Press TV: How do you characterize this so-called security treaty between Washington and Baghdad?
Chomsky: The security arrangement was in fact declared last November. There was a declaration from the White House, presumably a Bush-Maliki declaration, but had nothing to do with the Congress or Parliament or any other official institution. It called for an indefinite long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq and that could include the huge air bases that are now being built around Iraq. The U.S. is building what’s called an embassy but it’s unlike any embassy in the world. It’s essentially a city inside a city. These are all declared intentions to retain a permanent dominant presence in Iraq.
The declaration also, a little to my surprise, had a rather brazen statement about exploiting the resources of Iraq. It said that the economy of Iraq, which means its oil resources, must be open to foreign investment, privileging American investors. That’s pretty brazen. Now that’s brazen imperialism saying we invaded you so that we can control your country; and so that our corporations can have privileged access to your resources.
It was not at all clear that any Iraqi was ever going to accept this and in the steps that had followed as there was an attempt to sort of formulate it, more precisely, there have been predictably increasing objections.
Different formulations and so on but without going through the details leading to prime minister al-Maliki’s recent comment that you quoted.
Press TV: Do you think Nouri al-Maliki will eventually succumb? I mean previous occupants of that position, well, they have come and gone. Haven’t they?
Chomsky: I mean look the country is under military occupation. It is not a free country, so there is a limit on how much any individual can do when your country is under military occupation.
The Wall Street Journal, which is not exactly a radical newspaper, states that the Maliki government survives only on the basis of U.S. arms. That’s an exaggeration but not an inconceivable perception, so he might not survive if he doesn’t accept it.
Press TV: Professor Chomsky, of course, one country that is being blamed by Washington is Iran and what’s on a lot of minds in the Middle East is this drumbeat of war as it were. Do you think the United States wants military action and will there be military action against Iran? And how do you characterize the IAEA’s nuclear negotiation process?
Chomsky: It is interesting, the way everything is blamed on Iran. And that’s a rather striking reflection of how deep-seated the imperial mentality is in the West, so for example when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is asked by the press: is there a solution to the problem in Iraq, and she says yes a simple solution — foreign forces should be withdrawn and foreign arms should be withdrawn, referring of course to Iran — people don’t laugh and collapse in ridicule.
I mean, of course, there are foreign forces and foreign arms in Iraq, but not Iranian. They are American, but those are not considered foreign forces.
In the Western conception, U.S. and, indeed, much of the West, if our forces are anywhere, they are indigenous. They are not foreign because fundamentally there is a tacit assumption that we own the world, so our forces are not foreign — they are indigenous.
We talk about Iranian interference: it’s like talking about Allied interference in Nazi occupied Vichy France; it doesn’t make any sense, but the mentality accepts it.
Now as far as the IAEA is concerned, the United States handed over to the international agency a collection of documents recently and the agency says they have not received adequate explanation about them from Iran. OK that’s where things now stand.
I have my own opinion about what ought to be done and, in fact, it happens to be the same as the opinion of the overwhelming majority of Americans and also the overwhelming majority of Iranians, according to the polls in the two countries, namely that the right solution to this problem is to declare a nuclear weapons free zone in the entire region which would include Iran, Israel and American forces deployed there and so on. About three quarter of Americans are in favor of that, and I think that’s the right idea!
Press TV: Professor Chomsky, that’s obviously not going to happen…
Chomsky: Who says? It won’t happen on the assumption that the United States is a completely undemocratic country in which public opinion can’t influence policy. I don’t think that’s a necessary assumption.
Press TV: We’re hearing things from Israel. There were remarks about some ‘Iran Command’ being set up. Of course, we had Seymour Hersh in the United States saying that there was going to be an attack on Iran, obviously…
Chomsky: So will it happen you mean. Nobody knows whether it will happen. I mean it’s conceivable. I mean the whole world is aghast at the possibility. One leading British military historian, Corelli Barnett, said it’ll mean world war III. It will have very serious consequences, undoubtedly, not to speak of what would happen to Iran, but it’s conceivable that they would be willing to take a kind of a wild gamble and just see what happens.
Remember that everything the Bush administration has done, almost without exception, has turned into a catastrophe for the interest that they represent. And it’s possible that they might decide to go out in some blaze of glory just to see what happens. Hit the system with a sledgehammer and see what happens. I frankly doubt it. I think that as far as anyone can tell, the U.S. military is opposed and U.S. intelligence seems to be opposed and surely the world is opposed. On whether they will accept those pressures or not, you can’t really tell. People like Dick Cheney are unpredictable.
Press TV: Professor Chomsky, if people in your own country are opposed to the Iraq war, Afghanistan seems to be a sort of good war. There was recently a donors’ conference in Paris. How do you see the situation in Afghanistan moving on with more money from multinational companies, more so-called donors and yet the security situation seems to be deteriorating.
Chomsky: Well this is a long topic, and I think we ought to talk about it another time, but, very briefly, what matters in this case is the opinion of Afghans. And though we don’t have very good evidence about that, we have some. So, for example, this is a recent study, a very interesting study, a Canadian study of Taliban fighters… You know, it seems what they want is to get foreign forces out of the country in which case they can accommodate to the rest.
The general opinion in Afghanistan seems to be somewhat similar. They want accommodation with the Taliban not war and the majority think it’s possible. If foreign involvement was reconstruction, that would be accepted undoubtedly, and it should be in my opinion not aid but reparations.
Russia, the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have torn this country to shreds and they owe reparations for what happened, and then maybe the people can accommodate among themselves. That’s what diplomacy ought to be pushing for.