Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Interview with William O. Beeman: Iranians Deny the Arrogant Literature of the West Kourosh Ziabari

Salem-News.com (Jun-28-2010 10:36)

Iranians Deny the Arrogant Literature of the West

Kourosh and Prof. Beeman discuss a variety of Iran-involved topics including the media propaganda, nuclear dossier and the prospect of revolution.
(TEHRAN) - Prof. William O. Beeman is the head of anthropology department at the University of Minnesota. His inimitable and independent approach toward the current affairs of Iran, one of the most controversial countries of the world, resembles the attitude of Noam Chomsky in terms of perspective and mindset and has cost him his reputation, professional credit.

Regrettably, he was insulted and attacked by a number of American mainstream media and fanatic neoconservatives over the past years and even his academic colleagues blamed him for what they considered to be his support for the main pivot of the “axis of evil”.

Prof. Beeman who speaks the Persian language fluently believes that Iranian people should not be treated with disdain and arrogance since their ancient superiority and historical backgrounds causes them to be resistant toward the hostile rhetoric and inimical literature.

He says that it’s not justifiable with any conscious and knowledgeable mind to allow Israel to accumulate an arsenal of 200 atomic warheads while putting lethal pressure on Iran to suspend its civilian nuclear program.

In an interview for the Foreign Policy Journal, I talked to Prof. Beeman on a variety of Iran-involved topics including the media propaganda, nuclear dossier and the prospect of revolution.

The Islamic Revolution of Iran emerged alongside a series of brisk transformations and makeovers in the arrangement of international deals and equations. One of these prominent contributions was the permanent dissolution of CENTO pact. How do you perceive that? How did the Iranian Revolution of 1979 impact upon the formation of international relations?
The Islamic movement has been active for more than 100 years. One of the most important figures, Jamal ed-Din al-Afghani, (Asadabadi for most Iranians) was very influential throughout the Islamic world. The Islamic world was suffering from military and economic oppression from Europe, largely because of the advantages the West gained through the Industrial Revolution. He urged the following remedies:
Purification of Islam– He claimed that the Islamic world had lapsed because faith in Islam had lapsed. Renewed faith and practice in Islam was necessary.Reform– He urged Islamic leaders to re-examine Shari’a Law and practice to modernize in conformity with the modern world. One of his followers, Mohammad Abduh of Egypt, “opened the door of ‘Ijtehad” to enact legal reform.Resistance– He urged Muslims everywhere to resist colonial influence. This led to groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, and indirectly to the Iranian Revolution.

All three of these elements were active in the Iranian Revolution. The Iranian revolution was the first revolution in the Middle East to oppose Western colonialism in the name of Islam. This was a complete fulfillment of the promise of the Islamic movement. It was very inspirational for the rest of the Islamic world. There was one difficulty–the Sunni world was uncomfortable that it was undertaken by the Shi’a community, but Ayatollah Khomeini’s picture was on the walls of Muslim homes everywhere in the Islamic world from Morocco to the Philippines.

So, do you believe that the new government of Iran managed to polarize the distribution of political power by giving birth to a new regional hub and fading the hegemony of the U.S. and Russia?

Yes, I agree. However, just as the original Islamic movement identified the alliance between corrupt Middle Eastern leaders and European colonial power as the basis for misery in the Middle East in the 19th and 20th Centuries, so today do the leaders of some Middle Eastern nations, who are allied with the West, decry Iran. However, the people of the Islamic World respect and admire Iran’s willingness to carry out the philosophy of “Neither East nor West.” So there is a distinction between leaders of Islamic States, many of whom are even afraid of the Iranian philosophy, and the people, who admire the Iranian philosophy. Again, this distinction is more than 150 years old.

Was the omnipotent catchphrase of Iranian revolutionary thinking, i.e. the supportive umbrella for the oppressed nations and subjugated people of the world, a major factor in the ultimate victory of anti-Western movement of Iranians in 1979 which was spearheaded by Imam Khomeini?

