Top Things you Think You Know about Iran that are not True

Thursday is a fateful day for the world, as the US, other members of the United Nations Security Council, and Germany meet in Geneva with Iran in a bid to resolve outstanding issues. Although Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had earlier attempted to put the nuclear issue off the bargaining table, this rhetorical flourish was a mere opening gambit and nuclear issues will certainly dominate the talks. As Henry Kissinger pointed out, these talks are just beginning and there are highly unlikely to be any breakthroughs for a very long time. Diplomacy is a marathon, not a sprint.

But on this occasion, I thought I’d take the opportunity to list some things that people tend to think they know about Iran, but for which the evidence is shaky.

Belief: Iran is aggressive and has threatened to attack Israel, its neighbors or the US

Reality: Iran has not launched an aggressive war in modern history (unlike the US or Israel), and its leaders have a doctrine of “no first strike.” This is true of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as well as of Revolutionary Guards commanders.

Belief: Iran is a militarized society bristling with dangerous weapons and a growing threat to world peace.

Reality: Iran’s military budget is a little over $6 billion annually. Sweden, Singapore and Greece all have larger military budgets. Moreover, Iran is a country of 70 million, so that its per capita spending on defense is tiny compared to these others, since they are much smaller countries with regard to population. Iran spends less per capita on its military than any other country in the Persian Gulf region with the exception of the United Arab Emirates.

Belief: Iran has threatened to attack Israel militarily and to “wipe it off the map.”

Reality: No Iranian leader in the executive has threatened an aggressive act of war on Israel, since this would contradict the doctrine of ‘no first strike’ to which the country has adhered. The Iranian president has explicitly said that Iran is not a threat to any country, including Israel.

Belief: But didn’t President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten to ‘wipe Israel off the map?’

Reality: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did quote Ayatollah Khomeini to the effect that “this Occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” (in rezhim-e eshghalgar-i Qods bayad as safheh-e ruzgar mahv shavad). This was not a pledge to roll tanks and invade or to launch missiles, however. It is the expression of a hope that the regime will collapse, just as the Soviet Union did. It is not a threat to kill anyone at all.

Belief: But aren’t Iranians Holocaust deniers?

Actuality: Some are, some aren’t. Former president Mohammad Khatami has castigated Ahmadinejad for questioning the full extent of the Holocaust, which he called “the crime of Nazism.” Many educated Iranians in the regime are perfectly aware of the horrors of the Holocaust. In any case, despite what propagandists imply, neither Holocaust denial (as wicked as that is) nor calling Israel names is the same thing as pledging to attack it militarily.

Belief: Iran is like North Korea in having an active nuclear weapons program, and is the same sort of threat to the world.

Actuality: Iran has a nuclear enrichment site at Natanz near Isfahan where it says it is trying to produce fuel for future civilian nuclear reactors to generate electricity. All Iranian leaders deny that this site is for weapons production, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly inspected it and found no weapons program. Iran is not being completely transparent, generating some doubts, but all the evidence the IAEA and the CIA can gather points to there not being a weapons program. The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate by 16 US intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, assessed with fair confidence that Iran has no nuclear weapons research program. This assessment was based on debriefings of defecting nuclear scientists, as well as on the documents they brought out, in addition to US signals intelligence from Iran. While Germany, Israel and recently the UK intelligence is more suspicious of Iranian intentions, all of them were badly wrong about Iraq’s alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction and Germany in particular was taken in by Curveball, a drunk Iraqi braggart.

Belief: The West recently discovered a secret Iranian nuclear weapons plant in a mountain near Qom.

Actuality: Iran announced Monday a week ago to the International Atomic Energy Agency that it had begun work on a second, civilian nuclear enrichment facility near Qom. There are no nuclear materials at the site and it has not gone hot, so technically Iran is not in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, though it did break its word to the IAEA that it would immediately inform the UN of any work on a new facility. Iran has pledged to allow the site to be inspected regularly by the IAEA, and if it honors the pledge, as it largely has at the Natanz plant, then Iran cannot produce nuclear weapons at the site, since that would be detected by the inspectors. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted on Sunday that Iran could not produce nuclear weapons at Natanz precisely because it is being inspected. Yet American hawks have repeatedly demanded a strike on Natanz.

Belief: The world should sanction Iran not only because of its nuclear enrichment research program but also because the current regime stole June’s presidential election and brutally repressed the subsequent demonstrations.

Actuality: Iran’s reform movement is dead set against increased sanctions on Iran, which likely would not affect the regime, and would harm ordinary Iranians.

Belief: Isn’t the Iranian regime irrational and crazed, so that a doctrine of mutally assured destruction just would not work with them?

Actuality: Iranian politicians are rational actors. If they were madmen, why haven’t they invaded any of their neighbors? Saddam Hussein of Iraq invaded both Iran and Kuwait. Israel invaded its neighbors more than once. In contrast, Iran has not started any wars. Demonizing people by calling them unbalanced is an old propaganda trick. The US elite was once unalterably opposed to China having nuclear science because they believed the Chinese are intrinsically irrational. This kind of talk is a form of racism.

Belief: The international community would not have put sanctions on Iran, and would not be so worried, if it were not a gathering nuclear threat.

Actuality: The centrifuge technology that Iran is using to enrich uranium is open-ended. In the old days, you could tell which countries might want a nuclear bomb by whether they were building light water reactors (unsuitable for bomb-making) or heavy-water reactors (could be used to make a bomb). But with centrifuges, once you can enrich to 5% to fuel a civilian reactor, you could theoretically feed the material back through many times and enrich to 90% for a bomb. However, as long as centrifuge plants are being actively inspected, they cannot be used to make a bomb. The two danger signals would be if Iran threw out the inspectors or if it found a way to create a secret facility. The latter task would be extremely difficult, however, as demonstrated by the CIA’s discovery of the Qom facility construction in 2006 from satellite photos. Nuclear installations, especially centrifuge ones, consume a great deal of water, construction materiel, and so forth, so that constructing one in secret is a tall order. In any case, you can’t attack and destroy a country because you have an intuition that they might be doing something illegal. You need some kind of proof. Moreover, Israel, Pakistan and India are all much worse citizens of the globe than Iran, since they refused to sign the NPT and then went for broke to get a bomb; and nothing at all has been done to any of them by the UNSC.

