Monday, September 30, 2013

George Stephanopoulos Thinks Iran is Enriching Weapons-Grade Uranium...But It's Not.


Iran's new foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appeared on ABC's "This Week" and addressed a number of the same questions every Iranian official is asked again and again in interviews by the American media.

George Stephanopoulos, who effectively conducted the same interview with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad three years in a row, asked Zarif about possible concessions Iran is willing to make over its nuclear program. By doing so, however, he revealed that he knows very little about Iran's domestic enrichment program and the consistent findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In response to Zarif's comment that, for negotiations to be successful, Iran's inalienable right to enrich uranium be recognized and sanctions begin to be lifted, Stephanopoulos countered, "I understand that's your demand. But in return, is Iran prepared to stop enriching uranium at the levels they are now enriching it?"

Iran, under strict IAEA safeguards, round-the-clock surveillance and regular intrusive inspection, is currently enriching UF6 (uranium hexafluoride feedstock) to between 3.5% and 5% U-235 for use as fuel in nuclear power plants and to just under 20% U-235 for use in medical research reactors. Both 5% and 20% enriched uranium are considered "low-enriched uranium" (LEU). Neither of these enrichment levels is close to the minimum of 90% U-235, or high-enriched uranium (HEU), needed to produce nuclear bombs.

Earlier this year, Senator Chuck Schumer made the same error in a letter to his constituents.  He claimed - contrary to all available evidence, IAEA findings, and American intelligence assessments - that Iran "continues to enrich uranium into weapons-grade nuclear materials" and that "experts say that the type of fuel that they produce is sufficient to arm a nuclear warhead."

Neither of these claims is true. In fact, the very same day Schumer's letter (which declared that Iran is "hot pursuit of nuclear weapons"), was distributed, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper affirmed in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that "Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU [weapons-grade uranium] before this activity is discovered" by both international monitors and Western spy agencies.

Far from being in "hot pursuit" of atomic bombs, Clapper also stated that the Iranian government has no nuclear weapons program and the American intelligence community does "not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons."

Not only this, but Iran has been systematically converting its roughly 20% LEU into U3O8 (triuranium octoxide) metallic fuel plates for its research reactor, thus precluding the material's further enrichment to weapons-grade and decreasing its accumulating stockpile, thus deliberately reducing the potential threat of proliferation. Nuclear physicist Yousaf Butt has explained, "This conversion essentially freezes the enrichment level and subtracts from the 'enrichable' gaseous stockpile used in centrifuges. It is not something that a nation hell-bent on weaponization would do."
The Tehran Research Reactor, where these fuel plates are used, produces radioisotopes required to diagnose and treat more than 850,000 cancer patients across the country.

In short, Iran is not - and has never even been accused or suspected of - enriching weapons-grade uranium.

Yet, as Stephanopoulos' interview with Zarif continued, it became increasingly clear the ABC host thinks it is.

When Zarif noted that, while "various aspects of Iranian's enrichment program" are open to negotiation, Iran's "right to enrich is nonnegotiable," Stephanopoulos replied, "But you don't need to enrich above 20 percent, which is only used for military purposes."

Zarif explained, "We do not need military-grade uranium. That's a certainty and we will not move in that direction."

Stephanopoulos, after asking if Iran would ever allow "surprise inspections" of its nuclear facilities - something Iran already does - was told forthrightly by Zarif that Iran has absolutely no interest in producing nuclear weapons.

"We're not seeking nuclear weapons... We don't want nuclear weapons," the Iranian Foreign Minister said, echoing decades of official Iranian policy. "We believe nuclear weapons are detrimental to our security. We believe those who have the illusion that nuclear weapons provide them with security are badly mistaken. We need to have a region and a world free from nuclear weapons."

What was Stephanopoulos' response? This:

"But if you don't want nuclear weapons why enrich uranium to the levels you're enriching uranium?," he wondered.

Again, Iran is not enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels, so Stephanopoulos' question makes no sense. Next time, perhaps, he'll ask one of the hundreds of thousands of Iranians suffering from cancer why they think their government is enriching uranium to the levels it does.

With media personalities like Stephanopoulos, it is no wonder that the American public remains misinformed and misled on basic facts about Iran's nuclear program.

*****

Mainstream Media's Ongoing Disinformation Campaign on Iran

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams

As the United States and Iran carefully embark on a renewed push for diplomacy, including direct contact between the presidents of each country for the first time in 34 years, the mainstream media continues to stymie any chance for an honest assessment of Iran's nuclear program, engaging instead in disinformation, misrepresentation and misleading reporting that has long characterized coverage of the issue.

In just the past month alone, numerous networks, newspapers and websites have referred, both implicitly and overtly, to an Iranian "nuclear weapons program," despite the fact that, for years now, United States intelligence community and its allies have long assessed that Iran is not and never has been in possession of nuclear weapons, is not building nuclear weapons, and its leadership has not made any decision to build nuclear weapons. Iran's uranium enrichment program is fully safeguarded by the IAEA and no nuclear material has ever been diverted to a military program. Iranian officials have consistently maintained they will never pursue such weapons on religious, strategic, political, moral and legal grounds.

The August 27, 2013 broadcast of NPR' "All Things Considered," featured correspondent Mara Liasson claiming that the tragic civil war in Syria is "a proxy war" and that "Iran, who is developing its own weapons of mass destruction, is currently backing the Syrian regime, and it is watching very carefully to see what the U.S. does."

The same day, an editorial in USA Today similarly advocated the U.S. bombing of Syria, stating that it "would demolish U.S. credibility" were Obama not to order a campaign of airstrikes, "not just in Syria but also in Iran, which continues to pursue nuclear weapons despite repeated U.S. warnings."

Neither Liasson, who has a history of getting things wrong about Iran, nor the editors of USA Today was being honest with their audience, presenting what are allegations unsupported by any evidence as fact.

In a TIME magazine article published online at the end of August, Michael Crowley wrote, "If another round of negotiations with Tehran should fail, Obama may soon be obliged to make good on his vow to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."

New York Times staff writer Robert Worth assessed the Obama administration's push for bombing Syria on September 3, explaining, "If the United States does not enforce its self-imposed "red line" on Syria's use of chemical weapons... Iran will smell weakness and press ahead more boldly in its quest for nuclear weapons."

On September 4, the website Foreign Policy posted a shrill piece of propaganda in which former AIPAC official and accused Israeli spy Steven Rosen claimed that not bombing Syria "would certainly undermine the campaign to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program."

