Friday, March 23, 2012

Threats, Bullying, and Ultimata:
The Policy Prescriptions of Meir Javedanfar

Meir Javedanfar

Writing today in The Diplomat, Iranian-born Israeli analyst Meir Javedanfar opined on how the West - namely the United States - can best strong-arm the Iranian leadership into accepting Western demands and the illegal abrogation of its inalienable national rights.

In order to force Iran to curb its IAEA-inspected program - a program that has never been found to have diverted nuclear material from peaceful purposes to weaponization - Javedanfar suggests an ultimatum is in order: that the West issue "a clear message to Iran's supreme leader that even if he does build a bomb, or just reaches a breakout capability, the sanctions and isolation won't end. In fact, the opposite should be true: they will continue or even get worst [sic]."

While admitting that "Western intelligence agencies have suggested that Khamenei hasn't actually made the decision to make a bomb," Javedanfar somehow thinks "the price that he's already paying for the nuclear program seems to suggest that he wants to reserve this option. Otherwise, why go through all this pain?," he wonders.

The idea of national sovereignty and international law never enters Javedanfar conception of why Iran might not accept illegal demands on its own domestic energy program and policies.  Furthermore, Javedanfar studiously ignores numerous Iranian offers to curb and cap its own enrichment program and open up its program to international cooperation - actions that would certifiably preclude any weaponization breakout capacity - as long as its right to enrich under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is duly acknowledged and accepted, something the United States refuses to do.  Ignored as well are Iran's recent moves to reduce its stockpile of enriched uranium by converting the material into fuel plates, a process that makes it virtually impossible to further enrich to weapons-grade levels.

Despite these facts, Javedanfar continues his train of thought:
[Khamenei's] calculation appears to be that Iran can continue along its current path, paying a price for doing so, but that the costs of its continued defiance will end once he has made his decision and the country produces a bomb. After all, why would sanctions aimed at deterrence continue once Iran has secured a bomb?
He also claims that "by making clear that sanctions will be continued even if Iran manages to build a bomb, the West will be sending a message to Iran’s leader that the sooner he reaches a deal with the West, the lower the economic cost will be," continuing, "Similarly, if he decides to continue, the longer he waits, the more the country’s economy will pay. The regime can’t continue with the economic status quo indefinitely. If the economy collapses, nothing will be able to save it or stave off the regime-threatening instability that would come with it."

What Javedanfar seems not to understand is that sanctions can not simply be magically lifted once Iran does what the United States wants it to do on Israel's behalf and that, as Yousaf Butt and others have clearly articulated in the past, sanctions (which are effectively enforced by an AIPAC-controlled Congress) will remain in place regardless of what happens with Iran's enrichment program.  The point is regime change, not a nascent nuclear program.

"The best outcome for the West and Israel would be to get Khamenei himself to change his current nuclear policy," Javedanfar writes.  But considering the IAEA has never once found Iran to have diverted any nuclear material to a military program and Iran has never once been found to have violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (a compact never signed by nuclear-armed Israel, Javedanfar's home country), one has to wonder what "change" in Iran's "current nuclear policy" is being called for.

In fact, the entire premise of Javedanfar's article rests upon a simple assumption he makes and never questions: that Iran is, without question, actively attempting to acquire the ability to build a nuclear weapon with the undeniable goal of future weaponization.  For Javedanfar, this is a matter of faith. The fact that there is no evidence to support this claim is irrelevant to him.

Nevertheless, in order to "facilitate a compromise," Javedanfar suggests the West "offer Khamenei something."  What is his advice? "Allowing Iran to enrich uranium on its soil up to the 5 percent level would seem possible, under the condition that Iran answers all International Atomic Energy Agency questions, and opens its sites for strict inspection by the agency at all times."

At least Mr. Javedanfar's position is clear. He is expressly stating his belief that Iran does not have the same inalienable rights to nuclear energy, research and development and enrichment as virtually every single other country on the planet and should be threatened and bullied into giving up its national rights by countries that currently have huge nuclear arsenals.  He also seems to think that the only reason for a country to assert its rights in the face of extremely aggressive opposition and attempted abrogation by the world's most militaristic and imperial powers is so that it can build weaponry that it has repeatedly declared to be "useless," "inhumane" and "evil."

