The Iranian threat is a “Western obsession”. The majority of the states and the Arab societies don’t perceive Iran as a threat as polls show, says Chomsky. “They do perceive threats, the United States and Israel and that's certainly one reason why the West is frightened of the prospect of democracy in the region.” The US intelligence and the Pentagon regard Iran not as a military threat. They don’t know if Iran has a nuclear weapons program. But if Iran has one it would be part of their deterrence strategy according to US security analysts. “If you have ambitions of global dominance you don't want deterrence.” At the same time the US is blocking the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East and accelerating the armament of Israel. The US recently closed a deal with Israel about rockets capable of destroying anti-aircraft systems, “in fact providing them with material which could be used for an attack on Iran”. Furthermore Obama has escalated the Israel-Palestine conflict by blocking peace talks and excluding the settlements from future negotiations. “It's not a question of expansion, these settlements are illegal. That was also the U.S. position up until Reagan. Reagan changed it from illegal to an ‘obstacle to peace’. Obama in his latest visits a couple of weeks ago weakened it still further to ‘not useful for peace’. Well that's talking about expansion not settlements. That's a precondition that makes negotiations almost impossible.” There are now only two realistic options: Either the US moves toward a two state settlement or the U.S. and Israel will persist in their policies: The annexation of valuable land in the West Bank from which Arabs are driven out.
Noam Chomsky: MIT Linguist, US critic and activist, author of dozens of books about US foreign policy, state based capitalism and mass media e.g. "Manufacturing Consent", "Profit over People", "Hegemony or Survival" and "Occupy". Chomsky is official supporter of Kontext TV.
David Goessmann: How do Israel and the confrontation with Iran fit into U.S. policy towards the Middle East and what is the current U.S. – Israeli planning in regard to Iran?
Noam Chomsky: Well, Iran is a very interesting case. Iran is regarded in the U.S. as the greatest threat to peace. If you follow the foreign policy debate from the Obama-Romney debate, the main topic discussed was Iran, actually the main topic discussed was Israel because both candidates have to explain their undying loyalty to it. But then next was Iran marginalizing everything else. At the defence secretary hearings, the Hagel hearings which you probably saw Israel and Iran were practically the only words mentioned, roughly the same story, and it was characterized as the greatest threat to world peace or at least regional peace.
Which does raise some questions which are not asked here. But they are easily answered. One question is: Who thinks it is the greatest threat to peace? Well that turns out to be a Western obsession, United States and its allies. Certainly not true for the nonaligned countries, they have strongly and vigorously supported Iran's right of enrichment of uranium. Interestingly it's not the Arab World, not the Arab populations at least. When the Arab World is mentioned here it's the dictators and they say, “Okay the Arab support us because the dictators support us“. And that's an indication of the deep contempt for democracy in Western society. What about the populations? Well, we know a lot about the populations, they are regular polls, many of them run by leading Western polling organizations. So for example on the eve of the Arab Spring, right before there were polls in Egypt, Western run polls in Egypt and the results where interesting. Arabs don't like Iran that goes way back but they don't regard Iran as a threat, maybe 10 % regard it as a threat. They do perceive threats, the United States and Israel and that's certainly one reason why the West is frightened of the prospect of democracy in the region. Democracy means popular opinion has some influence on policy somehow.
With regard to nuclear weapons, of course they don't want nuclear weapons in fact Egypt has been in the lead for decades in trying to press the world towards a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the region. On the other hand right before the Arab Spring actually the majority of the Egyptians thought the region might be safer if Iran had nuclear weapons because of the major threats they face. They don't want to have nuclear weapons of course. Are there other polls around the region with similar results. Not many regard Iran as a thread, they don't like it, there is hostility but they don't consider it a threat. And it's also true in most of the rest of the world, it's a Western obsession. And we might ask why?
So, what's the nature of the greatest threat? Well we have some answers to that, they come from U.S. intelligence and the Pentagon they give regular presentation to the Congress on the global security situation, quite open, they are not secret. And they say „Yes Iran is a serious threat“. Not a military threat, its military spending is low, even by the standards of the region, certainly a fraction of the United States’ or Israels’. It has a military doctrine but it's defensive to try to hold off an invasion long enough for diplomacy to enter. They of course refer to the possible nuclear weapons program and they don't know if Iran has one but if it does it would be part of their deterrence strategy. And that's the primary threat. They might be a deterrent. And if you have ambitions of global dominance you don't want deterrence.
So that's one threat. The other threat is that they are charged with what's called destabilizing the region. It's a technical term which means expanding their influence into neighboring countries – Iraq and Afghanistan. If we invade and destroy the countries that's stabilization – if they expand their influence it's destabilization. So we are not going to tolerate that. And there are some other charges. Well that's basically the story.