On September 5, Politico revealed that "some 250 Jewish leaders and AIPAC activists will storm the halls on Capitol Hill beginning next week to persuade lawmakers that Congress must adopt the resolution or risk emboldening Iran's efforts to build a nuclear weapon. They are expected to lobby virtually every member of Congress, arguing that "barbarism" by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated, and that failing to act would "send a message" to Tehran that the U.S. won't stand up to hostile countries' efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, according to a source with the group."

On September 6, Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times that stepping back from a military assault on Syria would signal a lack of willingness on the part of Obama to counter the nonexistent "the development of a nuclear bomb by Iran."

On September 10, the Washington Post reported uncritically on the same story, identifying AIPAC's position that there exists "a direct connection between the Syria crisis and Iran's effort to get nuclear weapons." The Post quoted an unnamed AIPAC official as warning of grave consequences were the United States not to bomb Syria, noting that "it will send the wrong message to Tehran about their effort to obtain unconventional weapons."

The Post was back at it on September 15, stating in an article that "Israel's security establishment fears that a failure to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons could encourage Tehran, Syria's ally, to continue to enrich uranium for a bomb."

When this erroneous conclusion was brought to the attention of Patrick Pexton, Washington Post's former ombudsman, he agreed that the claim "should be corrected," as no government, agency or organization on the planet has ever claimed Iran is enriching uranium "for a bomb."

Editors for the Times and Foreign Policy allowed those statements to be published. Neither Politico nor the Post challenged these absurd presumptions.

USA Today published another misleading article on September 22, which stated that President Obama is "trying to take advantage of a diplomatic opening–created by the installation of a new, more moderate president in Iran–to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons program."

Peter Hart of the media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) caught this bit of disinformation and added that the USA Today editing staff are "not the only ones who should consider clarifying the record." He quotes CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer smugly opining on September 22, "Rouhani says that Iran does not want and is not pursuing a nuclear weapon. Does anybody take that at face value?"

Hart noted:
Actually, the burden of proof should be the other way around: Politicians who claim that Iran has such a program should have to prove it. Schieffer obviously doesn't see the world that way. He's interviewed people like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and failed to challenge their claims about Iran's weapons. Indeed, Schieffer presented them as facts, telling viewers about Iran's "continuing effort to build a nuclear weapon" (FAIR Blog, 7/15/13).
Even more alarming, though, was a claim from NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, which opened his Friday evening broadcast on September 27.  Speaking of the surprising telephone conversation between Presidents Obama and Rouhani, Williams said, "This is all part of a new leadership effort by Iran - suddenly claiming they don't want nuclear weapons! - what they want is talks and transparency and good will. And while that would be enough to define a whole new era, skepticism is high and there's a good reason for it."

Really, Brian? Suddenly? In truth, the Iranian government has constantly reiterated its wholesale condemnation of nuclear weapons and refusal to ever acquire them - for over twenty years.  Apparently the host of what is often the most-watched evening newscast in the country believes pretending the statements by Rouhani represent a sea change in Iranian policy, rather than undeniable consistency, is good for ratings.

There is literally no way Brian Williams believes this is breaking news unless he has both short-term and long-term memory loss. Why not? He himself has reported on Iran's repudiation of nuclear weapons for years now.

On September 19, 2006, Williams asked Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to respond to what he deemed the U.S. government position that Iran "[s]top enriching uranium toward weapons," which made no sense in the first place since no one on the planet - including the United States - had ever claimed Iran was enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels.

Ahmadinejad replied, "We have said on numerous occasions that our activities are for peaceful purposes... Did Iran build the atomic bomb and use it? You must know that, because of our beliefs and our religion, we're against such acts. We are against the atomic bomb."

Williams interviewed Ahmadinejad again in late July 2008 and asked the Iranian president, "Is Iran's goal to have nuclear power or to be a nuclear power in the sense of possessing weapons?"

Ahmadinejad again was clear: "We are not working to manufacture a bomb. We don't believe in a nuclear bomb... Nuclear energy must not be equaled to a nuclear bomb... A bomb, obviously, is a very bad thing. Nobody should have such a bomb."

Williams' NBC colleague Ann Curry also conducted a number of interviews with Ahmadinejad over the past few years during which the Iranian president expressed identical sentiments.

Nevertheless, as The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald puts it, "NBC News feels free to spout such plainly false propaganda - 'suddenly claiming they don't want nuclear weapons!' - because they know they and fellow large media outlets have done such an effective job in keeping their viewers ignorant of these facts. They thus believe that they can sow doubts about Iran's intentions with little danger that their deceit will be discovered."

Despite the increasingly rapid pace of renewed Iranian and American communication and cooperation, the media's disinformation campaign against Iran has yet to slow down.  The journalists, editors, analysts and anchors who traffic in dishonest reporting should be held accountable.

Media researchers Jonas Siegel and Saranaz Barforoush recently wrote in the Cairo Review of Global Affairs:
If the goal of news media is to act in the public interest, to hold public officials accountable, and to permit an informed public to play a constructive role in the foreign policy decisions made by their governments—in their name—then journalists ought to consider more carefully how they go about framing the facts and assessments that animate complex policy issues such as Iran's nuclear program and how the international community could and should respond. Without considering these fundamental characteristics more carefully and reflecting a broader spectrum of viewpoints and policy possibilities in their coverage, they are liable to repeat the mistakes that contributed to disastrous policy choices in the past.
*****

The title of this post was originally,"Mainstream Media's Ongoing Misinformation Campaign on Iran," but has been changed to reflect the more accurate definitions of the words "misinformation" and "disinformation."

Misinformation is unintentional; disinformation is deliberate.

(h/t atheo)

*****

Talkin' Détente with Scott Horton


Capping off a surprising and historic week in Iran-U.S. relations, this weekend I spoke with Scott Horton of AntiWar Radio and the aptly-named Scott Horton Show to discuss the potential for real diplomacy and possible rapprochement between the two nations after 34 years.

In addition to covering the strikingly rapid progress toward a mutually beneficial nuclear deal, Scott and I talked about why the United States must recognize Iran's inalienable right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, Obama's precedent-setting phone call to Rouhani – the first direct presidential contact since 1979, and why U.S. airstrikes on Syria appear to be off the table.

Click here to listen online (and also check out Scott's incredible archive of over 3,000 interviews).

