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May 28, 2009

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"Iranians aren't suicidal. In an interview last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as "a messianic, apocalyptic cult." In fact, Iran has tended to behave in a shrewd, calculating manner, advancing its interests when possible, retreating when necessary."

Also, as I frequently point out, if they were so suicidal and apocalyptic, they wouldn't have made peace with Saddam Hussein after he killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians after an unprovoked attack and a war that lasted eight years.

"One of Netanyahu's advisers said of Iran, 'Think Amalek.'"

This is, however, a mischaracterization of what right-wing Israelis mean by "think Amelek": however right or wrong, the term refers to an unremitting enemy of Israel who seeks to wipe out the Israelis; not vice versa.

I think this perception of Iran is wrongheaded, but using the term to assert the reverse meaning of the usage is also just wrong. It's a paranoid usage, not a command to wipe out the Ameleks.

however right or wrong, the term refers to an unremitting enemy of Israel who seeks to wipe out the Israelis; not vice versa.

Sorry, but it's not either / or. When a society with a penchant for military action starts labeling someone as "an unremitting enemy" who's seeking to wipe them out, and trumpets their imminent ability to follow through on this presumed threat, the next step is virtually inevitable. And that's even if the story that provides the basis for the name didn't have as its denouement God commanding the Israelites to annihilate the Amalekites before they get the chance to do the same to the Israelites. Do you really believe that right-wing Israelis actually all stopped reading or listening before that part?

I have long insisted to friends and others that would listen to me (alas far too few)that it really is unlikely 1) that Iran was really pursuing construction of nuclear weapons and 2) even if they did the likelihood of Iran using such a weapon other than in self-defense is smaller than the likelihood of our using it.

Of course, this is similar to the situation pre-invasion of Iraq where I tolf the same people (still alas too few) that it was unlikely Iraq had WMDs and if they had, it was extremely unlikely that they woulod either use them or give them to groups like al Qaeda.

Of course, both Iraq and Iran are composed of "those people" who everybody knows are crazy people who do totally insane things.

FZ makes a lot of sense with this. FWIW there is a counter-argument that may be presented by some citing the Shi'i practice of Taqiyyah.

Quoting from wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-taqiyya):

Within the Shia theological framework,the concept of Taqiyya (تقية - 'fear, guard against', also taghiyeh) refers to a dispensation allowing believers to conceal their faith when under threat, persecution or compulsion.
The word "al-Taqiyya" literally means: "Concealing or disguising one's beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of imminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury." A one-word translation would be "dissimulation."

However I think that the idea that the government is misleading the international community in a practiced application of taqiyya (vis. the issuing of false fatwas) misunderstands taqiyya; the person must be under direct compulsion in order to misrepresent their beliefs.

Just so people are aware...

"Within the Shia theological framework,the concept of Taqiyya...."

Which is more or less the same, incidentally, as that of the crypto-Jews.

Gary, could you please clarify why you're so sure that this statement is true:

This is, however, a mischaracterization of what right-wing Israelis mean by "think Amelek": however right or wrong, the term refers to an unremitting enemy of Israel who seeks to wipe out the Israelis; not vice versa.

If what happened in the Bible was that God commanded the Jews to totally wipe out the Amalekites, rather than the other way around, then wouldn't the modern analogy involve Israel totally wiping out Iran, rather than the other way around?

"Gary, could you please clarify why you're so sure that this statement is true"

It's simply my personal experience of all the times I've heard Jews speak of Amalek. I don't pretend this is universal for all Jews, of course. It's simply my personal experience, and that's all.

"...then wouldn't the modern analogy involve Israel totally wiping out Iran, rather than the other way around?"

That's entirely logical, but simply isn't the way I've ever heard any Jew refer to Amalek. Amalek is spoken of as the menace to fear, not the menace to attack. In my quite limited personal experience.

Mind, Jews have different opinions on everything, so I have no doubt that some Jews presumably use the term differently. How relevant that is to Netanyahu, whom I loath, and his minions and coalition partners, I have little idea.

