English
-1
archive,paged,tag,tag-english,tag-46,paged-2,tag-paged-2,theme-stockholm,qode-social-login-1.1.3,qode-restaurant-1.1.1,stockholm-core-1.1,woocommerce-no-js,select-theme-ver-5.1.7,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.0.3,vc_responsive

Eine KSZE für den Nahen Osten? | A New Security Architecture for the Middle East?

For the English version, please scroll down.

»Arabischer Frühling« zeigt: Druck der Zivilgesellschaft wirkt

 

Ali Fathollah-Nejad von der School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) der Universität London ist Mitglied der Initiative für eine Konferenz über Sicherheit und Zusammenarbeit im Mittleren und Nahen Osten (KSZMNO). Ein Hauptziel ist die Schaffung einer kernwaffenfreien Zone. Mit dem Politologen sprach für »nd« Thomas Kachel.

ND: Die KSZMNO ist eine Initiative für die Beförderung des Friedens in Nahmittelost durch zivilgesellschaftliche Akteure. Wie kam es dazu?

Fathollah-Nejad: Die Initiative wurde in Deutschland schon vor einigen Jahren vom Friedensforscher Mohssen Massarrat gemeinsam mit den deutschen Sektionen der IPPNW (Ärzte gegen den Atomkrieg) und IALANA (Rechtsanwälte gegen den Atomkrieg) angestoßen. Nach Jahrzehnten gewaltsamer Konflikte in der Region wollten die Initiatoren nicht länger warten und beschlossen, zivilgesellschaftliche Akteure aus allen betroffenen Ländern zusammenzuführen, um eine Perspektive in Frieden, Sicherheit und Zusammenarbeit zu fördern – was die staatlichen Akteure bislang sträflich vernachlässigt haben. Nach einer ersten Tagung im Januar fand kürzlich an der Londoner SOAS eine zweite statt.

Wer nimmt daran teil und worin besteht ihr nächstes konkretes Ziel?

Wir haben bisher zivilgesellschaftliche Kräfte aus nahezu allen Ländern der Region versammeln können. Sie alle eint der Wunsch, aus dem Teufelskreis gegenseitiger rüstungsbasierter Abschreckung auszubrechen und stattdessen eine regionale Zusammenarbeit zu erreichen. Der KSZMNO-Prozess umfasst neben der Sicherheitspolitik eine Reihe weiterer Kooperationsfelder, unter anderem in den Bereichen sozio-ökonomische Entwicklung, grenzübergreifendes Ressourcenmanagement, interkultureller und interreligiöser Dialog und Gesundheit. Wir hoffen, dass die nächste Fachtagung in der Region selbst stattfindet. All dies mit der Aussicht, in naher Zukunft eine Gründungskonferenz des zivilgesellschaftlichen KSZMNO-Prozesses zu veranstalten.

Für 2012 ist eine erste UN-Konferenz zur Schaffung einer von Massenvernichtungswaffen freien Zone in Nahmittelost geplant. Wir wünschten, dass dort exakte Schritte zur Realisierung dieses Ziels bestimmt und zivilgesellschaftliche Gruppen einbezogen würden.

Was stand im Mittelpunkt der jüngsten Tagung?

Wichtigstes Thema war der »Arabische Frühling«, der gezeigt hat, dass die abwertend als »arabische Straße« abgetanen Gesellschaften nicht etwa passive Objekte autoritärer Herrschaft sind, sondern als Zivilgesellschaft offensiv für ihre Belange eintreten können. Diese Entwicklung gibt auch unserer Initiative Rückenwind, zumal deutlich wird, dass zivilgesellschaftlicher Druck fruchten kann.

Besorgnis rief vor dem Hintergrund des sogenannten Nuklearstreits ein etwaiger israelischer Angriff auf Iran hervor – ein Thema, das momentan wieder Schlagzeilen macht. Daher auch der Wunsch, beide Parteien im Rahmen der genannten UN-Konferenz an einen Tisch zu bekommen.

Im Westen werden Mahnungen zum friedlichen Umgang mit Iran oft gleichgesetzt mit Parteinahme für Mahmud Ahmadinedschad.

Ich denke, dass solch eine abenteuerliche Behauptung längst ihr Verfallsdatum erreicht hat. Friedliches und faires, am Völkerrecht orientiertes Handeln bedeutet ja nicht »Appeasement«, wie die Neokonservativen behaupten. Denn Fakt ist, dass Wirtschaftssanktionen und Kriegsdrohungen – also das Ausbleiben einer Konfliktlösung – der Zivilgesellschaft enorm geschadet haben, während die gegenwärtige Machtkonfiguration zementiert wurde. Vielmehr verspricht eine Kurskorrektur die Schwächung der Hardliner auf allen Seiten.

 

QUELLE

Fathollah-Nejad, Ali (2011) Eine KSZE für den Nahen Osten? »Arabischer Frühling« zeigt: Druck der Zivilgesellschaft wirkt, Interview durch Thomas Kachel, Neues Deutschland, 8. November, S. 8;

▪ wiederveröffentlicht auf ZNet Deutschland, 9. November;

wiederveröffentlicht auf blackandwhitenachrichten, 24. Januar 2013.

 

* * * * *

A Conference for Security and Cooperation for the Middle East?

»Arab Spring« demonstrates that civil-society yields results

Ali Fathollah-Nejad from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London is member of the initiative for a civil-society Conference for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East (CSCME). One of its key aims is the creation of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Thomas Kachel spoke to the political scientist.

The CSCME is an initiative for the promotion of peace in the Middle East through civil-society actors. How did it come about?

The initiative was spearheaded some years ago in Germany by peace researcher Mohssen Massarrat in collaboration with the German branches of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA). After decades of violent conflicts in the region, the initiators chose not to sit down and wait anymore, rather decided to assemble civil-society actors from all countries concerned in order to promote the perspective for peace, security and cooperation – something state actors have carelessly neglected so far. After a first workshop in January, a second one has been held at SOAS in London by late October.

Who are the participants and what are their next concrete goals?

So far we have been able to bring together civil-society forces from almost all countries of the region. They are unified in the desire to break out from the vicious cycle of armament-based deterrence and instead bring about regional cooperation. In addition to security policy, the CSCME process comprises a number of fields for cooperation, among others in the areas socio-economic development, cross-border resource management, inter-religious and -cultural dialogue, and health. We hope that the next expert conference will be taking place in the region itself. All of that in view of holding a founding conference for the civil-society CSCME process in the near future.

For 2012, the first United Nations Middle East WMD-Free Zone Conference is planned. Our desire is that concrete steps towards the realization of that aim will be defined and civil-society groups involved.

What has been the focus of the recent workshop?

The most important topic was the “Arab Spring” which showed that the pejoratively dismissed “Arab Street” is not a passive object of authoritarian rule, but that civil societies can offensively fight for their own needs and interests. This development has also emboldened our initiative as it demonstrates that civil-society pressure can yield results.

Against the background of the so-called nuclear crisis, a potential Israeli attack on Iran raised concerns – a subject now again in the headlines. Hence, the desire to bring both parties to the table in the framework of the said UN conference.

In the West, appeals for a peaceful approach towards Iran are often equated with partisanship for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I believe such an adventurous claim has long exceeded its expiry date. A peaceful and fair approach, respecting international law, can of course not be put on the same level as “appeasement” as assumed by neoconservatives. The fact of the matter is that economic sanctions and the threat of war – in other words, the lack of conflict resolution – have enormously damaged civil society, while the current power configuration has been cemented. In fact, reversing such a course of action promises to weaken hardliners on all sides.

SOURCE

Fathollah-Nejad, Ali (2011) “A New Security Architecture for the Middle East?“,Fair Observer, 13 December;

▪ also published as “A Conference for Security and Cooperation for the Middle East?“, Monthly Review Webzine, 15 December;

republished on Europe’s World, 24 December.

[Translation from “Eine KSZE für den Nahen Osten? »Arabischer Frühling« zeigt: Druck der Zivilgesellschaft wirkt“, Interview by Thomas Kachel, Neues Deutschland (Germany), 8 November 2011, p. 8.]

U.S. Policy on Iran under Bush II and Obama

Ali Fathollah-Nejad puts the Iran policy of Barack Obama in perspective by also discussing the ideas of U.S. think-tanks and George W. Bush. He elaborates on his book The Iran Conflict and the Obama Administration: Old Wine in New Skins? [in German], Potsdam University Press, 2010 & 2011 (reprint).

Praise for the book include:
“A detailed and utterly persuasive indictment of US policy towards Iran.”
Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, author of Iran in World Politics: The Question of the Islamic Republic, Hurst 2007 and Columbia University Press 2008;
“[…] read with applause. A very thorough and succinct work. […] nothing important left out.”
Rudolph Chimelli, veteran journalist and Iran expert, Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany largest daily newspaper).

 

U.S. policy towards Iran under George W. Bush

What were the main features of the Iran policy of U.S. President George W. Bush?

As we all know, the U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran was marked by a highly confrontational attitude. The very fact that the Bush/Cheney administration decided to “thank” the Iranian government for its crucial assistance in toppling the Taliban regime in Afghanistan by autumn 2001, by naming Iran as part of an “axis of evil” in Bush’s State of the Union address in early 2002, has been a clear indication of the approach preferred towards Iran.

During the Bush II years (but already starting under the Clinton administration), there was tremendous pressure by neoconservative groups outside and inside the administration to effect a “regime change” in Tehran, even to the extent to ask the intelligence services to fabricate evidence for the alleged Iranian “nuclear threat” – stark efforts of political manipulation whose shadows still bear upon the current ties of those institutions as Seymour Hersh describes in his most recent piece on Iran policy for The New Yorker.

The neoconservatives who have been occupying the corridors of power in the first Bush II administration had been able to push through their ideas on how to cope with the Iran problem. These were centred around the principle of not talking to a “rogue state” (which in fact was the basis for the total dismissal of Iran’s “grand bargain” offer in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion o Iraq in spring 2003); an imperial posture that sought to impose a Diktat on Tehran on various topics ranging from the nuclear issue (encapsulated in the legally highly problematic and unrealistic demand for Iran to completely halt its nuclear programme) to regional ones (especially in the U.S. war theatres in Iraq and Afghanistan).

It was already during the second mandate of the Bush/Cheney administration that there was an awakening in some U.S. policy circles about the strategic deficiencies of the confrontational, if not belligerent, approach by Washington not only in the Iran question, but also in other theatres across West Asia. After all, the neoconservative-pushed invasions of Afghanistan (in October 2001) and Iraq (in March 2003) had eliminated Tehran’s immediate foes and thus paved the way for Iran’s increasing regional influence, particularly in post-Saddam Iraq and post-Taliban Afghanistan. Together with the deepening of the “Iraqi quagmire” – not least a result of the strength of the resistance there against the U.S.-led occupation –, by the mid-2000s Iran attained the status of an “indispensable nation” for any kind of strategic arrangements in the region – something the neo-cons in their obsession to aggressively confront Iran had been paradoxically the very enablers thereof. Of course, in the run-up to the war on Iraq, many U.S. Realists had warned about the geopolitical consequences of those invasions, but had been quite ignored.

Finally, the Realist camp’s comeback came with the December 2006 so-called Baker–Hamilton report, which being the first acknowledgement of U.S. policy failures in Iraq and beyond recommended a new approach involving diplomatic openings towards the formerly designated “rogue states” Iran and Syria in the effort to improve the U.S. status in the region.

In other words, before George W. Bush left office, it was clear that his administration’s neoconservative-influenced “don’t talk to Iran” stance has not been producing the desired results. Not only was Iran able – even enabled – to increase its regional standing, but its nuclear programme despite heavy pressures was not halted either. In the 2008 U.S. presidential elections, many presidential candidates tried to capitalize on that failure, among them Barack Obama who on some occasions talked about a new Iran policy approach, thus raising hopes of overcoming his predecessor’s sabre-rattling posture which pushed the world to the brink of another catastrophic war in that region.

However, it is too easily forgotten that the Bush/Cheney administration’s military offensive in the region had in fact enabled the U.S. to establish large, permanent military bases to the immediate east and west of Iran (but of course also in the “Greater Middle East”, in Afghanistan and Central Asia with a view on China), thus making Iran’s military encirclement by the U.S. complete. This situation, including the increasing militarization of the Persian Gulf, to this day nourishes Tehran’s sense of strategic insecurity.

Thus, in a nutshell, the best notion to describe George W. Bush’s Iran policy is “coercive diplomacy”, a term borrowed from Diplomatic Studies, which signals a policy that majorly relies on punitive measures (economic sanctions, political and military pressures) to force concessions from the other side. As such, the coercive strategy totally perverts the notion of diplomacy which only when exercised in “good faith” can bring about satisfying results to the parties involved.

Needless to say that legally this “coercive” approach is highly problematic – to say the least. Not only has the constant threat of war (being a clear violation of the UN Charter which in its Article 2(4) states that “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state […]”) been an indispensable feature of the “coercive diplomacy” or “strategy”, but the covert operations in Iran, including acts of sabotage and targeted assassinations to put a brake on the nuclear programme need also mentioning, not least because they still go on.

Policy recommendations regarding Iran by U.S. think-tanks

What policy recommendations have leading think-tanks made regarding Iran?

Against that background, the chance of an Obama Administration formulating a much more even-handed approach towards Iran was the key question, also given the proclaimed need for a “course correction”. I hence studied the various policy recommendation papers being prepared by old and also newly found think-tanks on the Iran question in the transition period between the Bush II and Obama administrations. Here I tried to identify the most important U.S. think-tanks on Iran and wider Middle East issues, and categorize their recommendations, which led me to list them under the following rubrics:

(1) Neoconservatives and liberal hawks favoured the continuation of the “coercive strategy”. This group which among others include the U.S. “Israel Lobby”, with its think-tank The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), and the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), has de facto been advocating a “roadmap to war” – aptly described by Jim Lobe –, based on the motto of capitulation or war. Still making alarmist assumptions about the Iranian “nuclear threat” and Tehran’s foreign policy goals in general, they still insist that Iran give up nuclear enrichment within an ultimatum, whose ultimate aim would be to legitimize in the eyes of the public the recourse to war. The logic here is very simple: By making unrealistic demands, the failure of any negotiations is wilfully anticipated, which then, according to the BPC, shall open the way for illegal measures such as an economic blockade and a military attack.

WINEP’s Patrick Clawson has summarized the rationale of such an approach as follows: “The principal target with these offers [to Iran] is not Iran. […] The principal target of these offers is American public opinion and world public opinion.” In this context Dennis Ross plays a key role as he has been actively involved in, if not at the forefront of, many Iran policy papers. Ross who is known for his advocacy for Israeli interests in Mideast “peace process” negotiations during the Clinton administration, was in February 2009 first appointed “Special Advisor for the [Persian] Gulf and Southwest Asia” for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then only four months later joined the National Security Council staff as a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the “Central Region” (including the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia): Applied to the policy on Iran, his concept of “smart statecraft” stresses the need for “more carrots and more sticks”, very much echoing the approach preferred during the Bush II years, with the “carrots” remaining unspecified, while the “sticks” are being fully deployed. Of course, the Saudi lobby and the wider military-industrial complex ought to be located in this category as well, plus a considerable part of Obama’s administration, including UN Ambassador Susan Rice.

(2) The mainstream élite think-tanks (above all, the Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) argued for a more (but not exclusively) Realpolitik-based strategy in order to serve U.S. interests in the region, which they believe have not been pursued adequately. They warn against a blind repetition of Bush’s Iran policy which they see as having failed. Instead the U.S. should be ready for engagement with Iran, knowing that this will be time-consuming and arduous. Generally, it is stressed that Iran could be contained, even as a nuclear state.

However, within these “centrist” circles there is a wide range of opinions, even including the “unattractive option” of a preventive strike on Iran, as formulated in an article in CFR’s Foreign Affairs by the Council’s President Richard Haass and the Director of Brookings’ Saban Center for Middle East Policy Martin Indyk.

(3) Moderate circles called for a whole new Iran policy embracing real diplomacy that would also take Iranian security and other interests into account. Countering existing myths about Iranian foreign-policy behaviour (especially when it comes to question of rationality in Tehran’s actions), they make the case for a serious diplomacy and a sustainable engagement with Iran. This group involves many Iran experts and long-standing U.S. diplomats (who e.g. gathered in the American Foreign Policy Project). Indeed they have drawn the right lessons of decades of misleading U.S. policy towards Iran and offer a viable strategy for the future.

U.S. policy towards Iran under Barack Obama

To what extent is President Barack Obama’s Iran policy in line with his predecessor’s policy and the advice of think-tanks?

The conclusion of my study was that it was unlikely to see a change in Washington’s Iran policy under Obama, mainly for the following reasons:

(1) Those advocating the continuation, even deepening of Bush’s “coercive strategy” were clearly very much present. During the Bush II years, neoconservative policy-advising circles had been firmly anchored in the policy debates, foremost when it came to the Iran question – an obsession they shared with the U.S. and Israeli governments – where they had acquired some expertise, albeit a very biased one. This sort of institutionalization in the policy-advising sphere has not disappeared with the new administration. In fact, most neocons and “liberal hawks” approved of Obama’s designations being a proof of his sense for “continuity”, as he not only chose the incumbent Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and his hawkish Democratic Party rival Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State (who during the presidential campaign had promised “tough diplomacy” towards Iran), but he also took over Stuart Levey in the Treasury Department, the man who since 2004 had been in charge of firmly internationalizing the sanctions regime, especially in the field of financial sanctions.

(2) The domestic blockade in the U.S. for a change in the Iran policy still remains intact and is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Of course, fundamental changes to the detriment of U.S. interests, above all a success of the Egyptian revolution or change within Saudi Arabia might trigger a radical new strategic thinking in Washington, which might be in line with what Stephen Kinzer is arguing in his Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America’s Future (New York: Times Books, 2010), i.e. a strategic reorientation of the U.S. towards Turkey and Iran, and to the detriment of Israel and Saudi Arabia. However, we are not likely to see the latter happening anytime soon, as the Israel Lobby, the military-industrial complex and the Saudi Lobby are all powerful and interconnected politico-economic alliances fighting any prospects for a U.S.–Iranian rapprochement, and more generally favouring a continuation of militaristic policies in the region.

As to how far Obama’s Iran policy is in line with the advice of think-tanks as discussed above, we can foremost mention the still dominant belief in the U.S. – shared by most think-tanks – that Iran must halt its nuclear programme and be deprived of nuclear material for building a bomb. When the nuclear talks were resumed by autumn 2009 around the issue of providing the Tehran Research Reactor with the needed 20% enriched uranium for medical purposes, such a stance informed Washington’s strategy aimed at preventing an Iranian nuclear break-out capability. This goal then failed in the face of Tehran’s insistence on a simultaneous swap of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) against that higher enriched one. In brief, the talks ultimately failed as a result of Washington’s miscalculated assumption that it could strike a deal which would ship the bulk of Iran’s nuclear material – in fact Tehran’s bargaining chip in its talks with great powers – outside the country.

(3) The more general point is the continuing reliance on the “coercive strategy” – or in the language of major powers, the “dual-track approach” – which is still heavily based on the imposition of punitive measures, above all economic and financial sanctions, in the case Iran does not comply with long-established demands such as the halt of the nuclear programme. Now with Russia and China also benefitting from the sanctions regime against Iran, the continuation of that strategy is being favoured. This was starkly witnessed in the negative reactions by all the UN veto powers to the Brazil- and Turkey-brokered deal with Iran on 17 May 2010, basically pointing out that the Iran issue had to be dealt with within the UN Security Council. Three weeks later, the latest round of tightened UN sanctions was imposed on Iran. Hence, for now we are still inside the vicious circle inherent to the “coercive strategy”, in which it seems more and more actors are finding their niches to profit from.

As a result, by June 2010, the Iran expert of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ray Takeyh, observed that “[…] the strategy has shifted from conciliation to coercion.” Given the improbability of that strategy to succeed, I think it is high time for the West to contemplate about an Iran policy beyond sanctions, which has not only cemented the positions of hardliners on all sides, but also block any advancement in the diplomatic stand-off and on wider regional issues of crucial importance to all parties involved.

 

SOURCE

Ali Fathollah-Nejad (2011) “U.S. Policy on Iran under Bush II and Obama”, Interview by Leonhardt van Efferink (Editor of ExploringGeopolitics), published on :

Iran Review, 20 September;

Global Research, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, as “From Bush to Obama: US Policy Towards Iran“, 20 September;

Iranian Diplomacy, as “Iran: Barack Obama, Encirclement, Dual-Track Approach“, 25 September.

 

REACTIONS

Safdari, Cyrus (2011) “US Policy on Iran: The Truth is Emerging“, Iran Affairs: Iranian Foreign Policy and International Affairs, 5 October.

Nuclear Power: Iran Inaugurates Bushehr Plant (TV interview with Russia Today)

12 September 2011

Iran has celebrated the launch of the Bushehr nuclear power plant on Monday. The facility, which was completed with Russia’s help, came on line last year and has been connected to the national power grid in early September.

The facility, which was completed with Russia’s help, came on line last year.

The ceremony is attended by Russian Energy Minister Sergey Shmatko, head of the Rosatom nuclear agency Sergey Kirienko, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, and head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani.

Sergey Shmatko praised the efforts in working together, and promised more similar projects in the future.

Together with our Iranian counterparts, we went through difficulties and problems building the Bushehr power plant. And today we can be proud of the results that are drawing the attention of the whole world. I’m sure our further co-operation in operating the station and developing other nuclear energy projects will be distinguished by the atmosphere we created while working together,” he said.

Iran expects that the Bushehr power plant will reach its planned capacity in two to three months, Salehi said on Sunday.

The construction of the power plant in Bushehr is viewed with suspicion by many nations, who believe that the entire Iranian nuclear program is aimed at creating a nuclear weapon.

To alleviate these fears, Russia is providing fuel rods for the plant and will return the spent fuel back for recycling.

“The Bushehr power plant project is exemplary in terms of observing non-proliferation regime. Over the whole its lifetime it will be supplied fuel by Russia on the condition of its return,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry stressed on Monday.

Tehran says its atomic ambitions are peaceful and have no military agenda.

­Ali Fathollah-Nejad, researcher at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London believes the opening of the plant bears special significance because it was brought into operation against the background of political interference from many outside powers.

“We have now a decades-long stand-off between Iran and the West over the Iranian nuclear program,” he told RT.  “The nuclear issue was recently hyped for political reasons, in order to be able to gain support to put pressure on Iran for achieving other political ends. So, I think the nuclear issue is still being hyped, but it loses much credibility against the evidence that we have.”

Fathollah-Nejad also stressed that the sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program are more of a geo-political and geo-economic nature.

“If you cannot control or influence a country, you might go for isolation and weakening of the country. And the best way to do that is through economic sanctions. This is rational of sanctions,” he stated.

 

SOURCE

Nuclear Power: Iran Inaugurates Bushehr Plant“, Russia Today (RT), 12 September 2011.

Going Nuclear (Interview with The Majalla)


22 September 2011

By Maryam Ishani (Senior Editor of The Majalla)

The completion of the Bushehr nuclear plant has stirred up further controversy over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran continues to emphasize its entitlement to explore atomic energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, but the US remains skeptical while Russia attempts to seize the advantage.

Last week Iran celebrated the inauguration of its first operational nuclear power facility after long delays in construction and controversy over the aims of Iran’s nuclear program. The Bushehr plant, located on the Persian Gulf, is the first of what Iran hopes will be a network of similar facilities that will help reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The ceremony was attended by Russia’s Energy Minister, Sergei Shmatko, who praised the joint project as an understanding that “has come about after three years of cooperation between our experts” which will allow the Russia and Iran to “prepare the grounds for future cooperation in this field.” But the collaboration has been a far more complicated than the two governments have admitted to.

In a deal between Iran and Russia, Russia took over the completion of the plant after the German venture Kraftwerk Union AG pulled out under pressure from the US. However the agreement initially would have seen the plant completed in 2007 not 2011. According to Iran geopolitical expert, Ali Fathollah-Nejad, at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, the delays continued because of the introduction of Russia’s own objectives in the project. “There is a lot of frustration in Iran because of Russia beginning to play its own games as a sort of intermediary between the West and Iran.”

Most notably, the arrangement Iran has agreed to with Russia includes provisions for returning fuel that Iran has purchased for the operation of the plant back to Russia after processing. It cannot remain in Iran, despite the fact that Iran technically owns the fuel—making the program particularly costly and according to Fathollah-Nejad, makes Russia’s role as a broker between the West and Iran, a hypocritical one.

This is due in large part to the ongoing UN Security Council “Zero Enrichment” sanctions—renewed in June—that remain imposed upon Iran, which are aimed at barring Iran from enriching uranium regardless of the aim. Russia voted in favor of the resolution but later used the same resolution to bar Iran from joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in 2009, saying that Iran’s eventual membership could be “one of the carrots that is part of a larger deal” to resolve the nuclear crisis with Iran.

“Even though the facts have changed on the ground,” says Fathollah-Nejad, “the sanctions continue because of claims that the program is not transparent enough. The removal of the sanctions needs a whole re-thinking of the dialogue on Iran’s nuclear program. There is a new reality on the ground.”

Bushehr’s start-up comes after Iran declared its readiness to re-start talks on its nuclear project with major powers, in a letter to the European Union Foreign Affairs chief. But that dialogue seems out of reach. The inauguration of the plant only adds to what was already a very tense standoff between the United States and Iran over the intentions and capabilities of Iran’s program.

At the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, the two countries traded accusations at a meeting of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with US Energy Secretary Steven Chu accusing Iran of “a long-standing pattern of denial, deceit, and evasion, in violation of its non-proliferation obligations. Time and time again, Iran has refused to satisfy legitimate concerns about the nature of its nuclear programme—selectively rejecting IAEA requests for access to, and information about, its nuclear facilities.”

Iranian nuclear energy chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani rebuffed Chu’s comments with a reference to the recent murders of high-level nuclear scientists in Iran, placing the blame squarely on the West: “Some countries and their intelligence terrorist organisations have focused on assassinating our experts,” he said. His comments refer to the most recent murder of a University lecturer in July, Darioush Rezaie. His was the third murder since 2009 of a scientist with connections to Iran’s nuclear program. The first was killed by a car bomb, the second by a remotely detonated explosive device and Rezaie was killed by gunmen near his home.

Speaking to press after the meeting, Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, who is Iran’s Vice President and head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, said that the “hostile positions” of western states could only force countries like Iran to conduct their nuclear activities secretly or “underground,” according to translations of his comments at the UN. Abbasi-Davani has been subjected to UN sanctions because of his involvement with Iran’s nuclear program and was even wounded in a car bomb blast in 2010, an incident he has accused the West and even the IAEA of orchestrating.

Fathollah-Nejad sees the challenges of the last decade as an example to developing economies, “The fact that Bushehr has been finalized indicates to the success of Iran’s insistence to use its internationally legally recognized rights to develop a nuclear energy programme, despite heavy and continuous pressures from big powers. As such Iran can be seen as an example. Hopefully it will propel the West to abandon coercive diplomacy on Iran.”

Iran says the one billion US dollar, 1,000-megawatt Bushehr plant is part of a peaceful atomic program and will be enriching uranium only at levels suitable for medical and agricultural uses. The plant is not yet operating fully but is on track to be operating at maximum capacity within three months.

Still, Iran has begun moving uranium enrichment centrifuges to a bunker buried in the mountains near Qom as part of an effort to increase capacity and protect the equipment from a strike by foes of the nation’s nuclear program, namely Israel. Washington has denied involvement in the murder of the scientists and Israel has said that it is “increasingly concerned” with the Bushehr plant.

