On the Brink of War: Does Iran Pose a Legitimate Threat to the US and Israel?

16 Apr


The possibility of war with Iran has become a hot-button topic in the recent GOP debates. During the Iowa Republican Presidential Debates, Senator Rick Santorum firmly stated, “Iran is a country that must be confronted… Iran will not get a nuclear weapon because the world as we know it… will be no more.”[1] Many of the other Republican candidates followed suit. Before dropping out of the race, Michele Bachmann shared the same sentiment, stating, “Iran will use a nuclear weapon to wipe our ally Israel off the face of the map.”[2] Bachmann continued, providing her own skewed interpretation of the Iranian constitution, “The Iranian constitution states unequivocally that their mission is to extend jihad across the world and to eventually set up a worldwide caliphate. We would be fools to ignore their purpose.” [2] The only outlier in the Republican Party is Dr. Ron Paul. In terms of the accusations posed against Iran, Paul states, “They’re building up the war propaganda just like Iraq!”[2]

Many Republicans like Bachmann and Santorum claim they know the causal factors of terrorism; terrorists are motivated by their deep seeded hatred towards America- for its democracy and freedom. However, Dr. Paul provides a counter-hedgemonic explanation for terrorism. Paul states, “Yes…they’re some radicals out there… but they don’t kill us because we’re free and prosperous. Do they go to Switzerland or Sweden? I mean, that’s absurd!” Dr. Paul believes that the causal factors for terrorism are much deeper and complex; Paul identifies “blowback” (a CIA term referring to foreign retribution for interventionist foreign policy) as the underlying reason for terrorism. Paul states, “They come here and they want to do us harm because we’re bombing them!”[2]

Many of Paul’s contemporaries criticize his foreign policy for being too soft and lenient. However, on the topic of Iran, Paul is not alone. Many counter-hegemonic, alternative media sites have denied the accusations against Iran- claiming it to be war propaganda. Organizations like The Young Turks, Russia Today, Al Jazeera, and the Daily Show with John Stewart have criticized the Republican candidates for speaking recklessly about Iran. Counter-hegemonic media simply refers to a form of discourse that challenges/resists the dominant ideology. Unlike mainstream organizations like Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, these counter-hegemonic news organizations provide an alternative point of view.


Why do we have to Bomb so many countries?” – Ron Paul Iowa Republican Debates

So the question is, does Iran pose a threat to the prosperity of American? Granted, this is discussion is greater in scope than a blog entry. The political, economic, historical, and social aspects of the situation can be discussed for hours on end. But whatever opinion we form about Iran, it is important for us to understand the relationship between power, truth, and representation. According to Foucault, what is often regarded as “knowledge” and “truth” is simply the manifestation of power. Foucault believes every society has its own regimes of truth; “regimes/politics of truth” refers to types of discourses which allow an idea to be accepted and function as “truth”. Truth and knowledge are generated by a few important institutions (media, government, army, education, etc.) Because of this, we must accept that what we believe to be true about Iran may actually only represent the manifestation of power. Politicians like Santorum and Bachmann claim to have knowledge about Iran; however, this self-proclaimed “knowledge” may be the result of a power struggle- to control the Middle East for its natural resources.

It’s important to realize that the media functions as an ISA (Ideological State Apparatus). Stations like Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN are all ISAs. According to Althusser, an ISA is an institution which relies on ideology to exert its power & notions of the truth onto the masses. Eventually, the ISA is able exert its influence over the subject via interpolation. Interpolation refers to the process of an individual eventually embodying the ideology of the ISA into their own belief system. Eventually, manufactured “truth” is regarded as common sense.

The goal of this blog entry is to understand Iran through a counter-hegemonic lens. Since the mainstream media functions as an ISA, it is important to recognize other alternative news sources- for the sake of keeping an open mind and not accepting the dominant ideology (which may not always be “true”, but just the manifestation of power). The rest of this blog entry will focus on an alternative understanding of Iran.

First, the Young Turks have covered the propaganda against Iran in great detail. The Young Turks is an alternative media source, having 344,000 subscribers on YouTube (85th most subscribed channel on YouTube). Cenk Ugary, the host of the show, starts his argument by first citing Israeli Mossad chiefs. Mossad chiefs are in charge of Israel’s national intelligence. According to Uygar, many Mossad chiefs think a war with Iran is not necessary. Uygar states, “Three former and current Israeli Mossad head chiefs think war with Iran is a bad idea. Current Mossad chief Tamir Pardo doesn’t believe Iran to be an existential threat”[3]. Uygar also refers to four-star American general Michael Hayden, Director of National Intelligence under the Bush Administration. Uygar quotes General Hayden, “A preemptive attack will guarantee that which we are trying to prevent- an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon.”[3] Uygar cites many other Israeli and American generals who disapprove of a war with Iran. However, none of these concerns are vocalized in the mainstream media. Furthermore, these concerns are never addressed by politicians like Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in Republican debates. If American and Israeli Intelligence officials do not see Iran as a legitimate threat, why is the war propaganda so evident in the news and GOP debates? According to Uygar, the war propaganda yields an excuse for Middle East intervention, and subsequent access to their natural resources. 


