The Unreality of the Iran-Nuke Fight

Israel is throwing the full weight of its U.S. lobby to crush the Iran nuclear agreement, but there are other factors adding momentum to the opposition partisanship among Republicans and money from Israeli backers to propagandize the American people, explains ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

An air of unreality pervades much of the debate on the agreement to restrict Iran’s nuclear program. Opponents of the agreement raise issue after issue on which the agreement is clearly superior to the alternative that would exist if the opponents succeed in getting the U.S. Congress to kill the deal, but the opponents keep raising such issues anyway.

There is, for example, long discussion of the details of inspection arrangements and exactly how many days will elapse between when an accusation is made and when international inspectors could enter a facility. But to the extent any of this is intended as criticism of the agreement it is beside the point because if the agreement is disapproved there would not be any such extraordinary inspections, with 24 days or 240 days or anything else in the way of an adjudication period.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to 2014 convention of the powerful lobbying group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to 2014 convention of the powerful lobbying group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Indeed, if the agreement is killed the universe of possible Iranian “violations” of its obligations would be greatly shrunk because Iran would be under no restrictions at all regarding its nuclear program other than the basic commitment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty not to build weapons. Similarly, complaints about the number of years certain limits on the Iranian program will be in effect are beside the point because if the agreement is killed there will be zero years of limits.

Everything that has been gained under this agreement in the way of restrictions on, and monitoring of, the Iranian nuclear program is a net, as well as a gross, gain over the situation that prevailed before the negotiations began and over the situation that would prevail if the agreement is killed.

To get these gains, neither the United States nor its negotiating partners nor Iran’s regional rivals have had to give up anything that involves any significant risks to themselves. As former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Hans Blix has put it, in return for all the far-reaching commitments Iran has made, the only commitment our side has had to make is to “drop punishment.”

If the current debate were being conducted solely on the merits of the agreement, the outcome would be almost a no-brainer; the agreement is obviously much better than the alternative of killing the agreement, even on a litany of issues that the opponents themselves have been raising. And yet the agreement’s political fate on Capitol Hill does not reflect that.

There is substantial probability that Congress will pass a resolution of disapproval, an action that, if allowed to stand, would kill the agreement. There is a lesser, but still significant, chance that Congress would override a presidential veto of such a resolution. The final outcome is likely to come down to the votes of only a few senators or representatives.

None of this political prognosis is understandable if one focuses on the substance of the agreement itself. The prognosis is comprehensible only if one realizes that the opposition is being driven by other reasons some people have for wanting to kill this agreement and to preclude any agreement with Iran.

The forces at play will be easily understood and written about by future generations of political scientists. But the American public and politicians are being buffeted (or swept along) by those forces right now. It behooves us to recognize explicitly the principal ones responsible for opposition to this agreement, which are the following.

The Israeli government’s political stratagem. Even the most fervent Israel-lobby-denier cannot deny that the Netanyahu government is leading the charge against the agreement at least as much as anyone else is leading it. In Israel, as in the United States, there is a disconnect between sober consideration of the substance of the agreement and other political incentives that are making that kind of sober consideration difficult.

Significant and understandable concern exists across the Israeli political spectrum about any possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. It makes sense, from the standpoint of security of the State of Israel, to support an agreement that restricts and scrutinizes Iran’s nuclear program and not to favor killing such an agreement and thereby removing such restrictions.

That is why many leading Israeli security professionals, who have dedicated careers to the safety and well-being of their nation, have, even while holding their noses over any dealings with the Islamic Republic of Iran, concluded that the agreement is in Israel’s best interests. If Prime Minister Netanyahu were focusing chiefly and carefully on ensuring there will be no Iranian nuclear weapon, he would have announced the same conclusion. Clearly he has other motivations.

Netanyahu has come to center much of his political career on fearmongering about Iran. In addition to however this tactic works in his favor against domestic political opponents, with his posturing as a tough guy who stands up to foreign threats, endless enmity with an Iran that is endlessly treated as a rogue state serves other purposes for his government.

Keeping Iran in an international penalty box lessens the competition for influence from a regime that will continue (certainly as long as the Palestinian issue remains unresolved) its extremely harsh criticism of Israeli policy. The Iranians may be no more irate about those policies than are the governments of the Gulf Arab states, but Iran is not as restrained in its rhetoric as the latter governments are because of their relationship with the United States.

