We’re witnessing, in the mainstream press, a propaganda campaign against Iran similar to that preceding the invasion of Iraq. We’re seeing again the arguments then used to shape western opinion for a war on Baghdad. However, there is a big difference between the articles currently condemning Iran and those that stigmatized Saddam Hussein’s Iraq before the invasion: there is practically no talking about a possible war. The process of making Iran satanic is running smoothly but even the most belligerent neo-cons frown now before explicitly speaking of an armed conflict.
Negotiations between the European troika (UK, France and Germany) and the Islamic Republic of Iran in relation to the Iranian nuclear issue seem to have definitely broken. The European requirements, denounced by IAEA President and Nobel Peace Laureate Mohammed El Baradei, go beyond the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Before reopening the uranium enrichment centre in Natanz on January 11, Iran accused European negotiators of having sided with Washington and Tel Aviv.
This Iranian decision led the media to redouble their attacks on Teheran.
We are witnessing, in the mainstream press, a propaganda campaign against Iran similar to that preceding the invasion of Iraq. We’re also seeing the arguments then used to shape western opinion for a war with Baghdad. As evidence, the fact is wielded that the Islamic Republic intends to acquire nuclear weapons despite the prohibition made by the Supreme Leader of the Revolution, Ali Jameini, on getting equipped with them. Iran has been accused of supporting terror and trying to obtain mass destruction weapons. The threat of a nuclear terror against the “West” is often mentioned or implied. Since it is seemingly obvious that even when Iran had the nuke, it would be unable to use it without taking the risk of extermination, it also becomes crucial to insist on the irrational, fanatic, and therefore suicidal nature of Iranian leaders. Furthermore, while from the technical point of view it is impossible for Iran to have atomic weapons before a 10-year period and in the event it was Iran’s intention to have them, the media insist on the imminent danger and the urgency of a reaction. Finally, like in Iraq, those international bodies, whose oratory differs from that of the “western” powers, are discredited or their statements distorted. Those who advocate negotiating are accused of mercantilism or “Munich-style” pusillanimity
Nothing new is provided by such arguments, which the readers of Forums & Analyses know pretty well. However, there is a huge difference between the articles currently condemning Iran and those that stigmatized Saddam Hussein’s Iraq before the invasion: there is practically no talking about a possible war. The process of making Iran satanic is running smoothly, but even the most belligerent neo-cons frown before explicitly speaking of an armed conflict. The common consent of making Iran satanic is widely spread, not to say unanimous, but there is no consensus as to the solution the Iranian “issue” must be given.
In France, the conservative daily Le Figaro – property of airplane builder Dassault – has been intensively working for some weeks now to psychologically influence its readers against the Islamic Republic. It first presented the restart of the Iranian program for uranium enrichment as a “non-return point”, to later venture that even Russia – linked to the Iranian nuclear program - condemned the policy of the Islamic Republic. This editorial line went ahead with the publication of two forums signed by Atlantist representatives of UMP - the governing party in France – who compared Mahmud Ahmadinejad to Adolph Hitler.
With this purpose, Parisian representative and president of NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Pierre Lellouche, drafted a text signed by 13 representatives of the presidential majority, namely: Alfred Almont, Richard Dell’Agnola, Bernard Depierre, Claude Goasguen, Arlette Grosskost, Jean-Yves Hugon, Jean-Marc Lefranc, Lionnel Luca, Richard Mallié, Pierre Micaux, Marc Reymann, Jean-Marc Roubaud and Philippe Vitel. In their opinion, there is an ideological and tactical affiliation between the Fuehrer (Hitler) and Iran’s President. This is a traditional argument when trying to make the opponent satanic. The comparison to Adolph Hitler was used against Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf war and in war against Iraq, as well as against Milosevic during the war in Kosovo… just to mention the most famous cases in the last 15 years. But Mahmud Ahmadinejad brought up the use of this so blatant and trite propaganda axis, and opened the door to his enemies through his statements of denial and by placing the Holocaust in the middle of a topic having no bearing on it. By repeating the classical arguments of the threat posed by the acquisition of mass destruction weapons by terrorists, the signatories of the text say that Iran could give one to Hezbollah (which according to EU is not a terrorist organization) to attack western cities (when Hezbollah actually makes no actions out of Lebanon). The representatives request the subject to be taken to the UN Security Council (without precisely asking for a particular action). But they have already begun to prepare the public opinion for a lack of consensus and for an action out of the UN. As we can see, this forum is first of all aimed at raising fears in the reader, and completely ignores the credibility or accuracy of the facts.
