Noam Chomsky on U.S.
Policy Towards Iran
Video and Transcript
Are assumptions about Iran wrong?
"Suppose it was true that Iran is
helping insurgents in Iraq. I mean, wasn’t the United States
helping insurgents when the Russians invaded Afghanistan? Did we
think there was anything wrong with that? I mean, Iraq's a
country that was invaded and is under military occupation. You
can't have a serious discussion about whether someone else is
interfering in it. The basic assumption underlying the
discussion is that we own the world."
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: ElBaradei,
is the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, stated
quite definitively there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons
program in Iran. The recent resolution—the Kyle-Lieberman
amendment—and the recent U.S. sanctions against Iran, which one
of the charges is that Iran has been helping what they call
insurgents in Iraq. There's practically no evidence of that
either. Based on what we know as evidence, there's not a lot of
reasons for U.S. policy to be as aggressive right now towards
Iran as it is, certainly not for the stated reason. What really
does motivate U.S. policy towards Iran?
NOAM CHOMSKY, PROFESSOR OF LINGUISTICS, MIT: Well, if I can make
a comment about the stated reasons, the very fact that we're
discussing them tells us a lot about the sort of intellectual
culture and moral culture in the United States. I mean, suppose
it was true that Iran is helping insurgents in Iraq. I mean,
wasn’t the United States helping insurgents when the Russians
invaded Afghanistan? Did we think there was anything wrong with
that? I mean, Iraq's a country that was invaded and is under
military occupation. You can't have a serious discussion about
whether someone else is interfering in it. The basic assumption
underlying the discussion is that we own the world. So if we
invade and occupy another country, then it's a criminal act for
anyone to interfere with it. What about the nuclear weapons? I
mean, are there countries with nuclear weapons in the region?
Israel has a couple of hundred nuclear weapons. The United
States gives more support to it than any other country in the
world. The Bush administration is trying very hard to push
through an agreement that not only authorizes India's illegal
acquisition of nuclear weapons but assists it. That's what the
U.S.-Indo Nuclear Pact is about. And, furthermore, there happens
to be an obligation of the states in the Security Council and
elsewhere to move towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free
zone in the region. Now that would include Iran and Israel and
any U.S. forces deployed there. That's part of Resolution 687.
Now to your question. The real reasons for the attack on Iran,
the sanctions, and so on go back into history. I mean, we like
to forget the history; Iranians don't. In 1953, the United
States and Britain overthrew the parliamentary government and
installed a brutal dictator, the Shah, who ruled until 1979. And
during his rule, incidentally, the United States was strongly
supporting the same programs they're objecting to today. In
1979, the population overthrew the dictator, and since then the
United States has been essentially torturing Iran. First it
tried a military coup. Then it supported Saddam Hussein during
Iraq's invasion of Iran, which killed hundreds of thousands of
people. Then, after that was over, the United States started
imposing harsh sanctions on Iran. And now it's escalating that.
The point is: Iran is out of control. You know, it's supposed to
be a U.S.-client state, as it was under the Shah, and it's
refusing to play that role.
JAY: The sanctions that were just issued recently [are] the
beginnings of a kind of act of war, this ratcheting up of the
rhetoric right at a time when the IAEA is saying, in fact,
Iran's cooperating in the process. But it's all coming down to
this question of does Iran even have its right to enrich uranium
for civilian nuclear, which in fact it has, under the
non-proliferation treaty. But Bush in his last press conference,
where he had his famous World War III warning, has said even the
knowledge of having nuclear weapons we won't permit, never mind
a civilian program. This puts U.S. policy on a collision course
with the IAEA, with international law.
CHOMSKY: Just a couple of years ago, from 2004 through 2006,
Iran did agree to suspend all uranium enrichment, halt even what
everyone agrees they're legally entitled to. That was an
agreement with the European Union. They agreed to suspend all
uranium enrichment. And in return, the European Union was to
provide what were called full guarantees on security issues—that
means getting the United States to call off its threats to
attack and destroy Iran. Well, the European Union didn't live up
to its obligation, [as] they couldn't get the U.S. to stop it.
So the Iranians then also pulled out and began to return to
uranium enrichment. The way that's described here is-- the
Iranians broke the agreement.
JAY: The experts are saying, including ElBaradei and others,
that if you can enrich uranium to something just under 5%, which
is apparently what's needed for civilian purposes, you're most
of the way there towards the technology of having a bomb, that
once you have that enrichment technology, you're not that much
further towards a bomb.
CHOMSKY: Yeah, but that's true of every developed country in the
world. Why pick out Iran? It's true of Japan, it's true of
Brazil, it's true of Egypt. And in fact, one could say—here I
tend to agree with the Bush administration. In the
non-proliferation treaty, there's an article, Article 4, which
says that countries signing the NPT are allowed to develop
nuclear energy. Well, okay, that made some sense in 1970, but by
now technology has developed enough so that it has reached the
point that you describe. When you've developed nuclear energy,
you're not that far from nuclear weapons. So, yeah, I think
something should be done about that. But that has nothing
special to do with Iran. In fact, it's a much more serious
problem for those nuclear weapons states who are obligated under
that same treaty to make good faith efforts to eliminate nuclear
weapons altogether. And, in fact, there are some solutions to
that. ElBaradei had proposed a couple of years ago that no
states should develop weapons-grade materials: all high
enrichment should be done by an international agency, maybe the
IAEA or something else, and then countries should apply to it.
If they want enriched uranium for nuclear energy, the
international agency should determine whether they're doing it
for peaceful means. As far as I'm aware, there's only one
country that formally agreed to ElBaradei's proposal. That was
Iran. And there's more. I mean, there's an international treaty,
called the Fissban, to ban production of fissile materials
except under international control. The United States has been
strongly opposed to that, to a verifiable treaty. Nevertheless,
it did come to the General Assembly, the U.N. Disarmament
Commission in the General Assembly, which overwhelmingly voted
in favour of it. The disarmament commission vote was, I think,
147 to 1, the United States being the 1. Unless a verifiable
fissile materials treaty is passed and implemented, the world
very well may move towards nuclear disaster.
JAY: Do you think we're actually moving towards a military
confrontation? Or are we seeing a game of brinksmanship?
CHOMSKY: Well, whether purposely or not, yes, we're moving
towards a military confrontation.
Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at MIT. He is the
author of over 30 political books dissecting U.S.
interventionism in the developing world, the political economy
of human rights and the propaganda role of corporate media.
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