I have come to realise more fully from reading your arguments here and elsewhere is that the Western position really amounts to little more than suspicion, and that whilst there are legal issues and questions of non-coöperation (and the Feb 2010 IAEA report does list some points where it wanted to see coöperation, though I am happy to accept what you say in that regard), there is no "smoking gun" and hence no legal casus belli. This was my prior conception, and seems to be the view of experts in the West, but it's helpful to be able to flesh it out and understand it in more detail.

However, I am left with the overriding impression that these legal tangles and disputes are nevertheless covering up something really unsavoury, and that given the general brutality of the IRI and its actions at home and abroad, such suspicion seems likely to be well founded. Their development of ballistic missiles seems to point in that direction. I wish there were a solution, like if the IRI could build some nuclear facilities based in Russia and use them as if they were their own (under international supervision), or do this fuel swap, or do something else -- anything plausible -- to stop this. The problem essentially comes down to the fact that the NPT is flawed, because it allows countries to develop practically everything they need to build nuclear weapons under the cover of international law. That may seem like an unhelpful comment, assuming that your economic assessment of the viability of a nuclear programme for a country which already has a lot of oil still holds, because it would disadvantage certain countries; so if there is one final question I can ask you (and I know you said you'd written your final response, so I won't hold out for a reply) then it would be: do you think the NPT promotes peace and makes the world safer, and if not then what should we have in its place? Even though it may be impossible politically, in an ideal world couldn't we have some law that allowed countries to enjoy the benefits of nuclear power without giving them the ability to build a bomb? Perhaps some sort of UN-backed organisation that controlled enriched nuclear material completely and provided staff for nuclear facilities that any country wanted to build, so as to prevent nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands? If that could be achieved, there wouldn't be all this stuff about war. The whole thing's a massive pain in the proverbial.

Anyway, thanks again for your replies and I look forward to reading your articles in future.

Ian / August 3, 2010 10:05 PM

Dear Ian,

In your post @ 1:53 AM, you counter Dr. Sahimi's arguments by positing your superior bona fides as an historian:

"... I could counter by stating that my background as an historian (where one learns to assess sources properly) in fact qualifies me better in some respects ..."

You seem to be pulling academic rank on Dr. Sahimi.

But given that you post anonymously, what evidence have we of your credentials as a historian?

For all I know, you may be an unemployed, bedridden, frustrated nerd barely out of his teens, with scarcely a bachelor's degree under his belt.

Can you please refer us to some of your own scholarly output? A link to a single thesis, dissertation, essay or article will do.

Curiously yours,

Ali from Tehran / August 3, 2010 10:26 PM

Ali from Tehran,

I'm not sure what your point is. I did not "pull rank" on Prof. Sahimi, in fact I said "I would not make such an appeal to authority, as that is always a red flag for any intelligent reader and because facts are important, not prior qualifications". You cannot have failed to notice that remark, given that it was contained within the same sentence that you half-quoted. The fact that you didn't include that bit shows me that you're being disingenuous. I have taken pains in my most recent comment to remark on my experience in matters of Iranian politics being less than that of Prof. Sahimi, and acknowledged in several places the persuasiveness of his arguments. The point that I was making, however, was that Prof. Sahimi's remark, where he referred to his being a scientist, does not affect the strength of his arguments one whit. The "argumentum ad verecundiam" is a logical fallacy.

I'll see you in Tehran and tell you about my identity and background when the hardline IRG are dead or in prison, assuming of course that you're still around then ;-)

Ian / August 3, 2010 11:21 PM

Dr. Sahimi,

I truly value your response to Ian. I wish you would focus on this particular matter and on a larger scale. I watched John Bolton on Fox last night and I was offended by his lies to the American people. As much as I dislike the Islamists in Iran, I cannot tolerate the thought of a possible military action it. That country is our heritage with all its problems and glories past and present.

I still think you should stay away from Musavi ...


Mark Twain also said, "The right word maybe effective, but no word was ever as effective as rightly timed pause."
Dr. Sahimi can handle his own although I do not claim a disagreement with you.

Niloofar / August 4, 2010 12:31 AM

Dear Ian,

A non-Iranian, safe beyond the reach of IRI, claiming to be an historian steeped in the art of 'properly assessing sources,' who has filled this thread with outlandish claims, retracted some when challenged only to offer impression and innuendo to fill the resulting void, who wishes to know what the repercussions of his side's military attack would be on Iran's domestic politics, but then declines to offer for our scrutiny any of his own scholarly output as a historian?

How do you say 'a sucker born every minute' in Classical Latin, professor Ian?

Ali from Tehran / August 4, 2010 1:21 AM


You are basing your opinion on the false assumption that the Obama administration wants regime change. It seems that nothing could be further from the truth. Obama took no action, and only gave very late and limited lip service to the opposition last June. For whatever reason, it seems the Obama administration is ok with the current political leadership in Iran.

muhammad billy bob / August 4, 2010 1:49 AM


Don't worry about meeting Ali in Tehran. He may have been born there, but is now living comfortably in the U.S. for quite a while now. And I doubt he has any intention of returning to Tehran unless on a week long vacation to see the sites.

muhammad billy bob / August 4, 2010 1:54 AM

Dear Niloofar @ 12:31 AM,

1. "I watched John Bolton on Fox last night and I was offended by his lies to the American people."

You'll get over it, Niloo, as pedigreed Persians who want to "shake all the capitals of the leading countries of the world" often dizzily end up in league with Western interventionists, whether of the neocon strain or of the neoliberal genus.

2. "As much as I dislike the Islamists in Iran, I cannot tolerate the thought of a possible military action it [sic]."

You'll build up your tolerance quickly, Niloo, for the same reasons explained above. Give it a month or two. What did you think all that overseas "shaking" would lead to? A sore back? A bloodless coup?

3. "I still think you should stay away from Musavi ..."

Closing the door on Mousavi means opening the door on Diasporic claimants and aspirants. Diasporic leaders will endorse and aid military action if they see it as their surest path to power and privilege.

Domestic opposition leaders, as flawed and compromised as they are in your eyes, will not countenance foreign attack, even of the altruistic sort (ie, 'Operation Eye-Raynian Freedom').

Look up the story of King Solomon and the two harlots, both claiming to be the mother of a newborn (Kings 3:16-28). See if you can draw any parallels to Iran's situation today.

4. "Mark Twain also said, "The right word maybe [sic] effective, but no word was ever as effective as rightly [sic] timed pause.""

Indeed, Twain did say that, but not in reference to writing. I believe he was describing the art of oratory, a very different kettle of fish.

Ali from Tehran / August 4, 2010 2:21 AM

Talking up WAR with Iran has been used as a DISTRACTION, whenever the Islamic regime supporters feel that the regime is in DANGER. This has been the case since 1980!!!

Mazia / August 4, 2010 2:54 AM

Thanks Muhammad Billy Bob, I was beginning to find his interest in my identity a little creepy ;-)

Ian / August 4, 2010 2:56 AM

Dear Ian,

"... I was beginning to find [Ali from Tehran's] interest in my identity a little creepy ..."

Sorry to frighten you, OC.

I only asked you to share with us your published intellectual output, given that you introduced yourself as an historian adept at properly assessing sources.

How gauche of me to probe so closely. It's obviously too risky for a historian to introduce his work. Definitely not kosher!

Ali from Tehran / August 4, 2010 4:09 AM


You never cease to amaze me. As hard as you try you really don't get it, do you?

Niloofar / August 4, 2010 5:40 AM


Get what? Where? Let me find my glasses.

Ali from Tehran / August 4, 2010 6:09 AM

I love Tehran Bureau. I do enjoy reading and LEARN from Dr.Sahimi's articles. This time, I learned a lot from some very bright people who commented on this article. I wanted to thank you guys/gals.

I am guessing none of u will come back to see what is up. This should be something Tehran Bureau could fix,I guess.

Take Care,

Amin / August 4, 2010 8:35 AM

Jesus I get tired of this endless, endless, endless villification of the Tehran government. Yes, they are oppressive to their people. BUT SO ARE MANY, MANY OTHER GOVERNMENTS, including our own damn government, in case you haven't noticed, and - more relevantly - nearly all of our 'friends' in the Middle East. You call for sanctions against Iran's leaders. How can you possibly justify that, without calling for the same sanctions against Saudi Arabia's leaders and Israel's leaders and Egypt's leaders? You can't. You CANNOT. So stop doing it. I know you feel a special concern about Iran, because you are from there, but you must recognize that it is ABSOLUTELY wrong to call for sanctions against the government in Tehran and not for the same on other oppressive governments.

This attitude of yours is the root of the confusion of whatever remains of the antiwar movement. As soon as you agree that Iran should be singled out for sanctions, you have essentially agreed to all the rest. Again, once the idea that Iran deserves to be singled out for harrassment and punishment is agreed to, a slippery slope to all the rest is established. Put differently, if you are going to agree to regime change intervention, then you have essentially agreed to war. All arguments you then marshall against war come off as no more than nitpicking.

In fact, I think most folks who use any basic good sense and common decency in looking at Iran recognize that Iran is one of the authoritarian regimes in the Near East that is most likely to move in the direction of being a more open society. But threats and sanctions (=economic war) won't make that happen.

Anonymous / August 4, 2010 9:15 AM


I would not take on Dr. Sahimi on Nuclear issues of Iran. I think you already experienced humiliation. It's time to pack it up.

I say it again: war is a remote possibility until the bombs start to fall.

It is time to take action, there are Iranian-American organization who are working hard to stop AIPAC driven legistalions. You must DONATE (I did, $1000), participate, and remain engaged. They are sending email letters to all representatives right now. They need your support, now!!!

This December is the dead line. The public campaign to radicalize national opinions are beginning.

Even more ominous is that these wars are used to curb civil liberties. The Iran war is the ultimate goal of those who seek to diminish the first amendment by using security threats. AIPAC lawyer, Kagan, is becoming Supreme Court justice. She is on the record that she believes security threats are sufficient even to halt all civil liberties for even US nationals. Obama has ordered the killing of US citizens as enemy combatants, a first in history. He is being challenged in courts, with a law suit filed today. But Kagan is likely to uphold it as it reaches her future desk. The Arizona immigration issue is another openning. While the public sees it about illegal immigrants, the matter will go to the Supreme Court and Mrs. Kagan, again. At issue is whether anyone (from Kagan and her cohorts perspective), from FBI or Police, has the rights to ask for "your papers." Kagan is likely to compromise on that under security concerns and set the precedent in an already "conservative" court. The Iran war will be the perfect storm to bring these negative achievements to bear fruit.

Global Corporate interests see China and Indonesia as perfect examples of authoritarian regimes with flourishing capitalism. The bailing out of the banks and wallstreet, while leaving average americans to fend for themselves, is simply an example of the radical changes that have already occurred.

Think about the totality of these issues,and don't be dismissive. Again, war is a remote possibility until the bombs start falling.

Pouya / August 4, 2010 10:21 AM

Ali From Tehran

It's time to close ranks. You can always pick a bone with Niloofar in a year or two.

Pouya / August 4, 2010 10:30 AM

On September 12, 2001 I said all this was going to comeg out of WTC 911 attack: war on Iraq, Syria then Iran. Including us nuking somebody for revenge. I was laughed out of the room. Now that the dead and undiscerning finally 'get it'? seems too late to stop this destructive nightmare.

Myopia in Dystopia / August 4, 2010 12:40 PM

Ali from Tehran,

I must confess, sometimes I only read your comments and skip the rest. Your inappropriate use of self-deprecating humor is really amusing.

Who is this "historian" named Ian? And why won't he direct us to any of his work?

I'm especially interested, as I am actually a trained historian from the University of California. A sample of my work can actually be found on a link provided inside today's posting of Tehran Bureau's Headlines section.

Yes, Ian, we're curious. Where did you receive your training? And where can we sample your work?

Pirouz / August 4, 2010 1:58 PM

[ian] You suggest that Iran can make money from using nuclear domestically whilst exporting oil for revenue, yet there is no cost analysis of any sort to substantiate this assertion.

One has to wonder why nobody was suspicious of the numbers behind Iran's nuclear power program when the Shah was building it:

A civil nuclear co-operation program was established under the U.S. Atoms for Peace program. In 1967, the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) was established, run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The TNRC was equipped with a U.S.-supplied, 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor, which became operational in 1967 and was fueled by highly enriched uranium.[34][35] Iran signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 and ratified it in 1970, making Iran's nuclear program subject to International Atomic Energy Agency verification. The Shah approved plans to construct, with U.S. help, up to 23 nuclear power stations by 2000.[36] In March 1974, the Shah envisioned a time when the world's oil supply would run out, and declared, "Petroleum is a noble material, much too valuable to burn ... We envision producing, as soon as possible, 23 000 megawatts of electricity using nuclear plants."[37] Iran had deep pockets and close ties to the West. U.S. and European companies scrambled to do business in Iran.


This suspicion is soley motivated by political enmity, one suspects.

[ian] "conclude that (in fact) Iran is not being honest and that they do indeed seek to build nuclear weapons."

Breakout capability to actually construct a warhead would require diversion of the materials safeguarded by the IAEA and would require several years. I trust that the US can brew up a war with several years' advance notice?

" U.S. defense officials said Wednesday that Iran can produce enough highly enriched uranium ( HEU) for a nuclear bomb in one year, but needs three to five years to assemble one."


[billybob] "You didn't address the question as to where this U.S. attack was going to come from"

America and Israel seem to believe that they will be able to disable Iran with airpower alone. I believe that either they are being very naive or quite disingenuous. An airstrike on Iran will neither topple the regime nor will it be carried out without retaliation. Iran WILL retaliate, and it WILL take a ground invasion to deal with the chaos Iran can stir up. I am starting to suspect that the inevitable ground campaign is being glossed over right now by American politicians, so that the US people are not deterred by the huge cost such a campaign will entail.

[clayton] "As a Iraq USMC combat vet who has dived into the study of the situation(s) in the middle east, I would like to emphatically state one point that is often overlooked here. That point being that, war with Iran is totally and completely unacceptable and unbearable by the peoples of all nations involved."

I agree.

Bruno / August 4, 2010 2:02 PM

[billybob] "The Silkworm is an ancient missle system. Most even remotely modern navies have"

Iran has more than just Silkworms. Besides, massed attacks by even crude weapons can have devastating effects. The US' own wargames had a result wherein just such a scenario resulted in several carrier groups getting sunk.

[damian] "The last thing the US and Israel want is for Iran to put a hold, temporary or otherwise, on its nuclear program, and then allow fully open IAEA inspections."

Iran has already tried freezing its programme before, without much reciprocation from the West. And the IAEA already does conduct fully open inspections.

[ian] "I would be interested to read an article by Prof. Sahimi on how the various groups in Iran -- the hardline and moderate politicos, the clerics, the urban and rural populations, the ethnic minority groups, etc. -- are likely to respond."

I could refer you to the example of Iraq, (where despite there being a considerable anti-Hussein sentiment) when the bombs started to drop, Iraqis almost universally adopted an anti-US stance.

[ian] "these legal tangles and disputes are nevertheless covering up something really unsavoury, and that given the general brutality of the IRI and its actions at home and abroad, such suspicion seems likely to be well founded. Their development of ballistic missiles seems to point in that direction."

I'd say that your criticisms of the Iranian regime are probably right. Nevertheless, ballistic missiles can be useful weapons without putting nuclear warheads on them. The ability to level large parts of downtown Tel Aviv will be useful to Iran in dissuading an Israeli attack, even without an actual nuclear warhead on the said missiles.

Bruno / August 4, 2010 2:02 PM

Dr Sahimi, thank you so much for this extremely informative article, and also for engaging with your readers in the comments. This is something that many authors rarely do, as you pointed out, yet I found your replies in the comments as valuable as the article itself.

I have been smelling an attack on Iran for some years now, and also happen to believe that matters are coming to a head. Such a war will undoubtedly devastate Iran, but the consequences for America will be dire as well. It is in no shape to sustain another campaign like the Iraqi one, and there is every reason to believe that a war against Iran will be far worse and see the definitive decline of America as sole superpower.

I wonder if Americans are aware of this?

Or are they truly expecting to see cakes and flowers on the streets this time?

Bruno / August 4, 2010 2:09 PM

"Ahmadinejad and talk of annihilating Israel, etc...Ahmadinejad and the Hojattieh actually seem to regard it as their mission to do as much damage as possible, and are seemingly quite happy to talk about their plans publicly: specifically, their wish to kill all the Jews."

This comment (and the like) is so far from the documented facts as to invalidate completely the pretensions of the one making it to be taken remotely seriously on the subject.It indicates such a woeful misunderstanding or wilful fabrication that it's pointless to read anything further from whomever they issue,except for the tedious purpose of refutation.There has been no actual documented talk of annihilating Israel from Ahmadinejad (whatever his other faults),you don't even need to know Farsi to be able to verify this,nor any expression of a wish to kill all the Jews.There are plenty of Iranian Jews who would not be alive were this seriously the case for a start.But casually dropping such grotesquely false and inflammatory accusations is a common tactic of those wishing to provoke an emotional reaction in the ill informed,both conscious and un- or subconcious,that remains even if a part retraction is grudgingly offered under pressure of factual challenge further along,which may pass unnoticed anyway-the damage is done,mission accomplished.Anyone employing such methods is scarcely to be considered other than as either a propagandist or fool who should not be engaging in serious discussion on such a momentous topic.

Steve / August 4, 2010 3:04 PM

Don't be so sure that there is going to be an attack against Iran. The US is too bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and can't spare the troops that would be necessary to reopen the Straits of Hormuz if the Iranians close them. Israel doesn't have the military power to pull it off without American help. There could only be a war if Israel manufactured an incident that provoked a war that then left Americans no choice but to go in and fight alongside Israel. But it would not be easy to manufacture such an incident. For one thing, what if the Iranians refused to take the bait? For another, the Israelis would have to be dead sure the Americans would join them before even attempting such a move. And even if the Israels started a war and the Americans jumped in, the financial strain on the American budget combined with domestic unrest could collapse the American Government, forcing America out of the war and leaving Israel to its fate.

Chris Condon / August 4, 2010 6:13 PM

Obama is a failure, a liar, and a hypocrite.

Americans are simpletons who are to busy wolfing down Duncan Donuts to even pay attention to the continual intervention and carnage the US has pushed upon the world in the past 60 years.

And they wonder why they hate us. It's because of our 'freedom' no really it is.


Joe / August 4, 2010 7:14 PM


> I would not take on Dr. Sahimi on Nuclear issues of Iran. I think you already experienced humiliation. It's time to pack it up.

If you go back over the discussion and Dr. Sahimi's article then I hope you'll see that, whilst we came at it from different angles, and whilst Dr. Sahimi corrected me on some technical points, actually we both agree that Iran needs to do what the IAEA is saying -- halt enrichment and co-operate fully in other respects. We also agree on the general principle of sanctions, although Dr. Sahimi seems to think this should be targeted towards those at the top inside Iran. Where we seem to disagree is in the grey area over what Iran's intentions really are, which I think is crucial, and not to be overlooked.


Yes, the Shah's nuclear programme was accepted by the West, and the IRI's is not. But the Shah wasn't supporting proxy wars against major countries in the region and wasn't part of the Soviet Union's sphere of influence. I realise that these days most people have forgotten the Cold War, and why we in the West fought tooth and nail against communism, but the same divisions still largely exist in the world (WWII never really ended, it just went underground), and whilst a lot of bad stuff has happened along the way the West does seek to promote secular democracy and the rule of law, even if it has meant brutally suppressing communist movements that have sought to put everyone under the thumb of the state. So yes, I think it is about Iran's politics as much as about its nuclear programme, and I fully accept that the arguments against Iran are as much about seeking to bring Iran into the "international community" (i.e., the Western-led bloc) as anything else. I wish Iran could do a deal like Libya has done, which would make everyone happy. Chances? Nil.

> I could refer you to the example of Iraq, (where despite there being a considerable anti-Hussein sentiment)
> when the bombs started to drop, Iraqis almost universally adopted an anti-US stance.
Yes, it does seem as though the Iraqis had this funny idea that they should run their own country! By the way, I still think the 2009 election was probably won by Ahmadinejad, but that doesn't stop the Green movement pretending otherwise. Sometimes we have to play a little fast and loose with the truth for a higher purpose. The nuclear discussion is along similar lines -- lots of technicalities and legal arguments for the experts, but everyone knows what's really going on even if they don't like to admit it.

> Nevertheless, ballistic missiles can be useful weapons without putting nuclear warheads on them.
There's a recent IISS report on the subject of the missile programme here: http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-dossiers/irans-ballistic-missile-capabilities/
I haven't bought the report, but I watched the press conference and the point they make about intermediate range missiles with conventional warheads is that the payload is small (


>This comment [about "killing Jews"] (and the like) is so far from the documented facts
> as to invalidate completely the pretensions of the one making it to be taken remotely seriously on the subject.
Besides Ahmadinejad's comments about the regime in Jerusalem needing to be wiped away or whatever, and his apparent belief that the holocaust was a lie (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_and_Israel and remember the Holocaust Conference he hosted) and his belief in the Zionist conspiracy myth à la "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (which a *lot* of Muslims believe in), and the general end-times Muslim mythology, he also supports Hizbollah whose leader has made it pretty clear (although he was slightly misquoted with his "gather in Israel" quote) that he believes there will be a final battle with the Muslims on one side and the Jews on the other: http://www.kabobfest.com/2010/05/david-horowitz-san-diego-genocide-lie-islamophobia-rears-its-ugly-head.html

The fact that Ahmadinejad and the IRI provide a significant fraction of Hizbollah's finances, and that they are controlled to some degree by Iran, suggests that there is no disagreement there. The end-times mythology, which is taken quite literally in some circles, of course talks about the death of all Kafirun, not just Jews, but that hardly makes it any better: it's a completely pathological world-view, which unfortunately exists not just in Islam but in a different form in Christianity too.

Again, this discussion is in danger of ending up as an argument over technicalities, a bit like in the 50s when "intellectuals" in the West became apologists for Stalin and tried to brush what they really knew under the carpet. You just have to look at some of the Muslim propaganda (like, as I mentioned, "Dajjal the Antichrist" by Ahmad Thomson, which is in English, although there are doubtless much more recent books) to recognise the same themes coming down to the present day from Mohammed to Khomenei to its latest Hojattieh strain. Yes, they are a little cautious about what they say in public these days, just like the Christians in the USA, but committed jihadists and their allies go along with the whole anti-Zionist and anti-Kafir nonsense. It defines them as a political group in much the same way that a broad belief in the tenets of communism defined the Soviet empire. There have been articles about the Hojattieh here and on other sites which point out that they seem to regard it as their mission to bring about the end-times (involving the killing of Jews and so on), so I don't think my previous statements on the topic are egregious or inaccurate, although you can apologise for them if you really think that's helpful to the Iranian people or to solving the nuclear issue -- I know that apologism for jihadis is fashionable these days, as it was for Stalin in the 50s. See http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2007/02/islams_hagiogra.html for instance.

Ian / August 4, 2010 8:10 PM


Yes, I certainly would not give out any particulars about yourself. This is the internet and there are alot of crazies out there reading this. Just look at alot of the posts on here.

