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Thursday February 02, 2012

Fanning the Flames of Confrontation with Iran

Posted by Omar Baddar at 4:49 pm

If you were paying attention during the run up to the 2003 Iraq war, then you remember that false allegations connecting Saddam Hussein to Al-Qaeda were used to justify a U.S. invasion of Iraq. If you’re paying attention now, then you’re noticing virtually identical headlines, with just one letter off. A few days ago, Foreign Affairs ran an article with the headline: “Al Qaeda in Iran: Why Tehran is Accommodating the Terrorist Group.” Elsewhere, the Washington Post ran an article with the headline: “Iran, perceiving threat from West, willing to attack on U.S. soil, U.S. intelligence report finds.”

The substance of such articles is usually more nuanced and often highly speculative. For example, the aforementioned article in Foreign Affairs acknowledges that Iran and Al-Qaeda don’t like each other, but posits that they might decide to work together if Iran comes under attack. Of course, war with Iran would mean major disruption of the world’s oil supplies, massive casualties, and likely utter chaos in the Middle East, so focusing on the purely speculative Al-Qaeda angle is kind of arbitrary. But no matter how nuanced the article substance is, running these kinds of headlines clearly has the effect of building the popular perception that Iran poses some sort of imminent threat to the United States, which must be urgently illuminated.

It is only in the environment created by such headlines that Michele Bachmann can make the utterly ridiculous claim that Iranian leaders have threatened to nuke the United States without becoming the target of immediate public ridicule. While no such threat could have been made, since Iran denies developing nuclear weapons in the first place, the allegation nevertheless sounds plausible because major information outlets are constantly reinforcing the idea that Iran is threatening the United States.

Elsewhere, far away from the demagoguery of election-year politics and the sensationalism of corporate media, there are people like Tufts Professor and former Senior Advisor to the State Department Vali Nasr. Nasr notes that the escalation of sanctions on Iran has reached the point where they’re “no longer sanctions, they’re really beginnings of open conflict with Iran.” He compellingly argues for a better diplomatic approach as a means of avoiding armed conflict; a conflict which sanctions only seem to be escalating towards. Watch his full interview below, and ask yourself whether the headlines you read every week reflect the full spectrum of reasonable opinions on how to deal with this dangerous situation.

Tagged as Issues, Iraq, US-Arab Relations

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