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West never tires of the ‘burden’ of baiting Iran


Is The New York Times inciting a U.S. war against Iran? As it did the war against Iraq?

A decade ago, the paper’s Judith Miller, along with a few of her fellow reporters, so unabashedly agitated for President George W. Bush attacking Iraq that the daily was forced to fire her when things turned sour in short order.

Take the large front-page article, on Jan. 12, with the headline “A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars Back to Iran.” A photo of what appear to be the bottoms of two bullets topped it, with the caption “Iranian-made cartridges recovered from the northern Ivory Coast, of a type found in several African countries.”

The photo looked innocuous to me, though it may have conveyed something ominous to many denizens of the gun-laden United States.

What was the story? Did the Times, after time-consuming, painstaking investigations encompassing several countries, uncover that Iran is up to a vast scheme to endanger the U.S.? Well, no.

In 2006, a British researcher in arms-trafficking noticed certain ammunition for Kalashnikov rifles “bore no factory code.” AK-47, which the Soviet gun designer Mikhail Kalashnikov first perfected in 1947, is reputed to be the most popular assault rifle ever, though for some decades now the great majority are counterfeit, produced as they are outside the USSR, now Russia.

Anyway, James Bevan, until 2001 a U.N. investigator who now works for a private firm, collaborated with other arms-trafficking researchers and tracked down the source of the unmarked cartridges to the weapons manufacturer in Iran. These cartridges have been found in Guinea, Ivory Coast, the Congo, Niger, Sudan.

Does that mean much of anything? No, Bevan says. The ammunition in question may have been made in Iran, “but a good portion of this, and in perhaps the majority of these cases, the ammunition was transferred around Africa by African states,” the researcher says. He was annoyed, it appears, by the Times reporter’s “repeated” question: Should somone take any “military action against Iran”?

As the Times article itself noted, Iran is no rival of the U.S., Russia, China and others as an arms exporter.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. was the top arms-exporting nation in 2011 (as in any other year) with sales of $10 billion, followed by Russia with $7.9 billion, France with $2.4 billion, and China with $1.4 billion. On this list Iran ranked 25th.

At $45 million, its export total was just about a seventh of Switzerland’s and a twelfth of the Netherlands’s — and, yes, a 222th of the U.S. exports. Even if Iran produced and exported all those “mystery cartridges” found in some of the sites of “brutal” killings, Iran’s culpability would pale in comparison with the havoc that weapons originating in the U.S. have been bringing to the world.

So, why showcase such an article? The reporter, C. J. Chivers, says that Iran’s choice of small-arms ammunition to export is “significant,” because it constitutes “a basic ingredient of organized violence,” and results “each year and at each war in uncountable deaths and crimes.”

But for ammunition to have its effects, it requires small arms, on which Chivers has nothing to say. The Small Arms Survey, a research project in Geneva, says Iran is one of the “untransparent” countries in arms trade, but even if its figures are known, it is hard to imagine that Iran would come anywhere near to the top exporters of small arms. The U.S. again tops the list, with $706 million in sales, followed by Italy, with $507 million, and Germany with $452 million. The figures are for 2009.

Again, why showcase such an article? The answer: The New York Times supports the U.S.-led economic sanctions against Iran. For what? For preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Nicholas Kristof, the Times’ “liberal interventionist” columnist, took a 2,700-km road trip through Iran last year to conclude: “with apologies to the many wonderful Iranians who showered me with hospitality, I favor sanctions because I don’t see any other way to pressure the regime on the nuclear issue or ease its grip on power.” (“Pinched and Griping in Iran,” June 16, 2012.)

What right do the U.S. and other Western nations have to gang up on Iran? The U.S. has 5,113 nuclear warheads, the United Kingdom 225, and France 300, according to the Arms Control Association, whereas Global Policy Forum has reported that the United Nations’ IAEA “provided no evidence that Iran is actually developing nuclear weapons.”

As for “regime change,” Kristof simply, blatantly, ignores what the U.S. and its “coalition of the willing” have brought about in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Nigerian American novelist Teju Cole rightly named Kristof part of “the fastest growth industry in the U.S. [that] is the White Savior Industrial Complex.”