Emphasizing an overriding threat from Iran, as Netanyahu does in any statement or speech about foreign affairs, also serves as a major rationale for continuation of the extraordinary U.S.-Israeli relationship and for framing Middle Eastern affairs in the moderates-vs.-bad-guys-led-by-Iran framework that Netanyahu’s government prefers. Undermining any incipient rapprochement between the United States and Iran helps to sustain the notion that Israel is the only reliable partner for the United States in accomplishing anything important in the Middle East.

Last but not least, repeatedly invoking Iran as the “real threat” in the Middle East serves to divert attention and change the subject whenever people start to talk about things, such as the occupation of Palestinian territory, that Netanyahu’s government would rather not talk about.

Netanyahu surely does not want to see an Iranian nuclear weapon, but his own behavior and positions indicate that neither does he want to see the issue of Iran’s nuclear program resolved. It serves his purposes to let the issue fester indefinitely, and to have tension with Iran continue indefinitely.

To the extent that the new agreement does resolve the nuclear issue, and even worse from Netanyahu’s point of view, to the extent it leads to the United States and Iran doing worthwhile business on other topics, all of the aforementioned advantages to him of endless enmity with, and endless rogue status for, Iran are undermined. And so he is doing everything he can to kill the agreement even though the agreement is in Israel’s broader and longer-term interests.

Thus there are the rhetorical excesses such as endless fulminations about repeating Munich. There are Netanyahu’s repeated warnings, which he has been making for many years even though they keep getting disproved, that Iran is just a few months away from having a nuclear weapon.

There is plenty of other inconsistency and goalpost-shifting, as in presenting his cartoon bomb to the United Nations and then not saying anything more about it after an agreement was negotiated that drained his bomb, or in first denouncing the Joint Plan of Action of November 2013 and then backing off when he was denouncing a later and more comprehensive agreement. Consistency doesn’t matter to him; what matters is throwing sand into the gears of U.S. diplomacy.

As always in American politics, when the Israeli government takes this unequivocal a position on something, its lobby springs into action. And so AIPAC is making a huge, cancel-staff-vacations effort to destroy the agreement.

Although even AIPAC sometimes has had its own frustrations with the Netanyahu government when the latter has put a highly partisan slant on its interference in U.S. politics, the lobbying organization has its own institutional reasons to continue to beat the drum of Iran as an everlasting threat.

An anonymous former AIPAC official comments, “Iran has been the group’s raison d’être for two decades and it doesn’t know what else to do; its troops are trained to attack Iran and the lobby can’t afford to admit failure lest it lose supporters.” The former official continues, “Iran has been an enormously lucrative fundraiser for AIPAC; just look at what they’re spending on this campaign alone. It needs to keep the issue alive for institutional imperatives.”

Partisanship. As conspicuous as the Israeli government’s role in the campaign to kill the Iran agreement is the partisan divide in the United States. That divide is immediately apparent in the most recent hearings on the subject, as it has been all along with other Congressional action or attempted action to sabotage the negotiations, such as proposals for new sanctions that would have violated the Joint Plan of Action and torpedoed the whole process.

There is nothing in declared Republican Party principles, such as support for free markets, low taxes, and a strong national defense, that explains opposition to the agreement. Nor does any determination to oppose resolutely any possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon explain the opposition when killing the agreement would mean lifting restrictions under which the Iranian nuclear program currently operates. A more plausible explanation for Republican opposition against the agreement is that it is a major initiative of Barack Obama.

The role of anti-Obamaism in Republican positions has been illustrated by the party’s obsessive opposition to the Affordable Care Act, with the dozens of time-wasting repeal votes in Congress and refusal to countenance any acceptance of the act or constructive bipartisan tinkering with it, even though it uses a commercially-based formula that was Romneycare in Massachusetts before it became Obamacare.

The ACA is widely regarded as President Obama’s biggest single accomplishment in domestic affairs, and the nuclear agreement with Iran is widely regarded as what will be, if it is not killed, his single biggest achievement in foreign affairs. Thus the agreement excites the same partisan impulses and the same urge to kill, no matter what the consequences that killing would have on the subject it addresses.

The reflexive, unthinking nature of what flows from those impulses was illustrated by how quickly a large majority of Republican senators (probably to the later regret of many of them) signed on to the atrocious open letter to the Iranians initiated by Tom Cotton, a freshman with less than two months on the job.