Fathollah-Nejad points out, “For almost a decade, the IAEA has been investigating if there is a weaponization element to Iran’s nuclear program, but has found no evidence,” making the official justification for sanctions illegitimate. “The dropping of sanctions,” according to Fathollah-Nejad, “would be the first indication that the policy on Iran is changing.”

 

SOURCE

Ishani, Maryam (2011) “Going Nuclear: Iran Completes Construction of Bushehr Nuclear Power Facility“, The Majalla: The Leading Arab Magazine (online), 22 September.

 

New Insights Into the Islamic Republic of Iran

 

The Iranian Revolution of 1979 is considered a defining moment because the Islamic Republic replaced an authoritarian monarchy that was friendly to the West. The revolution, moreover, linked religion to politics in an unprecedented way. Books by Hamid Dabashi, Elaheh Rostami-Povey and Arshin Adib-Moghaddam discuss the country’s history and its influence beyond its own borders.

Arguably the most important reason for the international interest in Iran is its strategically pivotal geography. Like some of its Muslim neighbours, it has tremendous oil and gas reserves. For the United States, the revolution in Iran was nothing less than a geopolitical shock.

Revolutionary dynamics in the Arab World have recently rekindled the debate in the West on “political Islam”. To get a good understanding of the phenomenon, however, it is necessary to define it properly – which, so far, has hardly been done.

The issue is generally approached from two directions. The cultural-essentialist or Orientalistic school holds that Islam determines political, economic and social realities. Orientalists argue that the entire Muslim world is not only somehow monolithic, but even downright resistant to change. Samuel Huntington’s book “The clash of civilizations” is a prominent expression of such thinking. This school is not alone in emphasising religion as the single most important defining feature of society, Islamist fundamentalists say so too.

The competing school emphasises structural aspects that have evolved in history. Its analyses take a wide range of factors into account, namely socio-economic conditions, political trends, historical change, class conflict and revolutions.

The current Arab Spring has dealt the Orientalist school a severe blow, and may yet discredit it once and for all. Obviously, there is a widespread desire in Muslim societies for change, and the revolutionary motivation is not primarily rooted in faith. Rather, the desire for universal freedoms and social justice is making itself heard in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere.

The books about Iran discussed here do not belong to the Orientalist camp. Nonetheless, each author assesses the topic from a different angle.

Struggle for democracy

In “Iran: a people interrupted” (2007), Hamid Dabashi analyses nearly 200 years of history from the literary-intellectual and political perspectives. The author takes his readers on a trip through time, revisiting major historical events. With unparalleled eloquence, he argues that Iranians have been fighting for democracy and against “foreign and domestic tyranny” for more than a century. Dabashi says the anti-colonial Tobacco Revolt at the end of the 19th century, the Constitutional Revolution at the beginning of the 20th, the nationalisation of the oil sector under Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in the 1950s and the “Islamic Revolution” at the end of the 1970s were the most important steps in this process.

He disagrees with the notion of Iran being caught between tradition and modernity, calling it a “fabricated paradox”. Instead, he argues that since the 19th century an “anti-colonial modernity” marked by the struggle against both domestic and foreign oppression has defined Iranians’ emancipatory experience.

Dabashi traces three major ideological formations back to the multicultural, pluralistic Constitutional Revolution of the early 20th century: liberal-democratic nationalism, social-democratic socialism and theocratic Islamism. In his view, these three ideological formations do not necessarily clash. Rather, they all have their roots in the anti-colonial struggle and serve as catalysts for one other.

In the early 20th century, the idea of the modern nation-state with the notion of citizenship took shape, including both women and religious minorities, with relevant roles for a free press and intellectuals. However, it was never fully realised because of the repression of a series of Shah regimes which were allied to colonial and imperial powers. These ideals have yet to materialise.

Dabashi sees Shia Islam as inherently oppositional in its political focus. Accordingly, a dilemma arises when Shia clerics assume state power and get corrupted by it – which is what happened in the Islamic Republic.

Dabashi assesses the role of Shia religious leaders in the context of Iran’s political development. He makes a distinction between progressive clerics who oppose unjust rule and conservative ones who are closely connected to power or strive for it. In doing so, he shows that Shia clerics in Iran do not form a monolithic block. As is evident today, some important leaders sympathise with the democracy movement, and many are not pleased with the increasingly militaristic system that was set up in the name of religion.

A wide range of voices

In “Iran’s influence: a religious-political state and society in its region” (2010), Elaheh Rostami-Povey quotes a wide range of contemporary voices – journalists, refugees, expatriates and researchers from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt. She conducted her interviews with Muslim modernists, secular leftists, nationalists and feminists from 2007 to 2009. She shows that all of them demand democracy and liberty.

Her book is an encyclopaedic discussion of the political dynamics within the religious-political state of Iran. She shows that its internal contradictions have fostered the growth of a new democratic movement, which calls the regime, but not religion as such, into question.

At the same time, she demonstrates why the Iranian state’s foreign policy has found approval in the region where a majority of the public identifies with Iran’s stance against the USA, Israel and the “war on terror”. One reason for the popularity of criticism voiced by Tehran is that many Arab autocracies cooperate with Washington, and open debate has been impossible so far.

Rostami-Povey emphasises the wide range of manifestations of “political Islam”, each of which has to be considered in its specific historical and socio-political context. She writes that Islamists in Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and its associated organisations or Hamas in Palestine are all quite different, and all are struggling with their own internal contradictions. However, all varieties of Islamism have one thing in common: they mobilise popular support by opposing imperialism and Zionism.

Rostami-Povey warns that the term “Islamic fundamentalism” prevents us from seeing the diversity of various Islamisms. As she puts it, “homogenisation and essentialism” make us blind to dynamics of change and thus promote Orientalism and Islamophobia. She argues that, ultimately, the West’s ongoing hostility towards Iran and Islamist movements only strengthens those conservative forces.

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam comes to similar conclusions in “Iran in world politics: the question of the Islamic Republic” (2007). He has worked up an intricate theory on the interaction between society, culture and state institutions. As he puts it, “counter-hegemonic utopias” – such as Marxism, Communism, Maoism and Islamism – radically changed Iran’s political culture in the 1960s. The revolution therefore pursued “utopian-romantic” ideals, which left their mark on the Islamic Republic’s institutionalised norms and still affect its approach to foreign policy.

He emphasises the constant possibility of change in the Islamic Republic as a result of an “active counterculture”. He shows that the picture US neo-conservatives paint of Iran is perverted and calls for “critical Iranian studies” which would pluralise the ways one sees Iran and dissect the international politics surrounding the country.

These three books by noted scholars lay the foundation for a better understanding of Iran and “political Islam”. They theoretically and empirically assess the context in its entire complexity. Without such comprehensive knowledge, Western understanding cannot add up to more than biased knee-jerk reactions. The books show that political trends do not come about in a vacuum, but rather are rooted in complex settings with domestic and foreign social, economic and political factors. The idea of a “monolithic Islam” is not only wrong – it is dangerous.

 

Books reviewed:

  • Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Iran in World Politics: The Question of the Islamic Republic, London: Hurst 2007 & New York: Columbia University Press 2008.
  • Hamid Dabashi, Iran: A People Interrupted, New York: New Press 2007.
  • Elaheh Rostami-Povey, Iran’s Influence: A Religious–Political State and Society in its Region, London & New York: Zed Books 2010.

 

SOURCE

Ali Fathollah-Nejad (2011) “New Insights Into the Islamic Republic of Iran“, Development and Cooperation (D+C), Bonn: Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Society for International Cooperation, GIZ), Vol. 52, No. 5 (May), pp. 208–209.

▪ republished on Europe’s World, 22/05/2011;

▪ republished on Global Research, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, 22/05/2011;

▪ republished on e-International Relations (e-IR), 22/02/2011;

▪ republished on Monthly Review Webzine, 23/05/2011;

▪ republished as Defining Moment on Iranian.com, 23/05/2011;

▪ republished on Atlantic-Community.org, 24/05/2011;

▪ republished on Humanitarian Texts: World-Wide Asian–Eurasian Human Rights Forum, 25/05/2011;

▪ republished on ZNet, 31/05/2011;

AUF DEUTSCH | “Neue Blicke auf die Islamische Republik Iran“, Entwicklung und Zusammenarbeit (E+Z), Vol. 52, No. 5 (May), pp. 208–209;

▪ republished on ZNet Deutschland, 15/06/2011.

SLOVENČINA | “Čo je to politický islam?“, trans. Peter Nedoroščík, utopia, 01/07/2011.

The ‘Middle East’: From Past and Present Attributions to a Future Regional Identity?

ABSTRACT

The south-western part of the Asian continent, an area spanning from the Levant to the Hindu Kush and from the Caucasus to the Arabian Peninsula, is widely – in political, public and even academic discourses alike – referred to as the ‘Near and/or Middle East’. Such thetic denomination of that geographical space has been subjected to exogenous attributions based upon cultural, political and strategic considerations by colonial and imperial powers. Due to the interest-driven and hence arbitrary nature, its boundaries have constantly been altered in the colonial/imperial mind map. However superficial those outside markers are, they tend to shape the reality of that region – and thus to create a political geography. Through imperial incursions and on-going military presence the prescribed politico–strategic framework has imposed itself onto the region.

Beyond those representations, shared cultural values and historical experiences might provide a basis for an endogenously designed future, potentially able to overcome the partitions the region suffers from on multiple levels. Thus, besides tracing the changing ‘political geographies’, the paper proposes a realistic utopia. It aims to de-colonize the ‘Middle East’ through a critical history of the region and embraces a regionalization process. Thus it pro-actively engages with the challenges posed by the imperially designed past and present.

Read the whole document here (pdf).

 

SOURCE

Ali Fathollah-Nejad (2010) “The ‘Middle East’: From Past and Present Attributions to a Future Regional Identity?“, Polyvocia: SOAS Journal of Graduate Research, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, Vol. 2 (Spring), pp. 3–20.

Germany’s Finkelstein Phobia

Renowned scholar and descendent of Holocaust survivors prevented by German Israel Lobby to speak about Gaza

Norman Finkelstein, an internationally renowned scholar of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, was due to talk about the state of the decades-old conflict and the situation in Gaza one year after the Israeli assault last week in Munich and Berlin. As part of a European speaking tour which would have led him to Germany for the first time since 2002, Finkelstein has been invited to speak in Prague at a number of prestigious institutions, such as the Institute of International Relations Prague, the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts at Charles University in Prague.

 

One of Finkelstein’s Berlin lectures was initially planned to be sponsored by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, an institution affiliated to the German Green Party. The event was scheduled to take place at the Protestant Trinitatis Church. In a statement announcing its decision to cancel the event, the church “regrets to have been implicated, against its will and its publicly known stances, in anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli polemics”. Soon thereafter, on 9 February, the Böll Foundation announced its pullback stating “Due to inattention, insufficient investigation and trust in our cooperation partners, we have made a severe mistake. In our judgment, Finkelstein’s behavior and his theses do not remain within the limits of legitimate critique.” It finally „thanked the many notes and interventions pertaining to this event.”

The other Finkelstein lecture was scheduled at the headquarters of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLS), a German institution affiliated to the Left Party. But on 17 February, the Left Party think-tank also withdrew its support. It stated to have underestimated the event’s “political explosiveness”, saying further that for the sake of guaranteeing a “controversial and pluralistic debate” its proposition to provide for a counterpart to Finkelstein has been rejected by the organizers. Aside from the unusual insistence to invite a “counterpart”, Doris Pumphrey from the organizing committee stated that the RLS had not wanted to name this counterpart.

Finkelstein’s projected two lectures in Munich, one of them at the America House Munich, were likewise cancelled.

The German Israel Lobby and the Anti-Semitism Claim

The wave of cancellations came after a concerted campaign by neoconservative and pro-Israeli pressure groups, such as Honestly Concerned and BAK Shalom, which are known for their unconditional support of Israeli policies and the defamation of critics as anti-Semites. BAK Shalom, a pro-Zionist working group within the Left Party’s youth organization, was one of the main drivers behind the campaign to cancel Finkelstein’s public lectures. A statement, signed by BAK Shalom offshoots and like-minded groupings, reads that “Finkelstein is internationally popular among anti-Semites” while accusing him – a “self-proclaimed historian” – of “historical revisionism” and “anti-Semitism.”

Finkelstein, whose parents were survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto and of Nazi concentration camps, was awarded a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University and is the author of many academic books on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. His Image and Reality of the Israel–Palestine Conflict (1995; 2003) has received much praise from eminent scholars such as Oxford University professor Avi Shlaim (“a major contribution to the study of the Arab–Israeli conflict”) and leading intellectual Noam Chomsky (“the most revealing study of the historical background of the conflict and the current peace agreement”). In 2007, after a denunciation campaign with the involvement of Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, despite academic approval he was denied tenure at Chicago’s DePaul University where he has been teaching. Dershowitz’ book The Case for Israel, whose scholarly integrity has been highly disputed by Finkelstein and others, has been publicized by BAK Shalom. Dershowitz has also called Finkelstein “a classic anti-Semite”.

McCarthyism à l’Israélienne vs. Jewish Humanism

 

Finkelstein has repeatedly argued for a settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict according to international legal prescriptions and rulings while stressing that the lesson he learned from his family’s Holocaust suffering was to call attention to the Palestinians’ plight. His new book entitled This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion (OR Books) will be published in mid-March.

In a response to the pro-Israel lobbying groups, Professor Rolf Verleger, chair of the German section of the European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP) – one of the sponsors of the Berlin lectures – rejected the claims put forward against Finkelstein. Instead, Verleger described him as “a proud and conscious Jew, who defends himself against the appropriation of Jewish tradition by Jewish blood-and-soil nationalism”. Criticizing those pressure groups for their lack of opposition to human rights violations and nationalism when it came to Israel, Verleger compared their tactics to McCarthyite agitation, this time directed against “un-Israeli activities”.

Verleger, who is the author of Israel’s Wrong Way: A Jewish View (PapyRossa, in German, 2nd edn., 2009), is a former member of the board of delegates of the Central Council of Jews in Germany but was not re-elected due to his open criticism of Israeli policies.

In a letter sent earlier to the Trinitatis Church in a plea to reverse its decision, Verleger rejected the idea that criticism of Israel’s policies would amount to anti-Semitism and instead talked of “Jewish responsibility” to do so. Verleger, who in the letter reminded that his father had died on the very day of the projected Finkelstein event in Berlin 45 years ago with an “Auschwitz number on his arm” and who had lost his family in Auschwitz, consigned Finkelstein to stand in the “humanistic tradition of German Judaism” à la Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt and Rabbi Leo Baeck.

 

Leftist Raison d’Etat

 

In particular, the withdrawal of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLS) engendered ongoing protests. In an open letter some Left Party Members of Parliament and leading sympathizers criticized the foundation’s handling of Norman Finkelstein. Therein, they consider the denunciatory claims against Finkelstein as “absurd”. In another open letter, former and current RLS scholarship holder conclude that the foundation might lose its “character as location for Leftist debates and controversies” if it were to continue to avoid criticism of Israeli government policies. Also many other Leftists voiced criticism of the RLS’s decision noting that the latter would be unworthy of the Jewish philosopher and activist Rosa Luxemburg’s famous quote of “Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.”

 

The RLS had come under harsh criticism last summer when allowing three well-known war-mongers – amongst them a leading representative from BAK Shalom – to speak at its largest students-led annual conference. The Left Party and its think-tank find themselves in an internal strife on the question of anti-Zionism and anti-imperialism, not at least since the chairman of the party’s parliamentary group Gregor Gysi advocated in spring 2008 to reconsider those principles. This was seen as an effort to align the Left Party with German raison d’état. In a speech before the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) in March 2008, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said: “Here of all places I want to explicitly stress that every German Government and every German Chancellor before me has shouldered Germany’s special historical responsibility for Israel’s security. This historical responsibility is part of my country’s raison d’être. For me as German Chancellor, therefore, Israel’s security will never be open to negotiation.” Displaying “unconditional solidarity” with Israeli policies, two days into Tel Aviv’s military operation “Cast Lead” in Gaza, the German Chancellor and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “agreed that the responsibility for the development of the situation in the region clearly and exclusively lies with Hamas.” Such an assessment had also been echoed then by the chairman of the Left Party in Berlin at a pro-Israel rally.

After the cancellations of venues for Finkelstein’s lectures, at the end the junge Welt (“Young World”) – an independent left-wing daily known for its staunch opposition to illegal wars – had stepped in by offering its rather small-spaced shop in Berlin.

 

Finally, in a statement issued on 20 February, Finkelstein explained why he would not travel to Germany: “Some Germans seem determined that their fellow German citizens only hear opinions on the Israel-Palestine conflict that support the policies of the Israeli government. Such intolerance is not good for Palestinians who are living under a brutal military occupation. It is not good for Germans who want their country to support human rights and international law. It is not good for courageous dissenting Israelis who need support from the European Union.”

Finkelstein was also going to elaborate on the Goldstone Report, commissioned by the United Nations, which finds Israel guilty of war crimes in its assault on Gaza during the winter of 2008-2009. Further, in violation of domestic and EU laws that would prohibit the selling of arms to conflict-torn regions, Berlin has been continuing to do so.

Precedents of Handling Critics of Israeli Policies

There have been a number of occasions most recently in Germany where critics of Israel’s policies have been faced with comparable treatment. In January this year, three female Left Party members of the German Parliament (who also signed the above mentioned open letter to the RLS) had been attacked by similar groups in concert with Evangelical clerics for not offering standing ovations after Israeli President Shimon Peres’ Bundestag speech on Holocaust Memorial Day. The parliamentarians, who had paid tribute to the victims of Nazi crimes at ceremonies ahead of Peres’ talk, explained their rejection by pointing to the Israeli President’s exploitation of the event for a pro-Iran war call. In his speech, Peres considered Iran’s government to be “a danger to the entire world”. In spite of ongoing Israeli calls for a military strike on Iran, the Israeli President also said “we identify with the millions of Iranians who revolt against dictatorship and violence.” The German section of the EJJP had criticized the invitation of Peres in the first place.

In early 2009, a projected discussion on Germany’s major political TV show “Anne Will” about the Israeli military offensive in Gaza was cancelled only a few days before, in what was considered to have occurred after political interference.

In October 2009, following a lobbying campaign similar to the Finkelstein case, a projected talk in Munich by the exiled Israeli historian Ilan Pappé was cancelled by the city’s authorities. In an open letter, Professor Pappé – who was then speaking at a different venue – wrote that his father “was silenced in a similar way as a German Jew in the early 1930s”. Like himself, he went on, his father and his friends were regarded as “’humanists’ and ‘peacenik’ Jews whose voice had to be quashed and stopped”. Pappé said he was “worried, as any decent person should be, about the state of freedom of speech and democracy in present day Germany” as witnessed by the decision to censor his talk.

Both Finkelstein and Pappé have authored leading studies on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and are considered as eloquent advocates for a just and legal settlement of the conflict. Their Jewish background makes them especially troublesome for hardline defenders of Israel who frequently resort to labeling critics of being anti-Semites or even “self-hating Jews”. One might argue that such a distinction between “good” and “bad” Jews would in itself amount to a sort of anti-Semitism.

 

Update | Norman Finkelstein’s projected talk at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic on “Prospects of Peace in the Middle East, Current Situation and the Goldstone Report on Gaza” was cancelled by the Academy on very short notice.

SOURCE

Ali Fathollah-Nejad (2010) “Germany’s Fear of Finkelstein”, The Palestine Chronicle, 2 March

republished on Eurasia Review, 02/03

republished on uruknet.info, 02/03

republished on CounterCurrents.org, 03/03

republished on Information Clearing House, 03/03

▪ republished as “Germany’s Finkelstein Phobia” on Pacific Free Press, 04/03

▪ republished as “Silencing Critics of Israel: Germany’s Finkelstein Phobia”, Global Research, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, 04/03

republished on INCnews Global Intelligence, 04/03

republished on Political Theatrics, 04/03

slightly edited version published on Monthly Review Webzine, 01/03 (top story of 1 & 2 Mar.)

▪ republished on the website of Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP), 10/03.

IN FRENCH |Finkelstein fiche la trouille à une certaine Allemagne”, trans. M. Charbonnier, Palestine – Solidarité, 04/03

republished as “La phobie Finkelstein en Allemagne“, Mondialisation.ca, Montreal: Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation, 04/03

republished as “L’Allemagne a peur de Finkelstein“, trans. M. Charbonnier, edit. F. Giudice, Tlaxcala, 05/03.

IN ITALIAN |Zittire i critici di Israele: La fobia della Germania de Norman Finkelstein“, Arianna Editrice, trans. A. Carancini, 07/03

republished on Global Research, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, 08/03.

IN CZECH |Německé obavy z Finkelsteina a umlčování kritiky Izraele”, Outsider Media, 08/03.

IN JAPANESE | In excerpts.

About the article | “Germany’s Finkelstein Phobia” by Ali Fathollah-Nejad touches on the background of a series of cancellations of projected talks by the renowned scholar on the Israel/Palestine conflict Norman Finkelstein in Germany.

Collateral Damages of Smart Sanctions on Iran | Unkluge Kollateralschäden „smarter Sanktionen“ | Les dommages collatéraux des « sanctions ciblées »

PRAISE

»excellent« (Noam Chomsky)

 

For French and German versions, please scroll down.

The prospects for democracy, socio-economic development, and conflict resolution will suffer if the West continues to rely on punitive measures

This time, the warmongers’silly season found its apogée in U.S. neo-conservative Daniel Pipes’ advice to Obama to “bomb Iran,” which appeared shortly after Tony Blair, having outlined why he helped invade Iraq, remarked ominously, “We face the same problem about Iran today.” The Chilcot Inquiry in the United Kingdom on how the Iraq War was launched ironically coincided with a considerable military build-up in the Persian Gulf region. All this occurred amidst the continued struggle of Iran’s civil rights movement and proclamations of Western leaders to be in support of the latter’s efforts. But is there any evidence for this?

In contradistinction to war, sanctions are widely portrayed as necessary, almost healthy medicine to bring about change in the opponent’s policies. However, as the history of the West–Iran conflict proves, sanctions have rather the state of crisis alive than contributed to its resolution. Nonetheless, Western governments do not seem to have lost their dubious fascination for them.

As the call for “crippling sanctions” became morally questionable when last summer the impressive Green wave shook the streets of Tehran for fear of wrecking the same, today the benign sounding “smart” or “targeted” sanctions are on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Yet, a close look reveals a great deal of wishful thinking as to the effects of such sanctions.

Gigantic dimensions of “smart sanctions”

“Smart sanctions”, it is claimed, are a magic wand with which to decapitate evil. In the Iranian case, evil is being identified with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Originally a defense organization erected to counter Iraqi aggression in the 1980s, the Guardians have developed into an expansive socio-politico-economic conglomerate which is believed to possess unrivalled economic and political power in today’s Islamic Republic.

As we are told, “smart sanctions” shall target the Guardians’ grip on the Iranian power structure. The much neglected difficulty here – though it is widely acknowledged that the bulk of Iranian economy is now in the hands of the Guardians – is that in the end millions of civilians connected to these wide-ranging sectors thought to be controlled by the Guardians will be affected. Seen in this light, the gigantic dimension of these alleged “smart sanctions” comes to the fore.

Moreover, so-called “crippling sanctions” that target petrol supply to Iran are still en route. In anticipation of those U.S. unilateral sanctions, the world’s largest insurance companies have announced their retreat from Iran. This concerns both the financial and shipping sectors, and affects petrol supplies to Iran which imports 40 percent of its needs. Also three giant oil traders ended supplies to Iran, which amounted to half of Tehran’s imports. Needless to say, such sanctions ultimately harm the population. To add, a complete implementation thereof – i.e. preventing Asian competitors to step in – would require a naval blockade which amounts to an act of war.

Crippling the ordinary population

As stressed by civil society figures and economists, the price of sanctions is being paid by the Iranian population at large. The Iranian economy – manufacturing, agriculture, bank and financial sectors etc. – has been hurt from almost three decades of sanctions. Even today, businesses cannot easily obtain much needed goods on the international market to continue production and must often pay above-standard prices. Moreover, the scientific community has faced discrimination in areas of research as has Iran’s technological advances been slowed down.

Reflecting the dangers sanctions pose to the Green Movement, last fall Mir-Hossein Mousavi stated: “We are opposed to any types of sanctions against our nation.” The same was recently uttered by his fellow opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi in an interview with Corriere della Serra.

Meanwhile a more fundamental problem remains – hardly acknowledged by many proponents who succumb to the adventurous illusion of having a say in the design and implementation of sanctions: They are mainly designed by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), introduced to the U.S. Congress and finally implemented by the Treasury Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Leveyan AIPAC confidant. Along this process, the potential suffering by Iran’s civil society hardly plays a role.

Sanctions – either “crippling” or “smart” – ultimately harm ordinary citizens. “Smart sanctions” is as much of an oxymoron as “smart weapons” which supposedly by “surgical strikes” only take out evil components. Indeed, much as in the case of their militaristic brothers-in-sprit, in the end the “collateral damages” of “smart sanctions” remain dominant.

A futile political instrument in today’s world

More generally, in an increasingly multipolar globalized world, sanctions imposed upon energy-rich countries are basically futile as an effective policy tool. Too numerous are business-driven actors that are only too happy to jump in. Thus, Chinese, Russian, and even U.S. companies (acting via Dubai) have hugely benefitted from the European, U.S.-pressured withdrawal from the Iranian market.

Thus, sanctions – a medicine with which Western policy-circles are so obsessed with – are not a cure but a slow poison applied to the civil society and thus the civil rights movement. Sanctions as prototype of economic warfare in concert with the seasonal flaring-up of war-mongering are a dangerous mix. The deafening “drums of war” continue to bang upon the beating heart of Iran’s civil society.

Sanctions and threats of war: Poisonous for democratic development

All this suggests that sanctions are perhaps a fig leaf for other agendas. For, in contrast to Western proclamations, sanctions do harm the civil society while cementing the position of hardliners. Iran’s middle class as a result will be affected by this further isolation of the country as sanctions punish honest traders and reward corrupt ones. The Guardians with their assumed 60 harbors at the Persian Gulf control the bulk of imports and sanctions will only bolster the trend of flourishing “black channels”.

One might indeed argue that the not-so-unconscious “collateral damage” of never-ending sanctions is any meaningful transition to more democracy in Iran – a prospect which would set an uncomfortable precedent for the West’s authoritarian friends in the region.

What next: “Surgical strikes” or serious diplomacy?

At the very least, the unending story of sanctions bears testimony to Western leaders’ commitment to uphold “credibility” in the face of adverse conditions as much as to imposing their will on Iran. A futile exercise – even a dangerous one – if one begins to contemplate the aftermath of “smart sanctions” being imposed: Will the next desperate move entail “surgical strikes”?

Instead of going on believing that sanctions will one day develop their desired effects, it is high time to put the brakes. Hence, the only way forward would be to adopt a set of policies that would disarm hardliners of all sides whose business flourishes in the vicious cycle of enmity. It is only by détente that grist to the mills of radicalism can be removed – and a sustainable de-militarization of Iranian politics attained. Revoking existing sanctions on goods for civilian use could work wonders that would shake the very fundaments of confrontational postures.

Despite all frivolous claims, the diplomatic route has not been exhausted. Indeed, we are far from it. Since the core problem remains the “security dilemma” in the region, it would be wise for the West to call upon Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The transatlantic “coercive strategy” vis-à-vis Iran – as it is accurately described in Diplomatic Studies – must be suspended for it undermines prospects for peace and development towards democracy.