End/ (Not Continued)

Posted in Uncategorized | 74 Responses | Print |

74 Responses

  1. *Belief*: Ahmadinejad stole the election.

    *Reality*: This belief is based on the assumption that people who voted for Khatami 8 years ago or Karrubi 4 years ago would not vote for Ahmadinejad now.

    In reality, many of those who voted for Khatami before voted for Ahmadinejad this time.

    Ahmadinejad effectively spent 4 years campaigning in the poor villages and towns. In the Presidential debates, he successfully portrayed himself as an outsider to the system who bravely exposes corruption, and he painted Mousavi as in cahoots with Rafsanjani, whom he painted as corrupt.

    Several opinion surveys put Ahmadinejad as substantially ahead of Mousavi even before the Presidential debates.

  2. Perhaps one more to add:

    Belief: Iranians are Arabs

    Actuality: No they are not.

    It is amazing how much you hear this.

  3. Oh, c'mon — our minds are already made up. The Policy Juggernaut, rolling downhill, building momentum, on wheels greased by years of studied ignorance and deception, is going steadily in the Right direction, finally. No fair trying to confuse us with facts. Resistance is futile!

    (And didn't I hear Glenn Beck say that Juan Cole is a Muslim Dupe and Quisling? So that must be true too.)

  4. "Secret updates to White House challenge European and Israeli assessments.

    "The U.S. intelligence community is reporting to the White House that Iran has not restarted its nuclear-weapons development program, two counterproliferation officials tell NEWSWEEK. U.S. agencies had previously said that Tehran halted the program in 2003.

    "The officials, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said that U.S. intelligence agencies have informed policymakers at the White House and other agencies that the status of Iranian work on development and production of a nuclear bomb has not changed since the formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's "Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities" in November 2007. Public portions of that report stated that U.S. intelligence agencies had "high confidence" that, as of early 2003, Iranian military units were pursuing development of a nuclear bomb, but that in the fall of that year Iran "halted its nuclear weapons program." Secret updates to White House challenge European and Israeli assessments."

    By Mark Hosenball | Newsweek Web Exclusive
    Sep 16, 2009

  5. This will be required reading in the blogosphere by noon EDT.

  6. "Germany in particular was taken in by Curveball.
    Isn't it the case that German officials warned US intelligence officers that Curveball was unreliable?

  7. Juan,

    Would you please clarify your remark about Iran's pledge to notify the IAEA as soon as they start working on a nuclear facility? Didn't they formally withdraw this pledge when they suspended their voluntary implementation of the "Additional Protocol" or "modified Code 3.1"?

    Scott Ritter does not cite this pledge that you cite. I would be most grateful if you help me understand this.

  8. Belief: Natanz and the rest of the nuclear enrichment program is only for civilian use.

    Reality: The ability to have an indigenous fuel cycle is not about civilian nuclear power, but creating a Japan Option for Iran, a civilian program which can, on short notice, be converted to a military program.

    Iran could purchase sufficient Low Encriched Uranium on the open market to provide reactor fuel for years in advance, without needing an indigenous fuel cycle and, by buying sufficiently in advance, ensure that if this fuel supply is disrupted, they would have time de develop an indigenous fuel cycle.

    There have already been such offers from Russia. These have been rejected.

    And while the IAEA monitoring continues, they can't produce HEU anyway, so the IAEA monitoring is essential and should be a primary objective of diplomatic effort.

    But should the IAEA monitoring regigm fail and Iran decides to switch the nuclear program to a military posture, the design is clear that in a few months they could produce enough HEU to create a bomb or two, and HEU bombs are simple enough that the first one was tested by dropping it on Hiroshima.

    Thus the Iranian fuel cycle is not about nuclear weapons immediately (and anyone who says so is a dangerous warmonger), but a nuclear option: the capability to have a civilan nuclear program which could be converted into a viable military program sometime in the future.

  9. >> alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction and Germany in particular was taken in by Curveball, a drunk Iraqi braggart.

    The version of the German secret service was that they were desperately searching for a second source by asking allied intelligence agencies if they had anything similar from another source. Instead they found their stuff being presented in the UN council as fact when they themselves considered it unverified at best…

  10. Professor:

    I hope the Iranian mullahs are at least paying you for this drivel.
    "Reality: Iran has not launched an aggressive war modern history (unlike the US or Israel), and its leaders have a doctrine of "no first strike." This is true of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as well as of Revolutionary Guards commanders."

    The use of Hizballah in Lebanon? Not aggressive? Not war? How many buildings around the world do the Iranians have to level before you are going to be willing to admit that they do enagage in aggression and war? And Professor, Iran is at war with us right now in Iraq and Afghanistan and have been killing and/or assisting in the killing of our soldiers in both countries.

    These are some really uninformed opinions you hold about Iran.

  11. It is way past time someone said these things. If the mainstream media had a nanogram of journalistic integrity, this information would have been all over the press every time some patsy of the right suggested even the possibility of bombing Iran.

    Unfortunately, as is so often the case, you are a voice crying in the wilderness. Some of us do listen, however, so keep it up.

  12. Thank you Professor Cole. Enlightenment is in such short supply nowadays.

    It's interesting that the currently hyped Iran scenario "build it quickly, and use it at once" has only occurred one time in the history of atomic and nuclear weapons – Hiroshima/Nagasaki.

  13. No discussion of one of the key criticisms of the Iranian regime – its oft-reported support for various Islamist militias and the acts of terrorism they engage in around the Middle East. Fact or fiction?

  14. How Naive.
    Do you honestly believe that "Reality" has any relevance once the Washington Warmongers have decided on the next victim?

  15. Professor Cole,

    You write of the in-the-works nuclear enrichment site at Qom:

    "There are no nuclear materials at the site and it has not gone hot, so technically Iran is not in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, though it did break its word to the IAEA that it would immediately inform the UN of any work on a new facility."