*****

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Consistency of Official Iranian Commentary, Part II:
Are Rouhani's Statements Really a Huge Break from the Past?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani address the United Nations General Assembly

A Times of Israel headline posted early Friday morning announced, "Rouhani: 'Iran Will Accept Whatever Palestine Decides." The article opens by stating that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, speaking at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society in New York, said "that the Palestinians should not have 'to pay' the price of Nazi crimes against the Jews, but that 'whatever the people of Palestine accept [for a peace accord], we shall accept as well.'"

The headline was later changed to read, "Rouhani: Palestinians shouldn't have to pay for Nazi crimes against the Jews."

During his interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour earlier this week, Rouhani similarly said, "When it comes to the issue of Palestine, we believe in the public vote, the ballot in a sense, is that vote for the people of that region that has to happen to settle the dispute that's been lingering for 60 years there." He added:
We believe that all the Muslims, Palestinians that have been displaced or are refugees must have an opportunity to come and live where they like, alongside other people there. They should refer to the ballots and see what people say.
And we will submit to that will and to that ballot and accept it. Therefore, what I'd like to say here is that when it comes to the settlement and resolution of regional issues, we believe that the only path is through the ballot box, through democracy. And we believe that war is not an answer for any of our problems.
The Times of Israel report - especially through the promotion of its original headline (still seen in the article's URL) appears to intimate that this is a new position of the Iranian government. Same goes for the Jerusalem Post, which ran a similar story entitled, "Rouhani on peace process: Whatever the Palestinians accept, Iran will accept," and quoted the Iranian president as saying that "the decision makers about Palestine are the people of Palestine," in response to a question about the stagnant Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Is this breaking news?

Hardly.

This has been the constantly repeated position of the Iranian government for years, consistently reiterated for years by Rouhani's presidential predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In August 2006, Ahmadinejad was interviewed by Mike Wallace for 60 Minutes. He told Wallace, "We have said 'allow Palestinian people to participate in a free and fair referendum to express their views.' What we are saying only serves the cause of durable peace. We want durable peace in that part of the world. A durable peace will only come about with once the views of the people are met. So we said 'allow the people of Palestine to participate in a referendum to choose their desired government,' and of course, for the war to come an end as well."

Before airing on CBS, these statements were edited out of the interview.

The following month, in an interview with TIME magazine published on September 17, 2006, Ahmadinejad stated, "Our position toward the Palestinian question is clear: we say that a nation has been displaced from its own land. Palestinian people are killed in their own lands, by those who are not original inhabitants, and they have come from far areas of the world and have occupied those homes. Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government. This is a democratic and popular way."

"The Palestinian people should decide what to do," Ahmadinejad told Anderson Cooper during his annual visit to New York that year, continuing, "And among Palestinians, there are Jews, Muslims and Christians." In an interview with the Washington Post's Lally Weymouth, Ahmadinejad said, "Our suggestion is very clear: Let the Palestinian people decide their fate in a free and fair referendum, and the result, whatever it is, should be accepted."

At a press conference on September 22, 2006, he declared, "There are Muslims and Christians and Jews among the Palestinian people. We say the people of Palestine should choose. We do not say that it should be the Palestinian Muslims. For they lived in peace and harmony in the past... And the problem started. Let the people choose and see what will happen."

The following year, he told Diane Sawyer, "We believe that in Palestine, there should be a referendum and Palestinians, Muslims, Jews, any Palestinians, and this is based on international regulations, and I think it's their right to determine their future. Any decision made by Palestinians must be respected, and I think this is a very clear proposition."

In an interview on French television, Ahmadinejad said, "I think the people of Palestine also have the right to determine their own fate. Let them choose for themselves, the Christians, the Jews and the Muslims. That is, all the Palestinians who belong to that land can participate in the referendum."

He repeated these comments throughout his tenure as president. In September 2007, he told CBS' Scott Pelley, "[O]ur solution for Palestine is a humane one. We are saying that you should allow the Palestinian people to participate in a fair and free election and determine their own fate. Whatever decision they take, everyone should go with that." At Columbia University during that trip he said the same thing:
Our proposal to the Palestinian plight is a humanitarian and democratic proposal. What we say is that to solve this 60-year problem, we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself.
This is compatible with the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the fundamental principles enshrined in it. We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum.
Whatever they choose as a nation, everybody should accept and respect.
In 2008, he urged on NPR that Palestinians must be able to hold a "free referendum to decide the future and the nature of its government," and said on DemocracyNow! that "people have to decide and choose their own fate, the right to self-determination. If they would like to keep the Zionists, they can stay; if not, they have to leave," he said, adding, "Wherever people decide, we will respect it. I mean, it's very much in correspondence with our proposal to allow Palestinian people to decide through free referendums."

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2009, as Ahmadinejad called for the "restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people by organizing a referendum and free elections in Palestine in order to prepare a conducive ground for all Palestinian populations, including Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together in peace and harmony."

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has long endorsed this very position. In 2011, speaking at conference in Tehran, he stated, "We do not seek to drown the immigrant Jews in the sea, nor impose UN rule. We propose holding a referendum among all Palestinians."

As recently as his last visit to the United Nations, in September 2012, Ahmadinejad held the same line. "We say that occupation should be done away with. War-like behavior should be done away with. Terrorism should be done away with." he said to Charlie Rose. "We say do away with these things. And we have also suggested the solution. We have said the solution is that the Palestinian people should decide in a free election for their own country, their own land."

Clearly, while the messenger has certainly changed and the prospects for diplomacy have never been better, the message has actually remained largely the same. Unlike his predecessor, Rouhani is a seasoned diplomat with a moderate tone and fewer axes to grind and his speeches and interviews have been palatable for, if not positively received by, an attentive Western audience. Nevertheless, when reviewing the record, it is a bit disingenuous to pretend his statements represent a stark policy shift away from past Iranian government positions.

*****

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Consistency of Official Iranian Commentary:
Are Rouhani's Statements Really a Huge Break from the Past?

Christiane Amanpour and Hassan Rouhani (Photo: CNN)

While interviewing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Christiane Amanpour declared, “One of the things your predecessor used to do from this very platform was deny the Holocaust and pretend that it was a myth,” before asking his his thoughts on the Holocaust.

Rouhani replied, though hedging a bit, “I can say that any crime that is committed in history against humanity, such as the crimes committed by the Nazis, whether against Jews or non-Jews, from our viewpoint is completely condemned. Just as if today a crime is committed against any nation, religion, ethnicity or belief, we condemn that crime or genocide.”