Yes, actually Imam Khomeini’s philosophy was inspirational for many people throughout the world; I certainly support this ideal. This has been one of the hallmarks of the Iranian Revolution as it goes forward. However, I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that this ideal has not been completely realized in Iran. Iran’s support for downtrodden people in Lebanon and the Palestinian world shows the power of this philosophy. It is an ideal toward which we all must strive. Consequently, people must continually make their leaders aware of these ideals, and hold them to those ideals. This should be a theme in the next Iranian elections, in my opinion.

Nevertheless, Iran has been grappling with a huge amount of black propaganda and psychological attacks vindicated by the corporate and so-called independent media of the West since the dissolution of the U.S.-backed monarchy. How do you perceive that?

Unfortunately, Iran has become the most popular villain for American politicians. Both Democrats like Representative Gary Ackerman and Republicans like Senator Sam Brownback can attack Iran and become popular. In fact no American politician ever lost a vote by attacking Iran. Partly, Americans are still mad about the American hostages in 1979-80. They are also mad about Iranian opposition to Israel, which is largely supported in the U.S. It wasn’t always so. In the 1980′s the universal villain was Libya, and the rhetoric against Iran today is almost exactly the same as the rhetoric against Libya. There is a practical reason for this. Lobbying groups, such as AIPAC have enormous influence in the United States They review all candidates for election, and have influence over every newspaper, television and radio station. Their sponsored organizations, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) have millions of dollars behind them, and large publicity agencies working for them, their opinions and editorials appear in every U.S. media outlet every day. It is very difficult to counteract these people. They are actively working to promote attacks on Iran.

As you implied, the root of anti-Iranian sentiments lies in the nuclear activities of the Islamic Republic which the Western governments and their affiliated corporate media portray as threatening to international peace. Should Iran pursue its nuclear programs under the current pressures?

Iran is granted the “inalienable right” to the development of peaceful nuclear energy under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United States and some European powers want to claim that Iran should be different, and should have its treaty rights denied, because some people thought that Iran “might” be making weapons. There is absolutely no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and it should be allowed to continue to exercise its rights under the Treaty.

How should the Western powers deal with Iran regarding its nuclear program? Will the continuation of current “stick and carrot” stance be fruitful in this framework?

Iranians will grant legitimate respect to those who deserve it–to honorable leaders, virtuous scholars and wise teachers. They hate “ghodrat talabi” (Desire for illegal power) when people try to exercise power without legitimacy. Yazid is an example of such a person. Just as Imam Hossein would not yield to the illegitimate authority of Yazid, so will the Iranian people not yield to the illegitimate authority of, for example, George W. Bush. The strong sense of spiritual purity and justice is a characteristic of Iranian life, and Iranians will resist injustice and illegitimate exercise of power, even if they must die for it.

The latest writer to join Salem-News.com's team; Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian media correspondent, freelance journalist and the author of Book 7+1. He is a contributing writer for websites and magazines in the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, South Korea, Belgium, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. He was once a member of Stony Brook University Publications’ editorial team and Media Left magazine’s contributing writer, as well as a contributing writer for Finland’s Award-winning Ovi Magazine. As a young Iranian journalist, he has been interviewed and quoted by several mainstream mediums, including BBC World Service, PBS Media Shift, the Media Line network, Deutsch Financial Times and L.A. Times. Currently, he works for the Foreign Policy Journal as a media correspondent. He is a member of Tlaxcala Translators Network for Linguistic Diversity and World Student Community for Sustainable Development. You can write to Kourosh Ziabari at: kziabari@gmail.com
Iranians Deny the Arrogant Literature of the West

Thursday, June 24, 2010

William O. Beeman--Regime Change in Iran: The Fantasy That Will Not Die (New America Media)


Regime Change in Iran: The Fantasy That Will Not Die

William O. Beeman
New America Media

June 18, 2010

The American political establishment will not give up the fantasy that they can somehow bring about regime change in Iran—that the United States can somehow topple the Iranian leadership just like it supposedly toppled the Soviet Union.

Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Sam Brownback of Kansas have introduced legislation (S-3008) that, in Cornyn’s own words: “. . . states that it is U.S. policy to support the Iranian people’s efforts to establish a truly democratic and accountable government and free themselves from the regime headed by Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. ”

Self-avowed neoconservative Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on June 14 entitled "Iran's Revolution: Year 2.” It calls on the Obama administration to support the Green Movement to effect regime change. He writes: “By throwing in his lot with the freedom movement, (President Obama) would surely increase the odds that we won’t have to live with a nuclear bomb controlled by virulently anti-American and anti-Semitic clerics. Democrats, once the champions of promoting pro-democracy movements, need to understand that the good that they can do for the people of Iran far exceeds the great harm that comes from doing nothing.”

Not to be outdone, Democrats are doing something, too. Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) introduced a resolution in 2008 with Congressman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) declaring that Iran was inimical to "the vital national security interests of the United States" and "demanding" that the president impose a full-scale naval, air and land blockade on Iran effectively, an act of war. The resolution failed, but Ackerman continues to press for similar actions from the Obama administration.

The question of regime change in Iran is warmed-over Cold War logic dating from the Revolution of 1978-79. In 1980, Edward Sa'id wrote a trenchant piece in the Columbia Journalism Review. He made the point that the dominant government stance after the Revolution had nothing to do with understanding Iran or Iranian history. Instead it asked just one question: "Is Islam for or against the United States?" And, of course, he meant Iran as the embodiment of Islam at that moment.

The answer that has emerged over four decades in the regime change circles is clearly that "Islam (read Iran) is against the United States." It is from that point that the fantasizing begins: How to destroy this anti-American regime.

The government of Israel has succeeded in creating a codicil--also right out of the Cold War: "What threatens Israel also threatens the United States."

The answers are Cold War answers. No imagination. No attempt to understand Iran in social, cultural or historical terms. Just a repeat of what "worked" to bring down the Soviet Union short of direct attack: isolation, inflicting economic pain, scaring the world into thinking “the enemy” is dangerous, and finally fomenting and encouraging internal dissent.

The reason this rhetoric works is because the U.S. public and perhaps many Europeans are already primed to accept both this logic and these solutions having been taught to fear the Soviet Union for three decades. However these stratagems won't work with Iran. Iran is not the Soviet Union. Iran sees itself not as the aggressor, but rather the defender.

All of these strategies have thus far failed.

Isolation of Iran is not working. At a recent conference on the Middle East in London, a leading Italian economist said: "We are Iran's largest European trade partner. When our businessmen show up in Tehran, there are three Chinese businessmen waiting in the outer office. The U.S. is driving Iran into the hands of Asian partners, and ruining our business with them--and for what? To satisfy some American ideology?" The only nation that truly desires Iranian isolation and believes that it can be achieved is the United States.

Inflicting economic pain is not only ineffective, it is counter-productive. We may have brought the Soviet Union down by creating an arms race that they couldn't sustain, but nothing we have or could do to Iran is going to cripple the country to the point of collapse, and it is laughable to think that that could happen. The Iranian people are inconvenienced by these low-level unilateral economic sanctions, such as those pushed through the United Nations Security Council on June 9, 2010, and the U.S. Treasury on June 16. They thus are embittered about the United States, but nothing more. It most decidedly does not make U.S. overtures to them to overthrow their own government more probable.

Scaring the world about Iran has been a complete failure outside of the United States. No one has any proof whatever that Iran has a nuclear weapons program--it is a red herring, and the world knows it. The Non-aligned Movement has continually issued support for Iran’s nuclear energy program. Even if there were a nuclear military program, Iran is years away from having anything that could pass for an effective weapon. The Gulf States may be concerned, as they always have been, about the Shi'a community, since they constitute either a majority (Bahrain) or a significant minority (UAE, Saudi Arabia), but the dead-end idea promulgated by the Bush administration and carrying forward, that Iran is about to attack its neighbors--and with a non-existent nuclear warhead--is the stuff of fiction. Iran would destroy its own economy if it did this. Its relations with its neighbors are completely symbiotic.

Finally, Cornyn and Brownback, Ackerman, Gerecht, and others of their ilk utterly misunderstand the post-1999-election Green Movement in Iran. If the movement is eventually successful, it will not usher in some kind of purging revolution that will create a pro-American government. The Green Movement is about legitimacy of leadership within the current Iranian governmental framework, not about overthrowing the government. Nor will trying to foment dissent in Iran's many ethnic communities, another strategy favored by the regime-change fans, be any more effective. The many ethnic groups that make up Iran’s pluralistic civilization have identified with Great Iranian civilization for more than two millennia.

