Top Ten Dangers for Obama of Iran Sanctions on behalf of Israel

President Barack Obama addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference on Sunday, warning against loose war talk regarding Iran but also threatening violence against that country to stop it, he said, from getting a nuclear weapon ( not an ambition in evidence). The speech is here. Obama has ratcheted up US financial sanctions against Iran to the point where US policy may be a casus belli or a legitimate grounds for war, in a quest to punish Iran for its civilian nuclear enrichment program.

The United States has been down this squalid road before, in regard to Iraq, and it doesn’t end well for America.

Obama was made to trek to AIPAC (which should have to register as the agent of a foreign state) because it is a very effective lobby and raises money for political campaigns, as well as raising money to punish politicians that do not toe its line on knee jerk support of Israeli policy.

We saw this with Iraq, and now it is the same with Iran. A weak, ramshackle, ineffectual bogeyman is set up, like Saddam Hussein or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Americans are kept talking about the “threat” emanating from that country. It isn’t a real threat. It is manufactured by the Israeli intelligence agencies and promoted by their cells in the US.

With regard to Iraq, we were told that it had among the more powerful armies in the world, that it possessed frightening weapons of mass destruction, that it was a threat to Europe and the United States. None of these things was true.

Here are the top drawbacks to vigorous sanction regime against another country, as demonstrated by Iraq and Iran:

1. One basic problem with a dire sanctions regime like that imposed on Iraq, and now on Iran, is that it can kill a lot of innocent civilians, including children. Because the US interdicted chlorine exports to Iraq and had knocked out its electricity and water purification plants in the Gulf War, it is estimated that the US/ UN sanctions killed about 500,000 Iraqi children in the 1990s. Infants are especially vulnerable to dying of diarrhea and dehydration from gastrointestinal diseases.

2. In turn, this killing of so many children made other Arabs and Muslims angry at the US, and these deaths were also cited by Usamah Bin Laden as one of the reasons he sought to attack the United States. That is, the human toll of sanctions can cause the sanctioning country to suffer reprisals.

Obama’s sanctions on Iran are beginning to have a human toll, making it increasingly difficult for Iran to import wheat from the Ukraine and India. The Obama sanctions are turning into collective punishment of civilian populations, which is illegal. If Obama miscalculates, he could kill thousands of people by provoking a food famine. The resentments of Washington that step would incur, in turn, very likely will hurt the US directly.

3. Onerous sanctions do not remove a regime or cause it to change policies, since the elite can cushion themselves from the effects. The Baath Party in Iraq in the 1990s squirreled away billions of dollars, even as the Iraqi middle classes were devastated and many Iraqis began living on the edge, with insufficient food and medicine.

4. In fact, as the urban middle classes decline, they lose the wherewithal to challenge the government. Authoritarianism is strengthened by sanctions, not weakened.

Iran’s middle classes are already being deeply hurt by sanctions. The idea that they will mobilize to pressure the government to give up nuclear enrichment as a result is a non-starter. Political movements and campaigns need money. In an oil state like Iran, the government gets the oil profits and so is flush. The middle classes are increasingly thrown down into poverty, so they can’t compete with government largesse.

5. A feeling of being under siege also causes populations to rally around even an unpopular government. One suspects that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s most ardent supporters took 75% of the seats in parliament in Iran’s recent election in part as a backlash against US sanctions and pressure.

6. Wide-ranging and deep sanctions can bleed over into being a sort of blockade. Blockades are a casus belli in international law, and very frequently provoke wars. FDR’s decision to stop oil sales to Japan helped precipitate Pearl Harbor.

So, sanctions start off looking like an alternative to war. But they can impose such a massive death toll on the civilian population of the targeted country as to call forth reprisals on the leader of the boycott. Or the blockade aspect can itself provoke a war.

7. Israeli agents of influence attempt to keep Americans talking about anything but Israel’s own ongoing crimes against humanity with regard to the Palestinians. They have special success if the US goes into full-sanction, soft war mode against another country on Israel’s behalf. Now, instead of talking about Israeli predations against the Palestinians, we are being led by the nose by AIPAC and its many media allies to obsess about Iran.

8. Our policy emphases are distorted by fantastic propositions, illusions really. We were told that the road to peace between Israelis and Palestinians ran through Baghdad. It was a bald-faced lie, a magician’s piece of misdirection.

How absurd and insincere the proposition was can be seen in how it immediately evaporated from public discourse as soon as the US was induced to occupy Iraq.

9. US interests are directly and very negatively affected by Washington’s collusion with Israel in keeping the Palestinians stateless and without basic human rights.

Make no mistake. It is in the US interest to resolve the Palestine crisis. Israeli occupation of and crimes against the Palestinians was among three major reasons given by al-Qaeda for their attack on New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11, and this ongoing human rights violation will make more and worst trouble for the US, Israel’s chief enabler in it, as the years go by. Imagine the cost Americans have already borne in loss of our civil liberties as a result of knee jerk support for Tel Aviv’s exploitation of Palestinians and their land.

Moreover, the US antipathy to the Palestinians will increasingly be an obstacle to good relations with countries like Egypt, where public opinion now matters in politics and foreign policy as never before.

10. Because misdirection on this very large scale is a little difficult, the US is thrown by such an endeavor into being a propaganda state, which is bad for public policy generally.

(Most Americans just don’t know the facts on the Palestinians. The Israelis expelled hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in 1948 and then just stole all their property, offering no compensation. Those Palestinian families have become millions of persons over time. Some 40% of the population of the Gaza Strip, which Israel has turned into a massive slum, is refugee families from what is now Israel. Israel came after them in 1967 and exploited, occupied and colonized them until 2005. Since 2007 Israel has blockaded the Palestinians of Gaza, declining to let them so much as export virtually any of their products, and strictly regulating imports into the strip. Israel has turned Gaza into an enormous outdoor penitentiary. Since Israel is the occupation power for Gaza, this collective punishment of the civilian population there is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which were legislated after WW II to prevent a recurrence of the human rights violations perpetrated by the Nazis.