He continued:
Therefore, what the Nazis did is condemnable. The dimensions of it which you say, is the responsibility of historians and researchers to make those dimensions clear. I am not a historian myself.
However, this point should be clear: If a crime took place, that crime should not be a cover for a nation or group to justify their crimes or oppression against others. Therefore, if the Nazis committed a crime, and however much it was, we condemn that, because genocide or mass murder is condemned.
From our viewpoint, it doesn’t matter if the person killed is Jewish, Christian or Muslim. From our viewpoint, [it] does not make difference. Killing an innocent human is rejected and condemned. But this cannot be a reason for 60 years to displace a people from their land and say that the Nazis committed crimes. That crime [too] is condemned; occupying the land of others is also condemned from our viewpoint.
When you hear all this hoopla about how an Iranian official finally admitted the historical reality of the Holocaust, remember this:

During his now-infamous appearance at Columbia University in September 2007, Ahmadinejad referred to the Holocaust as "a present reality of our time, a history that occurred" and continued rhetorically:
…given this historical event, if it is a reality, we need to still question whether the Palestinian people should be paying for it or not. After all, it happened in Europe. The Palestinian people had no role to play in it. So why is it that the Palestinian people are paying the price of an event they had nothing to do with?
The Palestinian people didn't commit any crime. They had no role to play in World War II. They were living with the Jewish communities and the Christian communities in peace at the time. They didn’t have any problems.
And today, too, Jews, Christians and Muslims live in brotherhood all over the world in many parts of the world. They don’t have any serious problems.
But why is it that the Palestinians should pay a price, innocent Palestinians, for 5 million people to remain displaced or refugees abroad for 60 years. Is this not a crime?
He summed up his perspective this way: "I am not saying that it [the Holocaust] didn’t happen at all. This is not that judgment that I am passing here. I said…granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?"

Such comments echoed Ahmadinejad’s earlier statements. In mid-December 2005, early in his tenure as president, Ahmadinejad was already employing the rhetorical device of asking a question in order to prove a point. ”If the killing of Jews in Europe is true,” he said at a conference in Tehran, “and the Zionists are being supported because of this excuse, why should the Palestinian nation pay the price?” He repeated this question a few days later at a rally in southern Iran, and reiterated his position in early 2006.

In comments reported by Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Ahmadinejad asked rhetorically, “Don’t you think that continuation of genocide by expelling Jews from Europe was one of their [the Europeans'] aims in creating a regime of occupiers of Al-Quds [Jerusalem]?” Here, Ahmadinejad is clearly affirming the Nazi “genocide” – which he called a “human tragedy” – and noting that the subsequent European endorsement of Zionism – which he called a “Western ideology and imperialistic idea” – and encouragement of Jewish emigration from Europe to Palestine constituted another form of ethnic cleansing.

“Why don’t the Europeans who perpetrated the crime pay the price themselves?” the Iranian president asked, adding, “In fact, the Europeans have practiced ethnic cleansing against the Jews in Europe by expelling the Jews from all the European states.”

In a letter sent to German leader Angela Merkel in September 2006, Ahmadinejad noted, “Using the excuse for the settlement of the survivors of the Holocaust, they encouraged the Jews worldwide to migrate and today a large part of the inhabitants of the occupied territories are non-European Jews. If tyranny and killing is condemned in one part of the world, can we acquiesce and go along with tyranny, killing, occupation and assassinations in another part of the world simply in order to redress the past wrongs?”

This acknowledgement of past wrongs and questioning their exploitation and the legitimacy of their consequences was echoed in February 2007 by Ali Akbar Velayati, a close advisor to Iranian leader Ali Khamenei. Speaking with European journalist Bernard Guetta about the claims of Iranian Holocaust denial, he stated, “One may wonder about that genocide’s number of victims without denying that it took place, and, may I remind you on this topic, that it was committed by Europeans, Nazis, and that the way to that massacre had been prepared by all the European persecutions of the preceding centuries, beginning with those organized by Spain?”

When asked directly whether he believes “the [Nazi Holocaust] genocide is a historical reality,” Velayati was clear: “Yes,” he said, “but we do not agree that this reality should be used to justify the oppression of the Palestinians.”

In an interview with Asia Source the same month, Mohammad Javad Zarif - then Iran's Ambassador to the United Nations and currently Iran's Foreign Minister under Rouhani - delivered this comprehensive response to the often-asked question of whether President Ahmadinejad "denies the Holocaust":
He never has denied the Holocaust. He has said why is it that Palestinians have to pay the price for a crime that was committed somewhere else? Did the Palestinians have any role in it?
The Holocaust was an atrocity, it was a genocide, and not the only genocide. Genocides are taking place in today's world. We had the genocide in Rwanda. We've had genocide, ethnic cleansing, in Yugoslavia. But did anybody else become the victim of these genocides, who had nothing to do with them, in order to address the wrongs that were done to the victims? Why is it that the Palestinians have to pay the price for a horrible crime that was committed against the Jewish people by the Europeans. Not by the Muslims, not by Middle Easterners. This is a question.
Now some people do not like to answer this question so they use sentimental statements of Holocaust denier and statements of the sort. The question that needs to be asked is whether crimes that have been committed can in fact be the basis of committing other crimes. If the slogan is, "Never again," then it should be "Never again for anybody" not just for one group. Never again for Palestinians. Never again for Rwandese. Never again for Bosnian Muslims. Never again for Jews. Never again for anybody.
And I simply do not understand why so much acrimony is being built around this simple question: What did the Palestinians have to do with the Holocaust?
With this in mind, consider this statement from 1956:
If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country… There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their [the Palestinians'] fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance.
Who could have possibly said that?

David Ben-Gurion.

*****

UPDATE:

In response to this post, the purpose of which is to demonstrate a certain consistency in official Iranian statements over the years that is often ignored by the mainstream press, longtime Mondoweiss critic Armin Rosen tweeted this:


Condemning Mondoweiss or myself as trafficking in Holocaust revisionism is absurd. Nowhere in the above post are any of the comments made by Iranian officials endorsed or justified. Furthermore, the attention paid to what Iranians say about the horrifying and undeniable systematic extermination of millions of Jews by the Nazis – something no Iranian had anything to do with – is, in itself, curious.

