Noam Chomsky: Opposing Iran Nuclear Deal, Israel’s Goal Isn’t Survival – It’s Regional Dominance

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in the United States as part of his bid to stop a nuclear deal with Iran during a controversial speech before the U.S. Congress on Tuesday. Dozens of Democrats are threatening to boycott the address, which was arranged by House Speaker John Boehner without consulting the White House. Netanyahu’s visit comes just as Iran and six world powers, including the United States, are set to resume talks in a bid to meet a March 31 deadline. “For both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran,” says Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “They have a common interest in ensuring there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region.” Chomsky also responds to recent revelations that in 2012 the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, contradicted Netanyahu’s own dire warnings about Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb, concluding that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.”


AARON MATÉ: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in Washington as part of his bid to stop a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu will address the lobby group AIPAC today, followed by a controversial speech before Congress on Tuesday. The visit comes just as Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., are set to resume talks in a bid to meet a March 31st deadline. At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Netanyahu’s trip won’t threaten the outcome.

PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: I think the short answer to that is: I don’t think so. And the reason is simply that there is a real opportunity for us here. And the president is hopeful that we are going to have an opportunity to do what is clearly in the best interests of the United States and Israel, which is to resolve the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program at the negotiating table.

AARON MATÉ: The trip has sparked the worst public rift between the U.S. and Israel in over two decades. Dozens of Democrats could boycott Netanyahu’s address to Congress, which was arranged by House Speaker John Boehner without consulting the White House. The Obama administration will send two officials, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, to address the AIPAC summit today. This comes just days after Rice called Netanyahu’s visit, quote, “destructive.”

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also facing domestic criticism for his unconventional Washington visit, which comes just two weeks before an election in which he seeks a third term in Israel. On Sunday, a group representing nearly 200 of Israel’s top retired military and intelligence officials accused Netanyahu of assaulting the U.S.-Israel alliance.

But despite talk of a U.S. and Israeli dispute, the Obama administration has taken pains to display its staunch support for the Israeli government. Speaking just today in Geneva, Secretary of State John Kerry blasted the U.N. Human Rights Council for what he called an “obsession” and “bias” against Israel. The council is expected to release a report in the coming weeks on potential war crimes in Israel’s U.S.-backed Gaza assault last summer.

For more, we spend the hour today with world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, Noam Chomsky. He has written over a hundred books, most recently On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare. His forthcoming book, co-authored with Ilan Pappé, is titled On Palestine and will be out next month. Noam Chomsky is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s taught for more than 50 years.

Noam Chomsky, it’s great to have you back here at Democracy Now!, and particularly in our very snowy outside, but warm inside, New York studio.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Delighted to be here again.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Noam, let’s start with Netanyahu’s visit. He is set to make this unprecedented joint address to Congress, unprecedented because of the kind of rift it has demonstrated between the Republicans and the Democratic president, President Obama. Can you talk about its significance?

NOAM CHOMSKY: For both president—Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran. They have a common interest in ensuring that there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region. And it is—if we believe U.S. intelligence—don’t see any reason not to—their analysis is that if Iran is developing nuclear weapons, which they don’t know, it would be part of their deterrent strategy. Now, their general strategic posture is one of deterrence. They have low military expenditures. According to U.S. intelligence, their strategic doctrine is to try to prevent an attack, up to the point where diplomacy can set in. I don’t think anyone with a grey cell functioning thinks that they would ever conceivably use a nuclear weapon, or even try to. The country would be obliterated in 15 seconds. But they might provide a deterrent of sorts. And the U.S. and Israel certainly don’t want to tolerate that. They are the forces that carry out regular violence and aggression in the region and don’t want any impediment to that.

