By Iran Review
By Seyed Mehdi Madani
Interview with Abu-Mohammad Asgarkhani
“…Iran’s leaders should…not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs…. Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”
The above sentences were part of US President Barack Obama’s recent address to the latest meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). His remarks have been considered by some political experts as unprecedented and a green light to Israel to attack Iran. Dr. Abu-Mohammad Asgarkhani, however, opposes that view and maintains that his speech has been influenced by the general atmosphere in AIPAC meeting. In the following interview he presents his viewpoint and analyzes Obama’s AIPAC address.
Q: As the first question, please tell us how do you analyze Obama’s address to AIPAC meeting? He has taken apparently sharp stances against Iran during that meeting.
A: Obama’s address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meeting on Sunday, March 4, and his subsequent remarks at the White House are both noteworthy and different from each other. As AIPAC is a meeting dominated by Zionist elements, the US president’s remarks in that meeting have been influenced by the general pro-Israeli atmosphere and policies of that entity. However, what Obama said at the White House and following his address to AIPAC, was softer and somehow different from his AIPAC address.
Q: What is the main message that Obama wants to convey through that address?
A: On the whole, to round up Obama’s remarks in those two events, one must know that his words, both at AIPAC meeting and under its heavy pro-Israeli atmosphere, and at the White House, were reflective of the important reality that a possible military attack on Iran will endanger security of both Israel and the United States. It is noteworthy that in his address, the US president has admitted that any decision to attack Iran would be raw and dangerous because in case of such attack, national security of Israel and the United States would be at stake. Therefore, duality of Obama’s remarks in this regard is because he puts the highest emphasis on diplomacy, on the one hand, in order to protect international prestige of the United States. On the other hand, however, he is forced by Zionists’ criticism of Washington’s and Obama’s policies to take sharp positions on Iran during AIPAC meeting and clearly note that “I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table.” However, after going back to the White House, Obama changes tone and adopts less strict position in order to tone down what he had already said in his AIPAC address.
Q: In his AIPAC address, Obama talked about Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions to protect its security. There has been a lot of debate in the past weeks about Israel seeking the US green light for attack on Iran. Don’t you think that Obama’s remarks were permission for such an attack?
A: There was a point in Obama’s AIPAC speech. He said that it was Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs. Some analysts may contend that this part of the US president’s remarks aimed to authorize Israel’s attack on Iran. Here, I have to point out that in international relations and international law all countries are outwardly (I repeat “outwardly”) independent. Therefore, international norms and principles of international law do not allow the US president to say that Israel needs the United States’ permission to attack Iran. However, this cannot be construed as authorizing a unilateral attack by Israel against Iran.
Q: Why we should not construe it as such? How come that you don’t consider this as authorization?
A: A review of Obama’s previous remarks will prove that Israel is not capable of attacking Iran on its own in order to protect its security. In fact, maybe Israel is able to take the first step and deal “the first strike” to Iran, but it is quite vulnerable to “the secondary strike.” Therefore, if Israel actually decided to attack Iran, it should choose a time when the United States would be ready to accompany it. In other words, Israel may be willing to attack Iran on its own, but to fight off Iran’s retribution it would need the United States’ protection. As a result, when Obama says Israel can take its own decision to protect its security, he is just using a clichéd remark for propaganda purposes.
Q: In view of the above facts, how do you see the outlook of US-Israel relations considering that the US presidential elections are forthcoming?
A: Apart from Dwight D. Eisenhower, all US presidents have been indebted to Zionists and Zionists have been influential in determining the outcome of US presidential polls. Eisenhower was the sole US president who decided independently and his vote was not owed to Zionist lobbies. Other presidents of the United States, even John F. Kennedy, came to power through support of Zionists. This has been reflected in a book written by a famous American author. In his book, “The Passionate Attachment: America’s Involvement with Israel, 1947 to the Present,” George Ball advises Americans to avoid of “a passionate attachment” to another nation which could create “the illusion of a common interest …where no common interest exists.” This is the main thesis of his book and from that standpoint he takes the American policies to task. George Ball argues that American politicians have ignored that advice and passionately defended Israel while hating Arabs and other Muslims. Later on, his book was used as a basis for John J. Mearsheimer’s books in which he analyzes role of Zionist lobbies at the US Senate.
Q: You mean Obama’s AIPAC address should be analyzed along the same lines?
A: Political literature used during US presidential elections is a function of Zionist lobbies. Since Obama wants to win the elections, he has to seek those lobbies’ support. Just remember that when Obama was busy with his previous election campaigns, he went to AIPAC meeting telling them not to call him a Muslim. He emphasized that he was not a Muslim. He added that Barack was, in fact, a Hebrew name meaning “the forgiven one.” By saying so, he aimed to win support of the US Zionist community. Even now, he is still seeking to have the support of the US Zionist community for his election. This is why he takes sharp positions against Iran and in support of Israel when addressing AIPAC meeting. However, once out of that environment, he changes tone and corrects his positions on Iran.
*Dr. Abu-Mohammad Asgarkhani teaches international relations at University of Tehran and also heads University of Tehran’s Center for Graduate International Studies. He is considered the founder of international regimes course in Iran.