The Goldberg Predilections: Ignoring Decades of Iranian Statements on Nuclear Weapons for the Sake of Propaganda
Jeffrey Goldberg is confident in Barack Obama’s oft-stated commitment to stop Iran from building the nuclear weapon that everyone, including his own intelligence agencies (and others) and Defense Secretary know it isn’t building. Why? Well, basically because Obama’s said so. A lot.
Explaining that anyone who doesn’t recognize that Obama has “promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to prevent Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold…hasn’t been listening,” Goldberg wrote last week that he takes the American President “at his word, in part because he’s repeated himself on the subject so many times and in part because he has laid out such an effective argument against containment and for disruption, by force, if necessary.”
That Goldberg trusts Obama’s seriousness comes as no surprise considering what Goldberg wrote on June 6, 2011 in a dazzlingly alarmist (and factually-lacking) article for Bloomberg entitled “Iran Wants the Bomb, and It’s Well on Its Way.” “I believe firmly, after two years of reporting on the Iranian nuclear program,” Goldberg declared, “that President Barack Obama would order air strikes if he thought Iran was moving definitively to become a nuclear-armed state.”
To better illustrate his point, Goldberg enlisted the aid of his trusty, colleague Armin Rosen to track down a litany of Obama’s statements from the past four years that demonstrate a consistent commitment to using “military force to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.” The catalog of twenty quotations (admittedly only “a partial accounting of Obama’s statements on the subject”) is effective and yes, Obama has been consistent.* Goldberg writes that, sure, Obama could potentially “change his mind on the subject,” but for now, “the record is the record: Given the number of times he’s told the American public, and the world, that he will stop Iran from going nuclear, it is hard to believe that he will suddenly change his mind and back out of his promise.”
So if consistency and repetition are what make Jeffrey Goldberg believe what Obama says – what he terms as a “crystal-clear promise” – about preventing an imaginary Iranian bomb, wouldn’t it logically follow that the constantly repeated statements by senior Iranian officials regarding their own promise never to obtain such a diabolical and destructive device would hold similar sway?
Clearly that’s too much to ask.
Goldberg has written for years now that Iran “is on the verge of gaining the technology to detonate nukes” and that the “Iranian mullahs…want the nukes because they expect the apocalypse.” As far back as 2006, he insisted, “It’s time we took their views seriously.”
So what are the Iranian leadership’s repeatedly stated views on nuclear weapons that should be taken so seriously?
Using the Goldberg format and culling statements from the past two decades, here goes:
Iranian Vice President and head of the Atomic Energy Organization Reza Amrollahi, August 3, 1991:”Iran is not capable of making atomic bombs…Our objective in promoting nuclear industries is merely its peaceful use specially in the field of atomic energy and its application in agriculture and medicine.” (IRNA, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts)
Senior adviser to Khamenei and National Security Council member Mohammad Javad Larijani, September 18, 1991: “[Acquiring nuclear capability has been] erased from Iran’s policy.”
IAEO head Amrollahi, November 6, 1991: “Iran is not after nuclear arms. On the contrary, it believes that such lethal arms in the region should be destroyed…We are ready for any type of cooperation for establishing a region free of mass-destruction weapons…Iran, as a member of the IAEA, is committed to the regulations for the inspections of the nuclear installations, and naturally respects them.” (IRNA, BBC Summary of World Broadcasts)
IAEO head Amrollahi, February 9, 1992: “We have never had nor will ever have other intentions” [than using nuclear equipment for peace purposes].
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Mohammad Besharati, November 27, 1992: “We have no need for nuclear weapons.” Besharati also described allegations that Iran was planning to acquire nuclear weapons as “a lie and a plot.”
Iranian Vice President for Economic Affairs Mohsen Nurbakhsh, September 29, 1993: “Iran will not seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction under any circumstances.”
Iranian President Rafsanjani, March 23, 1997: “We’re not after nuclear bombs and we won’t go after biological and chemical weapons.”
Iranian President Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, January 7, 1998: “We are not planning on building nuclear weapons and only aim to employ nuclear energy for peaceful purposes…We are not a nuclear [-armed] power and do not intend to become one.”
President Khatami, September 21, 1998: “[The world should] be liberated from the nightmare of nuclear war and weapons of mass destruction…the idea of attaining security through the acquisition of such armaments is nothing but an illusion.”