The UN estimates that 56% percent of Palestinians in Gaza are “food insecure,” that is, one step away from being half-starved. Israel apologists circulate pictures of a mall in Gaza or a nice restaurant to refute this finding. But it is mean-spirited nonsense. There are always a few well off people in a place like Gaza, and there is always some money around. The question is, how many people are being harmed by Israel’s blockade? The Israelis are eating three square meals a day and have a per capita income higher than many European countries. They are keeping the Palestinians of Gaza, most of whom are children, living on the edge of hunger. In fact, 10% of Palestinian children in Gaza are estimated to be stunted from malnutrition.

At the same time, Israel has since 1967 occupied the West Bank, and has increasingly colonized it and incorporated it into Israel, in open defiance of UN Security Council resolutions and of the UN charter, which forbids the acquisition of territory by force. Israel has stolen water, land and resources from the native Palestinians and consigned them to South Africa-style cantons reminiscent of Apartheid.

Worst of all, Israel has kept millions of Palestinians stateless, lacking citizenship in any country, and so lacking any legal protection of their rights or property. Stateless people cannot travel freely and do not have basic rights enjoyed by citizens of a state.

The far right wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has committed large numbers of torts against the Palestinians. It just legalized an illegal Israeli settlement on purloined Palestinian land at the same time it is demolishing solar panels and wind turbines of Palestinian villages.

Netanyahu has authorized the building of thousands of new Israeli homes on Palestinian land in the West Bank, and just allowed another 600 deep in the occupied territory. Israeli squatters on Palestinian land are thieves on a large scale, depriving others of their rightful property, and interfering in their livelihoods. This larceny is being actively connived at and implemented by the Israeli government.

Israeli squatters are now stealing Palestinian land in Area B, in direct contravention of the Oslo peace accords, which Netanyahu has boasted of destroying.

Israeli authorities have been arbitrarily kidnapping (it is not properly called ‘arresting’) Palestinian peace activists who peacefully protest these violations of Palestinian rights, and holding them in ‘administrative detention,’ without charges and without trial. Some of these hostages have been going on well-publicized hunger strikes, forcing the Israeli authorities to release them, since there are no outstanding charges against them and their deaths would be bad publicity for Israel.)

82 Responses

  1. You seem to imply that sanctions are as bad as war – so what non-war tools do we have in our box, so to speak? Do we have ways that will affect the country but not be cushioned away by tyrannical governments? If Iran was planning to blow up Israel, for example, this piece could end up legitimising war with Iran as an initial deterrent and sanctions as a last resort.

    • I am so sorry my friend you are the reason for this: “Ha! Ha! Ha! The American is so stupid. We use their own US AID to pay our own US media to get the candidates, senators and representatives we want in power so we can get our business done”

    • Realistically, the US has zero options to control other humans on the earth, just like others have no options to control Americans.

      This is the way it should be, since no group of humans has any right to control any other group of humans. Until another group of humans do actual physical harm to you, you have no right to do anything to them.

      So, yes in what is probably your thinking, Iran has to nuke Israel before we should do anything,

      BUT …

      the reality is Iran is NOT going to nuke Israel (unless Israel attacks Iran first), so there is no danger. If Iran having nuclear technology makes Israel nervous, the entire world should tell Israel to just shut up and sit down until Iran actually does something. Israel can be quietly nervous all it wants, but until Iran does something, Israel has no reason to act.

      The bottom line is all this “low grade” war can only escalate to “hot” war, which the US will lose. It is long past time for Americans to completely re-think their place on earth and their future, because the current path the US is on, will just lead to massive failure of the “American Experiment.”

      Iran is NOT a threat to the US and we should just leave Iran alone.

      • Actually, money is used successfully to control human beings all the time. The problem is that those who disobey America are “evil”, and we don’t want to be seen rewarding evil. So we have to either redefine them, as we did the Sunni resistance in Iraq which we bought out to create the illusion of a successful surge, or we must spend far larger amounts of money exterminating them. Compare the net cost of the Marshall Plan, for instance, to the cost of our contributions to NATO. Since the European survivors of WW2 could be redefined as “innocent victims of Hitler now threatened by Communism”, we could give them bread instead of brimstone. Moslems, on the other hand, are guilty until we desperately need to declare them innocent, so many of us are secretly pleased that our contractors ripped off Iraq and Afghanistan mercilessly.

        Since we are now out of money to control foreigners, foreigners are now in a position to start controlling Americans in the way that rich people have always controlled Americans; buying elections, buying media bias, buying religious leaders, and buying our employers. More on this as it develops.

    • The alternative is to talk. Ever since the time of former President Mohammad Khatami who officially proposed serious dialog and the settlement of all issues with the United States, including Iran’s support for Hizbullah and HAMAS and Iranian nuclear program that he suspended for over two years, and even Ahmadinezhad’s various efforts to start a dialog with the United States have all gone unanswered. Anytime that Iranians have tried to extend a hand to America, Israel and its friends have made sure that they came to nothing. Even worse, they included Iran in the “Axis of Evil”. This is why Iranian voters have turned further to the right.

      President Obama made a promise of talks with Iran, but apart from a short 40-minute informal chat between a US and an Iranian official on the sidelines of talks with the 5+1, there has been no serious effort to reach out to Iran. The clearest example of the lack of seriousness on behalf of the United States was when President Obama chose one of the most fanatical enemies of Iran, Dennis Ross, to be his point man on Iran. Dennis Ross who has never set foot in Iran, who knows nothing about Iran and who had campaigned assiduously against Iran prior to his appointment to that post was certainly the wrong person to put in charge of such an important shift in policy.

      Even now, when both sides have seen the danger of loose talk about war, it is not too late for President Obama to start a serious dialog with Iran, to accept Iran’s regional status and to push for honest and transparent negotiations. Iranian people would be better able to get rid of their dictatorial regime when they have relations with the West than when they are under hardship and sanctions at the behest of Israel. Millions of Iranians who supported the Green Movement have not gone away, but they will not side with those who wish to destroy their country.

      • Ah, Dennis Ross.

        You only spoke the half of it. He, along with Martin Imdyk (sp?) were the single two administration officials at Camp David in 2000, that YASSAR ARAFAT, of all people, did not trust! And aside from Clinton, Gore, and (we are told at the time) Albright, ALL of that team was Jewish (see Clayton Swisher’s excellent book, The Truth About Camp David).