Once such a partisan pattern develops, it becomes, as with so many other questions both factual and prescriptive, a guide for party faithful in determining their own opinions. The partisan divide in the public’s views of the Iran agreement as recorded in opinion polls reflects to a large extent individual citizens’ taking of cues from leaders of the party with which they identify.

The self-reinforcing nature of Republican hostility to the agreement has been reinforced further by the contest for the Republican presidential nomination, in which a platoon of contenders has to scramble to get enough attention from the party base just to make it onto a debate platform, and in which a candidate opens himself up for attack just by suggesting that it might not be prudent to demolish on one’s first day in office an agreement that had been already working for a couple of years.

The Iran nuclear issue is by no means the first major national security issue in recent years in which careful consideration of what is best for national interests is superseded by reflexive partisanship. Peter Beinart notes significant parallels between the debate (or what passed for debate) on launching the war in Iraq and current debate about the Iran agreement, including how many of the same people who were the most enthusiastic supporters of that blunder of a war are among the most vocal opponents of this agreement.

Another parallel, which Beinart does not go into in his piece, concerns how party politics played into each question. With Iraq when Congress voted on a war resolution in 2002, as with Iran today, most of the key swing votes were Democrats. The Democrats in 2002 faced a political hazard if they appeared to resist the post-9/11 tidal wave of American militancy that the war promoters exploited to muster support for their project.

That hazard was great enough that the war resolution gained support from a majority of Democrats in the Senate (where most of the party’s presidential hopefuls were to be found), though not from most Democrats in the House of Representatives. But the biggest support by far in both chambers came from the nearly unanimous yes votes of Republicans.

Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their book Hubris give an insight into some of the thinking among those Republicans with a quotation from Texas Republican Richard Armey, who was the majority leader in the House at the time. Armey had earlier expressed reservations about starting a war in Iraq. When he and other Congressional leaders received a pro-war briefing, complete with overhead imagery, from Vice President Dick Cheney, Armey was unimpressed.

“If I’d gotten the same briefing from President Clinton or Al Gore I probably would have said, ‘Ah, b***s***’,” recalled Armey. But, he continued, “You don’t do that to your own people.”

Given the substantive choice between the Iran agreement and killing the agreement and what each of those alternatives would mean for restricting and monitoring the Iranian program, perhaps there are similar private thoughts among some Congressional Republicans today as they listen to arguments that opponents are firing at the agreement. And probably for most of those members party solidarity will again prevail.

Anti-Iran xenophobia. The Islamic Republic of Iran has come to fill, almost from the start of its existence but certainly since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR, the role of chief bête noire in American minds as far as foreign countries are concerned (although lately Vladimir Putin’s Russia has been making a bit of a comeback in that regard).

The hostage crisis of 1979-1981 was the worst possible way to get off to a start with a new regime. American emotions and attitudes about Iran have never recovered, and they certainly have not kept pace with major evolution in the Islamic Republic’s own attitudes and objectives, which long ago became post-revolutionary in nearly every sense of the term.

Put simply, most Americans have a visceral dislike of Iran that leads the emotional to dominate the intellectual, that colors perceptions and fuels major misperceptions of what Iran is up to, and that caters to the most primitive and most negative depictions of the country’s regime and its objectives.

Anyone who made a sober and rational appraisal of the alternatives of agreement and no agreement as far as the Iranian nuclear program is concerned could still, no matter how much he or she dislikes Iran, see the wisdom of the agreement. As the administration has repeatedly and truthfully noted, this is an agreement based on distrust, not trust. And as many others have correctly noted, some of the most important agreements one makes are with one’s enemies, not one’s friends.

But in reality, emotionalism and bias often trump sobriety and rationality, as they have to a large degree in this case. The American public’s feelings in this regard provide a fertile ground on which those who, for the reasons mentioned earlier, are determined to oppose the agreement can plant mistaken beliefs and can stir up still more negative emotion.

The anti-Iran sentiment affects the debate in several specific ways. The consistent worst-casing of Iranian objectives and intentions leads to many misperceptions because often the worst-case assumption is simply incorrect. (E.g., Iranian leaders are not really out to destroy Israel, and they are smart enough to realize there would be no way for them to do so even if they wanted to.)

