Itching to Fight Another Muslim Enemy

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Consortium News

Itching to Fight Another Muslim Enemy

If you read the major American newspapers or watch the propaganda on cable TV, it's pretty clear that the U.S. foreign policy Establishment is again spoiling for a fight, this time in Iran.

Just as Iraq's Saddam Hussein was the designated target of American hate in 2002 and 2003, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is playing that role now. Back then, any event in Iraq was cast in the harshest possible light; today, the same is done with Iran.

Anyone who dares suggest that the situation on the ground might not be as black and white as the Washington Post's editors claim it is must be an "apologist" for the enemy regime. It's also not very smart for one's reputation to question the certainty of the reporting in the New York Times, whether about Iraq's "aluminum tubes" for nuclear centrifuges in 2002 or regarding Iran's "rigged" election in 2009.

It's much better for one's career to clamber onto the confrontation bandwagon. Nobody in the major U.S. media or in politics will ever be hurt by talking tough and flexing muscles regarding some Muslim "enemy." And, if the posturing leads to war, it will fall mostly to working-class kids to do the fighting and dying while the bills can be passed along to future generations.

Even groups that should know better - like Votevets.org representing veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars - have been piggybacking on the organized hate campaign against Ahmadinejad and Iran to advance other political agendas. In cable TV ads, Votevets.org uses Ahmadinejad's face and Iran's alleged manufacture of some IEDs to press the case for alternative energy.

Indeed, looking at this American propaganda campaign objectively, you would assume that the only acceptable outcome of U.S. differences with Iran is another Iraq-like ratcheting up of tensions, using Washington's influence within the UN Security Council to impose escalating sanctions, leading ultimately to another war, as if the lessons of Iraq have already been forgotten.

Fearing Negotiations

This warmongering attitude was on display again Monday, when a possible breakthrough regarding Iran's refining of nuclear material - its agreement to ship a substantial amount to Turkey in exchange for nuclear rods for medical research - was treated more as a negative than a positive.

The New York Times promptly framed the agreement reached by Iran, Turkey and Brazil as "complicating sanctions talk," while the Washington Post rushed out an analysis with the headline, "Iran creates illusion of progress in nuclear negotiations."

The Post's analysis followed a Saturday editorial denouncing Brazil's President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva for even trying "yet another effort to ‘engage' the extremist clique of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "

The Post's neocon editorial writers reprised the usual anti-Iran propaganda themes with all the arrogance that they once showed in declaring as flat fact that Saddam Hussein possessed stockpiles of WMD. After the U.S. invaded Iraq and found no WMD caches, the Post's editorial page editor Fred Hiatt acknowledged to CJR that if there indeed were no WMD, "it would have been better not to say it."

(More than 4,300 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead, in part, because of Hiatt's mistake.)

On Saturday, an unchastened Hiatt and his crew were back again spouting more fictions, this time about Iran, like the oft-repeated claim that the Iranian election last June was "fraudulent," apparently because the Post's preferred candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, lost.

An analysis by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes earlier this year found that there was little evidence to support allegations of fraud or to conclude that most Iranians viewed Ahmadinejad's reelection as illegitimate.

Not a single Iranian poll analyzed by PIPA - whether before or after the June 12 election, whether conducted inside or outside Iran - showed Ahmadinejad with less than majority support. None showed the much-touted Green Movement's candidate Mousavi ahead or even close.

"These findings do not prove that there were no irregularities in the election process," said Steven Kull, director of PIPA. "But they do not support the belief that a majority rejected Ahmadinejad." [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Ahmadinejad Won, Get Over It!"]

So, while many in the West may agree that Ahmadinejad is an unpleasant politician who foolishly questions the historical accuracy of the Holocaust and makes other bombastic statements, it is nevertheless a propaganda fiction to continue asserting that he was not the choice of most Iranian voters.

The point is not insignificant, because the claim about Iran's "fraudulent" election has been cited repeatedly as fact by the Post, the Times and other major U.S. news outlets, feeding the rationale of Israel and U.S. neocons in demanding "regime change."

If Ahmadinejad was actually elected - even if the process had flaws - then the goal of "regime change" would involve ousting a popularly chosen leader, much like the CIA helped do in 1953 when another anti-Western Iranian leader, Mohammed Mossadegh, was removed from office and replaced by Washington's preferred choice, the Shah of Iran.

But the American hostility toward Ahmadinejad - and the U.S. media's annoyance at any rapprochement between Washington and Tehran - present other dangers, particularly now that Iran has agreed to a previous Western demand that it transfer 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) of low-enriched uranium out of the country, in this case to Turkey, where it would be stored.

The Iran-Turkey-Brazil agreement would then give Iran the right to receive about 265 pounds of more highly enriched uranium from Russia and France in a form that could not be used for a nuclear weapon, but could be put to use for peaceful purposes, such as medical research.

Even though this new deal parallels a plan that the Obama administration favored last October, U.S. officials have indicated that they might balk at the agreement now because the 2,640 pounds of low-enriched uranium represents a lower percentage of Iran's total supply than it did last fall, possibly more like half than two-thirds.

 "The situation has changed," one diplomat told the New York Times.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs also indicated that the new agreement would not stop the United States from seeking harsher sanctions against Iran.

"The United States will continue to work with our international partners, and through the United Nations Security Council, to make it clear to the Iranian government that it must demonstrate through deeds - and not simply words - its willingness to live up to international obligations or face consequences, including sanctions," Gibbs said.

Victory/Defeat

The Washington Post's analysis by Glenn Kessler portrayed the new agreement as "a victory" for Iran that has allowed it to create "the illusion of progress in nuclear negotiations with the West, without offering any real compromise to the United States and its allies."

However, perhaps the bigger concern among American neocons is that the Iran-Turkey-Brazil accord might weaken the rationale for pressing ahead either with a military attack against Iran's nuclear facilities or with a "regime change" strategy that would use sanctions and covert political operations to turn the Iranian people against their government.

By reducing the prospects of Iran building a nuclear weapon - something that Iran has vowed that it has no intention of doing and that U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in 2007 that it wasn't doing - the new agreement could remove the scariest claim that Israel and its supporters have used in justifying a confrontation with Iran.

So, what might otherwise appear as good news - i.e. an agreement that at minimum delays the possibility of an Iranian bomb and could be a first step toward a fuller agreement - is presented as bad news.

"The Obama administration now faces the uncomfortable prospect of rejecting a proposal it offered in the first place -- or seeing months of effort to enact new sanctions derailed," Kessler explained.

As usual, too, the articles by the Washington Post and the New York Times left out the relevant fact that Israel, which has been aggressively pushing for greater transparency from Iran over its suspected interest in nukes, itself has one of the world's most sophisticated - and undeclared - nuclear arsenals.

Even as President Barack Obama has demanded more nuclear transparency from all countries, he himself continues the longstanding charade of U.S. presidents, dating back to Richard Nixon, pretending that they don't know that Israel has nuclear weapons.

In line with that history of double standards, Washington's neocon opinion leaders now are framing what could be a positive step toward peace - the Iran-Turkey-Brazil accord - as another failure.

But the larger truth may be that the neocons are simply chafing under the possibility that their hunger for a new conflict in the Middle East might be delayed indefinitely and that - heaven forbid - cooler heads might prevail. 

Robert Parry

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'.

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