The worst part of the push for regime change is that the more the United States and other external powers interfere in Iranian affairs, the less likely it is that change will occur. Has no one in power read Iranian history? Does no one understand how Iran has constructed the United States in its own paranoid fantasies? U.S. interference taints every attempt at reform from within, make no mistake.

If there is to be regime change in Iran, it will be from within, over time (and not such a long time frame, either). Yes, talk about the real problem of human rights. Yes, engage in dialogue, but give up the Cold War strategizing with bankrupt, inappropriate methods. They won't work. And open chatter about more strategies for "regime change" merely feeds the Iranian power elite the stuff they need to blame their every weakness and failing on the United States.

William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota. He has lived and conducted research in Iran and the Middle East for more than 30 years and is the author of The “Great Satan” vs. the “Mad Mullahs”: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other (Chicago, 2008).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

William O. Beeman--Response to Reuel Marc Gerecht "Help Iran's Reformers"


June 23, 2010

Help Iran’s Reformers?

To the Editor:

Reuel Marc Gerecht correctly assesses the winds of change in the Green movement in Iran (“Iran’s Revolution: Year 2,” Op-Ed, June 15), but he is wrong about the ability of the United States to effectively aid that movement.

Sadly, decades of United States interference in Iranian affairs have guaranteed that any official American support of an Iranian reform movement will poison that movement with the plausible accusation of another round of American desire to dominate Iran.

This happened in 1953 with the C.I.A.-engineered overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, in the 1980s with the tilt toward Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, and today in the United States-led move to curtail Iran’s nuclear energy program.

The reformers have said clearly and repeatedly that they don’t want our “help.” So why would we force it upon them — only to guarantee their failure through invidious association with us?

Iranians are not children. Political evolution in the Islamic Republic is the only way to guarantee permanent reform.

William O. Beeman

London, June 15, 2010

The writer, professor and chairman of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, is the author of “The ‘Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other.”

(A version of this letter appeared in print on June 24, 2010, on page A32 of the New York edition.)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Minnesota Peace Project Letter to Senator Amy Klobuchar on Israeli Sea Actions

Dear Senator Klobuchar:

The Minnesota Peace Project (MPP) calls on you to speak out in condemnation of the attack by Israeli forces on the humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza.   As Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur said “Israel is guilty of shocking behavior by using deadly weapons against unarmed civilians on ships that were situated in the high seas where freedom of navigation exists, according to the law of the seas.”
Despite the fact that the Israeli military seized all cameras and imprisoned all reporters on the ship we do know:
·         Under article 3 of the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation of 1988, it is an international crime for any person to seize or exercise control over a ship by force, and  also a crime to injure or kill any person in the process,
·         One cannot attack a ship and then claim self-defense if the people on board resist the unlawful use of violence,
·         Israel’s attempt to execute a full-scale public relations battle to spin this commando attack on an unarmed civilian ship filled with humanitarian aid into an action of self defense lacks all credibility.
We join others in the international community in calling for an immediate end to the Gaza blockade, a massive form of collective punishment of innocent civilians.    Our continued tolerance of this situation makes us complicit in criminal practices that are threatening the survival of an entire beleaguered community.  Israel’s continued used of disproportionate force has proven to be disastrous for both Israelis and Palestinians and has caused severe set-backs for the peace process.
We urge you to heed the advice of Nobel Peace Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter who collectively released a statement Monday morning condemning the Israeli attack and calling for a full investigation into the incident with a view to mandating action to end the closure of the Gaza Strip.

Peace-loving people in Minnesota and around the world want an end to the blockade, an end to the illegal settlements and an end to the occupation of Palestine.   We urge you to call for a suspension of U.S. military aid to Israel until the blockade is ended and the Israeli government demonstrates a serious commitment to the peace process.


