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Using WikiLeaks to Advance the Narrative of War on Iran

by MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles

05 Dec 2010 00:2448 Comments

Morally bankrupt U.S. media buries facts that counter the case for war.

BombIranPoster.jpg [ analysis ] The classified documents released by WikiLeaks have had something for everyone.

Supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejoiced over the cable in which a British official opined that he had actually won the rigged June 2009 presidential election. They could not see the irony in taking the opinion of an official of a foreign government that their president routinely denounces as "proof" that he secured his victory honestly. In so doing, they exhibit once again their desperation to legitimize their illegitimate president. I suppose there might be something to Iranians' favorite conspiracy theory -- kaar kaar-e Engelis haast (this is the work of British agents) -- after all. Ahmadinejad's supporters also overlooked another leaked cable in which an American diplomat reported that a source had told him that it was Mir Hossein Mousavi who had won the election with 26 million votes, which only goes to show that neither of the two cables should be taken seriously.

Those (like this author) who despise the French president got a kick out of a cable in which Nicolas Sarkozy was called "an emperor without clothes." Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu was happy to see confirmation that the Arab governments of the Persian Gulf are as hostile toward Iran as Israel is.

Netanyahu's claim brings us to some of the most debated documents released by WikiLeaks, namely, those concerning what the rulers of the Arab countries, especially those in the Persian Gulf area, think of Iran and its nuclear program. According to the documents, many Arab leaders have privately been urging the United States to stage a military attack on Iran. These are the same leaders that time and again have publicly proclaimed that they oppose such an attack, which demonstrates both their utter dishonesty toward their own citizens and the fact that they are well aware that, as unpopular as Ahmadinejad is at home, he enjoys wide popularity in the Islamic world due to his intransigence toward Israel. The fact that the American mainstream media fails to point out such dishonesty only reveals its own moral bankruptcy.

In an April 2008 cable, Adel A. al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, is quoted talking about Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and his "frequent exhortations to the U.S. to attack Iran and thus put an end to its nuclear weapon program...to cut off the head of the snake."

Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is quoted in a July 2009 memo to the effect that "Ahmadinejad is Hitler" and urging the United States not to "appease" Iran, echoing the views of Israel's Likud Party.

King Hamad of Bahrain, where the headquarters of the U.S. 5th Fleet is located, is quoted in a November 2009 cable discussing Iran's nuclear program: "That program must be stopped. The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it."

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is quoted in an August 2006 cable arguing that the "Iraq [invasion] was unnecessary. [Invading] Iran is necessary." Of course, the American mainstream media did not mention that Hariri called for defense ties with Iran during his recent trip to the country.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is quoted in a June 2006 cable saying that it is in the "interest of all nations" to work with the United States "to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons," and that in his opinion "Tehran wants to restore the Persian Empire." The imbecile president is apparently unaware that many of Tehran's hardliners reject the notion of the Persian Empire that existed in pre-Islamic Iran.

To appreciate what a turncoat the Yemeni president is, consider the cable made public by WikiLeaks that describes his meeting with General David Petraeus in Yemen's capital, Sana'a, in January 2010. Saleh agreed to persist in covering up the plan to use U.S. fixed-wing bombers with precision weapons to attack the opposition (or the terrorists) in his country. He told Petraeus, "We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours," according to the cable, written by then U.S. Ambassador Stephen Seche. In short, Saleh was far more concerned with protecting the image of the United States than with being honest with his own people.

According to a May 2008 cable describing a meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and a group of U.S. congressmen, when he was "asked about Egypt's reaction if Iran developed nuclear weapons capability, Mubarak said that none will accept a nuclear Iran, 'we are all terrified.'" A February 2009 cable reported that Mubarak repeatedly refers to Iranians as "liars" and denounces the Islamic Republic for seeking to destabilize Egypt and the region at large.

The way in which the U.S. mainstream media has discussed the sentiments of these Arab rulers is very troubling. It appears that the only thing that American analysts, ranging from David E. Sanger of the New York Times to all the right-wing pundits at Fox News and the Weekly Standard, are interested in is using the Arab leaders' private comments to advance the narrative that the neoconservatives, the Israel lobby in the United States, and the War Party have developed: that Iran is a threat to the nonexistent stability of the Middle East and the nonexistent "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians, and that its nonexistent nuclear weapon program is a security threat to U.S. allies in the region and beyond.

That the Arab rulers are hostile toward Iran and Iranians is nothing new. They were just as hostile during the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Because he was supported by the West, however, the Arab rulers, with the exception of Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, did not dare to challenge Iran. Even Saddam Hussein was forced to accept the Algiers Agreement of 1975 regarding the border dispute between Iran and Iraq.

But the 1979 Revolution that established the first Shia theocracy in the world frightened the Arab leaders, all of whom are Sunni Muslims. Thus, they supported Iraq in its war with Iran, with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait providing up to $50 billion in aid to Hussein's regime. When Iranian forces overran the Faw peninsula on February 11, 1986, and established a foothold inside Iraq, Saudi Arabia flooded the market with oil to bring down the price to $6-10 per barrel and put pressure on Iran. Ever since, Saudi Arabia has used its oil "weapon" to "contain" Iran. And, of course, while the Islamic Republic has supported Shia groups in Iraq, Saudi Arabia has strongly supported the Sunnis. In fact, in one leaked cable King Abdullah was quoted telling an Iraqi official that "you and Iraq are in my heart, but that man [Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] is not." Recently, there have been persuasive rumors that Saudi Arabia has authorized Israel to use its airspace to attack Iran.

The troubling aspect of the WikiLeaks documents concerning Iran is thus not that they demonstrate the hostility of Arab leaders toward the Islamic Republic. Rather, it is the fact that the mainstream media has failed to talk about the huge gap between the sentiments of the masses in the Islamic and Arab worlds and those of their rulers regarding Iran's nuclear program and its stance toward Israel. The mainstream media has also failed to remind the public of the nature of the Arab regimes that are supposedly U.S. allies and of what the consequences of a military attack on Iran would be. Let us consider these issues that have been swept under the rug by the mainstream media.

