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Noam Chomsky
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Saturday 5 January 2013
As numerous polls have shown, although citizens of Arab countries generally dislike Iran, they do not regard it as a very serious threat. Rather, they perceive the threat to be Israel and the U.S.; and many, sometimes considerable majorities, regard Iranian nuclear weapons as a counter to these threats.

Gravest Threat to World Peace

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Reporting on the final U.S. presidential campaign debate, on foreign policy, The Wall Street Journal observed that “the only country mentioned more (than Israel) was Iran, which is seen by most nations in the Middle East as the gravest security threat to the region.”

The two candidates agreed that a nuclear Iran is the gravest threat to the region, if not the world, as Romney explicitly maintained, reiterating a conventional view.

On Israel, the candidates vied in declaring their devotion to it, but Israeli officials were nevertheless unsatisfied. They had “hoped for more ‘aggressive’ language from Mr. Romney,” according to the reporters. It was not enough that Romney demanded that Iran not be permitted to “reach a point of nuclear capability.”

Arabs were dissatisfied too, because Arab fears about Iran were “debated through the lens of Israeli security instead of the region’s,” while Arab concerns were largely ignored – again the conventional treatment.

The Journal article, like countless others on Iran, leaves critical questions unanswered, among them: Who exactly sees Iran as the gravest security threat? And what do Arabs (and most of the world) think can be done about the threat, whatever they take it to be?

The first question is easily answered. The “Iranian threat” is overwhelmingly a Western obsession, shared by Arab dictators, though not Arab populations.

As numerous polls have shown, although citizens of Arab countries generally dislike Iran, they do not regard it as a very serious threat. Rather, they perceive the threat to be Israel and the United States; and many, sometimes considerable majorities, regard Iranian nuclear weapons as a counter to these threats.

In high places in the U.S., some concur with the Arab populations’ perception, among them Gen. Lee Butler, former head of the Strategic Command. In 1998 he said, “It is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East,” one nation, Israel, should have a powerful nuclear weapons arsenal, which “inspires other nations to do so.”

Still more dangerous is the nuclear-deterrent strategy of which Butler was a leading designer for many years. Such a strategy, he wrote in 2002, is “a formula for unmitigated catastrophe,” and he called on the United States and other nuclear powers to accept their commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to make “good faith” efforts to eliminate the plague of nuclear weapons.

Nations have a legal obligation to pursue such efforts seriously, the World Court ruled in 1996: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.” In 2002, George W. Bush’s administration declared that the United States is not bound by the obligation.

A large majority of the world appears to share Arab views on the Iranian threat. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has vigorously supported Iran’s right to enrich uranium, most recently at its summit meeting in Tehran last August.

India, the most populous member of the NAM, has found ways to evade the onerous U.S. financial sanctions on Iran. Plans are proceeding to link Iran’s Chabahar port, refurbished with Indian assistance, to Central Asia through Afghanistan. Trade relations are also reported to be increasing. Were it not for strong U.S. pressures, these natural relations would probably improve substantially.

China, which has observer status at the NAM, is doing much the same. China is expanding development projects westward, including initiatives to reconstitute the old Silk Road from China to Europe. A high-speed rail line connects China to Kazakhstan and beyond. The line will presumably reach Turkmenistan, with its rich energy resources, and will probably link with Iran and extend to Turkey and Europe.

China has also taken over the major Gwadar port in Pakistan, enabling it to obtain oil from the Middle East while avoiding the Hormuz and Malacca straits, which are clogged with traffic and U.S.-controlled. The Pakistani press reports that “Crude oil imports from Iran, the Arab Gulf states and Africa could be transported overland to northwest China through the port.”

At its Tehran summit in August, the NAM reiterated the long-standing proposal to mitigate or end the threat of nuclear weapons in the Middle East by establishing a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Moves in that direction are clearly the most straightforward and least onerous way to overcome the threats. They are supported by almost the entire world.

A fine opportunity to carry such measures forward arose last month, when an international conference was planned on the matter in Helsinki.

A conference did take place, but not the one that was planned. Only nongovernmental organizations participated in the alternate conference, hosted by the Peace Union of Finland. The planned international conference was canceled by Washington in November, shortly after Iran agreed to attend.

The Obama administration’s official reason was “political turmoil in the region and Iran’s defiant stance on nonproliferation,” the Associated Press reported, along with lack of consensus “on how to approach the conference.” That reason is the approved reference to the fact that the region’s only nuclear power, Israel, refused to attend, calling the request to do so “coercion.”

Apparently, the Obama administration is keeping to its earlier position that “conditions are not right unless all members of the region participate.” The United States will not allow measures to place Israel’s nuclear facilities under international inspection. Nor will the U.S. release information on “the nature and scope of Israeli nuclear facilities and activities.”