I have given just the genralities of myself, as have you. But Ali from Tehran will not. And that's ok. He wants to give the impression that he is an Iranian and not an american. Which is fine, people like to use an alter ego on the web.

muhammad billy bob / August 4, 2010 8:24 PM

Re: "killing Jews", there is an article here which makes it pretty clear what Iran's intentions actually are:

I look forward to technical discussions of "Marg bar Esraiil", etc., etc. ;-)

Ian / August 4, 2010 8:38 PM


By writing "us" and "our", you are saying you are an american, yes?

So by writing writing this you are saying you're a simpleton, like Duncan donuts, and don't pay attention? Or are you an exception, something special? An individual. Something that can't be quantified or calculated.

Btw, Krispy Kreme is 100 times better than Duncan doughnuts. But that's ok. I won't assume you're a simpleton just because you have a different opinion than mine.

muhammad billy bob / August 4, 2010 8:39 PM

Hmmmm, I do not receive the impression that any of the above commentators have been on the receiving end of a "bombing campaign". During WW ll and The Vietnam War, the bombing campaigns had the opposite effect upon the populations and regimes of the bomb recipients. Their national determination to resist was monumentally increased even amidst the carnage and rubble of their lives. Those American pundits who advocate dropping bombs upon a nation that, so far, has not made war on anyone, should be held in the highest suspicion and ultimately, contempt. They are monsters without humanity who are almost all connected to the economic 'benefits' of destruction in some fashion and almost to a man, none of them have ever, ever had to endure the horrors of warfare. That they lied through their teeth about Iraq seems to make no difference to anyone. That we completely destroyed a civilization (our heritage for those of you who still read history) on their urgings and 'scholarly' advice also seems to have escaped our memories. I will say this - if we bomb Iran remember where your hearts were on this matter before the falling death began because life will change for all of us and the results will not be anything, anything, anyone ever expected.

denny / August 4, 2010 8:42 PM


My comments about Iran's ballistic missile programme got cut off mid-flow because I used a left angle bracket, and they must have some brutal anti-HTML filtering going on here, so here it is in full:

There's a recent IISS report on the subject of the missile programme here: http://www.iiss.org/publications/strategic-dossiers/irans-ballistic-missile-capabilities/
I haven't bought the report, but I watched the press conference and the point they make about intermediate range missiles with conventional warheads is that the payload is small (less than 1 tonne) and the missiles themselves are inaccurate, making them pretty useless militarily, although against a large city they could do some very limited damage (i.e., harassment or terrorism, but not warfare). With this in mind, they also make the point that Iran is the only country without nuclear weapons to bother with an intermediate range missile programme – the implication being that its ultimate purpose is not for conventional warfare. Whilst the IISS's recent track record (vis-a-vis the Iraq dossier) is to their discredit, nevertheless in this case their statements refer to fairly openly-publicized military programmes so can probably be trusted (since they could easily be proven wrong if false), and I haven't noticed anything that doesn't fit with what I have already read about the missile programme elsewhere.

Ian / August 4, 2010 8:52 PM

Dear Chris @ 6:13 PM,

Logically, you are right.

But powerful, hegemonic nations imbued with a martial sense of manifest destiny do not always act on a rational, calculated basis.

Look at Nazi Germany, who having failed to pacify plucky little England, and badly overstretched across continental Europe and North Africa, decided to go for broke with the far more daunting challenge of conquering the Soviet Union.

And when a 300-lb serial rapist announces that he isn't taking the option of checking you out off the table, you'd do well to stock up on sharp objects and mace, even if you're dog-ugly and the rapist is suffering from a temporary bout of erec**ile dysfunction from a few choice kicks he received during his recent escapades in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Your observation on Israel instigating conflict with Iran to "leave the Americans no choice but to go in and fight alongside Israel" is indeed the consensus view of how an unwanted war would start.

You underestimate how easy it would be for Zionist discourse to dominate US decision-making in the event of an Israeli-Iranian clash, no matter how contrived the narrative.

I refer you to the UN-commissioned report issued by Judge Richard Goldstone last year. Although he is a South African jew, an eminent jurist (who chaired the prosecution of the Rwandan and Yugoslav war crimes tribunals), a self-declared Zionist who held an honorary governorship of Hebrew University, and whose daughter lives in Israel, his report was pilloried and rejected by both Congress and the Obama Administration.

HR. 1553, now doing the rounds in Congress, preemptively commits the US to supporting Israeli military action against Iran. Hence, the 'no-choice' scenario you envision above is being cast in legislative concrete.

Dear Pirouz @ 1:58 PM,

If 'professor Ian' was a bona fide historian, he would have not hesitated to refer us to his scholarship and shouldn't have had any qualms about his identity being revealed.

Observe his post of August 3rd, 11:21 PM, where he uses the highly idiosyncratic term, "hardline IRG."

Google this term and see where it leads. Not to a historian, I assure you.

Dear Pouya @ 10:30 AM,

You make a fair point.

Ali from Tehran / August 4, 2010 9:11 PM

For those who still seem to think that Iran is a closed-off, isolated country hiding behind an iron curtain, you might be surprised to hear that any westerner (even american) can easily obtain a tourist visa, will be courteously welcomed, and might very well highly enjoy the experience, as I have. No, there is no need to wait for a regime change in order to go see Iran for oneself. People who think so are themselves cut off from reality. And by the way, Tehran is a city in which one may find several working synagogues and churches of several denominations, as well as RESPECTED jewish and christian communities.

JCL / August 4, 2010 9:38 PM

at the end of the day you have to realize that US and Isreal are anglo saxon nations as the real Jews is spread throughout the world and these old US /Russian caucaziooids are simple standing together. Nothing has changed in the white man over the last 400 years just the tactics. At the end of they day Mr Obama congrats...your picture will go right next to Shelly Hemmings...thanks for heloing out your people...NOT and yet you still gives these Zionist $10 billion a year to kill in the name of the US> JUST DEVILS THAT"S ALL THEY ARE>

Giovanui / August 4, 2010 9:43 PM

Everyone blames Iran for this mess, but if it weren't for the existance of the racist apartheid state of Israel (and their stooges in the U.S. government), Iran's nuclean program AND ambitions would be much less a concern to all involved.

Obama’s White House (Obama’s owners)

(Radical) Rahm Emanuel(Jewish) –Chief of Staff

Mona Sutphen(Jewish) – Deputy Chief of Staff

David Axelrod (Jewish) - Senior Advisor to the President

Lee Feinstein (Jewish) – Foreign Policy Adivsor

Benjamin Bernanke(Jewish) - Chairman, Federal Reserve System

Timothy Geithner(Jewish) - Secretary, U.S. Treasury Department

Lawrence Summers(Jewish) - Chairman, National Economic Council

Paul Volcker(Jewish) - Chairman, Economic Recovery Advisory Board

Jared Bernstein(Jewish) - Chief Economist and Economic Adviser, Vice President

Peter Orszag(Jewish) - Director, Office of Management and Budget(OMB)

Gary Gensler(Jewish) - Chairman, Commodity Futures Trading Commission(CFTC)

Mary Schapiro(Jewish) - Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC)

Sheila Bair(Jewish) - Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation(FDIC)

Karen Mills(Jewish) - Administrator, Small Business Administration (SBA)

Christina Romer(Jewish husband) - Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers

Elena Kagan (Jewish)– Solicitor General

Dennis Ross(Jewish) - Special Advisor for the Gulf and Southwest Asia to the Secretary of State

Michael / August 4, 2010 10:04 PM


Your first line "Obama’s White House (Obama’s owners)" implying that a black president is "a slave" is all I needed to read. I smell a racist pig. shame on you.

Ahvaz / August 4, 2010 10:57 PM


I don't think there's any racist bias in there, but there is a religious bias in that it should be obvious that whilst there are Christians and Jews attending Obama, nevertheless Ahmadinejad's advisors are all Muslim, and that in fact the _Islamic_ Republic of Iran has a religious basis. But of course that is ignored in favour of the Zionist conspiracy angle so ardently espoused by certain people who don't realise their own naïvete and susceptibility to religious and political dogma of all sorts.

Ian / August 4, 2010 11:23 PM

Thanks for the obvious example of "Jewish consiparcy" theorists.

What does a Fed chairman appointed by Bush and a FDIC chairman hav to do with Iran anyway? Are these the people that are making foreign policy decisions?

muhammad billy bob / August 4, 2010 11:30 PM

Dear Michael @ 10:04 AM,

You missed Stuart Levey.

But people must be judged by their actions and policies, never by their race or religion.

Quite a few of those you list above may be eminently reasonable and balanced individuals who would never allow base tribal allegiance to trump national interest.

Some clearly are Israel-firsters, such as Dennis Ross and Rahm Emanuel, but it is unfair to tar anyone with the Zionist label unless clear, irrefutable evidence is at hand.

If you bother to make a counter-list of leading American voices opposed to war with Iran and in favor of clipping Israel's wings, you will find that Jewish ones predominate in that list as well.

Equating Judaism with Zionism is good only for the Zionists -- who need anti-semitism for sustenance like a scarab needs dung -- and unremittingly bad for everyone else.

Ali from Tehran / August 4, 2010 11:32 PM


Given the expierence the 3 hikers on the Iraq-Iran border have had, I think I'd rather take my vacation somewhere else.

muhammad billy bob / August 4, 2010 11:56 PM


I wonder what Michael thinks about large number of Jews in Holleywood. Oscars conspiracy? Or NBA. African American conspiracy?
This type of mentality, as Ali from Tehran has correctly pointed out, does not take into account the personal talents of these individuals, and instead uses ethnic/religous labels. If that is not racism, I dont know what is.

Back to your earlier response, you commented " flow of information, art, culture, etc. ...that's a long-term strategy....too long-term for this problem".

I disagree. The reason we are in this conundrum now, is because of short-sighted, short-term quick fixes that plagues the US foreign policy. An attack on Iran's nuclear sites would only add to that list.

As a historian, I am sure you know that from supporting the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, to overthrow of democratically elected Mossadegh in Iran (for the sake of BP), to arming Saddam with chemical and conventional weapons in the 80's, US/Western intervention in the ME is filled with short-term "fixes" for immediate interests. These short-term quick fixes have only created bigger problems, and nothing short of disaster for the people of that region (e.g. Islamic Republic) or people of the US (e.g. 911 attack, Iraq, Afghanistan).

That is exactly why we must think long-term.

Democratic change in Iran will change the entire ME political landscape. That is not an overstatement.

Unfortunately, American politicians are so hyperfocused on the nuclear issue, that the democratic movement in Iran has taken a back seat, again. Ahmadinejad has used this to his advantage, brilliantly. Why do you think he has increased his inflammatory rhetoric since the revolt of 2009. His hot air basketball court trash talk (that is all it is) takes focus off the democratic movement, and back to bickering about details of the nuclear issue.

Regarding exchange of information, arts, culture, etc. , US is going exactly in the wrong direction. I know for a fact that granting US visitor visas to Iranians, even to elderly parents who want to see their children get married, has become extremely difficut in the last few months. That is counterproductive.

Efforts are made to "isolate" Iran, which really only isolates the people of Iran, not the gov't officials who still roam around the world at will. (Ahmadinejad had the largest entourage of any politicians at the UN last year).

I can not understand how the world's most powerful country can not break through the Iranian gov't's web filters and sattelite blocks. It is not lack of resources. It is lack of effort, in developing and presenting technology in my opinion.

Ahvaz / August 5, 2010 1:25 AM

How many more wars can we let Israel get us involved in. Remember the Mossad MOTTO is "By Deception, Thou Shalt Make War"

Oldtimer / August 5, 2010 4:22 AM


It's true that a lot of the "fixes" in the ME have had some negative results as well as positive, but if we look at those cases in more detail then it becomes clear that the real target of the interventions you cite was the Soviet Union, which did eventually crumble under the weight of its external commitments. And the export of Western culture was also a big factor in the collapse of communism, as it has been a factor in the Green movement. But I wasn't suggesting the West should somehow stop appealing to young people for its undoubted good values (it couldn't if it tried), merely that there is a certain urgency to the current problem and that it has become clear that the Green movement can't really play a decisive role in the immediate future.

That doesn't mean I think the West should stop supporting the struggle for democracy in Iran. One can see that Gene Sharp's "From Dictatorship to Democracy" has been absorbed by a few people within the movement (remember the banknote-marking thing?), but at the same time the lack of organisation from the diaspora has led some people here to turn to the MEK, presumably in desperation. One of the funniest recent comments from Ahmadinejad was that he thought the MEK must have something on the CIA which they're using to blackmail them into support. It is difficult to explain otherwise, and is perhaps as good an example of short-termism as one could hope to find in respect of Iran and the West.

And with the problem of internet communication, which is rightly recognised as a key factor and which many people think the West could do more about, it's not a simple issue of teaching everyone to use Tor, or launching more satellites, etc. The IRI can counter all of that if it needs to. This doesn't mean there shouldn't be efforts in this direction, but even if Iranians picked up on Gene Sharp and found a way to break the IRG's grip on the communications network, it would also be necessary to break through the religious fanaticism that gives the hardliners much of their power to be so brutal and frightening. And this may seem like a harsh thing to say, but I think I am correct in saying that one of the problems with the Green movement is that there seems to be a reluctance of some of its members inside Iran to perceive it and identify it as an anti-Velayat e-Faqih movement, although efforts were made to bring that out during the crisis. In other words, whilst the government is hated, there is still deference to the Islamic underpinnings in the wider movement, which I think is important. There were of course efforts to recruit Rafsanjani and other mullahs to the cause, which I think was a strategic and not merely a tactical mistake.

Although the content of the following lecture doesn't fit at all with what's going on in Iran, nevertheless the importance of religion in the psyche of a nation is clearly identified by the speaker of this lecture, who worked in the field of subversion for the KGB: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN0By0xbst8 (he gets onto the subject of religion only in the later parts, but the whole thing is very informative and you might be interested to watch it all).

The point in all this is just to illustrate some of the issues which I feel have a bearing on the Western strategy, and why it is that the democratic movement has taken something of a back seat in recent months: there isn't really much that can be done that would actually benefit the Green movement very much and which would have a bearing on the nuclear issue, which depends on the immediate decisions of the Iranian government and which the Green movement cannot hope to influence before the next election at the very earliest, by which time it may be too late.

Ian / August 5, 2010 5:22 AM


I’ve taken the time to peruse your comments as the most prolific poster on this comment board and have some responses of my own. You comments seem to circle around several assumptions:
1. although iran may not technically be in breach of the NPT, they nevertheless should be suspected of having a covert nuclear weapons program
2. you use the word “reasonable” several times and your assumption is that other assumptions even deducted facts are reasonable to assume
3. the Iranian people would not react negatively to an attack by a foreign power
4. international law must reign supreme

for the first assumption, there must be a standard (s) for treaty compliance otherwise treaty agreements and their effect are meaningless. Leaving aside the fact that the nuclear armed states are in non-compliance of their obligations under the NPT, let us focus on Iran and the standard of compliance/non-compliance. That standard is determined by the IAEA and they are the arbitrer (as the Professor stated). It is best to leave it to them to determine such issues.

They have not found Iran in non-compliance on the whole and only have minor issues and technicalities. Six are mentioned now, but there were over 14 or so originally and they have been resolved. Given enough time, why wouldn’t the 6 remaining also be resolved? Furthermore, what does a “reasonable” person such as yourself conclude when over half of the issues have been resolved to the satisfaction of the IAEA and with the cooperation of Iran? Does Iranian cooperation mean anything to you? If a weapons programs existed, then why were these issues resolved so easily?

Also, what of the 6 remaining issues? Have you done any research into other NPT states that have also been found in minor non-compliance with the same issues? If you had, you’d understand that minor violations are fairly common and that is to be expected with any treaty. There must be flexibility in treaties otherwise, they are tools of oppression.

With the Qom facility, Iran is not required to announce a facility until 18 months before it goes operational. So constructing a facility in secret is no violation of the treaty.

Reasonableness. Is it reasonable that a countries surrounded by 5 nuclear weapon states would seek a nuclear weapon? Absolutely, and this actually lends some credence to your argument that they have a covert program. But you must prove a covert program, not just insinuiate one. Likewise, since the Iraq debacle, would it be reasonable to assume that the Iranian covert program is the fictitious fantasy of neo-cons interested in the goal of Iranian regime change (something absolutely prohibited by international law)?

Iranian reaction. Patriotism is a powerful thing and no doubt the Iranian people would rally round the govt after an attack. You are ignoring the history of nations if you think likewise. When did an attack from the outside result in dimished support for the government (in the case that the government remained)? The Iranian people have known invasion for a very long time and it always sparked nationalistic reaction. Furthermore, take the invasion of Iraq, even the Iraqi Shia fought the invaders so why do you think the average Iranian would welcome an attack? This is only the belief of ex-patriates (like Iraqi ones) who want to “run the place.” Plus, unlike Iraq, Iran has already had their experience with US domination under the Shah and would resist a return to anything resembling that order.

International Law? No breach of the NPT, no casus belli on Iran. The UN charter does give the right to self-defense, but that is in the case of IMMINENT attack which a covert nuclear weapons program doesn’t constitute. Please read up on what constitutes imminent according to international war legal scholars before you respond. Let us return to the obligations of ALL countries under the NPT. By your logic, the nuclear armed states should be attacked b/c of their failure to disarm, right? The NPT is broken according to your view, but did it ever work as intended when nuclear weapon states don’t disarm? Treaties are agreements that carry mutual agreements, so you must (since you believe in international law) believe that all parties must fulfill their agreements and the treaty must be amended to the benefit and with the consensus of all signatories. By the way, the NPT also states that no nuclear weapon state can threaten a non-weapon state with nuclear attack. How does the US fare on that one?

Two minor points. Missiles. A missile program is lawful, period. There are no treaties banning their acquisition. So, what’s the problem? Every nation chooses its defense strategy differently and as the Israeli war on Lebanon showed missiles can be very effective. For that matter, why then does Israel have the same and greater missiles when it does not have a nuclear weapons program???

Lastly, I’ll address the economic issue of resources in the Iranian nuclear power program. Certainly, I think that it does not return its investment, but by the theory of comparative advantage, if Iran can gain free more oil to increase its export revenue, then it should do so. If the oil runs out, their economy collapses. Insofar as nuclear prolongs their ability to export oil, it is economically expedient to do so. Additionally, decisions in huge capital investments are also driven by prestige and a nuclear program is prestigious. It is hard to quantify the prestige value of having a nuclear program, especially if it is sold as evidence of overcoming the opposition of the West in a part of the world long under Western domination.

Professor Sahimi, motshakaram baraye article shoma (Thanks for your article).


Reza / August 5, 2010 5:42 AM

Lol. The President said,

"Finally, we discussed issues that arose out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference. And I reiterated to the Prime Minister that there is NO CHANGE in U.S. policy..."


Matt / August 5, 2010 6:44 AM

I like to thank you for your detailed and accurate response.
I like to add a few points that unfortunately most Americans fail to see.
The US economy is very fragile and cannot sustain another war without consequences.
Iran is not Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan. It provides energy to 20% of the world and an attack will have devastating effect on the world economy.
Thousands of American soldiers will be at risk
Millions of Iranians will risk their lives for their country and go beyond their borders to get back at US and their allies.
History has proven that no war is free of intended consequences. After all, Iran is where it is because of American selfish actions in the 50s and 70s.

What more does it take to understand that this war will have nothing but destruction of not just Iran, but Americans and some of their allies.

Is it worth risking Americans and their status in the world to protect Israel?

It is my personal opinion that Americans started their empire by meddling in Iran, and will end their empire if they try to destroy the Iranian nation’s pride.

Mehrdad / August 5, 2010 7:43 AM

It appears Israel is the one with the illegal nukes and complaining the most about Iran only wanting nuclear power. Iran is doing everything by IAEA guidelines and signed the NPT. Israel bootlegged their reactor with no NPT and no IAEA.
So who's the bad guy?

Oldtimer / August 5, 2010 7:53 AM

I think Michael's point is very legitimate. And he stated it in a direct and simple manner. Those who call it anything else are simply applying their own interpretation which has nothing to do what Michael has written.

It is absolutely relevant to know the religion of those who are influential in the policies of this nation when it comes to the middle east. We are not talking about whether this people should be involved at the highest level of this government. Religion has nothing to do with that. But it is a CONFLICT OF INTEREST to have those who believe in absolute rights of Israel and see nothing wrong with anything Israel does, to be in charge of this nation's policy on Middle East.

Why is it not relevant to know that Rahm Emanuel has publically stated, when he was in the house, that the best palestinian state is no state at all. This individual is head of policy in Obama administration.

Playing the race card in an attempt to hide away inherent conflicts of interests is old and has lost its shine. It is time for people address criticism with civil discussion instead of hidding behind repugnant charges of anti-semitism at every chance they get. It only proves they have no point at all but to express hate against those who criticize them.

pouya / August 5, 2010 11:15 AM


Re: the NPT in your first four paragraphs, those issues have been fairly well covered in this thread, and might I suggest you refer not just to mine but also to Dr. Sahimi's comments and also his discussion of the Safeguards Agreement elsewhere on this site. Currently the major issue is with the IAEA's demand that Iran cease enrichment, which it has refused to do on the grounds that the IAEA's demand is illegal. Other countries have made a judgment on that, and there are now sanctions in place. Clearly Iran feels strongly enough about the nuclear programme to continue enrichment nevertheless, which suggests to me very strongly that this is not about the economics of electricity generation but something else.

You say that it is necessary to prove a covert nuclear weapons programme rather than insinuate the existence of one, and point out that previous Western intelligence has been shown to have been concocted in order to provide a pretext for war (something I have alluded to previously). I don't think this is actually correct. States, in particular the members of the UN Security Council, are entitled to make a judgment based on all the evidence, even if that evidence is circumstantial. In these cases the synoptic view is usually the only view, if you are lucky enough even to get that far. For instance, in historical intelligence studies (which is closely akin to the subject at hand), you will often find at the beginning of an article or book the argument that in matters where states seek to conceal activity, documented "proof" is almost never available and therefore one has to make an informed judgment based on a number of circumstantial factors. This is not the same as saying that the argument is weak, although those coming from different fields might see it that way. In politics and diplomacy one doesn't always have the luxury of saying "hmmm, maybe" and leaving it there, especially when it amounts to a national security threat: analysts assess the evidence, and careers can be made or broken based on the ability to make educated guesses and draw correct inferences, and sometimes the available evidence is so little as to amount to even less (without even getting on to seemingly desperate methods like "remote viewing"). There is a clear difference, however, between something like the "45 minute claim" (which came from a single source, actually an Iraqi taxi driver) and the evidence for a covert Iranian weapons programme. And I don't believe that anyone who matters seriously believes that Iran doesn't intend to build a bomb – at least I haven't heard that being seriously argued except by the IRI. In this case, saying that a weapons programme must be proven before action can be taken is highly tendentious: the only issue is whether there are strong enough grounds (not necessarily "proof") to convince the relevant decision-makers of it, and based on the assumption that decision-makers are intelligent human beings.