        Ross has always been Israel’s top agent, er, supporter, in the US, and how he got the lead job on Iran was, I’m willing to bet, due to Israeli pressure, even as I bet was Imdyk’s appointment to be US ambassador to Israel when he was still a citizen of Australia (his citizenship got rushed through by Clinton’s exec order, or at least so it seems).

        The closer you look the more sordid this all appears.

        • Ross’s book, The Missing Peace, covers his time in the Reagan, Bush and Clinton years as chief negotiator. It’s a great read because it delves into the dynamics and personalities of all parties. Most of all, it documents (unintentionally) the half-hearted starts, stops and renewed starts in the peace process, 1992-2001. No one road herd on the Israelis or Palestinians to come through with what they promised during the process, like maps and demographics, much less ‘confidence building’ measures. Ironically, Ross saves his nastiest words for Netanyahu’s behavior when he was PM: hesitant, opportunist, ill-behaved.

        • Hey RBTL, if you’ve got a copy of Ross’ book, compare his ostensible fair and evenhanded maps to those you’ll find, for example, on this website

          Ross presents an interesting case. If you had him next to you for a x-contry flight, I have no doubt you’ve find him the most sincere of peace seekers, and I doubt any disingenuousness in his comments about Bibi. Still, what sort of fair intermediary would’ve gone on vacation with Israeli leaders in the lead up to Camp David?

          Swisher’s coverage of him at CD is priceless, as is his own we you see the amount of disembling he does, despite himself. I think his book a snow job; the type is tiny, part to get it all into that tomb, but it serves to distract readers from think critically about what happened there. I think Ross the classic case of the smart and committed all-American who has persuaded himself the best interests of the US and Israel are one and the same, and everything else has followed from that.

        • I don’t understand your reply. I did not suggest Ross is a ‘fair’ intermediary. I think Ross should have been put out to pasture 20 years ago, after Bush 41. His book, however, illustrates not only his own flaws and biases but also how non-serious the Clinton Administration took Arab/Israeli peace until the very last moment. Obama made a big mistake bringing him into his administration. He is the one who advised Obama to back off of demands that Israelis suspend settlements as prelude to negotiations.

  2. “Iran’s middle classes are already being deeply hurt by sanctions.”

    AIPAC’s war is against the Iranian middle class just as it was against the middle class in Lebanon, Iraq and Gaza.

    AIPAC’s crimes against humanity target the middle class of Arab and now a Persian country/.

  3. Israeli pressures have been stepped up this year because of the November election and their realization that they could lose some ability to extort and blackmail Obama after that.

  4. Thanks for very good points. However, one has to remember that Iran is not an Arabic speaking or a Sunni Muslim country. There will never be any fundamentalist Sunni Muslim solidarity with Iran or the Iranians after the devastating effects of war, instigated by the US or Israel, or the current pseudo-war sanctions regime. As a matter of fact the big Sunni money in the Gulf and the peninsula has not befriended the non-Sunni cases or causes. In reality there is very little Iranian influence around the region. There may be some fellowship in Iraq, but logistically the Iraqis are going to be busy building their house for a long long time to come, and so cannot come to Iranians’ aid with other than some basic minimums like fuel etc. China, Japan, S. Korea, India, and Pakistan have some fuel ties with Iran, but cannot and will not go to war over the threat of losing these supplies and can find replacements-albeit at a higher price. So the nation of Iran is more or less defenseless and friendless(it most certainly does not have a lobby in DC). In summary, here is a country that can be attacked with immunity, like Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Of course, moral arguments notwithstanding!

    Against such stark reality we(it is our government and our MSM like it or not) have turned up the volume on the propaganda machine to create the impression of morality and justice. Meanwhile, we have put the Iranians in the impossible position of proving a negative even when our own intelligence service has repeatedly indicated the absence of an Iranian bomb, the absence of an Iranian intention of a bomb, and the absence of an Iranian intention of a “nuclear capability” aka Japan option.

  5. Richard Haas was on Morning Joe spreading the fear of a nuclear Iran. What is so frustrating is that there is no Juan Cole or Glenn Greenwald to refute the pro-war talking points. Joe sat their like a stooge as Haas demonized a great American, Gen. Dempsey, for daring to say that Iran is a rational player who would not cut it’s on throat by attacking Israel.

    Your comment… “Israeli agents of influence attempt to keep Americans talking about anything but Israel’s own ongoing crimes against humanity with regard to the Palestinians” hits the nail on the head. With Iran allowing inspectors in and asking for talks, once again, the neocons who control our foreign policy will not take yes for an answer. There must be continued chaos among arab and persian countries while Israel uses a stealth slight of hand trick and devours more Palestinian land.

  6. “Obama has ratcheted up US financial sanctions against Iran to the point where US policy may be a casus belli or a legitimate grounds for war”

    Since when have international law and the Law of War considered sanctions an Act of War? The sanctions the U.S. and the E.U. had in place against Burma (Myanmar) for years were just as onerous as those against Iran. Do you consider our sanctions against Burma an “Act of War”?

    The fact is, sanctions (no matter how tight) are not considered an Act of War, under either international law or the Law of War. I think you are conflating “sanctions” and “blockade.” A blockade is an Act of War, but that is not what is being applied in the case of Iran.

      • “A blockade is an act of war”

        Exactly what I said in my post, Professor. The application of sanctions, however, is not considered an act of war.

        • And if it walks like a blockade, quacks like a blockade, and all that, does calling it a “sanctions noose” make it something other than a blockade? Reality trumps words, where real people live. And get killed.

          And with our increasing mutual vulnerability, each to each, (kill my nation’s children via “sanctions” and I’ll litter the Straits with sunken tonnage — if I can get a line into your webbackbone, I’ll kill your electric network or nuclear power plant– anyone can make a REAL virus with their very own sequencer!) does it make a whole lot of sense to continue to try to force-fit the whole planet into Networked Battlespace Areas of Responsibility, and “analyze” using mental constructs that didn’t work for the long haul even back in the Grandest Days of the Great Game?