To begin with, the mainstream media fails to point out that almost all of the Arab nations whose leaders have advocated an attack on Iran are ruled by unpopular and corrupt dictatorships that are supported by the United States:

* The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is run in a virtually medieval fashion. Women have almost no rights and citizens in general enjoy no political freedom.

* In the island nation of Bahrain, the ruling Sunnis harshly suppress the Shiites, who are the vast majority of the population. The government has even been importing Sunni Arabs and quickly granting them citizenship to increase the Sunni population share. Until the late 1960s, the Iranian governments considered Bahrain Iran's 14th province. A secret deal between the Shah and Great Britain led to the island's independence.

* Kuwait, a city-state in which Shiites constitute about 40 percent of the population, has been virtually occupied by U.S. forces for the past two decades. Though it has a parliament, it is under the autocratic rule of the Al-Sabah clan. It was from Kuwait that U.S. forces invaded Iraq in March 2003.

* The UAE, a federation of seven absolute monarchies, is ruled by a tribe installed in power when the nation was created by the British Empire in 1971. It bogusly claims ownership of three Persian Gulf islands, the Lesser and Greater Tunbs and Abu Mousa, that have been part of Iran for at least 1,000 years. At the same time, the UAE is enriched through its lucrative commerce with Iran and by at least $400 billion of Iranian investments in the country.

* Egypt has been ruled under a state of emergency since 1981. It has been one of the destinations for the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, whereby terrorist suspects are sent to countries where information and confessions are extracted from them via torture. Hosni Mubarak has been Egypt's president for 29 years.

The supposedly "moderate" Arab regimes that are allies of the United States are thus all ruled by unpopular regimes that are dictatorial, even autocratic. Their rulers say one thing about Iran in public and the opposite in private because they are afraid of their own citizens.

The mainstream media also fails to mention that an extensive poll released by the Brookings Institution in August clearly indicates that, contrary to their dictators' sentiments, the Arab masses support Iran and its nuclear program. They even support Iran's attainment of nuclear weapons and consider that possibility as positive for the Middle East. They reject the narrative that it is Iran that is the source of all of the Middle East's problems. In fact, the vast majority of Arabs consider Israel and the United States as the main threats to peace and stability in the region. Only a tiny minority holds such a view of Iran.

In using the WikiLeaks documents to advance the War Party/Israel lobby narrative, the mainstream media has also completely forgotten that one of the main reasons for the terrorism committed by Middle Eastern radicals against the West, and the United States in particular, is the West's close association with those corrupt Arab regimes. The mainstream media fails to point out

* that 15 of the 19 terrorists that attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, were citizens of Saudi Arabia, two were from Egypt, and one each from the UAE and Lebanon, the same nations that are supposedly U.S. allies and have called for attacks on Iran;

* that Iran and Iranians have not been implicated in any terrorist attacks on the United States, either here at home or abroad since at least the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. While the Islamic Republic was accused by some U.S. officials of involvement in the terrorist attacks on the U.S. base in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in 1996, no proof was ever established and in fact no Iranian was ever indicted, though others were;

* that the Taliban -- bloody enemies of Iran -- are in fact the former Afghan Mojahedin that were funded by Saudi Arabia, armed by the CIA, and trained by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI);

* that the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in 1996 with the direct support of the ISI and Pakistan's military;

* that during the administration of President Mohammad Khatami it was Iran -- not Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab governments that have urged attacking Iran -- that provided significant support to the American campaign against the Taliban in 2001, and that it was not the U.S. Army but the Northern Alliance, armed and backed by Iran, that entered Kabul and overthrew the Taliban;

* that without Iran's crucial involvement, the formation of Afghanistan's national unity government in December 2001 would not have materialized. During the U.N. talks in Bonn on the future of Afghanistan after the Taliban's ouster, Iranian representatives met daily with U.S. envoy James Dobbins, who later credited Iran with preventing the conference from collapsing due to the Northern Alliance's last-minute demands to control the new government;

* that the Shia groups now in power in Iraq that are supported by the United States -- which touts them as models of democratic Middle Eastern political parties -- were suppressed by Saddam Hussein during the 1980s when the United States was supporting his war against Iran;

* that it is the rich citizens of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab states that provide funding to the Islamic schools, or madrassas, in Pakistan that are a breeding ground for radicals who eventually carry out attacks on the United States and its allies;

* that it is Saudi Arabia that supports terrorist group such as Jundallah that carry out terrorist attacks inside Iran;

* that Saudi Arabia, by siding with Saddam Hussein during his war against Iran and with Iraq's Sunni insurgents after he was overthrown, has contributed much to war and misery in the Middle East. The foreign fighters in Iraq were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and other U.S.-supported Sunni states. Of the 60 to 80 fighters who traveled to join al-Qaeda in Iraq every month, half were from Saudi Arabia. All the suicide bombers in Iraq were Sunni, the majority of them Saudis. Roughly half of all foreign militants who targeted U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians were from Saudi Arabia, as were nearly half of the foreign prisoners in U.S. custody in Iraq;

* that it is the Salafi and Wahhabi branches of Islam, both emanating from Saudi Arabia, that provide the core ideology for Middle Eastern terrorists and other radicals;

* that WikiLeaks documents indicate the deep worries of U.S. officials, including former ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson, about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal -- the most rapidly growing such arsenal in the world -- and the possibility that radicals may get their hands on some of its weapons; and

* that WikiLeaks documents also indicate that the ISI and factions of the Pakistan military still support the Taliban, while Western soldiers continue to die in a pointless war and the people of Afghanistan suffer greatly.

No, the mainstream media has no interest in pointing out these irrefutable facts, because they would destroy the narrative of war with Iran. It is instead interested in one and only one subject: advancing the war narrative against Iran in exactly the same way that it sold George W. Bush's outrageous lies about Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and convinced the public that it should support the illegal -- many would say criminal -- invasion of Iraq.