Clichés and sloppy formulations substitute for any careful examination of what Iran actually has and has not been doing (a problem especially apparent concerning Iran’s activities in the Middle East). The regarding of anything Iran does as being by definition “nefarious” overlooks how Iranian actions relate to U.S. interests, sometimes complementing and sometimes conflicting with them.

The assumption that Iranian intentions are uniformly malevolent and always will be malevolent leads to gross misunderstanding of actual Iranian intentions, how those intentions underlie what has already happened in the nuclear negotiations, and how intentions and not just capabilities are a major part of the agreement succeeding in the future. And simple distaste for doing any business with a disliked regime is a further impediment to getting public support no matter how much sense the particular business in question makes.

The Israeli government factor, party politics, and inchoate anti-Iran sentiments are the major reasons an agreement that is clearly in U.S. interests is nonetheless a close call in Congress. Other factors might be mentioned but are subsidiary and less in the nature of root causes than are the aforementioned reasons.

Money is one such factor. Copious amounts of it are being spent in opposition to the agreement, far more than anything that can be found on the support side. When the public is largely ignorant about an agreement on a technical subject, money is all the more capable of molding opinions. That effect is in addition to what money that is spent for, and against, re-election campaigns can buy more directly in the way of Congressional votes.

The stakes of the agreement’s fate in Congress are high. The most immediate and obvious stake is what Secretary Kerry laid out in his testimony this week: killing this agreement would mean an Iranian nuclear program that would be free of any restrictions and any monitoring other than the minimum to which it is subject under the NPT.

Killing the agreement also would mean destroying one of the most significant steps in recent years on behalf of nuclear nonproliferation generally. More broadly and perhaps less obviously, it would mean losing an opportunity to remove a shackle from U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East and to be able to address more effectively and directly many other problems of concern to both the United States and Iran. It would mean damage to U.S. credibility and damage to relations with the European allies who were partners in negotiating the agreement.

Considering the chief reasons for opposition to the agreement brings into focus additional stakes. Killing the agreement would entail a subjugation of U.S. foreign policy to the baleful influences behind the opposition. It would mean a failure to break free of the influence of a foreign government that opposes the agreement for reasons that are not shared interests with the United States and in some respects are directly contrary to those interests (including telling the United States whom it can and cannot do business with).

It would mean bowing to the money and the influence of bankrollers such as Sheldon Adelson, who favors dropping a nuclear weapon on Iran and who, although a U.S. citizen, wishes he had performed his military service with a foreign government. It would mean subjugating dispassionate consideration of U.S. national interests to raw party politics. It would mean subjugating it as well to xenophobic bias. None of this is America’s better side.

Members of Congress need to think carefully about whether this is the way they want U.S. foreign policy to be made.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

17 comments for “The Unreality of the Iran-Nuke Fight

  1. Mortimer
    July 30, 2015 at 08:30

    >>> EXCERPT <<<

    Vanunu Confirms Israel's Global Thermonuclear Blackmail
    An Interview With Hesham Tillawi, PhD

    Dr. Hesham Tillawi – One of the Israeli professors said a few months ago that 'we have the nuclear capability of hitting every major European city,' is that true to your knowledge?

    Mordechai Vanunu – Yes, it is true. They can bombard any city all over the world, and not only those in Europe but also those in the United States, and by this threat what they are doing is to send a secret message to any leader and to any government that they have the ability to use them aggressively and to blackmail them, to blackmail Europe and the United States, every where, in every state around the world. It was Europe and the United States who helped them get this power, and now that Israel has it, she is coming back and saying to them 'We will not obey any orders that you give us. No international law, no international agreement, no UN resolutions,' and all because of these atomic weapons that they have….

    TILLAWI – Now, Mordechai, I have a question for you. What was it that you really felt that you must tell the world about, what was it about the Israeli nuclear program that you felt to yourself, `you know I cannot continue like this, I cannot remain silent on this, I have got to tell the world about it.' What was it?

    VANUNU – Well, the most important point is that it was the same situation that we have right now, namely that these people continue to lie and to cheat the world as well as their own citizens by denying the truth, by declaring that they do not have atomic weapons while at the same time I was working there helping to produce them. At that time there were more than 200 atomic weapons, in 1986, and it was at that time that they started to produce the most horrible of all weapons, the hydrogen bomball of this in secret, in lying and in cheating the world and all of its citizens. So I said to myself `It is impossible to keep these secrets. I must report about them and to try and stop it.'