As for whether it's reasonable for Iran to want to have nuclear weapons, yes of course it's reasonable that they should want to enhance their power, as every state does. Is it acceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons? Not in my view. I would say they are driven by the perception of a threat in the same way that the USA is driven by a perceived threat. Both threats are (in my view) real and not imagined. Given that the USA is in a position to carry out its threat, and that the main sufferers in that would be (and are) the Iranian people, it would seem reasonable for Iran to do whatever it takes to reassure the USA that its intentions are peaceful, and not try to provoke a response. Its actions could hardly be more different. At the same time, I think it's the duty of the USA not to jump into action unless and until there is no other option; but I also think it's the duty of the "international community" to act in everyone's interests if and when that time arrives. The USA and its allies might have a hard time justifying an attack on legal grounds, but then again we don't know what they know at the moment (and I'll come onto the legal issues in a moment).

Re: the Iranian reaction, I think I've been quite cautious about my opinions on that, and have asked others for better informed opinions. I am not an Iranian, don't speak Farsi and haven't studied Persian history (except some ancient history), so my viewpoint is not really relevant. You ask for examples where an attack from outside has been welcomed. I'll give you a few examples:

1. Sierra Leone in (and note the British are still very welcome and respected as advisors there -- even Chomsky cites this as an example of "humanitarian intervention", albeit he says a dubious one).
2. Vichy France in 1944.
3. The Ottoman territories in the Middle East during WWI.
4. William III in 1688.

There are other examples, with differing features and characteristics, and in that regard I might also mention Iraq in 2003, bearing in mind that that quickly went sour. Also an argument might be made about Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban being viewed largely as foreigners and rather despised. However, we have to bear in mind that aggressors are almost always motivated not by concern for the welfare of the citizens of the targeted country, but rather by their own concerns, which might be plunder or might be a notion of pre-emptive self-defence. We shouldn't necessarily be sympathetic to aggressors simply because the populace of a given country seems to like them (an argument Chomsky can't make because of his stupid idea that the populace should be all-powerful).

In the case of Iran, the question comes down to what kind of attack we are talking about -- surgical strikes, or full-scale land-based warfare. If we're talking about the latter, then *no* I don't think anyone could seriously believe the Iranians would welcome it. And I don't think there is a casus belli, as I've stated. As to the former (that is, a proportionate surgical strike -- something arguably justifiable, and a frequent occurence, e.g. recently between Colombia and Venezuela) then I think the Iranians would certainly _understand_ it (and I think the hardliners know this very well). However, from my ivory tower I would guess that the Iranians would also feel very upset by an attack, and would feel demoralized and disempowered as a result. The more important question, from a planning perspective, is whether an attack would be seen as directed at the Iranians personally, or not. I think the Iranians could see the difference, and so I don't think it would result in increased support for the hardliners. Also, from a strictly nationalist perspective it is clearly not a good strategy to try to defy the USA militarily, and consequently it would be seen as much better to have leaders who are prepared to act more reasonably on an international level. After all, the cover story -- electricity generation -- is hardly good grounds for wanting a war with the USA. However, at the same time I think there will be increased support from a different section of Iranian society for covert activities abroad, including proxy attacks on Israel, as long as Iran isn't drawn into a real war (which it can't win). I would imagine that, being torn between these two conflicting positions, the Iranian populace will become more divided, requiring increased brutality from the regime and thus sowing the seeds for the eventual collapse of the Islamic Republic a few years down the line. And amen to that.

You talk a little about a casus belli, and seemingly follow Chomsky re: the UN Charter. At the same time, it doesn't seem to bother you that Iran is supporting terrorism throughout the region, especially against Israel. It's very convenient, isn't it? As to the legality of an attack, I believe that since there has been no overt attack by Iran to provoke the USA, nor is an attack by Iran so imminent as to legitimize a pre-emptive strike, that under the terms of the UN Charter the Security Council would have to authorize such an attack in advance in order for it to have prior legitimacy. However, whilst I am not a lawyer, this doesn't mean that an attack would, ispo facto, be unlawful:

"Article 39. The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security."

In other words, it is for the Security Council to determine whether or not such an act is unlawful, and anything else is just opinion. It is the same situation as for the Iraq War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and for many other lesser conflicts where the Security Council has not sought to pass judgment. The position is much like the role of the police (at least in the UK): they have absolute discretion, and are not obligated to do anything. The UN General Assembly might well protest such an attack, but the Security Council would not pass any resolution against it for the simple reason that the US would veto it. One could nevertheless argue very forcefully that such an attack would at least be immoral; and whilst I could certainly sympathize with that perspective, given how rabidly aggressive the neo-cons have been in the past, the assessment of the matter in most people's minds would be made on the basis of whether such action was perceived to be reasonable and proportionate.

With that in mind, it is for the USA, Israel and its allies to make the case for an attack both in advance and afterwards, and to ensure that such an attack is directed solely at the nuclear sites and not towards other political or military sites, or against civilian populations wherever reasonably possible (even though Iran has not made this easy). There is also the problem that low-yield nukes may be required on some deep bunkers (there is some discussion of this in "Options in Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Program", published by CSIS). With this in mind, one shouldn't be surprised that even the USA is reluctant to launch such an attack – the long-term consequences could make Iraq and Afghanistan look like a cakewalk, and in my view it will be a step towards eventual war with China, which serious commentators are now talking about (including, recently, a Chinese general; and also William Hague hinted something about it during the UK election). Everyone now knows what's on the table.

As to your further points about the NPT, no I don't think the nuclear armed states should be attacked if they don't disarm – there's no obligation for them to disarm, and anyway you can't attack them (why do you think Iran wants these weapons?). As for the USA threatening nuclear attack against NPT signatories in the Nuclear Posture Review (Chomsky again?), according to the USA that applies only to countries in compliance with the NPT, which doesn't include North Korea and Iran.

Re: the Iranian missile programme, I haven't contended that its unlawful. My point was simply that it only makes sense to develop inaccurate intermediate range missiles which can only carry a small payload if you want to stick nukes in them.

Re: the economics of the nuclear programme v. oil-fueled electricity generation, although Dr. Sahimi's figures are out of date and also highly optimistic, I do think that with the price of oil at current levels, Iran could make maybe $1bn a year from nuclear power (that's a very rough guess from memory of Dr. Sahimi's figures which I haven't checked except in respect of his yearly nuclear cost estimate, and multiplied by three with respect to the oil price). But that assumes zero cost for research and development, and doesn't include the cost of UN sanctions (not to mention an aerial bombardment), which I can only imagine must run into tens of billions of dollars. But I don't think the problem is with nuclear power per se, simply the fact that nuclear fission is almost inextricably linked with devastating weaponry that threatens the lives of everyone on the planet. There is undoubtedly some "prestige" value to having nuclear power, but what you are suggesting is that the IRI should be taken more seriously on a diplomatic level because of it; and it's true that they would be taken more seriously, but given that the IRI diplomatic and political elite are currently regarded with contempt even by their allies (esp. Russia recently), it wouldn't be much of a step up. They constantly come out with the most stupid statements and possess a diplomatic presence akin to a drunkard at a party (much the way they're perceived inside Iran), such that nobody wants to be in a room with them for fear of having to endure the next round of pseudo-intellectual left-wing nonsense culled from the latest Chomsky lecture. If Iran wants to be taken seriously, it has to stop imagining that intelligent people can't see what it's up to, start treating its citizens (especially the women) like human beings and become part of a community of nations which respect individual liberty and the rule of law, including the spirit in which that law is written and enforced.

Ian / August 5, 2010 11:19 AM


I don't see your disagreement with Dr. Sahimi just technical.

regardless what are your differences, I for one, am the only one who has reached the conclusion that the best outcome is for Iran to go all the way. Regardless of whether the program has been a cover for a bomb or not, it is time for the program to develop such weapons, for the following reasons:

1-It would benefit the anti-war sentiments as it would end all possibilities of war. Currently, this is a war of "haves" upon the "have nots."
2-It would benefit America's interests as we would be spared another stupid war that is at the detriment of this nation.
3-It would not affect US interests because Pakistan has the only Muslim bomb, and I don't see a line of nations forming to make relations with Pakistan at America's cost. Nor do I see the Israeli bomb has made them many friends. Therefore, an Iranian bomb will not change any equations for the long term interest of the US. what truely affects US interests, is this nations blind and senseless support for Israel, no matter what Israel does.
4-It would benefit the opposition in Iran, as the state can no longer use the US or Western threat of war to suppress public opinion. It would lead to a new national confidence that would redirect Iranian attention to its inherent internal problems. We have already seen this during the Clinton Administration. When Clinton did not threaten Iran, It gave rise to internal conflict and the rise of the reform movement. That reform movement died by the threat of invasion by the Bush administration, which ushered in the Ahmadinejad era ( a man who promised he could protect the nation).
5-It would lead to reform US policy since the war card, as desired by Israel, will no longer be possible. The US would have to develop a more balanced policy in the ME, one that would recognize the two nuclear powers of the region. That in turn would make life better for all those who are likely to die in the region without the Iranian bomb.

Pouya / August 5, 2010 11:35 AM

"Besides Ahmadinejad's comments about the regime in Jerusalem needing to be wiped away or whatever, and his apparent belief that the holocaust was a lie (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_and_Israel and remember the Holocaust Conference he hosted) and his belief in the Zionist conspiracy myth à la "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (which a *lot* of Muslims believe in), and the general end-times Muslim mythology, he also supports Hizbollah whose leader has made it pretty clear (although he was slightly misquoted with his "gather in Israel" quote) that he believes there will be a final battle with the Muslims on one side and the Jews on the other: http://www.kabobfest.com/2010/05/david-horowitz-san-diego-genocide-lie-islamophobia-rears-its-ugly-head.html

The fact that Ahmadinejad and the IRI provide a significant fraction of Hizbollah's finances, and that they are controlled to some degree by Iran, suggests that there is no disagreement there. The end-times mythology, which is taken quite literally in some circles, of course talks about the death of all Kafirun, not just Jews, but that hardly makes it any better: it's a completely pathological world-view, which unfortunately exists not just in Islam but in a different form in Christianity too.

Again, this discussion is in danger of ending up as an argument over technicalities, a bit like in the 50s when "intellectuals" in the West became apologists for Stalin and tried to brush what they really knew under the carpet. You just have to look at some of the Muslim propaganda (like, as I mentioned, "Dajjal the Antichrist" by Ahmad Thomson, which is in English, although there are doubtless much more recent books) to recognise the same themes coming down to the present day from Mohammed to Khomenei to its latest Hojattieh strain. Yes, they are a little cautious about what they say in public these days, just like the Christians in the USA, but committed jihadists and their allies go along with the whole anti-Zionist and anti-Kafir nonsense. It defines them as a political group in much the same way that a broad belief in the tenets of communism defined the Soviet empire. There have been articles about the Hojattieh here and on other sites which point out that they seem to regard it as their mission to bring about the end-times (involving the killing of Jews and so on), so I don't think my previous statements on the topic are egregious or inaccurate, although you can apologise for them if you really think that's helpful to the Iranian people or to solving the nuclear issue -- I know that apologism for jihadis is fashionable these days, as it was for Stalin in the 50s."

Ian,you are simply bearing out my point.Ahm. has not made the comments attributed to him about destroying Israel or killing all the Jews,but rather than simply admit to clear fact you seek other ways to continue pushing the same falsehood.He quoted Khomeini (Imam goft) saying the occupying regime (actual word used) should or would vanish from the page of history or time.It's not a threat to destroy Israel from Ahm.At best it's a quote of someone else being amiguous on the topic.Marg ba (x) is the common putdown in Iranian public discourse,it's said of America all the time but no one is accusing Iran of seriously threatening to destroy the US.It may be said of Russia soon the way things are going.No doubt some Iranians would want to destroy Israel,just like some Israelis would want to destroy Iran.But what counts is documented facts,and realistic prospects.Armageddon is originally a Jewish concept (as such),and still believed in by some.Iran has only proclaimed a desire for peaceful nuclear energy,and Khamenei (the real CinC) has issued statements condemning the bomb as un-islamic.Iran recently announced a major investment program in refineries too.Until they actually say otherwise,there are no grounds for an attack,beyond counterfactual speculative prevention,on which basis one could attack any nation for anything.The risks to Israel are actually far greater in doing so than sticking to sensible and realistic diplomacy,in which it will have solid support from the West,and others.Even if Iran turns around in a few years and announces nukes,thus shredding forever any credibility they still possess,there's nothing much they can actually do with them except at certain risk of self annihilation.If that was their agenda they have had decades to achieve it already.It obviously isn't.Israel (and others) however will have to live with the fact that others are catching up-it's inevitable.The best thing is not to create more incentives for revenge when they do.

Also,any serious talk of strikes has inevitably involved much wider targets than the few bunkers you seem to imagine.It would be a major conflict with massive potential for escalation,Iran won't lie down and take it,and there are credible scenarios that involve major damage to Israel amongst others,way beyond anything yet seen,you don't need nukes for that.So if that's what you want,by all means argue away.

As for your Stalin reference,it's just an irrelevant smear.Ahm. is not remotely comparable to Stalin (whatever his beliefs),Stalin actually did kill millions,and had the real power to do it.Nor is it a question of defending jihadis,just the truth,something you obviously have next to no grasp of from some of your egregiously false and misleading statements which you still adhere to despite correction.

Steve / August 5, 2010 1:38 PM

Micheal, That is what i meant...

by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt

The Lobby and the Iraq War

Within the United States, the main driving force behind the Iraq war was a small band of neoconservatives, many with close ties to Israel’s Likud Party.150 In addition, key leaders of the Lobby’s major organizations lent their voices to the campaign for war.151 According to the Forward, "As President Bush attempted to sell the . . . war in Iraq, America’s most important Jewish organizations rallied as one to his defense. In statement after statement community leaders stressed the need to rid the world of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction."152 The editorial goes on to say that "concern for Israel’s safety rightfully factored into the deliberations of the main Jewish groups."

Although neoconservatives and other Lobby leaders were eager to invade Iraq, the broader American Jewish community was not.153 In fact, Samuel Freedman reported just after the war started that "a compilation of nationwide opinion polls by the Pew Research Center shows that Jews are less supportive of the Iraq war than the population at large, 52% to 62%.".


The neoconservatives were already determined to topple Saddam before Bush became President.155 They caused a stir in early 1998 by publishing two open letters to President Clinton calling for Saddam’s removal from power.156 The signatories, many of whom had close ties to pro-Israel groups like JINSA or WINEP, and whose ranks included Elliot Abrams, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Bernard Lewis, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, had little trouble convincing the Clinton Administration to adopt the general goal of ousting Saddam.157 But the neoconservatives were unable to sell a war to achieve that objective.Nor were they able to generate much enthusiasm for invading Iraq in the early months of the Bush Administration.158 As important as the neoconservatives were for making the Iraq war happen, they needed help to achieve their aim.

Observer / August 5, 2010 2:28 PM

Mohamed Sahimi,

Why you the supporters of "Reformists" are so hurry of concessions whenever you feel twist..

You said " I believe that Iran should suspend its uranium enrichment program for a mutually agreed upon period and ratify the Additional Protocol of the Safeguards Agreement to allow intrusive inspections by the IAEA, making the program more transparent".

What more transperent are you thinking upon, to investigate the Khameni's House and bluah luh...simply put " to acccumulate inteligence as much as you can" under the cover of International community's worriness of the programme..

in fact, that is what the west is looking for when they are talking about transperent......

indeed, the west will not stop demanding concessions from one to anohter lest it destroyes the entire program and the country's self-sufficiency...

Observer / August 5, 2010 3:17 PM

[ian] "the point they make about intermediate range missiles with conventional warheads is that the payload is small (less than 1 tonne) and the missiles themselves are inaccurate, making them pretty useless militarily, although against a large city they could do some very limited damage (i.e., harassment or terrorism, but not warfare)."

I have to note that Hezbollah, with its far weedier weapons, paralyzed much of northern Israel during their last encounter.

I should also note that Iran used to have an extensive chemical weapons stockpile, since allegedly destroyed. Probably it was. Nevertheless, there is always the doubt that lingers, and a few tons of the right chemicals lobbed into a city could have a very lethal effect.

If Iran truly wanted to "wipe out" Israel they could simply ramp up production of chemical agents once again, which would be far easier to do and hide than a nuclear bomb which would take several years to construct from the moment material was diverted from IAEA guard.

I can think of many uses for ballistic missiles for countries with lots of enemies. Those reasons don't need to make sense to you or me to exist. The American fixation with Star Wars, a dead horse if there ever was one, baffled me, for example.

Bruno / August 5, 2010 6:04 PM


I don't think it's true to say that a nuclear-armed Iran would "end all possibilities of war", since part of the rationale for acquiring a bomb is to allow Iran to carry on waging covert wars in the region, although it would spare the Iranian regime itself from attack. It's also very naïve to argue that an Iranian bomb would "not change any equations" with respect to US attitudes towards the region, and you yourself have argued against that anyway. Also I don't think the reform movement in Iran is really that connected to whomever happens to be in the White House.


I'm not sure who you think you're kidding. If I were to say that the regime in Jerusalem should vanish from history, and if I believe in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy and also deploy my paramilitary battalions (Quds Force) to help wage war against Israel by supporting folks whose mission is the destruction of Israel, then where is the inconsistency, and how is that a matter of analyzing the correct translation? As for "Down with America" and "Down with Israel", which is indeed "common" in Iranian political discourse (I understand it's a regular chant of the Majles and is often said by Imams and repeated by the congregation), then how should the fact that it's a "common" refrain weaken its meaning, or how should the fact that the USA is a lot bigger than Iran make it an empty threat? At least some of the people who come out with this kind of incendiary rhetoric are serious, and you insult them by suggesting otherwise and insult the intelligence of those hearing such comments by pretending they mean something other than they do.

You also say that until the Iranian regime openly announces a bomb project, there is no cause for war. As I've pointed out in my previous post, it has nothing really to do with what Iranian leaders _say_, it's about what they do and about how others (in particular members of the Security Council) view things based on all the evidence, in much the same way that a jury doesn't just accept what the defendant _says_, they look at what evidence is presented to the court. The fact is that nations frequently say one thing in public and do another in private, especially when it comes to national security.

As for your claim that some Israelis want to destroy Iran, I certainly think Israel as a state would like nothing better than to have a sane regional neighbour instead of one whose leaders believe the Jews are some kind of ultimate enemy who are secretly opposed to all that is right and good in the world, and where the less well-educated populace (and even some educated ones) still believe in such things as that Jews sacrifice babies. If you were to actually spend a single moment trying to understand the Jewish people, I think you'd recognise not just their excellent qualities but also the fact that, basically, all they want is peace (and you can say what you like about their dress sense). They have exceedingly high moral principles -- so high in fact that they believe they are collectively being punished by God for their transgressions -- and these notions about evil deeds done behind closed doors only come as a reaction to their desire to hold themselves apart from the "gentiles", which many people view as inherently suspicious. Unfortunately, one of their key aims -- the rebuilding of their temple in Jerusalem -- brings them into direct conflict with Muslims, whose hatred of the Jews was built into Islam from the days of the prophet and who have their own claims on the Temple Mount; but Iran flatters itself if it believes the Jewish people want to go out and attack Iran for the sake of conquest.

You end by implying that I'm deliberately making false and misleading statements "despite correction". I don't know what statements you're referring to, so I can only say that from my perspective I think I've been fair and reasonable.


Whilst Hezbollah's weapons are not really significant from a military perspective, being too inaccurate and (as you say) "weedy" (and also being unable to reach juicy enough military targets), they are nevertheless cheap. If Iran were to use similarly inaccurate but bigger and longer range weapons against Israel, launched from its own territory, the resources used in their production would be so great and the damage so negligible that it would be an exercise in futility. Even if they used chemical or biological agents, the destructive effects still wouldn't be (militarily) very great according to the IISS, but I suppose it would be very scary for the civilian population, and possibly very inconvenient to have to clean up. I don't think you're correct in saying that missile-delivered biochemical agents could (realistically) destroy Israel in any meaningful sense, but I am hardly an expert on the matter. However, in any case, such attacks coming from Iran would be met with righteous fury and such a devastating and possibly nuclear response from Israel and the USA that those contemplating such a measure would not only have to be suicidally reckless but also militarily clueless. In the case of using nuclear weapons, they would merely have to be suicidally reckless.

As for the missile programme, that also irritates Russia because it provides a reason for NATO missile defence in Europe and elsewhere, so there is another aspect to it besides the fact that it doesn't make sense without a nuclear programme.

Ian / August 6, 2010 12:49 AM

war is not somthing any one wants . war takes time to work out. germany took 3 years to get ready for war . the US took 2 years to ready get started in the same war. there is alot of work to get redy. that seid in the last 30 years the US went to war without that work and it has not been good. i think in the long run the US will not go to war with Iran. if thay test a bomb and thay would have to test it. Israel a contry that has done the work and already arme with the bomb will end the thret. i dont know anything but if the US starts building steel plants and the means to make war then i would be afraid vary afraid.

and to Radical_Guy the USA is not an empire

no one / August 6, 2010 2:21 AM

Dear Bruno, Steve, Reza and Pouya,

You've all spilt much ink on this page trying to engage historian-manque "Ian" in reasoned dialogue.

But ponder his panegryic below and tell me if we are not witness to a painful case of acute, late-stage tribal narcissism:

"If you were to actually spend a single moment trying to understand the Jewish people, I think you'd recognise not just their excellent qualities but also the fact that, basically, all they want is peace (and you can say what you like about their dress sense). They have exceedingly high moral principles ..."
(Ian, Aug 6 @ 12:49 AM)

Translation for non-historians: Jews Rock, Moslems Suck.

If the Ahmadinejad (Sabourjian) and Asgharowladi family patriarchs had known that reciting the Talmud would endow their offspring with such sterling personal traits (dress excepted; we must give the Goyim something), perhaps they would never have left the cloyingly tender fold of HaShem for the rude desolation of BaniHashem!

Ali from Tehran / August 6, 2010 5:31 AM

Ali from Tehran,

> But ponder his panegryic below and tell me
> if we are not witness to a painful case of
> acute, late-stage tribal narcissism
That might be true if I were Jewish, but I'm not.

> Translation for non-historians: Jews Rock, Moslems Suck.
There are certainly things about _radical_ Islam that I find repugnant, but that's hardly a controversial view. I've previously talked about the "excellent qualities" of the Iranian people -- the exact same phrase that I used to describe the Jewish people -- but you didn't accuse me of fawning over the Iranians, so I think you reveal your own bias and are just trying to be provocative. You really can't help making ad hominem arguments, can you? There just isn't anything else from you.

Ian / August 6, 2010 7:16 AM

"I'm not sure who you think you're kidding. If I were to say that the regime in Jerusalem should vanish from history, and if I believe in a worldwide Jewish conspiracy and also deploy my paramilitary battalions (Quds Force) to help wage war against Israel by supporting folks whose mission is the destruction of Israel, then where is the inconsistency, and how is that a matter of analyzing the correct translation? As for "Down with America" and "Down with Israel", which is indeed "common" in Iranian political discourse (I understand it's a regular chant of the Majles and is often said by Imams and repeated by the congregation), then how should the fact that it's a "common" refrain weaken its meaning, or how should the fact that the USA is a lot bigger than Iran make it an empty threat? At least some of the people who come out with this kind of incendiary rhetoric are serious, and you insult them by suggesting otherwise and insult the intelligence of those hearing such comments by pretending they mean something other than they do.