        • “And if it walks like a blockade, quacks like a blockade, and all that, does calling it a “sanctions noose” make it something other than a blockade?”

          If it “walks like a blockade, quacks like a blockade, and all that” then it would be a blockade, Mr. McPhee, and not the application of a sanctions regime. Unfortunately, your inability to distinguish between a “blockade” and “sanctions” has led you to conflate the two and render them indistinguishable in your own mind. Thus, your non-sequitur.

    • Since when have international law and the Law of War considered sanctions an Act of War? The sanctions the U.S. and the E.U. had in place against Burma (Myanmar) for years were just as onerous as those against Iran. Do you consider our sanctions against Burma an “Act of War”?

      Just popping in to note that nobody has answered Bill’s questions.

      • The premise is not true. Sanctions on Burma did not disarticulate Burmese banking from the world system.

        When the US is preventing Iran from importing wheat from Ukraine, that looks more like a blockade than like sanctions.

  7. “6. Wide-ranging and deep sanctions can bleed over into being a sort of blockade. Blockades are a casus belli in international law, and very frequently provoke wars. FDR’s decision to stop oil sales to Japan helped precipitate Pearl Harbor.”

    This statement has it exactly backwards. FDR’s decision to stop oil sales to Japan in July of 1940 was a result of Japan’s aggression in conquering Southern Vietnam (Cochin China). It was Japan’s aggression (the ultimate Japanese goal was the Netherlands Indies’ oil fields) that provoked the U.S. into stopping oil sales to Japan. Such sanctions were perfectly legitimate under international law. It was not a case of “bleeding into a blockade.” Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in an attempt to knock out the U.S. ability to respond to Japan’s conquests in the Pacific.

    • The nice thing about history is that it’s full of Narratives, that are tied so closely to “identities” of the selectors and re-casters of Large Events. In the meantime, “little people” live and die under the massive feet and hooves of the elephants and rhinos and Cape buffalos.

      Seems to me that it’s impossible to capture and subsume the reality of what happened when hegemonists and Kleptocrats in Tokyo and DC and NYC and such places accelerated the pace of industrial militarization, one of the most virulent of metastatic cancers, into the comforting little myths that some in the US (and elsewhere) use to “justify” what happened next. But hey, it’s all just a flow of words, isn’t it?

      Convenient Jesuitical precision in arguing over picayune definitional niceties of terms like “conspiracy” and “sanctions” and “blockade” is so interesting, coming from people who insist on personifying/reifying/hypostatizationalizing whole NATIONS, in aid of playing the Great Game with all us pawns to be mowed down in windrows and fraudulent hecatombs.

      There is more than enough, of everything that matters, to go all the way around the table, if we were just smart enough to keep the few pigs, who shortstop the platter and eat everything but one last chop and one last cookie, from tricking the rest of us into ignoring the grotesque theft of the birthright and foolishly fighting over those little crumbs. We are all in this fine pickle together, like it or not.

      • I am pleased that you understand the correct use of “reification/hypostatization,” Mr. McPhee, since you appear to employ both terms in most of your posts. (Although I think you understand the meaning of the terms, you insist on mis-applying them to what some of us are stating, but that is an issue for another time.)

        Now, if you would only learn a bit of history, as well as the difference in meaning between “conspiracy” and “narrative,” as well as between “sanctions” and “blockade,” you will have put in a satisfying and fruitful day’s work.

        • The difference between you and Mr. Mcphee lies only in his ability to see the forest for the trees, as distinguished from your microscopic myopia.

      • Imprecise and sloppy use of language leads to imprecise and sloppy thinking, Kilani, which in turn leads to a distorted view of the “forest” you mentioned, trees notwithstanding.

    • Just popping in to note that, for all the sound and fury, no one has answered Bill’s point about the relationship between sanctions and aggression in Japan in the 1940s.

      I’m beginning to see a pattern.

      • The Japanese determination to take what is now Indonesia crystallized *after* it became clear that the US would cut off their oil.

        If someone had threatened British control of India with an oil embargo in 1940, what do you think the British would have done?

        • The Japanese goal was always to take the Netherlands Indies and exploit the oil fields. They would have continued their drive regardless of whether or not the U.S. cut off sales of oil.

      • PS It is dishonest to argue from ‘nobody has answered.’ People are busy, or sometimes arguments are so poorly grounded that no one thinks it worthwhile replying.

    • The problem, Bill, is that the FDR administration knew that sanctions were a Catch-22 for Japan. According to Daniel Yergin’s “The Prize”, the Army, the Navy and the British were desperate for FDR to avoid any action in 1940 that would lead to a Japanese attack in the Indies because the West lacked the resources to fight Hitler and Tojo at the same time. The problem was, every move the US made to warn Japan from territorial conquest was interpreted by the extremist Tojo as proof of a US plot to strangle Japan. The final straw was the State Department interpreting an FDR directive for a limited blockade of certain strategic goods in the broadest possible way without this being reviewed. It was impossible for an America long-ignorant of international diplomacy and a Japan culturally alienated from the West to match their actions to their supposed intentions in the eyes of the other.

      While I can forgive their clumsiness in employing sanctions given their inexperience, I think the cumulative history of the practice shows that sanctions are a deeply flawed way of signalling genuine intentions, meaning that I genuinely will stop hurting you if you stop doing that thing. That is only credible if it actually costs me something to hurt you with sanctions. If I can do it at little cost to myself, then you might view it as simply the tip of the iceberg of my malign intentions, and unlikely to stop no matter what survivable concessions you make. As a superpower, the US has guaranteed that it will be viewed in this way by many, many countries even if it really is going to hurt us to impose sanctions.

      • Would it be dishonest to observe that nobody taking the “Great American Narrative” position on Good America-Bad Japan has answered Super390’s recitation of significant aspects of the history that brought us The Last Just War?

        Makes one wonder if we, the species, are capable of anything better than the working out of a giant death wish.

  8. Someone needs to show Obama the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and, in particular, the part where it clearly states that ALL states have a right to the peaceful use and development of Nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It does not make an exception for states in or around Israel.

    • It’s not just Israel or the U.S., none of Iran’s neighbors or the rest of the world want it to have or trust it with nuclear capabilities. Iran voluntarily signed the Additional Protocol and agreed to other controls and conditions to which no other NPT members are subject.