Furthermore, Javedanfar advocates that the United States continue to collectively punish the Islamic Republic - its government and citizens alike - in order to destroy the country's economy and turn public opinion against the regime, a tactic he should know has virtually no chance of succeeding given that the vast majority of Iranians support their domestic, civilian nuclear program and aren't interested in another revolution (especially not one pushed by the United States and Israel).  If that's not enough, he continues to accept that the sanctions against Iran are actually about "the nuclear issue" and that, with that stand-off resolved (and by "resolved" he means "ending with Iran acquiescing to illegal Western diktat"), Iran will no longer face economic warfare, military threats, and the constant barrage of propaganda that currently make up Western policy with regard to Iran.  With regime change so clearly the goal of three decades of pressure against Iran, this suggestion is borderline absurd.

While Javedanfar is clearly opposed to a military conflict at this time, his policy proposals leave something to be desired, namely due to their reliance on false narratives and conventional assumptions that don't stand up to scrutiny.  For instance, Mr. Javedanfar's suggestion that the West "offer" Iran, and Khamenei specifically, a way to "save face," ignores the plain fact that Iran has the right to enrichment, research and development of civilian nuclear energy regardless of what the West "offers."

Iran's program is not, under any circumstances, subject to the beneficence, generosity, or acquiescence of any other state, government or world body.  Furthermore, and more importantly than repeating matters of international law and national rights, the "offer" which Mr. Javedanfar suggests be put forth is not new at all.  In fact, it looks nearly identical to what the Iranian government has been officially suggesting for quite some time now; notably, that - following the West's official acknowledgement of Iran's right to enrichment et al. and a framework established whereby sanctions would be systematically lifted and nullified - Iran would reinstate the IAEA's Additional Protocol for an extended period of time.

As Hossein Mousavian, former spokesman for the Iranian nuclear negotiation team, has repeatedly confirmed, when IAEA representatives - led by Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts - visited Iran in October 2011, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization chief Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani "offered a blank check to the IAEA, granting full transparency, openness to inspections, and cooperation with the IAEA. He also informed Nackaerts of Iran's receptiveness to putting the country's nuclear program under 'full IAEA supervision,' including implementing the Additional Protocol for five years, provided that sanctions against Iran were lifted."

During that same visit, the IAEA team was admitted to "Iran's heavy water facilities and centrifuge production and R&D centers," a voluntary initiative that "goes even beyond the Additional Protocol."

Also, though Mr. Javedanfar doesn't mention it, Iran has already - repeatedly - offered to stop enriching uranium to nearly 20% (thereby limiting its enrichment to 5%, as he suggests might be part of a Western "offer") if it were able to purchase fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor.  Ahmadinejad, in September 2011, told The New York Times and The Washington Post (and later other media outlets both in the West and Iran), "If they give us the 20% enriched uranium this very week, we will cease the domestic enrichment of uranium of up to 20 percent this very week. We only want the 20% enrichment for our domestic consumption. If they give it to us according to international law, according to IAEA laws, without preconditions, we will cease domestic enrichment [to 20%]."

With this in mind, it's clear that Iran's position has long been precisely what Mr. Javedanfar believes the West should "offer," with one notable exception: he believes this offer should be advanced as an ultimatum with the threat of increased sanctions, the deliberate collapse of the Iranian economy and compounded hardship for the people of Iran if the Iranian government does not comply with Western demands.  As is always the case with such aggressive economic warfare, military action is surely waiting in the wings.

Is the suggestion that the West repackage a long-held and often-stated Iranian proposal back to the Iranians under the guise of a new generous "offer" and advanced by the threat of continuing and increased sanctions if Khamenei doesn't "change [his] current nuclear policies"?  Considering the IAEA has full access to all safeguarded facilities and material, and both U.S. and Israeli intelligence establishments are confident that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, what "nuclear policies" is Javedanfar referring to?  One would think that, with an honest assessment of existing evidence and information, those of us who hope to stave off violence and aggression against Iran by nuclear-armed, highly-militarized states with a penchant for invading and occupying Middle Eastern countries would suggest the West stop issuing threats, demands, and ultimatums first and foremost.

In other words, what Javedanfar advocates is pretty much the same thing that the Obama administration has long been demanding from Iran.  Such analysis is therefore meaningless, redundant, unoriginal, unchallenging and wholly unremarkable.  As such, his work is virtually indistinguishable from establishment groupthink (replete with unfortunate fealty to Zionist hasbara and the whitewashing of Israeli war crimes, in his case coming directly from a somewhat paranoid Israeli perspective).

For example, Javedanfar was wary of the consequences of the Egyptian revolution that deposed the U.S.-puppet, Israel-friendly dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak.  Writing in Foreign Policy in early 2011, he warned, "Mubarak's fall would be very bad news for Israel as a whole."

He also appears not to support the immediate establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East due to his own country's stockpile of hundreds of undeclared, non-safeguarded, unmonitored nuclear warheads and the military deterrence he believes they provide.