    While I believe you successfully bust many other myths in your post, I think the above statement misleads the reader about the legality of Iran's failure to disclose construction to the IAEA before last Monday.

    The facts as I understand them are: The NPT says nothing about when Iran must notify the IAEA of construction of new nuclear facilities, nor does Iran's Safeguards Agreement. The Safeguards Agreement relegates this matter to a Subsidiary Arrangement. The IAEA and Iran agreed to a Subsidiary Arrangement in the 1970's requiring notification 180 days before nuclear material is introduced to the facility. In 2003 Iran and the IAEA reached a new agreement requiring earlier notification. In 2007 Iran notified the IAEA that it was reverting back to the 1970's version of the agreement, claiming that the 2003 agreement had never been ratified by the Majlis, so was not binding law. However, Iran had never required parliamentary approval for Subsidiary Arrangements in the past, meaning Iran was singling out the 2003 Subsidiary Arrangement, claiming that it required parliamentary approval while other Subsidiary Arrangements did not.

    Your post seems to insinuate that a Subsidiary Arrangement is not binding law. It's possible that I'm misunderstanding some aspect of this, but it seems to me that Iran was not legally justified in unilaterally withdrawing from its 2003 Subsidiary Arrangement, making its subsequent failure to disclose construction of its facility near Qom illegal.

  16. My worry is that they are not making a bomb in Iran. Instead, training scientists from Ven., NK, Syria, etc. on how to convert THEIR nuclear ambitions to include this conversion.

    If the right hand is shaking yours, make sure you can still see the left hand so it doesn't go into your pocket and steal your wallet.

  17. Thank you for writing this article, Prof. Cole. Keep up the good work of clearing the mist from this and other important issues.

  18. Wow. Cold hard facts, no hearsay, no racist tirades against the Iranians.

    I bet this article won't get much play in the msm, but I'll be linking it to all of my friends and contacts, as you've said, and proved, what I've been saying for over a year now.


  19. This is informative, educational for those that noramlly believe what the talking heads on TV tell them, yet still desire to really know the truth. Sadly, those same people would never bother to read this, as it requires them to… READ!!

    The fear and build up has begun, and we ALL know that the minute someone (I.E Israel or the U.S) attacks Iran, all hell is going to break out. Russia and China both are going to come to Iran's defense, and the only think we can hope for is that cooler heads prevail at that point and no one starts tossing around the idea of a short, but "survivable" nuclear war.

    Of course, cooler heads would have tried the peace and cooperation tactic first. When it looks like the bullets are going to start flying, I am suddenly going to have a need to get away from all major cities for awhile.. or find a VERY deep hole.

  20. If only this column could be writ large across the sky such that all could see and read.

  21. This thing about subsidiary agreements makes no sense. A state is only bound by what it agrees to. When section 3.1 was added to the NPT, it would not be binding on a state until the state agreed to it. Iran said nothing and then in 2007 said it would not be bound by the section. So Iran did not break its agreement. I don't know what El Baredei is talking about.

    As for violating UN sanctions that is another matter I have not looked at, but I do not see any reason to say Iran broke its word on the NPT.

    – Paul Wolf

  22. Iran will never attack Israel because the muslim world will never forgive them for killing Palestinians who live there and will be affected by the nuclear fall out.

    Iran will never attack the US because they know the entire country would turn into vapors in less than 2 hours. The mullahs love their opium and women too much to let that happen.

    However, painting the Islamic Republic and Ahmadinejad and his Hojatieh faction as "rational" is deeply naive and willingly ignorant and if kept unchecked in the long run will bring war on Iranians.

    Also, observing Khomeini's behavior during the Iran-Iraq war will not give you an impression of being exactly saintly when him and his cohorts considered it to be a blessing for Iran and also his bloodlust and ambition to capture Karbala is not exactly characterized as "non-agressive".
    Please read Arvand Abrahamian essay on "why the Islamic Republic has survived"/

    It's very noble of you to try to prevent a war by the neocons on Iran, and much appreciated it by the long term consequences of denying certain facts are going to prove to be much costlier than just a airstrike.

  23. Additionally, the Islamic Republic has been only in power for the past 30 years. Suggesting that 'Iran' has not attacked any nation for over 200 years, is misleading because in the past 200 years, the Islamic Republic has not been in charge.

  24. Belief: The West is offering valuable incentives to Iran if Iran suspends its enrichment program.

    Reality: The main benefit the West has offered publicly for stopping enrichment has been talks. In these talks, Iran would be expected to make further concessions – involving ending its support for groups that oppose Israel – and for those further concessions there would be economic benefits. Of course if Iran had any inclination to take a cooperative stance regarding Israel, it could get these talks without suspending enrichment.

    Suspending enrichment by itself would get Iran very modest benefits. The US would ship airplane parts to Iran and the West would suspend the sanctions on Iran's nuclear program itself.

    Iran's enrichment program is extraordinarily valuable to Iran. As it reaches maturity, it will – even if Iran never builds a weapon – guarantee that the US and West will never be able to credibly threaten to attack Iran.

    The West is essentially asking Iran to trade a permanent military deterrence for airplane parts. This is a deal no Iranian would accept. Not the Shah, not Mousavi and certainly not Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.

  25. Holger Göbber is correct. The Germans knew Curveball was a drunk braggart.

    Professor Cole, thanks for your lessons. Since I follow your work, I think I was 9/10. I didn't realize how small Iran's military budget is. Hopefully, these realities will be listened to, and not just heard.

    But you dismiss the best case the believers have out of hand – the German and UK intelligence estimates. You don't undermine their worth by bringing up Iraqi WMD. What is the reality of these two reports?

  26. It is NOT about "believes" it is about imperialist-Zionist propaganda, mongered by so-called "mainstream media"

    Now, of course, Hizballa could not be a liberation movement against foriegn armed occupation, no way – it is a sign of Iran agressiveness. USA or Israel, on the other hand NEVER did or do something bad to anyone, esp. Israel NEVER commited war crimes against its neighbours and USA NEVER invaded helpless countries half world away.

    Is it not funny that detractors of Iran's imaginary nukes are mostly supporters of nuke-armed agressive war criminals like USA and Israel?