Cenk Uygar of the Young Turks, quoting Former Mossad Dan Halutz. “It is not in the power of Iran to destroy the state of Israel”

Despite multiple Intelligence officers criticizing the war propaganda, the media persists in its depiction of Iran- rendering it as an irrational actor, on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon. As we’ve discussed before, the media is an ISA which serves power. Famous news anchors like Diane Sawyer and Matt Lauer have explicitly reported that Iran is willing to use a nuclear weapon on the United States. One ABC News reporter claims, “There’s a good chance that this Persian Gulf region could explode in a matter of months”[4]. However, not only are the accusations exaggerated, but also very much ambiguous. There’s a good CHANCE that the region could explode in a matter of MONTHS? The time frame is ambiguous and so is the likelihood of an attack. And still, the mainstream media contends that Iran will develop a weapon and cannot be trusted with one.


Multiple mainstream newscasters building the war propaganda

Unlike the American media, the BBC has provided a counter-hegemonic view of the situation in Iran. In a recent report, the BBC reported on which nations have nuclear weapons. In terms of nuclear stockpiles, Russia has 10,000 warheads and America has 8,500. China has 240 nuclear warheads and North Korea has 10. Pakistan has around 100 [5]. China and North Korea are often portrayed in the media as enemies of the United States. These countries already possess nuclear warheads. Nevertheless, the media hardly mentions this. Currently, there is no war propaganda being directed at China or North Korea. Instead, the focus is being turned to Iran. Why Iran? Once again, the WMD argument doesn’t hold any logic in this context. If America is worried about other nations developing a nuclear weapon, why not invade Russia, China, or North Korea? The most obvious explanation is that North Korea and China do not have oil- or any other critical resources for that matter. Once again, there seem to be ulterior motives at work. Why is the media deflecting its attention to Iran? It is interesting to note that there are no WMDs in any Middle Eastern country- except for Israel (which has 80 warheads). Many believe that Iran cannot be trusted with a weapon. However, Israel has had a reputation of bombing Iraq (Operation Opera, 1982) and other Middle Eastern countries. 


Nuclear stock piles in the world.

Comedian John Stewart has also commented on the accusations against Iran. Stewart was a guest on The O’reilly Factor, in which he stated, “Iran, like most countries, has a self-preservationist streak. There is no theory of mutual destruction with Iran. Let’s say they get one off. It would be tragic.” According to Stewart, Iran is a rational actor. If Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon, it would not be in Iran’s best interests to attack Israel or the United States. Iran will not attack, for the sake of self-preservation. Stewart also addresses the current nuclear stockpiles in the world. Stewarts asks Bill, “Doesn’t Pakistan have nuclear weapons? Couldn’t they give it to somebody? Doesn’t Russia have nuclear weapons? Couldn’t they give it to somebody? The problem isn’t the country that gets them… the problem seems to be the weapon.” Much like the BBC report, Stewart realizes that there are other countries with nuclear warheads- other countries that cannot be trusted. For this reason and more, Iran should not be a priority right now. Stewart also criticizes Fox News for the war propaganda. Stewart tells Bill, “Thank you guys for ratcheting up the fear on this.”


Recently, whistle-blower cite Wikileaks has released sensitive documents incriminating the US and Saudi Arabia. In the released documents, the Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, encouraged general Petraeus to “cut off the head of the snake [Iran]”[7]. The Wikileaks articles suggest that both the US, UAE, and Saudi Arabia have special interests in Iran. On the Young Turks program, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole commented on this stating, “In the case of the UAE, the crown prince said a surgical strike won’t do it, we need ground troops.”[7] Cole comments on how many Arab nations feel threatened by Iran and conspire for its oil.

This discussion is endless; there exists a wide array of different viewpoints, motives, and articles of evidence. No matter what we conclude about Iran, it is important for us to always do our homework. Before allowing the ISA to interpolate us with its message, it is important for us to understand how the ISA (the media) serve power. Ultimately, the “truth” surrounding Iran may only represent a global power struggle for resources.

External Links:

1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3JkUm0zLww (Santorum on Iran)

2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sW9-RRRD14I (Bachman and Paul on Iran)

3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCCkA2K5vqk (Cenk Yugar on Iran)

4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzaxRm9CkPE (ABC REPORT)

5: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-17511816 (BBC Nuclear stockpile)

6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wZADFK5qUA (Jon Stewart on Iran)

7: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnC-bnOMBVw (WikiLeaks)

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