      • Opinion polling shows that Arab publics are unconcerned with the Iranian nuclear program or support it.

      • But making special cases out of countries that America doesn’t like is the road to Iraq – or Vietnam, or Panama. Meanwhile, our pet oppressors in Pakistan, South Africa and Israel got nukes which our intelligence services “somehow” overlooked, and suffered no consequences at all. Don’t you see that as long as we employ armies of lawyers, bankers, lobbyists and propagandists to turn international law into our arbitrary prejudice, we’ve made it a loathsome thing that nations would be glad to violate?

    • to the peaceful use and development of Nuclear energy for peaceful purposes

      Not only has President Obama no doubt seen that language in the treaty, but also the language requiring signatories to make their nuclear programs available for inspection to ensure their continued compliance.

      As opposed to declaring off-limits facilities in which the IAEA suspect nuclear weapons-related operations.

      But who cares if the professional nuclear weapons inspectors sent by the UN to monitor Iran’s compliance are concerned? I read on the internet that they hare no reason to be.

  9. Dr. Cole, you really should check your anti-Israeli bias. This rant contains too many bias views to even start to counter. The Palestinians want land back that they lost in war. Most losers of war want that.

    • Why is it in the US’s interests to support Israel at all costs again?

      It speaks volumes of it’s power that a group such as AIPAC can summon the US president to speak at its gathering. When was the last time President Obama spoke at a AFL-CIO or Teamsters convention?

      • I don’t think it speaks volumes. Presidents speak to all kinds of groups every day of the year. If you think AIPAC is bad, didn’t Bush speak at Bob Jones U? Presidents speaks to pro/anti abortion groups, NRA, all kinds of special interest groups.

        It didn’t take me long: link to

        Tuesday, February 28, 2012 – 11:30 AM
        The President delivers remarks at the United Auto Workers conference.

    • Ljudivet Gaj you really should check your anti-Palestinian bias. Why was such a war started? Occupation is occupation no matter how you twist or turn.

    • Mr Gaj,

      You persists in believing a 60 some year old myth that the Palestinians evacuated what is now the present state of Israel as a result of a war. It was not a war but a rout of essentially defenseless Palestinians by a well trained and well equipted Jewish army of 50,000 men, half of whom had been trained by the British in the 2nd WW. The ethnic cleasning began in Haiffa on Nov 30, the day after the UN Resolution recommending that 50% of Palestinian land be given to eastern Europeans with only a mythological connection to Palestine. It was not until May 15, 1948 that any regular soldier from a surrounding state set foot in Palestine. Between those two date there were no more than about 3000 non-trained and under equipted volumnteers standing between the Palestinian population and the Jewish forces. Plan D, which was a military strategy for destroying Arab villages and evacuation the population, was formulated and distributed by David Ben Gurion in March of 1948. The Deir Yassin massacre, by no means the largest, occurred on April 9, 1948. Thus the ethnic cleansing begain 6 minths before the entrances into Palestine of any Arab army, and by then half of the 3/4 of a million Palestinians had been expelled outside the border of the 78% of Palestine coveted by Ben Gurion. It was not a war, Mr Gaj, it was a massive war crime against a defenseless population. See link to

  10. I wonder how we’d react if the main political topic in some foreign power was “Why aren’t we bombing the United States back to the stone age today?”

  11. I don’t have a problem with some of your underlying points, but I think some of your logic is off:

    You argue #1 that U.S., etc. sanctions killed 500,000 Iraqi children, but then in #3 you say that “The Baath Party in Iraq in the 1990s squirreled away billions of dollars.” You clearly realize that there was enough wealth within Iraq to feed its children, the goverment just had other priorities. Sanctions may have killed the middle class, but it was the Iraqi government spending on weapons, palaces, luxury cars and Swiss bank accounts that killed Iraqis. That U.S. sanctions, with full UN approval, designed to punish Iraq for non-compliance and keep its aggressive war machine down, killed even 1 Iraqi is a total myth.

    “Wide-ranging and deep sanctions can bleed over into being a sort of blockade… FDR’s decision to stop oil sales to Japan helped precipitate Pearl Harbor.” The sanctions helped precipitate the war only so far in that an imperialist and militarist state (Japan), which had already invaded a dozen neighbors, launched a sneak attack on the U.S. Ethically and morally there should be nothing wrong with sanctions, as the poster above argues, because what are the alternatives: going to war immediately, doing nothing, or making empty pronouncements. A different argument can be made that sanctions can be counterproductive, but the burden should be on the aggressor (Japan, Iraq, Iran), not the aggrieved.

    And don’t be so easily deceived about Iran’s history and intentions. Iran may not have launched an overt war in over a century, but that doesn’t make them a pacifist country. They have regularly interfered, attacked via proxy and supported armed movements in all of their neighbors and around the world. They tinker in Iraq and Afghanistan with the intention of killing U.S. troops. Hezbollah and Imad Mugniyeh in their heyday of attacking embassies and community centers could not use the bathroom without IRGC approval. So am I impressed that Ayatollah Khamenei, who lies, tortures and beats his own people on a daily basis, wants us to believe that he wouldn’t seek a nuclear weapon? NO.

    That doesn’t mean I think Iran would use a nuclear weapon, because I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I want them to have one either.

    • The chlorine interdiction was not in the control of the Baath Party. Also too little food was allowed in by oil for food

    • The suggestion that sanctions were not responsible for the deaths is ridiculous. Two UN officials resigned from administring the sanctions because they were disproportionately affecting civilians: Denis Halliday, who said that the sanctions were responsible for the deaths of 4000-5000 children per day, and Hans von Sponeck who referred to the sanctions as a “true human tragedy”
      And later we found out that the US has deliberately intended to make life hard for the Iraqis, in the vain hope that they would rise up and topple Saddam out of sheer desperation.

      • “Denis Halliday, who said that the sanctions were responsible for the deaths of 4000-5000 children per day”

        More recent studies into the welfare of iraqis during these periods suggest that the original estimates that were provided by such individuals and groups were off.

        link to

    • But David, since sanctions always go badly, aren’t we morally responsible for using them, just as we are morally responsible for using Agent Orange on Vietnam when our own environmental agencies knew that the ingredient dioxin caused cancer?