You also say that until the Iranian regime openly announces a bomb project, there is no cause for war. As I've pointed out in my previous post, it has nothing really to do with what Iranian leaders _say_, it's about what they do and about how others (in particular members of the Security Council) view things based on all the evidence, in much the same way that a jury doesn't just accept what the defendant _says_, they look at what evidence is presented to the court. The fact is that nations frequently say one thing in public and do another in private, especially when it comes to national security.

As for your claim that some Israelis want to destroy Iran, I certainly think Israel as a state would like nothing better than to have a sane regional neighbour instead of one whose leaders believe the Jews are some kind of ultimate enemy who are secretly opposed to all that is right and good in the world, and where the less well-educated populace (and even some educated ones) still believe in such things as that Jews sacrifice babies. If you were to actually spend a single moment trying to understand the Jewish people, I think you'd recognise not just their excellent qualities but also the fact that, basically, all they want is peace (and you can say what you like about their dress sense). They have exceedingly high moral principles -- so high in fact that they believe they are collectively being punished by God for their transgressions -- and these notions about evil deeds done behind closed doors only come as a reaction to their desire to hold themselves apart from the "gentiles", which many people view as inherently suspicious. Unfortunately, one of their key aims -- the rebuilding of their temple in Jerusalem -- brings them into direct conflict with Muslims, whose hatred of the Jews was built into Islam from the days of the prophet and who have their own claims on the Temple Mount; but Iran flatters itself if it believes the Jewish people want to go out and attack Iran for the sake of conquest.

You end by implying that I'm deliberately making false and misleading statements "despite correction". I don't know what statements you're referring to, so I can only say that from my perspective I think I've been fair and reasonable."


You are getting into nutball territory with this post.Once again for the dummies,Ahm. quoted Khomeini,in a vague wish or expectation that the occupying regime would vanish from history.This can mean almost anything,such as that the occupation ends,but it's certainly not a threat to wipe out Israel in any remotely direct or reasonably inferrable sense.And no Iranian leader has ever said they want to kill all the Jews as far as I'm aware.If they had we would never hear the end of it.Jews actually enjoy a protected status under Islam,second to Muslims of course,and as long as they don't rock the boat.It would be directly contrary to Quranic injunctions to attempt to do so or even think about it,except perhaps in retaliatory self defense.Yet you stated that that is their wish.Based on what substantive evidence? There is none,and for you to say so is an egregious inflammatory falsehood.Stop trying to worm out of it.

The help Iran has provided Hezbollah etc is of a defensive (including counterattacking) nature essentially,as far as any evidence we have goes.All powers do the same for their allies,including Israel.

There is plenty of threatening rhetoric from Israel the US etc that has been directed against Iran and others,the actual Iranian examples (as opposed to fabrications and distortions) are nothing much out of the ordinary,even if they are chanted more often,not uncommon as a morale boosting tactic on the weaker side.If you were remotely fair you would take account of the sort of things said against Iran and others related too,some of which are genocidal in scope (a few extremist Rabbis included).

What I said about Iran's announcement of intent applied in absence of other evidence which is the situation we have.There is no credible evidence Iran is actively seeking the bomb,as the last US intel assessment stated clearly.Thus we are back to any attack being a case of counterfactual speculative prevention,which is not an adequate ground for war.Iran has followed its voluntary obligations essentially to the letter,which is more than can be said of Israel when it comes to this question (not even accepting voluntary obligations and actually having an arsenal).

Your panegyric on the Jews could apply equally to Iran,even the bit about dress sense,other than the bit about rebuilding the temple,which is absurd.Many Jews have no interest in rebuilding the temple,would even be dead against it,including some Orthodox.I've spent much time trying to understand the Jews,too much even given what a small if noteworthy percentage of humanity they represent.But your blanket lauding of them betrays your bias,Jews like any national group encompass the full spectrum from best to worst.And the Iranians have also had high moral principles as a culture,and played an important part in the development of civilization,and been unfairly demonized,even if there are also legitimate criticisms.I don't want to see either Jews or Iranians suffer and die needlessly,you on the other hand seem happy to sacrifice quite a few of both in realization of your inane notions.
An attack on Iran would be insane,and could well set in train the destruction of Israel,even if not immediately.As yet Iran has no direct major grief against Israel,but if you want to turn a handful of impotent fanatics into a truly vengeful power then go for it,bomb away.Iran has risen time and again through history,and will do so again,they are a powerful and determined people even when defeated.But to seriously attack their ancient soil with modern weapons would be to invite future repercussions of which we can only vaguely imagine,even if it doesn't get totally out of control in the immediate term,it only takes one angry genius to arise down the track and invent or attain by modification some possibly unforeseen technology or scheme and it's Armageddon for real.As yet there is not such a great incentive for it,but a real attack could change that.The future is too unsure to take such risks anymore,peace and diplomacy are the only remotely rational approaches,rhetoric aside.But even rhetoric can lead to disaster if not controlled.And even current arsenals could suffice to cripple Israel (it's just too small and close) in a real war,especially if some things are there that we don't know about.The restraint shown in peace can give way to blind anger (or even just accident) if the shooting starts.Iran is not Iraq,and the regime not Saddam.He was a minority (within a minority) tinpot incompetent with a toy arsenal compared to what's over the border.If Iran were not threatened and bullied so much (since WW2 and beyond) we would most likely not be in this situation.Respect them and they will respect us,at least enough to get by.

Your claim to be reasonable etc 'as you see it' is something you and those like you should apply beyond your own personal benefit,the Iranians also believe themselves reasonable and justified,and as far as it goes,they are.The thing is to find the middle ground so we can live in this world together.Your armchair pro war stance and slippery tactics are the sort of thing that is preventing it,and your pretensions to insight,fairness and objectivity as obviously hollow and laughable as can be,given their danger besides.Who do you think you're kidding,"Historian" (perhaps a rare foreign word in need of accurate translation in this case)? Only yourself.

Steve / August 6, 2010 10:35 AM

Hi Ali from Tehran,
I just wanted to thank you for that wonderful quote from Mark Twain's 'The Mysterious Stranger' you posted on 1 August. I totally agree with your conclusion that the methods of preparing "the dull bulk of the nation" for starting a war abroad haven't changed one iota.

But if the dull bulk is easily swayed, let's hope the elites are not. And president Obama cannot say he hasn't been warned by a chorus of voices chanting the opposite of the warmongers. Take this one interesting example. A memo to the president by former CIA, Special Forces, Army Intelligence and FBI personnel called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) with some specific advice on how the president can stop the "loud little handful" before it can do irrevocable harm. I don't know if anyone in the current administration will actually read this, but for what it's worth: http://www.consortiumnews.com/2010/080310c.html

Catherine (from EA)

Catherine / August 6, 2010 11:48 AM

[ian] "However, in any case, such attacks coming from Iran would be met with righteous fury and such a devastating and possibly nuclear response from Israel and the USA that those contemplating such a measure would not only have to be suicidally reckless but also militarily clueless. In the case of using nuclear weapons, they would merely have to be suicidally reckless."

And I don't believe that the Iranians are either militarily clueless nor suicidally reckless. I also believe that having a large conventional force of ballistic missiles that can reach one's enemies, results in those enemies having to act more circumspectly. There is a certain weight lent to one's actions if you realise that the consequences could be borne out by one's own family.

And yes, that works for the Iranians as well as the Israelis.

@ Ali

I'm afraid that I skimmed over that particular extract from Ian. I have to admit that you may have a point!

Bruno / August 6, 2010 2:13 PM

Sir Ian
Covert Professor Emeritus of History
Hasbara University

Your ripostes, followed by my remarks:


"I've previously talked about the "excellent qualities" of the Iranian people -- the exact same phrase that I used to describe the Jewish people -- but you didn't accuse me of fawning over the iranians, so I think you reveal your own bias and are just trying to be provocative."
(Ian, Aug 6 @ 7:16AM)


"I am not an Iranian, don't speak Farsi and haven't studied Persian history (except some ancient history), so my viewpoint is not really relevant."
(Ian, Aug 5 @ 11:19 AM)

I think the first two quotes, arrayed alongside, reveal that your tribute to Iranians is deceitful flattery, intended for leverage in separating 'good' Iranians from 'bad', while your tribute to the "Jewish people", augmented with a treatise on their superior morals, derives from heartfelt conviction, aka 'bias'.

But, unfortunately, as the saying goes, flattery will get you nowhere; Sophocles warned the Persians millenia ago to "beware of Greeks bearing gifts", especially the honey-trap gift of coy compliment.


"That might be true if I were Jewish, but I'm not."
(Ian, Aug 6 @ p7:16 AM, in response to my suggestion that his paean to Judaism was a late-stage manifestation of acute tribal narcissism)

What a shame! Perhaps David Horowitz, that paragon of "Israel-Firster" neoconnery, whom you reference so admiringly above, can put in a good word with a pliant Rabbi on your behalf. For a short time only, the "Jewish people" are accepting membership applications from their most ardent groupies. And very reliable sources inform me that if you manage to get in, it will do wonders for your moral and spiritual attributes. Even raw inductees have been known to sprout feathery white wings and bright golden halos.

Ali from Tehran / August 6, 2010 9:12 PM

Nice article Dr. Sahimi, though I still tend to believe that war with Iran is highly unlikely. What is wonderful is the spirited debates that follow from your articles. So thank you.

Unfortunately, reading you article means I have to be exposed to the pompous rants of Ali from Omaha. Dozens of people post here, but I do not think there is a more unbearable, and disliked, writer than he. The best thing that has ever come from his rants is nothing close to an original position or an interesting opinion, but rather the copy and paste of a Mark Twain quote. Ali Joon - you get no credit for that quote, but life would be better if you completely stopped attempting to write on your own behalf and simply pasted others' writings. It is abundantly clear that you fancy yourself a genius and adore your own ramblings more than anything else in life (a true legend in your own mind), but spare the rest of us from your sophistry and mental you know what. It's tired, old, and tacky.

Here's another quote for you - read and take it down a notch pal.

"The truest characters of ignorance are pride and vanity and arrogance" ~ Samuel Butler

np / August 6, 2010 10:09 PM

Dear NP, self-appointed Distiller (sans referendum) of the Public Sentiment,

Nobody compels you to read my posts. They are not part of the core curriculum. Ignore them. Skip over my "pompous rants" to spare your frail Neo-Pahlavite (NP) nerves.

Yes, you are absolutely right. War is "extremely unlikely." No worries at all. Go back to bed.

Ali from Tehran / August 6, 2010 11:02 PM

Regarding the Twain quote so fawned over on this thread..............

It, and all the purposed truths it has inspired amongsts the posters assumes one thing. That the U.S. populace is stupid, and can be swayed in any direction anyone who wishes to sway them. And, of course, this is just a fallacy. Americans, just like Iranians, and every human being, are concerned with self-preservation. After all are not pretty much every one on this board americans? Including the author of the orginal article.

Twain was wrong. As he was about many things. He did join confederate partisans early in the civil war. Then after that unit was disbanded returned home to give lip service to the U.S. governments' invasions of the southern states.

It's the easy way out to think that the people of the U.S. are so easily fooled into giving their lives and fortunes to anything the "influential" desire. It's just not true at all. The american people are of many points of view. As this thread has shown.

muhammad billy bob / August 7, 2010 12:00 AM


Firstly, if you want to believe that the IRI wouldn't dearly love to wipe Israel off the map and restore the Palestinians the land that was taken from them by force with the diplomatic support of (at times) Britain and the USA, then I think you have to ignore pretty much everything that's happened in the Middle East in the 20th century, including the fact that Iran does not recognise Israel as a country. Perhaps it is true to say as per Khamenei that "the Islamic Republic has never threatened and will never threaten any country", but clearly that can't apply to Israel which it does not recognise as a country, and clearly Iran has strong ties to Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad (organisations that actively seek the destruction of the state of Israel) through the Quds Force. And "Marg bar Esraiil", etc.

Now, whether this amounts to a clear intent on the part of the IRI to kill Jews as a matter of policy would depend on how closely you believe the attacks against civilians in Israel are approved and abetted by Tehran. The fact that Ahmadinejad is happy to meet with Nasrallah in public, without ever seeking to distance himself from any of the aims or objectives of Hezbollah, suggests very strongly that he broadly goes along with the anti-Semitic stuff that is promoted by jihadists like Nasrallah and others, as well as approving their actions; besides which he has his own ideas about the Mahdi and the final conflict, etc., which seem to apply to "all Jews", though presumably they would have some opportunity for a last-ditch conversion.

As for attacking Jewish civilians being against Qur'anic injunctions, my understanding is that opinion varies widely on the correct interpretation of the Qur'an in many respects, but not having studied at Al-Azhar I would hesitate to venture an opinion, simply pointing out that there is a lot of wiggle-room for anyone wanting to do so, and that Mohammed authorised such actions whilst alive and hardly discouraged conflict generally (the same could be said for many religions though). There is even wiggle-room for Muslims to kill other Muslims in recent jihadist teaching, although obviously that's a fringe interpretation, and (e.g.) when a foreigner is captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan, then if he or she can recite the kalimeh or shahada then they might live a bit longer.

As for your implication that I haven't been willing to look at the threats from the other (Israeli and US) side, this is simply not true. Threats of one sort or another have been coming from the US and Israel for some considerable time, although the only official statements have been veiled in diplomatic language ("all options are on the table", etc.) in a similar way to how the threats from Iran have been slightly veiled. Your argument seems to be that the statements by Khomeini and Ahmadinejad (and their support for anti-Israel terrorists in the region) aren't really threats, whilst saying "all options are on the table" is. I think any objective observer would look at all the facts and conclude that there are very real threats coming from both sides. To suggest that "Marg bar Esraiil" is merely a "morale-boosting" chant is simply not serious: it represents a core value in much the same way that the anti-Islamic "crusade" was and is a core value for many belligerent Christians in the USA, who make no secret of their own Apocalyptic fantasies. You say that "[i]f you were remotely fair you would take account of the sort of things said against Iran", but I do take account of such things, and have already done so in this discussion several times, for instance when I mentioned the "crusade" thing in reference to Bush and talked about how worrying it was that Apocalyptic Christians were close to the nuclear button in the USA. I think if you were willing to be fair to me, and look back over what I've said, you'll see that I have been critical of the completely transparent religious and political motivations of both sides, even pointing out in the course of the discussion that US foreign policy seems to be directed towards an eventual war with China, which few people are willing to recognise at this stage.

You say "[t]here is no credible evidence Iran is actively seeking the bomb,as the last US intel assessment stated clearly", but I think what it actually said was that the Iranians haven't made the political decision to move onto bomb production *yet*, which isn't the same as saying they have no intention of doing so. The IAEA has raised concerns about production of detonators and suchlike which look eerily close to what you'd need to make a nuclear bomb, so whilst they may not have decided to assemble the parts into a bomb, they could probably do so quite quickly if they made that decision, given their undoubted engineering capabilities. You talk about "speculative prevention" not being cause for war, which I do agree with (and I've been very clear about that several times, and it's totally clear in the UN Charter), but "war" isn't quite the same as a campaign of sabotage covertly directed against the Iranian nuclear programme (as has been going on for at least 20 years) or the escalation of such attacks to a directed and proportionate aerial attack on enrichment facilities in support of Security Council resolutions. If Iran chooses to respond disproportionately and escalate hostilities further, then the end result could easily become a war; but at that stage it could hardly be said that Iran is an innocent victim, for instance if they choose to attack Saudi Arabia (as has been suggested they might do).

Of course, folks like Chomsky wouldn't make a distinction between a proportionate strike on key nuclear facilities and "war", calling them all "acts of aggression" (and he even lumps "threats" in the same category); but I think that's a conveniently unrealistic attitude towards world politics, as well as a highly dangerous, and not a legally justifiable attitude (the concept of "proportionality" being recognised in law). If we looked at every example of limited attacks and small-scale conflicts (or even covert operations, or threats) and called that a justification for "war" (as Chomsky believes), then every conflict would escalate and everyone would be at war with everyone all the time, without room for détente. When Iran (not Libya) brought down that plane over Lockerbie (as has been admitted by a former Iranian Prime Minister in a documentary on the subject), then arguably that was an act of "war"; but in reality it was a proportionate response to the shooting down of IR 655, which may in turn have been a response to an attack by Iranian gunboats on the USS Vincennes (as has been claimed). But by your concept of "war", the USA would have been entitled to launch a full attack on Iran the moment this alleged gunboat allegedly started firing, which plain common sense ought to tell us is wrong.

You also say that "Iran has followed its voluntary obligations essentially to the letter", which is simply not true if you look at the November 2003, November 2004 and September 2005 IAEA reports. This is separate from the issues already covered in this discussion about the additional safeguards which was never ratified by the Majles (presumably at the request of the IRI executive branch). Iran has also been in breach of *six* (count them!) UN resolutions enacted by the Security Council demanding that Iran cease enrichment. Iran is not the only country to defy a UN resolution (Israel springs to mind) or to fall foul of the IAEA, but it is simply absurd to suggest that "Iran has followed its voluntary obligations" either to the IAEA or to the UN under international law.

Re: the "panegyric" about the Jews, indeed it could apply to the Iranians, though at the time I didn't want to sound patronizing to Iranians engaged in this discussion by recounting what I think those "excellent qualities" are (people typically cite hospitality, generosity, a highly-developed sense of humour and of literary aesthetics, impeccable manners -- I could go on, listing the many historical accomplishments as well). In fact I don't recall ever having heard a bad word spoken about Iranians they've met when visiting Iran, but obviously nobody has anything nice to say about the mullahs and how they and their cohorts treat their fellow Iranians. So yes, obviously there is a spectrum; but the point is that Iranian culture, like Jewish culture, is old and civilized. The problem I was illustrating (as I have been at pains to point out) is that the jihadist view of Jewish people as being (mostly unwittingly) part of some giant political Serpent of Doom fails in its distinction between the qualities possessed by individuals or cultures as a whole, and those imagined to exist amongst the political elite. In my "panegyric" I was simply pointing out how absurd that is: as far as I can see, the Jewish people are as peace-loving and as well-meaning as the Iranian people are, despite what their governments or others do in their name. I can't help it if others, wilfully it seems, want to misunderstand that.

As for rebuilding the temple, I think it's pretty uncontroversial to state that this is a key aim for many Jews, although obviously some Jews are more religious than others and it is a controversial subject for reasons too obvious to mention. People have been trying to find the exact location and reconstruct the architecture, as well as prepare the various bits of paraphernalia like the Urim and Thummim, and there is also an ongoing project to find a "red heifer". Additionally, it has a lot of support from non-Jews in Britain and the USA through influences in Freemasonry and through the Christian Qabalah, as well in Apocalypse-mongering circles of course. The incredibly controversial nature of the project will, I am sure, be fully illustrated by a certain participant in this discussion if I state that I'm broadly in support of the project. My view is that they have the prior claim and that the site is more important to them than it is to Muslims, so in the interests of long-term peace it should be allowed to go ahead. Otherwise we'll never hear the end of it. It's akin to the situation that would exist if the Jews had built on the site of the Kaaba and refused to give it up. And remember, whilst the Jewish conquest of Israel is recent, and still an open sore for some Muslims, nevertheless both "sides" have used the same military methods throughout history to their own advantage, so one has to be careful about trying to argue too many technicalities if and when the Jewish people eventually decide to act by building on the site.

As for peace and diplomacy being the way forward over Iran, I do think that _is_ the best way forward, but clearly Iran is not happy about being asked to cease enrichment and will almost certainly not accede to the demands of the Security Council, and is also doing a lot of other things that are cause for grave concern about their real motives, so diplomacy has to involve recognition of Western concerns. I think Iran should be sensible and implement a fuel swap, for everyone's sake; but I also think that if they don't do that, then they should be physically prevented from carrying on with their nuclear programme. In fact I think even a fuel swap is very generous of the West, given that that probably wouldn't prevent a weapons programme from going ahead anyway. I don't think, however, their pride will let them accept Western demands: they feel cornered, and don't want to be humiliated by more powerful countries, some of whom they hate passionately and with good reason. The example of Libya, however, is a case where the West has been completely willing to drop its objections and normalize relations following a renunciation of their WMD programme, without seeking to humiliate Libya in the process; so maybe there's some hope that a deal can be reached based on previous "good conduct" by the West. And I think that's what the Iranian people want. Iran would be more respected on the world stage if that happened, not less, with the benefit that the hardliners would end up disempowered as a result. In that sense, the objectives of the West are closely similar to those of the younger Iranian people, and neither group wants to go to war. But as we all know the Iranian people don't have much say in the matter.

Ian / August 7, 2010 12:15 AM

Pentagon Bob's unique admixture of gall and gullibility touches my heart.

Here is a selection of his smartest quotes on this thread, followed by my remarks:

"Is [sic] a few drone attacks against a few sites war?"
(Pentagon Bob, Aug 1 @ 8:14 PM)

[Ali from Tehran]: Not if the targets are wogs, gooks, hajjis, sand-niggers or ragheads. Otherwise, it's 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Alamo, the sinking of the Maine, the Danzig Corridor and the Holocaust, all neatly rolled into one.

" ... the posters [assume] one thing. That the U.S. populace is stupid, and can be swayed in any direction anyone wishes to sway them. And of course, this is a fallacy. Americans ... are concerned with self-preservation."
(Pentagon Bob, Aug 07 @ 12:00 AM)

[Ali from Tehran]: No, not swayed by just anybody. Swayed by their government and corporate mass media. And the urge for self-preservation is exactly why fear-mongering stories of WMD, covert nuclear weapons programs, mushroom clouds over NY, and links to Al-Qaeda are concocted. To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, never make the mistake of overestimating the intelligence of the American mob.

"The American people are of many points of view. As this thread has shown."
(Pentagon Bob, Aug 07 @ 12:00 AM)

[Ali from Tehran]: Pentagon Bob thinks the posts on this thread emanate from a representative sample of the U.S. public and so offer an accurate barometer of the views of American society at large. He also thinks that government policies defer to popular opinion. Isn't that cute?

"After all are not pretty much every one [sic] on this board Americans? Including the author of the original article."
(Pentagon Bob, Aug 07 @ 12:00 AM)

[Ali from Tehran]: Ignorance is the most sublime bliss, Billy Bob. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Ali from Tehran / August 7, 2010 2:38 AM

I said "...then if he or she can recite the kalimeh or shahada then they might live a bit longer". Thinking about it, I suppose they give recent converts the chance to die as a martyr of Islam, which I think is very generous and spirited of them. Not sure if they bother to apply the "strim", probably not if they're secretly kafir (joke!).

Ian / August 7, 2010 4:55 AM


I had decided that I will not continue debating with you, but reading your comments here compelled me to respond once more.

What the devil you are talking about - you the historian - when you says,

"Firstly, if you want to believe that the IRI wouldn't dearly love to wipe Israel off the map and restore the Palestinians the land that was taken from them by force with the diplomatic support of (at times) Britain and the USA, then I think you have to ignore pretty much everything that's happened in the Middle East in the 20th century, including the fact that Iran does not recognise Israel as a country."

The last time I looked, Israel was formed in 1948, forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, attacked Egypt in 1956, attacked Arab countries in 1967, occupied southern Lebanon for 22 years, attacked Iraq in 1981, destroyed Lebanon in 2006, has occupied Palestinian territories since 1967; has ignored all UN resolutions, has set up a system that Jimmy Carter - not me - has called apartheid, etc., etc., etc. Where is Iran in all of these?