SOURCE

Ali Fathollah-Nejad (2010) “Collateral Damages of Smart Sanctions on Iran“, Informed Comment, guest editorial, 12 March;

▪ republished as “Collateral Damage of Iran Sanctions“, The ColdType Reader, No. 46 (May), pp. 56–57;

republished on Monthly Review Webzine, 12/03;

republished on Europe’s World, 15/03;

republished on Payvand Iran News, 16/03;

republished on e-International Relations (e-IR), 19/04

▪ republished as “How Smart are Sanctions?“, Iranian.com, 15/03;

▪ republished as “Sanctions on Iran: What are the Implications?“, Global Research, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, 16/03;

▪ abridged version published as “Collateral Damages of Smart Sanctions“, Truthout, op-ed, 23/03.

IN CZECH |Jaké jsou důsledky sankcí na Írán?“, trans. P. Kreuz, Eastbound.cz, 17/03.

 

REACTIONS

Armen Gabrielian (2010) ‘US Collusion with Saddam Hussein and Effects of Humanitarian Sanctions on Iraq‘, Examiner.com (U.S.), 5 April:

“As President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and most member of the US Congress vociferously demand the imposition of new sanctions on Iran on a daily basis, it is instructive to review the history of the relationship between the US and Iran and to study what the effect of the new sanctions might be. The new sanctions are purported to be ‘smart sanctions’ and ‘crippling sanctions.’ However, as noted in a report entitled, ‘Collateral Damages of Smart Sanctions on Iran‘, such sanctions will most likely hurt the ordinary people of Iran, not its repressive Government leaders. Even the key champions of the so-called green movement, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, have stated publicly that they are opposed to any new sanctions on Iran. In an earlier era, during the Clinton Administration, a similar idea was proposed and implemented through the UN Oil-for-Food Program. […]”

 

* * *

 

Les dommages collatéraux des « sanctions ciblées » contre l’Iran

En s’obstinant à infliger des « sanctions ciblées» à l’Iran, l’Occident assombrit les perspectives de démocratisation, de développement économique et de résolution des conflits

Le retour saisonnier, sur la scène internationale, des bellicistes a culminé début février avec l’injonction à bombarder l’Iran du « néocon » Daniel Pipes à Barack Obama « afin de sauver sa présidence ». Peu auparavant Tony Blair avait encore glissé, lors de son exposé sur les raisons ayant justifié l’intervention militaire de son pays en Irak, une phrase inquiétante : « nous sommes aujourd’hui face au même problème en Iran ». Ainsi, il a prononcé pas moins de 58 fois le nom « Iran » lors de cette allocution. La commission « Chilcot »  en Grande Bretagne, enquêtant sur les évènements liés à la guerre en Irak, a cyniquement coïncidé avec un important renforcement militaire américain dans la région du golfe Persique. Et pour finir, il a été rapporté que des centaines de bombes anti-bunker avaient été embarquées en Californie à destination de l’île de Diego Garcia dans l’océan Indien, d’où étaient parties les deux dernières attaques aériennes contre l’Irak. Tout cela a exactement coïncidé avec la poursuite de la lutte du mouvement iranien pour les droits civiques et les proclamations des hommes politiques occidentaux qu’ils soutenaient celle-là. Mais quelles preuves existe-t-il de cela ?

Contrairement à la guerre, les sanctions sont très largement présentées comme un remède nécessaire et franchement salubre, permettant de pousser un adversaire politique à changer de cap. Cependant l’évolution du conflit irano-occidental prouve que les sanctions ont pérennisé la crise plutôt que de contribuer à en sortir. En dépit de cela, les gouvernements occidentaux semblent toujours en proie à une véritable fascination pour des sanctions.

L’appel initial à des « sanctions paralysantes » s’est tu dans un premier temps l’été dernier, lorsqu’une impressionnante vague « verte » a déferlé dans les rues de Téhéran, non pas en dernier lieu par crainte de « paralyser » cette dernière. Mais aujourd’hui de telles sanctions sont sur toutes les lèvres. On accole simplement aux mesures punitives désormais envisagées des adjectifs lénifiants tels  qu’« avisées » ou « ciblées». En y regardant de plus près, on s’aperçoit qu’on prend en fait largement ses désirs pour des réalités.

Le gigantesque impact de « sanctions ciblées »

Des « sanctions avisées » seraient, prétend-on, un remède miracle pour décapiter le mal. Dans le cas iranien, le mal est désormais identifié avec le Corps des gardiens de la révolution islamique. À l’origine créés pour défendre le pays contre l’agression irakienne dans les années 80, les Gardiens se sont transformés en un conglomérat expansif socio-politico-économique auxquels on attribue un pouvoir hors pair dans la République islamique actuelle.

On maintient que les « sanctions avisées » devraient affecter de manière ciblée la position des Gardiens au sein de la structure du pouvoir iranien. On néglige cependant la conséquence logique du fait qu’une grande partie de l’économie iranienne est aux mains des Gardiens : ce sont les millions de civils et leurs familles dont le revenu d’existence est lié aux vastes secteurs de l’économie détenus par les Gardiens qui seraient avant tout atteints. On devine alors l’ampleur gigantesque d’une démarche prétendument ponctuelle de telles mesures punitives.

Les prétendues « sanctions paralysantes », qui doivent limiter en  premier lieu les livraisons d’essence à l’Iran, sont actuellement en préparation aux Etats-Unis. Dans l’attente de ces sanctions unilatérales américaines les plus grandes compagnies mondiales d’assurances ont déjà annoncé leur retrait d’Iran. De même, les principaux fournisseurs mondiaux d’essence qui couvraient encore récemment la moitié des importations iraniennes ont cessé leurs livraisons. Ceci fait monter le prix des importations d’essence de l’Iran qui doit importer presque la moitié de sa consommation à cause de ses capacités de raffinerie insuffisantes. Là encore c’est la population qui paie l’addition. Ajoutons qu’une application totale de ces sanctions impliquerait un blocus maritime, ce qui équivaudrait à un acte de guerre.

Paralyser la population civile

Ainsi des personnalités de la société civile iranienne et des économistes le soulignent, c’est la la population civile qui paie le prix des sanctions. L’économie iranienne – de la production industrielle jusqu’aux secteurs bancaire et financier – a déjà été fortement endommagée par trois décennies de sanctions. Aujourd’hui encore les entreprises ont la plus grande peine à maintenir leurs affaires, car elles doivent compter avec des restrictions dans l’approvisionnement en biens indispensables et sont souvent obligées, pour les obtenir, de payer un prix plus élevé. Les faillites et les licenciements sont une conséquence fréquente de ces difficultés et approfondissent la crise économique du pays. En outre, la communauté scientifique souffre de difficultés d’accès aux dernières conquêtes de la recherche international, tandis que le développement technique est également freiné.

Les risques que présentent les sanctions pour la société civile ont été abordé par le chef de l’opposition Mir-Hossein Moussavi : « Les sanctions n’auraient pas d’effet sur le gouvernement, elles causeraient plutôt un mal sérieux à la population […]. Nous refusons toute sanction envers notre nation », a-t-il déclaré très clairement en automne dernier. Son associé Mehdi Karroubi s’est exprimé dans le même sens dans une interview accordée au Corriere della Sera.

Un problème de fond demeure, qui n’attire guère l’attention de tous ceux qui ont succombé à la dangereuse illusion qu’ils pourraient avoir leur mot à dire dans la définition et la mise en œuvre des sanctions contre l’Iran : c’est que celles-ci sont élaborées essentiellement par le lobby pro-israélien aux Etats-Unis – l’American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – et sont la plupart du temps soumises au Congrès pour la forme, pour être ensuite mises en œuvre par le sous-secrétaire d’Etat au terrorisme et au renseignement financier (Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence) Stuart Levey – un homme de confiance de l’AIPAC. Dans ce processus, les retombées potentielles sur le peuple iranien ne jouent pratiquement aucun rôle.

Les sanctions – qu’elles soient « paralysantes » ou « avisées » – nuisent en fin de compte à la population. Des « sanctions avisées » sont ainsi un oxymore comparable  aux « bombes intelligentes » qui sauraient prétendument ne cibler que les objectifs à détruire, au moyen de « frappes chirurgicales ». Et comme pour leurs consœurs  militaires ce sont en définitive les « dommages collatéraux» des « sanctions avisées » qui l’emportent.  Les trouver « avisées » ne peut donc être considérer que comme du pur cynisme.

Une arme politique émoussée dans le monde d’aujourd’hui

En outre, dans un monde mondialisé et de plus en plus multipolaire, les sanctions s’avèrent n’être qu’une arme émoussée, surtout lorsqu’elles visent des pays riches en réserves d’énergie. Les acteurs guidés par leurs seuls intérêts économiques ne manquent pas, trop heureux d’occuper le vide commercial ainsi créé. C’est ainsi que des firmes chinoises, russes et même américaines – agissant via Dubaï – ont largement profité du retrait des concurrents européens sous la pression de Washington.

Devenues une quasi-obsession dans les milieux politiques en Occident, les sanctions ne sont pas un remède efficace menant à la guérison, mais agissent plutôt comme un lent poison administré à la société civile iranienne et à son mouvement démocratique. Prototype de guerre économique, les sanctions conjointement avec les appels réguliers à la guerre constituent un mélange explosif. Les tambours guerriers, qui se font entendre à nouveau, battent à nouveau sur le cœur battant de la société civile iranienne.

Le développement démocratique empoisonné par les sanctions et les menaces de guerre

Contrairement à la doxa politique, les sanctions nuisent en fait à la société civile et consolident la position des faucons. La classe moyenne iranienne est touchée par cet isolement qui n’en finit pas, d’autant plus que les sanctions atteignent les commerçants honnêtes et profitent aux corrompus. Les Gardiens, qui contrôlent vraisemblablement 60 ports dans le golfe Persique, par lesquels passe l’essentiel des importations, peuvent poursuivre leurs affaires, souvent par des « canaux douteux ».

Et c’est pourquoi l’un des « dommages collatéraux » pas tout à fait caché de ces sanctions sans fin est de faire obstacle à une transition démocratique durable en Iran. En fait cette dernière représenterait un risque pour le statu quo régional, et notamment pour la stabilité des autocraties de la région, alliées de l’Occident.

Que faire ? «Frappes chirurgicales» ou une véritable diplomatie ?

L’histoire infinie des sanctions a au moins le mérite d’illustrer les tentatives quasi désespérées des dirigeants politiques occidentaux à imposer leur volonté à l’Iran : On se donne ainsi l’impression de « faire » quand même quelque chose, afin d’avoir au moins l’air « crédibles ». Une entreprise somme toute vouée à l’échec et même dangereuse. Car il est fort à craindre que dans la foulée des « sanctions avisées » l’appel aux « frappes chirurgicales » se fasse finalement rapidement entendre.

Au lieu de s’abandonner à l’espérance illusoire que les sanctions produiront l’effet souhaité dans un avenir pas trop lointain, on devrait y mettre un terme une fois pour toutes. La seule issue consisterait à avoir le courage d’une politique capable de désarmer les faucons de tous bords, dont les affaires prospèrent admirablement dans le cercle vicieux de l’animosité. Ce n’est que par une vraie politique de détente qu’on cessera de manière durable d’apporter de l’eau au moulin des radicalismes – et que l’on contribuera en prime à un renoncement durable à la politique sécuritaire en Iran. Lever les sanctions déjà existantes, qui s’en prennent souvent aux secteurs civils, pourrait faire des miracles et ébranler considérablement les fondements des acteurs qui poussent à la confrontation.

En dépit d’affirmations hâtives, la voie diplomatique est loin d’être épuisée ; bien au contraire. Une politique de détente devrait permettre de renoncer à des mesures punitives et à la menace de guerre, et au lieu de celles-là, par le biais de mesures qui créeraient un climat de confiance réciproque, permettrait une solution équitable des défis sécuritaires qui fragilisent la région. Le problème central se trouve en fait dans le dilemme de la sécurité à l’échelle régionale. L’Occident serait donc bien avisé s’efforcer résolument de contraindre Israël – puissance nucléaire majeure – au régime de non-prolifération. On devrait donc mettre fin à la « diplomatie coercitive » envers l’Iran – comme on la désigne avec pertinence dans les Études diplomatiques – car elle assombrit les perspectives de paix et celles du processus de démocratisation.

SOURCE

Ali Fathollah-Nejad (2010) “Les dommages collatéraux des « sanctions ciblées » contre l’Iran” [The Collateral Damages of “Targeted Sanctions” against Iran], À l’encontre: Revue politique virtuelle, Switzerland, 11 May;

republished on Mondialisation.ca, Canada, 15/05;

▪ slightly abridged version published as Sanctions contre l’Iran, sanctions contre les Iraniens [Sanctions against Iran, Sanctions against Iranians], Mediapart, France, 14/05.

* * *

Unkluge Kollateralschäden “smarter Sanktionen” gegen Iran

Getrübte Aussichten auf Demokratie, sozio-ökonomischer Entwicklung und Konfliktlösung, wenn der Westen weiterhin auf Strafmaßnahmen setzt

Das saisonale Aufflackern der Kriegstreiber fand ihren Höhepunkt in dem Aufruf des US-Neokonservativen Daniel Pipes an Barack Obama, Iran zu bombardieren, um seine Präsidentschaft zu retten. Kurz zuvor hatte Tony Blair – als er ausführte, wie er dabei half, den Irak zu überfallen – noch ominös bemerkt, dass „wir heute beim Iran vor dem selben Problem stehen“. Und ganze 58 Male führte er den Namen Iran im Munde. Der Chilcot-Untersuchungsausschuss in Großbritannien über die Ereignisse rund um den Irak-Krieg fiel zynischerweise mit einer beachtlichen militärischen Aufrüstung in der Region des Persischen Golfes zusammen. Zuletzt wurde gemeldet, dass hunderte Bunker brechende Bomben von Kalifornien auf die Insel Diego Garcia im Indischen Ozean verschifft wurden, von wo aus die letzten zwei Angriffe auf den Irak geflogen wurden. All dies ereignet sich inmitten der fortgesetzten Anstrengungen der iranischen Bürgerrechtsbewegung und Verlautbarungen westlicher Politiker diese unterstützungswert  zu halten. Doch gibt es Anzeichen für Letzteres?

Im Gegensatz zu Krieg werden Sanktionen weithin als notwendige, nachgerade gesunde Medizin betrachtet, mit der ein Kurswechsel beim politischen Opponenten erwirkt werden kann. Die Geschichte des Konfliktes zwischen dem Westen und Iran bescheinigt jedoch, dass Sanktionen eher die Krise am Leben hielten, als dass sie zu ihrer Beilegung beitrugen. Dessen ungeachtet scheinen westliche Regierungen eine regelrechte Faszination für Sanktionen nicht eingebüßt zu haben.

Der anfängliche Ruf nach “lähmenden Sanktionen” verstummte zunächst, als im letzten Sommer die eindrucksvolle „grüne“ Welle die Straßen Teherans bedeckte, nicht zuletzt aus der Besorgnis heraus, ebenjene zu lähmen. Heute sind Sanktionen wieder in aller Munde, nur schmücken die gutartig klingenden Adjektive „klug“ oder „gezielt“ die nunmehr angestrebten Strafmaßnahmen. Ein genauer Blick jedoch lässt hierbei eine gehörige Portion Wunschdenken zutage treten.

Gigantische Dimension „smarter Sanktionen“

„Smarte Sanktionen“, so wird behauptet, seien ein Zaubermittel, womit das Böse enthauptet würde. Im Falle Irans wird nun das Böse mit den Revolutionsgarden identifiziert. Ursprünglich zur Verteidigung des Landes gegen den irakischen Angriff in den 80er Jahren errichtet, haben sich die Garden zu einem expansiven gesellschaftlichen, politischen und wirtschaftlichen Konglomerat entwickelt, denen eine unvergleichliche Macht in der heutigen Islamischen Republik zugesprochen wird.

„Kluge Sanktionen“ sollen demnach gezielt die Position der Garden innerhalb der iranischen Machtstruktur beschädigen. Vernachlässigt wird jedoch die logische Folgerung aus der Tatsache, dass sich ein Großteil der iranischen Wirtschaft in den Händen der Garden befindet: Die in die Hunderttausende gehenden Zivilisten und ihre Familien, deren Auskommen mit den weitgefächerten Wirtschaftsbranchen der Garden verbunden ist, würden ebenso getroffen. Dies lässt die gigantische Dimension des angeblich punktuellen Vorhabens solcher Strafmaßnahmen erahnen.

So genannte „lähmende Sanktionen“, welche zuvorderst Irans Benzinzufuhr beschneiden sollen, werden in den USA derzeit auf den Weg gebracht. In Erwartung solcher unilateraler US-Sanktionen haben die weltgrößten Versicherungskonzerne ihren bereits Rückzug aus Iran angekündigt. Ebenfalls haben weltweit führende Benzinhändler ihre Lieferungen, die vor Kurzem noch die Hälfte iranischer Einfuhren abdeckten, eingestellt. Dies betrifft in empfindlichem Maße sowohl den Finanz- und Schiffssektor und verteuert die Benzineinfuhren Irans, der fast die Hälfte seines Verbrauchs importieren muss. Auch hierbei ist die Bevölkerung die Leidtragende. Hinzu kommt, dass eine vollständige Implementierung solcher Handelssanktionen eine Meeresblockade notwendig machen würde, was jedoch einem Kriegsakt gleichkäme.

Die Zivilbevölkerung lähmen

Wie Persönlichkeiten aus der iranischen Zivilgesellschaft und auch Ökonomen betonen, wird der Preis von Sanktionen von der breiten Bevölkerung getragen. Irans Wirtschaft – von der Produktion, der Landwirtschaft bis hin zum Banken- und Finanzsektor – wurde bereits durch drei Jahrzehnte Sanktionsgeschichte in Mitleidenschaft gezogen. Noch heute können Unternehmen mit Schwierigkeiten ihre Geschäfte aufrechterhalten, da sie bei der Beschaffung notwendiger Güter mit Einschränkungen zu rechnen haben und nicht selten gezwungen sind, höhere Preise zu zahlen. Des Weiteren leidet auch die wissenschaftliche Community durch den eingeschränkten Zugang zu Forschungserrungenschaften weltweit, während technologische Entwicklungen ausgebremst werden.

Die Risiken, die Sanktionen auch für die Zivilgesellschaft darstellen, hat Oppositionsführer Mir-Hossein Mussavi vergangenen Herbst in einer Erklärung zur Sprache gebracht: „Sanktionen würden nicht gegen die Regierung wirken – eher würden sie nur einem Volk ernsthaft Leid zufügen, das großes Unheil seitens seiner eigenen Staatsmänner davongetragen hat. Wir lehnen jede Art von Sanktionen gegen unsere Nation ab,“ schrieb er unmissverständlich. Ebenso äußerte sich sein Mitstreiter Mehdi Karroubi kürzlich in einem Interview gegenüber Corriere della Serra.

Unterdessen verbleibt ein grundsätzliches Problem, was kaum die notwendige Beachtung findet, vor allem von jenen, die der abenteuerlichen Illusion erliegen sind, die Ausgestaltung und Implementierung von Sanktionen mit bestimmen zu können: Iran-Sanktionen werden hauptsächlich von der American Israeli Public Affairs Committeekonzipiert, dem US-Kongress in den meisten Fällen zum bloßen Durchwinken vorgelegt und schließlich im Finanzministerium vom Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial IntelligenceStuart Leveyein AIPAC-Vertrauter – implementiert. Im Zuge dieses ganzen Prozesses spielen die für die iranische Zivilgesellschaft potentiell schädlichen Folgen kaum eine Rolle. (AIPAC)

Sanktionen – ob “lähmend” oder “smart” – fügen letzten Endes der Bevölkerung Schaden zu. “Kluge Sanktionen” sind ebenso ein Oxymoron wie “intelligente Bomben”, welche angeblich in gezielter Manier mit „chirurgischen Schlägen“ ausschließlich die üblen Komponenten ausnehmen. Und wie ihre militaristischen Geschwister im Geiste überwiegen schließlich die „Kollateralschäden“ „smarter Sanktionen“. Diese als „klug“ zu empfinden, kann denn nur als purer Zynismus gelten.

Eine stumpfe politische Waffe in der heutigen Welt

Darüber hinaus entpuppen sich Sanktionen in einer globalisierten, zunehmend multipolaren Welt als stumpfe politische Waffe, zumal wenn sie noch auf energiereiche Länder abzielen. Zahlreich sind jene durch Profit gelenkten Akteure, die nur zu froh darüber sind, das von anderen hinterlassene Vakuum zu füllen. Somit haben bislang chinesische, russische, sogar US-amerikanische (via Dubai agierende) Firmen beträchtlich durch den allmählichen, unter Washingtoner Druck erfolgten, Rückzug europäischer Wettbewerber profitiert.

Die in manchen westlichen Politikkreisen nahezu obsessiv betrachteten Sanktionen sind keine Heilung versprechende Medizin, sondern wirken eher wie ein langsames Gift, die der iranischen Zivilgesellschaft und ihrer Demokratiebewegung zugeführt wird. Als Prototyp wirtschaftlicher Kriegsführung stellen Sanktionen gemeinsam mit dem saisonal aufflammenden Ruf nach Krieg eine gefährliche Mischung dar. Die nun wieder vernehmbaren Kriegstrommeln schlagen wieder einmal auf das pulsierende Herz der iranischen Zivilgesellschaft.

Sanktionen und Kriegsdrohungen: Gift für demokratische Entwicklung

Im Gegensatz zu politischen Bekenntnissen schaden Sanktionen der Zivilgesellschaft, während die Stellung der Hardliner zementiert wird. Irans Mittelschicht wird durch diese weitere Isolation des Landes getroffen, zumal Sanktionen ehrliche Händler bestrafen, korrupte wiederum belohnen. Die Garden, denen man die Kontrolle von 60 Häfen am Persischen Golf zurechnet, durch denen sie ein Gros der Importe abwickeln, können weiterhin auf blühende Geschäfte durch oftmals “dunkle Kanäle” setzen.

So ist der nicht ganz versteckte “Kollateralschaden” der nimmer enden wollenden Sanktionen ein nachhaltiger Übergang zu Demokratie in Iran. Letzterer würde für den Status-Quo in der Region samt seiner mit dem Westen befreundeten Autokratien ein herrschaftspolitisches Risiko darstellen.

Was nun? „Chirurgische Schläge“ oder ernsthafte Diplomatie?

Die unendliche Sanktions-Geschichte spiegelt denn auch den nahezu verzweifelten Versuch westlicher Politiker wider, im Angesicht widriger Umstände ihren Willen Iran aufzuzwingen, ihrer eigenen „Glaubwürdigkeit“ wegen doch etwas „zu tun“. Ein alles in allem vergebliches, sogar gefährliches, Unternehmen. Denn nicht zuletzt wird zu befürchten sein, dass im Anschluss an „klugen Sanktionen“, der Ruf nach „chirurgischen Militärschlägen“ nicht lange auf sich warten lässt.

Anstatt der illusorischen Hoffnung weiterhin zu erliegen, dass eines nicht allzu fernen Tages Sanktionen ihre erwünschte Entfaltung ausbreiten, müsste man ein für allemal die Bremse ziehen. Der einzige Ausweg wäre, eine Politik zu beherzigen, die in der Lage wäre, Hardliner aller Seiten zu entwaffnen, deren Geschäft in dem Teufelskreis der Feindseligkeit nur allzu gut gedeiht. Nur durch eine Entspannungspolitik kann man das Wasser auf den Mühlen der Radikalismen nachhaltig abtragen – und überdies zu einer nachhaltigen Entversicherheitlichung iranischer Politik beitragen. Existierende Sanktionen, die oft zivile Güter betreffen, aufzuheben, könnte Wunder bewirken und erheblich die Fundamente konfrontationslustiger Akteure erschüttern.

Trotz unreifer Behauptungen, hat sich der diplomatische Weg nicht erschöpft. Man ist ganz im Gegenteil noch lange davon entfernt. Zumal ein Kernproblem im regionalen Sicherheitsdilemma besteht, wäre es in der Tat wirklich klug, wenn sich der Westen ernsthaft bemühte, die Atommacht Israel an das nukleare Nichtverbreitungsregime zu binden. Die transatlantische “Zwangsdiplomatie” gegenüber Iran – wie man sie in Diplomatischen Studien zutreffend benennt – sollte somit eingestellt werden, da sie Aussichten auf Frieden und eine Entwicklung hin zur Demokratie trübt.

QUELLE

Ali Fathollah-Nejad (2010) Unkluge Kollateralschäden „smarter Sanktionen“ gegen Iran, Telepolis, 23. März;

erschienen in FriedensJournal, Nr. 3/2010 (Mai), S. 6–7.

auch veröffentlicht auf ZNet Deutschland, 23.03.

auch veröffentlicht auf Global Research, deutsche Site, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, 29.04.

A conversation with Feridun Zaimoğlu: “You’ve got to swing your hips!” | Feridun Zaimoğlu im Gespräch mit Ali Fathollah-Nejad: “Man muss mit den Hüften schwingen!”

PRAISE

»a refreshingly vivacious interview«

(Carl H. FrederikssonCo-founder & editor-in-chief, Eurozine; president, Eurozine – Verein zur Vernetzung von Kulturmedien; Permanent Fellow, Institute for Media and Communication Policy, Berlin)

 
German author Feridun Zaimoglu, pioneer of the “Kanak” school of fiction (the migrant underworld described in the vernacular of its young male protagonists), has begun narrating from the Muslim woman’s perspective. In his latest novel Leyla, a Turkish woman tells about her life in Germany; while in a new work for theatre entitled Schwarze Jungfrauen (Black Virgins), young Muslim women talk openly about sex. In March 2007, Zaimoglu ruffled feathers when he gave up his place at an official conference on Muslims in Germany in protest at the non-attendance of young ordinary Muslims and criticized feminist former-Muslims for demonizing young Muslim women. With characteristic verve, he explained to Ali Fathollah-Nejad why the discourse in Germany operates double values when it comes to the questions of multiculturalism and integration.
 

Ali Fathollah-Nejad: Following your work as a reader, there’s one shift in your writing I find particularly interesting. One daily paper said of Kanak Sprak[1] that there’s an “incredibly hard beat” behind it. Reading your new stories – and also your new novel Leyla – this beat has become a melody. What led to this change in your “writer’s dance”?

Feridun Zaimoglu: I really enjoy writing from different perspectives. It wasn’t just Kanak Sprak, but also Abschaum[2] that made my name. I slipped into the role of a suburban gangster. At the time I used to wear my hair a bit longer and for a few years I only made appearances in a suit. Anyone who saw me always thought “What a joke! He reckons he’s writing about the life of a junkie, the life of a gangster. But that’s his own life!” So, I really like taking on different roles. With every book I write I look at how I can do justice to the person. In Leyla I just felt like telling the story of an ordinary woman who ends up in Germany. And then I almost couldn’t help making the book quieter. And that’s when I’d like to think that I discovered the right narrative tone.

AF-N: You read from Leyla and people ask you “Is that how things really are?” In a way you’re a kind of cultural mediator, you explain to many Germans aspects of foreign cultures that they don’t really understand, or at least you provide a way into those cultures.[3] That clearly entails a massive responsibility. How do you find that?