      In the case of Japan, I think the Japanese had one very valid, uncomfortable argument:

      The US caused the Great Depression to go global with the Smoot-Hawley tariff act. This wrecked Japan’s export economy and led to the suffering that brought fascists to power. But the UK and France simply exploited their imperial colonies behind tariff walls, France being especially cruel in Indochina. They were REWARDED for their imperialism, but had hypocritically ordered the rest of the world to stop doing the same, which left Japan with little and Germany with nothing.

      The Japanese were extremely angry about double standards forced on them, like the Washington Naval Treaty and the racist US immigration quotas, both of which appeared to designate the Japanese an inferior people. The fascists exploited this with the simple agenda that Japan should be able to rape Asia as the UK and France had.

      And was Japanese or Nazi imperialism really any less cruel than the “democratic” variety for the victims?

      I am convinced that FDR understood this. His party had opposed tariffs by tradition, but the public wanted protectionism. He pulled US troops out of Latin America and the Caribbean. He vociferously lobbied for the dismantling of the European colonial empires at the end of the war. The conduct of the US occupations of Germany and Japan appear to have intended as an object lesson in the revised international laws on occupations, which intended to take the profit out of conquest. I think all this proves his goal was that in the future, there would never be circumstances that would force advanced countries to turn to invasion as a means to survival due to a global trade war.

      However, in 1941 he faced a Japan that had been betrayed by Western free-market promises that it had committed all its resources to, and he had no power to revise the international system to address their grievances, and the US was full of people sympathetic to invaded China, for good reasons and not-so-good. Sanctions were all that were left to buy time for a US military buildup, and they were well known to be a terrible option.

      I don’t think either side had reasonable choices during what was still a global depression. Japan was in fact better off fighting and losing that war, thus giving FDR and Truman the means to reorganize the world economy to give Japan the chance to unleash its prowest at peaceful growth. If the war had never happened, Japan would have been forever trapped by global tariffs (enforced by the empires) regardless of what kind of government it had.

  12. Good points all. How ironic is it that Obama is threatening war against Iran in an interview with Goldberg one day, and then standing in front of AIPAC the next and warning against “loose talk of war against Iran”?

    • You gotta love 11-dimensional triangulated chess… But then the military in Israel, and the ruling coalition there, have nukes, and are pretty clear that they are not afraid to use them…

  13. I would love to see an analysis of the Iranian geo-politcs that does not include Israel, which has made of itself only an obnoxious distraction. I recall Chomsky arguing against the “Iraq and the Israel Lobby” conspiracy theories that the real issue then at play was oil, not Israel. My bet is that the same holds true re: Iran. The only ones not to get it are the two antagonistic groups of Israel-firsters –the ones over at AIPAC and here at Informed Comment.

    I’ve commented more than once here that Israel has truly unhinged the analysis of Arab and Middle East politics. One of the things that I find so interesting and important about the Arab Spring is how little Israel has to do with any of it. In my opinion, the discussion tends to get very muddy very fast whenever Israel enters into the picture (or whenever Israel forces itself into the picture, along with help from AIPAC and the GOP).

    I would recommend what I find the more measured analysis of Obama’s AIPAC by Amir Oren at Ha’aretz. link to

  14. I honor your courage Juan. This is the most outspoken position you have ever taken and it’s time to bring the truth to the mainstream in order to counter this incessant war propaganda that we are being fed by Israel’s agents to push us into another illegal costly war in the Middle East in which the only beneficiary can be Israel.

  15. The article by Amir Cohen in Ha’aretz referenced above is interesting but may be giving Obama too much credit. Obama has too often compromised his position when pressure was applied to him. When he was a senator and influenced by Rev. Wright he spoke favorably of the Palestinians, but when it came to the presidential election of 2008 he switched to the AIPAC-Likud talking points and sold the Palestinians down the River Jordan. Muhammad Ali was prepared to sacrifice his title and the fortune it brought him on a matter of principle when he refused to join in the war on Vietnam. Barack Obama so far is no Muhammad Ali. To some extent I sympathize with him when he has a Congress that gave Netanyahu 29 standing ovations. No wonder Congress is held in such contempt.

  16. I find it very surprising that Saddam Hussein is called an “ineffectual bogeyman”; would Kurds agree? I don’t think anyone sane puts Ahmadinejad, who is perceived as more of a clown than an effective leader, into the same category as Saddam. It is fairly obvious that clerics hold the real power in Iran, whereas Saddam held the real power in Iraq (Saddam was a great admirer of Stalin, and, indeed, there was much in common between them).

    I find it very surprising how quickly Juan jumps to conclusions based on what Khamenei says (which has, by the way, been reported by CBS, and many other news agencies), or the results of parliamentary elections (which are, effectively, rigged by the clerics, who have the power to disqualify anyone they don’t like). Since the clerics are the source of Islamic law for Shiites, Khamenei’s statements are both significant, and not: law is a function of context, so if context changes, he can certainly change the law; and whether the context has changed is entirely the judgment of the clerics. Moreover, Khamenei is just one opinion, and other clerics can, in principle, overrule him in the future (avoiding the issue of losing face which comes from such a public verbal commitment).

    Here is my subjective interpretation, given enormous uncertainty about what actually goes on in Iran (no one knows what’s actually going through clerics’ minds, for example). I think that the goal of Iranian clerics is to develop the *capability of building nuclear weapons*, but not the weapons themselves (yet). I agree that it is unlikely that they actually want the weapons at the moment, as actual possession of these carries considerable risks (e.g., Saudi Arabia having a desire to have a nuclear program of its own). But the possession of the technology would elevate Iran’s geopolitical status, and offer military protection against the US, or its enemies in the region (Saudi Arabia and Israel, in particular). This would explain the overwhelming evidence that Iran is trying to develop weapons grade enrichment capabilities, but is at the same time trying to send a credible signal to the West that it does not aspire to possess nuclear weapons.

