Interview: Noam Chomsky on US-Iran relations
Kourosh Ziabari talks to Professor Noam Chomsky about the fraught relationship between his country, Iran, and the United States
By Kourosh Ziabari on Monday, May 4th, 2009 - 953 words.
Noam Chomsky needs no introduction. He is the most significant sociopolitical analyst and lecturer of the contemporary era and “ranks with Marx, Shakespeare, and the Bible as one of the ten most quoted sources in the humanities, and is the only writer among them still alive” as said by the Guardian.
On Chomsky’s “Hegemony or Survival”, the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez once told the reporters in a press conference that “I would like to invite you, very respectfully, to those who have not read this book, to read it.”
Answering to a 2006 interview question by the New Statesman’s correspondent Andrew Stephen on what would he had done if he were the U.S. president, Chomsky proposed: ” I would set up a War Crimes Tribunal for my own crimes, because if I take on that position [I would need] to deal with the institutional structure and the culture, the intellectual culture. The culture has to be cured.”
KZ: You have stated several times that the majority of countries, including the members of Non-Aligned Movement, support the nuclear abilities of Iran, yet the American neo-cons are still hawkish. Why?
A: Not only the non-aligned movement, but also the large majority of Americans believe that Iran has the right to develop nuclear energy. But almost no one in the U.S. is aware of this. That includes those who are polled, and probably think they are the only ones who hold these beliefs. Nothing is ever published about it. What appears in the media, constantly, is that the “international community” demands that Iran stop uranium enrichment. Almost nowhere is it brought out that the term “international community” is used conventionally to refer to Washington and whoever happens to go along with it, not just on this issue, but quite generally.
Q: Most of the analysts of international affairs cannot understand the double standards of the U.S. government on nuclear weapons. While supporting the atomic arsenal of Israel, the U.S. continuously pressures Iran to halt its civilian nuclear programs. What are the reasons? Does the IAEA have the authority to probe into Israel’s atomic weaponry?
A: The basic point was explained very candidly by Henry Kissinger. He was asked by the Washington Post why he now claims that Iran does not need nuclear energy so it must be working on building a bomb, while in the 1970s he insisted forcefully that Iran needs nuclear energy and the U.S. must provide the Shah with the means to develop it. His answer was pure Kissinger: “They were an allied country” so they needed nuclear energy. Now they are not an ally, so they do not need nuclear energy. As for Israel, it is an ally, more accurately a client state. So they inherit from the master the right to do as they please.
IAEA has the authority, but the US would never permit them to exercise it. The new U.S. administration has given no indication that it is any different.
Q: There are four states which have not yet ratified the NPT and freely pursue atomic weapons. Should it rescind its ratification and withdraw from the treaty?
A: No, that would simply escalate the pressures. Apart from North Korea, all of these countries receive extensive US support. The Reagan administration pretended it did not know that its ally Pakistan was developing nuclear weapons, so that the dictatorship could receive massive U.S. aid. The U.S. has agreed to assist India in developing its nuclear facilities, and Israel is a special case.
Q: What probable factors may hamper the establishment of direct talks between Iran and the U.S.? Is the influence of Israeli lobby over the corporate government of America a major one?
A: The Israeli lobby has some influence, but it is limited. That was demonstrated in the case of Iran, once again, last summer, during the presidential campaign, the time when the influence of lobbies is at its peak. The Israeli Lobby wanted Congress to pass legislation that came close to calling for a blockade of Iran, an act of war. The measure gained considerable support, but then suddenly disappeared, probably because the White House made it clear, quietly, that it was opposed.
As for the actual factors, we do not yet have adequate internal records, so it is necessary to speculate. We do know that a large majority of Americans want to have normal relations with Iran, but public opinion rarely influences policy. Major US corporations, including the powerful energy corporations, would like to be able to exploit Iran’s petroleum resources. But the state insists otherwise. I presume that the main reason is that Iran is just too independent and disobedient. Great powers do not tolerate that in what they take to be their domains, and the world’s major energy-producing regions have long been considered the domain of the Anglo-American alliance, now with Britain reduced to junior partner.
Q: Will there be a transformation in the approach of American mainstream media toward Iran during the tenure of Mr. Obama? Should we expect a stop to the mass of anti-Iranian propaganda?
A: The media generally adhere fairly closely to the general framework of state policy, though policies are sometimes criticized on tactical grounds. A lot, therefore, depends on the stand that the Obama administration will take.
Q: Finally, do you believe that the U.S. President should follow the Iranian proposal and apologize for its historical crimes against Iran?
A: I think that the powerful should always concede their crimes and apologize to the victims, in fact go much farther and provide reparations. Unfortunately, the world is largely governed by the maxim of Thucydides: the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must. Slowly, over time, the world is becoming more civilized, in general. But there is a long way to go.
Born in the April 1990, Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian freelance journalist and the author of Book "7+1". He is the contributing writer of websites and magazines in Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, South Korea, Belgium, Germany, UK and the US, the member of Stony Brook University Publications' editorial team, a member of Media Left magazine's board of editors and a contributing editor of Finland's Ovi Magazinbe. As a young Iranian journalist, he has been interviewed and quoted by several mainstream mediums such as BBC world service, PBS Media Shift, The Media Line, Deutsch Financial Times, LA Times and Sky News so far. He is a political correspondent of Tehran Times newspaper and a contributing writer of Mehr News Agency.
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