FZ: Responsibility! Responsibility? Either you can take pleasure in the whole thing, or you can sit there with buttocks clenched. Open the book, read, get excited, and then come the questions. Cultural mediation? Yeah, well, if what I write has this added value in some way, then great. But that’s not an intention of mine. It’s all about telling stories. But “cultural mediator”, “cultural broker”, good God! I got labelled “the Malcolm X of the Turks”, “the Rudi Dutschke of the immigrant Germans”, and then some people got cross when I said “German, enough said!” They don’t know what goddamn time it is! They don’t know that this whole ethnic thing gets made into the object of political conflicts. This whole ethnic crap gets on my nerves. And then people look at me if I say “German”! I know that over ninety per cent are thinking “You look like what you look like. With your name? Mate, with your face? No one but you is gonna believe that!” I couldn’t care less about that. What’s the one thing that matters? The way I see myself! I’m not dependent on other people’s opinions, but I am a sucker for the limelight. I love being on stage and vanishing into these roles instead of pushing my own boring life to the forefront of what I do. And that’s when things start buzzing…

AF-N: Kanak Sprak performed an important function at the time. You were seen on numerous TV debates on racism with long hair and a smart beard. You were very political, very subversive and radical in your opinions. What triggered this shift towards being a writer who devotes himself to classical themes, rather than the kind of underworld themes that you started out from?

FZ: Have I really changed? I think it is a political act to tell the story of those women who – and I don’t want to draw representative figures here – didn’t appear in those public debates, or even in the political discussions. When I was writing Kanak Sprak, I said that I wanted to make visible those people who don’t get a chance to speak. My heroes and heroines are not middle-class. That’s because what I find exciting – what seethes, ferments, grows wild – I don’t see in Germany in the middle class, in the bourgeois. I find the world of the unsophisticated – sometimes negative as it is, but even so, alive – in the world of the white trash and in the ethnoproletariat. I don’t want to write about middle-class people; I don’t get this discreet, decadent charm that the bourgeoisie are supposed to have. And nothing’s changed there. It would be a great shame if at 41 I were still playing the neighbourhood radical, fist clenched, yelling “Kanak Attack”[4]. I don’t think I’ve started to behave myself. I think it’s more that I’m not making it so easy for myself anymore.

AF-N: Do you think that other people in Germany have a responsibility to write as radically as you have done?

FZ: But of course. How vain, how stupid, how ignorant it would be for me to say: “That’s what I wrote then and because I wrote it, that’s that.” The reason I’m so positive is that there really are a great deal of radical approaches, because there are loads of people out there, in the cultural sphere as well, who really are pretty smart and are pushing the envelope. I haven’t de-radicalized! Some people will be surprised to hear that.

AF-N: You did have a pioneering role. Looking back, there’s been a wave Germans with a foreign background in the cultural scene who have tried to push their way into the public eye – the film director Fatih Akin being a prominent example. What do you think of this movement?

FZ: Shake, rattle and roll! I think a lot of it, I really do. There are a whole lot of great talents out there, great people. Something’s caught fire. And I think it’s going to get pretty intense over the next few years, because the fights over allocations and the rat race for jobs and training vacancies are getting fiercer, and because even schools and universities are geared towards selection according to historical and cultural criteria. Who gets the big prizes and who gets excluded? These mechanisms persist. Well, one of these days it’s going to be “Wakey wakey!” The state is retreating from the cultural and social sectors and private individuals can’t fill the void, and that means social conflicts in the future. There’s a time bomb ticking away there.

AF-N: Doesn’t it make you sad that this discourse still exists? Nothing’s changed at all!

FZ: Absolutely right.

AF-N: What needs to be done in order to make this discourse crumble away, to change it – especially from the immigrant point of view?

FZ: I’m not an immigrant, I’m German! That’s the first step. You can start by choosing the right terms. It’s like slam poetry – who’s at the mike, who isn’t! It’s still a struggle for cultural hegemony. That’s not going to go away in ten years – not in 20, 30 or 40 years. But Germany is changing. Some people smile at me as if to say “Hey look, the Kanak guy’s written the leader in Die Zeit.[5] These idiots don’t know what they’re talking about! With all due respect, they haven’t got a clue. They haven’t understood the rules of cultural hegemony, because that’s a tough job, a hardcore job.

AF-N: Do you mean that radicalism is needed to change the discourse?

FZ: Radicalism bound by dogma is doomed to failure. It’s a kind of minority within a minority within a minority.

AF-N: So what about a progressive radicalism, one you used in Kanak Sprak by letting people speak, or by trying to speak on behalf of those who have no voice in the German public sphere?

FZ: Something many people may find intolerable is that there’s no uniform line. You’ve got to swing your hips! Opportunism is another thing. There are lots of people in politics who are opportunists. They’re the kind of party bores who have nothing better to do at parties than sit around and jabber. Then there are people who are on the dance floor. They’re moving their hips. It’s that simple. Either be in the thick of it, or stuff yourself with crisps on the sidelines and say “What a dull party!” It’s not the party that’s dull, it’s them. There’s a big difference. That’s how it is in politics.

AF-N: You just mentioned your article in Die Zeit. I’d like to move on to the situation in the media. There was all the fuss about the Rütli School.[6] I think you’ve contributed a great deal to the debate through your publications, but I still have the feeling that in the media in general there’s a certain atmosphere of inertia. I get the feeling that not a lot is changing. What’s your view?

FZ: I’ve given hundreds of readings in schools, mostly in Hauptschulen and in youth clubs. So these experiences are the basis for my views. One thing is that the three-tier school system is also subdivided according to ethnicity. There are the failures – who aren’t failures at all; dammit, I very nearly ended up in a special school. It’s true – I was that close to landing up there! Your typical Turk is generally seen as a PISA [7] failure and a playground yobbo. That stereotype exists. There’s a male problem going on, a problem with boys. This crap about male honour. If what that amounts to is some nasty coward who goes and shoots his sister, what do we do with him? There’s no straightforward answer to that. It’s different from case to case. You’ve got to look at it carefully, talk to people. I’m not surprised – the notion of a dominant German culture, a Leitkultur, the cartoon controversy, then Necla Kelek,[8] Seyran Ates,[9] and now there’s open season on all male, Muslim, immigrant adolescents. That’s why I say to people “Wakey wakey!” Did they think the class society no longer exists, or what? It still exists, and will continue to exist. And the ethnic factor is how the ruling class wants to look at it. It’s as simple as that. And anyone who comes along with their neoliberal crap, who stops thinking politically and starts looking at things ethnically, is behaving just like the ruling classes – and that includes the media and its movers and shakers. They talk about school and then they lay into the teachers. Yes – but if you thought politically, you would look at what is being done in schools. What funding has been slashed? What’s left in the pot? What’s happening on a day-to-day basis? That’s one thing. But the other thing is then also to say: “You know, guys, your honour, you can stick it up your immigrant arses. Your fucking male honour!” What is that? That is a crime. Those people are criminals. That’s how it needs to be discussed. The rightwingers always step in and say “Hey, they come from a different cultural background.” True, we mustn’t trivialize things that come from this different cultural sphere either. That would be idiotic. But nor should people play the white man by coming along as a feminist activist and to a certain extent shooting down these kids, then talking about religion and making their ethnic background the topic of discussion. These people are the white man’s little women. And these little women come and go and come and go. Here you might see the label “feminism”, there it’s “a particularly self-assured Green”, or whatever all these opportunists are called. You look at all that, but you must never stop looking at it politically. The political viewpoint rocks!

AF-N: But politics is only possible through participation. Yet in our society there aren’t that many people with a non-German background who take part in public discourse.

FZ: That’s changing.

AF-N: But it can only be changed through education?

FZ: It can be changed above all by means of the German language. For the sake of the children’s future we shouldn’t moan about German being compulsory. That’s yet another piece of ethno-nonsense. And then all these Turkish spokesmen come along, and these lefty liberals, all these jokers, and they tell us “Oh, but we can’t ask that of the children.” You twits! How much do you earn in a month? You’ve got it made. What is participation? Involvement starts from early childhood. When my parents couldn’t go through my homework with me at primary school, what are we supposed to say about that? That’s a built-in disadvantage right from the off. Yeah, so what? Did I cry? Did I hell! I fell for Petra at school and wanted to impress her. I wanted to stand out a bit by using classy German. You can’t say “Oi, mate!” to a woman! So what sources of motivation do people have? Politics is all well and good, but when the political class ignores the human situation, it gets detached and loses touch with reality. You’ve always got to look at what’s going on at the bottom!

AF-N: Is Leyla in Wonderland just a working title? Or is Germany a wonderland?

FZ: Yes. It really was the economic wonderland that my parents set out for: my father who worked with leather, my mother a cleaner. They kept drumming the basic principle into me: “Don’t spit into the bowl you’re eating from! Don’t put down the Germans, you arsehole!” And I thought “That’s right! This is a nice country! It’s great here!” What would have become of me if I hadn’t come here? A Muslim farmer, or what? Great career! Why shouldn’t people also say “Germany, my opportunity”? Does that sound emotional? Well it is! And that’s the crucial point: feelings play a major role. We mustn’t burn ourselves out – we can’t run out of breath. I mustn’t judge others by my own standards – nor do I. I haven’t lost touch with reality. So I can tell one thing from another. I’m in great spirits. But it’s really important to maintain one’s energy. The rebellious aspect too. In the meantime every CDU bigwig has become a rebel. I’m ready any moment for Mrs Merkel to come out, for her to say “Oh yeah, I used to wear a biker jacket and hightail it through the neighbourhood.” I don’t mean it like that, of course. What I mean is: rebellion has a good aura about it. Later, you look in the mirror: you kept getting on the wrong end of the coppers’ truncheons, but you were out there and did this and that. Maybe it wasn’t that much of a success, but man, was it exciting! The middle-class conservatives come at it from their rightwing angle. All that stuff makes them sick! And nothing’s changed about that. But they’re more successful now too. And you know what – screw their villas! Good God. Amen to that.

[1] The title of Feridun Zaimoglu’s notable debut, Kanak Sprak: 24 Mißtöne vom Rande der Gesellschaft (Kanak Sprak: 24 Notes of Discord from the Margin of Society), Hamburg (Rotbuch), 1995.
[2] Feridun Zaimoglu: Abschaum. Die wahre Geschichte von Ertan Ongun (Scum. The True Story of Ertan Ongun), Hamburg (Rotbuch), 1997
[3] Zaimoglu took part in the first sitting of the German “Islam conference” in September 2006, a “summit meeting” between the German state and representatives of Muslim organizations as well as “cultural Muslims” critical of Islam. Zaimoglu resigned from the second conference in May 2007 in protest at what he saw as the absence of second and third generation “neo-Muslims”; his seat, he argued, could be better occupied by a young Muslim, whom the conference was supposedly about. Zaimoglu’s advocacy for young Muslims’ religious freedom, especially that of young Muslim women, and his critique of what he saw as the conservatism of feminist criticism of Islam, was controversial yet met with widespread sympathy in the liberal press. For more on the German Islam Conference see: Claus Leggewie, “Between national Church and religious supermarket” in Eurozine.
[4] Slogan of a radical immigrant movement.
[5] See “Mein Deutschland” in Die Zeit, No.16, 12 April 2006, p.1, by Feridun Zaimoglu. In English, “My Germany” in signandsight.
[6] The Rütli School is a Hauptschule (secondary modern) in Neukölln, Berlin. In 2006, the school’s headteacher, unable to control the violence in her school, made an appeal for help to the Berlin Senate. This led to a debate about the school system in Germany, violence in schools and the integration of the children of immigrants.
[7] Programme for International Student Assessment
[8] Germany’s foremost critic of the treatment of women in Islam, also present at the Islam conference.
[9] A Turkish lawyer and women’s rights activist, she gave up practising in 2006 following threats from legal opponents.

SOURCE

Ali Fathollah-Nejad (2007) “»You’ve got to swing your hips!« – A conversation with Feridun Zaimoğlu”, translated from German by Saul Lipetz, Eurozine, 16 November.

* * *

Man muss mit den Hüften schwingen!

Ein Gespräch mit dem Schriftsteller Feridun Zaimoglu

Ali Fathollah-Nejad sprach mit Feridun Zaimoglu in Münster über seine Lust am Geschichtenerzählen, über Politik und Schriftstellerei und über Deutschland.

Ali Fathollah-Nejad: Wenn man Dich als Leser begleitet hat, dann war ein Wandel besonders interessant: Eine Tageszeitung hat einmal über Kanak Sprak[1] geschrieben, dass dahinter ein unglaublich harter Beat stecke. Wenn man jetzt deine neueren Erzählungen – und auch deinen neuen Roman Leyla – nimmt, ist aus diesem Beat eine Melodie geworden. Wie kam es zu dieser Veränderung in deinem schreiberischen Tanz?

Feridun Zaimoglu: Ich habe große Lust und große Freude daran, Rollenprosa zu machen. Ich bin ja nicht nur mit Kanak Sprak, sondern vor allem auch mit Abschaum[2] auffällig geworden. Ich bin da in die Rolle eines Vorstadtgangsters geschlüpft. Damals trug ich die Haare etwas länger, und ein paar Jahre lang bin ich sogar nur im Anzug aufgetreten. Wer mich gesehen hat, dachte immer: “So ein Blödsinn! Der behauptet, er würde jetzt über das Leben eines Junkies, eines Gangsters schreiben. Das ist sein eigenes Leben!” Also, ich habe große Lust, in verschiedene Rollen zu schlüpfen. Ich gucke mir natürlich bei jedem Buch, das ich schreibe, an, wie ich der Person gerecht werde. In Leyla hatte ich eben Lust, die Geschichte einer einfachen Frau zu schreiben, die es nach Deutschland verschlägt. Da hat es sich geradezu aufgedrängt, das Buch leiser zu schreiben. Ich habe da den erzählerischen Ton entdeckt.

AF-N: Du liest aus Leyla und die Leute fragen dich “Ist das wirklich so?” In gewisser Weise bist du Kulturvermittler, du erklärst vielen Deutschen einen Teil der ausländischen Kulturen, die sie so nicht verstehen, zumindest bist du ein Zugang dazu. Da steckt sicherlich eine Riesenverantwortung dahinter. Wie findest du das?

FZ: Verantwortung? Man kann das Ding entweder mit Lust und Laune machen, oder man kann mit zusammengekniffenen Arschbacken da sitzen. Buch auf, lesen, brennen, und dann kommen die Fragen. Kulturvermittlung? Na ja, wenn es gewissermaßen diesen Mehrwert hat, wunderbar. Aber das liegt doch nicht in meiner Absicht. Worum es geht, ist, Geschichten zu erzählen. Und “Kulturvermittler”, “Kulturmakler”, mein Gott! Ich wurde etikettiert als “Malcolm X der Türken”, als “Rudi Dutschke der Deutschländer”, und dann waren auch einige Leute böse, als ich sagte “Deutscher und Schluss!” Die wissen nicht, wie spät es ist, verdammt noch mal. Die wissen nicht, dass diese ethnische Geschichte zum Gegenstand von politischen Auseinandersetzungen gemacht wird. Dieser ethnische Blödsinn geht mir auf die Nerven. Die Leute gucken ja auch, wenn ich sage “Deutscher”! Ich weiß doch, dass über 90 Prozent denken: “Du siehst aus, wie du aussiehst. Mit deinem Namen, Alter, mit deiner Fresse? Das glaubst auch nurdu!” Das ist mir doch so was von egal. Es kommt auf was an? Auf mein Selbstverständnis! Ich bin nicht auf die Meinung von Leuten angewiesen, aber ich bin eine Rampensau. Ich liebe es, auf der Bühne zu sein und nicht mein eigenes langweiliges Leben in den Vordergrund zu stellen, sondern in diese Rollen zu tauchen. Und ab geht die Post!

AF-N: Kanak Sprak hat damals eine wichtige Funktion eingenommen. Man hat dich bei sehr vielen Rassismus-Debatten im Fernsehen mit langem Haar und feinem Bart erlebt. Du warst politisch sehr engagiert, sehr subversiv und radikal in deinen Aussagen. Wie kam dieser Wandel zu einem Schriftsteller, der sich klassischen Themen zuwendet und nicht mehr solchen Milieuthemen, aus denen Du entsprungen bist?

FZ: Habe ich mich tatsächlich gewandelt? Ich glaube, es ist ein politischer Akt, die Geschichte jener Frauen zu erzählen – ohne jetzt repräsentative Figuren zu zeichnen –, die in den öffentlichen Debatten, auch in den politischen Auseinandersetzungen, nicht vorgekommen sind. Als ich mit Kanak Sprakunterwegs war, habe ich gesagt, ich möchte diejenigen, die nicht selber zu Wort kommen, sichtbar machen. Meine Heldinnen und Helden sind nicht-Bürgerliche. Das kommt daher, dass ich das Spannende, das Gärende, das wild Wachsende eben nicht in Deutschland beim Bürgertum, bei den Bürgerlichen sehe. Ich sehe das Unaufgeklärte – manchmal auch das Negative, aber das Lebendige – beim White Trash und beim Ethnoproletariat. Ich habe keine Lust, über Bürgerliche zu schreiben, ich entdecke nicht den diskreten, dekadenten Charme der Bourgeoisie. Und daran hat sich ja nichts geändert. Es wäre sehr schade, wenn ich mit 41 Jahren immer noch mit geballter Faust in der Tasche den Kiezradikalen mache, der “Kanak Attack” brüllt. Ich glaube nicht, dass ich brav geworden bin. Ich glaube eher, dass ich es mir nicht mehr so einfach mache.

AF-N: Findest du, dass andere Leute in Deutschland heute die Verantwortung haben, so radikal zu schreiben, wie du es gemacht hast?

FZ: Aber selbstverständlich. Wie eitel, wie bescheuert, wie ignorant wäre es von mir zu sagen: “Ich habe das damals geschrieben, und weil ich es geschrieben habe, ist damit Schluss.” Ich bin so guter Dinge, weil es wirklich sehr viele radikale Ansätze gibt, weil es sehr viele Leute da draußen gibt, die auch im Kultursektor echt was los haben und was schieben. Ich habe mich nicht entradikalisiert. Da werden sich einige Leute wundern.

AF-N: Du hast ja eine Pionierrolle gehabt. Im Nachhinein gab es eine Welle, verursacht durch Deutsche mit ausländischem Hintergrund, die versucht haben, in der Kulturszene an die Öffentlichkeit zu treten – prominentes Beispiel ist Fatih Akin. Was hältst du von dieser Bewegung?

FZ: Es rappelt mächtig in der Kiste. Und ich halte viel davon, sehr, sehr viel. Es sind sehr viele großartige Talente, großartige Menschen unterwegs. Da hat etwas Feuer gefangen. Und es wird, wie ich denke, in den nächsten Jahren ziemlich heftig werden, weil die Verteilungskämpfe und das Rattenrennen um Jobs und Ausbildungsplätze heftiger werden, und weil auch die Schulen und die Universitäten darauf ausgerichtet sind, geschichtsspezifisch und klassenspezifisch auszusieben. Wer darf an die goldenen Krüge und wer wird ausgeschlossen? Diese Ausschließungsmechanismen gehen ja weiter. Tja, irgendwann hieß es’”Guten Morgen, Freunde!” Der Staat zieht sich zurück aus Kultur und Sozialem und die Privaten können die Lücke nicht füllen, was bedeutet, dass es in Zukunft soziale Konflikte geben wird. Das ist Brennstoff, das gärt.

AF-N: Macht es dich nicht traurig, dass dieser Diskurs nach wie vor besteht? An ihm hat sich ja nichts geändert.

FZ: Ganz genau.

AF-N: Was muss man machen, um diesen Diskurs zum Bröckeln zu bringen und ihn zu verändern, insbesondere aus Migrantensicht?

FZ: Ich bin kein Migrant, ich bin Deutscher! Das ist der erste Schritt. Man kann erstmal die richtigen Begriffe wählen. Es ist doch wie bei Slam Poetry – wer ist am Mic und wer nicht? Es ist immer noch ein Kampf um kulturelle Hegemonie. Der wird nicht in zehn Jahren, nicht in zwanzig, in dreißig, in vierzig Jahren zu Ende gehen. Aber Deutschland ändert sich. Ich werde belächelt von einigen: “Ach guck mal, der Kanakster hat den Leitartikel in der Zeit geschrieben.”[3]Die wissen nicht, was sie sagen, diese Idioten! Die haben keine Ahnung, mit Verlaub. Die haben die Gesetze der Kulturhegemonie nicht verstanden, denn das ist ein harter, knallharter Job.

AF-N: Sind das Gesetze, die Partizipation zulassen, oder muss Radikalität den Diskurs ändern?

FZ: Eine Radikalität, die Dogmen verpflichtet ist, ist zum Scheitern verurteilt. Sie ist gewissermaßen eine Minderheit in der Minderheit in der Minderheit.

AF-N: Was ist denn mit der aufklärerischen Radikalität, die du in Kanak Sprakbenutzt hast, indem du einfach die Leute zu Wort hast kommen lassen oder versucht hast, für jene zu sprechen, die in der deutschen Öffentlichkeit keine Zunge haben?

FZ: Was für viele Menschen vielleicht unerträglich ist: es gibt keine einheitliche Linie. Man muss mit den Hüften schwingen. Opportunismus ist etwas anderes. Es gibt viele Leute in der Politik, die Opportunisten sind. Das sind Partystinker, die auf den Partys nichts Besseres zu tun haben, als herumzusitzen und zu labern. Dann gibt es aber Leute, die auf der Piste sind. Die bewegen die Hüften. So einfach ist die Sache. Also entweder dabei sein oder am Rand Chips futtern und dann sagen: “Das ist ‘ne öde Party!” Nicht die Party ist öde, sie selbst sind öde. Das ist ein großer Unterschied. So ist es in der Politik.

AF-N: Du hast eben deinen Zeit-Artikel angesprochen. Ich möchte gerne an die Situation der Medien anknüpfen. Es gab dieses ganze Brimborium um die Rütli-Schule.[4] Ich denke, du hast durch deine Veröffentlichungen sehr viel zu der Debatte beigetragen. Trotzdem habe ich das Gefühl, dass in der breiten Medienwelt doch ein gewisser Stillstand herrscht. Ich habe das Gefühl, da verändert sich nicht viel. Wie siehst du das?

FZ: Ich habe so einige hundert Lesungen in der Schule gemacht, meistens in Hauptschulen und Jugendhäusern. Ich gehe jetzt einfach mal von diesen Erfahrungen aus. Das Eine ist, dass das dreigliedrige Schulsystem auch ethnisch gliedert. Es gibt die Versager – die keine Versager sind. Mein Gott, um ein Haar wäre ich in der Sonderschule gelandet. Es war so. Um ein Haar! Der Türke an und für sich kommt als PISA-Versager und als Pausenhofrüpel vor. Aber es gibt ihn. Es gibt auch ein Männerproblem, ein Jungsproblem. Dieser Dreck von Männerehre. Wenn der darauf hinausläuft, dass irgend so ein Hosenscheißer daherkommt und seine Schwester abknallt, was macht man dann mit dem? Eine eindeutige Antwort gibt es nicht. Von Fall zu Fall ist es verschieden. Man muss hingucken, man muss mit den Leuten reden. Es wundert mich doch nicht – Leitkultur, Karikaturen-Streit, dann Necla Kelek, Seyran Ates, und der männliche muslimische Migrantenjugendliche ist zum Abschuss freigegeben. Deshalb sage ich den Leuten “Guten Morgen!” Haben die gedacht, die Klassengesellschaft hat aufgehört, oder was? Die besteht immer noch, und die wird auch weiterbestehen. Und das ethnische Moment ist eine Begierde der herrschenden Klasse. So einfach ist das. Und wer mit neoliberalem Dreck kommt, wer aufhört politisch zu denken und anfängt ethnisch hinzugucken, tut es den herrschenden Klassen – und dazu gehören auch die Medienmacher und die Medien – gleich. Sie reden nämlich von der Schule und dreschen dann auf die Lehrer ein. Ja, aber wenn man politisch denken würde, dann würde man schauen, was wird an den Schulen gemacht? Was wurde an Geldern gestrichen? Was ist im Topf noch drin? Was passiert im Alltag? Das ist das Eine. Und das Andere ist, dann aber auch zu sagen: “Eure Ehre, Freunde, wisst Ihr, könnt Ihr Euch echt zwischen Eure Migrantenarschbacken rammen. Eure beschissene Männerehre!” Was ist das? Das ist ein Verbrechen. Das sind Kriminelle. So muss das besprochen werden. Die Rechten kommen immer und sagen “Hey, die kommen aus einem anderen Kulturkreis.” Man darf tatsächlich Dinge, die aus diesem anderen Kulturkreis kommen auch nicht bagatellisieren. Das wäre Blödsinn. Man darf ja auch nicht den weißen Männern das Wort reden, indem man als Frauenrechtsaktivistin daherkommt und gewissermaßen diese Jungs da abschießt, dann von der Religion spricht und die ethnische Grundlage zum Gegenstand der Erörterung macht. Das sind Weibchen der weißen Männer. Und diese Weibchen kommen und gehen und kommen. Da ist das Etikett “Feminismus”, da ist das Etikett “besonders selbstbewusste Grüne” oder wie immer all diese Opportunisten und Aufklärungsspießer heißen. Man guckt sich das an, aber man darf nie aufhören, sich das politisch anzusehen. Der politische Blick ist ein geiler Blick!

AF-N: Aber Politik ist ja nur möglich durch Partizipation. In unserer Gesellschaft hingegen gibt es nicht so viele, die einen nicht-deutschen Hintergrund haben, sich jedoch am öffentlichen Diskurs beteiligen.

FZ: Das ändert sich. 

AF-N: Es kann sich aber nur durch Bildung ändern?

FZ: Es kann sich vor allem durch die deutsche Sprache ändern. Um der Zukunft der Kinder willen soll man nicht von Deutschzwang schwätzen. Das ist schon wieder so ein Ethnoblödsinn. Und dann kommen diese ganzen Türkenvertreter, dann kommen diese Linksliberalen, es kommen all diese Fuzzies und erzählen “Ach, das dürfen wir den Kindern nicht zumuten.” Ihr Deppen! Ihr verdient wie viel im Monat? Ihr seid hier fein ‘raus. Partizipation ist was? Beteiligung fängt von klein auf an. Wenn meine Eltern mit mir meine Hausaufgaben in der Grundschule nicht durchgehen konnten, was ist das da: Das ist schon mal ein Standortnachteil. Ja und? Habe ich geheult? Nee! In der Schule habe ich mich in Petra verknallt und wollte sie beeindrucken. Ich wollte ein bisschen glänzen durch so ein Bella-figura-Deutsch. Man kann ja eine Frau nicht “Hey Alter!” nennen. Was sind also die Initiativkräfte? Politik ist gut, aber wenn das politische Bewusstsein die menschliche Situation ausklammert, dann hebt sie ab, dann verliert sie die Bodenhaftung. Man muss immer gucken, was passiert da unten!

AF-N: Ist Leyla im Wunderland nur ein Arbeitstitel? Oder ist Deutschland ein Wunderland?