    • “But the possession of the technology would elevate Iran’s geopolitical status, and offer military protection against the US,…”

      Possession of nuclear technology has been limited in elevating Pakistan’s geopolitical status and has been of no use in protecting Pakistan against US aggression.

      • This was not a statement of fact, but my conjecture about the perception on the part of the clerics. Arguably, there are also substantial differences b/w Pakistan, which is officially a US ally, and Iran. Finally, surely, nuclear weapons would discourage the US from actually attacking Pakistan (as opposed to attacking terrorists within Pakistan).

  17. It’s refreshing to read your true account of the calamity the Palestinans are enduring. Keep the message coming. Your help is admired by many.
    One day the Israelis will be seen for what they are. America stands to be on the loosing end as well, unless we take control of our own destiny. November is destiny time. Watch the influence trail try to keep this status quo.

    • The Israelis are nice people. It is the policies of their government toward the Palestinians that are bad.

  18. What I find interesting is Netanyahu thanking Obama for “affirming” that “Israel has the sovereign right to make its own decisions.”

    Doesn’t that say that all the previous wars (decision) Israel engaged in where then not just its own decision, but this time he wants to make sure they can do things on their own. He seems to affirm that, at least so far, Israel is a US stooge and now he is asking to make their own decisions.

  19. I just heard Netanyahu’s remarks that Israel is the US and we are Israel.

    I feel helpless watching this insane and ugly “game” taking us to another war – for whose benefit? Not mine. For the war machine, the oil companies, and the zealots in Israel who believe that they are entitled to all of Palestine and are busy stealing it.

    How to stop it??

    • Over the years, taking and pushing the position that the best interests of Israel and the US are one and the same, has been central to their management of US policy.

      This translates, in more practical day-to-day terms that people with different opinions can disagree with, while still managing to advance the cause, as the concept of Israel being the 51rst state. I first heard this line about being the 51st state come verbatum from Israel’s current Minister of Defense, and former Prime Minister, Ehud Barak.

  20. Most Americans are not sufficiently aware of Iranian history to realize that this is hardly the first time that a foreign superpower has threatened embargos and boycotts and attacks on Iran. This is a cause for deep nationalistic resentment in Iran, and the US is falling into the same role as the Imperial British and the Russians, who have not been forgiven to this day, 100 years later.

  21. “Obama was made to trek to AIPAC.”

    I take issue with this Professor Cole. The alternative might have proved costly in a re-election but it would have been the right thing to do. Besides, the tide is shifting; Israel is less and less viewed by American’s in a positive light.

  22. How can Iran be denied their right to develop nuclear power if they are complying with the IAEA Non-Proliferation Treaty? What standing does a non-signatory (i.e., Israel) have to raise compliance issues with the IAEA? What right does Israel have to threaten war without valid U.N. Security Council authorization?

    If developing a commercial nuclear program automatically presupposes the capability to build a nuclear weapon, how can any Treaty signatory that is not yet in the nuclear club ever be able to exercise its rights to develop a commercial nuclear program? If a distinction can be made, then hasn’t the U.S. floated some viable proposals to bridge the gap?

    Whether or not Iran would like to build a bomb, Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a public fatwah against it. Furthermore, Iran does have a strong non-military economic motivation to develop a commercial nuclear program, since right now it must subsidize the price of oil for its domestic market- including through its domestic power industry. If it could instead replace the oil it would otherwise burn to generate electricity with nuclear energy, and sell it on the open market, it would earn huge additional revenue which it could then plow into developing its economy and/or providing a larger safety net for its people.

    Ultimately, the President should be ready and willing to enter into negotiations with Iran to seek a “Grand Bargain” to resolve all of our problems with that country, just as Khatami was in 2003.

    Moreover, it should be obvious that a lasting peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved without a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict- a resolution that is fair and just for all affected parties- and that means starting by acknowledging and speaking truthfully about the historical realities and the facts on the ground,

    The tragedy is that a lasting peace could bring huge prosperity to all of the peoples in the region.

  23. One rather obvious difference between the current situation and the runup to the Iraq War occurs to me:

    This time, it is the doves who are ignoring what the UN weapons inspectors are saying, because they don’t want to hear it.

    I wonder, are those crafty Israeli agents leading the IAEA around by the nose, too?

    I found it very frustrating, back when the truth came out about the Iraqi WMDs, that the people who got the question to completely wrong were still treated as serious, important voices in our foreign policy debates. I wonder how our side of the aisle will hold up if faced with similar developments.

    • The IAEA has continually certified that no nuclear material has been diverted from Natanz to weapons purposes.

      Three of the charges in the most recent report are from a fraudulent MEK document and have been denounced as such by former inspectors– just as inspectors denounced the Niger forgery with regard to Iraq.

      Other charges do not point to weaponizing uranium but rather to doing ancillary experiments with hard boxes, or missile technology, all of which are dual- or multiple- use and not conclusive.

  24. Professor Cole,

    It seems somewhat useful to take a moment and ask what could be the motives of the US and Israel (and Iran) if, in fact, it is relatively clear that Iran is not working towards the development of nuclear arms. The US and Israel have excellent intelligence and while it may not be compelling to much of the world, what if this is the case?

    I have surmised (out of whole cloth, admittedly) three possible motives, one for each country.

    1) The US desires that Iran agree to help stabalize Iraq and use its influence with the Shites of Iraq to help retain the present government and status quo in Iraq. After all, for various reasons the so called “success” of our destruction of Iraq remains very important to the US and without the help of Iran the weak government structure of Iraq may unravel.

    2) Israel does not want to see another country in the middle-east be a counter-weight to its military and economic dominance in the area. So, perhaps, Israel is pressuing Obama to take the MEK off the list of terrorist organizations. Above ground support for the MEK in the US and Europe will allow Israel to conduct a long-term war of attrition against Iran and significantly limit Iran’s ascendency. While this is a strange concept, how do we explain that Governors Dean and Richardson are both lobbying to legitamize the MEK? After all these guys are not foreign policy wonks. And keep in mind that two administration officials recently disclosed to the NY Times that Israel is presently working with the MEK and were together responsible for the killing of Iran’s nuclear scientist (which makes me think Obama is resisting pressure to take the MEK off the list of terroist organizations). Clearly, another benefit to Israel is that the settlements and the Palestinian statehood resolution are off the front pages.