Then the final question is: Whatever the threat is, what can you do about it? A number of things. Actually we could follow Egypt’s lead reiterated again by the nonaligned conference about a year ago to move towards establishing a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the region. International support for that is so strong that the U.S. has to agree formally but not now and with reservations. And that reservation is that Israel has to be excluded. Is there a way to pursue that? Yeah, definitely, for example last December there was supposed to be an international conference in Helsinki under the auspicious of the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) basically the United Nations. Everyone waited to see if Iran would agree to attend and they did and within days in early November Obama had cancelled the conference. Not the right time. The European Parliament voted strongly to move quickly ahead with it and the Arab states said they would pursue it, but you can't do anything essentially with a U.S. veto.
Can we do anything about that? Like can there be protests about it? No, not a word about this has been reported in the U.S. Unless you are kind of an addict and you study arms control journals and proliferate dissent literature almost nobody knows anything about this. And so, what can be done about it? In Europe a lot could be done. Europe could follow the lead of the European Parliament for example. So yes there are things that could be done but they are going to run against obvious opposition.
That gets us back to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The U.S. not only support Israel's policies but is expanding its support for them. There are the whole budget problems and the U.S. is increasing the military aid for Israel which is already in the stratosphere and in fact providing them with material which could be used for an attack on Iran. They are not providing Israel yet with deep penetration bombs so called bunker buster bombs. They go deep into the earth. They haven't done that yet. But the latest agreement just a couple of days ago provided more refuelling options which is of course crucial for bombing Iran and also missiles to destroy anti aircraft systems again crucial for that. So you have two countries which are violating the UN Charta every day – that's what it means to say all options are open. The UN Charta rejects the thread or use of force in international affairs. But the West is immune from international law. It's just too powerful. So no talks about this. But of course Iranians can hear it.
Well, there's a game going on, it's not – I don't think Israel really wants to bomb Iran, it wants the U.S. to do it. But they are threatening to bomb Iran in an efforts to induce the U.S. to take harsher measures in order to restrain them. You know you have to keep this dog on a tight leash. Actually if the U.S. doesn't want Israel to do something they just order it. So that's the end of that story. So we really don't know what will happen but it's threatening. Meanwhile there are very harsh sanctions which hit the population as usual but don't affect the regime. In fact they will probably undermine popular resistance to the regime exactly as happened in Iraq. Not the opposition which is there but the possibilities to organize diminish. Recent reports from people who have come from Teheran report that regularly. So that's where the situation stands now.
What about Israel – Palestine itself? Well the U.S. have made it clear that they have explicit and strong preconditions, it's calling for negotiations but with extreme preconditions. They are not called preconditions in the West because what we do is just for the common good. But if you take a look the Obama administration is not only calling for preconditions but is extending them. The primary precondition is: no talk about settlement expansion. Well that's the crucial issue, the basic issue are the settlements. According to international opinion and international law, the Security Council, the International Court of Justice all these settlements are illegal. It's not a question of expansion, these settlements are illegal.
That was also the U.S. position up until Reagan. Reagan changed it from illegal to an “obstacle to peace”. Obama in his latest visits a couple of weeks ago weakened it still further to “not useful for peace”. Well that's talking about expansion not settlements. That's a precondition that makes negotiations almost impossible. The other major precondition is that the U.S. have to run them. That makes about as much sense as Iran running negotiations between Shiites and Sunnites in Iraq let's say. If there were serious negotiations they were run by some international entity, maybe a state which has a certain degree of credibility and actually is neutral like say maybe Brazil, then we could have negotiations. But of course that's out of the question. The U.S. have to run them and under the U.S. preconditions. And that leaves only few options really.
The realistic options are either that the U.S. would move towards some sort of two state settlement in accordance with international opinion, has not done so, but it's conceivable. The other possibility is that the U.S. and Israel will simply persist in their policies that they are now pursuing. Discussion about this option tends to be pretty misleading. The way it's usually discussed on all sides is that Israel is facing a hazard which is called a demographic problem. If it doesn't accept the two state settlement it will become a minority in its own territory and can't have a Jewish state. But that's not even an option! If you take a look at U.S. – Israeli policies they are designed to exclude that threat. Gaza of course is under siege and separated from the West Bank, in violation of the Oslo agreements. And for the West Bank Israel with U.S. backing is carefully taking over pretty much what it wants, roughly maybe half the territory, crucial territory like the Jordan valley which imprisons what's left. Lots of Palestinians are being kicked out, settlers moving in. Hugely expanded region around Jerusalem, it cuts deeply into the West Bank. Corridorts cut the rest of Palestine into cantons. Israel takes essentially whatever is valuable to it. The policies have been pursued since 1967 in one form or another, taking over maybe amounting to 40 – 50 % of the territory. There are very few Arabs. The Arabs are either being eliminated, moved or there aren't many. So that will be incorporated in some fashion into Israel of course including what's behind the separation wall from which is basically Arabs excluded – so no demographic problem, no civil rights struggle, no anti-apartheid struggle. Those are the two options.
Fabian Scheidler: That was Kontext TV. Thanks for listening and watching. Fabian Scheidler and David Goeßmann say Goodby.