    TILLAWI – Mordechai, there are a lot of nations that have nuclear weapons. What is it about Israel having them that makes you so nervous?

    VANUNU – Because Israel wants to use them, to cause genocide and holocaust on other innocent citizens. It has always been a part of Israel's secret policy. And also by having them, Israel will use them as a threat to avoid making peace with the Arab world as well as imposing her policies on those peoples. As long as she has them, she will continue on in her policies of not making peace, of occupation and of neglecting the Palestinian suffering caused by the refugee camps that have existed for more than 50 years.

    TILLAWI – What made Mordechai Vanunu betray his country and then change his religion?

    VANUNU – Yes, this is a very good question and very important. You are right, it is not usual to have a person come to these hard conclusions. As far as my conversion, it started at the very early age of 15 or 16. I was raised in the Jewish religion and in a Jewish family. Israel and Judaism were considered as one nation, one big family, one tribe. I began criticizing and rejecting Judaism over the point of view that these Jews are teaching injustice through their Judaism. In the same way that Jesus Christ also criticized Judaism 2,000 years ago, I was unwilling to accept what they teach, and later converted to the opposite of Judaism.

    The Jewish tribe teaches that there is only one Chosen people of God. They teach of their superiority, taking literally word-by-word the writings in the old bible. And I decided therefore that after 2,000 years these ideas were nonsense. There are 6 billion people around the world, and all of them are equal, all are part of the human race. There is no such thing as a super race. We should all respect and love each other, and that was the beginning of my rejecting Judaism and my accepting of Christianity, of following the teachings of Jesus Christ and of accepting humanity. I am not a religious man, I am not going to become a priest. I did all of this for my humanity and for my beliefs.

    So, I chose my own way and began criticizing the Jewish faith. Those who teach Judaism run the lives of those under them, telling them what they must do every hour of every day, issuing many orders about everything, from waking up in the morning to going to sleep, but at the same time they do not teach them to respect other human beings, to accept non-Jews and to believe that non-Jews are like them. They teach that only the Jews are the chosen people. So, this is Judaism, a collection of primitive traditions thousands of years old that have not changed.

    The world has changed in the last 2,000 years and the Jewish people need to accept and understand this change, and especially if they want a democratic country. You cannot have a state and run it as they did 2,000 years ago. They came to Palestine in the name of the Bible and in the name of their god and took this land that was promised to them thousands of years ago. In the name of this god, they took the land, expelled the people and gave them hard, cruel, barbaric lives for the last 60 years. This way of thinking, this faith cannot exist within this new age, and it was this that also led me to expose Israel's nuclear secrets.

  2. Mortimer
    July 29, 2015 at 14:55

    Mordechai Vanunu (Hebrew: מרדכי ואנונו‎; born 14 October 1954), also known as John Crossman, is an Israeli former nuclear technician who, citing his opposition to weapons of mass destruction, revealed details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986. He was subsequently lured to Italy by a Mossad agent, where he was drugged and abducted by Israeli intelligence agents. He was transported to Israel and ultimately convicted in a trial that was held behind closed doors.

    Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, including more than 11 in solitary confinement. Released from prison in 2004, he became subject to a broad array of restrictions on his speech and movement. Since then he has been arrested several times for violations of those restrictions, including giving various interviews to foreign journalists and attempting to leave Israel. He says he suffered “cruel and barbaric treatment” at the hands of Israeli authorities while imprisoned, and suggests that his treatment would have been different if he had not converted to Christianity from Judaism.[6]

    In 2007, Vanunu was sentenced to six months in prison for violating terms of his parole. The sentence was considered unusual even by the prosecution who expected a suspended sentence. In response, Amnesty International issued a press release on 2 July 2007, stating that “The organisation considers Mordechai Vanunu to be a prisoner of conscience and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.”In May 2010, Vanunu was arrested and sentenced to three months in jail on a charge that he met foreigners in violation of conditions of his 2004 release from jail.

    Vanunu has been characterized internationally as a whistleblower and by Israel as a traitor.[ Daniel Ellsberg has referred to him as “the preeminent hero of the nuclear era”

  3. Zachary Smith
    July 28, 2015 at 14:39

    A google news headline says Jonathan Pollard is going to be released.

    I really ought to call my two Senators and House guy suggesting that they give Holy Israel at least 50 billion dollars as additional compensation. Maybe some extra shipments of high-tech weapons to kill more Palestinians.