Another UMP representative in Paris, Bernard Debré, has written a very similar text to the above. The National Assembly President’s brother uses and abuses extreme words to call the Iranian regime: “bloody”, “hateful”, “dangerous” and also compares it to Hitler’s regime. However, contrary to his parliament colleagues, Debré does propose an action against Iran: an international economic embargo. This proposal had already been formulated by Republican Senator Bill Frist and we had already asked ourselves then what logic was behind the proposal. Just like the head of the republican majority in the senate, Mr. Debré cannot ignore the unlikelihood of achieving an international consensus in favour of an embargo against Iran. Russia, China and India acknowledge the legality of Iran’s nuclear program. So, an economic embargo without the participation of these three countries would only have a limited impact. Also, if we take into account the rise in oil prices we’ll realize that an economic conflict with Iran would probably be more harmful to “western” economies than to the Islamic Republic itself. Under such conditions, what is the aim of that proposal?
Making Iran’s regime satanic also includes denouncing its religious zealotry. The followers of this argument resort to the rhetoric of the Iranian theocracy in order not to present a regime based on religious precepts, conservative in terms of custom and progressive in the social field, but a millenarian dictatorship in the hands of mad people.
This opinion has been widely spread by neo-con propagandist Kenneth Timmermans in a forum supported by Project Syndicate. As a starting point the analysis involved, without quoting it, an article by Scott Peterson published by the Christian Science Monitor which describes the religious zeal of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his attachment to the figure of Mahdi – a mythical Imam of the Shiite Islam.
In the New York Sun and the Jerusalem Post, Daniel Pipes – an Islamophobic theoretician and manager of the U.S. Institute of Peace – repeats, word for word, the arguments already developed by Kenneth Timmermans. Pipes takes for granted the fact that Iran’s President and the whole leading class of that country think that the end of time is close. How to negotiate then with an individual who thinks himself by God’s side while the Final Judgement is near? Without paying any attention to consistency, Pipes based himself on this image to also compare Mahmud Ahmadinejad to Hitler.
The association of Islamism with Nazism has no solid ideological element as a basis, it frequently occurs in the Western mainstream press. Such assimilation allows presenting Islamism as the “third totalitarianism” after Nazism and Stalinism, and in opposition, praising the merits and justifying the actions of the “domain of freedom” led by the US.
The association of Islamism and Nazism is strengthened by the repeated use of neologisms such as “Islamo-fascism” (a common term in the texts of US hawks coordinator Franck Gaffney) or “fascislamism” (a most recent neologism often observed in the reports by French media “philosopher” Henri Lévy).
Naturally, for all those propagating such formulas, the foundation of the union between Fascism and Islamism is anti-Semitism.
This opinion is not only disseminated in Europe and the US. Colombian editorialist and former Deputy Justice Minister Rafael Nieto Loaiza attacks Iran in the Colombian daily El Tiempo by adding more to the common consent. In Loaiza’s opinion, Iran wants to get the nuke and is, due to its anti-Semitism, a threat to Israel. Unfortunately, the case is unlikely to be taken to the UN Security Council because of Iran’s excellent relations with China and Russia (no reference is made to the fact that Iran has not breached the international law). Loaiza further relates any connections in this editorial. So, the fact that Iran could threaten Israel poses a menace to “the Jews” altogether. Iran is also an anti-Semitic country “though not an Arabian country”, which would suggest that anti-Semitism is first of all a characteristic of the Arab world. In short, Loaiza registers his attacks on Iran in the logic of the clash of civilizations – a theory that needed no nuclear food to demand the overthrow of Iran’s regime. A supporter of a Colombian government that has terrible relations with its Venezuelan neighbour, Loaiza takes this opportunity to repeat the accusations of anti-Semitism against Hugo Chávez and notes the alleged friendly bonds between Mahmud Ahmadinejad and the President of the Bolivarian Republic.