FZ: Ja. Es war tatsächlich das Wirtschaftswunderland, in das meine Eltern aufgebrochen sind: Vater Lederarbeiter, Mutter Putzfrau. Sie haben mir immer wieder die Grundlage angesagt: “Spuck nicht in den Napf, aus dem Du isst! Mach mir die Deutschen nicht schlecht, Du Arschloch!” Und ich habe gedacht “Stimmt! Das ist ein schönes Land! Das ist großartig hier!” Was wäre denn aus mir geworden, wenn ich nicht hierher gekommen wäre? Muslimischer Bauer, oder was? Tolle Karriere! Wieso soll man auch nicht sagen “Deutschland, meine Chance”? Ist das emotional? Ja! Und da sind wir an einem entscheidenden Punkt: Gefühle spielen eine große Rolle. Wir dürfen nicht ausbrennen, wir müssen eine lange Puste haben. Ich darf nicht von mir auf Andere schließen – das tue ich auch nicht. Ich habe die Bodenhaftung nicht verloren. Also, ich kann das Eine vom Anderen auseinanderhalten. Ich habe beste Laune. Aber die Lust ist sehr wichtig. Auch das Rebellische. Mittlerweile ist ja jede CDU-Nase ein Rebell. Ich rechne stündlich mit dem Coming-Out von Frau Merkel, dass die sagt “Oh, ich habe früher auch eine Motorradjacke getragen und bin da durch die Gegend geflitzt.” Das meine ich nicht damit. Was ich damit meine, ist: Das hat einen guten Duft, wenn man aufbegehrt. Später wird man in den Spiegel schauen: Du hast zwar den Bullenknüppel immer wieder gespürt, aber du warst da draußen und hast dies und jenes gemacht. Vielleicht war das nicht so erfolgreich, aber Mann, das ist doch aufregend! Die Spießer, die kommen aus der rechten Ecke. Das, das kotzt sie an! Und daran hat sich nichts geändert. Aber sie haben auch mehr Erfolg. Und: Ich scheiß auf ihre Villen! Mein Gott. Amen.

[1] So der Titel seines viel beachteten Debüts: Kanak Sprak: 24 Mißtöne vom Rande der Gesellschaft, Hamburg (Rotbuch) 1995.
[2] Feridun Zaimoglu: Abschaum. Die wahre Geschichte von Ertan Ongun, Hamburg (Rotbuch) 1997.
[3] Gemeint ist der Artikel “Mein Deutschland” in: Die Zeit, Nr. 16, 12.04.2006, S. 1 von Feridun Zaimoglu.
[4] Die Rütli-Schule ist eine Hauptschule in Berlin-Neukölln. Weil sie die Gewalt an ihrer Schule nicht mehr in den Griff bekam, schickte die Rektorin der Schule einen dramatischen Hilferuf an den Berliner Senat. Dies führte zu einer Debatte über das Schulsystem in Deutschland, die Gewalt an Schulen und die Integration von Immigrantenkindern.

QUELLE

Fathollah-Nejad, Ali (2007) “»Man muss mit den Hüften schwingen!« – Ein Gespräch mit dem Schriftsteller Feridun Zaimoğlu”, Eurozine, 16. November.

 

QUOTED IN:

What Middle East Policy to Expect from the New German Government?

When Promising Ideas Threaten to be Buried in Transatlantic Waters

e-IR

PRAISE

»Great paper« (Professor Anoush Ehteshami, Durham University, UK)

»Very interesting« (Dr. Elaheh Rostami-Povey, London Middle East Institute)

»Very good« (Ahmed Ijaz Malik, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad)

Last week, on 28 October, a new German government took office. A coalition of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s still ruling conservative Christian Democratic/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) as junior partner replaced the Grand Coalition of conservatives (CDU/CSU) and social-democrats (SPD). While the new administration is faced with multiple socio-economic crises internally, on the external front the challenges are not less significant.

At a press conference held in Berlin a few days after the election outcome, prospective foreign minister Guido Westerwelle[1] refused to respond in English after a BBC reporter had asked him to do so. When, in quite a non-chalant manner, he added that “This is Germany here”, the field for polemics had been opened. Not only did speculations spark about the FDP leader’s supposedly missing English language proficiency (although one would hardly think that any of his predecessors did better – quite the contrary), the political leanings of a FDP-run Foreign Ministry entered the debate.

Pragmatic answers to Mideast challenges

In an interview[2] to the journal of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) – perhaps the most influential German foreign policy think-tank[3] –, Westerwelle’s statements were quite astonishing. On the war in Afghanistan, he pledged “to end every German military deployment as quickly as is realistically possible” while nonetheless echoing the highly controversial claim made by former Defense Minister Peter Struck (SPD) that Germany was being defended in the Hindu-Kush. Still he appeared more straightforward than many in the SPD or even the Green Party – who tend to succumb to a paternalistic “liberal interventionism” – when stating that the Afghanistan operation was not based on “altruism”.

On Iran, he recognized the central requirement of improving U.S.–Iranian relations and praised Obama’s “de-escalation” imprint as opposed to George W. Bush’s “policies of containment and escalation”. As a second key element, he pointed to the precarious security architecture both globally and regionally. The nuclear powers would need to cut their arsenals, thus following their obligations enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)[4]. “The more seriously the existing nuclear powers take their obligation to help create a world free of nuclear weapons, the greater credence they will have in the eyes of states like Iran, who [sic!] find the prospect of possessing a nuclear arsenal extremely tempting,” Westerwelle added.

He further pleaded for a regional approach to the manifold Middle East conflicts, modeled on the so-called Helsinki Process, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), in the 1970s. For some years now, conflict researchers and international peace organizations have strongly advocated that a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East (CSCME)[5] be set as number one of the global political agenda. However, while the latter envisages civil society participation, Westerwelle’s suggestion comprises the involvement of the U.S., Russia and the UN.

Despite the unsatisfying details of his Middle East plan – which by the way underlines Berlin’s commitment to a two-state solution in the Israel/Palestine conflict –, there appears to be an improvement from past orientations. While the former Foreign Ministry headed by the SPD’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier proved to be quite disregardful of such an idea, the acknowledgement by the FDP, which over the last few years has consistently favored such an initiative, is without doubt a development in the right direction as how to handle the much-loaded Mideast crises.

The Coalition Agreement: Westerwelle’s foreign policy ideas enriched with a conservative flavor

The conceptions promoted by Westerwelle have indeed found their way into the Coalition Agreement[6] (pp. 121-122) – though enriched with a clear conservative handwriting. This is displayed when in Berlin’s official attempt to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the agreement states that the new government, along with its partners, would support harsher sanctions against Tehran if necessary. Such a political instrument was hardly favored by the FDP in the past which had been rather critical towards the Grand Coalition’s handling of the Iran dossier and Berlin’s unflinching insistence on the “carrot and stick” approach that after all proved to be a failure[7]. On the contrary, voicing the stark resentment from considerable branches of the industry, the Liberals criticized the government in Bundestag appellations[8] for imposing trade limitations on German companies, which went beyond the sanctions framework as mandated by UN Security Council resolutions.

Yet, in a speech at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on 22 October, the President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Hans-Peter Keitel, pointed to the fact that Washington would not wish to see the sanctions regime bypassed. This indicates that Germany still fears the U.S. Treasury Department’s warnings to be excluded from the vast American market if trade ties with Iran are being maintained. This happens while German entrepreneurs moan about losing the Iranian market while Chinese and American companies, directly and indirectly respectively, get increasingly involved there.

Providing a nice face for “Germany’s defense in the Hindu-Kush”

Nevertheless, the FDP’s fresh conceptions are likely to be counterbalanced by a strong transatlanticist camp within the much stronger Union parties. One of the latter’s exponents is the new Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU). The Bavarian aristocrat is a member of the DGAP, the Atlantik-Brücke (“Atlantic Bridge”), the Aspen Institute, and spokesman for his party’s Transatlantic Forum – all of which advocate a strict Atlantic orientation of German foreign policy. Being one of the most prominent[9] German politicians, Guttenberg is expected to provide a handsome image for the highly contested war in Afghanistan, which his predecessor, the sallow Franz-Josef Jung (CDU), plainly failed to do. Jens Berger, whose blog Der Spiegelfechter (“shadow boxer”) is amongst the country’s most read[10], writes[11]: „In Washington there is no single neoconservative think-tank in which the name Guttenberg would not prompt a pleasurable click on the tongue”. In the meanwhile, it is expected[12] that the policies around the “Afghanistan problem” will not be set in the liberal Foreign Ministry, but in the conservative Defense Ministry.

Hawks vs. public opinion: Militarization or security?

A definite darling of America’s neo-cons is Eckart von Klaeden, an Atlantik-Brücke executive committee member, who is the Foreign Policy Spokesman for the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group. Known for his hawkish stances, he can be expected to lobby against any FDP initiatives trespassing the transatlantic framework. Despite a majority[13] of Germans favoring the Bundeswehr’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, Guttenberg[14] and Klaeden[15] have repeatedly favored the military engagement there – which the Obama Administration wants the Germans to even boost further. In December, the Bundestag will decide upon the continuation of its mandate for what euphemistically is often called “peace and stabilization mission”.

By currently providing about 4,500 troops in the no-longer calm northern areas of Afghanistan, Berlin finds itself as third largest troop contributor after Washington and London. It is now being discussed to increase the level of German troops to 7,000. This might reflect the country’s great-power aspirations, as Andreas Buro – one of the founding figures of the German peace movement – accurately notes[16]: “While the NATO states Canada and the Netherlands have announced their troops to be withdrawn already by 2010/2011, the Federal Government still adamantly adheres to the war alliance. Not because of Afghanistan, but because Berlin would like to distinguish itself as an important EU military pillar for the leading NATO power, the US.”

However big the political odds are – be it the CDU/CSU’s transatlantic hawks or America’s call for a rising engagement of her allies – a rational-pragmatic input by the FDP could constructively impact the foreign policy discourse in Europe’s largest country. One can hope that the insight gains in prominence that the only truly responsible way to help Afghanistan to free itself from this mess is to end the NATO war. That the latter provides an indispensable feature for the continued armed conflict in that war-torn country must not remain a historic lesson that only the Left Party and the peace movement have learned. Yet, it remains to be seen how successful the latter two can articulate public opinion and thus force the new government to abstain from a further militarization of Berlin’s foreign policy. Germany’s – and for that matter, any other NATO member’s – security is not defended in the Hindu-Kush, but jeopardized.

 

 


[1] See Cate Connolly, “German election: Guido Westerwelle sets sights on foreign ministry”, guardian.co.uk, 28 Sep. 2009. 

[2]Guido Westerwelle’s Foreign Policy: Germany’s new foreign minister answers IP”, IP Global, 27 Sep. 2009.

[3] See James G. McGann, The Global “Go-To Think Tanks”: The Leading Public Policy Research Organizations In The World, Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 2008, p. 26 (Table No. 2).

[4] For the text of the NPT, see http://www.fas.org/nuke/control/npt/text/npt2.htm.

[5]CSCME: Number one on the world political agenda”, IPPNW.de, Initiated by IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) e.V. (Registered Association) and IALANA (International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms) Germany, 1 Feb. 2007.

[6] Wachstum. Bildung. Zusammenhalt. Der Koalitionsvertrag zwischen CDU, CSU und FDP, 16th Legislative Period, enacted and signed on 26 Oct. 2009.

[7] See Christoph Bertram, Rethinking Iran: From Confrontation to Cooperation, Paris: European Union Institute for Security Studies (Chaillot Paper, No. 110, August 2008).

[8] See http://dipbt.bundestag.de/extrakt/ba/WP16/121/12109.html.

[9] See e.g. “Beliebteste Politiker: Guttenberg zieht an Merkel vorbei”, FR-online.de, 24 July 2009.

[10] See http://www.deutscheblogcharts.de/archiv/2009-42.html.

[11] Jens Berger, “Deutschland wird Schwarz(Gelb): Der Koalitionsvertrag steht und die Versprechen des Wahlkampfs sind vergessen”, Telepolis, 24 Oct. 2009.

[12] René Heilig, “Bundeswehr bleibt an der Afghanistan-Front: Verbündete ziehen ab, Deutschland steht zum »Mittelweg« – was will Westerwelle?“, Neues Deutschland (Berlin),   22. Oct. 2009.

[13] See e.g. “stern-Umfrage zu Afghanistan: Deutsche für Abzug – und für Jung”, stern.de, 16 Sep. 2009.

[14] Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, “Afghans Respond Favorably to NATO Efforts in Afghanistan”, Atlantic-Community.org, 7 Jan. 2008.

[15] Eckart von Klaeden, “Afghanistan: Der richtige Einsatz” [Afghanistan Is Not Iraq – Germany Must Stay!], Die Zeit, No. 30/2009.

[16] Andreas Buro, “Abzug jetzt: Friedenspolitik statt Krieg” [Withdrawal Now: Peace Policy Instead of War], junge Welt (Berlin), 8 Oct. 2009, p. 8.

 

SOURCE

Ali Fathollah-Nejad (2009) “What Middle East Policy to Expect from the New German Government? When Promising Ideas Threaten to be Buried in Transatlantic Waters“, e-International Relations (e-IR), 4 November;

republished on Global Research, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, 05/11;

republished on Foreign Policy Journal, 08/11;

republished on Iran Review, 08/11;

republished on Payvand Iran News, 16/11;

slightly edited version published on Monthly Review Webzine, 06/11/2009.

 

Statement by a Group of Iranian Anti-War Activists about Iran’s Presidential Elections

We are a group of Iranian academic and antiwar activists in Europe and the United States who, in the past few years, have consistently defended Iran’s national interests in all areas including its right to develop peaceful nuclear technology. Our varied activities in the face of anti-Iran propaganda by the neoconservatives in the West have included organizing press conferences, taking part in radio and TV debates, creating antiwar websites, publishing bulletins and newsletters, writing opinion pieces and letters to editors, attending national and international antiwar conferences and  petitioning and lobbying western politicians and parliamentarians.

We have campaigned against the policies of the United States and its Western allies which have unjustifiably targeted Iran – including sending Iran’s nuclear dossier to the United Nations Security Council, issuing UNSC resolutions against Iran, secret and public efforts to provoke strife in Iran and destabilize the country, and threats by the United States and Israel for military intervention and bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities.

As we approach Iran’s presidential elections, we are duty bound to share the lessons of our antiwar activities and highlight what national policies can defend Iran’s interests effectively in the international arena without isolating it or enduring U.N. sanctions.

In order to safeguard Iran’s national rights successfully, we think Iran’s president elect must give priority to the following policies in his programs and plans:

(1) Questioning the Holocaust, which has greatly aided the hawks in the West, must be discarded and replaced with a constructive foreign policy devoid of any provocative rhetoric.

(2) Releasing all political prisoners, freedom of press, organizations and political parties, as well as peaceful meetings and gatherings. Recognizing the right of all citizens to run for election without any political vetting.

(3) Abolishing medieval punishments, such as stoning and cutting limbs, public executions, and execution of minors.

(4) Recognizing full and unconditional equality in all areas for women and ethnic minorities. Recognizing the full citizenship and civic rights of official and unofficial religious minorities.

Disregarding these tasks will seriously hinder the social and political development of the country, and will divide the Iranian people in their resistance against the unwarranted neo-colonial pressure and double standards of the Western powers. It will also provide powerful propaganda tools to hawks and their allies in mainstream media for isolating Iran and denying its fundamental rights in international organizations.

Taking steps to carry out these measures, on the other hand, will put our country on a fast track to progress, will unite Iranians of all walks of life, and disarm the neoconservatives in their aggressive propaganda against Iran.

Signed

Professor Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York

Dr Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, School of Oriental and African Studies

Professor Haleh Afshar, University of York

Professor Mohammad Ala, Persian Gulf Task Force

Professor Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University

Professor Abbas Edalat, Imperial College London

Ali Fathollah-Nejad, University of Muenster and School of Oriental and African Studies

Dr Mehri Honarbin, Canterbury Christ Church University

Dr Farhang Jahanpour, University of Oxford

Mohammad Kamaali, Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran

Professor Mahmoud Karimi-Hakkak, Siena College, New York

Professor Fatemeh Keshavarz, Washington University in St Louis

Dr Ziba Mir-Hosseini, School of Oriental and African Studies

Professor Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh, Tarbiyat Modarres University

Professor Davood Nabi-Rahni, Pace University in New York

Professor Azam Niroomand-Rad, Georgetown University

Dr Ali Rastbeen, International Institute of Strategic Studies Paris

Dr Elaheh Rostami, School of Oriental and African Studies

Professor Nader Sadeghi, George Washington University Hospital

Shirin Saeidi, University of Cambridge

Professor Muhammad Sahimi, University of Southern California

Leila Zand, Fellowship of Reconciliation

SOURCE

Bayâniyeh-e grouhi az faâliyan-e zedd-e jang dar khârej az keshvar dar bâreh-ye entekhâbât-e riâsat jomhouri, Etemad-e Melli & Andisheh-ye No, 08/06/2009.

Statement by a Group of Iranian Anti-War Activists about Iran’s Presidential Elections, 08/06/2009, also published as Statement of Academics, Tehran Bureau, 08/06 | In Defence of Iran, guardian.co.uk, 10/06 | Monthly Review Webzine, 10/06 | Global Research, 10/06 | ZNet, 15/06.

Tahran’ı ‘temize çıkarmak’ için dört basit yöntem, Radikal, 12/06/2009.

Erklärung einer Gruppe von Antikriegsaktivisten an den künftigen iranischen Präsidenten, ZNet Deutschland, 14/06/2009 | republished as Aufruf einer Gruppe von Antikriegsaktivisten an den künftigen iranischen Präsidenten, Sand im Getriebe (SiG), No. 74 (28/06/2009) | short version published as Fortschritt statt provokativer Rhetorik, junge Welt (Berlin), 13/06, p. 8.

Playing Nuclear Politics

guardian.co.uk

PRAISE

»Good piece« (Parag Khanna)

A sober analysis of Tehran’s intentions suggests the Islamic republic has little to gain from acquiring the bomb

The latest report on Iran’s nuclear programme by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has spurred alarmist speculation about the whereabouts of the “mullahs’ bomb” just when hopes for a US–Iran rapprochement are at an all-time high.

The UN’s nuclear watchdog says Iran has only slowly increased the number of centrifuges in the last four months, with now almost 4,000 centrifuges spinning and enriching uranium at a low level (under 5%). Iran has reportedly accumulated about 1,000kg of low-enriched uranium (LEU). To produce weapons-grade material, roughly 30kg of LEU are needed for about 1kg of HEU (high-enriched uranium). A typical uranium bomb has 25 kg or more of HEU material, so Iran would theoretically be able to yield enough HEU for a nuclear device. This is what western diplomats refer to as the country’s “latent bombmaking ability”.

But from that stage to the making of a bomb, considerable technical and technological hurdles have to be overcome. Thus the head of the IAEA asserted earlier this month that there is “ample time to engage the country”. However, what is crucially important – and still rarely mentioned – is that any effort towards weaponisation would immediately be detected by the IAEA under whose close surveillance the Iranian nuclear programme is placed.

In the shadow of discussion about the alleged threat posed by Iran’s nuclear programme, a sober analysis about Tehran’s intentions and ambitions is missing. As Volker Perthes, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, stated in his recent book on Iran (p113): “It can be argued that a strategic decision on the final aim of the Iranian nuclear programme has not been made.”

Adopting a realistic assessment, his predecessor, Christoph Bertram, also asserts there is no danger emanating from the programme. Bertram, a former director of the International Institute for Security Studies (IISS) clarifies in a report written for the main EU thinktank that a “nuclear Iran” would not be in Tehran’s strategic interest; on the contrary, a nuclear Iran would jeopardise the strenuously-gained political capital that it has earned since the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

Citing Israeli military strategists, Perthes writes (p61) that Iran must be understood as a “rational and ‘logically’ behaving actor”. Therefore one could argue that if Obama rejects taking the military option off the table and Israel openly threatens Iran with an attack, such menaces could provoke a militarisation of Iran’s programme for deterrence purposes. A considerable reduction of Iran’s security dilemma – such as a WMD-free zone – is thus the best way to repel the alleged nuclear ambitions of Iran.

To date there is still no evidence for an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, which was reiterated by the US’s new intelligence chief, Dennis Blair, earlier this month. A way forward would be for Tehran to implement the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which would allow for more intrusive inspections. Iran has signalled its willingness to do so only when its nuclear dossier is returned from the UN security council to the Vienna-based IAEA – a step that would correct its groundless referral there in the first place.

SOURCE

Fathollah-Nejad, Ali (2009) “Playing Nuclear Politics: The Islamic republic has little to gain from acquiring the bomb“, guardian.co.uk, 20 February;

▪ republished in 24Bangladesh.Com [leading Bangladeshi online newspaper], 21/02 | Payvand News, 24/02;

▪ republished as Playing Nuclear Politics with Iran, The Brunei Times, 22/02.

German Media Censorship on Gaza? Merkel’s Will

PRAISE

»Pretty grim scene« (Prof. Noam Chomsky)

»Fabulous« (Prof. Michel Chossudovsky)

Germany’s most prominent political debate TV program “Anne Will” had announced to run a show on Gaza on 11 January, but in what many observers believe to be an unprecedented step canceled the topic only three days earlier. The talk show is broadcast every Sunday night by the country’s foremost public-service broadcaster ARD while attracting on average 3.6 million viewers. The “Anne Will” show which in the fall of 2007 succeeded the successful primetime talk hosted by Sabine Christiansen – who is now anchoring CNBC’s “Global Players” series – is named after the presenter.

Official Germany Adopts Israeli Propaganda

On the evening of the second day (28 December) of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the German government’s spokesperson said that in a telephone conversation German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “agreed that the responsibility for the development of the situation in the region clearly and exclusively lies with Hamas”. The same further outlined the official version of the conflict according to the Berlin government which assembles the Christian-Democratic (CDU/CSU) and Social-Democratic (SPD) Parties: “Hamas unilaterally broke the agreement for a ceasefire, there has been a continuous firing of […] rockets at Israeli settlements and Israeli territory, and without question – and this was stressed by the chancellor – Israel has the legitimate right to defend its own people and territory.”[1] The Italian newspaper La Stampa commented “that with this outright German backing for Israel the policy of velvet gloves has ended with which German diplomacy was used to approach this region. It seems as if the Chancellor […] had decided to choose this moment and this topic of tremendous importance to let Germany return to the stage of grand foreign policy”.[2]

Along with the United States, Germany is fully backing Tel Aviv in its anew massive recourse to arms. Thus, unlike Britain and France where the political leaderships have to be attentive to avoid the explosion of outrage voiced particularly by their Muslim communities, German officials have to fear much less political ramifications resulting from protests that however occurred to a much lesser extent than e.g. in major U.S. and European capitals. This is due to two factors: One, compared to Britain’s and France’s Arab communities, it seems that German Turks – after all almost three million – are less politicized, especially when it comes to the Arab/Palestinian issue; second, as they are largely excluded from the political process due to the country’s comparatively harder path to gain citizenship, the responsiveness of political authorities tend to be on a lesser degree than in traditional ius soli countries.

What is more, the German media overwhelmingly and across the political spectrum represent the interpretation from the Israeli leadership, i.e. that the “Jewish State” would fight a defensive war against rocket-throwing Hamas terrorists with the noble cause of defending Western enlightened democracies, such as Israel, in the “war on terror” against Islamism. Those views are echoed in conservative-right papers such as Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Welt, in “liberal” ones such as the weeklies Der Spiegel and Die Zeit, up to “liberal-left” ones such as Süddeutsche Zeitung and Frankfurter Rundschau. The only German newspaper that has consistently and extensively covered the Gaza tragedy is the left-wing junge Welt – but which only has small readership.

“Anne Will”’s Promising Selection

Differing from this general media and political patterns, those considered to be invited to the “Anne Will” show would have proposed a more accurate interpretation of the situation. It is widely suggested that the following guests should have appeared:

· Avi Primor, former Israeli ambassador to Germany (1993–99), relieved from that office by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon due to his critical remarks toward the right-wing Israeli Shas party. Primor, who is a member of the Club of Rome, at an “Anne Will” appearance on 23 September 2007 said: “War is raging, a world war. The war against world terrorism is a world war – a world war against the West.”[3] Despite statements close to those made by Israeli governments, Primor is known for his advocacy of an Israeli–Palestinian understanding.

· Joschka Fischer, former German Foreign Minister (1998–2005), and a founding member and chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). In an interview with Germany’s weekly Die Zeit on the current conflict, the former long-year head of the Green Party claimed: „Hamas has declared the end of the truce and has resumed the shelling of Southern Israel with rockets. These are facts on which there is international consensus.”[4]

· Daniel Barenboim, the renowned Jewish pianist and conductor, is known for his commitment to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In 1999, together with Edward Said (who died in 2003) he created the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra in which Palestinian and Israeli musicians have come together.[5] Since 1992, he has led the Berlin State Opera.

· Sumaya Farhat-Naser, a Christian Palestinian professor and peace activist, is particularly committed to dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli women.

· Rupert Neudeck, founder of the refugee NGO Cap Anamur in 1979 and now chair of the 2003-founded NGO Green Helmets. In early 2008, he visited the Gaza Strip.[6] His organization is installing a 5 kilowatt solar plant between Beit Jala and Hebron, planned to become operational by mid-March.

Until Thursday, 8 January, the Gaza topic could be seen in TV program announcements, but disappeared the day after without any explanation. Apparently, the invitees learned only by Thursday early afternoon about the decision to cancel the show. Instead, the topic of suicide figured as replacement.

Disinvited Invitees

On 11 January, Neudeck, who was helping the installation of a solar plant in Ruanda for the Nelson Mandela Education Center and who had his flight from Johannesburg to Berlin already booked by the ARD, asserted in an article published on the “Green Helmets” website titled “Cowardice of Politics, Cowardice of the Media: A Humanitarian Interjection”: “We in Germany, from top (Berlin) to bottom and from Left to Right, are simply holding the standpoint of the Israeli Government for the only possible one.”[7]

Farhat-Naser, who is lecturing at Birzeit University north of Ramallah and therefore needed two days to reach Amman airport in order to fly out, had already arrived in her Berlin hotel when she learned about the program’s cancelation. In an e-mail sent to her friends, she shared her deep disappointment and said she did not know how to explain back home that the TV program had been canceled as the topic had not been considered important enough.

As a consolation, Farhat-Naser was given the opportunity to speak a few minutes during the pause of Barenboim’s orchestra concert which was broadcast in a live extra program by the German-Austrian-Swiss public TV network 3sat on 12 January. In an interview with the same channel a week earlier, Barenboim voiced criticism saying that while Israel had the right to defend herself, this could not be done by force.[8]

Protesting Initiative

This abrupt change of the 11 January program on Gaza led to speculations about political pressures being exerted as well as to worries about the country’s debating culture.

An open protest letter,[9] dated 12 January, authored by Mohssen Massarrat, a retired Iranian-born politics and economics professor, to the ARD chief editor, Thomas Baumann, the chief editor of the responsible regional broadcaster and producer NDR, Andreas Cichowicz, and the show’s anchor Anne Will herself, declares “outrage” at the cancelation of the Gaza show. The letter notes: “We do not know about the circumstances that led to the cancelation of the planned program. As a result, this decision by the editorial staff is a hard blow to the freedom of press and democracy in Germany – this is even more unacceptable if the ARD acted upon political pressure.”

After only 20 hours of the letter being dispatched, it attracted at least 250 signatures by persons and organizations from a wide range of professional backgrounds in Germany, but also from individuals in France, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Yemen, Iran and Nicaragua. Prominent figures endorsed the letter, such as the British–Pakistani historian and author Tariq Ali[10], the renowned expert on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict Norman Finkelstein[11], Yale scholar Immanuel Wallerstein[12], Columbia professor Hamid Dabashi[13] and SOAS professor Gilbert Achcar[14]. Ten days later, the open letter counts more than 700 signatories.