Yes, the Iranians are crazy religionists. If our crazy religionists would do it, why not theirs?

The revelation this month in GQ Magazine that Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary embellished top-secret wartime memos with quotations from the Bible prompts a question. Why did he believe he could influence President Bush by that means?

The answer may lie in an alarming story about George Bush's Christian millenarian beliefs that has yet to come to light.

In 2003 while lobbying leaders to put together the Coalition of the Willing, President Bush spoke to France's President Jacques Chirac. Bush wove a story about how the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East and how they must be defeated.

In Genesis and Ezekiel Gog and Magog are forces of the Apocalypse who are prophesied to come out of the north and destroy Israel unless stopped. The Book of Revelation took up the Old Testament prophesy:

"And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them."

Bush believed the time had now come for that battle, telling Chirac:

"This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people's enemies before a New Age begins".

The story of the conversation emerged only because the Elyse Palace, baffled by Bush's words, sought advice from Thomas Romer, a professor of theology at the University of Lausanne. Four years later, Romer gave an account in the September 2007 issue of the university's review, Allez savoir. The article apparently went unnoticed, although it was referred to in a French newspaper.

The story has now been confirmed by Chirac himself in a new book, published in France in March, by journalist Jean Claude Maurice. Chirac is said to have been stupefied and disturbed by Bush's invocation of Biblical prophesy to justify the war in Iraq and "wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs".

More:
http://www.alternet.org/politics/140221

I think the Bush family has been a pristine metaphor for the story of Anglo-Protestants. The Elder Bush has been a traditional mainliner Protestant from the realist school, Bush Jr. has become a charismatic fundamentalist End-Timer, and Jeb converted to Roman Catholicism.

"Within the Shia theological framework,the concept of Taqiyya...."

Every religion has it; that is, their enemies are convinced they do.

Who's there, in the other devil's name? Faith, here's an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale; who committed treason enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come in, equivocator.
(Some English protestant, after the gunpowder plot)

"The answer may lie in an alarming story about George Bush's Christian millenarian beliefs that has yet to come to light."

You seem to be plagiarizing here, not quoting. In any case, Counterpunch quoting a dubious French source allegedly quoting Chirac hardly seems like reliable sourcing.

"here is a curious coda to this story. While a senior at Yale University George W. Bush was a member of the exclusive and secretive Skull & Bones society. His father, George H.W. Bush had also been a "Bonesman", as indeed had his father. Skull & Bones' initiates are assigned or take on nicknames. And what was George Bush Senior's nickname? 'Magog'."

Wooooo, scary, boys and girls.

But you don't understand! They're all out to get us! They're mad, don't you understand?? MAD!! We must kill them, before they steal our precious bodily essences!

Counterpunch quoting a dubious French source allegedly quoting Chirac hardly seems like reliable sourcing.

This story has been out for ages and the sources seem rather solid to me. Here's a dKos post with links to the original French sources. Just because it hasn't been picked up by the English speaking MSM, doesn't mean it's not true.

Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons.

Cool. I’m so relieved. Because we all know that no one who claims this has later surprised us by testing a nuclear weapon or anything…

Because we all know that no one who claims this has later surprised us by testing a nuclear weapon or anything…

Which country did that? I mean, apart from our ally, Israel.

Here's a dKos post with links to the original French sources. Just because it hasn't been picked up by the English speaking MSM, doesn't mean it's not true.

I'm going to agree with Novakant. I see absolutely nothing dubious in the sourcing on this; to the contrary, the sources seem thoroughly credible.

It’s funny, how certain folks believe the world is ending, when their power is perceived to have been diminishing.

This is, however, a mischaracterization of what right-wing Israelis mean by "think Amelek": however right or wrong, the term refers to an unremitting enemy of Israel who seeks to wipe out the Israelis; not vice versa.

I have no idea what right-wing Jews mean, and the Biblical record of how the conflict with the Amalekites is a little muddy, and begins with the Amalekites attacking the unsuspecting Jews at Rephidim:

8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, "Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands." 10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

14 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."

15 Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. 16 He said, "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The [c] LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation."

