The Iranian military threat to the U.S.A. is a fiction being presented as a reality thanks to the lies of Alan Dershowitz and the U.S. media, writes Navid Zarrinnal.
The U.S. media and government’s ideological convergence on phantom Iranian threats has been a constant theme of post-World War II U.S. foreign policy on Iran. As early as the 1950’s, the nationalist Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq, was wrongly portrayed as a communist foe. More recently, the mistranslation “wipe Israel off the map” attributed to Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is repeatedly invoked to denote a real existential Iranian threat to the U.S. ally, Israel — something Ahmadinejad had never uttered, but through the authoritative voice of the New York Times and its incompetent journalist, Nazila Fathi, passed into the domain of public “knowledge.”
Although the Iranian threat is essentially a threat to U.S. hegemony in the Middle East, U.S. media and government have had no problem selling it as Iran’s intention to attack, perhaps with nuclear weapons, the United States, its “interests” in the Middle East, its Arab allies, and Israel. This culture of mass deception transforms the Iranian threat from what it really is — geopolitical competition for U.S. hegemony — into a fiction: an aggressive, even genocidal Iran that, if not restrained, will attack “U.S. interests” and its allies, and will even go as far as destroying Israel.
A notorious manufacturer of such fictions has been Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor, known for his impassioned defense of Israel’s exclusionary policies and quarrels with Norman Finkelstein. His widely-circulated piece published in the Wall Street Journal on February 13, 2012 — its fictional nature notwithstanding — has for a long time now escaped critical scrutiny. In this article, Dershowitz makes two separate claims on Iran’s purportedly aggressive posture. First, he claims that Iran’s Refah news website (Dershowitz spells it “Rafah”) “identified with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — threatened last month, Iran plans to ‘take the war beyond the borders of Iran, and beyond the borders of the region.’” Dershowitz immediately adds that “last week [February 4, 2012] an Iranian News Agency headline declared that the ‘Israeli people must be annihilated.’” Dershowtiz then goes on to claim that these threats have made Israeli and American officials believe that “Iran is preparing attacks against Israeli embassies and consulates world-wide, as well as against Jewish houses of prayer, schools, community centers, restaurants and other soft targets.” Given this “Iranian threat,” Dershowtiz then provides a dubious interpretation of international law to argue for the legality of a military strike on Iran, and also insists on the necessity of a military strike if sanctions and diplomatic efforts fail.
Scrutinizing Dershowitz’s first claim, Refah’s alleged declaration that Iran will “take the war beyond [its] borders,” a thorough search of Refah News (in English and Persian) does not return any results with this statement or one similar to it. Dershowitz himself does not point the reader to the source or the transcript where the alleged claim was made. Even if this statement was actually made, Dershowitz does not provide any context for it. It remains unclear what war is at stake or in what way Iran will take this war beyond its borders.
Let’s look at Dershowitz’s second fiction — the unnamed Iranian news agency that allegedly disclosed Iran’s intention to annihilate the Israeli people. On February 4, 2012, an Iranian news agency, Alif, published a “guest note” (yadashte mehman), with a disclaimer that this piece is not reflective of Alif’s opinion as a whole, titled “The [Islamic] Jurisprudential Reasons for Israel’s Destruction” (dalayel-e fiqhi baraye nabudiy-e israyil) — which in Dershowtiz’s version incorrectly reads the “Israeli People Must be Annihilated.” The author of “The [Islamic] Jurisprudential Reasons for Israel’s Destruction” is Alireza Faraqani, a Iranian blogger who, on his web “profile,” identifies his profession as “analyst” (tahlilgar), his educational qualifications as regional studies – Middle East (mutale’at-e mantaghe-khavar-e miyane), and his skills as “strategic management” (mudiriyat-e estratigiki). Farqani is an independent civilian blogger with no governmental position, no control over Iran’s military, and no qualification to speak on Islamic jurisprudence. In fact, Faraqani explicitly qualifies his article in the very beginning, claiming that this “approach is just the personal opinion of the author and there is no guarantee whether the government of Islamic Republic of Iran will accept and apply it.” Dershowitz, however, turns this article into a complete fantasy of his own. Without any real engagement with the article, aside from providing its title under an incorrect translation, Dershowtiz concludes that Faraqani’s opinion evidences the Islamic Republic’s intention to attack Jews worldwide.
Unfortunately, Dershowtiz’s article is neither an isolated example nor an outdated call to arms. We are witness to the ongoing proliferation of mistranslations, fabrications, and ludicrous causal connections around an “Iranian threat” that call for sanctions or even a military attack. Dershowitz’s article, though over a year old now, is representative of the ongoing U.S. culture of mass deception that distorts reality on Iran, and does so on a continuous basis, whether it is through the media’s false predictions of an Iranian attack on U.S. soil, senators’ fixation on Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons, or President Obama’s continued invocation of the mistranslation attributed to Ahmadinejad to denote a purportedly existential threat to Israel. These mistranslations, fabrications, and deceptions must be constantly identified, scrutinized, and debunked, even if they come from the President of the United States.
The threat of a militarily aggressive Iran is a fiction, but without constant identification of it as fiction, will continue to present itself as reality to the American public, and through the force of U.S. ideological hegemony, to other world communities. More significantly, this fiction, if not constantly criticized and exposed, will exacerbate the very real hardships of Iranian citizens and the Iranian diaspora, whether it is via continued and widening sanctions, discrimination against Persian-speaking peoples at Apple stores, assassinations of civilian scientists, threats of military force, or God forbid, the actual use of armed force.
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