The Kuwait news agency immediately reported that “the Arab group of states and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member states agreed to continue lobbying for a conference on establishing a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.”

Last month, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution calling on Israel to join the NPT, 174-6. Voting no was the usual contingent: Israel, the United States, Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.

A few days later, the United States carried out a nuclear weapons test, again banning international inspectors from the test site in Nevada. Iran protested, as did the mayor of Hiroshima and some Japanese peace groups.

Establishment of a nuclear weapons-free zone of course requires the cooperation of the nuclear powers: In the Middle East, that would include the United States and Israel, which refuse. The same is true elsewhere. Such zones in Africa and the Pacific await implementation because the U.S. insists on maintaining and upgrading nuclear weapons bases on islands it controls.

As the NGO meeting convened in Helsinki, a dinner took place in New York under the auspices of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an offshoot of the Israeli lobby.

According to an enthusiastic report on the “gala” in the Israeli press, Dennis Ross, Elliott Abrams and other “former top advisers to Obama and Bush” assured the audience that “the president will strike (Iran) next year if diplomacy doesn’t succeed” – a most attractive holiday gift.

Americans can hardly be aware of how diplomacy has once again failed, for a simple reason: Virtually nothing is reported in the United States about the fate of the most obvious way to address “the gravest threat” – Establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.

© The New York Times Company
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ABOUT Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and pressor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Techonology. Chomsky is well known in the academic and scientific communities as one of the fathers of modern linguistics, and a major figure of analytic philosophy. Chomsky is the author of more than 150 books and has received worldwide attention for his views.

Same-o sanctimonious "facts"

Same-o sanctimonious "facts" that omit the Palestinians' support for Nazis in WWII, their refusal of a state large than Israel on advice of Mufti of Jerusalem to refuse and "drive out the Jews," then refusal again of a return of the land taken in the 1967 war (when Egypt was poised to attack with Palestinians) if Palestinians would renounce goal to destroy Israel. Only Muslim Arabs apparently can grow hurt and distraught, justifying attacks on children and other civilians, but Israelis are just playing "victim" when they defend themselves.

Netanyahu has a real belief in Biblical rights to the "settlements," but he never would have become Prime Minister if the Palestinians had put their time, money, energy into building infrastructure and an economy, to trade w Israel and the world.

Israel thrives also due to generous donations for decades by Jews around the world to their hospitals, universities, emergency and immigrant services. Where are the donations to Palestinians from the oil-rich fellow Arabs? Where are the donations from the anti-Jewish bigots who simply wait for a serious situation for a chance to malign Israel? If you're so concerned for the Palestinians, and the ordinary ones are suffering from many bad leaders, some of whom they elected, why haven't you critics of Israel spent the last decades helping them build an economy and a responsive government?

I Agree with everything in

I Agree with everything in the article except the title. A threat that could happen is not as grave as one that is happening, is not effectively confronted and is daily growing worse. The wars, extinctions, famines, plagues that will issue from man made climate change are the most dangerous challenge to humanity. The USA could have led the world to safety 30 years ago. We could with much greater expense and disruption lead to some amelioration of the situation still. Weak leadership from the Democrats at best, and denial from the Republicans seems to indicate that we will not act until it is too late to avoid multiple disasters. It has nothing to do with left or right politics but if we can't respond to the physics our notions of ourselves as intelligent conscious moral beings is void.

Chomsky is always good. Of

Chomsky is always good. Of the blogs, the one that's most impressed me is Roxfan37's. Am very busy with family matters this morning in Sydney, so all I can add is a thank you to Nation of Change. Susan Reibel Moore

Mr Chomsky is as usual tells

Mr Chomsky is as usual tells his story clearly and concisely, although he should (and does, I am sure) know better than to quote Generals from too long ago (1998 and 2002) with any expectation of credibility.

Still the import of his message once again is lost on the general populace which has neither the appetite nor the comprehension. And this, my dear sir, is the real threat to world peace.

DeToqueville told us so just as our democracy was forming: "....the greatest threat to democracy is an uninformed populace..." We are that indeed. And what is the fix for that when our government spends half its budget on defense and military deterrence, a sum equal to the annual deficit ($1.3 trillion if Mr. Chomsky's colleague, Bryan Henry, is correct with his numbers. And I have no doubt he is.)

Seems the human race fails to learn the lessons of empire building. What goes up, will come down. The Romans lasted 1000 years. That would be another 760 plus or minus for the US.

I think you need to apply

I think you need to apply some corollary of Moore's Law to that 760-year estimate. Things happen faster and faster in the age of technology.