    I’m sure Congress can easily raise the money by slashing benefits for US widows or orphans or veterans – – or some similar place where the money is presently being wasted.

  4. Joe Dubyah
    July 27, 2015 at 21:14

    Need sustainable power? So… why not more wind and solar…instead of nuclear?

    • Zachary Smith
      July 27, 2015 at 21:30

      Need sustainable power? So… why not more wind and solar…instead of nuclear?

      Assuming your speaking of Iran, ‘why not’ is an excellent question. And it seems they are looking that direction.

      But the same answer is true for any nation. Building new nuclear plants in this day and age is absolutely and totally crazy. They’re impossibly dangerous, and the most expensive of all power sources even at their very best.

      Hillary is trying to pretend she would do something about climate change, but refuses to say the Keystone pipeline MUST be killed off. Total fail, as usual.

      The link is to the dreadful Washington Times, but they do a decent job of trashing the woman over her waffling and pretending.


      • Zachary Smith
        July 27, 2015 at 21:33


        Yes, I can usually spell. But proofreading — not so much.

      • Joe Dubyah
        July 27, 2015 at 23:13

        Yup. A quick ‘net search reveals Iran is very much so involved in the commissioning of new wind and solar plants as well as utilizing existing plants already on line. I don’t think any country would fault Iran for such endeavors and many would participate in doing business with them to that end. So.. if Iran is not in pursuit of nuclear weapons…. why pursue such a costly and dangerous energy source? I respect the angle of the article, but I have serious doubts the veracity of Iran’s long term goals and motives regarding nuclear energy. Why not have the opposition team counter hard regarding supporting these alternative energy sources?

        • Aman
          July 28, 2015 at 11:59

          Why not have everyone in the world, especially Israel and their belligerent partner the US, dispose of all nuclear weapons and energy to lead the way into a nuclear free future?

          The US is the only country ever to nuke anyone.

          Iran has not attacked anyone that didn’t attack them first in close to 300 years…

          As a foreign policy, both European Zionism and Israel has done nothing other than plan and attack weaker people and steal land since the European Zionist movement began in the late 1800’s..!

  5. Mortimer
    July 27, 2015 at 16:39

    Reagan-Bush Ties to Iran-Hostage Crisis
    April 9, 2014
    By Robert Parry


    U.S. government officials are in high dudgeon again – this time over Iran’s audacity in naming an ambassador to the United Nations who allegedly played a minor role in the 1979-81 crisis in which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days in Iran. But the same U.S. officials ignore the now overwhelming evidence that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush helped extend the hostages’ suffering to gain an edge in the 1980 election.

    The double standard – getting worked up over the allegations about Iranian Ambassador Hamid Aboutalebi and going silent over the evidence implicating Reagan and Bush – is just the latest in a long series of examples of the U.S. government’s hypocrisy.

    Reagan’s purported “October Surprise” operation to torpedo Carter’s hoped-for success in getting the hostages out before the Nov. 4, 1980, election would have made the Republican icon a much bigger villain in the hostages’ ordeal than Aboutalebi. George H.W. Bush, who was Reagan’s running mate in 1980, was also implicated in the sabotage operation.

    Mounting Evidence

    The evidence of this Republican skullduggery has been building for more than three decades, with the 1980 contacts between the Reagan team and >>radical<< Iranians appearing to be the opening chapter of the Iran-Contra saga of 1985-86, which also involved secret contacts and the trading of arms for hostages.

    Both operations also were shielded by aggressive Republican cover-ups that extended from 1986 to 1993, although congressional and government investigators did a much better job in excavating the Iran-Contra secrets than they did with the October Surprise case. It wasn’t until last June that Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, who headed both congressional inquiries, admitted that he had been misled about key October Surprise evidence.

    Organizing the Cover-up

    Two days later, on Nov. 6, Beach’s boss, White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, arranged an inter-agency strategy session and explained the need to contain the congressional investigation into the October Surprise case. The explicit goal was to ensure the scandal would not hurt President Bush’s reelection hopes in 1992.

  6. Stygg
    July 27, 2015 at 16:30

    Yet another article on this topic that purports to be comprehensive and even-handed yet carefully avoids mentioning that Iran isn’t trying to make nuclear weapons, as the American and Israeli intelligence communities both agree. We’re supposed to be fearful that a nation whose ruling clerics have declared such weapons immoral and un-Islamic will “only” be subject to the NPT’s restrictions? That’s still a damn sight more than Israel is subject to, and they actually have these weapons.

