I don’t know if the Cirque du Soleil is accepting new applicants for starring roles, but Hillary Clinton certainly seems to have been going through great contortions in the arguments she’s been trying to make about Iran in recent days.
In the “Townterview” (!) that she held in Qatar yesterday, she was very evidently trying to build a case for U.S. intervention– quite possibly, including forced regime change– in Iran, based on the allegedly anti-democratic nature of recent developments in that country.
This was a supplement to the arguments the U.S. government has made for many years now, that it must “keep on the table” the “option” of launching a war against Iran based on the Tehran government’s alleged violations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT.)
Of course it is. This kind of slippery bait-and-switch regarding the casus belli on the basis of which Washington plans to launch a war of aggression against another sovereign country is exactly what we saw from George W. Bush (and his dreadful poodle, Tony Blair), in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.
Then, as now, when it seemed that the arguments about the alleged “necessity” of going to war based solely on the arguments made about WMDs seemed unconvincing to many around the world (including the U.S.’s own citizens), the U.S. administration used feats of rhetorical legerdemain to try to claim that, well, just in case the WMDs arguments weren’t convincing enough, well then, how about those arguments concerning democratization and human rights?
What did Hillary actually say in Qatar?
- on the nuclear front we see Iran being exposed for having a secret facility at Qom. We see Iran refusing an offer from Russia, the United States, and France to help it get the enriched uranium it needed to run something called the Tehran Research Reactor, which makes medical isotopes, something that we are willing to support Iran to do, for medical purposes. We see the president of Iran ordering the nuclear program to do its own enriching, and to begin to move toward the level of enrichment that certainly is troubling to us, because of what it well could be, with respect to nuclear weapons. We hear a lot of very negative language coming out of Iran.
And we are deeply concerned about the way Iran is treating its own people, and the way that it has executed demonstrators, imprisoned hundreds and hundreds of people whose only offense was peacefully protesting the outcome of the elections. Sitting here in this extraordinary campus, where you are encouraged to think and speak freely, it is hard to imagine what it must be like now to a young person in Iran, who wishes to have the same opportunities.
So, we are still hoping that Iran will decide to forgo any nuclear ambitions for nuclear weapons, and begin to respect its own people more on a daily basis, provide opportunities that the young students of Iran deserve to have for their future. But we cannot just keep hoping for that. We have to work to take action to try to convince the Iranian government not to pursue nuclear weapons.
Notice the mishmash of arguments she was using there; and the way she tried to weave them together into one single fabric that would be stronger than either of its components would be, separately.
Notice the many strong parallels with the way GWB and Blair worked extra-hard in the weeks leading up to March 19, 2003, to create a whole thick fabric of different casi belli against Iraq. Or, to use a better metaphor, how they created an entire smorgasbord of different reasons to launch a war just in case one of the options should turn out not, on its own, to be convincing enough.
But then, notice these two incredible contradictions/ironies in Hillary Clinton’s latest resort to the smorgasbord approach:
- 1. The “description” she gave in Qatar of the way the Obama administration sees current political developments in Iran was this:
- We see that the Government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament, is being supplanted, and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship [run by the revolutionary Guards].
So presumably, the only honorable way forward for a lover of democracy would be to defend the Supreme Leader, the president, and parliament against this onslaught??
2. The location where she gave this address. Qatar, after all, may have many of the appurtenances of an ultra-“modern” state in the world, with conference centers, Brookings Institution offices, etc etc. But it is notably not a country whose citizens enjoy much political freedom at all. Even the neoliberal U.S. organization Freedom House recognizes this, giving Qatar a 6-5 ranking this year on its assessment of political rights and civil liberties, in which ‘7’ is the worst possible’ and ‘1’ is the best possible.
Freedom House gave Iran a 6-6 assessment this year. Saudi Arabia, the country Sec. Clinton visited right after Qatar, got a 7-6. So who’s being a little misleading here?
(Also, she seems completely unaware that, ever since the viciously anti-democratic campaign Washington waged against the elected Palestinian leadership in 2006, its judgments on all matters of democracy and political accountability in the Middle East are themselves extremely suspect.)
Hillary’s contortions on this issue are important. They are a crucial part of a broad, AIPAC-fueled campaign that the Obama administration is now ramping up, to try to win public support in the U.S. and further afield for a U.S. war of forced regime change against Iran.
We have to call this campaign for what it is, and all work together to halt it in its tracks.