Kristof evidently is an ardent believer in Kipling’s “white man’s burden.” For him, the Iranians are “fluttered folk and wild — / Your new-caught, sullen peoples, / Half-devil and half-child.”

Bill Keller, reviewing David Patrikarakos’ book, “Nuclear Iran: The Birth of an Atomic State,” for The New York Times (“Rethinking the Unthinkable,” Jan. 11), was compelled to remind himself: “Our present Iran problem … is partly of our own making.”

Considering the U.S.-Iranian relationship is utterly one-sided, “partly” is a lame interjection to share the blame. “We installed the shah, who embraced nuclear power as a flag of Persian modernity,” Keller said. In 1953, the U.S., with the U.K., overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh.

“We indulged Saddam Hussein in his brutish attack on Iran,” Keller said. A war someone else wages is always “brutal,” “brutish.” The U.S. “invaded Afghanistan while paying court to terrorist-breeding (but nuclear) Pakistan.”

“Then, in the Bush axis-of-evil years, our hardliners convinced their hardliners that nothing short of regime change would satisfy Washington.” Bush’s axis of evil consisted of Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

“Add these understandable fears” that Iran has developed over the past half- century “to a long history of xenophobia and Persian status anxiety,” Keller said.

But don’t xenophobia and status anxiety also apply to the United States?

Hiroaki Sato is a translator and essayist. His biography of Yukio Mishima with Naoki Inose, “Persona,” has just been published.

  • You are lucky you don’t have any “chosen” people running your media in Japan.

    • Brenden

      You couldn’t say it any better

  • Canadian

    I agree with the previous comment. Good article!

  • JCDavis

    Excellent piece. Too bad the NYT is so top heavy with war propagandists that they would be mystified by such logic.

  • Edohiguma

    That’s all nice and cute, but here’s the thing you people don’t seem to understand or refuse to acknowledge. Iran with a nuclear bomb is the worst case scenario for the Middle East. Iran is not a democracy. It’s a theocratic tyranny almost on the same level as Nazi Germany and if they get the bomb, they might be tempted to use it.

    It’s the 1930s all over again. Remember the Peace of Munich and the useful idiots Chamberlain and Daladier, who actually believed that Hitler wouldn’t start a war if they’d give him a sovereign nation? Yeah, it’s the same thing right now.

    Appeasement doesn’t work. Tyrants only understand one language: strength. History proves this without a doubt.

    To quote good old Sir Winston: You can have dishonor or you can have war. You all chose dishonor and you’ll have war anyway.

    • wmac

      How about a US with thousands of nukes? Is that a good idea?

      You know, US has started/involved in at least 50 major wars since 60 years ago. It starts a new war every year and it is the only country which has used nukes against civilian cities, not once but twice.

      Guess who is the real th‌reat to the world? Tho‌se who killed 160000 civ‌ilians in Hiroshima, 80000 civilia‌ns in Nagasaki, 150000 civilia‌ns in Iraq, 37000 civ‌ilians in Afgh‌anistan, 2000 civilia‌ns in Pakistan. 1000000 civili‌ans in Vietn‌am, 4000 in Panama, 1200000 in Korea, 1500000 in Phili‌ppines, 600000 in Cam‌bodia, 350000 in Laos….

      Irani‌ans haven’t inva‌ded anywhere for hu‌ndreds of years. Israel and US on the other hand (along with UK, France and a few others) have done it more than a few times. Israel with 300 nukes is an apartheid regime not a democracy.

  • Norman

    It’s a naively simplistic article, manufactured also upon a clear anti-American bias. The errant (if they were) policies of earlier U.S. administrations have nothing whatsoever to do with the present day, otherwise where would that leave modern-day Japan or Germany? I note that the article makes no mention of the Iranian leader’s wish/threat to wipe Israel off the map. None of the world’s existing nuclear-armed nations are espousing goals like that. In fact, since World War Two, the United States has shown incredible restraint, when it could have won several wars – including that in Vietnam – with the mere push of a button or two. Could we expect the same restraint from those who currently run Iran? If you can’t answer that question, I suggest you give up following international affairs, and just turn to the comic section.