And for the Republicans in Congress, there’s another interest—namely, to undermine anything that Obama, you know, the entity Christ, might try to do. So that’s a separate issue there. The Republicans stopped being an ordinary parliamentary party some years ago. They were described, I think accurately, by Norman Ornstein, the very respected conservative political analyst, American Enterprise Institute; he said the party has become a radical insurgency which has abandoned any commitment to parliamentary democracy. And their goal for the last years has simply been to undermine anything that Obama might do, in an effort to regain power and serve their primary constituency, which is the very wealthy and the corporate sector. They try to conceal this with all sorts of other means. In doing so, they’ve had to—you can’t get votes that way, so they’ve had to mobilize sectors of the population which have always been there but were never mobilized into an organized political force: evangelical Christians, extreme nationalists, terrified people who have to carry guns into Starbucks because somebody might be after them, and so on and so forth. That’s a big force. And inspiring fear is not very difficult in the United States. It’s a long history, back to colonial times, of—as an extremely frightened society, which is an interesting story in itself. And mobilizing people in fear of them, whoever “them” happens to be, is an effective technique used over and over again. And right now, the Republicans have—their nonpolicy has succeeded in putting them back in a position of at least congressional power. So, the attack on—this is a personal attack on Obama, and intended that way, is simply part of that general effort. But there is a common strategic concern underlying it, I think, and that is pretty much what U.S. intelligence analyzes: preventing any deterrent in the region to U.S. and Israeli actions.

AARON MATÉ: You say that nobody with a grey cell thinks that Iran would launch a strike, were it to have nuclear weapons, but yet Netanyahu repeatedly accuses Iran of planning a new genocide against the Jewish people. He said this most recently on Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, saying that the ayatollahs are planning a new holocaust against us. And that’s an argument that’s taken seriously here.

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s taken seriously by people who don’t stop to think for a minute. But again, Iran is under extremely close surveillance. U.S. satellite surveillance knows everything that’s going on in Iran. If Iran even began to load a missile—that is, to bring a missile near a weapon—the country would probably be wiped out. And whatever you think about the clerics, the Guardian Council and so on, there’s no indication that they’re suicidal.

AARON MATÉ: The premise of these talks—Iran gets to enrich uranium in return for lifting of U.S. sanctions—do you see that as a fair parameter? Does the U.S. have the right, to begin with, to be imposing sanctions on Iran?

NOAM CHOMSKY: No, it doesn’t. What are the right to impose sanctions? Iran should be imposing sanctions on us. I mean, it’s worth remembering—when you hear the White House spokesman talk about the international community, it wants Iran to do this and that, it’s important to remember that the phrase “international community” in U.S. discourse refers to the United States and anybody who may be happening to go along with it. That’s the international community. If the international community is the world, it’s quite a different story. So, two years ago, the Non-Aligned—former Non-Aligned Movement—it’s a large majority of the population of the world—had their regular conference in Iran in Tehran. And they, once again, vigorously supported Iran’s right to develop nuclear power as a signer of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That’s the international community. The United States and its allies are outliers, as is usually the case.

And as far as sanctions are concerned, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s now 60 years since—during the past 60 years, not a day has passed without the U.S. torturing the people of Iran. It began with overthrowing the parliamentary regime and installing a tyrant, the shah, supporting the shah through very serious human rights abuses and terror and violence. As soon as he was overthrown, almost instantly the United States turned to supporting Iraq’s attack against Iran, which was a brutal and violent attack. U.S. provided critical support for it, pretty much won the war for Iraq by entering directly at the end. After the war was over, the U.S. instantly supported the sanctions against Iran. And though this is kind of suppressed, it’s important. This is George H.W. Bush now. He was in love with Saddam Hussein. He authorized further aid to Saddam in opposition to the Treasury and others. He sent a presidential delegation—a congressional delegation to Iran. It was April 1990—1989, headed by Bob Dole, the congressional—

AMY GOODMAN: To Iraq? Sent to Iraq?

NOAM CHOMSKY: To Iraq. To Iraq, sorry, yeah—to offer his greetings to Saddam, his friend, to assure him that he should disregard critical comment that he hears in the American media: We have this free press thing here, and we can’t shut them up. But they said they would take off from Voice of America, take off critics of their friend Saddam. That was—he invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the United States for advanced training in weapons production. This is right after the Iraq-Iran War, along with sanctions against Iran. And then it continues without a break up to the present.

There have been repeated opportunities for a settlement of whatever the issues are. And so, for example, in, I guess it was, 2010, an agreement was reached between Brazil, Turkey and Iran for Iran to ship out its low-enriched uranium for storage elsewhere—Turkey—and in return, the West would provide the isotopes that Iran needs for its medical reactors. When that agreement was reached, it was bitterly condemned in the United States by the president, by Congress, by the media. Brazil was attacked for breaking ranks and so on. The Brazilian foreign minister was sufficiently annoyed so that he released a letter from Obama to Brazil proposing exactly that agreement, presumably on the assumption that Iran wouldn’t accept it. When they did accept it, they had to be attacked for daring to accept it.