    Peddle your propaganda elsewhere.

    • Mortimer
      July 27, 2015 at 18:50

      Stygg, is it not enough we’ve established the entire enterprise against Iran is bogus from 1953 till now…?

      The last peg in “The New Strategy for Securing the Realm” is Iran. Iraq and Syria are developmentally disabled, Lebanon is fractured, Jordan has long since Submitted and the oil rich monarchy’s are devout adherents to the Petro dollar tyrants.

      Cheers ! The “New Middle East” is being bombed into birth.
      New Markets will be opened and “democracy” will be spread.
      Greater Israel will be in control of a prosperous Capitalist territory ruled by Zionist political policy and there will, at last, be peace? in the Middle East.

  7. Mortimer
    July 27, 2015 at 11:56

    The hostage crisis of 1979-1981 was the worst possible way to get off to a start with a new regime. American emotions and attitudes about Iran have never recovered, and they certainly have not kept pace with major evolution in the Islamic Republic’s own attitudes and objectives, which long ago became post-revolutionary in nearly every sense of the term.

    Put simply, most Americans have a visceral dislike of Iran that leads the emotional to dominate the intellectual, that colors perceptions and fuels major misperceptions of what Iran is up to, and that caters to the most primitive and most negative depictions of the country’s regime and its objectives.

    The Israelis and their neocon counterparts here are craftsmen at controlling the message.A huge part of the mechanism is the erasure of a Complete history and the precise rational for WHY Iranians captured and held the embassy. Absent the Why, any picture can be placarded and propagated repeatedly into “The Reality.”

    Remove the facts that the hated despot, the Shah, {1} whom we, the United States government had installed, with dictatorial powers, over the Iranian people after {2} we overthrew a democratically elected president had been {3} cast out of power after 25 years of brutal rule, by the people of Iran.

    Remove also the fact that we, the United States government, {1} evacuated our friend, the Shah, and his family from his palace and gave safe passage, {2} allowing him to escape the judgment he faced from an angry public who demanded he answer for his years of theft and crushing rule.

    The new government made numerous requests to the Us to return His Highness, after months of dithering Iranian students (not the government) peacefully overran the embassy in an attempt to “negotiate” an exchange/compromise, as it were, the Americans for the Shah. President Carter refused and so, the 444 day standoff. As i recall, no hostages were killed and the student leaders were in constant contact with US officials. The hostages were freed and the Shah maintained his freedom from judgment.

    The pretext for our hatred of Iran is based on the holding of American hostages for 444 days. Now, 45years later, US war mongers, aligned with another paranoid Prime Minister of the Incredibly Armed/US funded State of Israel, continues to threaten the Use of Force to obliterate Iran.

    We Must Have Our Revenge and Punish Iran Because They Just Won’t Conform or Knuckle Under to Our Control…

  8. Joe Tedesky
    July 27, 2015 at 09:42

    We Americans who are hopeful that peace will prevail in the Middle East must be prepared for the worst. This U.S. Congress belongs more to Israel, than to the United States people. I expect this Republican Congress to go against the P5+1 agreement. The Senate Republicans will only need 13 Democrates to kill this Iranian nuclear deal, and we should be ready to see President Obama lose his own party in this regard. AIPAC is reported to be spending between 20 to 30 million dollars to go against any deal for peace with Iran, so apparently war is truly on the table. Israel due to one reason or the other needs the U.S. Air power if they wish to attack Iran from the sky. The U.S. is arming Israel and Saudi Arabia to the teeth. I can only imagine what Israel is up to when it comes to their alliance with the Iranian MEK. How creative will they be at dreaming up a suitable ‘false flag’ which will send decent people into the streets screaming retaliation now. When I served in the Navy we were always told to, ‘think the worst and the best will happen’, so my mind has been conditioned that way. Although, I prefer to see the glass half full, but come on now we are talking, Netanyahu, Sheldon Adelson, the U.S. Congress, and people such as the Kagan’s. If Goldman Sachs or J.P. Morgan/Chase does any banking with Iran’s newly released sanctioned money, then be ready for some real violence. Finally, by signing off on this P5+1 deal the United States has become free of Russia and China, and all systems are go. Lastly, I’m afraid that by today’s standards it would be unpatriotic for this U.S. Congress to vote against Israel. Am I a Debbie downer or am I just being realistic, you be the judge.

