Now that Iran and P5+1 – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – have reached a comprehensive long term agreement for limiting Iran’s nuclear program and putting it under strict inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the opponents of the agreement, and in particular Israel and its supporters and lobby in the United State, have intensified their efforts to derail the agreement and force the Congress to reject it. In particular, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cohorts have been spreading lies, exaggerations, and half-truths about Iran in order to demonize it and make it impossible for those who are sitting on the fence to support the nuclear agreement. How much of Netanyahu’s claims are true? Let us examine some of them.
Destruction of Israel
In his joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond on 16 July 2015, Netanyahu claimed that he is astounded by the fact that the agreement with Iran did not address Iran’s wish for Israel’s destruction.
In his press conference of 15 July 2015 President Obama said, “Israel has legitimate concerns about its security relative to Iran. You have a large country with a significant military that has proclaimed that Israel shouldn’t exist.”
The rhetoric about destruction of Israel is unwise and inhumane. But, claiming that the Islamic Republic of Iran wishes physical destruction of Israel is sheer lie. It is not a lie because Iran does not have the military power to destroy Israel, as the United States and Israel have thousands of nuclear warheads to destroy Iran several time over. It is a lie because Netanyahu and others have distorted the unwise rhetoric about Israel’s existence.
“Destruction of Israel” that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has spoken about refers to a referendum that he has proposed about the future of the entire historic Palestine in which all the Israelis and the Palestinians, including those who live in refugee camps in the Arab countries, would take part. Khamenei believe that if such a referendum is held, the Palestinians will win, and the state of Israel, not its Jewish citizens, will disappear through a democratic referendum. I have explained this view in detail elsewhere. So, Khamenei is pursuing a scenario similar to what happened in South Africa in which the power was transferred from the white minority to the black majority.
Israel’s interests are tied to the unwise but hollow rhetoric of Iran regarding Israel, but it is not clear why President Obama has also bought into this false narrative. Moshe Yaa’lon, Israel’s Defense Minister threatens Iran with nuclear attacks, but he has no reaction. A new poll indicates that 47 percent of Israelis support military attack by their government against Iran. Just imagine if there was news about a similar poll in Iran in which the same percentage of people supported attacking Israel. There would have been worldwide condemnation including by the United States many times over, but when it comes to Israel the press and the U.S. administration give it a pass. “That is ok,” they would say.
Iran as an “anti-Semitic” nation
Netanyahu has invented a non-existent anti-Semitic Iran and claims that Iranian people have wanted to murder the Jews for 2500 years. President Obama has supported Netanyahu’s position. Consider the following three example.
In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlanticthe President said, “The fact that you [Khamenei] are anti-Semitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you [Khamenei] from being interested in survival. It doesn’t preclude you [Khamenei] from being rational about the need to keep your economy afloat; it doesn’t preclude you [Khamenei] from making strategic decisions about how you stay in power; and so the fact that the supreme leader [Khamenei] is anti-Semitic doesn’t mean that this overrides all of his other considerations.”
In an interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times on April 5 the President said , “The activities that they [Iran] are engaged in, their rhetoric [that is] anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, is deeply disturbing….”
And in another interview with Friedman on July 14, President Obama stated that, “It [Iran] is a great civilization, but it also has an authoritarian theocracy in charge that is anti-American, anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic…”
In an interview with Jon Stewart, on July 21, Obama said, “This is an adversary. They are anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, they sponsor terrorist organizations like Hezbollah".
Netanyahu is not interested in facts. He has invented an “anti-Semitic” Iran to advance his political agenda. In a six-part series (see here, here, here, here, here, and here) I have demonstrated the falsity of Netanyahu’s invention. In particular, I have shown that even according to various reports by Jewish people themselves, Iran is not even among the top 20 anti-Semitic nations in that region, the vast majorities of whose governments are considered as the U.S. allies.
Terrorism and Iran “devouring” the region
Netanyahu and Israel lobby claim that if Iran gets access to its frozen foreign currency reserves outside Iran, it will spend it on terrorism in the Middle East and supporting its allies and, therefore, will “devour” the region. The claim is totally false:
First, the reserve is Iran’s and its people’s. It is not owned by the West to give it to Iran.
Second, it is claimed that the amount of foreign currency that Iran has in foreign accounts is $100-150 billion. It is totally false. Valiollah Seyf, the Governor of Iran’s Central Bank declared on June 15 that the amount is $29 billion. “$23 billion are with banks in Japan, South Korea and United Arab Emirates, and another $6 billion with India’s banks,” he said, adding, “The Central bank owes $5 billion to foreign bank.” On the same day, Ali Tabib Nia, Iran’s minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, said, “In addition [to what Seyf mentioned], Iran also has $22 billion as finance bail with China.” But, Tahmasb Mazaheri, a former Governor of the Central Bank, basically said that Iran should forget about its cash reserves in China because they are in worse conditions than the cash reserves with the Japanese, Korean and Indian banks since “the unfair Chinese take the money and do not return it. They call this “custody.” After the [nuclear] agreement, they will not return the cash reserves. Instead, they will give us some low-quality commodities and products at much inflated prices, and even set many conditions for doing that, including us paying a hefty “commission” to their intermediaries.”
Third, Iran needs at least $1 trillion over the next decade to improve its infrastructure and shore up its economy. $24 billion is a small fraction of what Iran needs. Moreover, this amount is owed to the Central bank and the government of Iran cannot use it.
Fourth, the Middle East does not have just one “actor;” there are many, including the United States, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey, Israel, etc. Which countries have destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen? The U.S., Saudi Arabia, and their allies. Which countries have been bombing Yemen since March, killing and injuring thousands, and creating 1 million refugees? Saudi Arabia and its allies. In addition, Saudi Arabia has spent billions of dollars supporting Sunni Islamic fundamentalist groups and against Iran.
The only country In the Middle East that has devoured other people’s lands is Israel, which has also ignored the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. Resolution 465 of the United Nations Security Council twice mentions the territories occupied by Israeli forces and asks Israel to evacuate them. It also declares the settlements in the occupied territories, including in East Jerusalem, a violation of Fourth Geneva Convention that deals with the protection of civilian populations during war. The British Foreign Office has even declared the violation of the convention to be a war crime. This is a country that has set up an apartheid state in the West Bank, has attacked many nations, and has committed many acts of terrorism.
Iran, ruled by a dictatorial regime, and which is systematically violating human rights, is only one out of many actors in the Middle East. Like any other regime, the Islamic Republic supports its allies and proxies in the region, but has no power to devour any other country. It is concerned only about its own survival, a concern clear by Khamenei’s repeated remarks that U.S. and its allies are seeking a regime change in Iran. Given the current conditions in the Middle East, the Islamic Republic tries, like any other regime, to remove the threats to its borders by supporting its allies elsewhere. Thus, the only real solution for the entire Middle East is peace, freedom, and justice for all, and elimination of discriminations in every nation in the region.
But, the Iranophobes lie about Iran and create a false image of that nation, in order to prevent it from improving its economy and its relationships with other nations, because they are terrified by the prospect of Iran becoming the economic superpower of the region. They are scared of a democratic Iran, not the Islamic Republic which is beneficial to their interests.
This article was translated by Ali N. Babaei.
Akbar Ganji is an investigative journalist who was imprisoned for more than six years in Iran. He currently lives in exile in the United States, and his writings have been banned in Iran. He has been named honorary citizen of many European cities. Ganji has won several international awards, including the World Association of Newspapers‘ Golden Pen of Freedom Award, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression‘s International Press Freedom Award, the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, the Cato Institute Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty and the John Humphrey Freedom Award.