All of this does not imply that Tehran's hardliners are innocent of wrongdoing. Of course, they are not. The confrontation between the Islamic Republic and the United States has been going on for 30 years, and the hardliners bear their share of blame, the extent of which we will not know fully until Iran becomes a democracy. This is particularly true since 2005, when Ahmadinejad assumed the presidency. His reckless and aggressive foreign policy -- if it can be called a policy -- particularly his rhetoric regarding Israel, has made him a popular man among the Muslim masses, but has also provided the perfect excuse for Israel and its U.S. lobby, the neoconservatives, and the War Party to aggressively advance their Iran war narrative.

But that is not the central point here. Rather, it is that the mainstream media's fueling of the war narrative, based on what some corrupt Arab leaders have said privately -- while they lack the courage to say the same things to their own people and while their dictatorial rule and close connections with the United States have contributed mightily to violence in the Middle East -- is simply beyond the pale. Again, the bankruptcy of the American mainstream media has been conclusively demonstrated.

The mainstream media has also inexcusably failed to educate the public about the nature of a possible war with Iran -- the war that Israel and the supposed Arab allies of the United States have been urging her to undertake. It fails to point out that, just like the war in Iraq, any war with Iran would be totally illegal, so long as the Islamic Republic has neither attacked nor plainly threatened the United States. The mainstream media has failed to make clear that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will seem relative child's play compared to a war with Iran. The Islamic Republic has placed many assets throughout the Middle East; if attacked, Iran's military will not hesitate to use both its own resources and those assets to quickly spread the conflict -- via asymmetrical warfare, in particular -- throughout the Middle East and quite possibly the entire Islamic world. The mainstream media does not wish to tell the American people the unpleasant truth that a war with Iran will destroy the economy of the West, and may ultimately lead to World War III.

Yes, this will be the nature of the war that the supposedly "moderate" Arab regimes and "friends" of the United States wish for. Some friends, I would say!

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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A bit off topic but I must say it,

@Pirouz, Pouya, and other Islamic republic apologists,

I am sure you have by now noticed that not a single wikileaks wire has pointed to a 'velvet revolution' or 'foreign support' for Iran's democracy movement that you always shamelessly trump up.

Please take a moment and appologize to the millions of Iranians who risked life and limb to fight for their rights and democracy from an evil regime.

ahvaz / December 5, 2010 2:03 AM

israel is such a warmonger, why dont we sanctions this nutty regime that is an obvious threat to world peace?

Jack / December 5, 2010 2:50 AM

Ahvaz, I am not an apologist. I am a realist. There's a difference.

You mention the Wikileaks releases. These are diplomatic cables, usually coming through US embassies.

There is no current US embassy in Iran. If you want to look at US meddling in Iran via diplomatic embassy cables, there are plenty of them that've been painstakingly pieced back together from files found shredded during the student takeover of the US embassy back in '79.

Pirouz / December 5, 2010 4:24 AM

The question is who is out to get us? Israel or the Arab states?

As much as I hate and condemn the injustices and mistreatment of Palestinians by the aparthide state of Israel, it is improtant to remember that Israel was a (strategic) ally of Iran before Islamic republic, and jews and Persians historically have had little animosity or conflict. many Jews lived and prospered in Iran for centuries, and many still do even today.

Israel, unlike Arabs, does not hate Iran or Iranians. Their problem is with the current govt, the Islamic republic that has shouted "death to israel" (among others) and has acted on it by supporting, funding and arming hamas and Hizbullahs.

(Dr Sahimi, with all due respect, your assumption that IR is developing nucl tech for peaceful purposes, is only that, an assumption...It is just as likely that they are developing nucl weapons and they would have them by now if they could have)

Arabs on the other hand, especially those from S Arabia and Gulf States, have had a long history of animosity and conflict with persians (and their version of Islam, Shiaa). Unlike israel, their fear of Iran, and their motivation to antagonize Iran is not only based on today's geopolitics, economy, or leadership of Iran, but It goes way way back.

Arab states, whether democratically elected governments or corrupt autocratic Sheikhs, have and will continue to fear, mistrust, hate and antagonize Iran regardless of who is in power in Iran, or whether there is democracy, in Iran or Arabia.

Long after the ayatollahs are gone down the trash of history, we will still be dealing with the crazy Arabs (state, not people) and their barbaric version of islam...

ahvaz / December 5, 2010 5:22 AM

Comments like that of Ahvaz border on racism. Iran has good relations with many Arab states including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Oman, UAE (until very recently) and Qatar.
It even has a security pact with Oman.

It has a large Arab population of its own and there is and has been a lot of inter-marriage between Arabs and Iranians particularly between Iraqi and Iranian Shias. It was the Arab Shia scholars from South Lebanon who helped to propagate the Shia faith under the patronage of the Safavids who declared Shia Islam as the religion of state in the 16th century when most of Iran was Sunni.

There is no intrinsic enemy between Iran and Arab states just as there is no such intrinsic enmity towards Jews. The problems in the case of the former is that some of them support the US/Israeli policy of demonising Iran, when Iran is no such demon and has shown remarkable restraint and friendship towards those who supported Saddam through the 8 year war against it.

For instance there is no reason why the Egyptians should be so hostile to Iran, as historically they have had many links with Iran including their premier university, Al Azhar, which was founded by the Fatimids, who were Shi'ite rulers.

Iran's opposition to Israel is a principled one, but even here it has been willing to accept the outcome of any referendum of all Palestinians if that gives recognition to the state of Israel. In the meantime it is right for it to support the resistance movements in both Palestine and Lebanon. Iran had also supported and aided the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the Bosnian Muslims when they were fighting for their survival. This is simply the right thing to do.

rezvan / December 5, 2010 7:01 AM

@rezvan, while I appreciate your humanstic views, I would like to point out that they are based on vague ideas and general assumptions. The relations between governments are matters of interests not those of friendships. Iranians have many things in common with their Arab neighbors and vice versa. This does not extend into the realm of national interests. Egyptians might love Iranians, but Egypt and Iran have been competing for regional leadership since the time of Nasser and Pahlavi. I am afraid that Iran's aid to the movements you have mentioned was not translated into diplomatic support in global affairs. Both Bosnia and Lebanon usually side by Iran's enemies and not by Iran. This fact alone has motivated many Iranians to question the justification for such policies.