  9. John B
    July 27, 2015 at 08:53

    Good to stress the need of right wing scammers in the US and Israel for foreign monsters to rationalize posing as defenders and accusing their opponents of disloyalty. And the nearly total loss of democracy in the US to money power, which can never be restored because that requires the very elections and mass media now controlled by money.

    But we must remember that the Iran problem started with the US overthrowing democracy there in 1953 and substituting the dictatorship of the Shah to get 40 percent of the British oil concession. The problem did not start with the inevitable revolution against the US dictatorship in 1979.

  10. alexander
    July 27, 2015 at 06:57

    Dear Mr Pillar,

    Gosh, If only Jonathan Pollard were” Iranian”, then Mr Netanyahu could make an “outstanding” case for killing the deal !

    How could the United States ever make agreements with such” evil, traitorous states” whose proxy’s stab us in the back at every turn !

  11. Zachary Smith
    July 27, 2015 at 00:10

    Money is one such factor. Copious amounts of it are being spent in opposition to the agreement — far more than anything that can be found on the support side.

    I’m not at all sure this is going to be the case. But even if the dollar amounts are more, some extreme pressure is going to be put on certain senators to knuckle under. Tim Scott of South Carolina is one of them. He’s not up for election for several years, and he can argue that he’s doing what’s right for South Carolina by reluctantly setting aside his own doubts. Boeing has a major plant in SC, and Iran is in the market for a couple dozen billion dollars worth of new airplanes. If the US won’t sell them there is always Airbus. I don’t know what other ‘stuff’ the Persians will be shopping for, but the list is bound to be substantial.

    So in my humble & pretty-well-uninformed opinion AIPAC is jacking up the stakes to enable its extortion racket. The more Holy Israel screams, the more US taxpayer money they’ll get from the US. (I’d figure a 100:1 payback for every propaganda dollar Israel spends) Both parties in Congress will be falling all over themselves to throw more money at the shitty little apartheid state if the Iran deal is passed. Not so much so if it fails.

    Prediction: the Iran deal will pass. No way Obama would have stuck his neck out on this issue if he didn’t have some mighty strong backers with some very deep pockets.

    Anyhow, I’d suggest that the Europeans (especially Germany and Russia) would welcome a “NO” vote from the US. The UN has already blessed the deal, and that’s all the political cover they’ll need. Big bucks to them and zilch for US companies.

    Yeah, it’s going to pass. And Israel will get boat-loads of our money. And maybe Jonathan Pollard too.

    • Peter Loeb
      July 28, 2015 at 05:57

      Paul Pillar observes above::

      “Indeed, if the agreement is killed the universe of possible Iranian ‘violations’ of its obligations would be greatly shrunk because Iran would be under no restrictions at all regarding its nuclear program other than the basic commitment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty[“NPT”] not to build weapons. Similarly, complaints about the number of years certain limits on the Iranian program will be in effect are beside the point because if the agreement is killed there will be ZERO years of limits.

      Everything that has been gained under this agreement in the way of restrictions on, and monitoring of, the Iranian nuclear program is a net, as well as a gross, gain over the situation that prevailed before the negotiations began and over the situation that would prevail if the agreement is killed.”

      This is the “Catch 22” in which Israel, US and opponents find themselves. One must
      remember that purposely politicians are exclusively highlighting the military effects
      of the Iran “AGREEMENT” (not “Treaty”). It fails to acknowledge Iran as a leader
      of the Mideast whether the US (aka the “we” which disingenuously implies that all
      the major powers concurred with US policy which does not seem to have been the
      case at all. (See Pepe Escobar on “China and Russia are running Rings Around
      Washington…” in Counterpunch News).

      I have often written in these spaces that a “deal” would be an illusion (often in
      response to Paul Pillar). I was wrong. But correct in stating that the kind of
      agreement by the hegemonic US and West would obtain. As Escobar points
      out there remain many options for Iran and fewer and fewer for Israel whose
      international “swagger” has suffered. (Except in Israel itself where it is
      always protected by its victimization.)

      Whoever becomes President of the United States in 2016, barring willingness
      of the US to go it alone , will face similar versions of its decline as a
      hegemonic nation.

      —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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