There is no doubt that, in addition to the quotes listed above, Ahmadinejad has said a number of more inflammatory comments regarding the Holocaust, often questioning the scope of the genocide and insisting that more research be conducted. Holocaust skepticism – and appealing to historians over politicians to seek answers – is surely one aspect of (if not tantamount to) Holocaust denial. While Ahmadinejad has said, ”I believe the Holocaust from what we’ve read happened during World War II, after 1930, in the 1940s,” he has also been quoted as calling the Holocaust a “big lie.”

It should also be noted that, in official Iranian discourse, no mention of the Holocaust goes without an attendant reference to the occupation and oppression of Palestinians. The purpose of doing so, it would appear, is not necessarily to even equate these two distinct tragedies, but rather to explicitly question and condemn the exploitation of the Holocaust in order to justify the subsequent ethnic cleansing and colonization of Palestine.

Over the course of his public and private appearances this week, Rouhani’s repeated comments on the Holocaust continue to follow the official Iranian line, while, admittedly addressing the accusation of “denial” directly.

On Wednesday morning, he told a gathering of journalists and editors, “The Nazis committed a crime in World War II. As to the scale of the massacres, and the numbers that my predecessor mentioned, let’s leave that to the historians,” adding that the Nazis committed a “massacre that cannot be denied – especially against the Jewish people,” he said, calling it a “horrendous crime.”

At the Council on Foreign Relations Thursday night, Rouhani said:
I think that I have responded in one or two interviews in which I was asked about it and I explained that we condemn the crimes by Nazis in the World War II and regrettably those crimes were committed against many groups, many people, many people were killed including a group of Jewish people. And we condemn their crimes.
In general, we condemn the murder and killing of innocent people always. It makes no difference to us. When that person is innocent and is killed, whether he or she was Jewish, or Christian, or Muslim, there’s just no difference in our eyes. We condemn crimes as such.
But the argument here is that if the Nazis committed a crime, this does not mean that the price paid for it should be done by other people elsewhere. This should not serve as any justification to push out from their homes a group of people because of what Nazis did.
To claim that these comments are so divergent from repeated statements made by Ahmadinejad would be disingenuous. What is different with this new Iranian president, however, is an unwillingness – and hopefully no interest – in deliberately poking Western and Israeli taboos, something his predecessor clearly relished. Gone are the days of Holocaust Conferences and nauseating cartoon contests.

There is no doubt that the horror of the Holocaust is constantly used by Israeli leaders and their acolytes here in the United States to fear-monger, demonize and beat the drums of war against Iran. In a recent column, M.J. Rosenberg deftly articulated very wise words about the issue of Iranian Holocaust comments:
I wish Rouhani would just drop the ugly and offensive quibbling about the Holocaust. All he needs to do is speak the truth: the Holocaust happened; 6,000,000 Jews were killed along with millions of others; and all the mass killing constituted a crime against humanity. Period. End of controversy. Friend of both truth and peace celebrate: the war lobby weeps.
But Rouhani resists that kind of formulation, although he does condemn the Holocaust, albeit a little vaguely.
So what?
If Rouhani is prepared to negotiate over nuclear weapons, why do we care what he says about the Holocaust (it would be different if he acknowledged it and endorsed it). The government of Turkey, our NATO ally, denies the Armenian genocide and Turkey perpetrated it. Japan, our closest friend in Asia, still denies the Rape of Nanking and all the other war crimes Japan committed in China in the 1930′s. Congress forced the Smithsonian Institute to eviscerate its exhibit on the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for hinting that there might have been alternatives to using nuclear weapons. There are dozens of more examples, maybe even more than dozens.
But again, so what?
Denying the Holocaust is ugly and stupid but so is the “Holocaust denial industry,” by which I mean those who profit by saying the Holocaust didn’t happen and those who profit by obsessing over what they consider to be Holocaust denial. (In that later category, I include those who consider it Holocaust denial if one dares to say that people other than Jews were Holocaust victims every bit as much as Jews were.) All these people desecrate the memories of the victims, — all the victims but especially the 6,000,000 Jews who are being used to score political points.
Enough already.
*****

Originally posted at Mondoweiss.

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UPDATE II:

September 30, 2013 - In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, which aired on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday September 29, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the Holocaust as a "heinous crime" and a "genocide." He also addressed an oft-referenced phrase - rendered as "the myth of the massacre of Jews" - which appears in a translation of a February 2006 speech by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamanei.

"The Holocaust is not a myth. Nobody's talking about a myth," Zarif said, calling the phrase "a bad translation."

"This is the problem when you translate something from Persian to English, you may lose something, as the film goes, 'Lost in Translation,' you may lose some of the meaning," he continued, adding:
We condemn the killing of innocent people, whether it happened in Nazi Germany or whether it’s happening in Palestine... [The] Holocaust was a heinous crime, it was a genocide, it must never be allowed to be repeated, but that crime cannot be and should not be a justification to trample the rights of the Palestinian people for 60 years.
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UPDATE III:

October 1, 2013 - It is unsurprising that career champions of right-wing Zionism and military conflict with Iran aren't fans of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

For instance, Jonathan Tobin - the neoconservative caricature senior online editor of Commentary Magazine - is, among other things, upset over Rouhani's recent remarks about the Holocaust because of his "I'm not a historian" caveat when discussing the scope of the Nazi genocide.

"The point is," Tobin wrote this past week, "if you are agnostic about the scale of the Holocaust, you are, in effect, a denier."

With this in mind, one might recall an anecdote recounted by Yossi Sarid, former Israeli parliamentarian and current Ha'aretz columnist, a year after the Mavi Marmara massacre, when Israeli relations with Turkey were at their worst. During his years in the Knesset (1974-2006), Sarid had long advocated for the Israeli government, with its historically strong ties to Turkey, to urge formal recognition of the Armenian genocide, only to be rebuffed time and again due to political convenience. Recalling one interaction in particular, Sarid wrote in late 2011:
Eleven years ago, on the 85th memorial day, I went to the Armenian church in Jerusalem, and as "a human being, as a Jew, as an Israeli and as the minister of education of the State of Israel" - that is how I introduced myself - I spoke about the historical justice that must be done, about the special commitment of the Jewish people to the Armenian people, and about my plan to teach our students the universal significance of genocide.
The scandal erupted immediately. My prime minister objected sharply, and Ehud Barak was swiftly joined by Shimon Peres: "These events," he said, "should be left to historians and not to politicians."
I wonder if Jonathan Tobin believes Barak and Peres to be genocide deniers. If he does, he should say so.