And 2012, 2012, you know, there was to be a meeting in Finland, December, to take steps towards establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the region. This is an old request, pushed initially by Egypt and the other Arab states back in the early ’90s. There’s so much support for it that the U.S. formally agrees, but not in fact, and has repeatedly tried to undermine it. This is under the U.N. auspices, and the meeting was supposed to take place in December. Israel announced that they would not attend. The question on everyone’s mind is: How will Iran react? They said that they would attend unconditionally. A couple of days later, Obama canceled the meeting, claiming the situation is not right for it and so on. But that would be—even steps in that direction would be an important move towards eliminating whatever issue there might be. Of course, the stumbling block is that there is one major nuclear state: Israel. And if there’s a Middle East nuclear weapons-free zone, there would be inspections, and neither Israel nor the United States will tolerate that.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about major revelations that have been described as the biggest leak since Edward Snowden. Last week, Al Jazeera started publishing a series of spy cables from the world’s top intelligence agencies. In one cable, the Israeli spy agency Mossad contradicts Prime Minister Netanyahu’s own dire warnings about Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb within a year. In a report to South African counterparts in October 2012, the Israeli Mossad concluded Iran is “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.” The assessment was sent just weeks after Netanyahu went before the U.N. General Assembly with a far different message. Netanyahu held up a cartoonish diagram of a bomb with a fuse to illustrate what he called Iran’s alleged progress on a nuclear weapon.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: This is a bomb. This is a fuse. In the case of Iran’s nuclear plans to build a bomb, this bomb has to be filled with enough enriched uranium. And Iran has to go through three stages. By next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks, before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb. A red line should be drawn right here, before—before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2012. The Mossad assessment contradicting Netanyahu was sent just weeks after, but it was likely written earlier. It said Iran, quote, “does not appear to be ready,” unquote, to enrich uranium to the highest levels needed for a nuclear weapon. A bomb would require 90 percent enrichment, but Mossad found Iran had only enriched to 20 percent. That number was later reduced under an interim nuclear deal the following year. The significance of this, Noam Chomsky, as Prime Minister Netanyahu prepares for this joint address before Congress to undermine a U.S.-Iranian nuclear deal?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the striking aspect of this is the chutzpah involved. I mean, Israel has had nuclear weapons for probably 50 years or 40 years. They have, estimates are, maybe 100, 200 nuclear weapons. And they are an aggressive state. Israel has invaded Lebanon five times. It’s carrying out an illegal occupation that carries out brutal attacks like Gaza last summer. And they have nuclear weapons. But the main story is that if—incidentally, the Mossad analysis corresponds to U.S. intelligence analysis. They don’t know if Iran is developing nuclear weapons. But I think the crucial fact is that even if they were, what would it mean? It would be just as U.S. intelligence analyzes it: It would be part of a deterrent strategy. They couldn’t use a nuclear weapon. They couldn’t even threaten to use it. Israel, on the other hand, can; has, in fact, threatened the use of nuclear weapons a number of times.

AMY GOODMAN: So why is Netanyahu doing this?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Because he doesn’t want to have a deterrent in the region. That’s simple enough. If you’re an aggressive, violent state, you want to be able to use force freely. You don’t want anything that might impede it.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think this in any way has undercut the U.S. relationship with Israel, the Netanyahu-Obama conflict that, what, Susan Rice has called destructive?

NOAM CHOMSKY: There is undoubtedly a personal relationship which is hostile, but that’s happened before. Back in around 1990 under first President Bush, James Baker went as far as—the secretary of state—telling Israel, “We’re not going to talk to you anymore. If you want to contact me, here’s my phone number.” And, in fact, the U.S. imposed mild sanctions on Israel, enough to compel the prime minister to resign and be replaced by someone else. But that didn’t change the relationship, which is based on deeper issues than personal antagonisms.

Kyocera prototype puts Windows Phone onto its rough and tough Torque

Prior to the start of Mobile World Congress we got word that Kyocera was bringing a prototype device to Barcelona that would be running Windows Phone. So we dropped by to take a look at it, and prototype is definitely the key word here.

That’s because this is literally a version of the Android powered Torque smartphone with Windows Phone as the OS. The hardware is 100% identical, right down to the Android physical buttons at the bottom of the device. But, two interesting things in particular stand out.