Iranian Supreme National Security Council chief and top presidential advisor Hassan Rohani, September 2002: “When we have signed international treaties, it means we are not pursuing making nuclear weapons. We are not pursuing making chemical weapons. We are not pursuing making biological weapons. Iran is not interested in any of these.“
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, March 21, 2003: “The statement that the Islamic Republic wants to obtain chemical weapons and the atomic bomb is totally false…[W]e are not interested in an atomic bomb. We are opposed to chemical weapons. When Iraq was using chemical weapons against us we refused to produce chemical weapons. These things are against our principles.”
President Khatami, September 15, 2003: “[N]ot only are we not aiming to produce weapons of mass destruction, but we want the region and the world to be free of weapons of mass destruction…We don’t need atomic bombs, and based on our religious teaching we will not pursue them. But at the same time we want to be strong, and being strong means having knowledge and technology.”
Iranian Supreme National Security Council official Hussein Musavian, September 12, 2004: “The religious verdict of our leader is that using mass destruction weapons is forbidden, is haram.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi, September 12, 2004: “We believe that the use of nuclear weapons is religiously forbidden. This is the leader’s fatwa.”
Iranian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Javad Zarif, November 5, 2004: “[Iran has] serious ideological restrictions against weapons of mass destruction, including a religious decree issued by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, prohibiting the development and use of nuclear weapons.”
Iranian nuclear negotiator Sirus Naseri, August 10, 2005: “The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued the fatwa that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who took office just recently, in his inaugural address reiterated that his government is against weapons of mass destruction and will only pursue nuclear activities in the peaceful domain…The leadership of Iran has pledged at the highest level that Iran will remain a non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, September 17, 2005: “[Iran's] previously and repeatedly declared position [is] that in accordance with our religious principles, pursuit of nuclear weapons is prohibited.”
UN Ambassador Javad Zarif, April 6, 2006: “Iran’s reliance on the nonproliferation regime is based on legal commitments, sober strategic calculations and spiritual and ideological doctrine. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic, has issued a decree against the development, production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons.”
Ayatollah Khamenei, June 4, 2006: “We do not need a nuclear bomb. We do not have any objectives or aspirations for which we will need to use a nuclear bomb. We consider using nuclear weapons against Islamic rules. We have announced this openly. We think imposing the costs of building and maintaining nuclear weapons on our nation is unnecessary.”
President Ahmadinejad, August 2006: “Nuclear weapons have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine and Iran is not a threat to any country.”
President Ahmadinejad, August 2006: “Basically we are not looking for – working for the bomb…The time of the bomb is in the past.”
President Ahmadinejad September 20, 2006: “You must know that, because of our beliefs and our religion…[w]e are against the atomic bomb.“
UN Ambassador Javad Zarif, December 23, 2006: “[Iran has] categorically rejected development, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons on ideological and strategic grounds…The Islamic Republic of Iran firmly believes that the days of weapons of mass murder have long passed; that these inhumane instruments of indiscriminate slaughter have not brought internal stability or external security for anyone and they will not be able to do so in the future.“
President Ahmadinejad, September 20, 2007: “I want to address all politicians around the world, statesmen. Any party who uses national revenues to make a bomb, a nuclear bomb, will make a mistake. Because in political relations right now, the nuclear bomb is of no use….we don’t need such weapons. In fact, we think that this is inhuman.“
President Ahmadinejad, September 25, 2007: “Making nuclear, chemical and biological bombs and weapons of mass destruction is yet another result of the misuse of science and research by the big powers…We do not believe in nuclear weapons, period. It goes against the whole grain of humanity.”
President Ahmadinejad, September 27, 2007: “We’ve said many times before, we don’t need the weapon. It’s not enshrined in our defense doctrine, nuclear defense. And ideologically, we don’t believe in it either. We have actually rejected it on an ideological basis. And politically, we know that it is useless.”
President Ahmadinejad, August 22, 2008: “We want nuclear disarmament [for all countries]…and we consider it to be against humanity to manufacture nuclear weapons…we oppose that strongly…Our position is very clear…We believe that a nuclear weapon has no use, obsolete. Anyone who has a nuclear weapons does not create any political advantage for themselves.”
President Ahmadinejad, September 23, 2008: “We believe, as a matter of religious teaching, that we must be against any form of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. The production and the usage of nuclear weapons is one of the most abhorrent acts to our eyes…The time for a nuclear bomb has ended. Whoever who invests in it is going the wrong way.”
