by Shayne Lee, Ph.D.,
Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned that time is expiring for a diplomatic resolution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Mr. Kerry issued this warning on the same day that Vice President Biden more assertively reminded the world of President Obama’s recent claim that military options are not off the table.
The vice president made a special point to emphasize that his president and nation are not bluffing.
It was no accident that Mr. Biden chose his speech at the 2013 Policy Conference for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as the backdrop to weigh in so emphatically on matters concerning Iran and nuclear proliferation.
AIPAC self-identifies as “America’s leading pro-Israel lobby” on its website.
The pro-Israel lobby’s Policy Conference was suitable terrain to reiterate that the United States and Israel are on the same page in pressuring Iran to end its nuclear program.
The two nations share a diplomatic path that is quite problematic on various grounds.
For starters, the U.S. and Israel’s repeated allusions to military strikes against Iran violate Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter, which precludes the threat or use of force against sovereign nations in matters “inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Similarly, there are no provisions within the stipulations of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols that justify preemptive strikes against perceived Iranian nuclear sites.
Secondly, U.S. and Israeli gripes against Iran are more fear-based and hegemonic than objective and policy-based. What I mean is that if Iran was in violation of a technical or legal stipulation with their nuclear program, the U.S. and Israel could appeal to international law to resolve the discrepancy through rational diplomacy. But because the entire nuclear diplomatic efforts are political and subjective, and because the U.S. and Israel are obviously not beholden to international law, hegemonic posturing rather than rational arguments typifies Israeli and U.S. discourse on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
And the very fact that no diplomatic efforts hold Israel’s own nuclear arsenal accountable confirms the hegemonic and unreasonable nature of nuclear discourse on the world stage.
Which serves as a nice segue to my next point concerning Israel’s lack of credibility and moral authority in all matters regarding nuclear technology.
While Iran signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and allows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect its nuclear facilities, Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and refuses to allow the IAEA to inspect any of its nuclear facilities. And while Iran continues to give IAEA monitors headaches with slippery diversion tactics and spotty transparency, the IAEA can’t accuse Israel of anything because they have not met.
Israel refuses to acknowledge it likely has an impressive stockpile of nuclear weapons, a fact that the United States conveniently kept secret until President Jimmy Carter let the cat out of the bag a few years ago, confirming to the world that Israel has quite the arsenal.
Despite our former president’s recent revelation, Israel still refuses to account for its own nuclear arsenal, will not accept the IAEA inspections, and remains equally unwilling to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty, while simultaneously and quite paradoxically making demands on Iran to dismantle its program.
But more profound than the U.S. and Israel’s lack of rational legality and absence of moral authority, is their failure to provide cogent evidence that a nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to Israel or any other nation.
President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the United Nations on this topic last September. In their passionate speeches, Obama and Netanyahu did what high school debaters and novice logicians learn early on in their training not to do, which is they assumed, not proved, their case.
Obama offered emotional pleas against a nuclear Iran and Netanyahu drew his infamous red line, both appearing more cartoonish than critical as they bombarded world leaders with trite accusations rather than convincing arguments.
The one justification that Netanyahu did cite in New York and continues to hail as evidence is the simple fact that the Iranian president once expressed desire for Israel to be wiped off the planet.
Ahmadinejad desiring Israel’s expulsion is very different from the president threatening to eject Israel off the planet. Just like wishing for my noisy neighbor to get hit by a car is vastly different from me threatening to run over a noisy neighbor with my car. At least the police would recognize such a distinction. But Netanyahu would like us to see the two as one and the same, deflecting attention away from his lack of evidence of any Iranian official making a direct threat to strike or harm Israel.
In his interview on Charlie Rose last fall, President Ahmadinejad challenged the United States to put a halt on its provocative threats and to facilitate a bully-free zone where every nation has an equal place at the table of world governance, rather than perpetuating the old style of world politics where a few despotic nations (U.S. and Israel) control the discourse and the terms.
The Iranian president raised an important point concerning the hegemonic state of current diplomatic efforts regarding Iran’s nuclear program.
But don’t count on the United States to take advice from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad any time soon.
Our current trajectory suggests U.S. leaders learned few new lessons from the nation’s costly invasion of Iraq, an incursion that too was quite irrational, illegal, devoid of moral authority and even more bereft of evidence to support the notion that pending doom to the region persisted if the U.S. did not invade Iraq.
To quote the lovable sportsman, it’s like deja vu all over again.
So get your popcorn ready and watch history repeat itself. But this time the military intervention will be even more Kafkaesque.
The country that possesses the most expansive arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world is gearing up to join forces with the nation that contains the most concealed arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world to launch missile strikes against Iran’s nuclear program.
And as our newly minted secretary of state just warned, time is running out.
But during the interim, the Iranian president will jump at any opportunity to articulate the inescapable hypocrisy of two nuclear powers bombing a sovereign nation to stop its nuclear program.
Once again, Mr. Ahmadinejad does have a point.
Didn’t Jesus say something about first taking the plank out of your own eye before attempting to remove the speck from your neighbor’s eye? (Matthew 7:5)
Ironically, on the issue of nuclear proliferation, an irascible Muslim leader named Mahmoud is the vociferous mouthpiece for Jesus’s sentiment.
Sociologist Shayne Lee has appeared on Fox, CNN, ABC, and HuffPost Live and has offered expert commentary on politics, sports, religion, and music in the New York Times, Washington Post, U.S.A. Today, Atlantic, CNN.com, Chicago Tribune, and various other periodicals. Dr. Lee received his PhD in sociology from Northwestern University and is currently an Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Houston. Dr. Lee is also the author of three books and can be reached via email: email@example.com