Noam Chomsky: Despite Iran Spat, US Support for Israeli Occupation Continues Without Pause

Six months after the end of a devastating Israeli assault on Gaza, aid agencies have condemned the lack of progress in rebuilding Gaza, saying reconstruction of tens of thousands of destroyed homes, schools and hospitals has been “woefully slow,” with 100,000 Palestinians still displaced. Our guest, Noam Chomsky, notes it was the Pentagon that supplied many of the weapons used in the massive destruction. “The arms were taken from arms the U.S. stores in Israel. They are pre-positioned in Israel for eventual use by U.S. forces,” Chomsky says. “Israel is regarded essentially as an offshore military base.”


AARON MATÉ: And meanwhile, support for the occupation continues, so much so that during the Gaza assault the U.S. rearmed Israel.

NOAM CHOMSKY: It was kind of interesting how the U.S. rearmed Israel. The arms—it’s true that the Pentagon sent more arms to Israel. They were actually running out of arms in this vicious assault against a totally defenseless population. The arms were taken from arms that the U.S. stores in Israel; they’re pre-positioned in Israel for eventual use by U.S. forces. That’s one part of the U.S.-Israel strategic alliance. That’s one small part of it, is that Israel is regarded as essentially an offshore military base. So we store, pre-position arms there, and some of those arms were transferred to Israeli control so that they could complete—continue the massive destruction of Gaza, which is horrific and one of many indications of the nature of the alliance.

It’s a very close alliance, and deep enough—so, for example, one of the interesting leaks from WikiLeaks was a U.S. government study of—a Pentagon study of sites in the world that are of such high significance that we must protect them at all costs. One of them was right near Haifa. It was the Rafael military industries. It’s one of the main producers of drones and other high-tech military equipment. And the relation—and that’s one of the highest—strategic sites of highest importance. And, in fact, the relationship is so close that Rafael actually transferred its management offices to Washington, where the money is and the contacts are. It’s essentially an offshore military base, in many ways, also a major source for U.S. investment, high-tech investment. So, Intel, for example, is setting up its major new facility for next-generation chips in Israel. Warren Buffett just bought a big Israeli company. There are many very close relationships, and they’re not going to be affected by a personal conflict between Baker and Shamir or Obama and Netanyahu.

AMY GOODMAN: And the Obama administration has taken great pains, even as this division has taken place, to show its support for Israel. On Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. has intervened on Israel’s behalf hundreds of times in the international arena.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Prime minister of Israel is welcome to speak in the United States, obviously, and we have a closer relationship with Israel right now in terms of security than at any time in history. I was reviewing the record the other day. We have intervened on Israel’s behalf in the last two years more than several hundred—a couple of hundred times in over 75 different fora in order to protect Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: That was U.S. secretary of state on ABC’s This Week. Noam Chomsky?

NOAM CHOMSKY: And it’s interesting to look at the cases. The most—one of them actually received a fair amount of publicity, because it was so remarkable. That was, I suppose, February 2011, roughly, at the U.N. Security Council. There was a resolution proposed at the Security Council calling on Israel to abide by official U.S. policy. The official U.S. policy is objection to settlement expansion. It’s a pretty minor issue, incidentally. That’s what’s talked about. But the issue is the settlements, not the expansion. They’re all illegal. They’re criminal activities. They undermine any hope for any peaceful settlement. But U.S. policy is that settlement expansion is, as they put it, not helpful to peace. The Security Council proposed a resolution asking Israel to abide by official U.S. policy. Obama vetoed it. You know, that’s real support for Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to our discussion with the world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Noam Chomsky. Stay with us.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address Congress – live

We’re in the gallery as members of Congress filter in – there are decidedly more Republicans than Democrats in attendance.

Up here in the press gallery it’s standing room only.

A pic from the first day of #NuclearTalks between #Iran & #US in #Montreux, #Switzerland. #NuclearTalks #IranTalks

Fifty-six Democratic lawmakers are expected to boycott Netanyahu’s address to Congress, according to an estimate by the Hill. My colleague Dan Roberts (@robertsdan), DC bureau chief for the Guardian, has more on the otherwise crowded (and partisan) state of affairs:

Demand for attendance elsewhere in Washington remains high, and an overspill room has been set up to accommodate visitors not able to watch the Israeli prime minister from the gallery of the House of Representatives.

Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who has been sponsoring legislation supportive of Netanyahu’s concerns over Iranian nuclear talks, will escort him to the House chamber – despite holding some misgivings:

On the eve of Netanyahu’s speech, Barack Obama revealed key details of an emerging deal that is designed to prevent Tehran developing nuclear weapons for “a decade or more”.

Obama said the chances of a successful deal remained difficult, but his interview appeared to contradict recent denials by his press secretary that a 10-year option was under consideration. Officials later told the Guardian there was “no discrepancy” because the president also said it could be longer.

Security is tight here at the Capitol and the Israeli press corp have set up shop at one of the main tables of the House gallery press offices. Everybody’s desperate for a plug, especially the Americans who’ve just arrived.

Dan Roberts, Guardian DC bureau chief, sees some protesters on the Hill.

“Netanyahu offers spine-chilling rhetoric but no answers,” says Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, criticizing the prime minister’s “incoherent” speechifying on Iran.

Netanyahu’s olive branch to Democrats and to the Obama administration will only take him so far. Israel’s most American and most Republican of prime ministers crossed the Rubicon on inappropriate political partisanship long ago. What’s more, Netanyahu’s attempt to reassert the US-Israel relationship based on Israel being a beacon of humanity, hope and shared values will ring hollow to anyone paying attention to Netanyahu’s own brand of narrow chauvinist nationalism, to the democratic recession he is leading in Israel or indeed to anyone who has heard of the Palestinians.

But those are long-term trends, more immediately President Obama is demonstrating his commitment to Israel irrespective, or even in spite, of the shenanigans of its Prime Minister.

Good morning and welcome to our coverage of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, which aims to galvanize popular opinion against nuclear negotiations with Iran but has been described by Democrats as an attempted “sabotage” of American policy, helping widen the largest rift between the allies in decades.

Netanyahu is expected to say that negotiations with Iran endanger Israel’s existence, an argument that flies in the face of President Obama’s renewed efforts to find compromise over its nuclear program. Republicans have embraced Netanyahu’s hardline rhetoric and Democrats have recoiled from it, saying Netanyahu’s criticism of US policy is a “dangerous mistake” and designed to embarrass the president.

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Mercedes-AMG GT3 thunders into Geneva debut [w/video]

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Mercedes-AMG is showing off its latest racer at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, with the naturally aspirated AMG GT-based GT3.

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Chile’s Villarrica volcano erupts causing thousands to evacuate – video

Villarrica in southern Chile, one of South America’s most active volcanos, explodes early on Tuesday, forcing local communities to evacuate. Lava, ash and molten rock spewed thousands of feet into the air in a series of massive explosions. One of the 3,800 residents who were evacuated describes his experience Continue reading…
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Dylan O’Brien Cast As Spider-Man? Robert Downey Jr. Playing Iron Man In First Movie?! All The Spectacular Scuttlebutt You Can Handle!

OMG, if all this Spider-Man news is accurate, fans are in for an AMAZING ride! No, scratch that — a Spectacular one!

First, an anonymous Reddit user — one who also leaked the story that Spider-Man would be rebooted as a Sony/Marvel crossover — says that the casting is DONE.

According to his inside sources, one of our top picks Dylan O’Brien has already accepted the role!

[ Related: Perez Hilton's 15 Stars To Watch In 2015: Who's Making Waves Already? ]

And in the first film — which may be called The Spectacular Spider-Man — the new Peter Parker will be facing off against Robert Downey, Jr.!


Here’s how the rumors shake out:

The new Spidey film will NOT be an origin film. Fair enough, we’ve all seen Uncle Ben die plenty of times, right?

The planned Sinister Six movie is canned for now, but its director Drew Goddard (pals with Avengers helmer Joss Whedon!) will take on the first Spider-Man movie.

[ Related: New Spider-Man Will Be MUCH Younger Than Andrew Garfield ]

In that film, high school-aged Spider-Man will meet and fight Iron Man!!!

Then, he will try to join The Avengers team and fight some super-villains, quite possibly the Sinister Six (guess they don’t have to throw EVERYTHING away)!

Now remember, these are all rumors at the moment, totally unconfirmed by either studio. But if this is the big March 5th announcement RDJ teased on Twitter we’ll know soon enough!

Man, we hope so!

See you Thursday!

[Image via Marvel/20th Century Fox.]

Letting The Freedom Of Truth Uncover The Value Of Life