Lots of interesting things to be seen in there, but again: not sure how this is reflected in right-wing Israeli sentiment toward Iran.

And here's the end (or at least, the last mention) of the Amalekites:

47 After Saul had assumed rule over Israel, he fought against their enemies on every side: Moab, the Ammonites, Edom, the kings [h] of Zobah, and the Philistines. Wherever he turned, he inflicted punishment on them. [i] 48 He fought valiantly and defeated the Amalekites, delivering Israel from the hands of those who had plundered them.

Emphasis mine. No idea why Iran might fit that mold in modern times, and I don't see any connection of Amalekites with Iran, other than symbolic.

I was just thinking about the Korea part . while China would not initiate it, I think China would be OK with a reunited Korea allied with the US-so long as US troops stayed below the 38th parallel. The USA would of course be overjoyed with that deal (Macarthur is dead and gone). Of course, though , I'm making the same mistake as the folks Garett is criticising- make assumptions about China policy on no evidence, just based on my view of the world and history.
FWIW , I believe that Iran does want the bomb, and for good reasons-it has a nuclear armed enemy (Israel) in its neighborhood, and troops from another avowed enemy and nuclear superpower are on both its borders (Iraq and Afghanistan). Moreover, this superpower has talked about "regime change" -a euphemism for invading and occupying a country.
Put like that, I think it natural that Iran would want nuclear weapons as an insurance policy.This is a long way from thinking that Iran wants to launch a nuclear first strike on either Israel or the USA in accordance with some apocalyptic ideology. There is simply no reason to believe that the Iranian government would want anything like that.

scripture is fun

I would also assume that Iran would like the option (because it is rational). But I guess that they calculate that they would not get there (at least directly) without provoking the violent reaction they would not have to fear, if they already were there. I think they will go as far as they can gaining practical knowledge on the way and hoping that sanity (and realism) will prevail. I do not envy them.
Btw, Is that really stonetools making a sane argument? ;-)

Hartmut, stonetools does that a lot, as long as the subject isn't torture.

Basically, the situation is that there is a lot more evidence that Iran is not all that gung ho on beoming a nuclear power than that it is. There is also more evidence that it is unlikely to be an agreesor against Israel or other countries than there is.

But that means little to some people. Some people (what a wonderful phrase) want Iran to prove a negative, just like they wanted Saddam to prove a negative. Can't be done, of course, but that is irrelevant.

Actually, John, I don't think the people you are referring to do want Iran to prove a negative. Any more than they wanted Saddam to do so. They demand proof of a negative, but they don't want it -- because what they really want is to use the lack of proof as a justification for something else that they want.

@ John Miller.

Hey gee, thanks... I think :-).
I also have to admit-I'm rethinking the torture/coercion issue, based on the arguments that I've read here, but I still think I'm sane on that issue as well. I don't want to derail the thread, though-back to the topic.

I think that Iran will continue to stealthily pursue nuclear weapons , under the guise of having a peaceful nuclear program. They may even make it- but it won't be the end of the world, if you will pardon the pun.

We might just have to get used to a world in which slowly-hopefully VERY SLOWLY- more and more nations have nuclear arms. It won't be a fun place- but then neither was the Cold War and MAD, and we survived that.

wj, that is why I said it was irrelevant, meaning to their "request/demand". They know it can't be met.

stonetools, glad to hear it. And yes, it was a compliment. And although I am not as confident as you are that Iran is moving towards nuclear weapons, I also don't think it would any more horrible if they got them then say if Switzerland did.

A simple question most Westerners should ask themselves is, if they were in Iran's shoes, wouldn't they also wannt nuclear weapons? If they were being honest, most would say yes.

They already have a launch vehicle to put one on, FWIW. Probably meant for commercial satellites, though.

"Because we all know that no one who claims this has later surprised us by testing a nuclear weapon or anything…"

Who, specifically, are you referring to, OCSteve?

"Which country did that? I mean, apart from our ally, Israel."

When did Israel claim it wasn't going to build a nuclear weapon?

When did Israel claim it wasn't going to build a nuclear weapon?