Ali / December 5, 2010 8:39 AM


I have made no assumption about whether Iran's nuclear program is for reactor fuel or weapon. As a scientist who works with numbers, equations, models, and experimental measurements, I know too well how dangerous it is to draw the wrong conclusion based on conjectures.

I say "Iran's nonexistent nuclear weapon program" simply because the IAEA has not unearthed any smoking gun or any credible evidence for it, and the National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007 - representing the consensus of 156 intelligence agencies - said that if Iran did have such a program, it stopped it in 2003. Read Bush's book and see how angry he was when he got the NIE report!!

Thus, until I see a shred of credible and scientific - as opposed to hyped-up hypothesis, conjectures, etc. - I will use the only scientific term that should be used: nonexistent nuclear weapon program. I do not care what President Obama, Admiral Mike Mulin, Hillary Clinton, and Leon Paneta (CIA Director) say. They are politicians, I am a scientist.

Muhammad Sahimi / December 5, 2010 8:53 AM

Pirouz the Realist:

"There is no current US embassy in Iran. If you want to look at US meddling in Iran via diplomatic embassy cables, there are plenty of them that've been painstakingly pieced back together from files found shredded during the student takeover of the US embassy back in '79."


1) There was hardly anything valuable in those. Most documents had already been taken out of the country.

2) Any in any case, that didn't address the point, did it? Pointing to something over thirty years ago isn't quite an effective rebuttal for the present.

3) There was a quite lengthy cable or two on the Green Movement. Nothing about US involvement.

Thus your rebuttal, quite frankly, was überweak.

Kurt / December 5, 2010 10:34 AM

Wikileaks is only a reservoir of opinions passed to and conveyed by US officials back to the State Dept., The cables also include those officials own opinions. That they had a level of confidentiality doesn't make the information contained anymore real, accurate or factual. In the cables, pre-2009, quite often its a case of the officials (Bush appointees)being told what it was thought they wanted to hear. Bush made no secret of his wish to attack the IRI( because, he said, of its treatment of its people). The way Iraq turned out and the economic crisis put paid to to that.
Still the powers that be are livid with these disclosures. So it can be assumed that they are not using Wikileaks as some have suggested and that includes Israel. Certainly, the media in US is selective in what it highlights, what else is new? In other countries the site has been completely censored. As to the elections(how rigged were the rigged elections?) and the nuclear program (otherwise known infamously as WMD), you won't find any answers there. Until the democrats can get the US economy humming along nicely, as they usually do, the stage is not set yet for the Pemanent War party to usher in WW3 unless they get a little bit of help from their fundamentalist confreres in Tehran.

pirooz / December 5, 2010 11:32 AM


I made it very very clear in my comments that I was referring to certain Arab "States, not people". And as some one who grew up in Ahvaz, with a sizable Iranian Arab population and who cherishes his Arabic speaking friends, and great love and support for the palestinian cause, I reject your accusation of racism.

Race has nothing to do with it. Cultural, religous and historical factors do.

wikileaks have displayed how Arab states fear, distrust, and anatagonize Iranians today, as they did during the Iran-Iraq war, during the reign if Shah, and for many centuries before it, regardless of leadership, geopolitical, or economic situation. This fear, rivalry and animosity will likely continue even after Mullahs are toppled.

Ahvaz / December 5, 2010 12:14 PM

Contrary to my lament underneath TB reprint of the Ashton interview w/ Laipson, Sahimi remains one of the bright independent lights writing for Tehran Bureau. He's clearly and consistently "off the reservation".... and reliably so.

His key thesis here about the US corporate media (including most egregiously the NYTimes)using an Israel/neocon filter to spin the wikileaks to their pre-canned agenda is spot-on.... and he's actually being gentle.

May voices like his increasingly be welcomed and funded by outlets like TB, PBS and USIP....

That's a hope, though the recent Iran Primer and TB's enthusiasm for pushing it uncritically.... give pause.

havai / December 5, 2010 6:29 PM


Are you serious when you say "I am not an apologist. I am a realist."

What a lark.

I am one of the few people in the blogosphere who actually knows Mark Pyrouz personally. He was laid off and divorced and barely speaks any farsi. He spends his days attacking Iranians on the Internet.
Don't pay any attention to him, that's exactly what he wants!

Kirouz / December 6, 2010 1:45 AM

Sorry, but there is in fact no evidence at all that the elections were stolen. Eric Brill's analysis was dispositive on that issue. It is about time that some people gave up on trying to spin the elections as stolen just because they dislike Ahmadinejad.

lizz / December 6, 2010 4:28 AM

Ahvaz - there is no mention of velvet revolutions in the cables for the very, very simple reason that the cables are not "Secret" or "Top Secret" and are low-level documents only. There's hardly any need for cables to "prove" that the US is out to topple the government of Iran because the US has formally dedicated a budget to this endeavor.

lizz / December 6, 2010 4:30 AM

Dr. Sahimi, I have to agree with an earlier critique of your article when you refer to IRI's nuclear weapons program as "non-existent".

I think if you had worded the sentence differently (e.g, IRI nuclear weapons program for which no evidence has been established so far), I could go along with that...but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).

I for one cannot believe that IRI would spend billions of dollars and place itself under severe sanctions simply because they need more electricity or they just want to exercise their rights under NPT... but that's my opinion which does not justify for me to state that IRI does have a nuclear weapons program.

I really enjoy your articles, I just suggest more precise wording when it comes to such controversial topic.

Bahman_Azad / December 6, 2010 7:30 AM

@ Rezvan: Iran’s good relation with Arab states remind me of the “good relations” the Soviet Union had with Eastern Europe… it’s questionable how willing these states are to become Iran’s client states…
Supporting Hezbollah and Hamas only invites violence and Israeli retaliation, which ultimately result in
Civilian casualties, with no achievable objectives whatsoever. It only deludes the Palestinians into believing that defeating Israel is possible, instead of accepting a peaceful compromise, and moving on with their lives. If Israel’s existence is threatened, it can drag the entire Middle East into a doomsday scenario… why would anyone in his right mind support that?