Where is Iran in all of these? You have an agenda: Convincing people that Iran is dangerous, and wants to attack Israel. Nonsense. Say what you want about Tehran hardliners. They are whatever you may call them, but they are not stupid. They know that attacking Israel will evaporate Iran in a massive nuclear counterattack by Israel and the US.

I am sorry sir, but you do not know the first thing about Iran.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 7, 2010 4:59 AM

Ali From Tehran

your from hashem to bani-hashem comment hit a spot and was totally laughing. Nothing against Ian. But it was funny, I just had to point it out.


Obviously I disagree. You make my point though. True, the bomb would only make Iran immune from attack. But that is the point. Because currently all policies set for ME are with the assumption that if all fails "we'll bomb them." that by itself assures failure of all negotiations.

Consider the following:

Israel is the only nuclear power in the ME. Is she the safest nation?

Iran has no nukes, but who can argue against the fact that, at the moment, Iran has the most influence without occupying a single nation.

The US has the most nukes, the most powerful weapons, but who can argue against the fact that US influence has been decreasing, and decreasing against a 3rd grade power like Iran.

Therefore, while nukes provide deterrence, they do not provide influence. Iran's influence has inceased, and could also decline, mostly because of US and Israeli brute foreign policy. It has nothing to do with nukes. You are right that and Iran armed with nukes could engage in conversional and covert activities, but Iran as all others is already doing so. Iran's success only depends on US/Israeli failed policies.

As long as we in America depend on Pentagon instead of the ideas embeded in the first amendment, we are going to witness a decline of american power and continued national debt as a consequence of these policies. People love America, not because of what we have done in ME, but rather because of what American makes, be it industrial or on the silver screen. Should we return to America's ideals, Iran's meddling in the region will be defeated by the people of the region themselves as Iran's version of politics will not attract any buyers. America will remain influencial and will be able to check Iran or anyother power in the region. That is the politics of deterrence.

Contrary to popular belief, the Mullah's armed with the weapon will actually have to make decisive decisions, once under sanctions. Once the "rally around the flag" issue eliminated, they will have two choices:
A-compromise with the west in an attempt to aleviate pressure on the public, and fend off a bolder opposition accompanied with the silent majority who will join them.
b-ignore the public, and if they fail to provide public's basic needs including free speech, and fall from power. This would give way to a more secular Iranian regime, as most Iranians are now leaning in that direction. I say a "more" secular, because I believe Iranians are still deeply religious (unfortunately). If the Soviets can fall from within, the mullahs won't fair any better.

pouya / August 7, 2010 5:02 AM


You persist in trying to portray Iran ("they/the IRI") as bent on annihilating (all) the Jews,and wiping Israel "off the map".There's no substantive evidence for it.Which means you are engaging in inflammatory falsehood,at a time when things are on the brink of war,at least to appearances.If you are not a shill,you are giving a first class impression of it.Regarding the course of events in the Middle East in the 20th century,there's much blame to go all around without any reasonable doubt.Perhaps Iran not recognizing Isael (to the extent it's true) has something to do with Israel not as yet recognizing Palestine-it's called quid pro quo.Giving what you have for nothing in return is not generally regarded as sound tactics.Hezbollah arose directly in response to the invasion of Lebanon in 82 and the occupation thereafter.Apparently they have expressed a willingness to accept whatever settlement the Palestinians accept.Chomsky has met with Nasrallah,and Chomsky is certainly not seeking the destruction of Israel.As for anti semitism,be careful there.Some Jewish scholars amongst others have pointed out that the Jews are less or at least no more semitic than the Arabs,Palestinians and Lebanese included.Even the Iranians have a good proportion of "semitism" by now,as proven by genetics.The Quran is pretty clear in various passages that Jews and Christians are to be respected as fellow People of the Book,and may be killed only in defense or retaliation.Fanatical fringe extremists will always find excuses to go further,the same applies to Jewish extremists.And Khamenei has specifically branded the bomb as genocidal and un-Islamic-you can't get much clearer than that.Ahmadinejad has said the same,and said they don't want it,it's bankrupt,in fact called for general disarmament.Until you have clear evidence they are lying,you have no case for your claims and aims.
The threats against Iran are well beyond what you portray-eg Hillary Clinton's gratuitous threat to "totally obliterate" Iran in retaliation for a hypothetical Iranian attack on Israel.So that's about 70 million corpses? In a country whose avowed policy (and modern history) is to attack no one? Aid to allies does not qualify,if it did then America would qualify as attacking half the world,and Israel a fair bit too.Plus presumably Iran would no longer exist.And it's no less "official" than Ahmadinejad's quote of Khomeini's vague wish for the disappearance of the "occupying regime".As you place such store by the "Death to/down with Israel" chant,you will consider the "Death to/down with America" chant no less serious,and a casus belli,even though free speech is protected under the US constitution."Bomb bomb bomb,bomb bomb Iran" and the like perhaps don't count due to superior moral (if not musical) virtue perhaps.The fact is such rhetoric is as common on one side as the other,especially from those from whom it counts,ie the leaders.Both sides should cool it.

The intel assessment said that any attempt to get the bomb had been abandoned,if it existed.But Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear power under its voluntary obligations,and no-one has the right to deny them that,as long as they don't try to go further.In fact they have a right on various bases to the bomb anyway,if they withdraw from the treaty,such as natural justice,and the fact that the others who threaten them have it.They only don't have the right to use it unjustly.You can't fairly defend Israel's or America's right to it and deny it to Iran,based on double standards distortions and lies.Your "directed and proportionate aerial attack" is still an illegal and immoral act of war absent clear and present danger of the sort hitherto not remotely seen.And in law and fact,war is war.Once it starts,there's no telling how far it can go.In this case it's likely to go quite far based on all realistic assessments,and advertised intentions.Even if Iran responded "proportionately",the threat is to then "obliterate" them.Folks like Chomsky? How about the UN charter,international law,real precedent,and analysts and commentators generally? Wow you are really on some funny stuff.
The security council is stacked,and has no right to demand Iran cease peaceful enrichment based on anything so far.It's just an attempt to bully Iran and deny it even the minimal means to prosper independently,using the same technology the rest have and now claim is the solution to climate change,or a key part of it.Iran could just pull out of the treaty anyway,and preserve its "rights" a la Israel,but of course if it did so it would only be held selectively against it and used as another excuse to attack and "obliterate".According to el Baradei the minor outstanding issues were resolved,read Gordon Prather I think on that.Iran is essentially upholding its purely voluntary obligations on current evidence.Again you seek to insinuate otherwise without serious foundation to serve an insidious agenda.If Iran were to give in without cause on this,against its actual rights,what else would follow? Disarm completely? Open their borders to foreign armies,as in the past? Get real.
Your disquisition on the Temple serves only to raise the suspicion you have quite another agenda to the one you pretend.The Temple? That's kooky.Most Jews I believe would be horrified to have a holy abattoir back in action on the flattened remnants of the Dome of the Rock,aside from the impetus that it would give to the extreme jihadis.For Zionism the Temple was supposed to be Israel itself,now achieved,though threatened by crazies within and without.It's becoming pretty clear you seek to sow conflict whilst masquerading as reasonable.
As for the fuel swap,well we may well already have had one had "the West" not rejected the one agreed to,indeed encouraged until it became a real prospect.
You are purveying a farrago of the most self contradictory and absurd nonsense,on the basis of limited and in some cases non-existent knowledge,though considerable bias,for malign ends that could lead to disaster.Remember the "cakewalk" Iraq was supposed to be? So far 120,000 dead at least and counting,plus millions wounded,sick or refugee.Please stop wasting everyone's time like some strange obsessive with ever longer and more meandering posts (half the thread seems to be you) and instead do some reading on the Iranian (and world) history you are apparently so ignorant of,not to mention the Quran and Bible,especially the gospels.You might learn something about the principles you seem so devoid of consistency in.Until you show the minimum honesty by retracting your "Big Lie" about the desire of the "IRI" to "wipe Israel off the map" and "kill all the Jews" nothing you say can be taken as anything than propaganda.

Steve / August 7, 2010 2:12 PM


The rather selective and one-sided account you give of the Arab-Israeli conflict nevertheless illustrates some of the legitimate grievances that inform Iran's negative view of Israel. I have absolutely no interest in seeking to gloss over or dismiss Israeli actions: David Cameron's recent comment about Gaza being a "prison camp" is perfectly correct, and (in my view) the current "facts on the ground" are the result of deliberate policy on the part of Israel to intimidate and eventually expel, by hook or by crook, as much of the population as they can so as to create a greater Israel in what can only be described as a deliberately aggressive policy. Israel has been condemned very widely including by the UN Security Council on very many occasions, and has simply ignored any resolution that doesn't suit its interests.

Of course, people like Alan Derschowitz come out with all sorts of technicalities justifying the situation, but everyone knows what's really going on, and even if one believes it's justified to have created Israel on the grounds of an historical association with the the country formerly known as Palestine, or on the grounds that the Jewish people have suffered almost continuous and often very brutal oppression for centuries, that still doesn't legitimize the Israeli treatment of Palestinians. The justification is not a de jure one, but a de facto one based on diplomatic, military and financial might in precisely the same way that the very existence of Palestine (and other Arab lands) as an independent state freed from Ottoman control was achieved by a British and Arab forces in WWI, leading at the same time to the establishment in principle of a Jewish state in Palestine. Whilst I can take some pride in the actions of my countryman T.E. Lawrence in organizing the "Arab revolt", I share many of the feelings he himself had following the diplomatic defeat of the Arabs at the Paris Peace Conference, and also have a sense of revulsion at the attacks on British officials by Jewish terrorists during the Mandate, in which one of my relatives later became embroiled. The thing I think is worth bearing in mind in respect of Israel, however, is that following WWI Britain was heavily indebted as a result of wars going back to Waterloo and that the modern state of Israel was effectively bought out of a sense both of obligation and admiration for (particularly) a certain wealthy Jewish family whose representative was the recipient of the so-called "Balfour declaration" and whose descendents continue to purchase large amounts of land in the area. Thus, Israel might in some sense be considered part of the price paid by Arabs in the region for freedom from Turkish rule (although they were never asked to agree to it). It was, however, said by the British at the time that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine", and I think that's also worth remembering. Obviously I'm skipping a huge part of the story, but the matter now being out of British hands there's very little that my country can can do at the moment except to try to pressure Israel into negotiating a settlement for the Palestinians so that the current shameful episode can finally come to an end.

The point I'm trying to make, though, is that if we start looking at the history then it becomes apparent that Iran's recognition of Palestine but (conveniently) not the Jewish homeland is based on a selective reading of history, forgetting what brought about the existence of Palestine as well as states such as Syria. Iran, in choosing to hold the viewpoint that denies the existence of one particular non-Muslim state in the region, whilst constantly coming out with hostile and (frankly) threatening rhetoric that seeks to delegitimize the Jewish people en masse -- backed up by wholly illegal and unjustifiable attacks on Jewish civilians through its proxies -- can hardly be regarded as much of a force for peace (if you'll excuse the seeming oxymoron) in the region. The fact that Iran was not involved in the Arab-Israeli conflicts you refer to, being at the time a far more secular society, only serves to highlight the importance of the religious aspect of current Iranian policy and show how unlikely it is that Iran can be brought to accept a reasonable diplomatic solution to this problem, which it sees primarily in religious terms. But Israel, for all its faults, is not the only country in the region where a significant proportion of the population are treated as second-class citizens and governed by those who come from a different ethnic or religious background. Seemingly, though, it's alright for the IRI to oppress whole sections of the population within its own borders (for instance the Kurds, and also a certain 50% of the overall population) when it suits its own interests, particularly when those are religious interests. There are many rights and wrongs in the Middle East, but if a lasting peace is to be achieved (which *must* include a sovereign Israel) then we all have to be a bit more respectful and a bit more forgiving: no-one has the moral high ground, not really. And if Iran _could_ recognise what are very arguably the legitimate rights of Israel then we might get somewhere. The fact that they don't, suggests to me a kind of irrationality (and unrealism) that can only exacerbate the problem and result in further suffering for the Palestinians and Israelis. There's an old Sufi proverb about the wise man who forgives but does not forget, and I think both remembrance and forgiveness are essential.

As for whether Iran would attack Israel with nuclear weapons, if (as you believe) "[I] do not know the first thing about Iran" then my comments could only represent inherent prejudices, but the fact remains that a lot of Westerners (just like a lot of Iranians) _are_ prejudiced, and it would do a lot to reassure them if Iran had the good sense to recognise Israel's right to exist and not seek to inflame its populace with anti-Israeli sentiment and talk of Israel being "the enemy of God", and of Zionist conspiracies that pose some kind of ultimate existential threat to Islam. Even the most hardline communists in the Soviet Union never regarded their cause as sufficient to justify the extermination of a large percentage of the population of the planet, including their own population, in a nuclear war; but there do seem to be some prima facie grounds for thinking that radical Islamists, who frequently blow themselves up for their religion, don't think in the same terms and might eventually come to the conclusion that their cause can only be achieved by completely destroying the current political structures that exist, and over which they have little influence and thus little chance of overall success in what can only be described as their plans for world domination. The way to prevent these sorts of notions being floated in public is for Iranians themselves to restore some kind of sanity to their own government, and I can't help but conclude that *any* doubts about whether or not the IRI would use nuclear weapons ought to be taken seriously when the fate of the whole planet could one day rest in their hands. If we have to rely on Ahmadinejad not being "stupid", then quite frankly our chances don't look too good.

At the same time as discussing the question of whether the IRI is suicidally reckless, one has to recognise also that the prejudices (as well as the legitimate concerns) of some Iranians towards the West are also worth discussing, and if possible resolving. Nobody's above suspicion or reproach.


It certainly seems the case that even the threat of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is, at the moment, providing perhaps the best chance for peace in the Levant that we've seen for some time. Ahmadinejad has apparently accepted a two-state solution in principle. However, I think that (realistically) peace is still a very long way off because of the issue of Jerusalem, and everything else seems to derive from that, so _in actuality_ the existence of an Iranian bomb would probably just up the ante, and increase the tension without providing a means to reach a broad ME solution to what appears like an almost intractable problem.

I'm not sure I agree with you about "influence". It's true the military dimension is only part of it, and diplomacy is essentially a mind-game operating on many levels, but nukes increase one's bargaining power by enabling a state to be bolder in how it uses its other assets without the same possibility for retaliation, so its deterrent power can be used offensively so to speak. You seem to be talking about "influence" in the sense of the degree to which populations (and secondly governments) can be persuaded to agree with foreign ideas through cultural exchange; but whilst this "positive" form of influence is a factor, it operates much more weakly and on a much longer time-scale, and usually quite superficially -- the enjoyment of aspects of Western music and fashions (for instance) can bring out certain shared aspirations, and is a part of the overall process, but it can't cause deep political change on its own. The Beatles can hardly take all the credit for the fall of the Soviet Union, although they did help catalyse it. I don't know how deeply Western culture has really permeated Russia since then, but I doubt it has very much at all, except on the very surface: after all, they already have their own culture and fashions which perhaps they just needed to be reminded of. They're still governed in much the same way that they have for hundreds of years since the Viking invasion, and the religion and language are still the same, etc. If they choose to wear Western-style clothes, that hardly matters on a political level.

I also don't go along with the idea that the use of brute force results in a countervailing cultural response that serves to defeat the object, in fact the history of empire shows that defeated nations tend to adopt the political (and, depending on the length of stay, even the cultural and religious) outlook of their overlords in a way that simply couldn't happen through the exchange of goods (physical or abstract). The political structures of former British colonies and dominions, for instance, were imposed from London and continue to exist largely intact, forming bonds that have largely endured in international relations (read "The Anglo-American Establishment" for some idea of how that transpired). Indeed, the existence of "the West" as a political force is rooted principally in brute force (though obviously there are many other aspects to it) because people will eventually accept of their own volition what has previously been imposed on them, even violently, and the political domination of the conqueror can endure even the most humiliating experiences of the victim nation. Iranian society, like any other, is a reflection of many different influences (perhaps most notably the religious) imposed from above: the fact that Iranians are predominantly Muslim is not because everyone now alive in Iran has independently reached the view that it's the religion for them.

You make a very valid point, however, that despots do have to take account of the views of their subjects, including even the Supreme Leader. Experience, however, suggests that this is usually lip-service, and that the elites carry on with their own plans regardless of what the people say, unless and until they are physically removed from power. The large-scale demonstrations in the highly-demoncratized European countries protesting against the Iraq war had precisely zero effect on elite political attitudes. What matters is who gives the orders.

Ian / August 7, 2010 8:04 PM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,

According to professor Ian, the "Jewish people" are searching under the Temple Mount for a very pretty scarlet cow ('red heifer').

So why make such a fuss over technicalities like ethnic cleansing, territorial aggrandizement, apartheid, etc.?

If the Canaanites, Philistines, Amalekites and all other indigenous interlopers get out of the way of this divinely-sanctioned Easter Egg Hunt, all will be well.

In other news, today in Jamkaran ...

(PS - Don't you just hate those Islamofascist extremists, with their hare-brained literal reading of ancient texts?)

Ali from Tehran / August 7, 2010 8:34 PM

Ali from Tehran,

Man you are funny. Don't ever give up you illusions.Of course, you are far superior to you fellow countrymen and neighbors. The "american mob". Of course we are all just ignorant rubes, and you are so much better. You, somehow, have inherited vastly more wisdom than your average neighbor, and you should be able to tell them what thaey should do with their property, yes?

Anyway, let me get into your false asummptions of my previous posts.

Me: " Is a few drone attacks againsts a few sites war?"
You: "Not if the targets are wogs, gooks...[other derogortary ethnic terms]...Otherwise it's 9/11, pearl harbor, the Alamo,the sinking of the Maine, the Danzig corridor and the holocaust all neatly rolled into one."

That's a whopper of an exaggeration there, Ali. 1) You assume such drone attacks would be, atleast partially motived by racists, or ethnic reasons. Well, I didn't see anyone saying that the U.S. felt it was easy to bomb Serbia, or Germany because they where honkies, crackers or white trash.

2) Do you understand what the definition of "a few" is? It means not many, but more than one. It also means a small number. And do you understand what weapons a drone carries? Drones carry very small, pretty accurate weapons. Therefore, "a few drone attacks on a few sites" would mean to anyone (who is honest, not you, because you don't seem to be very intellectually honest) very selected attacks, with very small weapons, that are very accurate thereby limiting casualities to the the bare minimum possible, meaning in the 10's or at the most in the 100's.

3) Your historical referrences have very, very little to do with "a few drone attacks on a few sites". Let's go over the obvious. 9/11 was an attack by people who took over civilian airliners and crashed them into civilian builings (except the Pentagon, which had the fewest casualities). This was an attack strictly against civilians. What does this have to do with a drone attack? Pearl harbor, was an air attack by several hundred aircraft that was simultaniously conducted with land attacks on the Phillipines and Singapore. With Casualities into the thousands. Again, not very similar to "a few drone attacks on a few sites." The Alamo was apart of a war not fought by the U.S. but by Texans desiring independence against Mexico. And the Alamo was the first strike in the effort of Mexican land forces to re-establish control over the Texan territory. Etc. Etc. your historical refferences have almost nothing to do with " a few drone attacks against a few sites".

After all of this, your response doesn't really address the question "Is this war". A few drone attacks against a few sites would not result in any kind of land war. At the most it may result in Iranian attacks against shipping in the Arabian Gulf, maybe a launch of their inaccurate missles at Israel, maybe Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait. Is this war? To me doesn't seem like war. At least not war in the manner the author of the orginal article is trying to scare people about.

You then go on to say americans are not swayed by just anybody, just corporate mass media, and their government.

Here's the problem with that:

1) You are again making the american people are somehow more stupid than any other people. More easily swayed.
2) Corporate mass media. There is no one consensus opinion in U.S. "corporate media". For every Fox news channel there is a MSNBC. For every Huffinton report there is a Nation. For every Newsweek there is a U.S. news and world report. The options available to the U.S. public is endless. This is what profit motive creates. Personally, my favorite magazine is Liberty magizine. It has a very small circulation because there are very few people in the U.S. with true libertarian beliefs.

Ok, I'm now tried with this. I could continue, but to no avail. Suffice it to say, you should look at your opinions from a different perspective. I realize you are far smarter and superior than I, and the rest of your fellow americans and neighbors. But, maybe it would not be bad thing for you to look at things from a different perspective.

muhammad billy bob / August 7, 2010 9:25 PM

Ali from Tehran,

I forgot to add I am not in favor of even a few drone attacks against a few sites.

It's not necessary and cost too much money. But anyway, you just continue on with your illusions as to how everyone is out to get Iran.

muhammad billy bob / August 7, 2010 9:31 PM


> Perhaps Iran not recognizing Isael (to the extent it's true) has something
> to do with Israel not as yet recognizing Palestine
Israel did _offer_ to recognise a UN partition plan which involved recognition of a Palestinian state in return for recognition of their own state in 1947.

It's a shame the Arabs rejected that plan. And obviously there can be no recognition of Palestine from Israel until the Palestinians agree to it – it's not something Israel can do unilaterally.

> As for anti semitism,be careful there.Some Jewish scholars amongst others have
> pointed out that the Jews are less or at least no more semitic than the
> Arabs,Palestinians and Lebanese included.
Yes, I'm aware that Arabs are also regarded in that old-fashioned idiomatic way as "Semites" – the term "anti-Semitic" is rather bizarre (before even one starts speculating about "Lost Tribes"), and it should perhaps be "anti-Jewish". I don't like the way the term is used for shamelessly political purposes by some unscrupulous Jews, but "anti-Semitism" is a very real phenomenon.

As for Chomsky (he of the inflammatory anti-chimpanzee rhetoric) meeting Nasrallah, of course that doesn't imply Chomsky agrees with everything Nasrallah says or does, but then he doesn't command an army that actively supports Nasrallah's military objectives, and he doesn't share the same religious beliefs.

Re: Khamenei's claim that a nuclear bomb is un-Islamic, well he would say that, wouldn't he? And do you seriously think everyone ought to just take him at his word? I don't think it would be difficult for him to "clarify" that statement (which I've only read in translation, of course) by saying that although _using_ a nuclear bomb would be un-Islamic, merely _having_ one without using it isn't all that bad, especially if they've been forced into it by the (ahem!) international Zionist conspiracy. Khamenei is a politician, and just like all politicians he can say one thing in public and do something different in private. I'm not sure whether this actually amounted to a fatwa of some sort, but even fatwas are merely interpretations and can be revoked or "clarified", can't they? Don't be naïve.

You come on to the question of threats again, but I think I've already agreed on a number of occasions that there are threats from the USA too. It would be nice if you were to actually *read* what I say. And I *don't* think threats are a casus belli, legally or morally, either in personal or international relations. If someone threatens to hurt you, it doesn't entitle you to hurt them "pre-emptively" unless they take action to do so (e.g., loading a gun), and even then you're only entitled to use reasonable force to remove the threat by disarming and subduing that person (in most jurisdictions, that is). The same goes between states, which in this case might involve "subduing" Iran's nuclear capacity. You're just repeating Chomsky with what you say, and I've provided my reasoning already; but you should be able to see the contradiction in what Chomsky says, since on the one hand he claims that "credible" threats (but mere words) against Iran are a justification for a pre-emptive attack, whilst also claiming on the other hand that there's no justification for a pre-emptive attack _against_ Iran based on the UN Charter unless "the missiles are in the air" (I paraphrase from memory, but he used an example like that). The question of pre-emption is much more "nuanced" (to use his favourite word) than he is prepared to admit.

