International community step aside. Noam Chomsky is here to solve the Iran crisis.
In the pages of the Guardian, one of the few mainstream newspapers that still consents to treat the radical dinosaur as a serious political commentator, Chomsky claims to have found a way to "defuse" tensions between Iran's mullahs and the West. What he offers instead is a preemptive apology for a nuclear Iran, leavened with the serial distortions, flat-out fabrications and promiscuous anti-Americanism that have been his hallmark for years.
Nuclear proliferation is a serious matter, Chomsky solemnly allows, only to undermine the point with an extended discourse on presumed American hypocrisy. Accordingly, Chomsky observes that "Before 1979, when the Shah was in power, Washington strongly supported [Iran's nuclear] programs." As evidence, Chomsky quotes a 2005 interview with Henry Kissinger, in which the eminent diplomat explained America's erstwhile approval of Iran's quest for nuclear power on the grounds that "[t]hey were an allied country." Chomsky's implication could not be clearer: America, having supported a nuclear Iran in the past, lacks any standing to oppose it now.
Notably absent from Chomsky's account is the necessary context. Iran in the Shah's time was run by an authoritarian but reform-minded leader, who sought to modernize the country and ally it with the Western world. It's hardly surprising that, in supporting nuclear sales to Iran for civilian uses, the United States did not consider the question of nuclear weaponry, a point made by Kissinger himself in the quote that Chomsky reproduces only in part. "They were an allied country, and this was a commercial transaction," Kissinger actually said. "We didn't address the question of them one day moving toward nuclear weapons." Of course, since the 1979 revolution, those concerns have been uppermost in the minds of Western leaders. Ruled by Islamic radicals who have transformed the country into the world's leading sponsor of terrorism and a perennial force for regional instability, Iran plainly cannot be trusted to wield nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
Chomsky would have readers believe otherwise. "In 2003," he writes, "a reasonable proposal to this end was put forward by Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency: that all production and processing of weapon-usable material be under international control, with 'assurance that legitimate would-be users could get their supplies.' That should be the first step, he proposed, toward fully implementing the 1993 UN resolution for a fissile material cutoff treaty (or Fissban). ElBaradei's proposal has to date been accepted by only one state, to my knowledge: Iran…"
This description is not even a parody of the truth. Far from accepting the IAEA's proposal, Iran has flouted it with impunity. In January ElBaradei, not known for regurgitating the talking points of Pentagon hard liners, issued a devastating assessment of Iran's nuclear activities. ElBaradei pointed out that Iran had failed to comply with the IAEA's request that it suspend its uranium enrichment activities. In carefully constructed diplomatese, the IAEA further noted that it had been unable to give a full accounting of Iran's nuclear program "due to the less than full and prompt transparency on the part of Iran." Most damningly, the agency revealed that Iran had exploited its goodwill to advance its nuclear program by stealth. Granted a 30-day grace period, the regime's technicians accelerated work on uranium enrichment.
So outraged was ElBaradei by Iran's machinations that, in a January 2006 interview with Newsweek, he was moved, in a rare concession to reality, to accept the possibility of using force against Iran: "Diplomacy has to be backed by pressure and, in extreme cases, by force," he conceded. "We have rules. We have to do everything possible to uphold the rules through conviction. If not, then you impose them. Of course, this has to be the last resort, but sometimes you have to do it." To be sure, the waffling go-between has since reversed himself on that score, telling the Los Angeles Times in March that there can be "no military solution to this situation." At the same time, the IAEA has only reiterated its original critique of Iran's nuclear activities. In April, ElBaradei disclosed that Iran has neither halted uranium enrichment nor cooperated with the IAEA's requests for information.
Chomsky cannot be troubled to address such awkward details. Rather, he prefers to hold the United States accountable for Iran's treachery. To that end, Chomsky recycles the familiar left-wing indictment: "The Reagan administration…supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Iran, providing him with military and other aid that helped him slaughter hundreds of thousands of Iranians (along with Iraqi Kurds). Then came President Clinton's harsh sanctions, followed by Bush's threats to attack Iran - themselves a serious breach of the UN charter."
Any relation between Chomsky's accusations and the historical record is wholly coincidental. Chomsky's revisionism notwithstanding, Iraq received most of its arms during the Iran-Iraq war not from the United States but from the late Soviet Union, which furnished Saddam with a steady supply of tanks, fighter jets and missiles, as well as European powers like France, which provided Iraq with $5.6 billion in weapons. Contrariwise, America's contribution to the Iraqi war effort was limited in the main to upgrading trade and diplomatic relations between the two countries, sharing military intelligence, and extending credits for food and agricultural equipment. Chomsky's sympathy for Iraqi Kurds is likewise hard to credit, since he aggressively opposed the American military intervention that delivered them from Saddam's tyranny, condemning it as a ruthless exercise in American " imperialism."
As for the Clinton administration's sanctions -- a sensible exception to an otherwise inept foreign policy--they arrested, if only temporarily, Iran's drive for nuclear might. Raymond Tanter, a professor of political science and a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan, has written that "one of the achievements of the [Clinton administration's] sanctions against Iran has been to force it to curtail its ambitious 1989 plan for the acquisition of a large-scale modern military. Tehran had proposed to purchase $10 billion in armaments during 1989-1994, mainly from the USSR. Hard currency expenditures had to be cut in half during 1992-1994, when sanctions imposed by Washington hurt Tehran in world capital markets. A reduction in military expenditures slowed down Iran's program to develop weapons of mass destruction, including ballistic missiles."
Most audacious is Chomsky's allusion to supposed threats by the Bush administration. Yet, if anything, the Bush administration's response to Iran's repeated backsliding on nuclear issues has been unreasonably restrained. Indeed, to judge from recent evidence, the administration even seems to entertain fantasies that Iran can be dissuaded by negotiations. Iran, on the other hand, has openly called for a U.N.-member country -- Israel -- to be "wiped off the map ." Not only does Chomsky fail to acknowledge this reality, but he asserts that Israel and the US are the real aggressors, and demands and end to "very credible US and Israeli threats that virtually urge Iran to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent." It's a classic bit of Chomskyite legerdemain, at once standing the facts on their head and justifying a genocidal agenda as a prudent response to putative American provocation.
And what of Chomsky's solution? The nearest he comes to a tangible proposal is to intimate--he cannot bring himself to spell it out--that Iran abide by the provisions of the non-proliferation treaty. (Even here Chomsky can't resist taking a swipe at his native country. On the basis of no specific evidence, he alleges that the US is a leading violator of the treaty.) Lost on Chomsky, evidently, is the fact that Iranian regime has already stated its views about such treaties. In a speech this April, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared, "Those who want to prevent Iranians from obtaining their right [to a nuclear program], should know that we do not give a damn about such resolutions." So much for diffusing the crisis.
As a guide to foreign policy, Chomsky's "solution" is beyond worthless. It's chief value is in reminding us, once again, that Tehran's most zealous spinmeisters can be found right here at home.
 Karsh, Efraim. The Iran-Iraq War. (Osprey Publishing, 2002) pp. 43-44
 Tanter, Raymond. Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferation. (Palgrave Macmillan, 1999) p. 63.
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