TEHRAN – An American anthropologist says that the United States’ approach toward Iran is mostly “irrational”.
“Much of the American attitude toward Iran is, in my estimation, irrational,” William O. Beeman, professor emeritus of the State University of Minnesota, tells the Tehran Times.
“In the United States, no politician can risk saying anything positive about Iran,” Beeman notes.
The Joint Commission meetings of the remaining participants of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – Iran, China, Russia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom – are ongoing in the Austrian capital, Vienna.
Political observers believe that the negotiations will not be easy due to a deep gap between Iran and the U.S.’s approaches.
Meanwhile, Israel is making every effort to deepen this gap through picturing Iran as a threat to the U.S.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu and pro-right-wing Israel groups like the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have tremendous power as lobbyists in Washington, and their hostility to Iran is unrelenting,” Beeman asserts.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: What is your prediction about new rounds of talks to revitalize the JCPOA?
“I firmly believe that Robert Malley and the U.S. negotiating team also do not believe seriously that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. However, they are using the Iranian uranium enrichment as a way to ‘sell’ the renewed negotiations to the U.S. citizenry, and U.S. politicians.”A: I have been surprised by the optimistic tone that has been adopted by the Biden Administration. Biden’s envoy on Iran, Robert Malley, has been taking a very forward stance on the talks in Vienna. I believe Mr. Malley to be an honest broker. He is a lawyer and a political scientist and was one of the principal negotiators on the original JCPOA agreement in the Obama administration. His family background is Egyptian (his father) and American (his mother). His family has extensive diplomatic credentials. Everything I have heard from Mr. Malley has been realistic, honest, and forward-thinking. Iranian officials are wary of American negotiators, but I believe that Mr. Malley genuinely wants to steer the United States and Iran to a mutually acceptable conclusion, and a return to the JCPOA.
Q: Iran blames Israel for sabotage at the Natanz nuclear site. Why does Israel resort to these kinds of dangerous adventures?
A: The Netanyahu government has conducted these kinds of aggressive pre-emptive strikes against any nation they perceive to be an “existential threat.” They are very clear about this. They bombed supposed nuclear facilities in Iraq and in Syria in previous years. Their hostile attacks on Iran are completely consistent with their foreign defense policy. The mystery is how they are able to do this. I leave this to Iranian intelligence, but I note that during the American occupation of Iraq, Israel was able to infiltrate Mossad agents into Iran over the open Kurdish border – a border kept open by the Bush administration. As Iranians well know, there are thousands of native Persian speakers living in Israel, and groups like the MEK committed to overthrowing the Iranian government is cooperating with them.
Q: What does mostly shape American foreign policy, especially when it comes to Iran?
A: Much of the American attitude toward Iran is, in my estimation, irrational. It stems from the Iranian Revolution and the 444-day occupation of the American Embassy. There are people in Washington who will never forgive Iran for this event.
Secondly, Iran’s perceived hostility toward Israel is a major force in shaping American public opinion. I have written extensively about Hezbollah in Lebanon as a Shi’a defense force, but in the United States, Hezbollah is portrayed as an Iranian-supported attack force against Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu and pro-right-wing Israel groups like the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have tremendous power as lobbyists in Washington, and their hostility to Iran is unrelenting. During the Bush and Trump administrations, the United States also lobbied Saudi Arabia and the other (Persian) Gulf states with the idea that Iran was an active threat to their governments. Thus today, Iran is surrounded by nations that are fearful that if Iran gains economic and military power it will be a threat to them. I personally believe this to be untrue, but it is a widespread belief in the United States.
“The United States has been an unreliable party in treaties and agreements for decades.”I have written extensively about this in many articles and a book: The “Great Satan” vs the “Mad Mullahs”: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other. The result in the United States is that no politician can risk saying anything positive about Iran. If they do so, they will be immediately attacked by their political opponents. By contrast, any politician in the United States can attack Iran verbally and receive a positive reaction from many of their constituents. Iran has many friends in the United States, and people who travel to Iran return with overwhelmingly positive reports, but the numbers here are small. Let me also mention that there is a large Iranian immigrant community in the United States, many of whom are opposed to Iran’s current government. These groups have cooperated with neoconservative American politicians in attacking Iran and Iran’s government.
Q: Given Israeli sabotage in Iran’s nuclear facilities and U.S.- Israeli alliance, do you think Washington is a reliable partner in reviving the 2015 nuclear pact? We have a history of U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal. What guarantees should Iran seek in negotiations?
A: The United States has been an unreliable party in treaties and agreements for decades. Iran is right to be cautious. However, what can Iran do, really? The current sanctions situation is intolerable. For example, although there are exceptions to the sanctions for medicines and other humanitarian aid, they are effectively exceptions on paper. Because the United States controls world trade because of the dominance of the U.S. dollar as an exchange medium, it is difficult, if not impossible to purchase medical supplies, because the companies supplying these supplies are afraid to use international trade mechanisms to sell them. So, something really must be done.
Let me point out that I am in the firm belief that Iran does not intend to develop any nuclear weaponry. It would have to violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to do so and Iran relies on this Treaty to also exert leverage on the United States and other nations. But Iran has very few tools to leverage its advantage in the JCPOA talks. The Iranian government is using two of those tools–additional enrichment of uranium, and limiting of IAEA inspections. Iran is still fully compliant with the NPT, so it has not violated any actual international treaty, only the terms of the JCPOA, which is an agreement, not a treaty. The United States abandoned the agreement under Trump, and Iran has done what it could to exert its own options.
Let me also say that I firmly believe that Robert Malley and the U.S. negotiating team also do not believe seriously that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. However, they are using the Iranian uranium enrichment as a way to “sell” the renewed negotiations to the U.S. citizenry, and U.S. politicians. They keep saying: “We will never allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.” And though they don’t really believe that Iran will ever do so, they can use this as a domestic justification for pursuing the talks to return to the JCPOA.
Q: How do you assess the 25-year Iran-China partnership? Don’t you think that the U.S. has pushed Iran towards China by its sanctions and maximum pressure policy?
A: Yes, and Iran has embraced this agreement with China as yet another way to exert pressure on the United States. For many years Iran had a favorable balance of trade with China, due largely to the export of petroleum products. China has no particular reason to pay any attention to U.S. sanctions. They are being sanctioned by the United States themselves, so Iran is a natural partner for them. There is some danger in this arrangement for Iran. The Chinese are neither fools nor benevolent benefactors. They always end up profiting at the expense of their partners. One needs only to look at their investments in Africa which largely turned out to be detrimental to the local economy. Iran can use this Chinese accord as a means to put pressure on the U.S. but must be very careful not to get “burned” by it in the end. The Iranian population is very wary of this. Iran has been exploited by foreign powers for centuries, and many Iranians see the Chinese as just the latest exploiters. One young hyperbolic Iranian wrote me and said: “I don’t want to be a slave in a Chinese work camp.” That is a gross exaggeration, but I think many Iranians have very serious concerns about this.
Original News : https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/459976/Much-of-U-S-attitude-toward-Iran-is-irrational-American-anthropologist