The Iran Threat in the Age of Real-Axis-of-Evil Expansion 
Edward S. Herman and David Peterson
It is intriguing to see how whoever the United States and Israel find interfering with their imperial or dispossession plans is quickly demonized and becomes a threat and target for that Real-Axis-of-Evil (RAE), and hence their NATO allies and, with less intensity, much of the rest of the “international community” (IC, meaning ruling elites, not ordinary citizens). If and when the need arises, any bit of news that is damaging to the targeted state will be fed into the demonization process—and in the marvelous propaganda system of the West, the grossest distortions will be swallowed and regurgitated without much guilt or apology, even upon the exposure of exceptional gullibility and dishonesty. The dishonesty, gullibility, double-standard and hypocrisy are handled with an aplomb that Pravda and Izvestia could never muster in the Soviet era.
Thus, Iran is a threat, for one thing, because it has relations with the Iraqi Shiites, has supported them in the struggle within Iraq and may even have supplied some of their factions with training and weapons. Of course Iran is a neighbor of Iraq, was invaded by it in 1980, with generous U.S. help provided to then-ally Saddam Hussein, and Iran obviously has an important political stake in the outcome of any struggle for power in Iraq. But only the United States has a right to invade and fight in Iraq and provide arms to the Iraqis of its choice. As a superpower with dominant military capability, and unlimited chutzpah, it has Aggression Rights, acknowledged by the IC, UN and Security Council, who not only did nothing to oppose the 2003-2010 invasion-occupation of Iraq, but the Council quickly sanctioned the U.S. right to manage the occupation, in contrast with its indignant vote and action to force the Iraqi eviction from invaded and occupied Kuwait in 1990. This is the imperial double-standard in action, and Iran, trying to interfere in Iraq, despite the IC and Council’s approval of the U.S. aggression and conquest, is clearly out of order. The aggressor may have made false or inflated accusations about Iranian interference, partly to cover over its own aggression-resistance problems, but also to prepare the ground for its next planned aggression, that against Iran itself. This is not discussible in the establishment U.S. media.
Iran is also a threat because it is hostile to Israel, objects to what Israel has been doing in Palestine and Lebanon, and is a local power rival to Israel. But Israel, like its patron, has Aggression Rights, and is free to invade Lebanon, as it did on a massive scale in 1982 and 2006, without penalty. And it has ethnic cleansing and even slow-motion genocide rights which it has been exercising in Palestine for many years, with U.S. and EU support. During its last few days in Lebanon in 2006 before its final withdrawal Israel dropped a million cluster bombs in the countryside in an act of state terrorism and crime against humanity that would have produced huge outrage and possibly sanctions if carried out by a state that was not a U.S. client. The same is true of its assault on the Gaza Palestinians in December of 2009, where this very civilian-oriented campaign against an essentially defenseless population was openly supported by U.S. officials and hence presented no problem for Israel except for some damage to its image as “a light unto the Nations” (Anthony Lewis).
Furthermore, Iran has given active support to Hezbollah in Lebanon and to Hamas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, both “terrorist" organizations by the power-rule of language usage; Israel and the United States only “retaliate” and engage in “counter-terror” in accord with this rule, firmly adhered to by the establishment U.S. media. Because of such support in Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories, Iran automatically qualifies as a "state-sponsor of terrorism," and its global profile as a "threat" rises for this reason as well. Yet Iran has not moved beyond its borders in our lifetimes, whereas the United States has regularly attacked and invaded Iran’s neighbors, sometimes on a massive scale, and the United States actively aided Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in addition to organizing the 1953 coup within Iran that brought into power an amenable client, the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The United States has even been engaging in and sponsoring terrorist attacks on Iran—at the same time as it complains about Iran’s interference in Iraq—which, with consistent and unpoliticized word-usage, would qualify the United States itself as a state-sponsor of terrorism. But this is all irrelevant (and largely suppressed) history for the Western media guardians of power—the immediate point of concern is Iran’s support of two officially-designated “terrorist” organizations, both of which weaken the effectiveness of Israel’s Aggression Rights and Western domination of this region.