    And, by the way, "greens" in Iran DO support sanctions (at least some of them do, just check it) – they are but pawns of Western imperilaism and Zionism

  27. Oh, come on , Juan. Tell the truth!

    The truth about Iranians:

    1. They have started all wars since the dawn of mankind.

    2. They have capital punishment for all sorts of cultural infractions, including putting Ketchup on lentils.

    3. They not only want nucluyar weapons, they have them and have bombed Tel Aviv daily since 1948.

    4. They started the war in Lebanon.

    5. They started the war in Gaza.

    6. They secretly forced Jay Leno out of the Tonight show. Yes, truly, what's his face with the Irish hair is an Iranian plant.

    7. They plan to drain the Mediterranean Sea and use it to build slums.

    8. They have the cure for cancer but refuse to give it up.

    9. Sarah Palin is Iranian, and

    10. Yes, they are Arabs.

  28. Please, can some one tell me why Iraq is never mentioned in any of these stories on Iran?

    Am I reading this wrong? It seems to me that Iran is a major player in Iraq, and would hold a very good card in negotiations with the US.

    Why couldn't Iran threaten to stir up trouble in Iraq in exchange for something?

    I don't know what, nukes maybe, but if the US is supposedly sitting down to talks with Iran, you would think this major card would be played.

    Totally Confused in California.

  29. What's up with the NIE of 2003 that stated that the Iranians gave up trying to get nukes?

    What would happen if the result of these negotiations (the reason we are being stirred up about this now) is that Iran gives up their "plans" to build nukes.

    Let's say that they don't have plans to build nukes, then wouldn't it make sense that they would need to stir us up about nukes, so that it would seem like a big concession?

  30. Despite the 'not as dangerous as portrayed' sentiment of this piece, Iran is still a very dangerous and worrying player in world affairs.

    'Some are, some aren't' doesn't really offer much reassurance when you are talking about holocaust denial. Israel being 'vanished from the page' of time, rather than being 'wiped from the face of the map' isn't much of a different sentiment. The message is the same, the language is different.

    The West needs to worry about Iran, it will surely regret it if it sleeps just because the US got Iraq wrong.

  31. For one thing, I'm not so sure that saying, "this occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time" is merely a "hope" that it will go away on its own. "must vanish" sounds like more than hope to me. I'm not sure what he meant by, "the page of time." Does it merely mean, "vanish due to the passage of time" as you seem to suggest, or "vanish from the pages of history" or "be removed from existence" or what? It may be a culturally-based expression that I am not familiar with. Anyway, in my opinion, the quote is very alarming and it should not simply be brushed off as an idle, benign "hope", at least until he clarifies his intent.

  32. @anonymous (first post of the thread)

    "*Belief*: Ahmadinejad stole the election.

    *Reality*: This belief is based on the assumption that people who voted for Khatami 8 years ago or Karrubi 4 years ago would not vote for Ahmadinejad now."

    First of all, it is not based on that "belief." It is based on much more empirical evidence, like the election results of previous years, and actually, results from specific provinces.

    Yes, Ahmadinjad campaigned in the rural and less well-off areas, can you how explain he handily won in urban areas?

    And furthermore, consider the governments actions immediately after the announcements of the results – it's very indicative.

    Either way, this is no longer about Ahmadinejad – it is about much more. Ahmadinejad is just a man, this is a movement that will not only outlast him, but Mousavi, Khatami and Khamenei too.

    But hats off to Ahmadinejad for getting the party started with his intrusive, surprisingly open, and unrestrained debate style. If it wasn't for him, Iranians might still be sitting on their couches watching Islamic Republic soap opras (some of them are actually not that bad:)).

    That said, Ahmadinejad is the illegitimate president of Iran and everyone knows it.


  33. Who cares if Iran gets the bomb? It is their right. Just like every other country who has the bomb.

    I think we just have to live with a nuclear Iran. Just like we live with a nuclear Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, U.S., etc…

    Will it start a new Middle East nuclear arms race? Maybe, but who cares and can this really be stopped once nuclear technology was taken out of the bag?

    Will Iran give nuclear bombs to our enemies? Doubt it. The Russian were our enemies for years and did they give the bomb to our enemies? Maybe, so what? Did the Russians give bombs to terrorists? No. Doubt it.

    Is Iran actually our enemy? No. Why? I do not think Irans really even consider the U.S. their enemy.

  34. I agree with busting myths. But if you're going to bust myths about alleged Iran warmongering, you can't ignore words like "Hizbullah" and "Lebanon" and "Khobar Towers." Yes, the military budget is $6B, but I doubt an actuary could find a line for "terrorism".

    On a similar point, If you do revisit the list, I would add a topic, something to the effect of,
    Belief: Iran has strong ties to al Qaeda
    Reality: The relationship is complicated. However, the two are anything but allies. Last year al Qaeda #2 man al-Zawahiri implied that a confrontation could be in the future.

    link to

    Also, Iran has a Uighur-like problem in its south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, where a Sunni minority is conducting an insurgency, including suicide bombings at girls schools and Shi'a shrines. While there is no proof of an al Qaeda connection (although there are allegations of U.S. support), Iran's government is naturally nervous and watchful of the situation.

    link to

  35. To the idiot who talks about Iranian-Hezbollah

    You can call any resistance group in the middle-east who has financial backers "Iranian-Backed" this and that
    Iranian Backed Hezbollah
    Iranian Backed Hamas
    Iranain Backed Taliban Sheesh
    Iranian Backed Space Mutants from Zorg

    Why not

    US Backed Saudi Arabia or
    US Backed South Korea or for the big one
    US Backed Israel. Why aren't these names flung around in the MSM when
    "US Backed Israel" sends cluster bombs into Lebanon or downs some houses in the Occupied Territories
    Are the US pulling the Israeli strings here??

    Because it's all pathetic lies. Iran provides weapons to many nations just as The US Provides weapons to Africa, South America and the Middle-East. Those that think Iran pulls the strings in all these countries has not read any history on these nations

  36. I would be interested in Prof. Cole's comment on an earlier commenter who argues that it is a myth that AH stole the election. What say you?