President Ahmadinejad, September 17, 2009: “We don’t have such a need for nuclear weapons. We don’t need nuclear weapons. Without such weapons, we are very much able to defend ourselves…It’s not a part of our any – of our programs and plans.”
Ayatollah Khamenei, September 20, 2009: “We fundamentally reject nuclear weapons and prohibit the use and production of nuclear weapons. This is because of our ideology, not because of politics or fear of arrogant powers or an onslaught of international propaganda. We stand firm for our ideology.”
President Ahmadinejad, December 18, 2009: “[W]e do not want to make a bomb…Our policy is transparent. If we wanted to make a bomb we would be brave enough to say so. When we say that we are not making one, we are not. We do not believe in it.”
Ayatollah Khamenei, February 19, 2010: “[W]e have often said that our religious tenets and beliefs consider these kinds of weapons of mass destruction to be symbols of genocide and are, therefore, forbidden and considered to be haram…This is why we do not believe in atomic bombs and weapons and do not seek them.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, April 7, 2010: “Iran does not believe in nuclear weapons nor does it need one…Iran believes that the era of nuclear weapons is over. These weapons are not even of use to those who possess them.”
Ayatollah Khamenei, April 17, 2010: “Any use of or even threat to use nuclear weapons is a serious and material violation of indisputable rules of humanitarian law and a cogent example of a war crime…We regard the use of these weapons to be illegal and haram, and it is incumbent on all to protect humankind from this grave disaster.”
President Ahmadinejad, May 3, 2010: “The nuclear bomb is a fire against humanity rather than a weapon for defense…The possession of nuclear bombs is not a source of pride; it is rather disgusting and shameful. And even more shameful is the threat to use or to use such weapons, which is not even comparable to any crime committed throughout the history.”
President Ahmadinejad, May 3, 2010: “We are opposed to the bomb, the nuclear bomb, and we will not build it. If we want to build it, we have the guts to say it…So when we say we don’t want it, we don’t want it.”
Iranian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaee, June 9, 2010: “Iran as a victim of the use of weapons of mass destruction in recent history has rejected and opposed the development and use of all these inhuman weapons on religious as well as security grounds.”
Iranian Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Ali Larijani, July 23, 2010: “[B]eing a nuclear power does not mean that we are going to make a bomb.”
President Ahmadinejad, September 22, 2010: “We are not seeking the bomb. We have no interest in it. And we do not think that it is useful. We are standing firm over the issue that both the Zionist regime and the United States government should be disarmed.”
President Ahmadinejad, September 23, 2010: “The nuclear bomb is the worst inhumane weapon and which must totally be eliminated.”
Ayatollah Khamenei, December 22, 2010: “We don’t have any belief in the atomic bomb and don’t pursue it. Our religious principles and beliefs forbid the acquisition and use of such weapons of mass murder. We consider such weapons to be a symbol of destruction.”
President Ahmadinejad, August 4, 2011: “When we say we don’t have any intention to build a bomb, we’re honest and sincere. We believe that today if someone wants to build a bomb he’s crazy and insane…An atomic bomb is against all humans.”
President Ahmadinejad, August 14, 2011: “Never, never. We do not want nuclear weapons. We do not seek nuclear weapons. This is an inhumane weapon. Because of our beliefs we are against that. Firstly, our religion says it is prohibited. We are a religious people. Secondly, nuclear weapons have no capability today. If any country tries to build a nuclear bomb, they in fact waste their money and resources and they create great danger for themselves.”
President Ahmadinejad, September 13, 2011: “When we say we are not going to build nuclear weapons, we mean it. Because we consider it an evil thing and we do not need those items.”
President Ahmadinejad, September 20, 2011: “I’ve said many times we don’t want a bomb and we are against any nuclear bombs.”
President Ahmadinejad, September 22, 2011: “We are not seeking the weapon. We are not seeking the nuclear weapon.”
President Ahmadinejad, November 9, 2011: “The Iranian nation is wise. It won’t build two [nuclear] bombs against the 20,000 you have. But it builds something you can’t respond to: ethics, decency, monotheism and justice.”