Throughout the 1960s, after the discovery of the Dimona reactor in 1960, Israel insisted that they only intended to pursue a civilian nuclear program. By the mid-late 60s, they were practicing deliberate ambiguity as to whether they had developed military nuclear technology in order to deter Arab states, but assured American officials that they would not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons to the region.

Why do you think Washington doesn't trust Iran now?

The real problem with our Iran policy has been that it has been all stick, no carrot. Obama believes that we should try some carrots and we have some juicy ones on offer.

Maybe we should try a Grand Bargain- we end sanctions, give them most favored nation status, promise not to invade them and in return, they agree to a rigorous international administration of their nuclear program.

To do this , of course, we would have to forget about the hostage crisis -but then that was 30 years back. If we can move beyond losing the Vietnam War, we should be able to move beyond the hostage crisis.

"Throughout the 1960s, after the discovery of the Dimona reactor in 1960, Israel insisted that they only intended to pursue a civilian nuclear program."

As I recall, David Ben-Gurion said that they were pursuing a nuclear program "for peaceful purposes." I may be forgetting, since I haven't reread in depth on the topic in some time, but I don't recall any forswearing of ever developing a nuclear bomb. I also seem to recall unofficial weasel words about nuclear weapons being intended for "defensive purposes" and thus "peaceful."

See this paper for example.

If you can point to an official Israeli source that stated that Israel would never develop a nuclear weapon, I'd be interested.

To do this , of course, we would have to forget about the hostage crisis -but then that was 30 years back.

To do this , of course, Iran would have to forget about the CIA helping to depose Mossadeq -but then that was 56 years back. So a mutual "water under the bridge" approach might work if someone would try it.

"Iran would have to forget about the CIA helping to depose Mossadeq...."

More than "helping"; Operation Ajax was completely a product of CIA and MI-6; it didn't originate at all with Iranians.

Yeah, well, I was trying to give some credit to the clerics who didn't like the idea of a secular government, even though they where being stirred up by a CIA disinformation campaign. In other words, I went with "helping to depose" to avoid nitpicking. :-)

I see no reason to believe that pursuing nuclear power isn't part of the long game here. Oil - and in Iran's case, natural gas - is will be around to be burned up as fuel for only so long. And after the natural resource is gone, what will OPEC countries, exactly, to fall back on?

I could see very easily a case where after having some decades of experience, Iran becomes the broker for nuclear power development in the region. Even to the extent of becoming the owners of the world's first long-term storage reservoir for nuclear waste. Those depleted natural gas wells would make dandy depositories.

Going with the unreasonable burden of proof standards (and I suspect the ascribed motivation is the correct one), we might as well demand that farmers make a far more detailed accounting with what they're doing with all that fertilizer. Or anyone with a few gallons of gas in their garage, bleach, aluminum foil, etc. After all, how do we know that they aren't planning to make some sort of a t'rist bomb with that stuff?

If you can point to an official Israeli source that stated that Israel would never develop a nuclear weapon, I'd be interested.

I'm not sure why we'd need an official Israeli source to find out a public position, but feel free to browse newspapers from the period if you have the time. More interesting, and readily accessible, is the Foreign Relations of the United States series on State's website, they're all online now, pull the relevant volume and go to the index. There aren't many high-level discussions between US and Israeli officials at that time that didn't touch on the nuclear issue.

It's an interesting tale -- the Americans were regularly inspecting Dimona but the Israelis managed to conceal their military work -- but I don't believe there is any dispute over the basic facts. It's obviously been hugely influential on US nuclear proliferation perceptions and strategic culture.

Avner Cohen's book is probably the standard go-to.

On that torture thing: How to Make Terrorists Talk?

Maybe we should try a Grand Bargain- we end sanctions, give them most favored nation status, promise not to invade them and in return, they agree to a rigorous international administration of their nuclear program.

The problem is, why would the Iranians believe the US if it said it wasn't going to invade? The Iraqis destroyed weapons as part of the UN inspection process only a few weeks before the US invasion, after all. How much would you trust the US government if you were a foreign leader?

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