INTERVIEW | | August 16, 2005

White House shaping public opinion for future confrontation with Iran

Interview with Norman Solomon, author and columnist, conducted by Scott Harris

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After months of unsuccessful negotiations by European diplomats, Iran's government announced on Aug. 8 that it has resumed work on processing/converting uranium at its Isfahan nuclear facility. Washington and European nations have warned that despite Tehran's assertion that their nuclear project is intended to develop electric power and not weapons, the matter will be brought to the U.N. Security Council to demand economic sanctions if Iran does not halt the program.

A showdown between Iran and the West could come in September when the matter is expected to reach the Security Council. Iran insists that as a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it has the right to convert and enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. But Washington contends that Iran forfeited that right, after Tehran had admitted it had deceived inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency for some 17 years.

Although soon after the September 11th attacks President Bush characterized Iran as part of the "axis of evil," Vice President Cheney has stated that diplomacy is the right way to handle the nuclear issue. But his warning that if diplomacy fails, "all options are on the table," has led observers to believe that the U.S. or Israel may be considering air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with author and columnist Norman Solomon who traveled to Iran for 10 days in June. He examines how the Bush administration is now shaping public opinion with regard to justifying a possible future U.S. military confrontation with the nation of Iran.

NORMAN SOLOMON: My overall sense is that we are in the midst of agenda-building for some kind of U.S. military action against Iran. You know, if you go back a few years, you can recall the gradual step up of media spin and the thinktanks that are corporate funded and aligned with the White House and the administration and their allies on Capitol Hill and journalists in general talking about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and so on and so forth. And a lot of implicit or explicit rationales for why it may be necessary to take military action.

I think really, Scott, that we're in the midst of a lot of that now in terms of Iran. The continued coverage of the nuclear issue. The kind of implicit, but unstated hypocritical position that it's OK for India, Pakistan, Israel to have nuclear weapons, but Iran can't even go ahead with its nuclear power development because it would be potentially helpful for nuclear weapons development down the road.

The fact is that unlike the countries I just mentioned, there is membership in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty on the part of Iran. It still subjects itself to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Yeah, they haven't been totally forthcoming, but at least there are inspections. You can't say that about Israel, which has at least a couple of hundred nuclear bombs. You can't say that about India or Pakistan either.

And so now that Washington is trying to not allow what they call a closed loop of nuclear development. They want a very supervised situation, which according to the Iranian government, is an impingement on their sovereignty.

I mean I'm against all of that. I don't think any country should have nuclear power development, let alone nuclear weapons. At the same time the fact is that according to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, and nobody can really dispute this, Iran has a right to continue their nuclear energy development.

I did a lot of questioning of people across the socio-economic spectrum in Tehran, Iran. I went to the different arenas of social life -- on the street, in the bazaar, top officials, I went to the university campus and so forth -- and I couldn't find anybody who was against developing nuclear power for electricity.

I mean it’s the success -- one of the successes of the nuclear industry in the United States and in the West. It's convinced people there and elsewhere in the world that, "Hey, it's good enough for the United States, it's good enough for Iran. They have nuclear power plants, we should too."

BETWEEN THE LINES: You think the White House and the Pentagon are realistic about the dangers and repercussions if they were to go forward with an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, it's a kind of, what C. Wright Mills called "crackpot realism." Within their frame of reference it made sense to invade Iraq for that matter, and we see some of the results. The neo-cons from the Project for the New American Century ( in the 1990s, now in control of policy to a large extent, people like (Secretary of Defense Donald) Rumsfeld and so forth. They think that might does makes right and that they can re-arrange reality and they are intent on doing so.

BETWEEN THE LINES: President Bush recently made a recess appointment, the first in American history of a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton -- widely disliked by many Democrats and of course many Republicans as well in the U.S. Senate. What do you think John Bolton's role as ambassador to the United Nations might be in the case of a ramping up and preparation for a military confrontation with Iran?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, I think John Bolton in many ways is an appropriate pick to represent the U.S. administration at the United Nations because his arrogance really mirrors the attitude that comes out of the Oval Office when you strip away the stylistic differences. So, he's going to be a kind of point man for the policies.

I'm not optimistic. I mean I don't mean to be fatalistic, but I think people need to have a sense of realism. Just because the U.S. Army is tied down to some extent in Iraq, it doesn't mean that there aren't a lot of missiles and jet bombers and all the rest of it that could be utilized anywhere in the world, any region, including against Iran.

And I think the role of diplomacy, both in terms of media spin and in terms of just on the world stage, is often in the hands of Washington to legitimize a movement toward war. To put forward all kinds of smoke screens and go through the pantomime and charade of seeming to seek peaceful solutions where war is very much on the agenda.

I do believe that at least an air war on Iran is quite feasible in the next year. You can bet that what John Bolton does, and the U.S. delegation at the United Nations is involved in, is very much in concert with all of that war planning.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What are your concerns about the potential blowback from a U.S. air strike on Iran's nuclear facilities?

NORMAN SOLOMON: If the U.S. does attack Iran, then I think there are all kinds of quite possible, and in some cases probable results. The Shiite in southern Iraq would go ballistic. They're very close with Iran in many ways, and I think would create more havoc for the occupiers -- which is certainly, I would imagine at least a consideration in Washington as they contemplate the possibility of military strikes.

You would just unite so many Iranians. It would cause enormous havoc in the region, not to mention the inflammation of what is called terrorism, when individuals do what they can to try to cause great suffering among human beings in the West. Because they feel that the U.S. and Britain have used their military might to cause great suffering for human beings in places like Iraq.

Norman Solomon is syndicated columnist and author of "War Made Easy, How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning us to Death." Read portions of the book online at

Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending Aug. 19, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Scott Harris and Anna Manzo.


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