Q: Professor Chomsky, you have stated several times that most of the countries of the world, including the members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), support Iran’s efforts to develop its civilian nuclear energy program, but some voices in the United States are still making hawkish comments. Why is that the case?
A: Not only the Non-Aligned Movement, but also the large majority of Americans believe that Iran has the right to develop nuclear energy. But almost no one in the U.S. is aware of this. That includes those who are polled, and probably think they are the only ones who hold these beliefs. Nothing is ever published about it. What appears in the media, constantly, is that the “international community” demands that Iran stop uranium enrichment. Almost nowhere is it brought out that the term “international community” is used conventionally to refer to Washington and whoever happens to go along with it, not just on this issue, but quite generally.
Q: The U.S. government is clearly practicing double standards in its foreign policy. While supporting Israel’s right to possess a nuclear arsenal, the U.S. is relentlessly pressuring Iran to halt its civilian nuclear program. What are your views on this? And does the International Atomic Energy Agency have the authority to investigate Israel’s nuclear weapons program?
A: The basic point was explained very candidly by Henry Kissinger. He was asked by the Washington Post why he now claims that Iran does not need nuclear energy so it must be working on building a bomb, while in the 1970s he insisted forcefully that Iran needs nuclear energy and the U.S. must provide the shah with the means to develop it. His answer was pure Kissinger: “They were an allied country” so they needed nuclear energy. Now they are not an ally, so they do not need nuclear energy. As for Israel, it is an ally, more accurately a client state. So they inherit from the master the right to do as they please.
The IAEA has the authority, but the U.S. would never permit them to exercise it. The new U.S. administration has given no indication that it is any different.
Q: Four sovereign states possess nuclear weapons outside the framework of the NPT. Three never joined the NPT and the fourth withdrew from the treaty. Could Iran eliminate the endless pressure being imposed on it by withdrawing from the NPT?
A: No, that would simply escalate the pressures. Apart from North Korea, all of these countries receive extensive U.S. support. The Reagan administration pretended it did not know that its ally Pakistan was developing nuclear weapons, so that the dictatorship could receive massive U.S. aid. The U.S. has agreed to assist India in developing its nuclear facilities, and Israel is a special case.
Q: What are the obstacles blocking the establishment of direct talks between Iran and the U.S.? Does the Israeli lobby really have such a great influence over the U.S. corporatocracy?
A: The Israeli lobby has some influence, but it is limited. That was demonstrated in the case of Iran, once again, last summer, during the presidential campaign, the time when the influence of lobbies is at its peak. The Israeli lobby wanted Congress to pass legislation that came close to calling for a blockade of Iran, an act of war. The measure gained considerable support, but then suddenly disappeared, probably because the White House made it clear, quietly, that it was opposed.
As for the actual factors, we do not yet have adequate internal records, so it is necessary to speculate. We do know that a large majority of Americans want to have normal relations with Iran, but public opinion rarely influences policy. Major U.S. corporations, including the powerful energy corporations, would like to be able to exploit Iran’s petroleum resources. But the state insists otherwise. I presume that the main reason is that Iran is just too independent and disobedient. Great powers do not tolerate that in what they take to be their domains, and the world’s major energy-producing regions have long been considered the domain of the Anglo-American alliance, now with Britain reduced to junior partner.
Q: Do you believe we will see a tactical or systematic revision in the approach of the U.S. mainstream media toward Iran during Barack Obama’s term in office? Will these media outlets stop their anti-Iranian propaganda?
A: The media generally adhere fairly closely to the general framework of state policy, though policies are sometimes criticized on tactical grounds. A lot, therefore, depends on the stand that the Obama administration will take.
Q: And finally, do you believe that the U.S. president should apologize for the United States’ crimes against Iran over the past century, as Iran has asked?
A: I think that the powerful should always concede their crimes and apologize to the victims, in fact go much farther and provide reparations. Unfortunately, the world is largely governed by the maxim of Thucydides: the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must. Slowly, over time, the world is becoming more civilized, in general. But there is a long way to go.