    3) And what about Iran? What are its motives for not being more transparent and opening up its various sites for complete inspection by the UN? My guess, and only a guess, is that the Iranian goverment is relatively unpopular and is tapping into nationalist sentiment to boost its domestic support. Iran may be gambling that there will not be an attack or, if there is an attack, it will be limited in its ability to damage and kill. Iran could have other motives, such as a desire to have Israel and the US agree to normalize relations with Iran (and not support the MEK) in exchange for Iran helping to retain the status quo in Iraq.

    Any thoughts?

    • We’re too stupid to do #1. We’ve had 9 years to realize that Iran is the only country positioned to rebuild the economy of the Shia majority of Iraq, and bail out our asses. We refuse to accept the loss of our global hegemony to regional hegemons, facts or no facts.

      So, I’m for #2.

      As for #3, I long suspected Ahmadinejad, a veteran representing a political faction based on the Revolutionary Guard, wanted to militarize the situation so as to enhance his limited power relative to the militarily inexperienced clerics. In effect, declare martial law. His pending downfall and Khameini’s assertion of power may mean that any danger of this is past.

  25. The propaganda operation promoting a U.S. strike on Iran has enlisted a sizeable portion of the corporate media to the cause. One network couched the Presidents position declining to join Israel in a preemptive strike as leaving American security dependent on a foreign power. This is insanity.

  26. Folks:
    Historians of the Iran-Iraq war will tell you that Iran will not be brought to its knees by sanctions. During the “tanker war” when saddam attacked iran’s oil tankers, he was able to prevent Iran from exporting oil from a single tanker for 6 months straight. Even an embargo and blockade will not not stop them.

    Bombing Iran will also not work. As our military experts have testified, only an outright invasion with boots on the ground can guarantee Iran suspends nuclear activities.

    The only logical course is to strengthen bilateral relations with Iran. Iran will be the most powerful country in the gulf. The iranian people are the most educated and progressive and pro-american people in the gulf. America should deal with the idea that iran’s people will be around but the regime will eventually fall. War and sanctions will set the Iranian people back but not the Iranian govt.

    Even if Iran had the Japan option, they have no reason to ever use or build a nuclear weapon as a first strike option. We should be far more worried about loose ex-soviet nukes.

  27. It is generally believed that nukes work as a deterrent. This reasoning was put forward for USSR & USA not going to war for 50 years. Both knew the result of a nuclear war.

    This week India & Pakistan are lifting trade barriers to increase trade from 2 billion to
    10billion dollars.

    US administration is not threatening North Korea or Pakistan with all the options on the table since they both have nukes. (US is helping India in its nuclear research)

    The reason Slavery started is due to the fact that Africans were very poor & ill equipped to defend themselves against the European slave traders. They had no match against gunpowder with their bow & arrows while on the other hand, slavery was not started in India and other places in Asia. At the time Europeans landed on Indian shores with their few ships,India was more advanced at many places & culturally, morally more civilized than Europeans were. Most of all India had Gunpowder to land an equal & more powerful punch to invaders & traders.

    If Iran has few nukes today, the saber rattling & threat to nuke Iran will stop not tomorrow but today. As President Obama said Israel has full right to defend itself, does Iran has the same right or not.

    As USA is feeling threatened from China in South China Sea, Israel is feeling same way from other imaginary or rising powers in the Middle East

    If Iran has nukes, Netanyahu will send trade delegations to Tehran & other Arab capitals. Israel will benefit much more due to trade relations than all the time threatening its neighbors & standing on war footing. Even many Israelis are fed up with their present Likud party and Netanyahu.

    May be Israel should learn from the directions India & Pakistan are heading to a better, brighter & prosperous future.

  28. As Juan has pointed out, the US did annihilate 500,000 Iraqi children through its sanctions regime. That this genocidal act was intentional was confirmed by Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes in May 1996. There’s nothing controversial about this.

    While Americans may like to imagine that their genocidal policies are fundamentally different from the genocidal policies of others, the targets may be excused for concluding that they are considered subhumans deserving extermination for the most trivial reasons, or for none at all, and for drawing the appropriate conclusions about the empire that they are facing.

    The Iranian people have not forgotten that the present sanctions regime is like that of 1951-1953, designed at that time to force Iran into vassalage under a brutal puppet, so that Britain and the US could rip off their petroleum. And they must realize that they simply must resist this effort to enslave them once again.

    What the Americans ought to keep in mind is that they are economically in a much weaker positi0on than they were in 1951. This is unlikely to come out well for the empire, no matter how it goes. And maybe when this caper brings economic catastrophe, the American people will wonder why they were supposed to be sacrificed for Israeli designs in this way. Israel, and especially American Jews, ought to think about these things. People who know what’s good for them do not trifle in this way with a people who can be so easily stirred up against Muslims, Saddam Hussein, and other imaginary dangers.

  29. Juan,

    How can you say the Iranian Nuclear Program is fabricated by ‘Israeli intelligence services’?? Is the IAEA on those pesky-zionist’s payroll?

    How can you reconcile headlines such as these: “Tehran has dramatically accelerated production of enriched uranium and failed to co-operate with investigation” with your silly blame Israel first ask questions later ideology??

    • Yes and go back and read NYT headlines. about Iraq WMD in fall 2002

      The IaEA certifies that no uranium has been diverted to military purposes

    • “Washington has dramatically accelerated development of new nuclear warheads with no international threat to justify it.”

      Now, do you automatically assume that we’re about to nuke someone?

  30. Its suits Israel to have enemies, if it did not then the American People would be asking why it receives $billions in aid.
    Sanctions are the preferred methods of propping up a regime, by blocking legal trade, people are forced to buy goods/services from the black market which is always run by regime insiders.
    If the US wished to have peace & stability, it would lift the sanctions and allow Coke, McDonalds & Apple to “invade”, the demographics in Iran show 50% of the population is under 35 and love they love western culture.

    The question is why isn’t the Obama administration reaching out, push for unconditional talks, with raising of non-military trade embargoes and free travel, within 2months gas prices will drop and the US economy will receive a massive injection of Iranian Business.

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