Nuclear weapons are not what

Nuclear weapons are not what we should be concerned about. Any attack on Iran will likely result in their use of biological or chemical weapons in retaliation. There is no defense against most of these weapons. And taking them out with preemptive strikes is impossible. It's time to end war as a problem solving tool. Iran's president should be tried for inciting genocide...and if found guilty...held accountable. The same for anyone making such threats that clearly violate the UN Charter and the Genocide Convention.

jackwenayscott's picture

Quite a though-provoking

Quite a though-provoking article, and true! Lots of good facts about Middle East and world politics where nuclear is concerned. I think my little picture here shows Iran and Isreal where to go for their electric power, Solar! Nuclear is the worst way to generate electricity, it's very polluting, too expensive, and too dangerous. If the world were dotted with thousands of nuclear reactors, then we couldn't afford one earthquake anywhere! Plus, the technology knowledge of nuclear inevitably leads to nuclear arms. But, the white-skinned madness keeps on killing the planet, and it may be the relatively quick death of nuclear war! Yes, the white-skinned people of Germany, France, Britain, and America have insisted that the rest of the world participate in the madness, the madness of economic development and large populations of humans. But, what stands against Solar, and why is it so slowly being adopted, even though it offers "civilization" the option to get electric power safely and in a non-polluting manner? Here's where it gets a little complicated..... check out the top guys at NBC, ABC, and CBS, all three are Jewish. Regard for Israel? You betcha, the people who control the hearts and minds of the powerful, crazy Americans are naturally favoring Israel on racial grounds, and it is these show-business people who determine policy in America, they answer to no-one but the Screen Actors Guild. Americans get their politics, lifestyle, and moral codes from TV sets, it's really obvious once you catch on. But, it's not so easy to "catch on" if you continue to return to the trough to get your motion imagery jolt, if you MUST watch your television and movies and videos, you'll be saturated with clever, subtle, and some not-so-subtle propaganda that causes you to defend Los Angeles with every line of polemic defense you can front. Defend the indefensible? Yes, and due to everyone absolving L.A. of any responsibility, the situation deteriorates as the planet starts to die!

I am an electrician in Canada

I am an electrician in Canada and I have to tell you since I've taken the course on home solar panel installations; things have advanced greatly. A single home with solar panels on the roof with good shingles can cost $25,000. That makes the home totally self sufficient for 30 years and pays for itself in 25. The solar panels are more efficient than 5-10 years ago. solar panels on the International Space Station are even more efficient but cost is way too high. Still, it shows things have been developed in space that will eventually find their way down here when production costs also come down to Earth. Iran should look into peaceful technology and put their money into it instead of trying to irradiate their people like Japan did. Goes to show they need smarter people over there. They also need to import all their nuclear scientists which I feel proves Iran is not responsible enough to handle the West's advanced technology. Doubt they could even fix televisions over there without replacing the entire circuit board. They are just people who still live in straw roofed clay houses, I mean, they are dangerous to the region because they see technology as something to acquire, not to understand. I doubt Ethics are taught in their Universities. Probably a waist of time to their way of thinking. Their only motivation is fear and jealousy. President Obama should share the latest solar technology with Iran as an olive branch of peace. They may get the idea and lay down their fear filled actions and replace it with hope and a feeling of World fellowship. Right now they are like the ugly kid in the movie 'The Texas Chain Saw Murders' who wanted revenge and to be like others so much that he killed many and put their skinned off faces over his own. Gruesome, pathetic but unfortunately, the real reason for Iran's motivations (putting religious differences aside) is jealousy.

Another element we must not

Another element we must not overlook was the fear that gripped Zionists once talk got going about a draw-down of the US's military power immediately after the USSR collapsed taking with it the threat of a global nuclear war and Israel's importance as a geo-strategic ally should that war ever break out. Just as many within the US arms-aerospace industry set about looking for a new way of justifying the same level of defense spending which they knew was required to keep many of them in business, so too were key Jewish-American personnel with the US military-industrial complex whose Zionist beliefs were not a secret to anyone. Should the USA no longer feel the need to defend itself against a powerful middle- or far eastern enemy, then Israel's geostrategic value drops off the map as well.
Toward fixing that problem we saw how in Bush Sr. administration, none other than that Dick Cheney set Paul Wolfowitz, Libby, & Kalizad - all rabid Zionists - toward the creation of that new justification. Thankfully someone in the Pentagon thought the resulting plan to commit US taxpayers toward funding a Pax Americana for the foreseeable future should be something US taxpayers themselves should have some say about and leaked it to the press. But nevertheless, it still appeared as the Pentagon's 1992 Defense Planning Guidance (or DPG) .