> You can't fairly defend Israel's or America's right to it [the bomb] and deny it to Iran
That's a matter of opinion. In an ideal world, nobody would have the bomb, but the fact is that for many countries it's already too late. Not in the case of Iran. The West is interested in stopping other countries getting the bomb because of the increased danger it poses to everyone, and for instance the US has been trying to convince the Pakistanis to give up their bombs recently and put them under US control, owing to fears that they might be appropriated by radical Islamists. In that sense, Iran isn't in a separate category. Ideally, Iran and the West would go through a process of détente so that Iran would see no need to develop nuclear weapons, and consequently part of the solution to this problem is to try to convince the IRI of Western good intentions – a difficult process, I think, and understandably so; but I think there are reasonable people on both sides, so there is at least hope.

> Your "directed and proportionate aerial attack" is still an illegal and
> immoral act of war absent clear and present danger of the sort
> hitherto not remotely seen.
As I've said, the illegality or otherwise would be a matter for the UNSC, and I think (if it ever came to it) the legality could be pretty well argued. The question of morality is not a black and white one, as you suppose.

> And in law and fact,war is war.
Actually, I believe I'm correct in saying there's a difference between small-scale engagements or skirmishes, which might amount to undeclared war depending on scale and duration, and declared war. I previously alluded to the incursion by Colombia into Venezula when hunting down a FARC commander as an example of an engagement that happened during a period of de jure peace between Colombia and Venezula. The current situation with the Gaza blockade is particularly "interesting" in reference to this, and I forget the arguments exactly but it has to do with the fact that a blockade is regarded in international law as an act of war, and since there's a cease-fire it shouldn't be legal, yet it's complicated by the fact that the occupied territories aren't a state and therefore can't be at war de jure, and thus since you can't be at war with a non-state then the blockade isn't an act of war and could be legal again. Or something like that.

> Folks like Chomsky? How about the UN charter,international law,
> real precedent,and analysts and commentators generally?
> Wow you are really on some funny stuff.
Well, I've given you some examples. Go and do your own research, instead of relying on Chomsky, and if you can convince me that I'm wrong then I'll be happy to accept it.

> The security council is stacked,and has no right to demand Iran
> cease peaceful enrichment based on anything so far.
There's an argument for reform of the Security Council, which (incidentally) the UK supports in some measure; but Iran does seem to regard the UNSC sanctions as illegal without offering any particular justification for that position. Maybe Dr. Sahimi can provide the argument, if there is one. To cite international law (and UN resolutions) when it suits, and dismiss it as biased or illegal when it doesn't, could seem rather disingenuous. The Security Council is pretty much a law unto itself in these matters.

> climate change
... is a big load of wotsit.

> Iran is essentially upholding its purely voluntary obligations on current evidence.
> Again you seek to insinuate otherwise without serious foundation
> to serve an insidious agenda.
Well, apart from the Security Council resolutions and the other matters outstanding with the IAEA as discussed here:

> If Iran were to give in without cause on this,against its actual rights,
> what else would follow? Disarm completely? Open their borders
> to foreign armies,as in the past? Get real.
I don't think anyone is suggesting anything of the sort, so *you* get real. Now, I realise part of this has to do with Iranian dignity, but nobody is saying Iran can't have nuclear power (in fact it is specifically recognised), just that it has to be done transparently. As for Israel gaining nuclear weapons outside the NPT, they did so because they didn't want to be attacked again by the Arab states (they are a small country). The situation with Iran, on the contrary, seems to be that it might _bring on_ an attack if it pursues its current agenda, but instead of looking at a cost-benefit analysis the Iranians seek to point the finger at Israel and ask for sympathy. Well, I'm sympathetic to Iran's economic issues and desire for greater global influence to an extent, but one has to look at things in the round, and there are considerable grounds for concern. The constant attempt to shift _all_ responsibility onto one party or another, by both sides, is pointless and counter-productive. If you were able *for one second* to recognise the concerns of Israelis, as well as by default the concerns of Iranians, then I might be able to take you seriously; but until then, and whilst you characterize everything I say as being part of some "insidious agenda", then this discussion with you will go nowhere.

> Most Jews I believe would be horrified to have a holy abattoir
> back in action on the flattened remnants of the Dome of the Rock
A quick Google search throws up a few surveys that seem to suggest the population is quite evenly divided on the issue. Incidentally, if some putative Jewish (or other) state had built on the Kaaba, I would be arguing for a restoration of Muslim rights to the land.

> As for the fuel swap,well we may well already have had one had "the West"
> not rejected the one agreed to,indeed encouraged until it became a real prospect.
The terms of the original deal were in respect of *all* the low-enriched uranium that Iran had at the time, but Iran didn't like the idea of doing the swap on foreign soil. Then, after enriching some more uranium the IRI then tried to put forward a different deal involving only the amount of fuel previously discussed (instead of including the low-enriched uranium later produced), which deceived no-one. Well, not quite no-one it seems – there is a lot of propaganda out there.

> You are purveying a farrago of the most self contradictory and absurd nonsense
> [...]
> Until you show the minimum honesty by retracting your "Big Lie"
> about the desire of the "IRI" to "wipe Israel off the map"
> and "kill all the Jews" nothing you say can be taken as
> anything than propaganda.
Anytime you want to discuss facts on this issue, then be my guest. Simply calling me a wicked liar is not sufficient, even if that's what you really believe. I can only repeat that I believe my statements to be both reasonable and true, and that I've tried to be as conciliatory as possible and have made corrections where corrected. I must say, on the other hand, that there seems to be a good deal of rather irrational anti-Western rhetoric coming from certain directions. You accuse me of being inflammatory, but I can't see any evidence (yet) that you're seriously interested in working through these issues to find some sort of common ground (which I'm sure must exist).

Ian / August 7, 2010 11:54 PM

Dear Steve,

Beware of searching for common ground with an undercover historian from Albion, who adores Lawrence of Arabia and wants to round out Western achievements in the East by ferreting the Scarlet Cow out of the bowels of the Temple Mount.

If you do find it, you might end up playing an Iranian version of Sharif Hussein to this aspiring "Ian of Persia."

As the Arabs discovered at huge cost, when making deals with treacherous Albion, you have to read carefully not just the fine script, but also the part written in invisible ink.

Ali from Tehran / August 8, 2010 1:27 AM

Ali from Tehran,

Since you are so concerned with everyone else's personal lives on here. I figure turnabout is fair play.

1) What part of the U.S. do you live?
2)What is your profession?
3) Who did you vote for in the 2008 presidential election? (I voted for Bob Barr). And what is your general voting preference?

Pretty simple questions. Not as invasive questions you demand of others. But I seriously doubt you'll answer them. Talk about undercover. What are your qualifications? You can dish it, but can you take it? I know you're far superior to everyone you know, but why not brag a little more about yourself? Put all us rubes in our rightful place of the unwashed, uneducated masses.

muhammad billy bob / August 8, 2010 4:48 AM

For what it's worth, I've just found some info on Iran's stated position vis-a-vis the legality of Security Council resolutions and the actions of the IAEA in respect of its nuclear programme:

I am not a lawyer, much less an international law specialist, but it seems to boil down to an attempted limitation of the rights of the Security Council in respect of Section VII, seeking to limit its scope to such an extent that it would prevent the SC from interfering with "peremptory norms", a vague concept but one which would necessarily include such things as the right of a state to self-defence and arguably nuclear power. In other words, the IRI seeks to put its right to the development of nuclear power above the jurisdiction of the UN. This sort of argument, if accepted, would break the UN Charter in a rather fundamental way, so the norm has been to put UN enforcement above such prerogatives, the point of that presumably being that the maintenance of international peace ought to supersede, as a norm, any peremptory rights of an individual state (including such things as nuclear power development and self-defence, etc.). I seem to recall that Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein tried that general defence anyway.

There are some other procedural points about how the NPT brought the matter to the SC's attention and so on, which don't seem to be relevant since Article 39 doesn't limit the manner in which the SC may determine threats to the peace, and in particular the UN Charter (according to Article 103) is explicitly not limited by the terms of any other treaty (such as the NPT). In short, if there were procedural issues with the NPT (I looked at one and found it to be spurious, so didn't bother with the rest, but there may be some good ones in there for all I know) then those do not invalidate SC resolutions under Section VII. The document meanders quite a lot, so there may be other bits and pieces in there that could do with a response, but I think that's essentially it, the point being that the Security Council does by treaty and international norms have the power to do what they've done. Doubtless there will be other perspectives on this, and I note that Dr. Sahimi has previously claimed the sanctions are illegal, but I'm not sure whether he goes along with just everything the IRI says on the matter or whether there's a particular argument they're making which he finds particularly convincing. It would be a very big thing, of course, if the Security Council had been acting illegally practically since its inception. Perhaps it should sanction itself ;-P

Ian / August 8, 2010 5:53 AM

Dear Pentagon Bob,

I'm not American and have never been to your lovely country at the tail end of the globe.

I don't have any academic or scholarly qualifications at all, which is why, unlike your garrulous, befuddled friend, Ian, I don't boast of being a historian able to "properly assess sources."

Consider me a Jack of all trades, master of none.

You demand that I "[p]ut all us rubes in our rightful place of the unwashed, uneducated masses." Billy, you're being much too harsh on yourself: I never said you were "unwashed."

Ali from Tehran / August 8, 2010 6:05 AM


You find something, you give it a quick read - most likely a glance - and then quickly declare expertise! Have never known a man like you! You have an agenda: To show that Iran is guilty, that it will attack Israel, etc., etc. Nothing gets in your way. It is as if you do not hear anyone. You just hear the echo of your own words.

I do not go along with ANYTHING that the IRI says! You must have a lot of nerves to claim this.
I do my own research. If I say something that sounds similar to what the IRI says, it is either accidental, or that their agents have read my writings and use them. I once was in Tehran and watching on TV a Friday prayer sermon by Rafsanjani. He was talking about Iran's nuclear program. His words sounded familiar. Then, I suddenly realized that what he was saying was the exact translation of a previous article of mine!

I did not say that the UNSC sanctions are illegal. I said they are disputed. I do say with 100 percent certainty that sending Iran's nuclear dossier to the UNSC was ILLEGAL.

I say this after a year of research, unlike your 10 seconds of reading. I wrote an article about it with nearly 100 references. I am almost certain that you did not read, even though you provided the link to it here. Because if you had, you would not have claimed that I go along with whatever the IRI says. NONE of the references in my 50-page article was by an IRI agent. Most were by scholars of international laws.

Once again, you make things up as you go. In one of your previous responses you said that I make convincing arguments. Now you claim that "I claim" this or that. Why? Because once again you find something that fits your pre-conceived notion.

Once again, you - the historian - invent new concepts just to fit your pre-conceived notion. You now claim that Article 39 of UN Charter does not limit or specify how the UNSC must identify the threat to international peace and security. NONSENSE. How did you arrive at this conclusion? Who told you that? Where did you read it?

John Bolton, who was the US Ambassador to the UN when Iran's nuclear dossier arrived there, said in interview with Terry Gross of "Fresh Air" on NPR that "his greatest achievement at UN was convincing the UNSC to file its resolutions against Iran under Chapter VII." If, as you seem to claim, the UNSC has broad authority to do as it wishes, then why was this the "greatest achievement," rather than a routine procedural move? Because Bolton is a pathetic liar and it was his lies that brought him that "success." This is the same guy who pathetically lied about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. As a matter of fact, a listener called him during that program and told him exactly that.

So, sir, not only do you not know the first word about Iran, you also do not know anything about UN Charter, the IAEA Statute, the NPT, the Safeguards Agreement, etc. I apologize for being so blunt.

Let me finish by paraphrasing what Senator Lloyd Bentsen told Dan Quayle during their vice presidential debate in 1988: "Ian, I served with a historian. I know a historian. Historians are my friends. You are no historian."

Muhammad Sahimi / August 8, 2010 7:36 AM

Ali from Tehran,

Where do you live? Just general country would be fine.

And you're unemployed?

muhammad billy bob / August 8, 2010 9:48 AM

Ali from Tehran,

You've never been to the U.S.?
Then how are you so sure of the "corporate media"'s influence over the american people. Surely, if you've never been to the U.S. you know very few of it's citizens. Then, how would you know what they are influenced by?

Maybe you're telepathic over long distances with many people you do not know?

muhammad billy bob / August 8, 2010 10:02 AM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,

The final paragraph of Sir Ian's latest post was clearly baited to provoke you into reentering the fray.

He is now going to respond with another humongous word salad, seasoned with a fresh pinch of conceits and distortions.

Get him a pail, a pickaxe and a spade, and send him off to the Promised Land to dig for the Promised Cow (the red one) beneath the Temple Mount. He's certainly not a historian, but he will be immortalized in history books when he discovers his bovine quarry.

Anonymous / August 8, 2010 10:20 AM

@ Dr. Sahimi,

The 'Anonymous' post @ 10:20 AM above is mine.

@ Pentagon Bob,

I'm Iranian. My moniker is 'Ali from Tehran.' So where do I think I live, genius?

Ali from Tehran / August 8, 2010 7:55 PM

An ancedotal note on the U.S. "corporate media".

Like most americans, I rarely watch TV news. The reason why is explained in this personal story.

Last weekend my parents came to town, so my wife and I took them out to dinner. At the restuarant CNN was playing on the tv. For the hour we were there there was one topic. Chelsea Clinton's wedding. Including an in depth interview of about 30 minutes with the wedding planner. As we were leaving, the new hour was beginning, and guess what the topic was? Yes, Chelsea Clinton's wedding.

Now, how is this "corporate media" influencing the very few americans that watch. (Have you seen the ratings of CNN, FOX news, MSNBC)? Are americans now pre-disposed to large weddings with the most expensive items one can afford?

This is definately not an isolated incident. Whenever one goes to the doctors', most restuarants, auto mechanics, any many other places in the U.S., what is playing is the U.S. "corporate media". This probably accounts for the majority of the very small ratings of this media. So most people expierence some of the "corporate media" in the U.S.

But whenever I am forced to watch it while waiting for some service, There is basically the same story. And guess what? It has nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy, nothing to do with foreign politics at all. And most times it has nothing to with politics at all. Unless, you consider drug usage by one celebrity or another related to politics. Which it is slightly, because this celebrity is going to be spending time in tax payer funded jail for doing drugs.

muhammad billy bob / August 8, 2010 8:25 PM


Again, I give you Israel. Is Israel more influential in ME than Iran? Is Israel influential at all? Yet, she has 200 or so nukes.

Your other comments about conquest and the influence of the colonialist in the societies their conquered actually proved the opposite. Actually, it turns out we believe in the same things but you interpret the causes differently than I do. What remains from the British Empire is its liberating and independent legal structure. In another words, the good ideas. But you are dismissal to the negative view of the British empire that almost every society one earth, even America, has of them. That is the last legacy of British burtality and racism from Hong Kong to New England. And the Brits are now limited to the isles mainly because most people and their governments don't trust them. The benefitiary of that has be the US. Again, good ideas have a lasting effect, but wars have the opposite effect and in the long run diminish the influence of the invader. Americans are finding this out as we are conquering Muslim land our true effective influence in the region is eroding. World's view of America is changing with it.

I find it interesting that your ideas against Iranians bomb, and its negative outcome do not apply to Israel. There you argument falls apart, because your ideas fail to be universal. In another words, your assetion "so _in actuality_ the existence of an Iranian bomb would probably just up the ante, and increase the tension without providing a means to reach a broad ME solution" seem to fail to apply Irael's nukes. Are we to believe that Israel's bombs and wars, don't up the ante? In fact they don't, rather they have isolated and weakened that nation. At no time have seen Israeli pundets and even my Jewish friends have been so worried about the future of Isreal.

Again and Iranian bomb would only take the war equation out and would allow for true dialogue.


Pouya / August 8, 2010 10:24 PM

Ali from Tehran,

I certainly do not think you live in Iran. Which you still didn't claim.

Your useage of the english language is parculiarly "americanized". Unless you have a strange version of an English translation program, it is pretty unlikely that an Iranian born and raised in Iran, and never even been to the U.S. would use alot of the phrases you use. I know quite a few people from non English speaking countries that have been to the U.S. quite a bit, yet when speaking in English they don't use alot of the american slang you use.

But go right ahead that is what makes the internet great for alot of people. You can assume any identity you like.

muhammad billy bob / August 8, 2010 11:50 PM


Thanks for your reply, although I'm not sure the tone of it is entirely helpful.

As regards sanctions on Iran, in point of fact you *did* say that they are illegal in a previous comment here, dated August 2, 2010 12:24 AM:

"[...] the same "marginal" people in Washington, and in particular in the Congress, recently succeeded in approving tough and illegal sanctions on Iran."

I note that you have now resiled from that position, but I'll come back to it later as it has formed an important part of your general argument.

In researching the above-mentioned article a bit more closely, I can't help noticing another occasion where you have declared something to be "illegal" without taking into account certain facts which contradict (and, in fact, refute) your argument. For instance, in your article here: http://www.payvand.com/news/07/dec/1044.html
which I assume is the one you intend to refer to in your latest comment, you criticize the decision of the IAEA in 1983 not to provide assistance to Iran, calling it "illegal". However, it's clear from the IAEA Statute (XI.A and XI.E) that the Board of Governors of the IAEA are entitled to reject an application for technical assistance based on any matters that may be relevant (XI.E.7), not merely based on the two matters that you cite from XI.E (basically, that Iran was a needy country). You conclude nevertheless that "[the IAEA] violated both the spirit and the letter of the NPT", which appears to be entirely without foundation. Additionally, the fact that you fail to mention XI.E.7, which you must have been aware of, and which clearly refutes your own argument, seems highly convenient for you.

In that article, you are also exercised by Pierre Goldschmidt's comments to the effect that Iran is in breach (or "violation") of the NPT, as he states here: http://www.carnegieendowment.org/npp/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=19564

Goldschmidt's argument is that Iran's possession of a document which includes instructions on how to construct metal hemispheres (something that is _only_ applicable to nuclear bomb construction, and which was presumably received via the A.Q. Khan network) is a violation of Article II of the NPT, which binds states "not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices". His interpretation that Iran has violated the NPT is a strict one, but seems valid. However, you seek to use a separate document (the IAEA Statute) to reinterpret Article II of the NPT as only applying to certain things, such as receipt of an actual nuclear weapon; but the IAEA Statute is a subsidiary document and the paragraph in question is merely an authorization for the IAEA to administer certain safeguards, which can in no way amount to a limitation of, or even offer scope for the interpretation of, the NPT. Your argument is really quite wacky, and of course you offer no citation from any legal scholar to support it, much like in the previous case. You also question Goldschmidt's motives, in typical fashion, by accusing him of "skew[ing] or stretch[ing] Article II in order to arrive at his desired conclusion".

This point about "violation" of the NPT (as reported in the Western press) is important because it cuts into your arguments to the effect that the Western press is full of false propaganda and that people like Con Coughlin are massive liars. One of the other reasons you constantly accuse the West of deceit is because of the claim made initially by the IRI and repeated by yourself, that the referral of Iran to the Security Council was invalid:
"a nation's nuclear dossier should be referred to the UN only when that nation has violated the NPT - i.e., it has been involved in nuclear bomb making - or has breached its Safeguards Agreement 'to further any military purpose'"

Here you rely on your previously convenient narrowing of NPT "violation", as well as on a limitation of "non-compliance" which would require the IAEA to conclude that Iran was furthering a military purpose before reporting to the Security Council. Both are nonsense, but I have already dealt with the former so I shall simply add in respect of the latter that the IAEA does not have to make a determination that there is a military dimension to the programme in order for Iran to be in "non-compliance", and it *must* (under Article XII.C) report non-compliance to the Security Council if it can't be resolved with the state in question, as in the case of Iran. Additionally, the fact that the IAEA is largely _prevented_ from making a determination on the military aspects unless there is full compliance, whilst you (and Iran) at the same time demand that it _must_ make such a determination before reporting to the Security Council for non-compliance, is a Catch-22 that would be very convenient for the IRI if it were correct. Effectively, you're providing an argument that would allow Iran to be as non-compliant as it liked (including refusing inspections) as long as inspectors didn't find evidence of a military aspect to the programme, which under those circumstances would be very difficult. The argument is clearly absurd, but I'm not surprised members of the regime quote you!

Furthermore, Article III.B.4 of the IAEA Statute provides broad authority for the IAEA to report matters to the Security Council whenever it deems appropriate, not necessarily as a result of any "non-compliance", much less a determination on military aspects, etc. The way you seek to brush this conclusive point aside is fascinating: you claim that the IAEA acted unlawfully because under Article III.B.4 it should have reported to the UN General Assembly at the same time as to the Security Council. Here's the relevant text of Article III.B.4:
"[In carrying out its functions, the Agency shall:] Submit reports on its activities annually to the General Assembly of the United Nations and, when appropriate, to the Security Council"

Clearly, its duty to send a report to the General Assembly "annually" is separate from its duty to report to the Security Council "when appropriate". This is so patently obvious that the very fact you are making this argument is evidence of poor command of English or intellectual dishonesty, in my opinion. The fact that your arguments are entirely in line with IRI statements suggests the latter.

Coming back to another of the IRI's contentions, that the Security Council is acting beyond its own powers in applying sanctions as a result primarily of the IAEA's request for Iran to cease enrichment, you say that "many legal scholars" support your opinion on the matter, but in fact (and whilst I have only seem a summary of Alvarez's comments) the sources you quote merely raise concerns related to the issue of peremptory norms that I have previously noted, and do not conclude (with you) that "the UNSC has violated every relevant Article of the UN Charter", or even that the UNSC has acted ultra vires. Your claim to have legal backing is thus essentially false, at least as far as I am able to establish at this time.

You also argue against the legality of sanctions because (you believe) no determination under Article 39 was made prior to the imposition of sanctions (beginning with Resolution 1696), but as one of the scholars you quote (Michael Spies) actually says, "The Council is not a judicial institution, like a court, and is not required to make any finding of law or to cite any violation of any legal instrument prior to taking action." In other words, a "determination" need not amount to a formal communiqué or other written document citing precedent or cause, and is in fact made de facto upon the citation of Article 40, which also gives authority for action "before making the recommendations or deciding upon the measures provided for in Article 39". An analogy might be in the case of a police officer, who makes "determinations" about threats in his own mind, and acts accordingly. He is not required to issue a formal statement on the matter at the time, though in sane jurisdictions (but perhaps not Iran) he would have to write it up later, as the Security Council has obviously done in the text of the Resolutions themselves, which cites reasons for the sanctions.

You state without justification that "the [UN] Charter specifically says that the Council should SPECIFY ITS REASONS FOR THINKING [there is a threat to peace]" (emphasis yours). There is no such wording in respect of the Articles in question, but as noted the reasons are nevertheless given in the Resolutions themselves, being in broad terms that Iran has refused to cease enrichment, has refused to implement all the Safeguards Agreements, has information useful for making a bomb, and is withholding information on other possibly military-related aspects of its nuclear programme (including, as mentioned, detonators and the like).