@ Sahimi: It’s not a question whether they have a weapon program, it’s whether they have the capability of developing a weapons program. Once all the elements are in place, they can initiate a program and produce a bomb in a relatively short time.
There’s no doubt that Ahmadinejad is popular in the Muslim world. Cheap demagoguery can always appeal to ignorant masses, brainwashed by religious dogma, and allusions to duty and honor... Should Arab leaders lead their people on a path of jihad? Or should they recognize the rights of the Jewish people to self determination on their ancestral homeland? One path is ultimately self-destructive, the other, can eliminate needless suffering… there’s peace process on the way, let’s not screw it up on account of lost pride…

joe / December 6, 2010 8:40 AM

Mr. Sahimi, you sound like you're on the Sy Hersh bandwagon.

Banafsheh / December 6, 2010 8:41 AM

Articles tend to carefully distinguish the difference of opinion between Arabs and Arab governments that are more afraid of their people than anything. Arabs see the Iranian government as a freedom government because it is far more free than their own, although, not completely free. Recent polls suggest that most Arabs see an Iranian possession of nuclear weapons as stabilizing and welcome it. It is their brutal, western backed oppressors that are against it. Not Arab people at all.

The whole IRANIAN NUCLEAR THREAT scenario is essentially a farce placed in fear of Irans massive technological growth that is 16 times larger than the global mean for technological growth, also the very recent large scale economic growth while under the current sanctions. The only thing that is unfortunate is the Reagan style economics in Iran. Many billions in reserves but nobody is spending.

Behrooz / December 6, 2010 11:07 AM


"...I for one cannot believe that IRI would spend billions of dollars and place itself under severe sanctions simply because they need more electricity..."

Do you realize that your statement in the quote above is evidence of one of two things? 1. You are definitely not an Iranian, even though your moniker says that you are from Iran, and 2. You are an Iranian but you were born outside of Iran and have no experience of the never ending power outages that plague every single house in that entire country.

Number 2 is highly unlikely, because those Iranians born outside of Iran are more concerned with getting an autograph from a Hollywood star than to come and post here. So, it's definitely number 1.

You believe what you want to believe. Iran has the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, AND she also has the right to develop nuclear weapons after thirty years of covert and overt threats and actions against it by nuclear armed nations.

Ekbatana / December 6, 2010 12:35 PM

Dear Dr Sahimi,

Certainties are useful in science, especially engineering, but I dont understand how one can be so certain about a "Iran's nonexistent nuclear weapon program". Only a high ranking insider in the IR would know that with absolute certainly.

Another scientific way of saying it would be " improbabele based on the evidence..."

Of course I understand the motive to declare IR's nuclear weapons program "nonexistant", as there is a genuine risk of war pushed by the neocons, Israel, and as we learned from wikileaks, Arab states. (rem: this strategy did not save Iraq)

I think we should appreciate the genuine fear and worry of the rest of the world of nuclear proliferation, and IR's motive (despite how many fatwas Khamani issues against nukes) to get their hands on some nukes, and of course the nature of this regime that you and I know so well, a lying, two faced, calculating, paranoid, ignorant, violent, backwards regime.

I prefer to take the stance that eventhough Iran technically has the right to peaceful nucl energy, this regime is not worthy of it. With their bull headed push for nucl power, they are leading us straight to war, and giving warmongers the excuses they need to attack Iran.

They must stop, just like Ghadafi did. This is the only way to prevent war, for Iranians to pressure the regime to stop. they are leading us straaight to war.

Ahvaz / December 6, 2010 6:22 PM

I have to agree that Dr. Sahimi's supposedly "scientific" statement about a "nonexistent nuclear weapon program" is a canard. In fact, it is not a scientific statement but one of religious faith; faith being, of course, "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen".

Ian / December 6, 2010 8:20 PM


So are you still implying that the student/democracy/green movement was a "foreign supported", and a "velvet coup" , in the words of Jannati, Ahmadinejad and Khamanai? really?
sorry, but your 'simple' argument is just as pathetic as Pirouz's. clinging for straws....

Eric Brill, and the Leveretts argumnents have been soundly rebuked by Dr Sahimi on TB. Brill in particular has no knowledge of farsi, Iranian culture, society or government, has never been to Iran, and as I wrote him once, his article is worth less than the paper it was written on.
It is very lame that Ahmadinejad supporters like to bring him up. He has no credibility.

Ahvaz / December 6, 2010 8:22 PM


While I am open to a more precise characterization of Iran's nuclear program, your suggested phrase is not in my opinion acceptable, because it implies that it exists but has not been proven. Quoting the infamous Donald Rumsfeld does not cut it for me. Precisely the same type of "reasoning" was used to invade and destroy Iraq.


I was going to respond to your comment, but after reading the first sentence of your response to Rezvan, I decided not to. I am sorry, you are too far off. And, then, I realized you are someone else with another name!


It would be an honor to be on Sy's bandwagon.


Because there is no evidence as of now, one must assume that it does not exist. I am not inclined to think Rumsfeldian. Even the National Intelligence Estimate said as much. But, though your suggested phrase is good, scientifically, it is equivalent to what I use.

Nuclear proliferation is terrible and I am absolutely positively 110 percent (to quote Ali Parvin, the soccer legend) against it. But, so long as the West has two sets of standards, one for itself and its allies, and one for its adversaries, we will not be able to contain nuclear proliferation.

When the West does not prevent Pakistan from going nuclear,

* a nation that is an unstable and essentially failed state;

* one in which radical elements populate its armed forces;

* one whose intelligence service ISI brings Taliban to power in Afghanistan and is still supporting it according to the Wikileaks documents;

* one whose border area with Afghanistan is a heaven for terrorists;

* one whose Sunni population kills Shiites steadily, and

* a nation that is a heaven for Jundallah terrorist that kill Iranian citizens;

when the West is totally silent about Israel and its 400 nuclear warheads and is not even willing to allow its discussion by the NPT member states,

and when the U.S. rewards India's nuclear weapons with transfer of nuclear technology, a gross violation of the NPT,

then what do you expect? Fear mongering targeting a particular nation worked in Iraq's case. People like me would be damned if we do not do our best to prevent allowing the same criminal mindset, the same lies and exaggerations, and the same one-sided arguments and double standards become an excuse for the US to attack Iran.