However, even with Bush tossed from office, that very group full of rabid Zionists and military hawks we've come to know as the neocons, simply reappeared together with media savvy Kristol under the acronym "PNAC". They worked on selling the 92' DPG to the public for 8 years whereupon they were rehired by Bush Jr. in 2000. The "Wolfowitz Doctrine", as the earlier leaked document came to be known but was widely disparaged for its overtly militaristic tone, was simply retooled by PNAC and launched in 2001 as the newly named "Bush Doctrine" we now know as the "Global War on Terror" (or GWOT), a solution to the earlier "problem" that panicked both Israel and the US defense industry and set men like Perle, Abrams, Feith, Bolton, Kristol, Libby, Wolfowitz, Kalizad, Armitage, and other, many duel-citizenship Israeli Americans, who have been pushing the USA military to support what started as white European sanctioned colonialism around 1900, and has continued as blatant military aggression by Western powers against weaker, non-Christian nations who happen to be sitting on huge oil reserves the Europeans want.

The Arabs have every right not to accept the immigration of millions of European Jews onto land owned and occupied by Arabs for many hundreds, even thousands of years prior to the Zionist land-grab that began early last century. The GWOT is little more than an excuse for the military status quo to remain the same despite the lack of a USSR against which the two nations found common cause which to oppose.

again chomsky is

again chomsky is correct...the world is lost to the insatiable desire for it genetic ot is it instilled???!!!!!

again chomsky is

again chomsky is correct...the world is lost to the insatiable desire for it genetic ot is it instilled???!!!!!

I have great respect for Noam

I have great respect for Noam Chomsky, and I believe the current Israeli administration is on the wrong track by bowing to religious fanatics whose policy is against a live-and-let-live 2-state solution. On the other hand, most of the Arab world and Iran are dominated by equally fanatic religious zealots that only want to destroy Israel (like denying the Holocaust in order to perpetrate their own "Final Solution" to Israel's existence). With very real threats like this, even the majority of Israelis who are reasonable and in favor of the 2-state solution realize they are being squeezed by both extremes into a fortress state. When Israel withdrew from Gaza and left valuable machinery behind, the Gazans thanked Israel for the gift by destroying it and firing rockets at Israel ever since, instead of using it to improve their economy. Palestinian leaders of both parties need Israel to blame for their people's misery. In the meantime, reasonable Israelis and Palestinians have shown they can work together despite their political fanatics. As much as Israel has contributed in hi-tech sustainable solutions to the rest of the world, especially to impoverished developing countries, only the U.S. has enabled this tiny nation with few natural resources to survive. In President Obama's first speech in Cairo to the Arab world at the beginning of his first term, he told them to stop indoctrinating their youth with anti-semitism. But by now, not only the Arabs, but it seems the whole world needs a scapegoat—and who better than the country of the Jewish people, a people that the UN recognized back in 1948 as having a legitimate claim to sharing the land remapped over 2 World Wars (as it has been remapped for centuries since ancient times)? I want the world to be free of weapons of mass destruction, but in such a world of hatred and fanaticism, the only realistic option for Israel seems to be the MAD deterrent.

How come Republicans can get

How come Republicans can get away with naming fascists to important government posts and Democrats can't or won't name righteous people like Chomsky and Nader to such posts?

Stick to linguistics.

Stick to linguistics.

Noam Chomsky takes a poll.

Noam Chomsky takes a poll. And the findings are such a shock!

This article is a little

This article is a little disappointing because it doesn't add anything new to what we already know on this subject. Nul novi sub sole, in other words, Nothing new under the sun. The U.S. and Israel will never give up their nuclear superiority in the world and in the Middle East. And who is going to make them do it? No one can, and no one will. The elections in Israel in two weeks time will be won by the extreme right and the building of settlements will continue, and not before long Israel will have annexed de facto, if not de jure much of the West Bank. These extreme right wing types don't care that that doesn't make sense if Reason is what you base your thinking on. These people believe in miracles. They believe that God is on their side. So, have patience, and don't be distracted by the Opposition. Everything will be fine in the end. After all, God is the ultimate authority. And God is with Israel and with the U.S. Many Americans believe this. For this perception to change fundamentally, you need a new catastrophic development. For example, Iran is attacked militarily and in the subsequent war the iron dome cannot protect Tel-Aviv; or, more likely, Israel becomes an apartheid-garrison state and BDS movement becomes very severe and widespread in Europe, and many Asian and Latin American countries...

Dr. ZEKI ERGAS, Very well

Dr. ZEKI ERGAS, Very well said. Israel is a "rogue state," that IMO should never have been allowed to establish a country where one already existed in the first place. Their "re-location" of 700,000+ Palestinians and the still existent "internment camps" are a stain of cruel disregard for the lives of their "prisoners." Israel exists solely on the basis of a "invisible military umbrella" if you will, that is provided by the United States. They have been the "bullies" of the Middle East for decades, particularly since the 67' war.
The world knows its wrong. They keep on doing it. Because, as you state, "who is going to make them do it." Meaning stop...of course. And the chimerical notion believed by millions...that "God" is on their/our side.

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