Aijaz Ahmad on U.S. double standards in defining global nuclear issues
Double standards on nuke issues
Paul Jay talks to Aijaz Ahmad
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: There’s an incredible double standard which must be resented in Iran and other parts of the world. One example of that is, again, on this same CNN show.
Blitzer asked Senators Boxer and Lott what they thought of the Israeli attack on the Syrian buildings, purported to have been something to do with their nuclear development. The Syrians deny that and say they were ordinary military buildings. First of all, ElBaradei’s reaction to it was very interesting. Here’s what ElBaradei had to say about the Israeli attack.
MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY: I’m very distressed, frankly, about this Syrian bombing because nobody –there has been chatter for the last few years; John Bolton three years ago went to testify before Congress and said there is concern about Syria, and yet until today we have not received essential information about any nuclear-related activities, clandestine nuclear-related activities in Syria. The bombing, again, you know, happened, and we never, until today, received any piece of information.
JAY: Senators Boxer and Lott were sitting in the studio. They heard ElBaradei say that the IAEA had absolutely no information that the Syrian buildings were associated with a nuclear program. But here’s what their reaction was when Blitzer asked them what they thought of the attack.
TRENT LOTT, UNITED STATES SENATOR (R): I don’t know the details, but I suspect there was sufficient justification for an action, assuming one was taken in the way it was. But beyond that I couldn’t comment, because I don’t know the details.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: But you’re willing to give the Israelis the benefit of the doubt–
LOTT: I am.
BLITZER: –that they were justified in doing what they did?
LOTT: I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, yes.
BLITZER: Are you willing to give them the benefit of the doubt?
BARBARA BOXER, UNITED STATES SENATOR (D): I said every nation has a right to defend itself. I’m assuming that Israel acted within that boundary.
JAY: So is there’s this incredible double standard, in the sense, that Israel must be on the side of the good, or they wouldn’t do it. And this is right after hearing ElBaradei’s statement. Yet on Iran, of course, you can assume the worst.
AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: You know, this is sort of a faith-based politics. I don’t know, but I believe that Iran has such a program. I don’t know such a facility existed in Syria. Israel has never made such a thing known. But since Israel says so, this must be true. If Iran says something, that must be false, because this is not a regime you can trust. So it’s a kind of a faith-based politics, and that is why Mr. ElBaradei was absolutely categorical about it. He says we have no such evidence whatsoever. And if you have evidence, your task is to come to us first and not take the law in your own hands. No one has in the last eight years taken this seriously. Not the U.S. government, not the Israeli government, not western European governments, and obviously not the U.S. media.
JAY: There’s another point ElBaradei made. He says that even if there is a nuclear weapons program, it’s three to ten years away from any possibility of a nuclear-grade enriched uranium.
ELBARADEI: We’re not talking about Iran today having a nuclear weapon, as Secretary Rice said recently. Second, even if Iran were to be working on nuclear weapon, according to John Negroponte and Mike McConnell, they’re at least few years away from having such weapon.
JAY: It doesn’t sound very long. And of course when people are referring to ElBaradei’s interview that we’re talking about, in the U.S. media they’re all just focusing on this three-to-ten-years formulation. But was that his message? Or was his message that in fact there’s actually not an imminent threat?
AHMAD: Well, if you look closely at the wordings, he’s actually saying, even if what Condoleeza Rice is saying, they’re at least three to eight years away, and that three to eight years gives us enough time to verify the things that we need to verify. In fact, he hopes that by the end of this year he’ll be able to give a very comprehensive report to the Security Council. The American right wing says that if it’s only three years, eight years, that’s not much time. ElBaradei’s point is that while they are under our inspection regime, we know what they can do. And therefore it’s not as if during these three years, even, they can just do whatever they wish to do.
JAY: Are the Iranians willing to negotiate now or not? And Rice is saying they’re not. But the Iranians are saying, we are, but you can’t make a precondition that we’re going to stop enriching uranium for civilian purposes. Where does ElBaradei come down on it?
AHMAD: ElBaradei is very, very, very interesting and very good on that. He says that, look, we have the prior experience—what happened in North Korea. He is saying that when you refuse to negotiate, the other country is much more likely to do belligerent things. If you are willing to negotiate and lay everything on the table, then it is much less likely that Iran would carry on with any such programs.
JAY: Are we starting to see another phase like before the Iraq war, where the American media’s creating public opinion for an attack?
AHMAD: In a very coordinated fashion, all the network news started the kind of build-up of a sort of a hysteria.
REPORTER, FOX NEWS: In the past week, the U.S. announced the toughest sanctions to be imposed on Iran in nearly three decades. Will this lead to revolution inside that country? Or perhaps a direct war with United States?
AHMAD: I have not seen a single program on network news anywhere which actually tells you what these revolutionary guards are. The revolutionary guard was the force which fought the war against Iraq, and 500,000 people died. When Irani people pay homage to their martyrs, most of those martyrs had been members of the revolutionary guard. Two thirds of the members of parliament of Iran have been members of the revolutionary guard. So the revolutionary guard is an extremely complex matter. The networks never actually tell you anything about any of that, so the American public never quite understands the complexity which is being reduced to this kind of rhetoric.