Aug 17 2007
the entire program
GUEST: David Barsamian, founder and director of Alternative Radio, heard on KPFK on Fridays at 3 pm, his latest book is Targeting Iran with Noam Chomsky, Ervand Abrahamian, Nahid Mozaffari
Earlier this week, a Bush administration official said the U.S. planned to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group. The Revolutionary Guard is estimated at between 125,000 to 200,000 and is an elite force separate from Iran’s regular military. It has its own ground, naval and air units. This is the first time the US will put a foreign government’s military agency on the list. The US’s terrorist list also features Al Qaida, Hamas, and Hezbollah. A senior Iranian cleric said today that Bush’s move could invite a fight with Iran that the US could not win. He also said that the listing would be a matter of pride for the Revolutionary Guard.
For more information, visit www.alternativeradio.org.
Sonali Kolhatkar: Joining me on the line this morning is David Barsamian. He’s the Founder and Director of Alternative Radio, heard on KPFK on Fridays at 3 p.m. and his latest book is Targeting Iran with Noam Chomsky, Ervand Abrahamian and Nahid Mozaffari. Welcome to Uprising, David.
David Barsamian: Good morning, Sonali.
Sonali: Thanks very much for joining us. So, first, tell our listeners a little bit more about the Revolutionary Guard, a little bit about its history and how it functions within the government in Iran.
David: Yes, in Farsi, it’s called … , the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Most people in Iran just refer to it as the Pastoran. It was formed right at the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1978 and 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini. It answers to the supreme leader under the Iranian Constitution, that is the … , not necessarily to the President. And the reason that Khomeini set up this, as you described it, an elite unit, was that the Iranian military was still probably very much allied and aligned with the Shah. Khomeini felt that he needed to have a military formation that was answerable to him directly. It was the Pastoran, the Revolutionary Guards, who also fought against Iraq between 1980 and 1988 and, significantly, Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, the current President of Iran, was a Pasta. He was a member of the Revolutionary Guards. He fought in the Iran/Iraq War and he has much support from fellow veterans who also participated in that war. I think that this action taken by the Bush Administration is mostly theatrical. It’s a façade. It’s designed, I think, primarily to placate some of the more militant hawks like Cheney and others who can’t wait to attack Iran. I don’t think an attack is in the offing immediately but I think by the end of this year or in early 2008, the U.S. will bomb Iran and I think that is something we have to be very alert to.
Sonali: So, you sound fairly confident that that will happen but at the same time, isn’t this move to put this group on this list almost a sign of the U.S.’s isolation or even desperation to try to find something that it can pin on Iran?
David: Well, that’s one analysis, certainly, since they failed in the U.N. Security Council to ratchet up the sanctions regime against Iran still further. It’s interesting that a lot of people on the left, including Noam Chomsky, in the book, Targeting Iran, don’t think that the Bush Administration is going to attack Iran, but, you know, I think they base their analysis on, you know, faulty information. I mean, this is not, the regime in Washington has a history of criminal and violent behavior, and, you know, the analysis that Chomsky and others give – well, the U.S. is overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan. The troops are being deployed and re-deployed; they can’t possibly do it – these are very rational explanations. But, I don’t think we’re dealing with rational people in Washington and that’s why I fee that, at least at this moment, a military strike is in the offing.
Sonali: Now, David, what effect do you think this naming of the Revolutionary Guard on the terrorist list will have with the U.S.’s so-called allies? Not that it necessarily has needed allies to go into countries before, but it has certainly made a pretense of trying to get them. And I understand that, at least, European countries are quite alarmed at this ratcheting up and even the language that was used by a State Department spokesperson recently, saying that, “we are confronting Iranian behavior across a variety of different fronts, on a number of different battlefields”, if you will – the use of the word, “battlefield”, of course, invoking war. What do you think about the U.S.’s allies and their reaction?
David: Well, it has to be seen in the context of also what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan where the U.S. has been desperately trying to blame the problems that it’s facing in those countries on Iran. It’s Iran, that’s, you know, supplying, supposedly, Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Let me just say very quickly that that is really implausible because the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Iraq are Selafi formations that are dedicated to eliminating and eradicating Shiites. Iranians are Shiites. The Selafi groups regard them as heretics, as non-Muslims. So, just let me say that is quite implausible. The Europeans, yes, are, you know, trying to separate themselves a little bit from Washington because they don’t want a war with Iran for a variety of reasons. I think, primarily, such a bombing attack would probably double if not triple the price of oil and will spread the rivers of blood now in Iraq into oceans of blood across the Middle East. Iran can fight back. Iran is not Iraq. Iran is a country of 70 million people and, as Nobel Prize winner Shadeen Yabati says in my book, Targeting Iran, this would be the worst thing that Washington could do – to attack Iran. It will simply crush the democracy movement there and will play right into the hands of the regime. It will solidify support for the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Ali-Khomeini who is the supreme leader (unintelligible).
Sonali: I’m speaking with David Barsmian. He’s the founder and director of Alternative Radio. He’s also just put out a new book called, Targeting Iran, with Noam Chomsky, Ervand Abrahamian and Nahid Mozaffari and that is out through City Lights Books. We’re talking about the fact that the United States plans to put the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on its terrorist watch list. I want to talk a little bit about that David, what exactly that means. If you look at the State Department’s list and its designations and the reasons why it would designate an organization to be on this list, there are some interesting conditions, one of which states that the organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security of the United States. Does the Revolutionary Guard fit within the criteria? And, what is the significance of designating for the first time a foreign military agency on this list?
