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Michigan professor advocates for Tehran regime

Michigan professor advocates for Tehran regime

Kambiz Assai
August 18, 2011

Juan Cole is professor of history in Michigan University. He is a talented person, and having lived in Eritrea for some time, he is able to speak both Arabic and Persian languages. Prof. Cole has a weblog and is known for the articles he has written on the Middle East and especially about Iran.

Interestingly however, he is very much favored, often quoted and referred to, in various web sites linked to Iran’s brutal regime and its infamous Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS). Looking at the general theme of his articles, one can understand why the Iranian authorities feel indebted to him.

The Iranian regime can hardly find a better advocate in the West. Cole’s articles usually focus on three issues; ironically the very ones that the Iranian authorities are concerned about, and have tried to lobby on. The issues are:

1. To weaken or lift sanctions on Iran despite its belligerent policies.
2. To argue that Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful despite evidence to the contrary.
3. To keep the Iranian regime’s opposition on the US FTO list despite lack of legal requirements.

Let’s look at some of the issues mentioned in Juan Cole’s writings:

Speaking about Iran’s nuclear objectives on July 21st 2004, he wrote:

“It seems clear that they are not pursuing a nuclear weapon, but they are pursuing the capability to close the fuel cycle, which means that in the future, if they change their mind, they could start up a weapons program.”

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One can wonder what Prof. Cole could possibly mean by ‘if they change their mind’? The mullahs themselves would certainly not be able to argue better in support of their nuclear activities.

Cole’s weblog in Salon.com says: ‘rather than seeking to build nuclear weapons, what Iran wants is the ability to produce a nuclear weapon fast, rather than have a standing arsenal -- in short, a "breakout option."

On December 24th 2009, Cole finds it necessary to explain more about his personal view on the matter: “I personally suspect that most Western officials involved in this matter know perfectly well that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and does not want an actual bomb.”

Yet, this is what New York Times published in May 2011:

“The world’s global nuclear inspection agency, frustrated by Iran’s refusal to answer questions, revealed for the first time that it possesses evidence that Tehran has conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon.”

The article was updated on 8th June, thus saying: “In June, Iran declared that it aimed to triple production of nuclear fuel and increase enrichment to 20 percent, a level that would indicate technological progress that experts say would make the weapons-grade level of 90 percent enrichment much closer.”

Cole also has strong views against sanctions on Iran: In short, he believes that Iran should not be sanctioned. This is what Cole had to say on October 26th 2007:

The Bush administration announced wide-ranging new sanctions on Iran on Thursday, which target three Iranian banks, nine companies associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and several individuals, as well as the IRGC (roughly analogous to the National Guard in the US, i.e. a populist adjunct to the formal Iranian army). (Iran has not been demonstrated to be doing anything that is illegal in international law.)”

On August 8th 2008, Cole goes further to argue that it is to US benefit to lift sanctions against Iran: “What about the impact of lifting sanctions on Iran? Sanctions are pushing up the cost of oil."

Remarkably, on 04/19/2010, Cole’s argument was published in the notorious wwwnejat.com, which is a well-known site attached to Iran’s infamous Intelligence Ministry:

"Very few sanctions regimes have actually produced regime change or altered regime behavior. The US could not even accomplish this goal with regard to a small island 90 miles off its shores, Cuba. That an oil giant half way around the world with a population of 70 million that is as big as Spain, France and Germany can be effectively bludgeoned with sanctions is not very likely.”

But the third and probably the most important issue that Cole (for some unspecified reason) feels obliged to concentrate on is the Iranian regime’s opposition, the MEK. In his many writings on the issue, he has not missed any chance to repeat the very common allegations of the mullahs’ Intelligence Ministry against their opposition. These are some of the allegations repeated by Cole on January 12th 2009: MEK is a cult; they are terrorists; they were Saddam’s agents; spies for Israel; spies for Iraq; spies for the US; they pushed false information against Iran … and a host of other outlandish and unsubstantiated allegations hurled about in order to paint Iran’s opposition as evil and whitewash the regime.

In any event, over the past two years, the unarmed Iranian dissidents residing in Camp Ashraf in Iraq, where they have sought refuge since the mid 1980’s, have been twice attacked by heavily armed Iraqi forces. As a result, 45 civilians, including 8 young women, have been murdered in cold blood, dozens were run over by military vehicles during the attack, hundreds were injured and many were maimed.

Ironically, the attackers used the FTO listing and the allegations mentioned by Cole in order to justify their act of genocide.

The reality, however, is different:

Terrorist allegations against the MEK have been vigorously reviewed in numerous courts both in Europe and in the US. All the courts have clearly stated that they did not find any evidence to connect the MEK to acts of terrorism, putting the lie to allegations by the Iranian regime and its agents, proxies, and advocates.

Moreover, every dissident in Camp Ashraf, without exception, was individually interrogated by seven different US agencies. All the seven agencies concluded that the dissidents were not connected to terrorism.

Yet, the results of court hearings, have never managed to change any of Juan Cole’s advocacy for the Iranian regime and against the MEK. Despite all the evidence, the good news for the Tehran mullahs is that Cole has shown that he is solid in his support of their agenda.

As far as Cole is concerned, the nature of Iran’s nuclear activities are completely peaceful, no economic sanctions should be put on the mullahs, and the Tehran opposition has to be kept in the FTO list. What more can the mullahs in Iran ask for?

This time however, the lobby to keep the MEK in the FTO list despite all the evidence to the contrary, threatens to immediately lead the way for another act of genocide; a point that Secretary Hillary Clinton must take note of and delist the MEK based on the facts.


Kambiz Assai is a scholar of Iranian politics living in exile in Britain and a former political prisoner of the religious dictatorship in Iran. He writes about Iranian current events and human rights issues extensively and dreams of returning to a free and democratic Iran.

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