Debunking the Debunking of Myths About Iran
In a piece titled “Five Myths About Iran,” that was recently published in The Washington Post, Trita Parsi — the president of the National Iranian American Council — set out to debunk common American myths about Iran. Parsi’s effort to sift out nuggets of truth from fiction might have been considered praiseworthy — if only the debunking itself had not devolved into mythology and falsehoods.
The first myth that Parsi attempts to debunk is that “the nuclear deal only delays an inevitable Iran bomb,” because of the expiration of the deal’s restriction on centrifuges and the stockpiling of energy-grade uranium after approximately 15 years.
While this is hardly controversial — former President Barack Obama himself has admitted it — Parsi argues that the deal is solid because “intrusive inspections” and “transparency and verification mechanisms” are a permanent component of the deal. However, this begs the question: what is there to “inspect” if the deal eventually allows for the resumption of unrestricted uranium stockpiling, or an unlimited number of nuclear centrifuges? Parsi’s logic is akin to one claiming that legalizing bank robbery will have no negative consequences — because banks will still have security guards.
The second myth Parsi addresses is the idea that “killing the [Iran nuclear] deal would help support Iranian protestors.” This is untrue, Parsi claims, because ordinary Iranians benefit from the sanction relief that the deal provides. While there is some truth to this, Parsi makes no mention of the possibility of targeted sanctions, which would provide economic relief to the largely moderate Iranian public, while still putting pressure on the theocratic elites that wreak havoc in the region.
Parsi’s argument in this portion of the op-ed, however, is generally sound. The same goes for his debunking of the third myth — that the widespread popular protests in 2009 known as the “Green Movement” were not entirely a failure. his is fundamentally accurate, but it is Parsi’s clear thinking on these points that makes his next contention so utterly baffling. The fourth myth is that “Iran’s enmity with Israel is ideological and immutable.”
Perhaps not. Few conflicts in history, ideological or otherwise, are genuinely immutable. The United States fought bloody wars against both of its neighbors, and less than a century ago dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, which is now a close US ally. In the 1930s and 1940s, Germany and the USSR lined up on opposite sides in the Spanish Civil War, then became allies, and finally became sworn enemies and fought a war to the death — all over the course of a few years. The Cold War ended (to some degree). Some historical conflicts lasted over 600 years before fizzling out unspectacularly. Conflicts end.
Parsi argues that “the conflict is driven by geopolitical factors.” What are those geopolitical factors? If you asked Mohammed Ali Jafari, the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, he might say, as he did in 2015, that Iran “will not rest easy until [Israel] is totally deleted from the region’s geopolitics.” Geopolitics indeed — but probably not what Parsi had in mind.
Iranian leaders have not exactly held their tongue about their desire to exterminate Israel. In fact, historically, it is hard to locate many examples of one country directing more venomous rhetoric at another nation.
The supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, openly has spoken about how it is the“mission of Iran to erase Israel from the map” because the “barbaric, wolflike, and infanticidal regime of Israel has no cure but to be annihilated.” If the term ideological has any application ever, it is here — deep in the bowels of a hatred so deep-rooted that it supersedes any rational grievance.
Parsi admits that “Iranian leaders turned against Israel rhetorically.” But dismissing these threats as pure rhetoric does little to explain the 100,000 missiles that Iran currently points at Israel, or the material support that Iran provides to active terrorist organizations active in and around Israel.
Parsi’s argument hinges on the fact that Iran and Israel cooperated briefly in the 1980s on some geopolitical projects. But when in history has deep ideological enmity precluded a brief alliance of convenience?
The final myth Parsi sets out debunk is that “Iranians hate Americans.” This is more of a straw-man argument, if anything; few well-read people believe that all, or even most, Iranians despise Americans. However, there is unquestionably a sizable minority of religious puritans among Iran’s population who not only hate America, but refer it to as the Great Satan, and wish it nothing short of total destruction.
However one may feel about Iran or the Iran nuclear deal, one is entitled to their own opinion. But, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, they are not entitled to their own facts. Trina Parsi has helped himself to both.