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UPDATE IV:

February 3, 2014 - Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday February 2, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif disassociated the Rouhani administration from its successor, saying, "Of course we don't make the same statement the previous government made. But [Israeli] policies have deprived the Palestinian people of the most elemental rights. Until this is discussed the crisis is not going away."

When asked directly about the Holocaust, Zarif replied that it was "tragically cruel and should not happen again," adding, "We have nothing against the Jews. We do not feel threatened by anyone."

"The rights of the Palestinians have been violated by Israel for 60 years," Zarif reiterated.

The following day, Zarif told the German Council of Foreign Relations, "We will not start a military operation against anyone - I say: against anyone," and conducted a lengthy interview with Germany’s Phoenix TV, during which he was - obviously - asked about the Holocaust.

He stated:
Well, let me make it clear. I come from a tradition where, according to Islamic scripture, the killing of one individual is unforgivable, let alone killing millions. A horrifying tragedy occurred and it should never occur again. 
But that should not provide an excuse for violation of the rights of the Palestinian people.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

CNN’s ‘Open Mic’ in Tehran: Iranians Tell It Like It Is


This week in New York City, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke before the United Nations General Assembly, addressed a UN nuclear disarmament conference, and was interviewed by Christiane AmanpourDavid Ignatius, and Charlie Rose, while his foreign minister, former UN Ambassador Mohammad Javad Zarif, had a closed-door one-on-one meeting Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry – the first such direct contact between senior Iranian and American officials in thirty-four years.

Meanwhile, CNN correspondent Reza Sayah has been reporting from Tehran, filing stories rarely seen in the mainstream Western media. He is letting Iranians speak for themselves.

In his latest dispatch, Sayah sets up an “open mic” on a bustling street in the Iranian capital, asking ordinary Iranians – whom he describes as “some of the kindest and most educated in the region” – to tell Americans “what they really think.”

“We Iranian people don’t have any problem with America,” a young man says, his sentiments echoed by an older woman with red hair, wearing a loosely-tied green head scarf. “We love Americans,” she insists in perfect English (like many of those interviewed), but explains that the government of the United States is “not fair,” imploring, “Be fair to the world.”

“Our problem is with American politicians, those who are after war and bloodshed,” a young woman explains, adding, “Your behavior is not very good. Your politics is about war and it’s terrifying.”

A number of others agree. “America has imperial plans and ideas. It wants to dominate.” “You’re not the boss of the world. You shouldn't think that you’re in charge of how the world runs. You need to have equal respect for all countries.” “Why should we be controlled? Who needs America to control us?”

The woman in the green scarf, looking straight into the camera – and into the eyes of the intended American audience – asks, “We are dangerous? We are dangerous? How many wars did we have? Can you tell me? Can you tell me?”

Watch the 3-minute report here:


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Originally post at Muftah.

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Iran’s ‘Constructive Engagement’ Undermines Israeli Propaganda


In anticipation of his first trip to the United Nations General Assembly as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani is making it increasingly difficult for American and Israeli propaganda against Iran to continue to work.

The prospect of genuine diplomacy and even a cessation of increasingly hostile actions by the United States has never looked brighter. Rouhani recently conducted a high-profile exclusive interview with NBC's Ann Curry, his first with a U.S. media outlet, during which he not only reiterated Iran’s consistent condemnation of nuclear weapons, but also affirmed that, when it comes to nuclear negotiations with world powers, his administration has “full power and has complete authority” to make a deal.

“The problem won’t be from our side,” he told Curry. “We have sufficient political latitude to solve this problem.”

Nuclear negotiations are no longer the responsibility of the Supreme National Security Council and instead have been placed under the purview of Iran’s Foreign Ministry. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Rouhani’s foreign minister now in charge of the nuclear file, is well-known as a respected diplomat and international interlocutor.

Moreover, this week in Iran saw the sudden release of sixteen prisoners, including human rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, who had been held in Evin Prison for the past three years and it was confirmed that Rouhani and President Barack Obama have exchanged letters, thus setting the stage for potential direct talks between Iran and the United States, the first in over three decades. Rouhani, ever the pragmatic optimist, even described the tone of Obama’s letter as “positive and constructive.”

Both Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Rouhani have recently warned the influential Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to avoid political activity and Khamenei has given his assent for “heroic leniency” in the diplomatic arena. Beyond the new administration's recent Rosh Hashanah greetings, it has also been announced that parliamentarian Siamak Morsadegh, the elected legislator representing Iran’s Jewish minority, will be accompanying Rouhani to New York. Speculation is even swirling about a possible Obama-Rouhani tête-à-tête on the sidelines of the annual UN confab next week.

Due to these overtures and opportunities, the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu is getting desperate. It has enlisted its dutiful Congress members and reliable propagandists to ramp up its push for an American-led war against Iran. As Syria moves to destroy its chemical weapon stockpiles and join the vast majority of the world as a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Israel is increasingly isolated and hypocritical – a colonial pariah with weapons of mass destruction and a constant outlier in international treaties such as the CWC, the Biological Weapons Convention, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. A new oped in The New York Times, entitled “Let’s Be Honest About Israel’s Nukes,” exposes the absurdity of Israel’s nuclear “ambiguity” and the continuing, counterproductive American denial of Israel’s own arsenal.

In response to Rouhani’s latest assurance that Iran will never seek nuclear weapons, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office released a statement warning, “One must not be fooled by the Iranian president’s fraudulent words. The Iranians are spinning in the media so that the centrifuges can keep on spinning.”

Meanwhile, at the annual International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting of member states on Wednesday, Saul Chorev, head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, declared, “The picture that Iranian representatives are portraying regarding openness and transparency of their nuclear program stands in sharp contradiction with Iran’s actual actions and the facts on the ground.” He then proceeded to accuse Iran of “deception and concealment, creating a false impression about the status of its engagement with the agency…with a view to buy more time in Iran’s daily inching forward in every aspect of its nuclear military program.”

Israel's hysterical Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz is apoplectic. "There is no more time to hold negotiations," he said in an interview with the conservative Israel Hayom daily published on today. "If the Iranians continue to run, in another half a year they will have bomb capability," Steinitz added, revisiting the tired assessments made constantly by Israeli officials frantic for attention, and complained, "Today the Iranians take into account that they have room to maneuver, and that is the most dangerous thing." He also made sure to state that "all options are on the table" when it comes to Israeli action against Iran.