Roxanne Abbas and Omid Mohseni
For the Minnesota Peace Project

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Yvonne Ridley--All At Sea (Middle East Monitor)

All at sea


By Yvonne Ridley

Comment by William O. Beeman: This is a very important article. The principle that those who board a ship illegally for whatever reason cannot under international law claim self defense completely eradicates the principal Israeli excuse for killing nine individuals trying to come to the aid of the citizens of Gaza in the recent action at sea. More dreadful is the fact that the United States will not condemn this clearly illegal action.

I wonder how many of you remember the hijacking of the Italian cruise ship the Achille Lauro way back in October 1985?

Four members of the Palestine Liberation Front took control of the liner off Egypt as she was sailing from Alexandria to Port Said.

It was a bungled operation in which the hijackers killed disabled Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer and then threw his body overboard.

The incident created headlines around the world and polarized people over the Palestinian cause. It also prompted the law makers to create new legislation making it an international crime for anyone to take a ship by force.

And this is the reason for the brief history lesson - under article 3 of the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation of 1988, it is an international crime for any person to seize or exercise control over a ship by force, and also a crime to injure or kill any person in the process.

The treaty necessarily adopts a strict approach. One cannot attack a ship and then claim self-defence if the people on board resist the unlawful use of violence.

In other words, according to international law, the actions of the Israeli military were beyond the law and those involved should be treated no differently than, say, the Somali pirates who are also in the habit of boarding ships by force.

Any rights to self defence in such dramatic circumstances rests purely with the passengers and crew on board. Under international maritime law you are legally entitled to resist unlawful capture, abduction and detention.

What those on board the Freedom Flotilla did was perfectly legal. I believe they acted with great courage in the face of heavily armed IDF commandos, while others might have thought their actions reckless.

Whatever your view, a number paid the ultimate price for their international right to resist and hundreds more are locked up in the Zionist State, including my Press TV colleague Hassan al Banna Ghani who joined me on the first Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza last year.

Israel now stands virtually alone having exposed itself as a pariah state.

I wrote an article last year calling them the Pirates of the Mediterranean after they had illegally boarded other aid ships, kidnapping crew and passengers.

Now I want you to ask yourself this question … if a group of Somali pirates had forced their way onto half a dozen humanitarian aid ships from the West, slaughtering around nine or 10 people and injuring scores more what do you think the international reaction would have been?

Let me tell you. A NATO task force would by now be steaming towards the Horn of Africa accompanied by a couple of drones and various members of the press to record the occasion. (On a point of interest the Achille Lauro sank in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia in 1994.)

So why is Israel allowed to get away with murder? In a pre-meditated act the Zionist State showed once again its total disregard for human life – and international law.

There were pensioners, women and children on board those ships which were carrying bags of cement, electric wheelchairs, toys, medicines and water purifiers for Gaza's people.

Realizing Israel had shot itself in the foot, the vile state’s leader Binyamin Netanyahu then started shooting from the lip.

He asked us to believe that his troops were acting in self-defence. And then, 24 hours later, given time to come up with more lies he told the world that the soldiers were armed with paintballs and had not expected to use their weapons. Not content with insulting our intelligence he said his nice, cuddly IDF folk had only boarded the boats to carry out an inspection and inventory.

Then backing him up was Mark Regev, the Zionist State’s political Pinocchio. He reckons these evil-doers on board the boats grabbed the IDF’s real guns and used them to fire on the soldiers.

These are the same soldiers that come from an elite, highly trained, crack squad … hmm Mr Regev, if that’s the case why would you send in the A-Team if they were just going to do an inventory?

And if they were such a hot squad how did a bunch of civilians manage to overpower them and give them a good slap?

Either Israeli soldiers fight like a bunch of old women – which Hizb’Allah says they do – or they intended to massacre those on board to make sure that no other peace activists get involved in trying to help the Palestinian people of Gaza.

Well if that was the aim then it has failed. As I write this some heroic friends of mine from the Free Gaza Movement are bound for Gaza now onboard the appropriately named ship Rachel Corrie.

In our thousands in our millions … today we are all Palestinians.

* Journalist Yvonne Ridley is also the European President of the International Muslim Womens Union, and a committed peace activist who was onboard the first boat to successfully break the siege of Gaza in 2008.