The letter also reads: “Mr. Barenboim, Ms. Farhat-Naser and Mr. Neudeck belong to those outstanding personalities who admirably commit themselves to the Palestinian–Israeli dialogue and who make sure that the still existent thin thread of human relations between the two peoples does not rupture.”

The open letter further says: “We deeply regret the cancelation of the program. Precisely because of Germany’s special responsibility toward Israel and Palestine, the German public is entitled to obtain comprehensive and sophisticated information about the war in Gaza, the more so as the German mass media predominantly does not meet their obligation to cover the current conflict objectively, and informs the people here only one-sidedly. The firstly planned and then canceled program of the ARD program ‘Anne Will’ would have been a first and urgent effort to resolve a little this grievance of a one-sided coverage as to a most pressing and current war.” It ends by urging the responsible persons to revive the idea of an “Anne Will” program on Gaza.

Contradictory Responses and Open Questions

ARD chief editor Baumann in a long phone conversation with Massarrat did not rule out that “soon a program would be broadcast on the issue” while emphasizing that in this case ARD was not under pressure nor would it act under pressure. Likewise those in charge of the program broadcast repeatedly claimed that there was no outside interference in the decision-making and the decision was not based upon political, but “purely upon journalistic considerations” (Cichowicz). Further, Anne Will’s spokesperson said that the topic of suicide had a “greater relevance for the people in our country”. As a reaction to such statements, the junge Welt tauntingly raised the question: “What are 1000 lost lives by Israel’s war against [the one of] a rich German?”[15]

Cichowicz in a response to lead complainant Massarrat said that different topics would be prepared for each week with a final decision being made on Thursdays.[16] Contrastingly, NDR spokesman Martin Gartzke said that the final decision on the weekly topic of the “Anne Will” show would be made Fridays at noon as it had happened in the given case.[17] Still presenting a different time table, Ms. Will’s spokeswoman Nina Tesenfitz was quoted as saying that the program’s editorial team had decided upon the suicide topic by midweek.[18] However, as noted earlier, at least two of the invitees had learned about the cancelation on Thursday.

Whatever the exact procedure may be, it is highly astonishing that such high-profile guests had been invited, but disinvited on a short notice, Massarrat replied to an e-mail sent by Ms. Will on 12 January.[19] Not to mention the journalistic duty not to ignore such a brutal military assault on defenseless people, but to provide a fair and free forum on this important incident whose perpetrator Israel is accused of violating a host of international laws, including committing war crimes.[20]

Israeli Pressures or Self-Censorship: Raison d’Etat à l’Allemande

Considering the overall one-sided German (and more broadly Western) media coverage of the situation in Gaza,[21] the political statements voiced by German officials, and the recent cancelation of the “Anne Will” Gaza program, it can be suggested that the German “Israel Lobby” or the Israeli government pressured the broadcaster to cancel the show. The Israeli Embassy declared that this was “complete non-sense”.[22]

In an e-mail on 10 January, Massarrat had written: “One seems to be forced to suggest that it was Israel’s government that pushed for the cancelation of the program. Thus, in the most important German TV network, the new Israel war cannot be discussed freely and critically. […] The German raison d’Etat vis-à-vis Israel is obviously including press censorship […].”[23] It has been widely reported in the media that as a “lesson” to the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, this time Tel Aviv had in advance prepared a sophisticated propaganda and public-relations campaign[24] – which might well have affected German media outlets’ decision-making.

The alternative explanation implies that the editors themselves acted in self-censorship because of the quasi-taboo in Germany when it comes to any kind of critique vis-à-vis Israel.[25]

“Prescribed Discriminatory Terminology”

In the meanwhile, there has been a sequel of the correspondence between the program authorities and Professor Massarrat, which was also forwarded to the German Press Council that oversees the freedom of press (see also the German Press Code). Replying to Mr. Cichowicz and Ms. Will’s rejection (the latter in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung)[26] of the claims put forward by the open letter that political pressure was exercised and that the German media coverage was one-sided, Massarrat reiterated in an e-mail on 22 January the above-mentioned open questions while providing examples of the pro-Israeli Gaza coverage by public broadcasters.[27]

He especially condemned the incessant journalistic usage of the attribute “radical Islamic” when it came to Hamas, whose “subtle demonization” would provide the audience with the “necessary pre-condemnation” exterminating any empathy when Israeli bombs fell upon Palestinians – “according to the motto, whoever is supporting an extremist organization, is responsible for the consequences”. Against the background of German history – Jewish demonization and Germans’ immunization toward Jewish suffering in the Nazi period – as well as the manipulation of public opinion in the current crisis, he urges that the “prescribed discriminatory terminology” be revoked.[28] And indeed, there is hardly any journalist in German mainstream media who does not attribute “radical Islamic” or “terrorist” to Hamas, while “Zionist” or even “state-terrorist” is never being attributed when describing Israel.

Massarrat further criticizes ARD correspondents covering the Gaza assault from Tel Aviv, who – as he proves – would present Israeli positions in response to questions on what Germany might do to contribute to a ceasefire, reflecting Israeli demands for a ceasefire which would enable her to continue the “illegal blockade policy of the Gaza Strip”. He concludes by warning that “foe images and demonization of the other psychologically pave the way for violence and war”. Instead, he urges the “spirit of cooperation and respect for other cultures” to be promoted by the media.[29]

The Left’s Paralysis

When it comes to the Left, the political strand most inclined to oppose colonial and imperial ambitions, it has found itself in quite a paralysis – except for the anti-imperialist daily junge Welt. Also the stances of the German Left Party were far from unanimous in condemning Israel’s illegal endeavor. While the party’s spokesperson in foreign policy matters, law professor Norman Paech, found that “[n]o political goal, no right to defense or self-defense may justify such a war. A mockery of the UN Charter, a barbarity under the eyes of states that hide their weakness and cowardice behind a mild criticism, which signals rather approval than rejection”,[30] the chairman of DIE LINKE’s parliamentary group Gregor Gysi, who in spring 2008 had called upon his party to bury anti-imperialism and anti-Zionism for the sake of German raison d’état,[31] wrote: “Israel’s war was conducted as a reaction to the ongoing firing of rockets from Iran-supported Hamas on Israeli cities and villages, which also led to dead and injured among the civilian population, and [as a reaction] to the unilateral revocation of the truce by Hamas.”[32]

The broader German Left has lacked displaying solidarity with the brutally bombarded Gazans, as Pedram Shahyar, a member of ATTAC Germany’s Coordinating Council, points out. The Left’s “blockade” was due to the “real problem that in the course of conflicts in which Israel is involved, anti-Semitism is lurking. The leftists in this country have a historically-conditioned sensibility. […] The danger exists that because of the crimes of the Jewish State a climate arises, in which reactionary forces grow and emancipatory forces lose relevance”. But, he argues, the Left should acknowledge the simple historical truth that “[i]t is the West which since decades has covered the Middle East with war and occupation. It is the West which has all around installed military bases and puppet governments. In this Western bloc and its imperial policies the acts of the Israeli state are embedded. So long as this foreign rule and dominance do not end, there will be no peace.” As a result, if the Left failed to oppose the “imperial project” of “colonial racism”, it would lose its “moral center” to stand by the oppressed, Shahyar rightly concludes.[33]

Jewish Voices Against Israel

One of the rare publicly heard voices opposing the invasion of Gaza was Professor Rolf Verleger, former chairman of the Jewish Community in Schleswig-Holstein (the northernmost of sixteen German states) who also serves on the board of directors of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. In an interview with the German public radio Deutschlandfunk (DLF), he criticized the Central Council’s backing of the Israeli assault as being “shortsighted and amiss” since what was happening “in the name of Judaism” was and would be a problem for Judaism itself: “Judaism once was called ‘the religion of acting charity’, wasn’t it? When I say that today, no one is going to believe me. Today Judaism is a religion which justifies land seizure and oppression of Arabs. This cannot be true! The Central Council of Jews in Germany must see this as a problem which must be confronted.”[34] The Central Council is known for its unconditional support for wars conducted by Israel.

The psychologist further noted that he sometimes had the feeling that German politicians were quite appreciating that “the Jews” and Israel become delinquent, which would be contributing to the “discharge” of Germany. “This is not responsible”, concluded Verleger. To be responsible meant to signal Israel that it had to act according to international rules.[35]

European Jews for a Just Peace (EJPJ) Germany took out an ad in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the country’s highest-circulation newspaper of liberal couleur, headlined “German Jews say NO to the murdering by the Israeli army”, which read: “We are appalled by this inhumanity. […] Do German politicians really believe that it is a compensation of the murdering of our Jewish kinsfolk that Israel can now […] do whatever crosses her mind?” It further notes: “Hamas is using terrorist methods, but this is also what the elected representation of Israel does, in fact hundredfold more effective.”[36]

In the same vein, Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, a Jewish–German activist and a daughter of the former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Heinz Galinski, writes: “Not the elected Hamas government, but the brutal occupation force, namely the government of a radical-Jewish state has to be taken to the The Hague war tribunal.”[37] She had previously called the Central Council acting as “mouthpiece of the Israeli government in Germany”.

The online edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung interviewed German-born Israeli peace activist and founder of “Gush Shalom” Uri Avnery, in which the 85-year old laid out that Israel had not been showing any interest to cut a peace deal with the Palestinians over the past years.[38] These were indeed by and large the only voices dissenting from publicized mainstream opinion, severely attacked by neoconservative and pro-Zionist circles such as the blog Die Achse des Guten (“Axis of the Good”)[39].

Merkel’s Media? Hardly Fair

Despite ongoing attacks on Gaza and the rising number of casualties, last Sunday, 18 January, the Gaza topic was again circumvented by the “Anne Will” show. While the competitor political talk show “Maybrit Illner” (named after the anchor and broadcast by ZDF – the “Second German Television”) also hushed up the Gaza tragedy, the third major political talk show “hart aber fair” (“hard but fair” – also broadcast by ARD) covered in its 19 January program the topic of “Bloody ruins in Gaza – How far does our solidarity with Gaza go?” In a poll posted on its website in the run-up to the program, the question was raised whether one should refrain from criticizing Israel. Almost 70 percent negated the question.[40]

As the leading scholar on the Israel–Palestine conflict Norman Finkelstein pointed out when laying down the sliding support for Israeli policies among Americans, “the propaganda edifice is beginning to fall apart. It’s falling apart for many reasons. But I think the main reason is: More and more people know more and more of the truth about what’s happening. It’s due in part obviously to the alternative media”. He added that “the challenge for all of us is to tell the truth”, while advising “Tell no lies, stick scrupulously to the facts, claim no easy victories” and by doing so “we can win over public opinion to this cause”.[41]

It can be suggested that the massive Israeli propaganda efforts are a reaction to those seemingly important shifts in Western public opinion. In an online poll conducted by Germany’s leading conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on whether Hamas or Israel were right, the results had been largely manipulated after the Israeli representation at the United Nations in Geneva had sent out an e-mail entitled “We need your votes”, which led to the result of over 70 percent declaring solidarity with Israel.[42]

The discussants appearing on the above mentioned “hart aber fair” show were Michel Friedman, a former vice-president (2000-03) of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and former chairman (2001-03) of the European Jewish Congress, Rudolf Dressler, a former German ambassador to Israel (2000-05), Ulrich Kienzle, a veteran journalist specialized on the Middle East, Norbert Blüm, a former German Minister, and last but not least Udo Steinbach, former long-year director of German Institute for Middle East Studies (1976–2006), known as the German Orient Institute, being one of the country’s most respected Islam and Mideast expert.

Steinbach, known for his candid analyses, had at the outset of the war on Gaza appeared on the country’s prime daily TV news magazine ARD “Tagesthemen” as well as ZDF “Morgenmagazin” (a prominent morning news magazine), in which he denounced Israel’s “brutal undertaking” in the first 36 hours of the attack with a death toll of 350, which was “simply immoral”.[43] His successor at the German Orient Institute, Gunter Mulack, harshly criticized Steinbach for his indeed accurate comments and instead blamed Hamas for the crisis, though suggesting Israel’s actions were “disproportionate”.[44]

Instead of discussing the current conflict, the “hart aber fair” program focused on the issue of latent anti-Semitism. Correctly, Steinbach lamented the debate slipped off to “side scenes” instead of paying due attention to politics. However, noteworthy political remarks had been voiced. While Friedman emphasized Israel’s right to defend herself against “Hamas terrorists”, Kienzle replied that the problem in Germany was that while Palestinians killing civilians were considered terrorists, Israelis doing the same were conversely called self-defenders. Blüm, a Christian believer who when criticizing Israel was repeatedly defamed as an anti-Semite, pointed to the continuous hardship under which Palestinians have been suffering. Steinbach emphasized the decades-long illegal occupation of land by Israel and the shortcomings of Western and Israeli policies to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

After all, the “hart aber fair” program was hardly fair as it turned to ignore the Gaza conflict, but instead focused on the “if” and “how” criticism towards Israel should be voiced. This is a tactic frequently utilized in Germany to circumvent any facts-based debate on Israel–Palestine or even issues pertaining to Islamic countries, such as the Iran conflict. After all, Blüm made a statement which seems the most accurate one when it comes to Germany’s judeocidal past and present Israeli crimes: “Our responsibility out of the terrible crimes of the Nazi era done to the Jews – incomparable crimes – … my conclusion that I draw from that, my kind of Vergangenheitsbewältigung [a notion referring to a struggle to come to terms with the Nazi past—AFN], precisely because we have made ourselves guilty in such a way, to work for a world in which no longer people are being tortured, killed, oppressed, no matter where they are coming from. This is true for Israelis and Palestinians alike. […] Human rights apply to everyone.”

In sum, it can be concluded that most of the German media are indeed complying with Chancellor Merkel’s will – it was not only Ms. Will.

Ali Fathollah-Nejad is a German–Iranian political scientist focusing on the international relations of the Middle East. For the open letter, he gained the signatures of prominent figures outside of Germany.

[1] Agence France-Presse (AFP), “Germany’s Merkel Blames Hamas for Gaza Violence”, 29 December 2008.

[2] La Stampa (Turin), 30 December 2008.

[3] Cited in: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avi_Primor#Zitate (accessed 19 January 2009).

[4] Joschka Fischer interviewed by Jörg Lau & Patrik Schwarz, “Krieg in Nahost: ‘Das ist Obamas erster Krieg’”, Die Zeit, No. 3/2009 (8 January 2009). Further, the weekly’s online edition featured an interview with Harvard law Professor Alan Dershowitz in which the well-known advocate of Israeli policies claimed – in utter contradistinction to respected international legal authorities – that Israel’s military assault was “commensurate [angemessen]”; Dershowitz interviewed by Jan Free, “Gaza-Krieg: ‘Israels Vorgehen ist angemessen’” [“Gaza war: ‘Israel’s action is commensurate’”], Zeit Online, 15 January 2009.

[5] See also Edward W. Said & Daniel Barenboim, Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society, Pantheon Books, 2002.

[6] Rupert Neudeck, “Gaza schreit vor wütendem Hunger und Not. Zu einem erschütternden Bericht eines Gaza-Journalisten“ [“Gaza cries out of furious hunger and misery. On a staggering report from a Gaza journalist”], 7 December 2008, Green Helmets website.

[7] Rupert Neudeck, “Feigheit der Politik, Feigheit der Medien. Ein humanitärer Zwischenruf”, gruenhelme.de, 11 January 2009.

[8] “Interview mit Daniel Barenboim” [“Interview with Daniel Barenboim”], ‘Kulturzeit’, 3sat, 5 January 2009.

[9] The letter is posted on http://www.steinbergrecherche.com/09rundfunk.htm#Will (accessed 22 January 2009).

[10] See also Tariq Ali, “From the ashes of Gaza. In the face of Israel’s latest onslaught, the only option for Palestinian nationalism is to embrace a one-state solution”, guardian.co.uk, 30 December 2008. [11] See also “Former Amb. Martin Indyk vs. Author Norman Finkelstein: A Debate on Israel’s Assault on Gaza and the US Role in the Conflict”, Democracy Now!, 8 January 2009; for an edited extract of his remarks at the latter appearance, see Norman Finkelstein, “Seeing Through the Lies: The Facts About Hamas and the War on Gaza”, CounterPunch, 13 January 2009; Norman Finkelstein, “Foiling Another Palestinian ‘Peace Offensive’: Behind the bloodbath in Gaza”, www.normanfinkelstein.com, 19 January 2009. [12] See also Immanuel Wallerstein, “Chronicle of a Euthanasia Foretold: The Case of Israel”, Agence Global, 15 January 2009.

[13] See also Hamid Dabashi, “The Moral and Military Meltdown of Israel”, The Palestine Chronicle, 12 January 2009.

[14] See also Gilbert Achcar interviewed by Daniel Finn, “The Crisis in Gaza”, Irish Left Review, 15 January 2009; as well as “Growing outrage at the killings in Gaza”, The Guardian, 16 January 2009, a call by hundreds of British academics which Achcar co-signed.

[15] “Gaza? Weniger Relevanz. Kritik an ‘Anne Will’” [“Gaza? Lesser relevance. Critique at ‘Anne Will’”], junge Welt, 16 January 2009, p. 14.

[16] Cited in “Debatte um Themenwechsel bei ‘Anne Will’: Freitod für die Quote oder Angst vor dem Krieg?” [“Debate on the change of topic on ‘Anne Will’: Suicide for ratings or anxiety over the war?”], Netzeitung, 15 January 2009. [17] Cited in Harald Neuber, “Statt Gaza-Streifen lieber Freitod” [“Instead of Gaza Strip rather suicide”], Telepolis, 15 January 2009. [18] Cited in Daland Segler, “Die Toten und die Quoten. Anne Will redete lieber über Merckle statt Gaza” [“the dead and the ratings. Anne Will preferably talked about Merckle than Gaza”], Frankfurter Rundschau, 13 January 2009.

[19] “Zur Absetzung von Talkshow zum Gazakrieg” [“On the cancelation of a Gaza War talk show”], junge Welt, 15 January 2009, p. 8.

[20] Cf. Manfred Rotter [professor emeritus on international law, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria], “Von ‘Notwehr’ kann keine Rede sein. Mit der Militäroperation gegen Hamas verstößt Israel massiv gegen die Bestimmungen des Völkerrechts” [“‘Self-defense’ is out of question. With the military operation against Hamas, Israel massively violates provisions of international law”], Der Standard (Austria), 31 December 2008 – 1 January 2009; “Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence – it’s a war crime“, The Sunday Times, 11 January 2009; Mark LeVine [professor of Middle East history at the University of California, Irvine], “Who will save Israel from itself?”, Al-Jazeera English, 13 January 2009; Jens Berger, “Israel kontra Völkerrecht” [“Israel versus international law”], Der Spiegelfechter, 14 January 2009.

[21] Cf. Sabine Kefir, “Blockadebrecher ‘Al Djasira’: Weißer Phosphor, keine Bilder”, Freitag, No. 3 (16 January 2009), p. 6; see also the Gaza debate broadcast by Germany’s parliamentary TV channel PHOENIX, “Der ewige Kinflikt? – Krieg im Gazastreifen”, ‘PHOENIX Runde’, 12 January, 22:15h.

[22] Cited in Martina Doering & Ralf Mielke, “Zwischen den Fronten” [“Between the fronts”], Berliner Zeitung, 13 January 2009, p. 3

[23] Cited in Peter Kleinert, “Israels Erfolge im Propagandakrieg” [“Israel’s successes in the propaganda war”], NRhZ-Online – Neue Rheinische Zeitung, No. 179 (12 January 2009).

[24] Cf. Jens Berger, “Israel im Propagandakrieg” [“Israel in propaganda warfare”], Der Spiegelfechter, 8 January 2009; John Bunzl [historian at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs, OIIP], “Willkommen im Wahrheitsministerium Jerusalem. Wie Israels ‚Spindoktoren‘ unter Ausblendung historischer Zusammenhänge Realität konstruieren” [“Welcome to the Jerusalem Truth Ministry. How Israel’s ‘spin doctors’ construct reality by fading-out the historical context”], Der Standard (Austria), 10–11 January 2009; Peter Kleinert, op. cit.; Noam Chomsky, “On Gaza”, lecture, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge (MA), 13 January 2009; James Zogby [president of the Arab American Institute], “Zionist propaganda machine”, Al-Ahram Weekly, No. 930 (15–21 January 2009).

[25] Cf. Peter Kleinert, op. cit.

[26] Anne Will interviewed by Michael Hanfeld, “Es gab keine Einflussnahme von außen” [“There was no influence from outside”], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 16 January 2009.

[27] “‘Anne Will’ und Medienberichterstattung über den Gaza-Krieg” [“‘Anne Will’ and media coverage on the Gaza War”], CASMII, 22 January 2009.

[28] Op. cit.

[29] Op. cit.

[30] Norman Paech [German MP and former Hamburg University law professor], “Freiheit für Gaza” [“Freedom for Gaza”], Neues Deutschland, 10 January 2009, p. 1.

[31] Cf. Ali Fathollah-Nejad, “Neo-Con Conference Pushes for War on Iran”, Global Research, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, 1 June 2008, last para.

[32] Gregor Gysi [German MP], “Waffenstillstand jetzt” [“Ceasefire now”], Frankfurter Rundschau, 7 January 2009.

[33] Pedram Shahyar, “Kolonialer Rassismus” [“Colonial racism”], junge Welt, 22 January 2009, p. 3.

[34] Rolf Verleger interviewed by Tobias Armbrüster “Rolf Verleger: Internationale Politik sollte Israel Grenzen zeigen” [“Rolf Verleger: International politics should show Israel limits”], Deutschlandfunk, 29 December 2008.

[35] Op. cit.

[36] “Deutsche Juden und Jüdinnen sagen NEIN zum Morden der israelischen Armee”, advert in Süddeutsche Zeitung, 17 January 2009, p. 10.

[37] Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, “Aktion ‘gegossenes Blei’ – Aktion ‘vergossenes Blut’” [“Operation ‘cast lead’ – Operation ‘blood shed’”], Das Palästina Portal, 30 December 2008.

[38] “Israel: Friedenskämpfer Avnery über Gaza. ‘Hamas wird gewinnen’” [“Israel: Freedom fighter Avnery on Gaza. ‘Hamas will win’”], sueddeutsche.de, 7 January 2009. See also Uri Avnery, “How Many Divisions? The Blood-Stained Monster Enters Gaza”, CounterPunch, 12 January 2009.

[39] Cf. Ali Fathollah-Nejad, op. cit.

[40] Cf. also Raymond Deane, “Are German getting fed up with Israel?”, The Electronic Intifada, 18 January 2009.

[41] “Crisis in Gaza: The U.S., Israel, and Palestine”, with Ali Abunimah, Norman G. Finkelstein and John J. Mearsheimer speaking, University of Chicago, 8 January 2009, 1h25min45sec.

[42] Cf. Peter Kleinert, op. cit.

[43] “Experte sieht Problem bei den Israelis” [“Expert sees problem with Israelis”], ‘Morgenmagazin’, ZDF, 30 December 2008; “Nahost-Experte Udo Steinbach zu der Situation im Gazastreifen” [“Mideast expert Udo Steinbach on the situation in the Gaza Strip”], ‘Tagesthemen’, ARD, 30 December 2008. Startlingly, the respective final questions posed to Steinbach in both programs were where “moderate Palestinians” were.

[44] Cf. Corinna Emundts, “tagesschau-chat mit Gunter Mulack: ‘Israels Vorgehen ist unverhältnismäßig’” [“tagesschau-chat with Gunter Mulack: ‘Israel’s action is disproportionate’], tagesschau.de, 6 January 2009.

SOURCE

Fathollah-Nejad, Ali (2009) “German Media Censorship on Gaza? Merkel’s Will“, Global Research, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, 22 January;

▪ republished [with functioning endnotes] on NormanFinkelstein.com, 29 January;

▪ abridged version published on The Palestine Chronicle, 16 February.

 

CITED IN

Finkelstein, Norman G. (2010) ‘This Time We Went Too Far’: Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion, New York: OR Books, p. 114 (Footnote 57) and p. 116 (Footnote 66).

 

Iran Falling Into the “Net” of a “Worldwide Policy”: On the U.S. Foreign Policy Doctrine and Its (Present) Dangers

PRAISE

»Quite interesting« (Prof. Noam Chomsky)

Ali Fathollah-Nejad interviews veteran Middle East Expert William R.Polk on United States foreign policy toward Iran:

Iran falling into the “net” of a “worldwide policy”: On the U.S. Foreign Policy Doctrine and Its Dangers

William R. Polk* interviewed by Ali Fathollah-Nejad**

A former high-ranking member in the foreign and security policy staff of U.S. President John F. Kennedy and most recently the foreign policy advisor of Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s presidential bid, Dr. William Polk talks to Ali Fathollah-Nejad on the neoconservative momentum in his country’s foreign policy, on terrorism, and on the danger of war on Iran.

A.F.: How can the U.S. foreign policy objective vis-à-vis Iran be summarized? What is the common denominator?

W.P.: I think it is a complicated issue really, because it is partly an aspect of American attitude toward Israel, partly an aspect of the attitude toward Iraq, but is also much influenced by the general drift which was set up the neoconservative movement dealing with America’s role in the world. I go into that in some detail in the last book I did called Violent Politics (HarperCollins Publishers, 2007) and also the book I did with former Senator George McGovern on the Iraq issue entitled Out of Iraq – A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

This reformulation of American policy started over a decade ago with Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz asserting an American role as the world’s policeman. They sought to reconstitute various other countries according to, as they described it, American national interest. They proposed that America assume the right to attack other nations and to change their regimes. This was not a theoretical or academic exercise, but it was encapsulated in the U.S. national security policy.

The basic idea is that America assumes the right to intervene anywhere in the world, not only where it regards enemies operating against it, but where the United States feels that other countries or movements might rival its power. This policy was effected by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld when he created an organization called the »Special Operations Command« which was set up in Florida with 53,000 men and last year’s budget (FY 2008) of 8 billion dollars, Rumsfeld asserted the right to station American special forces – »special op’s forces« as they are called – anywhere in the world to assassinate enemies, overthrow governments, and otherwise engage in acts of war and not be under the supervision of Congress or the designated American representatives abroad – the ambassadors – but to operate solely under the discretion of the Secretary of Defense. And this operation actually exists today. I have described it as being a “loose cannon” for American policy.

All attention is focused on Iran

So this is a whole new drift of American affairs that is not focused only on Iran or only on Iraq, but takes up Somalia, Pakistan, India, where we have some of these people (special op’s) now operating, and Latin America. It is a worldwide policy. In so far as it is evident in various other places, you can see already 737 American bases have been created around the world, so that Iran fell – if you will – into the net of this general policy.

As for Iran per se, there are two things that American attention has been focused upon that substantiated and build the possibility of such a policy. One is the hostage issue at the American embassy [in Tehran] which has left a very deep and still raw scar on American public opinion. Throughout America people still mention that.

The other thing is Islam. Americans generally, and certainly the government, have adopted the idea that Islam per se and Muslims per se are American enemies. People like my former Harvard University colleague Samuel Huntington have made a great issue out of this “clash of cultures.”

So most Americans today believe that Iran is a major leader in the struggle against America and that Iran is funding and arming opposition to America in Iraq and doing the same against Israel through the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. No one remembers that Iran was helpful in trying to solve the Afghan problem. No one even knows about what Iran has done to try to stop the flow of drugs. Actually trying to interdict the flow of goods across its territory from Afghanistan and Pakistan Iran has lost as many as soldiers as America has lost in the Iraq War. The statistics are totally unknown about these things anywhere. Iran has been singled out as part of the – as [President George W.] Bush put it – »axis of evils« and of course now it is virtually the only one left because Iraq has been incapacitated and North Korea has achieved immunity because it actually has nuclear weapons. So all attention is focused on Iran.