From this point of view, the kinds of questions that Clinton got from her host in the Qatar “townterview”, Al-Jazeera’s Abder-Rahim Foukara, and from most of her other questioners there, showed that her anti-Iranian campaign wasn’t winning many converts at all.
Foukara and many of the questioners from the floor wanted to ask her about Israel’s nuclear arsenal (a question that she ducked and wove to avoid giving a straight answer to.) They wanted to ask her about Washington’s policies on a broad range of Palestinian rights issues. (More ducking and weaving.) And they notably unswayed by her arguments over Iran.
It was a similar story in the remarks Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, made during the joint press appearance the two of them had in Riyadh, later in the day.
According to the U.S. State department, on Palestine Saud said,
- Within the framework of considering regional and international issues, the peace process received particular attention… The Kingdom believes in the importance of launching the peace process comprehensively to treat all the main issues of the conflict simultaneously, according to specific terms of reference and a clear-cut time schedule taking into account that the step-by-step policy and the confidence-building (inaudible) strategy have failed to accomplish their objectives. This is mostly evidenced by the current Israeli Government’s refusal to resume negotiations starting from the negotiations steps that were taken by the previous government.
And on the nuclear weapons question he said,
- Our talks also considered the Iranian nuclear issue. The Kingdom reiterates its support of the P-1+5 or the 1+5 group to solve the crisis peacefully through dialogue, and we call for a continuation of those efforts. We also call upon Iran to respond to these efforts to remove regional and international suspicions towards its nuclear program…
The Kingdom also stresses the importance of regional and international efforts being focused on having the Middle East and the Gulf region being totally free from all weapons of mass destruction, notably nuclear weapons. It also stresses the criteria that the standards must apply to all states in the region without exception, including Israel’s nuclear program. History testifies that any weapon that enter the region has been used.
It’s really a pity that the WaPo’s’s Glenn Kessler spent so little time in the despatches he published today actually exploring and explaining the Saudi Foreign Minister’s positions on these matters, and ways too much time drooling over the lavishness of the dinner King Abdullah laid on for Sec. Clinton.
Including in this gem of out-of-place reporting: “The food selection was worthy of an elaborate wedding, a Hollywood opening or a fancy bar mitzvah.”
In this piece of more political reporting, I think Kessler quite possibly misinterpreted what Prince Saud said about China and its role in the whole diplomatic effort over Iran.
In the State Department transcript of Saud’s remarks (which is all I can find, since they don’t appear to have been covered by the Saudi Press Agency), a questioner asked this of him:
- there’s been a lot of talk about the role that Saudi Arabia could play by reassuring the Chinese that it will guarantee a reliable supply of oil in the event that there were some disruptions in the global oil supply. I wonder whether you have conveyed that message to the Chinese Government. And if you haven’t conveyed it, do you think it makes sense for Saudi Arabia to take that step?
And he replied,
- Saudi Arabia and its relations with China, of course, are a close relationship, and especially the economic sphere (inaudible) produces of oil that is exported to China. But it is not a matter of just Saudi Arabia and China; we have to come with a real plan to prevent the proliferation of atomic weapons in the region. This is why we put our proposal that the region be free, declared free of atomic weapons and weapons of mass destruction. We believe that is the right approach…
I am sure the Chinese carry their responsibility as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations very seriously and they need no suggestion from Saudi Arabia to do what they ought to do according to their responsibility.
To me, this looks most like a polite brush-off to the whole idea– which was peddled by ‘Washington insiders’ quite heavily in the lead-up to Hillary’s trip– that strongarming China would be something Saudi Arabia could contribute to the anti-Iran campaign. Saud was quite right to note that China, “need[s] no suggestion from Saudi Arabia to do what they ought to do according to their responsibility.”
Kessler, however, interpreted Saud’s reply as signaling “impatience with China’s reluctance to embrace tough action against Tehran.” I’m not sure it was signaling that, at all.
I need to underline that the lousy, lazy, and Washington-bubble-bound way that Kessler and other MSM journos report on attitudes in the Arab world just feeds into the idea that one hears a lot here, namely that Iran’s Arab neighbors really “want” the U.S. to become assertive against Iran. (Also, that they really don’t give a damn about Palestine.)
It ain’t so. And a close reading of Prince Saud’s very polite comments, or of the interactions with the townterview participants in Qatar would clearly indicate that.
But Kessler and the rest of the MSM journos seem not to have learned anything from the history of the past years. They never heard a Washington war-drum that they didn’t want to help beat.