  37. Wonderful post today Mr. Cole.

    I especially was thankful for you pointing out the constant talk of Iran being "insane" and Ahmadinejad being a madman "is a form of racism."

    If you get on the Daily Show again, maybe you can point this out to Jon Stewart.

  38. @ barmakid

    Maybe everyone knows it … but it seems you should explain it to the Iranian themselves.

    Most Iranians express acceptance of the outcome of the Presidential election. 81 percent say they consider Ahmadinejad to be Iran's legitimate president, and 62 percent say they have a lot of confidence in the declared election results, while 21 percent say they have some confidence. Just 13 percent say they do not have much confidence or no confidence in the results. In general, eight in 10 (81%) say they are satisfied with the process by which authorities are elected, but only half that number (40%) say they are very satisfied.

  39. Iran has backed Hezbollah, Hamas, Talibans, and dictatorial regimes in Asia and South America. FACT.

    It really doesn't matter if they get to have nuclear power or weapons; they are a sovereign state and can do as they please with their country.

    However, the Iranian government and their international relation's discourse have always been intimidating against the US and those countries that supposedly "defend" Liberty, individuality and separation of powers.

    You as an expert didn't make a point in your post. You only mixed an agenda of "reality" from a perspective obviously biased and contradictory with facts.


  40. Prof. Cole,
    please add the misleading comments by US military's insistence that Iranian made ordinances in Iraq and Afghanistan have been killing our (US) soldiers. In fact, the latest data from Afghanistan shows that most of IED used by the Taliban are remnant material from our stockpile of material and Italian TC-6 anti-tank mines. The Taliban has been clustering the old mines for a bigger bang.

    The same goes for the phantom Qods brigade in Iraq. After 7 years of searching for a invisible force that has apparently killed many of our soldiers, the best that could be shown are the arrest of a few low level consulate officials stamping passport!

  41. Well, it sounds like many of these are simply people confusing Iran today with Iraq in the past. Iraq threw around a bunch of missiles back in the day, some at Israel, although that was 20 years ago.

    It doesn't help that Iran has been doing missile tests recently. If they wanted to confuse people, well there you go.

    Doing these tests when other countries are worried about their nuclear capabilities is a questionable choice. They are a country, they can do what they like and certainly own weapons, but it seems provocative.

  42. This is a brief and to-the-point article. I would however disagree with the assertion made here regarding the new Qom facility. Iran's voluntary agreement was subject to ratification from the start. Iran never ratified this agreement and formally withdrew from it. I may also add a point of clarification. A couple of comments point to Iran's support to certain groups, alternatively called terrorists or freedom fighters, as evidence of aggression. In the 1980's we did not have trouble distinguishing the support for the Mujahedeen's struggle to oust the Soviets with aggression by the US. Prof. Cole made the point that Iran viewed as a state actor has not directly engaged in aggressive war against neighbors. If one were to include Indirect action by non-state actors, depending on how strictly one would draw the line, a large number of states included US, UK, France, Israel, Saudi A., Egypt, …, and yes Iran are involved in aggressive action. Whether or not one should make such distinctions or not is a reasonable matter of debate. Nonetheless, polls reflecting the opinion of world majority consistently point out that most people tend to distinguish between a large scale attack by for example Israel on Gaza and the aggressive actions of Hamas on behalf of the Palestinian people. Neither one is peaceful or honorable – but distinct nonetheless.

  43. Good points. But don't 1) don't just tell us the Iranian opposition is against sanctions; in another piece, tell us (not just broad overview, like pushing for comprehensive middle east peace and ending blank-check for Israel, all good ideas, but also shorter-term details) what *should* be pursued and 2) don't over play the "they are probably not building nukes". In fact *all* countries on planet Earth must answer "yes"to the question "do you want nukes" if the fine print rest of the question is, "at no political or economic or military or other cost opr detriment to you" (I'mnot defending this just describing reality).

    It's unlikely Iran will in the short term pursue nuclear weapons, given the eagle eyes on it,but it's not impossible. Don't paint yourself into a corner or your words will be used against you in the event (unlikely right now but not impossible) that Iran does get them later. I hope it doesn't. And you are right-on to dispute the "we are sure they watn nuclear power" mainstream media rhetoric…but include some caution, by adding that, unless we start having constructive rather than counter-constructive Us policy, we may help push the world in that direction…Blank check for Israel doesn't excuse if Iran gets nuclear weapons, but helps move in that direction; Israel's threats to bomb any nuclear (even power) facilities does not excuse if Iran hides such facilities, but does facilitate them. By pointing out such things we criticize the present policy AND protect ourselves from being later quoted-out-of-context as having been "naive" on the contrary, if the worst (or worse) later happens, adding these points makes our future selves in a stronger position to argue the progressive viewpoint politically. Peace and, everyone: support the Israeli peace group that's really for principle, unlike someothers…

  44. As for the election,there are (at least) three issues,

    A. Whether Ahmadinejad would win without any unfair rigging

    B. Whether Ahmadinejad or his supporters did rig votes (more than the opposition or more than one corrupt local official, etc)

    It is possible for the answer to A to be "yes" that he would have won, but also the asnwer to B to be yes too: there is no contradiction. Maybe Ahmadinejad would have still won but by a lower number of votes, or lower percent.

    These are separate.Another issue is

    C. The post-election repression

    Another is

    D. what we think of Ahmadinejad's policies

    Another is

    E.the myth that Mousavi is some perfect enlightened person…

    Another separate debate is

    F.Would Mousavi, had he been elected, would he have had better policies for the Iranian people?Better policies for dealing with the US? Been allowed to implement policies by the cleric and the grand ayatollah?

    All of these get mixed up and jumbled together. It's possible that Mousavi is not very good for the lower-income Iranians, as somesaid,but that does not excuse something like B.or C.,nor does it clearly answer F..

    The people of each country must bravely work to improve their country..and people-to-people civilian cooperation via the internet — for example, pro-democracy Iranians and pro-Palestinian-rights Israelis and enlightened progressive Iraqi civilians, etc, must can support one another at least in words and internet solidarity, declarations, Statements, and more..