David: Well, first of all, Iran is already on the State Department list. It is considered a state-sponsor of terrorism. This is the first time that a military formation within another country that is on this list is being so described. I don’t think it will have much effect. It’s not like the Pastoran, the Revolutionary Guards, you know, have real estate in Southern California or are, you know, opening a McDonald’s or Burger King or Wendy’s branches in Nevada and New Mexico. That’s not the case at all. I think it will have a very limited effect. It’s interesting to see how, once again, this 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 Marines, is being blamed on Iran and the Pastoran and the Revolutionary Guards. Just yesterday, the Washington Times had an editorial saying exactly that. NPR had Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution saying that Iran was responsible for the blowing up of the Marine barracks and the Pastoran, the Revolutionary Guard. There’s simply no evidence for that. It is an assertion that is made time and time again in the media, including National Public Radio, and it goes unchallenged and it has now entered the collective aquifer and people are regurgitating this that Iran was responsible for this atrocity and other atrocities. We need to see evidence and there’s simply no evidence forthcoming. I don’t think, you know, this is all part of the move to vilify Iran, to demonize the country and to prepare, as John Pilger says, the softening up of the American population to justify a bombing attack on Iran. It’s all part and parcel of that. The Bush Administration wants to show the American people, you know, it’s acting tough, it’s protecting the people here, it’s fighting terrorism, it’s putting the Revolutionary Guards on this list.
Sonali: And, on that note, David, basically, it looks like we’re seeing a lot of parallels with the way in which the media played a role in, “softening up the American public” over the invasion of Iraq. But, the media then came back. Particularly, you know, notable, is like the New York Times apologized for their coverage. It seems as though the amnesia here is pretty strong if they are going to repeat similar mistakes with Iran.
David: Yes, but I would distance myself a little bit from your analysis. The reason the corporate media has now become critical of Iraq is not because it is a criminal, illegal, immoral invasion. It’s because it was not handled properly. It was not well-executed. The administrators were incompetent. The Bush administration did not have a plan, etc., etc. In no instance, as far as I know, and I monitor the corporate media fairly carefully, has anyone talked about war crimes and that an attack on Iran, which is not threatening the United States, has not threatened the United States, has only said that it will defend itself if attacked, would be a major breach of the U.N. Charter and, you know, it’s something that the German Generals and high state officials were prosecuted for at Nuremburg. You know, even the U.N. Charter says not just the use of force against the country is illegal and punishable, but the threat of the use of force is illegal and punishable. And, how can you describe the positioning of soon to be three aircraft carrier battle groups 150 miles off the Iranian coast in the Persian Gulf as anything but threatening, as gunboat diplomacy, as an act of war?
Sonali: So, David, what you’re saying is that had the Iraqi invasion and occupation gone more smoothly and more competently, the media would have acted as though they were vindicated in their coverage?
David: The chorus of applause would have been deafening. They would have been, you know, trumpeting themselves and congratulating themselves – you see? We told you this was – it would be a cakewalk, we were greeted with sweets and flowers, the Iraqis are liberated, they love us, they love to be occupied, etc. etc.
Sonali: Well, finally, David, I want to go back to what you mentioned earlier in the interview that you feel that the U.S. will be targeting Iran with force by, perhaps, the end of this year or the beginning of next year. What do you think this is going to look like? I mean, it’s a scary thing to even imagine given what’s happening in Iraq but, as you said, Iran is a very different country from Iraq and it is, you know, it has more than twice the population and a much more organized army. Are we going to see the U.S. basically doing aerial bombardment rather than ground troops and, if so, you know, how should people be responding to this?
David: Well, they should be responding right now by organizing and resisting and getting themselves informed and, hopefully, my new book, Targeting Iran, will be such an instrument in terms of information. I think it will be a bombing attack simply because the land armies are way overextended. They don’t have the troops, literally, other than small operational units, which are already inside the country, carrying out clandestine operations trying to stir up the Azaris and the Kurds and the Arabs and the Baluchis and the other minorities inside of Iran to rise up against the regime. I mean, the American policy is very clear – it’s dedicated to regime change. Iran is an axis of evil country and the Bush administration has clearly stated its intentions but, as you pointed out, Iran is not Iraq. It has a population of 70, 75 million. It has enormous assets in neighboring Iraq, of course, religious, cultural, political. Many of the leaders in the so-called Green Zone government in Baghdad owe their allegiance to Tehran, owe their, you know, very founding of the ….party and the Islamic Revolutionary Council were founded in Tehran. Iran has assets in Afghanistan where fully half the population speaks Farsi. They have, you know, many allies there. All of these could create enormous military problems for the United States as well as the Strait of Hormuz where most of the world’s oil passes. This is a narrow chokepoint in the Persian Gulf – I think it’s about 20 miles wide. It may be even narrower than that. The Iranians could disrupt the oil supply by blocking or sinking tankers in the Straits and they also have now missles, which can reach the American armadas positioned off its coast. So, it would not be, you know, an invasion of Grenada, it would not be an invasion of Panama. It will have, I think, grievous consequences. People need to mobilize on this issue, alert their, you know, Congress people. Nancy Pelosi struck from an Iraq funding bill a passage which said that the United States, the Bush Administration could not attack Iran without congressional approval. She was pressured to remove that sentence. I think, you know, something like that needs to be legislated to try, at least to prevent in a legal way, the Bush Administration from carrying out their plans.
Sonali: Well, David Barsamian, I want to thank you very much for joining us today and best of luck with the new book.
David: Thanks very much and it’s available on my website: alternativeradio.org or at any independent bookstore. Thanks, Sonali.
Sonali: Thank you, David. David Barsamian, founder and director of Alternative Radio heard on KPFK on Fridays at 3 p.m. and again, his latest book is entitled Targeting Iran. It’s with Ervand Abrahamian and Nahid Mozaffari.
Special thanks to Julie Svendsen for transcribing this interview.