• 2 June 2011
  • Posted By David Shams
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Are Iran hawks pushing Tehran’s narrative?

Reading Seymour Hersh’s latest piece in the New Yorker, I can’t help but get déjà vu.

Hersh reports that the recent (classified) 2011 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear weapons program reaches the same conclusion as the 2007 NIE that Iran had a nuclear weapons program but halted it in 2003.  Despite the two conclusions, many politicians and other policymakers remain steadfast in their own public conclusions that contradict the last two NIEs.

All of this brings me back to the build-up to war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Yes, Saddam was being “cagey” about his perceived weapons program, but he had a reason.  He didn’t want the world–Iran in particular–finding out that he really didn’t have one.  So, in defying the west and giving the weapons inspectors the run around, he kept the illusion alive.   He needed the idea of a weapons program to deter his neighbor and avowed enemy.

According to Hersh’s source, a retired senior intelligence official, Iran may have had a similar calculus.  Hersh reports, that the 2011 version initially included a finding that concluded Iran ended its program in 2003 because it was aimed at Saddam and since he had been toppled it was no longer necessary. That point was ultimately removed from the final draft, because, according to Hersh’s source, there wasn’t enough hard evidence to support that conclusion.

This is in direct contrast to the conclusions drawn by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and touted in his recent speech to a joint session of Congress last week.  He says that Iran stopped its weapons program because it feared military action.

“The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation,” Netanyahu said before Congress.  In reality, it is precisely these types of threats that may actually provide the rationale for Iran to pursue a nuclear deterrent.

So, these two contrasting conclusions bring Iran’s intentions into question.  As a European diplomat says in Hersh’s article, “is Iran behaving in a way that would be rational if they were not developing a nuclear weapon?”  The diplomat concludes, “Their behavior only makes sense if their goal is to have the bomb.”

Is it though? The case of Saddam demonstrates that sometimes states bluff or appear cagey to achieve strategic goals other than simply hiding a weapons program.  In Iran’s case, standing up to the United States and the perception that it may have an advancing nuclear weapons program gives it prestige, presents it as a top regional power

As Seymour Hersh points out in his article, former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei discusses this very point in his recent memoir, “Tehran is determined to be recognized as a regional power….even if the intent is not to develop nuclear weapons” it “sends a signal of power to Iran’s neighbors and to the world.”

By ignoring this alternative reading of Iran’s behavior, or hyping perceived threats to advance more hawkish policies domestically, we run the risk of miscalculating Iran’s intentions or even reinforcing a narrative they seek to advance as a strategic interest unto itself.  And a policy that is based in the “popular” reading of Iran’s behavior could actually help push Iran to actually developing a nuclear weapon.  We still have time to prevent making this strategic error, but its unclear anyone in Washington has actually learned the lessons from Iraq.

Posted By David Shams

    One Response to “Are Iran hawks pushing Tehran’s narrative?”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Japan has conducted nuclear weapon research. Where’s the outcry there? Brazil has conducted nuclear weapon research. Where’s the outcry there? And the 2007 NIE doesn’t have conclusive evidence that Iran intended to actually build a nuclear weapon.

    Regarding Saddam, he was open to investigators prior to the 2003 invasion. And he put forward comprehensive documentation on his country’s past R&D. But no matter, the inspectors were ordered out by the Coalition and the invasion proceeded. It wasn’t so much about WMDs as it was regime change.

    Even more so, with regards to Iran. Come on: the nuclear issue is a pretext. If anyone needs any proof, look no further than the US reaction to the Tehran Declaration of 2010.

    It’s about purposely curtailing Iran’s economic development and regime change. And so we get the relentless demonization campaign against the country in our media. Even NIAC participates in such, with negative consequences to ordinary Iranians and Americans. Let’s be truthful about it, shall we?

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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