In testimony to Congress on Wednesday, Obama's State Department official Wendy Sherman reiterated the administration's policy on Iran. Since the intelligence community has concluded for some time now that Iran has not yet decided to pursue nuclear weapons, Sherman felt compelled to recite a litany of supposed Iranian transgressions to justify America's harsh economic sanctions and overall belligerence toward the country.
Every major criticism of Iran, though, is one that can also be lodged against the United States.
1. "In Syria, Iran has made it clear that it fears losing its closest ally and will stop at no cost, borne by both the Syrian and Iranian people, to prop up the Assad regime. Today, Iran is training, arming, funding, aiding and abetting the Assad regime and its atrocious crackdown on its own people."
This is a condemnation of Iran for putting geo-political interests over considerations of human rights and democracy. Is this anything the U.S. can get on its high horse about?
Last week, former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, acts he carried out with U.S. support.
Montt came to power in a 1982 military coup after being trained by the United States at the infamous School of the Americas. In the continuing civil war in Guatemala, Montt's regime proceeded to slaughter countless innocents, mostly poor indigenous villagers.
Throughout Montt's rule, in which about 100,000-150,000 people were killed, he continued to receive extensive support from the United States. President Reagan described him as "a man of great personal integrity," and proceeded to actively cover up and aid Montt's ruthless barbarism.
But according to Uncle Sam, we're only supposed to pay attention to crimes committed by America's enemies.
Guatemala is only one small example. America's geo-political interests have always trumped respect for human rights. We supported Turkey as it carried out ethnic cleansing of the southeastern Kurdish population in the 1990s. American money and weapons aided the Indonesian regime's atrocities against the people of East Timor in the same years.
Today, in Bahrain, the U.S.-backed regime continues to systematically repress peaceful, democratic protests in harsh crackdowns including murder, torture, and intimidation.
Iran's support of the Syrian regime is one thing, but for U.S. officials to use it to justify hostility toward Iran is hypocritical in the extreme.
2. "Iran is the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism, which it uses as a strategic tool of its foreign policy."
The irony of this charge is even starker. If Iran's support of Hezbollah and Hamas justifies U.S. threats of regime change coupled with crippling economic sanctions, I shudder to think what kind of hostility the U.S. deserves.
The U.S. is currently helping its allies in the Arab Gulf states send money and weapons to radical Sunni jihadists fighting in Syria, many of whom have pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. While the Obama administration has stopped short of directly arming Syria's rebels, this indirect support has been critical in aiding al-Qaeda affiliated groups like Jabhat al-Nusra while they carry out war crimes, according to the United Nations.
The Afghan militias that the U.S. supported in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion in the 1980s were some of the same groups that became "the worst of the worst" after one such mujahedeen planned the 9/11 attacks. Was not America using terrorism "as a strategic tool of its foreign policy" against the Russians back then?
The U.S. kept up its support of Israel even as it was working with Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident group officially considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department until late last year, to carry out terrorist attacks against Iranian nuclear scientists.
But again, the rule is: bad when Iran does it, good when America does it.
3. "A nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to the region, to the world, and to the future of the global nuclear proliferation regime... Iran has consistently concealed its nuclear activities and continues to do so..."
Actually, U.S. policy poses the gravest danger to the global proliferation regime and U.S. allies are the ones who conceal their nuclear activities.
Since the Iranian revolution overthrew a U.S. supported and installed dictator and gave rise to the current regime, America has had an openly hostile approach to Iran. Throughout the Bush administration and into the Obama administration, threats of war and heightening economic sanctions have put Tehran on alert.
U.S. policy strongly incentivizes Iran towards gaining nuclear weapons capability because, as lessons from places like Libya and North Korea make abundantly clear, the one thing that will block an American attack on their government is a nuclear weapon.
According to U.S. military and intelligence officials, Tehran has not yet decided to develop nuclear weapons, but talk of a mad dash to the bomb by the ayatollahs in Iran is framed as if Iran would be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
But credit for that achievement is reserved for Israel, which "has consistently concealed its nuclear activities" and repeatedly rejected U.N. calls to let in international inspectors. These are the same crimes for which Iran is supposedly guilty, but a U.S. ally is committing them so they don't exist.
The utterly dishonest rhetoric about Iran coming from the White House and Congress is not just wrong, it's dangerous. A litany of scary untruths and hypocrisies was once hurled at America's last bogeyman in the Middle East and it led to a vicious war of aggression that got more than 700,000 people killed, cost trillions of dollars, and got us nowhere.
Americans need to stop pointing the finger at the "bad guys" Washington is so keen to warn us about, and start paying attention to their own government's crimes.
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