I have been calling attention for the last three years to the build-up toward war on Iran. What seems, at least temporarily, to have stopped this is the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) [in December 2007] showing that Iran had not been working on nuclear weapons for some period of time and had no “operational plans” to acquire them. Frankly I don’t believe that. If I were an Iranian, I would certainly be working on nuclear weapons or trying to acquire them somewhere because that is the only sure way that any country can defend itself.

The only way to discourage this move, I believe, is a serious move toward nuclear disarmament. We began that effort when I was in government in the 1960s. But we did not carry through. We should recommence that effort. I feel this particularly strongly as I was deeply involved, as a member of the Crisis Management Committee during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. That experience left permanent scars on me, as you can imagine.

One thing certainly then became clear: there is no constructive purpose ever served by nuclear weapons. Any nuclear weapon anywhere in the world is a mortal danger to everyone everywhere. After all, it only takes one nuclear weapon to create almost unimaginable horror and, if one nuclear weapon is used, it will certainly trigger the use of other nuclear weapons.

Having come so close as my government did – in the little group I was associated with and monitored – and later learning how close the Russians had come to the total destruction of the world, I deeply believe that we must prevent even the possibility of their use. We can be sure of that only by eliminating them.

The Iranian government is not helpful about these things, to be frank. I have dealt a lot with the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Javad Zarif, in the past. He has recommended for example, when I started thinking about writing the book on which I am engaged – on Iranian-American relations – that I can go and talk to people in the Iranian government. They refused, they are not talking to anybody that I can find outside, not matter who they are.

They seem to be afraid in such a tense situation to speak frankly with you, aren’t they?

There is reason to be afraid, I understand that. But if we are to make any kinds of steps toward resolving this crisis there must be some degree of exchange. It would be helpful to them, I would argue. That is because I am going to write this book and I lecture all over America and speak to the Congress. So it would be useful to talk with responsible Iranians.

The other inhibition on Iranians is that many aspects of the Iranian government policy are not attractive. There are of course similar aspects of other governments that are not attractive, to which we pay no attention. But Iran is under the spotlight.

And since the European Union has been willfully ignorant and weak, hardly having an independent voice in these things the American government has had no real constraints or even other views on its activity. It more or less did what the Vice-President and the Secretary of Defense wanted it to do.

Nobody Is Giving a Damn About Illegality

The Israelis and the American neoconservative movement have been pushing very hard to precipitate an attack on Iran for years, going back indeed to the 1990s. Today I think they have less real power although for example the “surge” in Iraq was designed by Frederick W. Kagan, one of the neoconservative leaders. The neoconservatives remain extremely active in the so-called think-tanks, the newspapers, and the various publications. They are still unrependent about what they got us into in Iraq and they are perfectly prepared to get us into Iran.

I have responded to this policy by trying to show that a war on Iran would be greater disaster than the war on Iraq. I have tried successively to pick up the theme of illegality – which I find nobody really understands or is very interested in – the horrific cost to the Iranians that this would cause as it is caused in Iraq. Nobody gives a damn about that. The cost to American troops which surprisingly is not very much attended either because most of the young people we send overseas have been the “disadvantaged” or as a man in one of my audiences put it, the dregs of the our society. Lured into service by large bonuses, they are virtually a mercenary army. I think many people have said frankly that if they were not in Iraq, they would be in American prisons. So that has not been very useful.

But to what I have finally come cynically, I confess, to the belief that the only thing that really counts is the monetary cost. So I focused in the oil issue – the price of oil, the possible results of the close-down of the 8 percent of energy that Iran directly produces, and the 40 percent of the world’s energy that flows down the Persian Gulf – and the rise of debt in America, 30 percent under the Bush administration, the borrowing abroad 2.3 trillion dollars of which 1 trillion dollars of government obligations is directly owned by China, the three or perhaps six or seven trillion dollars that war has cost the American economy and the many more trillions of dollars that American businesses have borrowed from overseas investors. I found that the thing that had finally begun to make some difference in the interest of audiences was the decline of the American property market, that finally – as Mark Twain long ago put it – “the most delicate organ in the human body is the pocketbook.” So that’s my approach.

Coming just back to what you have said initially. Can you confirm the thesis put forward by many that the U.S. drive towards waging war on Iran is intended to gain momentum against the so-called global “peer competitors”, i.e. China, Russia, the EU? Since if you look at the national security strategies and all other relevant papers, the objective is to deter those “peer competitors” from becoming serious rivals on the global stage and considering Iran’s energy wealth and geostrategic positioning, how imperative is U.S. control over Iran? Is this also the rationale behind the neoconservatives’ drive towards confronting Iran?

I think there are two aspects to what you just said that need some refining. One of them is, I don’t think that this is a “peer” issue. I think everyone in the administration believes that America is uniquely powerful and has the capacity to utterly destroy Iran if it chose to and to do so practically overnight, certainly to destroy the Iranian army and whatever scientific capacity it may have for development of weapons of mass destruction. Frankly speaking, I think the analysis behind this [peer competitor argument] is very crude. As an old policy-planner I find it appallingly amateurish, never mind whether one agrees with the philosophy behind it or not.

I think rather than that, the feeling is that if America should – as one of the neoconservatives said – “line them up against the wall and kick them” and a movement against Iran would demonstrate America’s intent to be a tough, powerful figure on the world stage. That shows the resolution rather the capacity of a country to act. That would demonstrate to Pakistan, to Latin America – Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, etc. – America’s will, which I think is the more important issue. Secondly, to alleviate or stop any Iranian interference in Iraq…

…for which there is no evidence until now. As far as I have observed, the United States administration has tried to change the rhetoric in the summer of 2007 because the image of the nuclear threat was not really credible if one read carefully the International Atomic Energy Agency’s reports where it is said that there no evidence for any Iranian weaponization program. That was a try to rally the American public behind such a war effort saying that Iran was “interfering in Iraqi affairs” and “killing our soldiers” in that country.

I think you are right, there is no clear evidence of effective Iranian armed interference in Iraq.

However, it seems to me that this misses one dimension which is worth considering carefully. I have always found that in my work on international affairs it is useful and important to try to put myself, as it were, on the other side of the table. Then I can imagine how I would act if I were the other person. So what does that suggest? If I were Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, I would certainly be trying to make America’s position in Iraq and Lebanon as difficult as I possibly could. Why not? I would then be acting rather like America under the Monroe Doctrine with the nations of Latin America, its neighbors as Iraq is mine. And I would certainly be trying to get a nuclear weapon. That is, I would follow North Korea to avoid being treated like Iraq. So I assume that this is a feasible objective for the government of Iran.

That insight raises the question of what you do about it and the answer essentially comes down to three possibilities: attack Iran and try to destroy it, which is the neoconservative and Israeli approach; or you try in various ways to make such an effort so expensive and so difficult for Iran that it backs off, which is essentially what we are trying to do right now with sanctions and various forms of economic pressure; the third possibility is to try to find out what is causing this movement toward acquisition of weapons and toward intervening in Iraq and Lebanon.

It seems to me that it is the third one that offers us a real possibility for peace. Because if we can admit we would do what Iran possibly is doing or presumptively could be doing, then we can begin to identify and evaluate what would make it attractive for them not to do that.

Where to begin? I don’t think it takes any intelligence to see that the Iranians are in part reacting to the threat posed by the 2005 U.S. national security doctrine – which as far as I have been able to found out is still operative. That doctrine threatens Iran with destruction. As I said, if I were Iranian, it would make me seek to do what we fear Iran wants to do. Therefore instead of threatening to attack, we need to disavow this policy.

Once we have done that, and gotten other powers, especially Iran, to believe us, we can then begin to deal with the nuclear issue. The first step there is to cooperate with the Russians to begin to destroy nuclear weapons and move toward where we were with the nuclear disarmament actions at my time in government. This must be the first step because, as the responsible Indian government official put it, we cannot expect others to cut back unless we do; they will not accept a world of Asian “haves” and European “have-nots.”

Beyond the nuclear issue, as we take the pressure off Iran, there is a possibility and indeed a probability that the moderating forces in Iranian society will have a chance to come to the fore. The current policy necessarily favors the more radical forces in the society and works to the disadvantage not only of Iran, but also of the United States and of course all the other countries. So we are going in exactly the opposite direction of where I think the policy should lead us.

So does that mean that Iran’s nuclear dossier should be sent back to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for not being anymore in such a politicized climate? If you observed the third round of sanctions, UN Security Council resolution 1803 from March 3, 2008, this was a sad exercise in international diplomacy when you see how much pressure was put upon the 10 non-permanent members by the 5 permanent ones, especially from Washington and Paris. Thus, at the end none of the four countries – Indonesia, Libya, South-Africa, Vietnam – that had signaled their intention to reject the resolution did so, so that the vote turned out to be quasi-unanimous with only Jakarta abstaining.

I am not sure if Iran can pursue a weaponization program without being caught by the IAEA, which is not an easy task to do. On the other hand I am not sure if Iran is not really interested in stability in Iraq. Its interference might not be so counterproductive to American interests either, as some argue. Maybe all this leads to the conclusion that the nuclear crisis is just – as I put it – “a manufactured crisis.” An Iranian nuclear weapon is certainly perceived as a threat by Israel, but for the U.S. it is more feasible to deal with a nuclear-armed Iran.

I think it is arguable that it does not really make any difference about Iranian nuclear weapons because let’s say that Iran acquires one, five, or ten weapons, any hint that it would use those weapons would cause massive destruction in Iran so that anyone would have be insane to use the weapons. We all have dealt with that problem repeatedly over the last 50 years. For Pakistan the use of the nuclear weapon against India is unthinkable and likewise vice versa, or for us to use it against Russia. Mutually assured destruction is maybe not a wholly satisfactory thing, but it does have some operational importance.

The one thing I detected in what you just said that I would be clear about it is that my experience in trying to think about policy is that you can’t really single out a little piece and change that. We really have to think globally on what the policy is about. If we could think about how we could interface with Iran over the whole range of our relationships, then the nuclear issue becomes more manageable. As a single issue I don’t think it is manageable.

Do you also think the U.S. should give Iran a security guarantee, a reversal from the regime-change policy, which would really change a lot also inside Iran in coping with the U.S. This seems to be the main hurdle in all this.

It is unlikely that any foreseeable American government would do that.

From the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire

So you don’t also think that a future U.S. government might do that?

I don’t see anybody in American politics today moving in that direction, including Barack Obama, who also now says “all options are on the table, I mean all options.” If Obama is the liberal voice of America, that does not give you much ground for hope. What it seems to me has to happen is, first of all, an analysis of what it is really we are trying to achieve, secondly, what the forces are at work, and thirdly, how we can take a series of carefully graduated steps toward achieving them. I think a security guarantee at some point may be a useful thing, but in fact if the various steps that I can foresee actually come into being, then the security guarantee is not anymore of real importance. We don’t give England a security guarantee for example.

But the U.S. did not say that we are going to do regime change in London either?

Exactly, but if you back off the neoconservative policy and begin to take a series of positive steps, you do not need a security guarantee. Therefore, the first thing that I would have us do is to revoke the 2005 U.S. national security doctrine…

…which is in fact about Iran…

Well, it covers the whole world and it covers it in a massive variety of forms of military intervention. It is a frightening document that is wholly out of the character of the traditional American political system. As a very old-fashioned American from a family that has been very much involved in American politics since before the Revolution[i], I feel very much that we have changed course. It is almost a change from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. This is a change that I deeply resent in our political system.

What do you think about the prospect of creating a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Near and Middle East, which would entail solving regional problems, but also creating a region void of weapons of mass destruction? Do you see the U.S. government willing to launch such an initiative?

Frankly, I don’t find much value in conferences. The ones that I have been involved in the past, the issues were really resolved before the conference. The conference itself was a kind of painting over, smoothing up, beautifying the results that had already been achieved. I think almost always conferences, particularly non-governmental conferences, are among the people who already agree with one another.

I am more talking about regional structure building.

I think this also is less valuable because if you really achieve the kind of movement that I suggested you don’t need that structure very much. It may be that it is cosmetically valuable at some point, but it is not going to be the thing that is going to change the actions.

Terrorism is the weapon of the weak

So what would be the advice you would give to the U.S. administration at this time?

The first would be you abolish the preemptive strike doctrine of 2005. The second thing would be to analyze what really in involved in the terror issue that is mesmerizing the American public and government. Terrorism is simply a tactic. We used terrorism in the American Revolution against the British. Every guerilla warfare and every insurgency has used terrorism. Terrorism is what people use when they do not have any other means of action. So when insurgent movements begin, that is what they can do. The Iraqi insurgence for example does not have the capacity to fight Apache helicopters, gunships, F-16s, tanks, and so forth. So what have they left? They have terrorism. They are going to use that because that is the only thing they have. Terrorism is the weapon of the weak. To say we have a “war on terrorism” is simply non-sense.

Bush’s Gun-Slinging-Shoot-from-the-Hip Approach

And more specifically on Iran? As Zbigniew Brzezinski, Scott Ritter and others pointed out, there is a considerable probability that in the remaining months of the Bush Administration a war is being waged on Iran.

I have been saying that for years. As I said, I think it is less likely now because of the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate. Even more than what it said was the way it was brought public. Some people have regarded it as a kind of attack on the Bush administration itself by the intelligence organizations. The fact that it was published is a remarkable thing. In my times of government, those documents were regarded as secret. To produce one on such an issue and publicize tells you that there is something very peculiar about it. What it attempted to do was to tie the hands of the Bush administration so that it could not attack Iran. Various of my colleagues who are closer to the Pentagon than I am –Seymour Hersh for example from The New Yorker – think that it was kind of coup d’état. I do not know how much that could be substantiated, but certainly many people in intelligence and some in the military who opposed the Bush policy havebeen pushed out of the government. It isn’t only government officials. The business community also is worried about the decline of the dollar and the decline of the American economy. Some openly talk about the gun-slinging-shoot-from-the-hip approach of the Bush Administration. That does not mean they are pro-Iranian, but that does mean that this is a very unprofessional and illogical set of actions.

Also in the sense that an attack on Iran, as Zbigniew Brzezinski argues, would immensely shorten the era of American domination?

I am not sure. Brzezinski and I do not agree on a great many things, although we are very old friends. I do not think that an attack on Iran would lessen American dominance, however if the attack were followed, as it is likely to be followed, by an actual invasion, then it would involve a guerrilla war that would be devastating to America. And as I mentioned, the effect on the world energy supply and price would be enormously devastating for the whole Western economy. I guess I have to say that I do agree with him about that issue.

What about the so-called “Cheney Plan,” the probability that after the NIE’s release which makes an American attack on Iran less likely, but Israel seems to be still very much interested in a military confrontation? What about Israel striking first and the Americans coming to its aid?

At least some of the Israelis were keen on striking first, as it were, pulling the trigger, but this presupposes that America would follow. The Israelis do not have the capacity to do more that begin the war. They would need America to carry on. They might try something like the Osirak attack [in 1981]. Since the Osirak episode, governments all over the world have followed the lead of Russia and the United States and have diversified their facilities to the point that it is almost impossible to think of a strike of that kind that would actually do anything more than accelerate the movement toward acquisition of nuclear weapons. The Israelis did have as for some months ago – I am not sure they still have – several nuclear submarines off the coast of Iran as a presumed warning to Iran that they had the capacity to destroy the country. But should Israel make a preemptive nuclear attack, I think it would be devastating to Israel itself. And the Israelis are not fools. They certainly understand is the cost of an aggressive war against Iran..

Whether they will do it or not, this government is very aggressive and extremely right-wing. I think it is not always attuned to Israel’s own interest in the long-term. But that is really speculation. I do not know what they are likely to do, but I do not think that they would attack Iran unless the American government will give it ”a green light.”

Concerning the presidential contenders John McCain and Barack Obama, it seems that McCain is very neo-con in his foreign policy stance, but Obama is at least willing to talk to those “rogue states”, which Washington was not willing to do. Can one put it in those terms?

I think you have to recognize that both candidates are determined to win the election and they are willing to say anything, and possibly even act on anything, that might get them the votes. So they are all going to cater to what they perceive to be the way to handle American political reaction. One of the curious things is that the public in general is very much opposed to the war. In the constituency of every Congressman, there is a small group of people that is vociferously in favor of it while opponents of the war are wishy-washy about it, so that although they are a very small minority in the overall, they are quite strong. In issues that have anything to do with Israel, there is of course a very strong lobby in America that is determined and active in every constituency. So Obama for example came out the other day with a statement that in fact violated everything that he had been saying in the Middle East and I think this is just a characteristic of American politics. It is lamentable, it is disturbing, but it is like that.

War on Iran: Great and Present Danger

What do you make out of Obama and McCain’s choices for their vice-presidential running-mates?

To be frank: I think McCain made a disastrous choice. Governor Palin is a know-nothing person. She speaks to the lowest denominator of the American public. Obama’s choice is better. But to have two senators, as the Obama team is, is weak in the sense that neither has administrative credentials. Biden has a record of listening to poor advice and is often inarticuate. Both could have done better. Biden is, at least, credible, but Palin would be terrifying in the position of being “a heartbeat away from the presidency.”

The chances that Obama will prevail in the presidential elections in November are quite good. Will an Obama–Biden Administration make a change in U.S. foreign policy in general and regarding Iran in particular? Are the American élites strongly in favor of an Obama presidency since the current has been harming their various interests by damaging America’s image in the world?

Here we are just guessing. We can hope with Obama. There is little hope with McCain.

There is increasing speculation of a military action against Iran in the remaining Bush months? What do you think?

I still think it is a great and present danger.

Thank you.

* William R. Polk was the member of the Policy Planning Council responsible for North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia from 1961 to 1965 and then professor of history at the University of Chicago where he founded the Middle Eastern Studies Center. He was also president of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. He is the author of a number of books on world affairs.

**Ali Fathollah-Nejad is an Iranian-German political scientist and author of a study on the U.S.-Iran crisis entitled “Iran in the Eye of Storm” (2007). He is the founder and a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII).

SOURCE

Fathollah-Nejad, Ali (2008) “Iran Falling Into the “Net” of a “Worldwide Policy”: On the U.S. Foreign Policy Doctrine and Its (Present) Dangers“, Interview with Dr. William R. Polk, Informed Comment, 13 October;

▪ republished on Iran Coverage, p. 738, 13 October | Global Research, 16 October | ZNet, 17 October | Payvand News, 20 October.

Neo-Con Conference Pushes for War on Iran

PRAISE

»a shocking report« (Prof. Noam Chomsky)

»very useful« (Dr. Norman Finkelstein)

»excellent report« (Abraham Weizfeld, Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians)

On the first weekend of May 2008, Berlin was host to two extraordinary conferences. On the one hand, a crowd of altogether 1,600 predominantly young people from all over Europe met at the Humboldt University in order to discuss and reflect the turbulent, globally unfolding events of 1968. On the other, not far away, about 400 participants gathered at the classier, guarded »Auditorium Friedrichstrasse« under the theme of “Business as usual? The Iranian regime, the holy war against Israel and the West and the German reaction,“ organized by the recently created »Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin (MFFB)«. Astonishingly despite wide participation by journalist from major newspapers, there was no mention of the conference in the German media. The purpose of the following account is also to fill this crucial gap.

Also historically, not least due to the bitter experiences of the recent past and present, an examination of the Weltanschauung advanced at the conference bears importance: What has entered the political discourse in Washington in a dominant fashion since almost a decade now, namely the view of the so-called neo-conservatives, appears not only to sound the medial and political terrains in Germany, but be willing to offensively occupy them. As in the United States, Iran takes a prominent role here.

The very first event of this kind to take place in Germany, the MFFB’s “International Iran Conference” had set the target of intervening politically to bring about a radical re-orientation of Berlin’s Iran policy, one that is heading towards Iran’s complete isolation or “regime change.” At the same time, the addressees of such a posture were clearly named: Not only lies the “future of pro-Zionism” in the hands of the Right. But beyond the so-called Anti-Germans who are sympathizers anyway, the main task was to win over the whole left side of the political specter.

The introduction was delivered by the chairman of the German branch of the U.S.-based association »Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME)«, professor Diethard Pallaschke. SPME’s mission is to meet “anti-Semitism” and “anti-Israelism” as well as to support the security of Israel’s borders. In the United States, SPME is accused of acting, via so-called »campus watch« groups, against critical statements on university campuses about Israeli and also U.S. foreign policies in the Middle East. Amongst the most prominent victims of this curtailing of academic freedom are Norman Finkelstein (formerly at DePaul University and author of, most recently, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, 2008) und Tony Judt (director of New York University’s Remarque Institute), who both have Jewish background.

Pallaschke branded Iran the “biggest threat in the history of mankind” and as such “to all civilized states.” The next speaker was Charles A. Small, professor of history at Yale University, who argued that Nazism and “radical Islam” had a common ideology. Even Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israeli politician and longtime Brigadier-General, had alluded to the possibility of a “second Holocaust,” he stressed. There should be no support of Iran from students, scholars and European governments, especially as Iran’s President Mahmud Ahmadinejad “dehumanizes the other.” He hoped that all those groups would “begin to act and act quickly.”

Small further quoted the former chief of staff of the Israeli military, Shaul Mofaz, with his estimation that within a year an Iran armed with nuclear weapons was to be expected.1 But according to the Iran report by 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), released in December 2007, Iran does not maintain a nuclear weapons program. This finding was recently confirmed by Mohammad El-Baradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), when addressing the Middle East World Economic Forum in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Likewise IAEA reports state that there is no evidence for an Iranian weapons program. And if Iran ever decided to divert its civilian energy program to a military one, the NIE says that “[a]ll agencies recognize the possibility that this [nuclear weapon] capability may not be attained until after 2015” (p. 7).

A Preventive Nuclear Strike Against the “Satanic Ambitions” of the “Un-Civilization”?

Menashe Amir, former longtime director of the Persian program of radio »Kol Israel« (the Voice of Israel) and current head of the Persian website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs »Hamdami«, said the Iranian regime was intent on “destroying the world order.” The “dictatorial regime” ruling the country had “satanic ambitions,” he claimed. The Iranian people should be assisted in bringing about a “regime change” – for the sake of both Iranians and the rest of the world. Amir finished by telling an anecdote about a private audience he had with U.S. President George W. Bush, to whom he said: “Iranian citizens are waiting for you to rescue them.” Bush responded: “You know, we’ve the same problem in Iraq where we are stuck.”

Benny Morris, professor of history at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev (Israel), began his remarks about “A second Holocaust? The threat to Israel” with a quotation of the professing neo-conservative and Washington Post political commentator Charles Krauthammer, foreseeing a nuclear power Iran already by 2009/2010. With a nuclear-armed Iran, Morris then argued, Israel would lose its significance. Apart from strategic losses, investment flows as well as the peace accords signed with Arab governments would be jeopardized. In order to forestall the strategic challenge of a ‘nuclear Iran,’ he suggested, Israel ought to intervene preventively and destroy the “Iranian nuclear project” by conventional but preferably nuclear weapons. This would certainly cause the death of many civilians, he admitted, but this prospect lies within the responsibilities of the Iranians themselves who after all have to account for such of regime – the “mad mullahs of Tehran.” All in all, a nuclear strike was preferable to a “second Holocaust” which was lurking from this “un-civilization,” Morris concluded.2

The „Third Option“: Positioning a Terror Organization Against the German “Steinmeier Policy”?

Paulo Casaca, Portuguese Member of the European Parliament (MEP), dealt with the role of the European Union (EU) and the “effectiveness of sanctions” against Iran. The latter would have to go beyond the present United Nations sanctions framework, he said. “We really need economic sanctions from Germany and the European Union.” Casaca, member of the socialist group of the European Parliament, then held up a picture he had obtained from “sources” of the “Iranian resistance.” It allegedly showed a tunnel built by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, a construction said to be in connection with a nuclear weapons program. The MEP did not hide that this “main Iranian opposition group” he was referring to was the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO, or MeK) – a militant group listed as terrorist by both the European Union and the U.S. State Department. The “non-sense” of the MKO’s classification as terrorist organization ought to be removed, since, he claimed, it was all about supporting the “Iranian people.” In April 2004 Casaca had spent some days at »Camp Ashraf«, the shielded city and headquarters of the MKO, 60 kilometers north of Baghdad.

Matthias Küntzel, member of SPME’s Board of Directors, warned to turn the conference into an academic meeting.3 Quite on the contrary, its aim should be to intervene politically, and above all to win the political Left over, he emphasized. Küntzel, who regularly writes for the Wall Street Journal, concentrated furthermore on German–Iranian trade relations. With Germany being Iran’s number one European trade partner, Berlin was assigned the vital task to realize the isolation of Iran, he argued. All in all, a discontinuation of the trade relations between Germany and Iran would only represent a small sacrifice for the former, but in turn would minimize danger posed by the latter, Küntzel claimed. But in providing biased figures, he supersized the German economy’s importance for Iran.4 His criticism of the German industry’s role and his suggestion to have a sit-in in front of the headquarters of the business giant Siemens were well received by the assembled left-wingers whose attitude towards big business is rather skeptical. Even more as Küntzel also demanded that the business interest was not allowed to stand above morality. Finally, he also called for the break-up of diplomatic relations with Iran. He further accused the German media – except for some comments in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the country’s largest conservative daily – of severe defaults as to the presentation of the “Iranian danger.”

According to Morris, Bush had assured the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Washington was taking care of the Iranian nuclear program. But given the situation in Iraq there was only little probability of a U.S. military strike, he added. However, if Democratic Senator Barack Obama was elected president in November, he believed, then Bush would order an attack on Iran. Despite low ratings and little support for war on Iran, the outgoing U.S. president would have nothing to lose by such an attack. The rationale behind such anticipation, which Morris did not attempt to hide, is that the ‘Iran problem’ cannot be devolved unto Obama – who has even promised unconditional negotiations with Iran –, but could eventually handed over to a Republican President John McCain. The latter has already insinuated that he would continue the administration’s foreign policy and Iran strategy.

Contrary to the nuclear strike option preferred by Morris, Casaca referred to a “third option” – beyond “appeasement” and military confrontation. This variant consisted of supporting the political leadership of the “Iranian opposition” – a reference made to the MKO. Amir noted that it was sufficient to eliminate a single “chain” of the nuclear program in order to paralyze it. Thus it would suffice to “only” bomb the nuclear plants of Natanz and Isfahan, he claimed. But the best way to bring about a regime change in Iran was to follow his five-point plan: (1) Providing a serious military threat; (2) expanding the sanctions to paralyze the Iranian economy; (3) helping the Iranian population and ethnic minorities, so that they could demand their rights; (4) financially supporting the majority of the Iranians; (5) organizing the 3 million Iranians in exile, so that they can exercise pressure upon Western governments to convince them of the “danger” the Iranian regime posed. If all these measures were carried out, there would be no necessity for military action, Amir pointed out.

