Experts on Iran Present Alternative View
Experts on Iran Present Alternative View during Atlanta Visit
By Jonathan Springston, Senior Staff Writer, The Atlanta Progressive News (November 11, 2007)
(APN) ATLANTA – The Bush Administration has been rallying support for the last several months for invading Iran based on claims that Iran is a dangerous country developing nuclear weapons and aiding insurgents in Iraq carry out terrorist attacks on US troops.
But three experts on Iran interviewed by Atlanta Progressive News warned the Bush Administration is only cooking up false evidence against Iran to trick the American people into supporting another invasion.
The experts are in town as part of a speaking tour, and local events have been organized by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Southeastern Regional Office in Downtown Atlanta.
Speaking engagements from Thursday, November 08, to Saturday, November 11, 2007, have taken place at Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Agnes Scott College, Kennesaw State University, and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.
"There’s no evidence for either [claim]," Phil Wilayto, organizer of the People’s Peace Delegation to Iran, told Atlanta Progressive News. "Now how stupid can we be? We know [the Bush Administration] has lied in the past."
"It is not in Iran’s interest to have instability next door, especially because they have total ideological alignment with America’s handpicked government in Iraq," Rostam Pourzal, a full-time independent researcher and organizer for human rights, said. "It was a dream for [the] Iranian leadership to have Saddam Hussein overthrown."
"The Iranian government wants to be in peace," Simin Royanian, cofounder of Women for Peace and Justice in Iran, said. "They are interested in a stable government in Iraq. There is no political gain for them to help insurgents."
None of the three believe the United States is too concerned with improving human rights in Iran and argue the Bush Administration should be the last to lay blame.
"We had a Democracy in Iran, throughout the 1940’s and early 1950’s," Pourzal said. "And it was the CIA [US Central Intelligence Agency] and British intelligence that overthrew the vastly popular and democratically elected Prime Minister and brought back the Shah, who had fled, and that was the end of Democracy in Iran."
Pourzal referenced a book titled, "All the Shah’s Men" by Stephen Kinzer that he feels accurately and completely tells how the West conducted this coup and "ushered in a quarter century of brutal dictatorship."
"Even though in Iran, freedom is rather restricted and we don’t have a liberal Democracy... it’s 10 times better than a US-backed military dictatorship," he added.
"The Americans also have this notion we are supposed to decide for the rest of the world what’s good and what’s bad," Royanian said. "We are not the saviors of the world."
"Even if a country has a problem - which Iran is not an exception - the people of that country are the ones that struggle for their rights and when they want support from other people, they call for it," she added.
"This is the last country in the world to point fingers," Wilayto said. "[The United States is] not concerned about Democracy. They care about military and political power."
"You want to bring Iran democracy?" Pourzal asked. "You had your chance and you overthrew Democracy. If it hadn’t been for that coup, we wouldn’t have had a revolution in Iran, much less a revolution that had some fanatic elements in it."
If Iran chooses to develop civilian nuclear power, the three feel Iran should be allowed to do so and that international agreements give them that right.
Wilayto noted almost every US Presidential candidate from both parties agree with President Bush in one way or another that the US government can and should tell Iran what to do.
"They [Presidential candidates] all accept the assumption the United States has the right to tell another country, which is under the threat of nuclear attack, that it cannot even have nuclear power," he said. "That is a violation of Iran’s right as a sovereign nation to self-determination."
Iran asserts it has the right to develop a uranium enrichment program as part of a civilian nuclear energy program under Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The United States and some members of the European Union contend Iran is using an enrichment program to secretly develop nuclear weapons, which would be a violation of Article II of the NPT, which forbids non-nuclear weapons states from manufacturing nuclear weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Board of Governors concluded in September 2005, however, that Iran’s failure to disclose its enrichment program violated IAEA safeguards, but not the NPT itself.
The United States, on this basis, contends Iran violated Articles II and III of the NPT. Iran remains under an IAEA investigation.
"It is actually written in that agreement that Iran can develop nuclear power, including the enrichment of uranium," Royanian said. "They’re not just making that up."
Indeed, Article IV states all parties to the treaty have "the inalienable right" to develop nuclear energy "for peaceful purposes without discrimination."
"The [non-nuclear] states promised not to work towards developing nuclear weapons in exchange for being entitled to receive technical support for developing civilian nuclear technologies," Pourzal said.
Pourzal also said when Iran has asked for help in developing such technology, the United States has been unwilling to send Western companies to not only offer consultation but also observe what Iran is doing.
"It’s a self-inflicted problem for the United States," he added. "They could have accepted the offer and gone in there [to help and observe]."
But the experts contend this current stand-off is not about nuclear power, allegations of aiding terrorists, or alleged human rights violations. It is about control.
"Iran is the last opposing regional power in the part of the world that holds two-thirds of the world’s oil resources," Wilayto said. "[The Bush Administration] is going to come up with [some reason to attack]."
"The US government has had a plan for the total control of the Middle East for a very long time and Iran has been at the center of it," Royanian said.
"It is the issue of the privatization of oil... the control of the oil resources," she continued. "That is the point. It has nothing to do with what the Iranian government does or doesn’t do for its domestic policies."
The question that all three have for the Bush Administration is "why?"
"Why make more enemies?" Pourzal wonders. "Americans have 70 million friends in Iran. They welcome the 200 visitors per year that go there from the United States with open arms. Why turn such US-friendly people into such enemies?'
Wilayto led the People’s Peace Delegation to Iran for 11 days in July. While there, the five-member delegation met with ordinary Iranians like students, clerics, peace activists, and even goat herders.
Without exception, he said everyone was eagerly willing to make a connection by being friendly and hospitable, even before citizens learned what the five-member delegation was doing in their country.
But this is not the impression citizens in the United States receive and Wilayto said many of his friends and family either begged him not to go or backed out of the delegation out of fear of what might happen.
"This is a war searching for a reason to happen," Pourzal said. "Both countries need to get over the past because it is in the interest for both countries to at least accommodate each other to some extent."
"There will not be peace or stability in the Middle East without Iran being given a seat at the table," he added. "Iran is more dangerous if it is excluded and kept out in the cold."
"[The Bush Administration is] looking for a reason to attack Iran,” Royanian said. “So they come up with various statements about how bad this government is, how dangerous it is so that one of these excuses will get the American people [on board to invade]."
"How many GIs do we want to lose? How many Iranian people do we want to lose?" Wilayto asked. "We’re spending a billion dollars a day on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when we can’t even save a Southern City that drops into the ocean."
"We can’t fix the bridges so commuters don’t fall in to the rivers going to work," he continued. "We can’t provide healthcare to poor children. But we can start another war?"
"Well, that’s just insane," he added. "If we [the American people] put up with that, we deserve what we’re going to get."
Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org