  45. I wish nobody had the bomb, but if no serious efforts are made to get all parties in the middle east, including Israel, to agree to a nuclear weapon free zone then I hope that some day the Iranians do develop such capability. Why? Because their possessing the bomb would end Israel's ability to abuse the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors with impunity. That is precisely why the Israelis are so against this.

  46. tudza , it is a nice of you to worry about Iran tasting missels – but, just to inform you, Iran now has to worry about USA or Israel open threats to bomb Iran (and both USA and Israel have long and sordid history of bombing another states). So, I guess it is NOT Iran which being provocative here, unless you count self-defence as "provocation"

  47. iran is no threat to america with or without a bomb. russia and china have subs and icbms for decades and have been contained etc.
    as for the issue of iran killing our soldiers in iraq and afghanistan even if that's true, (and i've seen no proof at all because if there was stupid warmongers would use that as a pretext for war at this point) its nothing but a proxy war and we're doing the same thing inside iran. i also contend that they wouldn't kill us in those countries if we weren't there in the first place. what would we be doing if china put 100K troops in mexico? the facts are iran hasn't invaded any country for centuries.

  48. Great article. The warmongers will continue their propaganda and the Israeli lobby will keep on working till we get into yet another war. Hope people like o will be able to make a difference this time.

  49. The Iranian regime may not have attacked another country in its 30 years in power, but that's probably because 1) These criminals who rule Iran today are more interested in stealing Iran's petro-dollars for themselves instead of spending it on war. 2) Iran has always had one of the absolutely lowest defense budgets since the revolution in 1979 – They just don't have what it takes to attack another country.

    As for the MASSIVE ELECTION FRAUD – There are documents that prove the election fraud. The real results were announced on TV. AND more importantly – Their own investigation showed that in the 10% of the votes that were investigated, there were 3 million votes too many – That is there were more votes than inhabitants in those cities – What if they would count the remaining 90% of the votes based on that information? 3 million excessive votes in the 10% of the votes that were investigated is a SERIOUS matter. How come none of these regime supporters here refer to them?

  50. *Propaganda*: Iran backed bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.

    *Story behind the Story*: Indications exist that this was Al Qaeda's work and that Iran was just a convenient scapegoat. The then-FBI director has been repurposed as a "consultant" for a Saudi Prince after leaving office. Nice.
    (link to

    *Propaganda*: Iran backed bombing of Jewish Community Center in Argentina

    *Story behind the Story*: Indications exist that this was a right-wing job and that Iran was just a convenient scapegoat.

    *Propaganda*: Iran backs Taliban, giving them weapons

    *Truth*: In spite of MSM and Military Moaning, no proof has ever surfaced that this occurred

    *Propaganda*: Iran backs Iraqi resistance, giving them weapons

    *Truth*: In spite of MSM and Military Moaning, no proof has ever surfaced that this occurred

  51. Top 1 thing you need to know about politicians:

    1. They lie (yes, Iranian politicians, too).

    Everything Juan Cole says is true, but it still doesn't answer why Iran won't cooperate with the IAEA. I'm not saying Iran is building a bomb, much less that anyone should bomb Iran, but they would make the whole world sleep a little easier at night if they just answered the questions the IAEA posed to them a long time ago.

    "The Director General reported that although the Islamic Republic of Iran has cooperated with the Agency on some issues, several critical areas remain unaddressed." link to

  52. There was no election fraud. The whole 'opposition' demonstrations and 'protests' were just the work of our very own psy-ops guys.

  53. "They just don't have what it takes to attack another country."

    Hah. Yes indeed, what they are lacking apparently is the macho-assinine desire to kill, maim, and destroy other people and their property.

    Here in the US, we love war (we wage war on everything we don't like in fact: poverty, drugs, illiteracy, crime, terrorism, whatever) and look down on those who "don't have what it takes."

    Personally, I wish we had a LOT less of what it takes and more of something else — like compassion perhaps, or maybe some of that moral integrity we used to be so proud of….

  54. 5:13 PM, Anonymous

    1) a nice defence of Iran, really. I wish rulers of USA did the same and stop invade other states :)

    2) A one LONG lie. There were NOT any misterical "real results announced on TV."

    About "3 millions". NO, there were altogether (!) 3 millions of voters recounted, NOT exessive votes. And "there were more votes than inhabitants in those cities" – in Iran, it is lawful to vote where one wants, and some people went to vacations and so on. In short, try something new, 1) was a nice one, really

  55. Thank you Mr. Cole for this brief, yet precise essay on myths about Iran. One must first understand the geopolitics of the region before understanding why we insist on this irrational approach to dealing with Iran. Among the top reasons in the list is that the continued animosity towards Iran serves the agenda of the empirical expansion. Iran is part of the central Asia region that houses over 70% of the world total reserve of oil and natural gas. All our political moves and recent invasions have been about tapping into those region resources. It has nothing to do with national security. Unless and until this theory is accepted by our representatives, and more importantly by our masses, the prospect for change is very little if not null. Second, Israel and the Israeli lobby in the US continue to arm-twist our government to act as a guardian for a shadow enemy of the State of Israel. Third, the military-industrial-congressional-Banking-complex is profiting huge from the tension. It is not about Iran more than it is about our domestic politics. As long as we continue to be ruled by thug-ganged-special-interest-elite, expect the unexpectable. There is no place for reason and rationality in this kind of atmosphere. A revolution in the political infrastructure is necessary before we could see a significant change in our life time. If our citizens do not rise to the occasion and demand that change, things will continue to move in the same direction by the status quo inertia.