To conclude the starting panel – whose title defined the “Iranian threat” in relation to Islamism, anti-Semitism, and the nuclear program – its moderator Alan Posener, chief commentator with the Welt am Sonntag, a German conservative Sunday paper, warned that one could not “fight dictatorships by over-cautiousness“ but only by “strength.” But the latter would not be part of the “Steinmeier policy.” In fact, Posener’s call signals the dissatisfaction of those pushing for a tough stance vis-à-vis Iran, a military option included therein, with the Iran policy as pursued by the Foreign Ministry that is under the aegis of Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Social-Democratic Party (SPD). Likewise, Volker Perthes and Christoph Bertram, respectively the present and former directors of the »German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP)« – a Berlin-based think-tank advising the German government on foreign policy matters – were criticized by the conference participants as Steinmeier’s Iran policy is believed to take into account SWP’s input. Both Perthes and Bertram plead for a Western “strategic partnership” with Iran, while Bertram – also a former director of the »International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)« in London – just recently called for a détente policy vis-à-vis Iran as the strategy so far had clearly failed. On the other hand, the Iran stance by Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian-Democratic Party (CDU) is considered to be in line with demands from Washington and Tel Aviv.

Anti-War Intellectuals as “Purchased Vassals” of the “Iranian Theocracy”?

The following morning was dedicated to the “character of the Iranian Regime.” The Iranian writer Javad Asadian deemed the return of the Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi, to form the religious and ideological core of the “Iranian theocracy.” The final aim was the appearance of this Shiite Messiah. He further claimed that Iran needed the atomic bomb in order to use it against Israel. Thereupon the publicist Nasrin Amirsedghi drew a dark picture of women’s rights in Iran, a country which was stricken with the “deadly pandemic” called “Islamic republic.” There was a “virus introduced” by Iran’s Revolutionary Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, she claimed, which was the Islamic law Sharia, characterized by “incalculable aggressiveness.”

In addition, Germany’s prominent Islam and Iran experts Katajun Amirpur, Navid Kermani and Bahman Nirumand acted as “purchased vassals” of the “Allah state,” Amirsedghi asserted, and Asadian added that they must be confronted followed by large applause. Revealingly, those three public figures are admittedly known for their statements critical to the Iranian government, but at the same time markedly reject any ‘military solution’ to the conflict.

Finally, Miro Aliyar from the Austrian Committee of the »Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan« explained that Iran was a multi-ethnic state, and therefore the ethnicities represented therein were entitled to autonomy. It is reported that the Bush Administration is supporting separatism in the Iranian provinces of Kurdistan, Khuzestan, and Baluchestan in an effort to destabilize and disintegrate the country. Among the beneficiaries of U.S. and Israeli aid for that goal is the Iranian sister organization of the PKK, the PJAK, that has conducted cross-border raids into Iran.

Israel To Carry Out a Preventive Strike Against Iran

Under the title “The Holy War against Israel and the West” Ha’aretz journalist Yossi Melman, the U.S. neo-conservative figurehead Patrick Clawson and the German political scientist Alexander Ritzmann were due to speak. The latter underlined that the ‘Islamic danger’ was simmering inside Germany where the Lebanese Hezbollah maintained numerous offices. He also condemned the anti-Israel reporting of the Hezbollah broadcasting company Al-Manar, which despite expulsion from different satellite networks could still be received in Europe still via one network. Ritzmann, who is a Senior Fellow with the neo-conservative Brussels think-tank »European Foundation for Democracy«, opined that Iran could at any time activate these “Islamist” groups residing in Germany for political purposes, and will do so. Nearly all German politicians believe, Ritzmann claimed, that Iran represented a danger for Israel. However, the task was to make clear that Iran was also a danger for Europe and the whole world, he emphasized – indeed a challenge since based on the facts on the ground Germany’s policy-makers are far from conceiving the “Iranian threat” in such dimensions.

Following the same dictum, intelligence expert Melman described the threat of an irrationally acting Iran that would acquire nuclear weapons capability between 2009 and 2011. If diplomacy failed, he predicted, Israel had to act militarily; an approach agreed upon by most Israeli politicians and parties, he added. Following the so-called Begin Doctrine – named after a former Israeli Prime Minister and used as basis for the 1981 bombardment of the Iraqi nuclear plant »Osiraq« – his country would act preventively within one or two years from now: “I believe Israel will have to do it,” Melman concluded. Not sharing Morris’ suggestion of a nuclear attack on Iran, he stressed that conventional tools might be sufficient. Melman covers intelligence and national security issues for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz and is the co-author, with Meir Javedanfar, of The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran (2007).

Clawson, deputy research director at the neo-conservative »Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP)« – a think-tank ascribed to the Israel Lobby – was certainly the most prominent international figure speaking at the conference. He argued that in addition to economic pressures, political and security measures must be taken, such as accelerating the “military security” of Iran’s neighbors. Moreover, it must be openly voiced that “we will be prepared to deter Iran.” However, if diplomacy failed, he said to me in an interview, he fears that the military option will be employed. Clawson, one of the main players in the preparation of the “regime change” enterprise in Iraq, has over the years demanded an equal lot for Iran.

“Language of Sticks” as the “Only Solution”?

On the panel “Iran and Europe: Dialogue or confrontation?” Saul Singer, The Jerusalem Post’s editorial page editor, argued that Europe’s “appeasement policy” regarding Iran would press Israel towards war.5 The author of Confronting Jihad: Israel’s Struggle and the World After 9/11 (2003) praised the event as ringing the “beginnings of a new anti-fascist Left.” Singer, who earlier in the conference referred to the “Iranian nuclear war program,” pointed to the Iranian President’s disputed statements regarding Israel and called for Ahmadinejad to be legally pursued. This ought to be done according to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide whose Article 3(c) says that “[d]irect and public incitement to commit genocide” is punishable.6 However, one can doubt whether Ahmadinejad’s falsified statement – which verbatim reads “The Imam [Khomeini] said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e eshghâlgar-e Qods) must [vanish from] the page of time (bâyad az safheh-ye ruzgâr mahv shavad)” – can be interpreted as incitement to genocide, or is a call for a “regime change” in a country that in violation of the most basic principles of international law continues a decades-long occupation.

Singer continued stressing that it was not the Iranian nuclear program that posed problem, but the very existence of the regime. The West could act, and had to do so, particularly so as it “holds international legitimacy in its hands“ – in fact, a questionable judgment in the view of the reality of Western-led occupations in the last decade. Especially when it comes to the Iranian nuclear program, the majority of the international community has consistently supported Tehran’s position against Western accusations.

Finally, the well-known German journalist Bruno Schirra was convinced that the only solution regarding the “clerical fascist system” of Iran would be the use of the “language of sticks.” The author of Iran – Sprengstoff für Europa [Iran – Explosives for Europe] (2006) said that bombing Iran would only postpone the nuclear program to about five to ten years, so that in the end one would be forced to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

There was no mention of the word “dialogue” included in the panel’s title, nor any suggestions in such a direction.

A “New Anti-Fascist Front” Against the “New Hitler”?

The final panel discussion was meant to promote “The need for a new antifascism.” Laying the foundational stone of the evening, Jeffrey Herf, professor of history at Maryland University, put Ahmadinejad on a level with Bin Laden and Hitler. It was a matter of defying “fanatic anti-Semitism,” he insisted, an ideological fanaticism that must not be underestimated.

The next speaker was Los Angeles-based Kayvan Kaboli, spokesperson of the »Green Party of Iran«. He considered the “Tehran regime [to be] of fascist essence,” which not only in a few years, but right now represented an international threat – just like “global warming” as he went great length to explain. Iran, Kaboli asserted, pursued a “program of territorial expansion” and used Iraq as stepping stone to eradicate Israel. The “clero-fascist regime” in Tehran planned to “islamize the world,” he said. And the European “appeasement policy” toward Iran “for the sake of juicy contracts” was “shameful.” Kaboli finally called upon Iranian “opposition” groups to declare support for Israel. After all, the “two fascisms” – Nazi-Germany and Iran – were the same and also equally dangerous. It was the formation of a worldwide anti-fascist front, he suggest, which presented a way out.

The highlight of the congress was the contribution made by Thomas von der Osten-Sacken. The founder and director of the NGO WADI, a German ‘relief and human rights’ organization mainly active in Northern Iraq, made it quite clear from the very beginning that what he called “Islam-Nazism” was very similar to Germany’s National-Socialism. Therefore anti-fascism was necessary, whose aim had to be to “bash these Islam-Nazis, put them in jail, and kill them” – a statement which was accompanied by large applause. As “anti-fascists” we had to “wage war,” not militarily however, but the war must be taken seriously, he insisted. Just like in the 1930s and 40s the universalistic vision must be to fight “despotism.”

Von der Osten-Sacken, who is considered a leading figure of the so-called “Anti-Deutschen” [Anti-Germans] – a well established ideological strand among the German Left which deems unconditional support for Israel’s policies as consequential lesson of Germany’s hegemonic strive in World War II and its Holocaust crimes – presented an agenda for the “democratization” of the Middle East. This included: secularization and “rule of law”; a “restructuring of the economy”; a “federalization” instead of nationalization, in which Kurdish efforts for independence would be considered; against „gender apartheid“; and against both Iran and Syria. These programmatic points, which strongly reminded of the 2004 U.S. initiative for a “Greater Middle East,” were supplemented by his very curious interpretation of the ongoing Iraq War. The countries of the region, such as Iraq, are “rotten from the core” so that one only had to “screw the cork” and war would inevitably break out.

Altogether, he denied a nuclear weapons-free zone, which follows that Israel would remain the only country in the Middle East possessing such weapons of mass destruction. To conclude, Von der Osten-Sacken outlined his “vision” for the future of the region. He wished one day to be able to take the Intercity train from Tel Aviv via Amman and Baghdad to Tehran without any passport check, then go to a Tehrani disco, drink beer and later on have a sunbath at the Persian Gulf.7

Broder’s Slander Volley

The last speaker of the conference, Henryk M. Broder, was the most prominent figure among the German participants. An author for liberal-left outlets, above all Germany’s most influential political weekly magazine Der Spiegel, is notorious for his defamatory polemics. In his 2006 best-seller Hurra, wir kapitulieren! [Hurray, we capitulate!], he accuses the West to “cave in” vis-à-vis Islamists and thus to promote Europe’s “Islamization.” Signaling his agreement with and referring to what his predecessor had outlined before, Broder quoted a Palestinian journalist friend whom he used to meet in Bethlehem with the sentence “It’s not about the occupation, it’s about the girls on the beach!” He stressed that the situation at hand was as “terrible and cruel” as in the 1930s. In an unmistakable reference to Nazi-Germany, Broder remarked that the topic Iran “looks somehow familiar to us.” But there was an important difference between 1939/40 and 2008, he added: nowadays, there was no Churchill who was able to act after negotiations failed. On his co-edited web-blog, Die Achse des Guten [The Axis of Good], which assembles a pool of writers and registers nearly 400,000 unique visitors per month, Broder called Iran the “Fourth Reich.” The “idea of war” was “horrifying” to him, but this option could not be omitted, he underscored.

Then, he contented himself with quoting passages from German daily papers of 2006 about the West–Iran standoff. The citations delivered the impression of European politicians constantly offering attractive incentive packages to the Iranians; but with resolute defiance, Tehran had been rejecting them. Furthermore, Iran had also repeatedly ignored ultimatums set by the West without shrugging its shoulders. This absurd lining up of newspaper excerpts caused a certain amusement within the audience. He did not need to read out the quotations from 2007, Broder added, because their content could easily be imagined. He finally quoted the Iranian president as saying “the Europeans are stupid,” and complacently added that Ahmadinejad might be right.

Then Broder turned to the »Arbeiterfotografie« (Concerned Photography). This group of politically committed photographers was the first in Germany to reveal the mistranslations of the Iranian President’s alleged “Israel must be wiped off the map” statements made during an anti-Zionism conference held in Tehran in October 2005. On its initiative the »Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung (bpb)« [Federal Center for Political Education], a public think-tank, ordered the examination of Ahmadinejad’s remarks by the translation service of the German Parliament, the Bundestag. As a result, Associated Press (AP), Tagesschau.de (website of Germany’s most widely watched TV newscast) and SpiegelOnline (the online edition of Der Spiegel) conceded their unchecked adoption of translations dispatched then by the major Western news agencies. However, they have not yet corrected their mistakes in previously published items.

The issue of Ahmadinejad’s actual words gained prominence as late as this March with an article appearing in the country’s largest daily, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, where the renowned Islam and Iran expert, Katajun Amirpur, pointed to the widespread mistranslation of this “Iranian key sentence” and the danger it harbors for serving as a pretext for waging war an Iran allegedly intent on “wiping Israel off the map.”

Not amused by Amirpur’s revelations then, at the conference Broder relinquished a rude tirade against “those who sparked the debate” with the bpb – a reference to the »Arbeiterfotografie«: Already calling the latter lumpenproletariat in a blog, Broder now added to this “troublemakers,” “cranks,” “bums,” “anti-social elements,” “subsidy receivers” and “madmen.” However, he stressed, the bpb had “elegantly” solved the issue kicked off by those “fools.” In fact, the website particularly provided by the public think-tank to open a discussion on Ahmadinejad’s statements and “Iran’s position” hardly presents a balanced, let alone educational account: From three contributions in total, one is by Matthias Küntzel and another – a polemic – by Broder himself.

The Auschwitz Lesson: Suspending Human Rights in Case of Emergency?

In the final discussion, the U.S. historian Herf called for a “new Atlanticism.” Such an “Atlantic alliance” should wage the “long war against radical Islam” – a phrase at the core of neo-conservative thinking. At the same time he predicted that if the “U.S. withdraws from the world,” especially from Iraq, then Europe will be exposed to greater danger.

Von der Osten-Sacken, on his part, claimed that a large majority of the Iranian population was in favor of “liberation.” He underlined that we were in a “state of emergency.” The lesson of Auschwitz meanwhile comprised the idea that “in some situations, human rights are to be suspended,” he was convinced. Finally, Kaboli recommended including each willing group – regardless of its democratic posture – into an “anti-fascist front.”

Fully in compliance with Küntzel’s initial desire, the conference at no time ran the risk of being only approximately academic. Following his desire for political intervention, some of the prominent Berlin conference participants intend to talk to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In order to likewise refer to the alleged danger posed by Iran and to require concrete action, they moreover wished for a Bundestag hearing and also intend to talk to German companies.

All conference participants agreed upon the notion of a “worldwide threat” posed by the new quasi-“fascist” state of Iran. They also agreed upon an iron fist as best response to this. 8 Among this sea of consent, there was only a single moment in the conference where a dissenting view was voiced. A bearded, Jewish man from the audience said that the picture drawn between Good and Evil was not so clear for him as presented by the panelists. Immediately, he was interrupted by the moderator and asked not to issue a statement (whereas others who agreed with what had been said were extensively allowed to make their case) but to ask a question. However, he was not able to do so, as the microphone was promptly taken away from him by one of the organizers.

Against Iran and Islam: Unholy Alliances of the “Anti-Fascist Front”

With the participation of key Berlin panelists, an almost identical conference, entitled “The Iranian Threat,” took place at the University of Vienna/Austria on the following day. The congress was organized by SPME Austria and »Stop the Bomb – Coalition against the Iranian extermination program«, an initiative endorsed by over 4,000 petition signees, who demand a total isolation of Iran. Among them are Austrian Nobel Literature Prize laureate Elfriede Jelinek and prominent Dutch writer Leon de Winter.9 In an interview for SpiegelOnline – the very popular online edition of Der Spiegel –, conducted by Broder, in August 2005, De Winter states: “Sometimes there is only the choice between disaster and catastrophe, and then one must remember that the first and foremost task of the state is to guarantee the life and security of its citizens. […] We deal with a new totalitarianism. No, this one is not new, but is only different. After the left fascism of the Soviets, after the right fascism of the Nazis, Islamism is the fascism of the 21st century.”10

»Stop the Bomb« emerged out of protest against ongoing trade relations between Austria and Iran. Especially the 2007 gas deal, worth of 22 billion euros, between the Austrian OMV (Österreichische Mineralölverwaltung), Central Europe’s leading oil and gas corporation, and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), is a thorn in the initiators’ flesh as it might undermine their much-desired, total isolation of Iran. In Berlin, the German journalist Schirra has uttered the wish to form a German variant of the »Stop the Bomb« initiative.

Unlike the German media, the Austrian daily Der Standard published a conference report headlined “Threats of War from the Lecture Hall.” The contents and threats that were uttered in Vienna led Der Standard’s Senior Editor Gudrun Harrer to assume that these both congresses must have been a concerted lobbying “roadshow” in an effort to push for war on Iran and to brand anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism.

The long-serving Mideast expert Udo Steinbach, director from 1976 to 2007 of Germany’s foremost Middle East research entity, the »German Orient Institute«, has called the Berlin conference’s goal to form an “AIPAC” in German-speaking countries. And indeed the resemblance to the »American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – America’s pro-Israel Lobby« – deemed as of one of the most influential American lobbies – is hard to overlook. Akin to AIPAC, WINEP and other parts of the Israel Lobby and the wider neo-conservative movement, the German-speaking variant is beating the drums for war on Iran.

Next on the agenda is a date 31 May–1 June at Cologne University, which the audience was given notice of by flyers in the entrance hall of the Berlin conference: The “Kritische Islamkonferenz: Der Islam als politische Herausforderung” [Critical Islam Conference: Islam as Political Challenge]. The event is linked on the website of the right-wing, Islamophobic Politically Incorrect (PI), which in turn also links to Broder’s Achse des Guten weblog. PI is also sympathizing with Honestly Concerned, an initiative founded in May 2002 to counter anti-Israel stances in the media and also of the main supporters of the Berlin conference. By mid-May two major German organizations committed to fighting the “Islamization” of Germany and Europe merged into the »Bürgerbewegung (Citizens’ Movement) Pax Europa«.

The bolstering anti-Islam movement in Germany appears to enjoy privileged ties with emerging neo-conservative ideologues. Allegedly in favor of Israel, the United States, and European values, those groups have designed a new globally omnipresent threat – this time, Iran in the company of Islam – which they cultivate both in domestic (immigrant integration) and foreign policy (Iran and its “evil” allies) stages. Startlingly, for building such an unholy alliance strugglers against anti-Semitism have unconsciously joined with rightist extremists.

These agents provocateurs have specialized in distorting the realities (forcing on the “clash of civilizations” concept upon social and political conflicts) and in perverting the lessons modern history provides. In their “West against the (Islamic) rest” paradigm, they ruthlessly camouflage the horrendous consequences of their recent drum beats, leaving the over one million Iraqi victims of the ongoing occupation a lone footnote in their bloody efforts to “promote democracy.” The blunt assumptions and statements uttered at the Berlin conference expose – without further need of comment – their homophobic attitudes. Even more gravely, they invoke the memory of millions of Holocaust victims to suit their one and only agenda: the “long war.” The self-proclaimed “anti-fascist” supporters of Bush’s neo-conservative project are in reality anti-democrats; and certainly they are not pro-Israeli or pro-American – nor are they pro-Iranian: they are pro-war.

And: It remains to be seen whether the conference organizers’ will to win over the Left will succeed. The German Left Party plays a decisive role here as it must decide whether it is willing to continue the path of anti-imperialism and anti-war, or is ready to bury them at the altar of a grotesquely defined raison d’Etat – as Gregor Gysi, head of Die Linke’s large Bundestag caucus, has recently demanded. While Broder applauded him, he was boldly criticized by foreign and peace policy experts of the party-affiliated foundation who doubted if Gysi was really advocating a “leftist policy.” But despite the mobilization of “pro-Zionist” factions amidst leftist milieus, the huge crowd gathering at the Berlin 1968 Congress keep the hope astute that war-mongering will have a hard time selling its propaganda to sympathizers of the Left.

Version of 1 June 2008.

The author thanks Judith Schlenker (Germany) for translating an initial version of the report from German.

Ali Fathollah-Nejad is an independent writer focussing on the international politics of the Middle East, the foreign policies of France, Germany, the United States and Iran as well as politico−cultural issues of immigrant integration. He publishes in English, German, and French with his articles translated into Spanish, Italian, and Persian. He is the author of a detailed study on the U.S.−Iran Crisis, entitled Iran in the Eye of Storm – Backgrounds of a Global Crisis,  Since 2006, he has delivered numerous lectures all across Germany.

NOTES

1 According to Small, this statement was made at the conference “Understanding the Challenge of Iran,” organized late April 2008 by the »Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism« which is headed by Small himself.

2 In the aftermath of the conference, Morris voiced similar comments vis-à-vis the online editions of the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (7 May) and the Austrian Standard (11 May) dailies.

3 For the views expressed in his talk, please refer to both his articles “Ahmadinejads Mission” [Ahmadinejad’s Mission], Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, 25 April 2008, and “The Tehran–Berlin Axes”, The Wall Street Journal (Europe), 15 May 2008.

4 Küntzel’s presentation of figures in terms of German–Iran economic relations was biased. He estimated the German–Iranian trade volume to be at 5 billion euros, which is correct, but he did not mention that as a result of the sanctions imposed upon Iran in recent years, a pressure mainly exerted by the U.S. Treasury, German exports had halved to 3 billion euros for 2007. While trade with Iran equals less than 0.5 percent of Germany’s total export volume, Iran covered 40 percent of her imports from Germany, Küntzel claimed. In reality, Iran covers roughly 10 percent of its total supplies worth of over 60 billion U.S. dollars from Germany. Furthermore Küntzel claimed that about three-quarters of the small and medium-sized enterprises in Iran were dependent on goods imported from Germany. This is also rapidly changing with Iranian firms turning to Asian countries and at the same time making efforts to increase domestic production capabilities.

In conclusion one must note that Küntzel supersized Germany’s economic weight for Iran, thus serving the purpose of supporting his argument for a cancellation of German trade ties with Iran, which would then result in a quasi-total isolation of the Middle Eastern heavyweight. But the situation in a globalized world economy is more diverse than this simplistic assessment suggests. As a consequence of the U.S.-pushed sanctions regime imposed upon European economies, those have experienced significantly losses in trade shares with Iran. However, a complete breakup of the trade relations with Iran would have damaging long-term consequences for the world’s number one export nation, as the chairman of the “North Africa–Middle East Initiative of the German Economy,” Matthias Mitscherlich, emphasized in an interview on 29 November 2007. Meanwhile, European retreat from the lucrative Iranian market has made China, an EU rival, the most important trade partner of Tehran touching a bilateral trade volume of 25 billion dollars this year. The business volume with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has hit 12 billion dollars, 10 billion of which are Iranian imports. The UAE is believed to serve as bridgehead to the Iranian market for U.S. firms.

5 In early 2008, the Jerusalem Post announced that it will begin a partnership with the Wall Street Journal including joint marketing and exclusive publication in Israel of The Wall Street Journal Europe. Its current head editor is David Horovitz who in 2004 replaced current Wall Street Journal editorial board member Bret Stephens. In addition, in 2007, Dow Jones & Company, the owner of the Wall Street Journal – whose editorial board is considered as supporting neo-conservative foreign policy stances – was bought by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

6 Former German State Secretary Klaus Faber, an attorney from Potsdam/Germany and acting chairman of the »Wissenschaftsforum der Sozialdemokratie in Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern e.V.« – a think-tank affiliated to the German Social-Democratic Party (SPD) – pointed out that former Canadian Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler, had likewise called to “try Ahmadinejad for genocide calls”. Later in the conference, it was agreed upon that further to the political agenda this legal path should be simultaneously followed.

7 Due to Von der Osten-Sacken’s anti-Muslim agitation, the already independent WADI Austria recently dissolved from the main German organization to become what is now LEEZA.

8 At the conference were also present: Wahied Wahdat Hagh, political scientist, former member of MEMRI Germany (»The Middle East Media Research Institute«), online columnist for Welt Debatte and Senior Research Fellow with the Brussels think-tank »European Foundation for Democracy«; Klaus Faber, German State Secretary ret., attorney from Potsdam and acting chairman of the »Wissenschaftsforum der Sozialdemokratie in Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern« and co-editor of Neu-alter Judenhass: Antisemitismus, arabisch-israelischer Konflikt und europäische Politik [New-Old Jew-Hatred: Anti-Semitism, Arab–Israeli Conflict and European Policies] (Verlag für Berlin Brandenburg, 2006).

 

9 Other important signees are the Berlin and Vienna conference speakers Küntzel, Casaca, Kaboli, Herf, and furthermore Hermann L. Gremliza (editor of the ‘Anti-German’ weekly magazine konkret), Kazem Moussavi (foreign policy speaksperson of the »Green Party of Iran« in Europe), Karl Pfeifer (leading journalist with the Austrian, pro-Israel online journal Die Jüdische [The Jewish]), Sacha Stawski (editor-in-chief of the online Honestly Concerned), Ruth Contreras (member of SPME’s Board of Directors, coordinator for SMPE in Europe and chairwoman of SPME Austria), chief editors of »German Media Watch« (a pro-Israel media monitoring group established in 2001), Andrei S. Markovits (professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and author of the German-language book Amerika, Dich hasst sich’s besser. Antiamerikanismus und Antisemitismus in Europa, published by konkret’s publishing house »Konkret-Literatur Verlag« in 2004), Micha Brumlik (who was present at the Berlin conference is professor for Educating Science at the University of Frankfurt/Main and co-editor of the political-scientific monthly magazine Blätter für deutsche und international Politik), Christopher Gillibrand (journalist with the neo-conservative The Brussels Journal – The Voice of Conservatism in Europe, which is published by the Zurich-based non-profit organization »Society for the Advancement of Freedom in Europe (SAFE)« and features articles from the American right-conservative daily The Washington Times), »Scottish Friends of Israel«, Raimund Fastenbauer (Secretary-General of the Austrian Federal Association of the Jewish Religious Community [»Bundesverband der Israelitischen Kultusgemeinden«]), and many others.

10 In own translation. The German original reads: “ Manchmal hat man nur die Wahl zwischen einem Desaster und einer Katastrophe, und dann muss man sich daran erinnern, dass es die erste und wichtigste Aufgabe des Staates ist, das Leben und die Sicherheit seiner Bürger zu garantieren. […] Wir haben es mit einem neuen Totalitarismus zu tun. Nein, er ist nicht neu, er ist nur anders. Nach dem linken Faschismus der Sowjets, nach dem rechten Faschismus der Nazis, ist der Islamismus der Faschismus des 21. Jahrhunderts.” The interview can also be retrieved via WADI’s website.

SOURCE

Fathollah-Nejad, Ali (2008) “Neo-Con Conference Pushes for War on Iran“, Global Research, Montreal: Centre for Research on Globalization, 1 June;

▪ republished on NormanFinkelstein.com, 1 June;

▪ published as Germany’s First Neo-Con Conference Pushes for War on Iran, Payvand News, 5 June | Unholy Alliances, Iranian.com, 26 June

▪ linked at Antiwar.com Viewpoints.

QUELLE (der deutschen Originalversion)

Fathollah-Nejad, Ali (2008) “„Business as usual“? „Aufs Maul hauen, verknasten und umbringen: Das ist Anti-Faschismus!“ Bericht zur Iran-Konferenz des »Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin«“, ZNet Deutschland, 24. Mai;

▪ »Aufs Maul hauen, einknasten, umbringen«: Ex-linke Bellizisten trommeln zum Präventivkrieg gegen den Iran, analyse & kritik, Nr. 529 (20. Juni 2008), S. 19;

▪ ebenso veröffentlicht auf Iran-Now Network, 4. Juni | in Auszügen auf SteinbergRecherche, 25. Mai;

▪ verlinkt auf Das Palästina Portal, 25. Mai | BessereWeltLinks.

IN FARSI TRANSLATION

▪ trans. Ahmad Ahgary, “Mantegh-e Jang-Talabân [The Logic of Warmongers]“, Radio Zamaneh, 21/07 (Part 1), 23/o7 (Part 2) | commented trans. Ahmad Ahgary, “Morouri bar yek Conference [On a Conference]“, Akhbare Rooz (Iranian Political Bulletin), 30/07.