In the 2007 book he co-authored with Israeli journalist Yossi Melman, Javedanfar writes that when Egyptian-born Mohammad ElBaradei became head of the IAEA, "His nationality and ethnicity lead Israeli decision makers, especially the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, to fear that he is anti-Israel."  Beyond the overt racism and bigotry of this sentiment, "His tireless work to promote a nuclear-free world, and especially his extensive efforts to establish a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East, didn't win him friends in Israel."  Javedanfar and Melman continue:
The Jewish state, in theory, is ready to accept a NWFZ in the Middle East, but only after all its Arab and Muslim enemies recognize Israel's right to exist and confirm that with peace treaties and security arrangements. Until then, Israel won't even discuss the idea.
While such a statement certainly appears objective - a simple report of how the Israeli government establish thinks - this belief doesn't not appear to be challenged in Javedanfar's own writing.  While constantly suggesting curbs, limitations, and red lines be placed on Iran's non-weaponized nuclear program, Javedanfar remains silent about Israel's refusal to join the NPT or acknowledge (let alone dismantle) its nuclear arsenal.  Chances are, his own feelings about Israel's nukes track closely those of both Tel Aviv and Washington: Israeli hegemony, exceptionalism and double standards control the discourse. [Update: Yes, Javedanfar's own views appear to match that of the Israeli establishment (1/4/13)]

To read Javedanfar's suggestions, then, one might as well be tuning into a State Department briefing or White House press conference.  Basically, he brings absolutely nothing new to the table in the discourse over Western relations with Iran: demands, advanced by threats and punitive sanctions for non-compliance and the assumption that Iranian national rights are subject to abrogation and dismissal.  His prolific writing and ubiquity in mainstream commentary is a testament to the reinforcement of common misconceptions and false narratives within the foreign policy community.

It is therefore no surprise then that, in the introduction to his 2007 book - touted by the authors and publisher as a biography of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - Javedanfar demonstrates his devotion to even the most misinformed and alarmist propaganda points regarding Iran, its political power structure, its president and its nuclear program.  Due to what they call Ahmadinejad's "inflammatory rhetoric," the authors (Javedanfar and Melman) claim that "fear is growing that in the near future he who called to wipe Israel off the map may have his finger on the nuclear button." (page ix)

They wrote this despite the fact that the propagandized, misquoted, misinterpreted "wipe off the map" allegation and its hysterical exploitation had already been exposed and debunked many times and the fact that the Iranian president wields no control over the nation's military, foreign policy or nuclear program.  The so-called "nuclear button" upon which Ahmadinejad might have his finger was therefore pure fantasy; a figment of a fear-mongering imagination.

Also, that a native Persian speaker and proud polyglot like Javedanfar would repeat (or approve of Melman repeating) the "wipe off the map" lie when that idiom doesn't even exist in the Persian language and the meaning of the statement is clearly about ending occupation, colonization and apartheid in Israel/Palestine and not nuclear annihilation speaks volumes about Javedanfar's priorities: promoting alarmist propaganda instead of sticking to the facts and championing truth.

Javedanfar's consistent adherence to mainstream Western talking points about Iran is impressive, blaming Iran for "provocations" like the 1979-80 hostage crisis without ever mentioning the 1953 overthrow of Mossadegh or the Shah's decades of torture, oppression and corruption.  He never questions accusations over Iran's responsibility for bombings in Beirut, Buenos Aires, and Saudi Arabia or even the recent absurd allegation about a bipolar Iranian car dealer in Texas plotting the assassination of a Saudi ambassador in Washington D.C. at the behest of Iranian agents, instead regurgitating groundless government hysteria with confidence.

That said, while Javedanfar is certainly an alarmist when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program - assuming the worst at every turn, regardless of well-documented facts - he is not a warmonger.  He openly abhors Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman and other far-right Israeli factions.  In this way, he is a "liberal," but in the narrow Israeli sense, in that he still holds out hope for a two-solution that will never happen.

He has consistently spoken out against a military strike on Iran, especially one conducted by the Israeli air force only.  However, as an Israeli writing in mainstream Western media, his reasons for opposing such aggression seem to have nothing to do with the illegality or immorality of such action; in fact, everything he writes seems to try and answer the question, "What's best for Israel?"  He rarely, if ever, mentions the devastating humanitarian consequences of an American or Israeli assault, except when he warns about the blowback Americans or Israelis might face.  Iranian civilians - the would-be victims of U.S./Israeli war crimes - don't often get the same consideration.