As for my comment to the effect that Article 39 of UN Charter does not limit how the Security Council shall identify any threat to international peace, which you call "NONSENSE", and for which you demand a source, I would simply refer you to the wording of Article 39 itself and point out that there are no limiting factors in respect of it in other parts of the UN Charter.

I can't help noticing that all of your (and the IRI's) arguments are really just procedural ones, which seem designed to obfuscate and draw attention away from the fact that Iran is simply unwilling to cooperate with reasonable measures designed to ensure transparency and accountability by calling them "illegal". Although I was willing to go along with some of your reasoning (and gave you the benefit of the doubt) before I delved deeply into the underlying reasoning in your article, I can't help feeling (now) that what has been said in the Western press in respect of Iran's nuclear programme is correct. This is quite surprising to me, since (like many people) I had rather assumed there was a lot of bias and misreporting going on.

Also, I've drawn attention to some of it already, but you do make an awful lot of ad hominem arguments about a lot of people both in your comments here and in your articles, which doesn't help matters. The IRI has used the same tactics in its official communiqués and other statements, which seem downright abusive. It seems that everyone who disagrees with you or the IRI is a "liar" or has a "personal agenda", or is part of some conspiracy. Has it occured to you that maybe it's (actually) about Iran's unwillingness to cooperate on its nuclear programme, and not about anything else?


> Again, I give you Israel. Is Israel more influential in ME than Iran?
> Is Israel influential at all? Yet, she has 200 or so nukes.
I think it's fair to say that Israel has a lot of influence, diplomatically.

> you are dismissal to the negative view of the British empire that almost every society one earth
> [...]
> the Brits are now limited to the isles mainly because most people and their governments don't trust them
I'm not dismissal of negative views of the British Empire at all, but I don't see your point about "most [...] governments" not trusting Britain, or the idea that British influence ends at its shores (remember the Commonwealth? why did Rwanda want to join even as recently as 2009?), and I think this is unfounded and contrary to fact, as you would see if you were to look into post-WWII history up to the present day. Particularly, recent events with India and Pakistan have shown that the UK is taken seriously by both sides in a difficult and ongoing political battle between those two sides, and in which the UK has been very helpful in many little ways and even (so one can infer from diplomatic statements) successfully prevented the outbreak of hostilities following the Mumbai attack. I (personally) think the continuing influence has a lot to do with the *very* long-term interest Britain has shown in establishing trading relations with other nations. In fact, you can (sensibly) look at British history exclusively in terms of its attempts to build trade routes, rather than as an aggressive territorial campaign. Indeed, the empire was built by trading companies, particularly in India and Canada, and practically none of the exploration and discovery was done by British military forces. Additionally, the really important battles which gave rise to empire (principally the naval engagements, but also the ones which opened up India) were fought with European powers; but of course nobody talks about Britain having oppressed the French.

Re: Israel and the bomb, indeed Israel's possession of nuclear weapons "upped the ante" in some respects, but it upped the ante above what the belligerent states in the region were able to live with, so ultimately it reduced the chance of Israel being attacked and helped maintain the peace. In the case of Iran, the reason for Iran wanting the bomb seems more to do with asserting power and regional hegemony than about self-defence, so I view its ambitions as being likely to increase conflict, if not bring about catastrophe. One suspects the "ante" is being raised to a religious rather than a political or territorial level.

Ian / August 9, 2010 5:00 AM

Please refrain from making such long-winded comments. I will have to start deleting them.

moderator / August 9, 2010 5:12 AM

As anticipated, our resident hasbara troll Ian has disgorged a new torrent of words, daring Dr. Sahimi to sift through the steamy pile in search of highly-enriched whoppers.

I was intrigued by Ian's endorsement of one 'Pierre Goldschmidt', extracted below:

"In that article, you are also exercised by Pierre Goldschmidt's comments to the effect that Iran is in breach (or "violation") of the NPT ... You also question Goldschmidt's motives, in typical fashion, by accusing him of "skew[ing] or stretch[ing] Article II in order to arrive at his desired conclusion"."
(Ian, Aug 9 @ 5:00 AM, taking Dr. Sahimi to task for questioning Goldschmidt's motives)

Ian surely knows that Goldschmidt resigned his post as deputy-director of the IAEA and head of its Safeguards Division in June 2005, reportedly vexed that ElBaradei was permitting Iran to exploit "all the loopholes" in the NPT Agreement.

So does Goldschmidt hate loopholes? Well, yes and no; it depends who jumps thru them.

Last April, from his new perch at the Carnegie Middle East Centre, he penned an article, "Why Not Start with a Nuclear-Test-Free Zone in the Middle East?". Writing out of concern that Israel may come under pressure at a UN meeting in May to relinquish its nukes and join the NPT, wily Goldschmidt offers Israel the Mother-of-all-Loopholes.

He urges diplomats attending the meeting to "avoid raising unrealistic and counterproductive expectations."

It's not logical to declare the Middle East a NWFZ (Nuclear Weapons Free Zone) and compel Israel to join the NPT, he argues. To bring Israel into the NPT fold as a non-weapons state, we must first "wait for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other regional issues to be resolved" and its "right to exist" be universally recognized.

In other words, Israel should not relinquish its nukes until pigs start to fly, or even a few years after that, once Abe Foxman of the ADL has verified that none of the airborne pigs are anti-Semitic.

To "break the deadlock", Goldschmidt serves up a childishly obvious ruse: instead of a NWFZ (Nuclear Weapons Free Zone), why not declare the Middle East a NTFZ (Nuclear Test Free Zone) instead?
[Link: carnegie-mec.org/publications/?fa=40711]

Given that apartheid Israel is believed to have tested its nukes in partnership with apartheid South Africa in the late 70s, the sole outcome of an NTFZ treaty would be to give UN imprimateur to Israel's nuclear monopoly in the Middle East.

No wonder Professor Ian quotes Goldschmidt so appreciatively. Birds of a feather do often end up on the same flight to Jerusalem.

Ali from Tehran / August 9, 2010 8:53 AM


It's getting very boring to argue with someone so verbiose and unyielding on even the most blatantly false and unsupported assertions,such as the one you still characterise as reasonable,that "Iran" (or its leaders) wants to "kill all the Jews".It's also impossible to argue reasonably with someone that not only casually asserts such an enormous thing without substantive evidence,but refuses to either retract it when challenged repeatedly or provide any real evidence to support it.Of course you will yet again produce slippery and marginal evasions,if you answer the point at all - QED.

Otherwise a few final replies to your post.Your double standards are in clear view again re recognition-Israel can't act "unilaterally" yet the Muslims can? In 1947 it's understandable that the Palestinians did not wish to give up half their land primarily at the behest of outsiders,and relative newcomers (Biblical claims and the few long-term resident Jews notwithstanding).At any rate Israel has had over 40 years since 67 to recognize something,from a position of strength,if it really wanted to.And it's a shame Israel has rejected various offers and plans too,you might have added.

Arabs (at least the "purer" groups) are the purest "Semites" extant,by standard classifications,not merely "old fashioned idiomatic ways"."Anti-semitism" is rather the old fashioned idiom,and you are right on that,it should be anti-Jewish for clarity,it's absurd to call Arabs "anit-semitic".

Double standard again re Khamenei-they all "would say that wouldn't they",why only the Iranians? And in fact he wouldn't necessarily,not if as the religious head of the IRI he is basing it on Islamic sources and authority-not something to be taken lightly over there.But again your point applies generally-if nothing they say is to be taken seriously,then there's no basis for anything,and if it's because they are politicians (as opposed to just bad old eye-ranians) then nothing our lot says (or Israel's) can be believed either.Reductio ad absurdum.

Re threats you implied (even stated) they were far greater from Iran's side,and downplayed those against it (essentially "all options are on the table"),to try and show my supposed bias.But again you don't admit you were in any degree wrong or innacurate when I show (and there's a lot more to boot) that in fact it's at least equal on both sides.Just twist and evade-your standard MO.

I'm not repeating or relying on Chomsky I haven't even read him on this issue.Another of your false assumptions.But again,a major attack which a serious strike would have to be is war,and can lead to almost anything,especially when the victim can and says it will fight back.And "obliteration" has been threatened and is a physical possibility,and possibly aim of some in starting it.Take that into account instead of waffling on about cosy justifications and scenarios,from your cosy armchair.

Iran can only be denied equal rights by double standards,simple.

Illegality or otherwise is not just a matter for the UNSC,I don't even need to explain that one.Morality I won't bother to discuss with you while you maintain the "Big Lie" referred to above.

International law is a valid support where it is reasonably founded,not where it is simply a matter of "might makes right" as with the stacked security council and its shenanigans.

Climate change regardless of anything is a UN/US etc official issue,and nuclear power purveyed as a key solution.

There is no current substantive known breach by Iran of the NPT.Given that,they are being told in effect they can't have nuclear power,as an unfounded demand to desist development until there is "transparency" (which there already is as far as realistically possible) to the satisfaction of the pro-Israel and anti-IRI West,could be spun out forever.And the obligations are voluntary anyway.You know very well Iran could evade them by pulling out,but would then be accused of even more sin.It's a catch 22.The situation is that they might be attacked for simply upholding their rights-which you seek to obscure.I do recognize the concerns of Israelis,so long as they are reasonable.They are a military superpower in Mid-East terms especially with the West and to some degree other powers behind them,they have hundreds of nukes,and the only thing they reasonably have to fear here is provoking a retaliatory attack by launching an attack themselves.Otherwise they will just have to live with the same progress and balance we all do.Colonial superiority has had its day.

The fuel swap Iran agreed to was (far) better than nothing,and could have been a start to something wider.

Until you retract the "Big Lie" referred to,and stop calling it reasonable,then to that extent the term you used (not I) is not entirely unjustified.

My post was long enough to reply (only in part) to yours,I suggest from here on in you shorten and limit yours to the most essential point(s) so that we can do the same.

Steve / August 9, 2010 7:09 PM


I have expressed my thinking after a year of research, and put my neck out by writing a comprehensive article about it. You are free to have your own interpretation. Let me end debate with you by observing that,

(1) you accuse people like me who post articles with 100 references of inventing new interpretations, while you do the same freely, without any reference, document, etc.

(2) You have one and only one goal: To massage facts so that you can arrive at your own pre-conceived agenda, namely, that it is all Iran's fault.

(3) You are a warmonger who said in your comment before this one that war with Iran can be well argued in the UNSC.

(4) All of your mumbo jumbo are just that: mumbo jumbo. You have no reference whatsoever. In a slow afternoon, after a typical Iranian lunch, I can come up with 20 different interpretations of what you and I both read. But, that does not make me an expert or credible, unless I can back them up by credible references.

(5) You constantly take things out of context in order to advance your agenda. Ask yourself, why could Goldschmidt not espouse his "positions" while he was at the IAEA? Because sober heads prevailed and prevented him from propagating his lies and fabrications. The guy who took over his position, Olie Heinonen, did push his war agenda with Iran based on fabrications, but was exposed by me and people like Gareth Porter. He recently "retired." Gareth has a long article coming out soon.

(6) You are dead wrong about UNSC. Read any resolution that UNSC has filed under Chapter VII. You will see that it always first identifies the threat. In Iran's case, it did not.

It is not enough for the UNSC to just mention Iran's refusal for suspending its enrichment program as a reason for its resolutions under Chapter VII. It must specify why such a program is a threat to peace and international security. It did not. But, the bias is glaring when, as I mentioned, resolutions 242 and 338 against Israel after the 1967 and 1973 wars were filed under Chapter VI.

Again, why did John Bolton consider this as his "greatest achievement" at the UNSC if, as you claim, it was obvious what the UNSC should do? You conveniently by pass such relevant questions, and instead espouse your own fabricated interpretations.

(7) No, you are dead wrong again. Unlike what you say, a NPT member state is referred to UNSC ONLY if there has been diversion. You are just dead wrong on this, but insist on your lie, or at best misunderstanding, of an obvious issue.

Even the Board of Governors of the IAEA knew this. That is why they SENT Iran's dossier to the UNSC, NOT REFERRING it to the Council, because they wanted cover!!

So, do not give me your nonsense, unsubstantiated, undocumented, unreferenced, about justifying everything that has been done to Iran.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 9, 2010 8:51 PM

Our resident troll, the hasbara con-artist Ian, inveighs against Dr. Sahimi for "wacky" argumentation and "intellectual dishonesty", alleging that:

"... you [Dr. Sahimi] criticize the decision of the IAEA in 1983 not to provide assistance to Iran, calling it "illegal". However, it's clear from the IAEA Statute (XI.A and XI.E) that the Board of Governors of the IAEA are entitled to reject an application for technical assistance based on any matters that may be relevant (XI.E.7), not merely based on the two matters that you cite from XI.E ... You conclude nevertheless that "[the IAEA] violated both the spirit and the letter of the NPT", which appears to be entirely without foundation. Additionally, the fact that you fail to mention XI.E.7, which you must have been aware of, and which clearly refutes your own argument, seems highly convenient for you."
(Professor Ian, Aug 9 @ 5:00 AM)

Actually, XI.E.7 does not contain the all-encompassing word "any". The entire text of XI.E.7 is: "Such other matters as may be relevant".

And, in determining what kind of "matters" are admissible as relevant, only an imbecile or an agenda-laden con-artist would fail to defer to Clause III.C of the Statute, which stipulates that:

"In carrying out its functions, the Agency shall not make assistance to members subject to any political, economic, military, or other conditions incompatible with the provisions of this Statute."

If one is seriously interested in the issue, she should consult the primary sources directly. Don't rely on Ian's obfuscated and cherry-picked extracts.

And by the way, Ian, why are you so acutely interested in this subject, considering you're not Iranian, Israeli or Jewish? Pray tell.

Ali from Tehran / August 9, 2010 9:30 PM

Dear Ian,

I have read in these posts that you are a historian and a scholar.

Your most recent post on August 9, 2010 5:00 AM post must be an aberration of your regular scholarly endeavor.

From your posted remarks on July 31, 2010 7:13 PM stating "Iran has been declared by the IAEA to be in breach of the NNPT[sic] at present", I would have surmised a disinterest in legal distinctions - be it relevant or not.

I see now from your most recent post that you are developing a legal branch. In doing so in the future may I be so bold as to suggest that, as a starter, you study the entire text of the statue you reference - for example, you may wish to read III.5.C, III.5.D, VIII.C, XII.C and XVII of IAEA. You may find it reassuring that outside of the FOX news and friends circle, international agreements do rely on definitions, responsibilities, lines of authority, and other inconvenient obstacles on the railroad to the verdicts. A similar suggestion is in order with regards to your assertion relating to article 39. A cursory review of international law relating to decisions of the security council would convince you that arbitrary and unilateral assertions of "threat to peace" is not supported by the body of international law.

Good luck in your scholarly endeavors.

jay / August 9, 2010 11:49 PM


Sure. In the interests of brevity, I'm going to reply just to Dr. Sahimi this time, although I'd also like to give a separate reply to Steve, Ali and jay a bit later if that's alright, and if there's no further reply from Dr. Sahimi.


Contrary to your claim that I gave no references, I referred specifically to paragraphs in the UN Charter and the IAEA Statute, and also to the opinions of legal experts such as Pierre Goldschmidt and Michael Spies. You are in disagreement with those legal experts and with the text of those documents, not me. But of course, everyone who disagrees with you is a liar or has a personal agenda. The fact that your reply to me consists mainly of such ad hominem comments, and only briefly refers to a couple of substantive matters, is an indication of the weakness of your arguments. Let me reply to the only substantive points you feel able to address even slightly:

> It is not enough for the UNSC to just mention Iran's refusal for
> suspending its enrichment program as a reason for its resolutions under
> Chapter VII. It must specify why such a program is a threat to peace and
> international security.

I have previously given Michael Spies' opinion on that, but also Patrik Johansson in "The Humdrum Use of Ultimate Authority: Defining and Analysing Chapter VII Resolutions" (Nordic Journal of International Law 78:3 (2009), pp. 309-342) offers much the same interpretation:

"A Security Council Resolution is considered to be 'a Chapter VII resolution' if it makes an explicit determination that the situation under consideration constitutes a threat to the peace, a breach of the peace, or an act of aggression, *and/or* explicitly or implicitly states that the Council is acting under Chapter VII in the adoption of some or all operative paragraphs." (emphasis mine)

If you read that carefully, mindful of the "and/or" phrase, what this means is that the scholar in question also regards resolutions against Iran to be valid Chapter VII resolutions if they implicitly or explicitly cite Chapter VII as being their authority (as the resolutions against Iran do).

You say that Chapter VII resolutions in the past have always identified the threat first. True, and indeed the resolutions against Iran (beginning with 1696) also identify the risks of nuclear proliferation with reference to the maintenance of peace (i.e., nuclear proliferation is the threat to the peace that they identify). Furthermore, there are examples of resolutions under Chapter VII which contain no reference to Chapter VII or any of its articles, and which do *not* make any "determination" under Article 39 whatsoever, for instance:

In the case of Resolution 161, it merely notes deep concern, which is not a "determination" (in which case the word "determining" would be used and italicized). So scholars agree, and there is precedent, for the recent resolutions against Iran to be valid under Chapter VII. Now, I can certainly understand your vexation with this, but your arguments are not accepted in international law and amount to misguided tetrapyloctomy. Essentially, the Security Council is not required to use a particular form of words to determine a threat, as you would like. Similarly, the IAEA is not required to use the term "non-compliance" -- another spurious argument made by Iran, but one which you sensibly refrain from making.

With respect to the matter of how the Security Council's attention was drawn to Iran's non-compliance with the IAEA, the only response you are able to give to my detailed refutation of your position (apart from repeatedly claiming without grounds that I am wrong) is to raise another petty technicality. However, the distinction between whether the IAEA "sent" or "referred" the matter to the UNSC is not one that you yourself make in Part VII of your lengthy essay on Iran's nuclear programme (in fact you use the terms "referred" and "sent" interchangeably), so I am not sure on what basis you are arguing that point. I really don't see what possible difference it could make – the argument sounds incredibly desperate – but perhaps you would like to provide some substantiating references?

As for your other remarks, I'm not going to indulge you by countering the rather foolish smears against Goldschmidt and Heinonen, because it does seem as though the only reason you mention them at all is to distract attention from your inability to reply substantively to the matters I raised in my previous post.

Ian / August 10, 2010 12:50 AM


You answered your own assertions. Israel has had the "the bomb" for quite a few years. But has it stopped anyone from waging war with it? Pakistan and India have had "the bomb" for many years as well. Yet, they have had many wars since they have had "the bomb". There are numberous other examples.

Posession of a nuclear "bomb" creates the opposite of security. For one, it is not a militarily effective weapon. It is a terrorist weapon. It's only benefit is for politicans who wish to create more threatening speech against populations, not militaries. Which Iran's current politicans are particularily fond.

muhammad billy bob / August 10, 2010 2:56 AM

Just to clarify: I notice on re-reading my post that I referred to Goldschmidt as a "legal expert". Obviously he is a scientist and not a legal scholar. The others have written in legal journals and therefore I assume have some qualifications in the field.

Ian / August 10, 2010 3:17 AM


First of all, You are entitled to your opinion of me. I do not worry about what a faceless person with a pseudonym thinks of me.

As others have pointed out, over a short period of 10 days, you have remarkably developed into a legal scholar of international issues, far from your profession, historian. I also see that you have also begun yet a third career, public defender, by trying to defend Goldschmidt and Heinnonen, people who are not defendable. Kudos to you. They need your defense.

But, as I always say, never take anything from me. Do a simple Google search with the names of the two men to see what the rest of the world thinks of them.

You also changed my word and fabricated new accusations. I never said that the IAEA denied Iran its legal rights in 1983. To the contrary, as my article makes it amply clear, the IAEA experts, after visiting Iran, submitted a report to the BoG, actually approving it (this has also been pointed out by Mark Hibbs who follows Iran's nuclear program and writes for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the organization that I am a member of), but it was the US that prevented it. But, you turn around and say I made such claims. Now, you either misunderstood what I said, or you simply made it up. If the latter, what should I call you? ANSWER PLEASE.

And, for someone who tells me that I play with petty words, just take a look at yourself to see what you do with "and/or," but leave out, or insert in, important other words.

You are the one who was telling me that these are technicality. But, now, you are doing the same! Why is it that when it fits your agenda, they are important, but no so when they do not? ANSWER PLEASE.

Just so that others see for themselves, let me repeat what I said again:

(1) Why could Goldschmidt not make the same absurd arguments while at IAEA? This is a totally relevant question. I know exactly why you do not respond, but I just want to see whether you have the courage to say so. ANSWER PLEASE.

(2) If, as you claim, the UNSC action under Chapter VII was a simple procedural move, then, why was it Bolton's greatest achievement? ANSWER PLEASE.

(3) Regarding Heinnonen. He always says, "I am Finish" to give the impression that he is "neutral," but fabricated a whole story based on fabricated laptop documents. This is now so well-known to anyone who follows the developments. You either do not know about it, or you intentionally ignore it. ANSWER PLEASE.

(4) You claimed that attacks on Iran can be very well argued at UNSC. PLEASE SPECIFY WHY. ANSWER PLEASE.

(5) Why did the IAEA SEND the dossier to UNSC, but NOT REFERREd it to the Council? Was it not because the BoG knew they had no case? Even the US representative to the IAEA, Gregory Schulte, admitted that they basically had to "bribe" India and several other countries to go along. Search this on the internet. Do not accept it from me.

I did not say that you are a liar. I said your statements are either a lie, or are due to your extreme prejudice and also being ill-informed.

Once again, I emphasize: I did research for nearly a year, and wrote an article with nearly 100 references to some of the most credible places. That is my position. And, initially,

(6) YOU SAID THAT I MAKE CONVINCING ARGUMENTS. But, suddenly, you turned around and began rejecting my CONVINCING ARGUMENTS. What changed? ANSWER PLEASE.

This time I won't respond anymore. I am done with this.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 10, 2010 4:23 AM


"In the case of Iran, the reason for Iran wanting the bomb seems more to do with asserting power and regional hegemony than about self-defence."

As it is clear from your comments you believe in the colonialist version of history. You remain dismissive of millions who have died in those policies. I would even venture out to say you are enamoured by them, which is why you are such an advocate of the drumbean of war.

You comments about Isreael and Iran, as I point them out above, takes history and puts it upside down. Your assertion borders rediculous and filled with your own fantacies and delusions. I am not trying to insult you. History lesson number 1: Isreal has had a war with everyone of its neighbors. History lesson number 2: Iran has never attacked anyone.

One must believe the complet opposite and live in complete AIPAC/Israeli paranoia to believe the Iran attacks its neighbors and Israel has "reduced the chance of Israel being attacked and helped maintain the peace." That is the most laughable sentence I have ever seen anyone say about what Israel has done. To suggest Israel has kept the peace when it is the most beligerent state in the ME, is truely a denial of history, to say the least.

You continued assetion for war, and you love for peace through annihalation brings our conversation to an end. I wish you wiser days.

And thanks for the debate.