    Abe Dalis

  56. Professor Cole,

    It was enlightening to read about these myth-busters showering some positivity over the severely hyped up apprehensiveness over Iran. I was quiet overwhelmed to observe my own conviction change towards Iran from a hard lined regime to a society with a peaceful track record.
    As much as I appreciate almost all the statements made in your article and as much as it was very informative I was quiet dejected on your comments made towards the end. I would like to take this opportunity to object your rationale of defining a country’s character by their non- conformance to NPT. Your comments “Moreover, Israel, Pakistan and India are all much worse citizens of the globe than Iran, since they refused to sign the NPT and then went for broke to get a bomb; and nothing at all has been done to any of them by the UNSC”. I cannot talk for Israel and Pakistan. However, you comment made it feel like India is much worse than Iran. No offense to Iran and its society and I have high regards to Iranian people and I have some very good Iranian friends, but I would like to underline the fact that India has not started a war or attacked any country in its time of existence. .
    India has not signed NPT due to reasons unavoidable. Having such countries as your neighbors, one such with whom we are literally on a battle since over 60 years of independence and another with no so friendly ties and which is fiercely on the path to become a global giant, any country would have to create it own armor of security for its own people who believe in peace, harmony and progress. I am sure you must not have made enough research on the country which I am proud to say is the largest democracy in the world and where the elections happen fairly. Although it has its own share of corruption and bad-politics, people of various religions and castes exist side by side with love. Here is the only Hindu majority country whose ex-president who is a Muslim; the richest man is a Muslim, the prime minister who is a Sikh, the most powerful politician who is an Italian born woman. Degree of restraint goes as far as not attacking a country whose radical citizens charted the attack on the India’s parliament house, cowardly killed innocent citizens in Kashmir, occupied our lands and was recently involved in one of the worst attacks in Mumbai which resulted in a loss of scores of innocent lives. Another country with whom the ties have been severely deteriorated due to the border issues may not sound so alarming in the news corners but in fact could pose to be a greater danger than the largely visible figure due to its mere power, its communist rule and its ever increasing global presence. Although I respect UNSC’s aim for the peace and cooperation among nations of the world, it cannot guarantee India’s security to its people if unforeseen consequences occur. As a citizen of India, I respect my country’s stance on NPT and would certainly be delighted to see my country sign the NPT when there is stability in the region. UNSC is too worried about India at this point, as in other cases, since I believe it understands the underlying objective peace and stability for not signing NPT. Also, India must have faced economic hardship due to some sanctions but have risen back to be one of the global commercial powers and a flourishing IT industry.
    I would highly appreciate your effort in researching more facts in future about countries whom to refer to be ‘worse’ than others. Such comments may ignite bitterness and nothing else and for a professor of your stature I would expect your articles to have ‘Better Informed’ Comments.


  57. all this "fear" of Ahmadinejad is like the book "Animal Farm" (by George Orwell) in that the US, or rather the jewish press, is "Napoleon" and Iran is "Snowball".
    Napoleon used Snowball's disappearance to distract from his own failures and evil, by scapegoating Snowball.
    if you don't get what I'm saying, then GO READ ANIMAL FARM AND 1984! for fuck's sake, they are not difficult to understand, and Animal farm is a very short book! I read them both in High School (but on my own, as the libtarded schools would not allow them)

  58. Hezbollah did attack Israel first by kidnapping two soldiers; Hezbollah responds to Iran, you may perfectly call it an iranian army. Hamas may also be called an iranian army. Yes Iran is movilizing and i think they have some targets. Is ridiculous to deny the offensive speech of Ahmadineyad. It is offensive.

  59. Shylesh wrote "…India has not started a war or attacked any country in its time of existence".

    Actually, it invaded and annexed Hyderabad soon after independence, did the same to Portuguese India in the '60s, and attacked Pakistan to dismember it in the '70s. That's leaving aside the destabilisation and slow absorption of the Himalayan kingdoms, which were and are being done the non-violent way the Germans handled the Sudetenland and Austria.

    Arguments to justify those actions do not show that they did not happen, and claims that those weren't countries anyway don't match up with what the people on the receiving end thought.

  60. At 3:46 PM, Anonymous said… " 'Some are, some aren't' doesn't really offer much reassurance when you are talking about holocaust denial. Israel being 'vanished from the page' of time, rather than being 'wiped from the face of the map' isn't much of a different sentiment. The message is the same, the language is different."

    How does the fact of history that a group of delusional lunatics, "e.g.", the National Socialists, severely persecuted another group of delusional lunatics, the Jews, confer a moral license upon yet other group of delusional lunatics, "e.g.", Jews not persecuted by the National Socialists, to form a nation-state for the purpose of persecuting, robbing, murdering, stealing from, and ethnic cleansing yet a different group of delusional lunatics, "e.g.", the Palestinians when the only properly moral purpose of a nation state is to protect its citizens form military aggression?

  61. It is surprising to me how often I have to admit to myself that when it comes to foreign policy Mr Cole is right and the Democrats and Republicans both, and even some libertarians, are wrong.

    My politics are very rightwing and yet when it comes to truth there is, or should be, NO POLITICS involved. Another person on the left I admire, when he said positive remarks about the NRA I had to admit that Alexander Cockburn was not the typical leftwing person.

    So I read these gentlemen, Mr Cole and Mr Cockburn and find much of value and much candor. I wish that ALL writers, reagardless of their views, could also be so faithful to Truth.

    It isn't easy to say the Emperor has no clothes.
    Take THAT AIPAC!

  62. As to Iranians being Arabs. Some in the South of the country are ethnically Arabs. The city of Ahvaz for example has many. The rest of the country is divided into other groups: Azeri Turks, Buluchis(?), Assyrians, Armenians and the group all other groups hate, the Kurds.

    The Persians who speak Farsi are what we consider Iranians I suppose. They speak Farsi (Persian) and occupy the center and north of the country.

    Ask anyone who has ever worked in Iran and they will assure you that the election was crooked. They will say so despite having not a single sheet of paper or statistic to back them up. This is of course a huge generalization based on the way Iranians go about their daily lives using nepotism, friends and bribes.

    The country is very mountainous with two large deserts. They have huge snows and 30degrees below zero in the north and 120+ degree heat in the south. Fighting a war there would be like Afghanistan with better infrastructure.

  63. Will someone please send this article to Sean Hannity and his sheep? Thank you.

    I tried posting one thing on Sean Hannity's site about auditing the Fed and was "banned for life."

    No discussions with those folks…whatever Sean Hannity says, is the gospel truth!