Senior adviser to Khamenei Mohammad Javad Larijani, November 18, 2011: “[Iran seeks] advancement in science and technology related to nuclear area, not directed toward the weapon area…We are a signatory of NPT, we are a sincere signatory to the NPT. We think non-proliferation is a benefit of Iran and all of us…We are an advocate of a Middle East free of nuclear weapons.“
Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani, January 12, 2012: “We are not after nuclear weapons. We do not find nuclear weapons right from a religious perspective.“
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, January 30, 2012: “Iran is never, ever after nuclear weapons.“
Ayatollah Khamenei, February 22, 2012: “The Iranian nation has never sought and will never seek nuclear weapons…Iran does not seek nuclear weapons since the Islamic Republic of Iran regards the possession of nuclear weapons as a great sin, in terms of thought, theory and religious edict, and also believes that holding such weapons is useless, costly and dangerous.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, February 28, 2012: “[Nuclear weapons are] immoral and illegitimate…I would like to re-emphasize that we do not see any glory, pride or power in the nuclear weapons, quite the opposite based on the religious decree issued by our supreme leader, the production, possession, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, are illegitimate, futile, harmful, dangerous and prohibited as a great sin.”
Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, March 2012: “We really do not want to make nuclear weapons and a nuclear weapon program…We deeply believe that nuclear weapons must not exist, and this has been part of our policy.”
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, April 12, 2012: “We have strongly marked our opposition to weapons of mass destruction on many occasions. Almost seven years ago, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a binding commitment. He issued a religious edict — a fatwa — forbidding the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons. Our stance against weapons of mass destruction, which is far from new, has been put to the test.” (“Iran: We do not want nuclear weapons,” The Washington Post)
Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani, April 13, 2012: “As the Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has said and other Iranian officials have reiterated, the work done in the field of nuclear energy is not meant for making nuclear weapons…These activities are for scientific purposes; you must realize and believe this.”
Senior adviser to Khamenei, Mohammad Javad Larijani, April 13, 2012: “Iran is not after nuclear weapon[s]. Nuclear weapon is not an asset for us, it is more [of a] liability. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, you see is a shambled country in terms of security. It doesn’t add to our security. We are secure enough, we are strong enough, without nuclear weapon. And it is against the fatwa of Ayatollah Khamenei. Nobody [would dare] do that…This is the fatwa of Iman Khomeini and the fatwa of Ayatollah Khamenei.”
President Ahmadinejad, May 23, 2012: “[P]roduction and use of weapons of mass destruction is forbidden…There is no room for these weapons in Iran’s defense doctrine.”
Iran’s chief negotiator Saeed Jalili, June 16, 2012: “Firstly, we are strongly against weapons of mass destruction. Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran has the capacities to cooperate in disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation, so these capacities should be used by the international community.”
Ayatollah Khamenei, August 30, 2012: “Nuclear weapons neither ensure security, nor do they consolidate political power; rather they are a threat to both security and political power…The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the use of nuclear, chemical and similar weapons as a great and unforgivable sin. We proposed the idea of [a] “Middle East free of nuclear weapons” and we are committed to it…I stress that the Islamic Republic has never been after nuclear weapons and that it will never give up the right of its people to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”
Iranian Vice President and head of the Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, September 17, 2012: “The Islamic Republic of Iran…has always opposed and will always denounce the manufacture and use of weapons of mass destruction.”
President Ahmadinejad, September 23, 2012: “We will never use the wealth of our nation for these [nuclear weapons] objectives.”
President Ahmadinejad, September 24, 2012: “At the end of the day, everyone knows that Iran is not seeking a nuclear bomb. The scene resembles one of a comedy show. Those who accuse us are those whose warehouses have nuclear stockpiles. They talk of security. If you are so preoccupied with this, why not do away with your own nuclear stockpiles?”
President Ahmadinejad, September 24, 2012: “Let’s even imagine that we have an atomic weapon, a nuclear weapon. What would we do with it? What intelligent person would fight 5,000 American bombs with one bomb? Also, because of our beliefs, we do not believe in a nuclear weapon. We are against it.”
Iranian Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Eshagh Al Habib, September 27, 2012: “[The] nuclear program of my country  is exclusively peaceful and in full conformity with our international obligations and in exercising our inalienable right to use nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, October 1, 2012: “Had Iran chosen to [go] nuclear in the sense of weaponization, it would not be a deterrent for Iran. It would attract more threats from the other side.”
Iranian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaee, October 1, 2012: “Nuclear activities of my country are, and always have been, exclusively for peaceful purposes and the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran has been repeatedly confirmed by the IAEA.”