However, the media experts’ consensus, in their denunciation of Iran’s regime, does not allow for the achievement of unity as to the actions that must be taken. Additionally, most analysts refuse to give their opinions regarding a solution.
The conservative editorialist of the leftist British daily The Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash, also limits himself to list a whole set of solutions against Iran that will not work out: it will be impossible to get China and Russia involved; it will be difficult to attack Iran because of the means it owns due to the oil profit rise and its weight on Iraq; an attack on Iran will remove the pro-western feeling in the country, and supporting a revolution could probably cause a bloodbath. In short, no solution is attractive. Garton Ash confines himself to launching a call in favour of a western unity in relation to the subject and that every action be well thought before implementation. That is, he suggests nothing but he repeats the traditional accusations against Iran and the madness of his president.
In his editorial in the Weekly Standard – a neo-con reference weekly, which is in turn published by the Australian daily The Australian – the editor-in-chief William Kristol showed, against his will, the ambiguities and hesitation of Washington’s top circles. This way, he rejects the options that favour negotiating without a military threat or leaving to Israel the task of attacking, standing up though for the other solutions. Kristol confirms its belief in firm diplomacy, IAEA’s activities, the setting up of coalitions to impose sanctions, the “Iranian democrats” who want a change of regime, the development of intelligence abilities against Iran and the possibility of a military action. The fact that most of the options he defends exclude one another does not seem to upset him. Basically, Kristol is also hitting the ball and stints on summing up all possibilities without daring to go for one.
More determined, the Daily Telegraph expert on security subjects, John Keegan, chooses the economic blockade. In the Daily Telegraph, the Gulf News and The Age, Keegan joins the chorus of criticisms against Iran. Just like the rest of the experts cited by the mass media, Keegan says that Teheran tries to get the nuke, threatens both Israel and the region, and supports terror. And he goes even further by saying that Iran is linked to Al Qaeda and could have had something to do with the London bombings. Do not overlook the absurdity of this last statement. What interest could Iran have had in perpetrating an attack in London when Iran was already being threatened by the US, but it still kept negotiations with the UK? Also, if Teheran was taking advantage of negotiations to gain time and develop its nuclear arsenal, as often asserted by Mr. Keegan’s closest analysts, what interest would Iran have had to attack London which would have threatened to shorten the negotiations? But nothing seems to be enough to tarnish the image of the enemy.
Just like Bill Frist and Bernard Debré, Mr. Keegan also suggests an economic blockade. He thinks that the US is in no conditions to wage a war and that one could consider Israel’s attacks though the economic isolation of Iran is preferable, at least during the first stage. Keegan does not conceal the need of thinking of another option, without defining which, in case this strategy fails.
The spokesman for the Peoples’ Mujaidines, Ali M. Safavi, also requests a total blockade of Iran’s economy in the Washington Times. However, he thinks that though necessary, this action is not enough. He consequently advocates the support from the US to his organization in order to overthrow Iran’s regime. With this, Mr. Safavi links, as neo-cons do, Iran’s nuclear subject to the regime established in Teheran and forgets that Iran’s will to come to master the nuclear energy is not something that dates back to the 1979 revolution, but to the shah regime, and which is based on the needs of Iran’s economy. A new regime, as much as the current one, would need nuclear plants to ensure Iran’s economic development.
Pan-Arabism supporter British analyst, Patrick Seale, expresses his incredulity in the Gulf News in the face of this media campaign. He recalls that, until otherwise proved, Iran’s nuclear program is legal and controlled so far by IAEA inspectors. Seale shows concern before the increasingly threatening statements made by the West and Iran. This analyst asks the US and Iran, probably without believing himself in it, to settle the controversy that has brought them face to face since 1979 and to undertake negotiations favouring the total denuclearization of the Middle East – the only possible way to avoid a confrontation
Mr. Seale’s statements are one of the few which differ in the mainstream press. As we have already said, the time has not come yet to request a military operation against Iran. This is why there has virtually not been a large scale mobilization in western countries so as to denounce a sneaky progression to a war. During the preparations for the invasion of Iraq, the neo-cons openly expressed their intentions, which brought forth the people’s reactions and a large opposition movement. This is completely different now. The process of making Iran satanic and dehumanized has taken a natural course resulting in no reactions among the pacifists.