  64. the 1st belief that you stated said that quote "Iran is agreessive and has threatened to attack Israel, its neighnors or the US"
    You think this is a belief? Well tell me its a belief after a quote directly from Ahmadinejad. Quote "Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury." or quote "[There is] no significant need for the United States." source link to

  65. Iran is a sovereign nation. What the Iranians do is their affair. The US needs to mind its own business.

  66. Stealing elections? For a moment I thought you were talking about the US. Several friends as well as myself voted for Ron Paul last election. The number of votes for him were never published! Every vote counts? Well as long as it is for an "approved" candidate it counts! Yet we point at others who do not want to play using our rules.

    Oh yes, I don't doubt for a moment that the US will attack Iran and murder innocent people. That is WHAT all governments DO over time! And I have no doubt that innocent Americans will pay in blood for the hubris of our "leaders". It saddens me greatly that the only option I have left is to pray as the average American opinion means zero.

    Great article and wonderful that I can read the comments of others from around the world.
    Al Sledge

  67. Although Iran may not have started any wars in recent times, Iran was funding al-Dawa, which had attempted to assassinate two high officials of the Iraqi government, precipitating Iraqi response and the 1980-1988 war. _____ That said, I don't think that the prospect of an Iranian first strike is anybody's real concern. I think that the real, unstated complaint about Iran is its conventional missiles based in Lebanon, which give Iran the option of a substantial retaliation against Israeli aggression, should the occasion for that arise. The Israelis want all opposition to their hegemony eliminated.

  68. To those who argue that Iran's testing of missiles is an alarming sign that they intend to use them, much less fire a nuke at someone, in an offensive strike, i think you should view this link:
    link to
    it is a graph depicting the number of nuke tests per year from 1948-1998. I think you will find that the number of nukes tested vs the number of nukes used during a war (2 in case you missed that one) is very different. Especially since the majority of those nuke tests occur during the cold war. So yes Iran was testing missiles, but that is not directly evident of their intention to use them in an offensive strike and to assume testing conclusively means use in an act of aggression is irrational and crazed, now where have i read that phrase before?

  69. Just to note as regards this:

    "Belief: Iran is like North Korea…"

    …that there is constant risk also of demonising North Korea, at comparable or greater peril. There is a sense in which the North Korea question is like the Iran question. Or like, I suppose, the Cuba question.

    There are great dangers in having the Iran question frontally engaged by the artillery of perverse thinking, this article helps present some reality.

    Over decades there has been a different problem in relation to Korea of the issues being too hard, the opponent being too mad, issues unaddressed, left with the military much of the time. This still tends to happen, the issues narrowed down, to the allowable channels and agenda items of table and chest thumping. Much ignorance and presumption of first-person virtue. When we are annually whipped up by news of 'hostile' North Korean manoeuvres, there is scarce mention that these are generally responses to annual reinforcement exercises between the US and ROK. No review of the history of explicit nuclear weapons threats to North Korea, no comment on the presence for a long time of US nuclear weapons in South Korea (until the nineties; the north says they are still there, what historical dealings basis would they have to think otherwise) contrary to the Armistice agreement… and so on.

    Compare Schlesinger on Korea 1975 link to
    with Schlesinger on Iran and other 'rogues' 2009:
    link to

    "Let the world know, I can thump my chest too!" This all stinks of fundamentalism, I look at North Korean parades and see religion to rival the Olympics and leave baptists agog.

    We share with ants the R-complex of the brain stem with its the penchant for ritual and action to defend the nest, but as a 'higher' species we have far surpassed the ants with out frontal lobe capacity for fabulist fundamentalist arguments for hostility. We seem to need a ban on neurological weapons…

  70. There was one misconception that Prof. Cole, perhaps inadvertently, reinforced:
    Prof. Cole wrote,
    "it [Iran] did break its word to the IAEA that it would immediately inform the UN of any work on a new facility."

    I believe the following is public knowledge:

    Jay Janson
    The ‘supplementary agreements' added on to the Proliferation Treaty requirements at first agreed to by Tehran were soon thereafter not ratified by the legislature and Iran gave notice to that effect at the time they were denied ratification, making clear that Iran was sticking to, and recognizing those requirements agreed to in the Non-Proliferation Treaty itself, and not the ‘supplementary agreements'.

    Iran has complied with the basic treaty requirements which were notification six months prior to a facility becoming functional, even giving eighteen months notice, but not the prior notice required in the long rejected ‘supplementary agreements."

    When ElBaradei went along with Obama and allies claiming a violation, the violation claimed was of the ‘supplementary agreements' which included a stipulation to notify the enforcing committee before beginning construction of a new plant or facility.

    Perhaps this was true to ErBaradei form in spite of his recent strong statement of there being no evidence of nuclear weapons program, he disappointed us once before with that Pontious-Pilot-like “washing his hands” before the invasion of Iraq, dissimulating and hedging his reporting no nuclear finds in his monitored inspections and leaving open a hole of “could not being sure” ‘big enough [for Bush] to drive his truck through.'

    That said, Prof. Cole's article on the media concocted public misconceptions regarding Iran's nuclear program and others like the dis-translation of "wipe off the map," was much needed.

  71. Perhaps you assume that this is common knowledge, But judging from my experiences with the American populace, that would be a mistake..

    One word:


    link to

    for a brief summary, for those who are unaware of history occurring prior to the latest run of Dancing With the Stars

    As far as I am aware, Iran has never carried out a coup against a highly popular democratically elected leader on U.S. soil.

    If the reverse was true, there would probably be a heck of a lot less mess in the middle east.

  72. […] Originally Posted by Apocalypse You still don’t get it. It’s obvious. “Communist” doesn’t mean “Pro-Russia’s existence”. “Zionist” means pro-Israel’s existence. There’s absolutely zero doubt about Ahmad’s true intentions, and he makes them clearer than the sun. One needs to be blind to ignore the sun’s rays. You take a single misinterpreted quote which has been twisted by journalists and you think that his intentions are clear? If you want to read serious articles about his intentions, you should read that Top Things you Think You Know about Iran that are not True | Informed Comment […]

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