Unlike what many Iranians think, the US does not give a hoot to what Iranian people - not the IRI - want. Its Navy has called on its personnel to use the imaginary "Arabian Gulf" rather than Persian Gulf, and this is such a minor thing to prevent, but, no, the US does not care about what Iranians want; it only cares about scaring the Arabs and then selling them $100 billion worth of arms, and of course to get the arms order, it is willing to even a 3000 years history of Persian gulf. These are the same Arab governments that, despite their 65 years of ranting about the Palestinians and Israel, never got scared by Israel's nuclear arsenal. So, the idea that they are scared of Iran's non-existent nuclear weapon - or a small defensive one if it is ever developed - does not fool people like me. This a commerce of death and attempt to control the entire Middle East, and nothing else.

Muhammad Sahimi / December 6, 2010 8:27 PM


your argument "Iran has the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, AND she also has the right to develop nuclear weapons after thirty years of covert and overt threats and actions against it by nuclear armed nations."

...is typical of low level regime supporters who openly say and hope that IR should get the nukes, some thing the Iranian officials themselves can not say openly. It shows the intent to develope nukes is certainly there.

Re "our RIGHT to peaceful purposes of nuclear tech" I suggest you first worry about our RIGHT to fair and free elections, RIGHTS
to peaceful assembly, women's RIGHTS, minority RIGHTS, religion RIGHTS, children's RIGHTS, RIGHTS to fair and independant trial, prisoner RIGHTS, and many many other RIGHTS that IR tramples on daily.

A government that breaks every human rights on a regular basis and still lives in 7th century does NOT have any rights to nuclear tech or nukes.

Do you not see that your regime is leading Iran to war and disaster with their arroganly stupid and bullheaded push for nucl tech?

Ahvaz / December 6, 2010 8:34 PM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,

"Because there is no evidence as of now, one must assume that it does not exist."

fair enough...but lets agree that it is an assumption, not a certainly. And assumptions are based on probability.

I understand and second many of your arguments especially the double standard.
I also believe you that you are 100% against nucl proliferation. And you are just as much against war on Iran.

But please remember that all the scientific arguments and protests against Bush's (very weak) arguments about WMD DID NOT SAVE IRAQ. Why should we believe that our arguement for "Iran nucl rights" or denying "lack of proof", etc. will save Iran? Will arguing double standards save Iran from attack?

My worry is that it won't. Our only hope is that IR stops like Ghadafi did.

Ahvaz / December 6, 2010 9:01 PM

I am proud of being a low level Iranian. Not me, of course, but it was other low level Iranians or "low level regime supporters," as you like to label us, who fought the 8 year war with the foreign invaders and tasted many doses of "scorched-earth," dished out on our fellow countrymen.

Case in point...

The Jews of Europe went through 6 years of misery during World War II, during which time the forces of all major world powers were fighting alongside them. And these Jews ended up with nice piece of stolen and cofiscated real estate and a free nuclear weapons manufactring facility to go with it. The Iranian nation went through 8 years of war, the largest since World War II, with all the major powers fighting us alongside our adversary; money from Saudi rulers (not people) and Kuwaiti rulers (not people), equipment from the US/France/Russia/Germany, intelligence from the Saudi AVAKS system, and grunt manpower hired and imported from Egypt were brought to fight usm and to kill our what you imply were "low level" Iranians. Not only that they did not win, these powers have kept harassing my beloved nation for decades since. And why exactly is Iran not allowed to possess nuclear weapons when surrounded by such relentless and determined adversaries???

You see, some naive Iranian fellow signed the NPT nearly 40 years ago without having any foresight as to what the West had planned for it in the coming decades. You can see signs of this even in some of the comments made by Dick Cheney, and I am paraphrasing "We have been building and planning this military for 100 years, and now we are ready."

Apparently, you can see what they have been preparing for. And in this world, we are encouraged to disarm?

And when you say "A government that breaks every human rights on a regular basis and still lives in 7th century does NOT have any rights to nuclear tech or nukes." I become certain you are a Jew at heart - no matter what your nationality.

Ekbatana / December 6, 2010 10:04 PM

A few points is worth highlighting:

(1) Someones' intentions cannot be observed or measured one way or another; however, international relations cannot be fundamentally based on trust specially between competing interests; rather it should be based on international law. That is, iran should be obligated to follow the treaties that she has signed, NPT in this case, to the letter. Unfortunately, the judges of if iran has followed its obligations under NPT, are not impartial or void of influence. Otherwise, there should be no difference between iran and, say, japan, in view of international law. After all, e.g., an officer cannot arrest the licensed driver of a car for his intention to drive above speed limit before he actually does that, no matter how much the officer personally dislikes the driver or his attitudes. So lots of what is being said are pure speculation and void of much (if any) rationality. Accusations are mostly based on emotions and inducement of fear rather than hard facts and their impartial evaluation.

(2) Let's face the sad reality that fear of arab leaders of iran (which was present during shah's regime as well - remember Nasser and Saddam) is not based on any real threat. Even if iran had the means, what would it do with it? Attack Mecca or Medina, Karbala and Najaf. Masjed-al-Aqsa, or what? That is insanity and does not make any sense. The dislike of arab leaders of iranians are based on a collection of various factors, none authentic or rational, such as historical events, Shia vs Sunni, competition for influence, arabs' lack of experience with engagement (at people's level) with non-arabs, jealousy of anything iranian, a sense of ownership of Islamic world for which there is no room for any other competitor, and the inherent racism/bias in Islam/arabs towards non-arabs. Those who engage with different people from around the world, find it easy to engage in friendship with people of any country anywhere from far east to west; except, find it very difficult to befriend two groups of people: arabs and israeelis; the latter has at least some reason for its suspicion of iranians, but the former behave very strangely and uncomfortably as if they have seen a genie from Mars rather than someone from a neighboring country. That is more true of arabs of Persian Gulf area than arabs of africa.