Pouya / August 10, 2010 8:12 AM

M. Billy Bob

It is utterly untrue that pakistan and India have gone to war since they went public with their nukes.

Also, you confuse small players like Hezbollah, Hamas, and palestinians with nuclear nation.

If Lebanon had the bomb, I can guarantee you Israel would never ever look at her the wrong way.

But my point stands, nuclear nations don't attack each other. That is why smaller entities attempt to kill the US with wounds of a thousand stabs. Such is the case with Isreal's opponents and those fighting America. No nuclear power attacks the US for the fear of mutual nuclear confrontation. That makes my point. Once the "last resort" thoughts are out, everyone will sit at the table and come with a solution.

What most lack in understanding is that Iran, even now with its current leadership, desires to be involved at international level. Particularly for Iran, this matters because of its international thinking populous.

Pouya / August 10, 2010 8:19 AM

Dr. Sahimi

you generated quit a debate. I have never seen this level of participation on this site.


Pouy / August 10, 2010 8:43 AM

[muhammad sahimi] "Say what you want about Tehran hardliners. They are whatever you may call them, but they are not stupid. They know that attacking Israel will evaporate Iran in a massive nuclear counterattack by Israel and the US."

I agree entirely. The Iranians cannot and would not take such a gamble.

I think that war is going to be inevitable, sooner or later. It's pretty obvious that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons right now, and even if it decided to, the IAEA would give enough advance notice of diversion of nuclear material to allow for a military response, Therefore, my only conclusion is that America and Israel and friends want a war against Iran precisely to destroy Iranian influence and to subsume Iran into the greater American project in the Middle East. The Nuclear bomb issue is a casus belli, nothing more.

In reality, even if Iran had the nuclear bomb, it could never use it, since everybody agrees that annihilation would instantly follow.

However, let me indulge in a little conjecture: a putative Iranian nuclear weapon would mean (effective) military parity with Israel and America. The consequences of that would mean that suddenly numbers on the ground and influence, instead of brute force, would tell, both factors lacking in Israel and America's favour in the Middle East. For example, Iran could openly ship weapons to Palestinian groups, and Israel would be able to do little in return, since clearly open war with Iran would have ghastly consequences.

It's not that Iranian nukes (if they had them) would ever be used ... it is that Iranian nukes would guarantee Iranian immunity to formal enemy attacks. That in itself is unacceptable to Israel and America - as is Iran's current influence in the Middle East.

Anonymous / August 10, 2010 11:50 AM

@ Ali from Teheran

You have a rather unique sense of humour. If perchance you are a not anonymous somebody I have met before under a different name, drop me a mail. Otherwise, I let you know you are in good company! ;)

Bruno / August 10, 2010 11:53 AM

While trying to keep up with all the comments in this thread, I've noticed quite a few were about Ahmadinejad's controversial remarks about the "disappearance" of the Zionist regime in Israel, or for some, the "disappearance" of Israel.

It may be interesting to note that anti-Semitism is a relatively recent phenomenon in Iran - at least according to older generations of Iranians I talked to in Iran myself, who lived quite happily and peacefully with their Jewish (and Christian) neighbours before the Revolution, and according to this article by Saeed Ghasseminejad for Rooz Online: 'The roots of Anti-Semitism in Iran'

Catherine / August 10, 2010 3:53 PM

Those who have argued for a "limited military strike" against Iran's nuclear facilities should probably have a look at this analysis by Mahan Abedin of the most likely consequences:

Abedin: The Illusion of a ‘limited war’ against Iran

Catherine / August 10, 2010 3:59 PM

"In fact, you can (sensibly) look at British history exclusively in terms of its attempts to build trade routes, rather than as an aggressive territorial campaign. Indeed, the empire was built by trading companies, particularly in India and Canada, and practically none of the exploration and discovery was done by British military forces. Additionally, the really important battles which gave rise to empire (principally the naval engagements, but also the ones which opened up India) were fought with European powers;

Re: Israel and the bomb, indeed Israel's possession of nuclear weapons "upped the ante" in some respects, but it upped the ante above what the belligerent states in the region were able to live with, so ultimately it reduced the chance of Israel being attacked and helped maintain the peace.In the case of Iran, the reason for Iran wanting the bomb seems more to do with asserting power and regional hegemony than about self-defence, so I view its ambitions as being likely to increase conflict, if not bring about catastrophe. One suspects the "ante" is being raised to a religious rather than a political or territorial level."


I was going to wait for you and the others to debate for a while but these comments of yours again scream for rebuttal,and demonstrate your bias and ignorance.British history cannot remotely be "sensibly looked at exclusively in terms of its attempt to build trade routes rather than as an aggressive territorial campaign"-what rubbish.The conquest of Scotland (not part of "Britain" originally,even in Roman times) and Ireland were aggressive territorial conquest,as to some degree were America,Australasia and other colonised regions.The rest was about domination and exploitation not just trade-for trade one only needed to play by the local rules with trade stations,not conquer and pillage entire regions.Even for the slave trade.The "trading companies" acted well beyond a trading remit,and became de facto then de jure governments,and plunder machines,by force,until replaced by the Crown.Much exploration and "discovery" (from a British pov) was done by the Navy in particular,and you show a true colonialist bias by dismissing the many large and savage battles fought against local armies and peoples as not "really important",I am sure millions (or billions even) of them would disagree fundamentally with your ranking.If this is evidence of your grasp of history,as an "historian",I pity those subjected to it.

More massive bias "re Israel and the bomb".Amongst "the belligerent states in the region" you seem not to number the one which attacked in 56,67,82,and other lesser or less clear cut cases.As for helping to "maintain the peace",given Egypt's willingness to make peace since 1970,Jordan and Lebanon's general lack of interest in fighting,and the continuous conflict generated due to the occupation since,it's doubtful.Then another "Big Lie" without substantive supporting evidence,casually dropped as though uncontroversial-Iran's "wanting the bomb" for "power and regional hegemony rather than self defense" (unlike Israel naturally).Except that they have said repeatedly and are acting as though they don't want the bomb,(as opposed to the peaceful nuclear power they are entitled to without any reasonable argument),and have as good a case for self defense given the threats against them and regional examples as any.And there's no real evidence to show they actually want the bomb.None of which will stop you from assuming,declaring and maintaining they do of course-2+2 must equal 5 if need be doggone when a good ole war with them thar varmints is the game.

An attack sufficient to "do the trick" would be an act of war "permitting" and provoking retaliation,and so on to God knows where.Osirak/Iraq WAS a cake walk compared to this,and "regime change" is also a preference of many pushing it,regardless of any case for or against which entails wider strikes also.And the incentive really WOULD be to then get nukes-it would virtually guarantee the outcome (sooner or later) it ostensibly seeks to prevent,and most likely strengthen the grip of the regime into the bargain,that's if the whole region is not turned into a radioactive-chemical-biological wasteland instead.You really have to be crazy to argue for it,and from your version of "history" "reason" and "fact" you are giving strong evidence of being just that.Is your name down yet on the list of Goy volunteers for post-apocalyptic Temple reconstruction? If the whole region goes,there may be some vacant real estate on the Temple Mount yet.Don't forget your NBC suit though-the shiny silver one.

Steve / August 10, 2010 4:14 PM


A last short point for your consideration.You have claimed to be British I think-you are aware of the parlous state of the British economy now and the massive cutbacks in public spending as a result,including defense? Well what do you think an attack on Iran with its repercussions would do to that? Not to mention the rest of the world.Read this for an insight-


"Let's talk about an attack on Iran"

Steve / August 10, 2010 5:07 PM


Just posted a comment about the general securities of posession of nuclear weapons. I don't know if it went through.

But I wanted to give my thoughts on your statement that Israel wouldn't bother Lebanon if they had nuclear weapons. To begin with, one must look at why there is a conflict between Israel and certain groups that are prominate in Lebanon. I will not tar all Lebanese with the broad brush of Hezbollah. But the Hezbollah have certainly established themselves as the primary ruling authority of southern Lebanon. (as an aside, the evils done to the people of Lebanon by such groups have been atrocious.). But, I assume by Lebanon, you are referring to the more anti-Israeli forces that control some parts of Lebanon.

Regradless of "who started it", it must be admitted that there are attacks on Israel coming from Southern Lebanon. If Hezbollah aquired a nuclear weapon, the most likely event would be the very next day they would launch it at Tel Aviv. Any deterrent effect would be pretty much null and void.

Militarilly, such an attack would be suicidal. Which might be there goal. Israel's competent military would remain largely uneffected, They would then go on to occupy all of Lebanon, and probably Syria, and any other area they wish. They would not use a nuclear weapon, it's a non-effective weapon in a real war. Very similar to the '67 war. Which Muslims are still crying about.

muhammad billy bob / August 11, 2010 12:41 AM


You ask a number of questions which are largely peripheral to the detailed criticism that I have advanced, but I'll answer them anyway.

Re: Goldschmidt and Heinonen, whom you seem to want me to discuss, firstly I'm not interested in your attacks on Goldschmidt – I see no reason to think he has changed his views since leaving the IAEA; rather, it seems that his leaving the IAEA gave him the freedom to express his pre-existing views more publicly. And if he has changed his views, so what? Was he recruited by the US only _after_ he left the IAEA? It doesn't make sense.

As for Heinonen, you accuse him without substantiation of leaking documents (where is your evidence?) and of being too credulous about the "Laptop of Death". Given that neither of us (I presume) have seen the documents on the laptop, it's impossible to arrive at a conclusion. It would not be the first time a Western power has concocted such evidence, but I can't help feeling that if the positions were reversed (if Iran had found a laptop detailing plans to attack) you would immediately and vociferously announce it as evidence of an American conspiracy too. I think it's much better to stick to facts than to resort to smears against individuals like Heinonen, even though tensions are high.

You claim that you "never said that the IAEA denied Iran its legal rights in 1983", but you did say this in Part VII of your series at payvand.com:
"[the IAEA] violated both the spirit and the letter of the NPT, its own Statute, and its obligations toward Iran"
You are now backing away from this (because, as I've clearly demonstrated, it's false) by denying you ever said it – precisely what you did when I took you to task for claiming the sanctions were "illegal" (and even though a large section of your article at payvand.com was devoted to trying to prove that). You seem to think that if anyone in the IAEA talks to a US representative, and if the IAEA is persuaded by their view, then it's somehow inherently wrong and even illegal. Again, this is nonsense, but I suppose it's too much to ask you to make corrections to your article.

Re: the legality of sanctions, you say:
> And, for someone who tells me that I play with petty words, just take a
> look at yourself to see what you do with "and/or," but leave out, or
> insert in, important other words.
Now you're accusing me of fabricating quotes? WTF? I used that quote (accurately) because it was nice and succinct, actually from Wikipedia's article on Chapter VII at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapter_VII_of_the_United_Nations_Charter , but there are other sources supportive of my position vis-a-vis the legality of the UNSC resolutions on Iran, for instance:
and of course the members of the Security Council itself. You have no basis to accuse me of fabrication, and you should retract that slur.

On this same issue, I note that whilst you keep mentioning the number of footnotes in your article (no measure of the accuracy or validity of your arguments), on this matter you only quote two or three legal sources in your footnotes, none of whom support your position as far as I can see. There are other journal articles that you _could_ have referenced but didn't. Maybe that's because nobody agrees with you, and even you yourself have backed away from saying the resolution was "illegal".

You talk about John Bolton's "greatest achievement" in persuading the SC to file under Chapter VII, as if that implies the Chapter VII resolutions are illegal; but the resolutions aren't illegal, so how can that be correct? Obviously, his "achievement" was a political one, to persuade the SC to get out it's "big stick" – nothing more, nothing less – but again you resort to innuendo when facts aren't available to support your case: in many ways, your characterizations of others seem to be a form of "projection".

You raise the issue of whether an attack on Iran could be justified post factum to the Security Council. I said it could be "pretty well argued", not that those arguments would be accepted; but this seems to be an area of international law where there is scant precedent. Threats have been made by Ahmadinejad which would almost certainly form part of the argument (though obviously there is a reasonable counter-argument to that). The fact that Chapter VII has been used against Iran would be a supporting factor. The fact that Iranian officers have recently been seen conducting tours of southern Lebanon, where forces have been engaged in exchanges of fire with Israel, is relevant. One might even be able to argue, with respect to Hezbollah and Lebanon, that there is already a state of undeclared war between Iran and Israel (though I recognise there could be lots of technical arguments against this, and I am not competent to offer an opinion on that – I bring the matter up speculatively). There are a few angles to it, and I do think it could be "pretty well argued", though opinions will of course be divided and are likely to be influenced by one's country of origin. The big issue is the apparent contradiction in using force to stop an apparently rather unquantifiable threat.

You refer once again to your point about whether the IAEA "sent" or "referred" documents to the Security Council. I asked you to clarify on what basis you make such a distinction, as it's not a distinction you've previously made, so far as I can see. However, you have signally failed to provide any substantiation or give any references. I can only conclude that it's a bogus talking-point, rather like the many other petty procedural issues you have tried to argue.

One other matter from previous comments. You have repeatedly claimed that all of the outstanding issues with the IAEA have been resolved (you refer to "six" issues in a manner highly reminiscent of Iran's INFCIRC 724 of 18th March 2008). But this is not correct. Ignoring for a moment the request to cease enrichment, there are a number of issues mentioned in (e.g.) the IAEA reports of 26th May 2008 and 18th Feb 2010. In your recent Huffington Post article,
you again float this notion that all matters have been resolved, and (just as you do in the comments here) refer to El-Baradei's statement from *February 2008*, where he said as much; but this is *out of date* and you are simply misleading people by referring to it (you remind me a bit of "Comical Ali" saying there were no troops in Baghdad). Given that you are certainly cognizant of the later IAEA reports (you imply that you've read "[e]very report by the IAEA" in the article here), I think this is actually a serious breach of journalistic ethics: selective presentation of facts to suit a pre-existing agenda. You really ought to be ashamed of yourself, especially since you smear everyone who chooses to disagree with you on these and other matters.

I'm also led to wonder whether the ludicrous Iranian INFCIRC 724 of 2008 was derived at least in part from your own writings of 2007 – can you clarify this?

Finally, you ask why I have changed my view of your arguments. I think that should be obvious.


Thanks for those links. Have you read this:
and is it any good?

Steve, Ali, jay, Pouya,

Sorry I haven't been able to reply to your comments yet. I'm trying to bear in mind the moderator's workload.

Ian / August 11, 2010 1:05 AM

M. Billy Bob

Well, your comments don't really address the issue I was talking about. I am not talking about whether Hezbollah should have a bomb or not. I talking about the possession of the bomb itself in the hands of state actors, and the historic fact that none have attacked one another.

Any paranoid idea that if Hezbollah and other muslim countries get their hands on the bomb and they'l use it in a suicidal way, I'll leave that to you and Ian, and all other AIPAC supporters who advance such paranoia in the hope of aiding Israel. But to be correct, the only thing people are remembering are the repeated Israeli loss in Lebanon for the past 20 years. I doubt Israel can invade "anywhere it wants," since it has difficulty controlling Gaza and the West Bank.

My point is exactly the opposite of what you have pointed out about Israel's "glorious" conquests. Israel's history is filled with attacking its neighbor, which is contrary to the record of Iran. Contrary to the rhetoric of AIPAC and AIPAC media and the paranoia that is being spread. The record speaks for itself, no need to spin. My point is that the bomb would stop such attacks, in fact, it is the only reason why modern state actors have not attacked Israel. It is unlikely, if not impossible, for Iran to attack Israel DIRECTLY under any circumstances. Had Israel been facing similar deterrence from Iran, everyone would get along at the negotiating table and there would no paranoid talk about Ahmadinejad and "the Iranians are coming."


no need to respond, I'm done with you. We know where you come from. And I wish you well.

Pouya / August 11, 2010 7:05 AM


That was my post that I messed up on and didn't get on here.

I have plenty of respect for your opinions. They are just not correct. There have been many conflicts, major conflicts, between nuclear powers. N. and S. korea. U.S. and China (during Korean war). India and Pakistan, conflicts over Kashmir region. U.K. and Argentina.

Obviously you don't know where I am coming from. I don not support AIPAC. I do support their right to free speech. As I support every groups right to free speech. I am not particularly a supporter of Israel. But I am honest enough to see that the attacks go both ways. I am sorry if you don't wish to acknowledge this.

muhammad billy bob / August 11, 2010 10:02 AM

Catherine, thanks for the Juan Cole analysis. He's been a reliable and realistic analyst of events in Iraq thus far, and I see no reason not to believe him this time around as well.

Steve, that was a GOOD analysis on the consequence of an attack on Iran. But, I believe the author has ignored some other potential leverage Iran could bring to bear. Iraq is rife with Iran-aligned groups, and groups with close links to Iran, not least Al Maliki the current (?) Iraqi prime minister and Al Sadr, the current kingmaker in Iraq. There is every possibility that guerrilla violence could be ramped up apocalyptically in Iraq proper against US assets there. Furthermore, Hezbollah is another Iran-supported group that would likely wither without Iranian aid. They could be brought into the fray against Israel, further stretching the situation out of proportion. There are rumours of Iranian groups in Saudi Arabia and even the United States itself that could be activated to sow further resistance. Certainly the Iranian state has far more options to strike back than Iraq did, and we all know how swimmingly that war went.

[pouya] "Any paranoid idea that if Hezbollah and other muslim countries get their hands on the bomb and they'l use it in a suicidal way, I'll leave that to you and Ian, and all other AIPAC supporters who advance such paranoia in the hope of aiding Israel."

Mmm. I agree that none of the main actors characterised as villains in this story (Iran, Hezbollah) are stupid enough to use a nuke first, because that would indeed be suicide. They are not nearly as irrational as the warmonger wing in the USA likes to portray them.

Bruno / August 11, 2010 11:37 AM


Take as long as you like I don't particularly want to spend much more time on this here.However in addition to my other points I feel forced to challenge this again from you-"If Hezbollah aquired a nuclear weapon, the most likely event would be the very next day they would launch it at Tel Aviv. Any deterrent effect would be pretty much null and void.Militarilly,such an attack would be suicidal. Which might be there goal."

What's the evidence for such a dramatic claim-I mean substantive and sufficient evidence,not vague (or even not so vague) rhetoric which abounds on all sides (eg Benny Morris).I find this claim of yours ludicrous-Hezbollah are not suicidal on current evidence-if they were they would long since have ceased to exist.Sure it's a concern for Israel if their enemies have nukes,but it cuts both ways,and it's not worth plungeing the world into further (and perhaps final) turmoil chaos and disaster to try and prevent it by force on current evidence of likelihood,which is minimal.It's exactly the sort of hysterical overblown nonsense issuing from certain quarters on this which makes otherwise broadly neutral observers like myself (it's not particularly my fight-so long as it doesn't affect the whole world) suspicious and skeptical.If Israel would instead make a real effort and settle with the Palestinians in one way or another to general satisfaction (at least for the majority-and don't claim they have-Bibi admitted sabotageing Oslo,and Barak pulled the final plug on the 2000-2001 negotiations,before Sharon took over with no interest in it at all),it would then find it much easier to get along with the other states like Iran,which would be in its interest to do anyway.Jews and Iranians actually have quite a good history until recently,and could have again-to the benefit of the region and the world.But Israel can't have it all its own way for that to happen-it just can't work.But at the moment it's clear that's what the establishment wants-even if it's understandable from a self-interest point of view (of the short sighted variety),it won't wash for too many reasons to list.But in continuing to push for it,the chances of any good outcome are severely curtailed,and bad blood (and hot air) is building to the point of genuine all round disaster.Wake up before it's too late is the basic necessity,and stop thinking war can work-it doesn't-what you win now you will lose later,one way or another.It's basic physics,apart from anything.If you want the land,take the people too,and live with it,or offer adequate positive incentives to relocate for some,otherwise give up the land.There's no other way than genocide,however it's packaged,and that will just lead nowhere good for anyone.

Steve / August 11, 2010 3:47 PM


You're right there are plenty of other ways they could hit back some of which we may not even know about.Iraq (and Af-Pak) could boil over,the Lebanese-Israeli-Syrian border too,"sleeper cells" strike wherever and so on-the Gulf could be choked off etc etc.It's a true disaster scenario for the world,especially given the economic situation.AND there's the potential for it to escalate totally out of control,to a nuclear (or other wmd) exchange that could destroy large parts of the region if not the world.It's just not a risk worth taking,especially on current evidence of attainment and intent.Iran is a tough cookie and has had a long time to prepare,is VASTLY stronger than Saddam was,and better placed to hit back,plus a much more unified population,despite differences,than Iraq with the vicious Sunni-Shiite split and the Kurds.Maybe it's all just talk and bluff to convince the Iranians to say uncle,but I don't see it happening,they have been unbluffable all along pretty much and believe in themselves 100% (despite the internal differences amongst themselves-but vis a vis attacking outsiders-at least the armed and willing ones-who are a sufficient majority on all realistic evidence).Iraq was a disaster compared to the "pro" predictions,and this will be too,if it happens.Only much bigger.Or maybe not,but it's a one in a hundred punt-fool's odds.

Steve / August 11, 2010 4:11 PM

Dear Professor Sahimi,
Thanks once again for a thought-provokinhg article. I have a question about your reply to a reader, in which you state: "Say what you want about Tehran hardliners. They are whatever you may call them, but they are not stupid. They know that attacking Israel will evaporate Iran in a massive nuclear counterattack by Israel and the US."
Muhammad Sahimi / August 7, 2010 4:59 AM

The Institute for War and Peace Reporting published an article on how after weeks of planning and a fair amount of talking up the story, Iran finally made it clear that it was not after all sending a ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza: 'Tehran Finds Neat Way Out on Gaza Shipment'

In it the author claims that hard-liners actually wanted to send aid ship as deliberate provocation to Israel. Here are the most relevant bits, as the article is quite long:

" Hard-liners in the government and in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, IRGC, wanted to run the risk of conflict with Israel.

Some mid-ranking IRGC commanders from the 1980s war with Iraq, as well as more junior commanders, believed it was a good opportunity to take on the Israelis. They argued that Iran would score a lot of points in the Muslim world and would subsequently win over other regional governments by confronting them with a fait accompli.

They also reasoned that a military confrontation of limited scope would benefit the regime domestically, by letting off some of the steam built up by the post-election unrest in Iran.

The hawks included Ali Shirazi, who represents Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the IRGC naval forces, and whose brother heads the military affairs section of the Supreme Leader’s office.

Shirazi said that if Ayatollah Khamenei granted permission, IRGC naval vessels would escort aid convoys to Gaza. .......

In recent months, some advocates of confrontation had even suggested launching a preemptive attack, or else prodding allied insurgent groups in the Middle East to provoke Israel into a response. At an unofficial meeting of middle-ranking IRGC commanders in late June, Brigadier-General Saeed Ghasemi talked about the need for a preemptive strike on Israel. .........

The advocates of confrontation with Israel found themselves opposed by cooler heads among former diplomats, officials and even retired military commanders, who took the view that challenging Israel under the present circumstances would not be in Iran’s interests, and would only land it in a predicament with no clear way out."

I would like to know what you think of the author's claims, because this incident seems to indicate there *are* some pretty reckless individuals within the hardline IRGC camp who would indeed attack Israel, albeit on a small scale.

Catherine / August 11, 2010 5:21 PM