The simple problem for Netanyahu and his administration is that, by and large, few are buying this pathetic fear-mongering anymore.

Today – Friday September 20 – just days before he addresses the General Assembly on Tuesday, Rouhani has taken his charm offensive one step further by publishing an oped in The Washington Post.

“I’m committed to fulfilling my promises to my people, including my pledge to engage in constructive interaction with the world,” Rouhani writes, adding, “International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously.”

In calling for “a sincere effort to engage with neighbors and other nations to identify and secure win-win solutions,” Rouhani urges Iran and its Western counterparts to “join hands to constructively work toward national dialogue, whether in Syria or Bahrain. We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates. As part of this, I announce my government’s readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition.”

He concludes with this deft analysis of the failure of past diplomacy and an irresistible appeal to future rationality:
We and our international counterparts have spent a lot of time — perhaps too much time — discussing what we don’t want rather than what we do want. This is not unique to Iran’s international relations. In a climate where much of foreign policy is a direct function of domestic politics, focusing on what one doesn't want is an easy way out of difficult conundrums for many world leaders. Expressing what one does want requires more courage.
After 10 years of back-and-forth, what all sides don’t want in relation to our nuclear file is clear. The same dynamic is evident in the rival approaches to Syria.
This approach can be useful for efforts to prevent cold conflicts from turning hot. But to move beyond impasses, whether in relation to Syria, my country’s nuclear program or its relations with the United States, we need to aim higher. Rather than focusing on how to prevent things from getting worse, we need to think — and talk — about how to make things better. To do that, we all need to muster the courage to start conveying what we want — clearly, concisely and sincerely — and to back it up with the political will to take necessary action. This is the essence of my approach to constructive interaction.
As I depart for New York for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran’s recent election. I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and to respond genuinely to my government’s efforts to engage in constructive dialogue. Most of all, I urge them to look beyond the pines and be brave enough to tell me what they see — if not for their national interests, then for the sake of their legacies, and our children and future generations.
Without a doubt, next week at the United Nations, all eyes will be on President Rouhani, the soft-spoken 64-year-old cleric from Sorkheh.

So, don’t expect any pre-staged walk-out this time around, unless, perhaps, if Netanyahu returns to the hall with another red marker and visual aid in hand and proceeds to draw another one of his cartoonish red lines. This year, it’ll probably look something like this:


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Originally posted at Muftah.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rouhani, Like Countless Iranian Officials Before Him, Affirms: Iran Will Never Seek Nuclear Weapons

NBC's Ann Curry interviews Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, September 18, 2013
(Photo Credit: David Lom / NBC News)

Speaking in Tehran to NBC's Ann Curry in his very first interview with an American media outlet, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani again - and repeatedly, considering Ms. Curry kept asking him the same question over and over - asserted Iran's wholesale condemnation of nuclear arms and its commitment never to build or acquire such weaponry.

Rouhani's statements were consistent with those of nearly every high-level Iranian official and diplomat over the past twenty years.

After Curry stated (totally incorrectly), "The world believes that Iran could build a bomb very quickly," Rouhani replied:
We have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so. We are solely seeking peaceful nuclear technology.
Once wasn't enough for Curry. She asked, "Can you say now categorically then, that Iran will not build a nuclear weapon under any circumstances whatsoever?"

So Rouhani repeated:
The answer to this question is quite obvious. We have time and again said that under no circumstances would we seek any weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons, nor will we ever.
Again, Curry pondered, "So the answer is 'no'?" After Rouhani again affirmed this point, she gave it another shot. "I want to make sure I understand. So the American public, so the world understands. If you can say categorically that Iran will not seek a nuclear weapon under any circumstances whatsoever. Is the answer to that yes or no, sir?"

Rouhani was polite and patient. "The answer is that this country will never seek nuclear weapons."

He added that "Iran wants nothing beyond what is defined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regarding the nuclear [rights] of countries," a common statement often made by Iranian officials who understand that the Western demand on Iran to shutter or scale back its IAEA-safeguarded nuclear program is in itself a violation of Iran's inalienable national rights.

In fact, Curry shouldn't be so surprised by such statements coming from the top Iranian executive, as she has made a habit out of asking Iranian presidents the exact same question multiple times in a row and receiving the same answer.

When she interviewed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in September 2009, he told her, "We don't have such a need for nuclear weapons. We don't need nuclear weapons. Without such weapons, we are very much able to defend ourselves...It's not a part of our any – of our programs and plans."

As a perfect example of how the mainstream media operates, after the interview, Curry published a summative report entitled, "Ahmadinejad refuses to rule out weapons."

Two years later, when Curry again interviewed Ahmadinejad in Tehran, she asked the president directly, "Is Iran working on a nuclear warhead?"

Ahmadinejad's reply was consistent, as always:
This is an old and repeated story. These are the same claims made by the U.S. administration many times. They have been repeating these claims for many years. This is not a new thing for us. In principle, we are against nuclear weapons because it is against our beliefs and ideology. We do not consider nuclear weapons as a useful weapon. The period or era of nuclear weapons is over...

Can nuclear weapons offer solutions to the current international problems? Can they bring superiority for the nuclear states? Certainly the answer is 'no.'
He further stated, "We think those who try to build or make nuclear weapons, they are doing something absurd and useless. They only jeopardize their own situation and they waste the wealth of their own nations if they do it," and explained that, as opposed to "a period of nuclear bombs," today is an "era of humanity."

Responding to allegations of a clandestine Iranian nuclear weapons program, he explained (as he always had):
We have integrity and are sincere in what we say because we are not afraid of any power and we do not need to conceal our intentions. If we want to build a nuclear weapon, we have the courage to announce it openly. We are not afraid of others.
Still unsatisfied, Curry decided to repeat herself, asking, "Is the answer yes or is it no, with all due respect?"

When Ahmadinejad reiterated, "We do not need nuclear weapons and we do not accept nuclear weapons. We are against that," Curry quadrupled-down, "So you're saying the answer is no?"

The president replied, "Right, that's right, certainly."

Apparently, Ann Curry has trouble taking 'no' for an answer. And yet, all we hear is that Rouhani's unequivocal statement against nuclear weapons is something new and unprecedented. Clearly, it's not.

