POLITICS
02/23/2014 09:22 am ET Updated Feb 23, 2014

Noam Chomsky: Talking About Iran Sanctions Is 'Surreal'

Iran and six world leaders agreed to a plan Thursday for negotiating an agreement to freeze Iran's nuclear program in exchange for eased economic sanctions. But author and activist Noam Chomsky isn't convinced the United States has the right to impose sanctions at all.

"My feeling is that the entire discussion is kind of surreal," Chomsky said last month during an interview with HuffPost Live. "There are more fundamental questions to ask. What justification does the United States have to impose sanctions in the first place?"

WATCH Chomsky's comments in the video above.

The United States, Britain and the United Nations Security Council have already levied significant economic sanctions against Iran in an attempt to persuade the nation to abandon what the U.S. believes could be a potential nuclear weapons program. President Hassan Rouhani, who replaced hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year, forged an agreement in November with the U.S. and several other countries to help boost the struggling Iranian economy.

Chomsky argued that reports from U.S. intelligence agencies have not confirmed Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

"As far as U.S. intelligence knows, Iran is developing nuclear capacities, but they don't know if they are trying to develop nuclear weapons or not," Chomsky told HuffPost Live. "Chances are they're developing what's called 'nuclear capability,' which many states have. That is the ability to have nuclear weapons if they decide to do it. That's not a crime."

Chomsky pointed out that the United States has accepted the decisions by Israel, India and Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons, even though, he said, in each case it was a violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. He also argued that U.S. intelligence reports show Iran has a limited military capability and that its primary concern is defense.

"Basically what [the reports] say is that Iran has very low military expenditures even by the standards of the region," Chomsky said. "They have a very limited capacity to deploy force. Their strategic doctrine is defensive. An effort to deter invasion if it takes place, long enough for negotiations to be undertaken."

Iran's defensive strategy is the result of the United States' presence in the region, Chomsky argued.

"Why should Iran have a deterrent strategy?" Chomsky said. "Well, it's surrounded by hostile enemies. Both of its borders have been under occupation by a hostile superpower, the United States, which is constantly violating the U.N. charter by leaving open what they call the saying, 'all options are open' -- meaning the threat of war. The U.N. charter bars the threat of force. The Iranian government is undoubtedly a severe danger to its own population, but not beyond that. In fact, the rest of the world doesn't think so."

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