RT: I’d like to begin with Iran. The new president, Rouhani, has appeared to be much softer than his predecessor. On his recent trip to the US it was hailed as progress and the first time two presidents spoke in over 30 years. Do you see US policy towards Iran changing?
Noam Chomsky: The real issue is what will happen in the United States. The way the issue is presented in the United States, and most of the West, the problem is Iran’s intransigence and its rejection of the demands of the international community. There is plenty to criticize in Iran but the real issue is quite different. It’s the refusal of the West, primarily of the United States, to enter into serious diplomacy with Iran. And as far as Iran violating the will of the international community, that depends on a very special definition of international community which is standard in the West where the term means the United States and anybody who goes along with it. So if the international community includes the world then the story is quite different. For example the non-aligned countries, which is most of the world’s population, have vigorously supported Iran’s right to enrich uranium — still do.
The nearby region, in the Arab world, Arab’s don’t like Iran it’s quite unpopular there are hostilities that go back very far. But they do not regard Iran as a threat, a very small percentage regard Iran as a threat. The threats they perceive are the United States and Israel, so they are not part of the world as far as “international community” is concerned but it’s a western obsession. Are there ways to deal with it, whatever one takes a threat to be? Sure, there are ways.
So for example in 2010 there was a very positive advance that could have mitigated whatever the threat is supposed to be. Turkey and Brazil reached a deal with Iran in which Iran would ship out its low-enriched uranium in exchange for storage in Turkey, and in return the west would provide isotopes for Iran’s medical reactors. As soon as that was announced Brazil and Turkey were bitterly condemned by Washington and by the media, which more or less reflexively follow what Washington says. The Brazilian government was pretty upset by this, so much so that the Brazilian Foreign Minister released a letter from President Obama to the president of Brazil in which Obama had proposed this assuming that Iran would turn it down. When Iran accepted, of course he had to denounce it and Obama went right to the Security Council to try to get harsher sanctions. Well that’s one case.
There’s a more recent one that is even more interesting. Last December there was supposed to be an international conference in Finland to carry forward longstanding efforts to establish a zone free of nuclear weapons, all weapons of mass destruction in fact, in the Middle East. This is under the auspices of the proliferation treaty, basically the UN. Well it was to be in December, it didn’t happen. The first thing that happened is that Israel announced they wouldn’t participate. Then everyone who was interested was waiting to see if Iran would participate. Iran said they would participate with no conditions. Immediately Obama called off the conference, giving the reasons which are the official Israeli reasons: You can’t have a conference until there is a regional peace settlement. Of course in the background you can’t have a regional peace settlement until the US and Israel stop blocking the international consensus on an Israel/Palestine agreement — as they are doing and have been for 35 years. So no meeting. The Arab countries who have pressed for this for a long time said they’re going to go ahead with this anyway but of course you can’t without US support. The European parliament passed a resolution calling for a quick renewal of the initiative, Russia supported it. People in the United States have done almost nothing about it for a very simple reason: not a word about this has appeared in the American press, literally. You can read about it in arms control journals or international affairs journals or in things that I write or in things on the fringe. But the press is silent about it, so no pressure. Well, could that have succeeded? Maybe. There could have been steps toward mitigating the crisis. I won’t go through the record but this goes pretty far back. As long as the West, following the US lead refuses to accept a negotiated diplomatic solution the situation can be very serious.
It’s also worth remembering that every day the United States and Israel are violating international law on this issue. The UN charter, if anybody cares, bans the threat or use of force in international affairs. Every time an official says “All options are open,” that is a criminal act. Here nobody cares. We are supposed to be able to carry out criminal acts and in fact that was a dramatic illustration of that yesterday.
If you read yesterday’s New York Times big front page article on the capture of Abu Anas, the jihadi target in Libya, read down to the bottom of the article and there’s a quote from the Secretary of State who is asked in a press conference whether this was legal and he says “Yes this is legal it’s in accord with American law.” That means American law says we can go into any country we like and kidnap somebody we want and that’s legal. Of course is that anybody else’s law? Suppose Al-Qaeda or some other country, Yemen or whoever, comes to the United States and kidnaps John Kerry. Is that legal? If it’s legal by their laws. What this says is we claim that we own the world: What we decide applies universally. It doesn’t matter what international law is, no one else has these rights. An honest report would have had this as the headline and would have explained what it means but nobody is going to comment on that in the United States or England or probably most of the world but these are very important facts.
The United States has always adopted the principle of American exceptionalism, this goes back to the early colonists, but it’s not a uniquely American position.
Every great power, at least every one I know of, has taken the same position. So France was unique in its civilizing mission, which was announced proudly as the Minister of War was calling for the extermination of the people of Algeria. Russia under Stalin was uniquely exceptional and magnificent while it was carrying out all kinds of crimes. Hitler pronounced German exceptionalism when he took over Czechoslovakia, it was done to end ethnic cleansing and put people under the broader German high culture and German technology. In fact I can’t think of an exception.
Every great power that I know of has claimed to be exceptional, the United States among them: exceptional in its right to use force and violence.
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Louis DeCola, Jr. © 2013 The Hygiology Post ®