Missed by many in the media is the fact that Rouhani's statement echoed similar assurances made by Iranian officials for over twenty years. For instance, in early 1992, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO), Reza Amrollahi, said, "We have never had nor will ever have other intentions" than using nuclear equipment for exclusively peace purposes.

Years later, in August 2005, Iran's senior nuclear negotiator, Sirus Naseri, declared "that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons," while in mid-2011, President Ahmadinejad, reiterated, "Never, never. We do not want nuclear weapons. We do not seek nuclear weapons. This is an inhumane weapon."

On January 30, 2012, Ali Akbar Salehi, who at the time was Iran's Foreign Minister and is now head of the IAEO, said, "Iran is never, ever after nuclear weapons." Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly stressed that Iran would - just as Rouhani told Ann Curry - never pursue nuclear weapons, insisting, for example, on February 22, 2012, "The Iranian nation has never sought and will never seek nuclear weapons."

A Reuters report trumpeted Rouhani's vow "that his government will never develop nuclear weapons" as "his strongest signal yet that he may be seeking a diplomatic thaw with the West after decades of acrimony."

Similarly, Brian Williams, during Wednesday night's broadcast of NBC Nightly News, told his audience that Rouhani's exclusive interview with Curry contained a "big revelation about nuclear weapons" and was "significant because it represents the first reason for any optimism, the first sign of any movement from Iran on the issue of nuclear weapons."

What an absurd thing to say. Such is the scope of perception in the mainstream media.

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A shorter version was originally published as the sixteenth update to a post from October 10, 2012 compiling the consistent eschewing and condemnation of nuclear weapons by Iranian officials over the past couple decades.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

New Documentary Reclaims “The Canadian Caper” from Affleck’s “Argo”

Ken and Pat Taylor attend the premier of “Argo” in Washington, DC on October 10, 2012.
(Photo Credit: Leigh Vogel/AFP/Getty Images)

A year after it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, eleven months after its blockbuster opening weekend, nearly seven months after being released on DVD and winning three Academy Awards, and less than a week after premiering on HBO, Ben Affleck’s movie “Argo” is still leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of Canadians – politicians and the public alike – over its depiction of the escape of American diplomats from post-revolutionary Iran during the hostage crisis.

Affleck’s Hollywood tale – “a propaganda fable” and “trite cavalcade of action-movie clichés and expository dialogue,” in the words of Salon's Andrew O’Hehir – of scary, irrational, violent Muslims and innocent, courageous and heroic Americans, written by Chris Terrio (who was awarded an Oscar for his script), took great narrative liberties with the factual history of the story.

The Associated Press reports, “‘Argo’ came under criticism from some Canadians, including former ambassador Ken Taylor, who said he felt slighted by “Argo” because it makes Canada look like a meek observer to CIA heroics.” Taylor called the original postscript to the movie “disgraceful and insulting,” as they implied that the 112 citations and awards he received for his work in providing refuge to and organizing the escape of the six Americans was undeserved. Due to his outrage, Affleck changed the text to reflect Canada’s important role in the rescue.

“Taylor kept the Americans hidden at his residence and at the home of his deputy, John Sheardown, in Tehran for three months and facilitated their escape by arranging plane tickets and persuading the Ottawa government to issue fake passports. He also agreed to go along with the CIA’s film production cover story to get the Americans out of Iran,” AP explains.

Well, as Taylor said recently, “Everything goes full cycle.”

Last night, September 12, he received a standing ovation at the very same film festival where “Argo” premiered a year ago, following the world premier of the new Canadian documentary “Our Man in Tehran.”

Speaking after the screening alongside Taylor, Joe Clark, Canada’s Prime Minister in 1979, said to great applause, “I think the truth is the better story.”

Soon after the initial release of “Argo,” former President Jimmy Carter, speaking at Canada’s Queen’s University in November 2012, said he was ”taken aback by [the film's] distortion of what happened because almost everything that was heroic, or courageous or innovative was done by Canada and not the United States.”

Earlier this year, Carter reiterated that “90% of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian [while] the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA…Ben Affleck’s character in the film was only in Tehran a day and a half and the real hero in my opinion was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.”

Taylor himself as been a staunch critic of the film and its presentation of both Iran and the specific events of the diplomats’ hiding and rescue. “The amusing side,” he has said, “is the script writer in Hollywood had no idea what he’s talking about,” remarking that “Argo” misunderstands and misrepresents both Iranians and their revolution, ignoring their “more hospitable side and an intent that they were looking for some degree of justice and hope and that it all wasn’t just a violent demonstration for nothing.”

“Our Man in Tehran,” directed by Larry Weinstein and Drew Taylor, chronicles what is widely-known in Canada as “The Canadian Caper,” striving to set the record straight through first-person accounts by those closely involved in the affair, including Ken Taylor, his wife Pat, former Prime Minister Joe Clark, former Canadian Secretary of State Flora MacDonald, veteran CBC journalist Joe Schlesinger, former CIA agent Tony Mendez, and former CIA agent and hostage William Daugherty.

Taylor calls the documentary “a very true but engaging presentation of what happened in Tehran.”

While Daugherty describes “Argo” as “a great, exciting fictional movie,” with an accurate account of the embassy seizure, he says, “Then it starts to deviate from reality and never comes back. The airplane chase down the runway was a nice little touch. In reality, they just walked through.”

Similarly, one of the actual American diplomats depicted in “Argo,” Mark Lijek, has questioned the efficacy and value of the CIA’s own actions, admitting that the agency’s fake film cover story, integral to the plot of “Argo” was, in fact, “never tested and in some ways proved irrelevant to the escape.”

In fact, the departure of the six Americans from Tehran after three months of hiding out under Canadian roofs was actually rather uneventful, a far cry from what is depicted as spine-tingling, hair-raising action sequences in Affleck’s film.

“If asked, we were going to say we were leaving Iran to return when it was safer,” Lijek recalled, “But no one ever asked!…The truth is the immigration officers barely looked at us and we were processed out in the regular way. We got on the flight to Zurich and then we were taken to the US ambassador’s residence in Berne. It was that straightforward.”

In “Our Man in Tehran,” former Ambassador Ken Taylor finally reveals he thought the CIA’s idea for the fake movie, a sprawling science-fiction epic, was absurd, and that it would have made far more sense to pretend to be producing a movie about the Iranian Revolution itself at the time.

“But that’s the CIA and that’s Hollywood,” he says.

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Originally posted at Muftah.

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