(3) West should invest today in its future relation with "people of iran". IRI will NOT sustain, it will be gone sooner or later simply because it has miserably failed to respond to any of aspirations of people of iran in the past 32 years. If IRI lasts for another 32 years, it cannot do any better than what it has already achieved. IRI can only dow worse in future since iran is far more broken today than it ever was in 1979. In that context, west should side with people of iran today and focus on human rights issues which are at the forefront of aspirations of people of iran, and from that viewpoint use of a fake name for "Golfo Persico" - an issue that Persians are passionate about - is a grave mistake, even if it is premium-paid for by arab dictators.


(4) Iran should defocus on widespread nuke work (beyond research and for medical applications). The reason being that (a) iranians are not accustomed to the level of care that is needed to manage nuke industry to avoid any spillage or environmental/human disaster. The pictures/films that are coming out already shows the level of carelessness that is present in handling materials, transportation, etc. (b) It is not a viable energy source for iran with limited supply of needed raw materials. It should instead focus on renewable energy research and development (e.g., solar, wind, etc.) that can bring both jobs and a clean source of energy for the future.

Masih / December 6, 2010 11:03 PM

> I become certain you are a Jew at heart - no matter what your
> nationality.
I am aware of Godwin's Law, but this is a special case. What you are saying is precisely what the Nazis said, both before and during WWII. I wonder what people of the time ought to have said to people like yourself, and find myself in the same position. Should I just insult you for being a hideous bigoted fool, or try to reason with you? Should I appeal to your better judgment, or invite further opposition? In the end, I feel only pity, and thank God the Jews have the weapons to defend themselves this time.

Ian / December 6, 2010 11:42 PM

"...What you are saying is precisely what the Nazis said, both before and during WWII..."

The day that Jewish people stop playing the victim card is the day I will know they have no plans for committing crimes against humanity in the coming days. I do not suggest any of us hold our breath that long. What else should we expect from your people 'in the name of World War II?'

Ekbatana / December 7, 2010 4:13 AM

to Mr Ahvaz
are you an Iranian?if yes that i doubt it,why you sue"the Gulf" or "Gulf state" in your comments
correct yourself man
that area is "Persian Gulf"
even all we die it is better than be called another name
also,i do not like this Mollas ,but there is not Garnette that 20 or 50 years another Arab country attacking Iran
i am from southern Iran and i have lots of Pain from the invasion or Iran by Saddam
( i am glad he was hannged like a dirty RAT)
we should have a Atom Bomb.why not
if Saddam had ,he would have used against us with out a second thought
this regime will go,sooner and latter but Iran stay and must always stay strong
that is it
prvaz.from southern Iran
long live with Iran for ever

parvaz / December 7, 2010 6:04 AM


many of us have for months debated Ian against military action against Iran. Then you come in and with one stroke of your pen make his point for him.

let me remind you that the same individuals who prolonged a war --- that we had essentially won with the liberation of Khoramshar --- for another 6 years and thus prolonged so much death and misery on Iranians, are now arrogantly pushing on with a nuclear program that is leading Iran down the path of more war and more misery.

And let me remind you that while your friends were terrorizing the streets of tehran with their batons, chains and knives, my friends were on the streets with bare hands, risking their lives shouting slogans like this:

Iran-e sabze- azad, bomb-e atom nemikhad
--a green fertile Iran...has no need for atom bomb


na ghazeh na lobnan...janam fadaye Iran
--no ghaza no lebonan....my life is for Iran


marg bar hichkass
--death to noone

The future of Iran belongs to those kids, while you and your friends' mentality is destined for trash of history. Enshaallah.

Ahvaz / December 7, 2010 7:26 AM

this is a very conclusive,and right to the point article,thanks again dr,sahimi,as much as i detest ahmadinejad,i had to agree with him for a change ,when he mentioned that this is a west propaganda machine and neocons,starting another war in the middle east,like we are police of the world now,with such a dire economy and unemployement in the state.for a change he is right,and we must see this thru the prism of iranian regime,as much as we despised them.

fay / December 7, 2010 7:47 AM

To Mr parvaz,

thank you for your comment.

RE "we should have a Atom Bomb.why not"

I tell you why not. because Mollahs dont have the ORZEH (ability) to actually build one. Why? because they have kicked the best and the brightest Iranian scientists and engineers out of the country, and they dont trust the brightest Iranians that are in Iran. All they have left is a bunch of Pasdar scientists and bassiji engineers.

even if the mollahs had the ORZEH to build one, they wouldnt have the LIAGHAT (worthiness) to maintain it safely or properly, or use it wisely. Look at how they are running the country!

These Biorzeh, Biliaghat Mollahs will not protect Iran. Instead, with their stupidity they may bring a war on Iran much much worse that Saddam ever could. That is my worry my friend.

And I am sorry about the misunderstanding about the Gulf. It is of course the 'Persian Gulf', as it has been for thousands of years.

Ahvaz / December 7, 2010 10:15 AM

Debating "Ian," against military action against Iran is not my obsession. I could care less whether my posts justify "his," case or not.

Your comment about the prolonging of Iran-Iraq war is true. Cruelties of past wars, however, do not justify shunning from future ones at the cost of surrendering our rights to would be invaders.

Can you envisage the existence of Iran as a sovereign powerful country in the next 2000 years without her ever engaging in wars? Before you answer, ponder the history of beloved Iran in the previous 2000 years. Now that you know the answer, now that it is beginning to dawn on you what I mean, what is the delay? What is this cat and mouse game about nuclear weapons? For how many generations of Iranians should we allow the outside powers to penetrate our defenses as they wish; if not with Saddam, with someone else.

Yes, not only Iran must have nuclear weapons, she shall shove them down anyone's throat if they ever dare to attack it again.

The slogans you list are quite crude and naive. Yes, of course, "Janam fadayeh Iran,"...if nuclear weapons prove not to be sufficient to subdue the enemies of my beloved nation.

Ekbatana / December 7, 2010 10:34 AM


Unless you personally are going to pick up arms and fight at the front lines, I suggest you zip it.

What history has shown is that the same individuals who huff and puff and push for war from a distance are also the first to run like rats, and it is every one else that pays the price for their warmongering, just like the 100s of thousands that we lost after Khoramshahr.

ahvaz / December 7, 2010 10:02 PM

For anyone clinging to the delusion that Iran wants nuclear reactors just for electrical power, let's put that to rest. Given the leverage they have with the US just by attempting to build reactors, they could get enough subsidized solar panels to provide an equivalent amount of power at an equal or lower cost.