Javedanfar's warnings about the negative effects of attacking Iran remain well within the realm of acceptable Beltway discourse, never straying out too far to challenge accepted orthodoxies about the so-called Iranian threat or the clear criminality of such a strike.  Rather, he cites economic repercussions and "spike in oil prices", potential retaliatory actions by Iran on American soldiers or interests in the Middle East and Hezbollah and Hamas on Israel, and the potential political and diplomatic fallout of U.S.-Israeli relations if Israel were to launch an attack without its patron's permission.  He is wary of any Israeli actions that may jeopardize the billions of dollars in military aid it gets every year, as well as the unflinching support granted by AIPAC and the diplomatic cover it receives in international fora, perpetually shielding his country from condemnation and war crimes tribunals.  These possible results are what dissuades him from endorsing military action, not international law or human lives.

One could conclude that, if Javedanfar believed an attack on Iran could achieve the results he seeks (most notably, Israeli security and the empowerment of internal opposition to pursue regime change in Iran), he might not be so opposed to the idea.  Perhaps this is not true at all - hopefully not. Javedanfar may simply tailor his commentary to the prevailing perspectives and proclivities of his target audience - a readership that may not believe that tenets of international law or the deaths of tens of thousands of Iranians are automatic deal-breakers.

Just last September, in an article co-written by Matt Duss for Foreign Policy, Javedanfar accurately noted, "True naiveté is believing that the [West's] problem [with Iran's nuclear program] can be adequately addressed through mere rhetorical bluster and threats of force, and continuing to shout at Iran across a chasm as the U.S. has done for the last 30 years."

Sadly, with his new article, Javedanfar seems to have reversed course, calling for more threats and sanctions in the hope that this will force Iran to relinquish its civilian nuclear program; a prescription doomed to fail and sure to invite another thirty years of myopic, blustery Western policy.

Unfortunately, commentary like this, if heeded, ensures more of the same for perpetuity.



June 27, 2012 - Much of what Javedanfar writes relies on the conventional AIPAC/establishment wisdom that Iran's economy is on the verge of total collapse and therefore its leadership will soon be forced to capitulate to Western demands over its nuclear program.  This is a canard.

Writing in The National Interest yesterday, former Iranian nuclear negotiator Seyed Hussein Mousavian and editor of the Iranian Review of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Ali Shabani explain:
Consider the Iranian economy, which is nowhere near collapse. The reality is not that "Iran is on the verge of a choice between having a nuclear program or an economy," as Cliff Kupchan, a senior analyst on the Middle East at the Eurasia Group, insists. To put things into perspective, the Islamic Republic has lost some 40 percent of its expected oil income this year, according to the International Energy Agency. The European Union embargo on Iranian oil, due to go into full effect on July 1, has practically already been implemented. Moreover, the Obama administration has already given six-month waivers from sanctions to most other countries purchasing Iranian crude. Assuming even an annualized 60 percent loss—which cannot be taken as absolute truth due to the opaque nature of Iran's crude exports—the Islamic Republic will still rake in an estimated $40 billion from oil this year. That’s roughly twice as much as when Mohammad Khatami was president a decade ago. It is no coincidence that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dubbed this Persian year "the year of national production, supporting Iranian labor and investment."



October 31, 2012 - Javedanfar has again penned an article, this time for Al-Monitor, wherein he applauds the devastating effects of economic and trade sanctions on Iran and suggests that, due to rising domestic suffering and pressure, "it is highly likely that Khamenei will be forced to make a new set of compromises...within two to three years, at most."

In response to Javedanfar, Reza Sanati, a research fellow and PhD candidate at Florida International University's Middle East Studies Center, writes, "Unfortunately, like so much of the conventional thinking among proponents of sanctions and 'pressure,' his argument is built upon a series of fallacies that taken together, present an inaccurate picture of the troubled relationship between Iran and the West, and ultimately makes escalation toward conflict far more likely."

One by one, Sanati eviscerates Javedanfar's points and reaches this conclusion:
Rather than a compromise, as Javedanfar predicts, if the current sanctions on Iran persist, a more likely outcome could instead be Iran withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and preparing for a conflict that is being imposed on it no matter what it does with its nuclear program.
The fundamental problem that divides the US from Iran is not whether the latter has a nuclear program. It is that Iran's role in regional security and global affairs has been denied since the Iranian Revolution, creating a sense in Tehran of strategic vulnerability. It is this insecurity that drives much of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy, begetting reciprocal US animosity and thus exacerbating the immense mutual mistrust of each other’s intentions. As long as this underlying problem is not addressed, a peaceful resolution to Iran’s nuclear program and other issues will remain elusive.
I highly recommend reading the whole thing.


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