Most frightening, Iran has a nuclear program, which it is implementing within the framework of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). This fright comes primarily from the United States and Israel, both major nuclear weapons states. Given their own extensive and sophisticated nuclear weapons capability, the RAE’s fright over the threat of Iran’s nuclear "ambitions" is profoundly dishonest and hypocritical, and carries the imperial double-standard to another impressive peak. Contrary to rhetoric about the "existential" threat that an Islamic bomb would pose to Israel and the West, the threat is not based on any genuine fear over Iran’s offensive, first-strike use of nuclear weapons (which would entail national suicide), but on the deterrent effect that Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons would exercise on the RAE’s capacity to engage in offensive military operations against Iran and the greater Middle East. The other important element in this cultivated fright is that the mythical “threat” alleged to be emerging in Iran can be exploited by the RAE and its allies as a rationale for politically destabilizing and possibly directly attacking Iran.
The further elements of fraud and hypocrisy in this contrived fright are numerous, but it must be recalled that each U.S. target is carefully and vigorously demonized as a prelude to attack, with the help of the IC, UN, UNSC and Free Press. From tiny Guatemala (1950-1954) and Nicaragua (1979-1990) to Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” in 2002-2003, the demonization-lies-hysteria combination has never failed to do its job, making both hypocrisy and aggression workable. It never elicits laughter or contributes a lesson that interferes with the next round of the same process. The service being provided is too important for either learning or jokes.
It may be recalled that with the Shah of Iran in power, the United States actually encouraged this dictator to develop a nuclear capability, accepting the argument (now rejected) that Iran needed this additional energy source, and not worrying about any possible diversion of nuclear material from civilian to weapons development with a manageable client-dictator in power. Back in the mid-1970s, the Ford administration "endorsed Iranian plans to build a massive nuclear energy industry, but also worked hard to complete a multibillion-dollar deal that would have given Tehran control of large quantities of plutonium and enriched uranium—the two pathways to a nuclear bomb," the Washington Post recalled. "Ford’s team commended Iran’s decision to build a massive nuclear energy industry, noting in a declassified 1975 strategy paper that Tehran needed to ‘prepare against the time—about 15 years in the future—when Iranian oil production is expected to decline sharply’."
But the ouster of the Shah in early 1979 and his replacement by an unfriendly and independent Islamic Republic led quickly to a U.S.-Israeli concern over Iran’s nuclear capability and its supposed threat. Whereas then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger now says that he doesn’t "think the issue of proliferation ever came up" in the Ford administration’s talks with the Shah, Kissinger adds that "[Iran] was an allied country, and this was a commercial transaction. We didn’t address the question of them one day moving toward nuclear weapons." The blatantly political basis for this transformation from support for the Shah’s nuclear capability to rejection of any rights to nuclear capability for the successor regime, even under the terms of the NPT, has escaped the West, aided of course by the demonization process (and in the earlier phase, by the portrayal of the Shah, whose torture chambers were notorious, as a “modernizer”).
The history of the growth of the Iran threat (especially since 2003) has centered on Iran‘s alleged quest for nuclear weapons and Iran‘s noncompliance with its obligations as a party to the NPT. But the fact of the matter is that Iran did join the NPT (as have all states in the Middle East but one) and has for many years subjected itself to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), while Israel not only has never joined the NPT, it has built-up a substantial nuclear weapons arsenal with the material and diplomatic aid of the United States and other Western powers. And along with supporting Israel‘s nuclear arms buildup, the United States allowed its client Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons and recently cooperated with India in nuclear agreements that seriously violated the principles of the NPT. As The Hindu‘s Siddharth Varadarajan wrote in July 2005, shortly after the first joint-statement on the U.S.-India nuclear deal was made at the White House by President George Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh:
The non-proliferation lobby argues that President Bush’s decision to sell nuclear technology and equipment to India will encourage other countries to go down the nuclear path. Not so say the advocates. Mr. Tellis—a former RAND Corporation analyst who served as an advisor to Robert Blackwill when he was U.S. Ambassador to India—is most forthright. He acknowledges the contradiction between the two goals of U.S. foreign policy—building India up as a counter to China and upholding the non-proliferation regime—but says the circle can be squared. His solution: don’t jettison the regime "but, rather, selectively [apply] it in practice." In other words, different countries should be treated differently "based on their friendship and value to the U.S." With one stroke of the Presidential pen, India has become something more than a "major non-NATO ally" of the U.S. It has joined the Free World. It has gone from being a victim of nuclear discrimination to a beneficiary. India is not alone. Israel is already there to give it company.