This is the game that North Korea has been playing for years. Start reactors, then shut them down for economic handouts. If Iran really just wanted electrical power rather than just plain power, it could take this path too. Instead, they clearly want a nuclear reactor. Take that as you will.

Z / December 7, 2010 10:14 PM

"...Unless you personally are going to pick up arms and fight at the front lines, I suggest you zip it..."

The hypocracy of those who advocate "democracy," is the stuff of the legends.

I suggest to you not to tell someone to "zip it," unless you are standing in front of them. It's quite clear that you are a weakling among the Iranian population.

There seems to be an obsession among bloggers about 'who,' (e.g. Mullahs, or Moussavi, etc.) is in power in Iran rather than whether or not the country is on the right path to a reasonable level of autonomy and independence. Iran is on the right path to reach a point where no one dares to threaten it or attack it. If Iran is attacked again, this only means that the job of securing the country still remains unfinished.

The present threats of war against Iran are a clear indication that the country has yet much more work to do in order to complete building her defenses.

Long way to go before we can shut up all those who thearten our beloved Iran.

Ekbatana / December 8, 2010 1:10 AM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,

Kudos for a timely piece once again!

With additional "cablegate" material and without the filter of certain mainstream outlets, the aim of the narrative you suggest is increasingly evident. The following piece should add to the discussion: "http://www.counterpunch.org/porter12072010.html"

I would like to suggest that the "Iranian nuclear program" plays a relatively minor role with respect to the strategy the US has adopted with Iran. I would posit that even if Iran agreed to abandon its civilian nuclear program tomorrow, the US approach will not change in substance - other reasons for applying pressure can always be conjured up. As such, it matters little that the National Intelligence Report and Israel's intelligence chief do not believe that Iran has made a decision to build a nuclear weapon (the latter according to wikileaks material), or, as you stated, the existence of such a program has not been demonstrated.

What matters is for us to continue to speak against voices of war! If at the end, these voices prevail, we shall continue to speak against voices of war.

Jay / December 8, 2010 2:41 AM

Ekbatana / December 8, 2010 1:10 AM

It is amazing how similar your last comment sounds to a right wing 'teapartier' or a zionist Extrermist.
Your comments almost mirror exactly, what an ignorant racist red neck hick would say, except from the opposite perspective of course.

It is a wonderful example of what many others on TB have pointed out:
extremists are made from the same cloth... they are two sides of the same coin... they are one and the same... sageh zard baradar-e shoghaleh...one reinforces another...and one woulnt thrive without the other...

Thank you for putting that truth on display for every one to see with your self-immolating comments.

ahvaz / December 8, 2010 3:34 AM


Thank you. You are kind. I agree with you.

A young friend of mine is doing his Ph.D. thesis on Iran's nuclear program. He has interviewed many, including Kissinger, etc. He told me that the people within the Pentagon that he interviewed (he asked me not to divulge their names) told him that even if Iran develops a nuclear arsenal, it will be small and easily containable. But, "it is the politicians that keep blowing this out of proportion," according to these guys at the Pentagon.

The question has never been such issues. The issues are, (1) the U.S. wants to have influence if not control on every Middle East nation, and (2) Israel does not want another country in the ME that can come to the table and being equal to it.

Muhammad Sahimi / December 8, 2010 6:25 AM

I can see how easily you become obsessed with commentators and forget why you began reading the article in the first place. In any case, thanks for offering your friendship, but no thanks!

Like I say, Iran must develop and possess an adequate stockpile of nuclear weapons. Those who do not agree with this should pack up and live in Palestine, where they can get a first hand taste of what happens to nations who are not able to defend themselves.

Ekbatana / December 8, 2010 8:52 AM

Sahimi has rightly pointed out that Western double standrads have landed the world in such a mess:
1. The waging of Afghan Jihad that disfigured the worldview of two nation states Pakistan and Afghanistan beyond recognition. Today the Taliban wasps killing other Muslims especially the 12wers on the basis of belief are the direct product of that though process.
2. Perpetuating Indian nukes and then turning a blind eye to Pakistani one has in the past created scnarios in 2002 and againin 2008 when the region could have been in flames due to nuke exchange.
3. The ills of Zia ul Haque were revisited by Musharraf who made the things further messy.
4. Over that the mediocre pakistani political leadership had made a complete mess of whatever is left.

lastly nation states like Pakistan have to pass through its trials to get its share; every nation goes through that and each has its timelines. To say it is a failed state is an over statement. it has been the sheer character of the nation state that even a military dictator like Zia could not go for Saddam like measures against Pakistani Shia and another autocrat Musharraf rather encouraged electronic media; not beause he liked; rather because he could not muster courage to go against the tide.

there are lessons for IRGC based leaderships to learn..........

Naqi Akbar / December 8, 2010 3:16 PM

Dear Ekbatana,

Did Khamenei not issue a fatwa against nuclear weapons? Are you telling him to pack up and live in Palestine?

Pak / December 8, 2010 4:10 PM

"I can see how easily you become obsessed with commentators"

LOL. For once, I agree with you. I can't argue with that.

Ahvaz / December 8, 2010 6:46 PM

Could the four pages of the US constitution encompass library of volumes written interpreting it? If yes, then, what need is there for such libraries? I am in no position to interpret fatwas issued by Ayatollah Khamenei, yet, the totality of the context in which it was issued are of importance. You can be sure such statements are not made in a vacuum.

Ekbatana / December 8, 2010 9:45 PM

For once you got it!

Ekbatana / December 8, 2010 10:38 PM


This is what I'm getting you for your birthday, and maybe you or your friends will find a novel use for it:

Ian / December 9, 2010 11:05 PM

Having left Iran recently,I am not surprised at all by those supporters of the IRI.Karzai received his 30 pieces of silver in plastic bags stuffed with dollars. Ahmadinejad can afford a few plastic envelops with petty change.

anonymous / December 11, 2010 5:44 PM