Furthermore, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s own website has had, for some time now, an entire page specifically dedicated to Iran’s official policy on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. It states clearly, “According to our logic, it is not right for a country to use its knowledge to produce such weapons as nuclear bombs which annihilate armed soldiers, innocent civilians, children, babies and oppressed people indiscriminately once they are dropped somewhere,” adding, “Iran is not after an atomic bomb, and it is even opposed to possession of chemical weapons. Even when Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran, we did not try to manufacture chemical weapons. Such things are not in line with the principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Khamenei’s official statement repeatedly affirms, “The Islamic Republic of Iran does not have this motivation, and it has never been after nuclear weapons. Iran does not need a nuclear bomb” and “We believe that using nuclear weapons is haram and prohibited.”
Referring to the American use of nuclear weapons to murder hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Khamenei explains that the “anti-human effects went beyond political and geographic borders, even inflicting irreparable harm on future generations. Therefore, using or even threatening to use such weapons is considered a serious violation of the most basic humanitarian rules and is a clear manifestation of war crimes.”
Reading this litany, it is no wonder President Ahmadinejad recently told journalists in New York that the nuclear issue “is a very tiresome subject.”
But naturally, these constantly repeated statements by Iranian officials have had no affect on Jeffrey Goldberg. He still regularly frets about “the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions to world peace” and somehow believes that a nuclear-armed Iran would actually threaten the “existence” of his once-adopted nation, Israel.
Why is that?
It is because, according to Goldberg, Iranian leaders – like all Orientals – are wily and deceitful by nature and therefore any clear, unequivocal statements like the ones reiterated for decades are not to be trusted. Goldberg refuses to believe that Iranian officials are anything other than “crazy,” “mystically minded,” “bloody minded,” “comprehensively evil,” “eliminationist anti-Semites”, despite (a) how manifestly ignorant and bigoted that sentiment inherently is, and (b) the admonitions of both U.S. and Israeli officials against such myopia:
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff: “We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor. They act and behave as a rational nation-state.”
Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff: “I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.”
Lieutenant General Ron Burgess, U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Director: “Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict.”
General Meir Dagan, former Director of the Mossad: “The regime is a very rational regime. There is no doubt they are considering all the implications of their actions.”
General Gabi Ashkenazi, former Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff: “The Iranian regime is radical, but it’s not irrational.”
Lieutenant General James Clapper, U.S. Director of National Intelligence: “We continue to judge that Iran’s nuclear decision-making is guided by a cost-benefit approach. Iranian leaders undoubtedly consider Iran’s security, prestige, and influence, as well as the international political and security environment, when making decisions about its nuclear program.”
Lieutenant General Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister: “I don’t think the Iranians, even if they got the bomb, (would) drop it in the neighborhood. They fully understand what might follow. They are radical but not totally crazy. They have a quite sophisticated decision-making process, and they understand reality.”
Efraim Halevy, former Director of the Mossad: “I don’t think they are irrational, I think they are very rational. To label them as irrational is escaping from reality, and it gives you kind of an escape clause.”
Admiral Dennis Blair, former U.S. Director of National Intelligence: “Iran hasn’t made up its mind [to acquire a nuclear weapon]…But I’m telling you, I think they will pull back, add up all of the different factors. Iran has made rational decisions in terms of pros and cons and pluses and minuses in the long run.”
The claim that Iran is a martyr state, hell-bent on obtaining a nuclear weapon in order to obliterate Israel, literally makes no sense and is used solely as a bludgeon against any rational commentary about Iranian national rights, sovereignty and potential intentions. The hysteria and selective outrage over boilerplate rhetoric from Iranian leaders is yet another prong of this strategy.
The overall effect is to paint the Iranian leadership as a one-dimensional caricature devoid of reason, pragmatism or concerns unrelated to Israel or the United States. In essence, Iran as a whole is depicted with cartoonish simplicity, much like Netanyahu’s buffoonish bomb drawing.
In his capacity as the Israeli Prime Minister’s dutiful mouthpiece here in the United States, Goldberg consistently allows himself to be willfully used by the Israeli leadership to promote whatever public image it seeks to show at any given time.
To put it simply, Goldberg is nothing but a propagandist.
His adherence to Israeli government talking points, fealty to the concept that American aggression should be never be hampered by law or morality, and his blinkered understanding and incessant demonization of Iran are testaments to this fact.
Consequently, when a Nobel Peace Prize-winning President repeatedly affirms his commitment to authorize the supreme international crime of initiating a war of aggression, Goldberg lauds this determination as a consistent, crystal-clear promise. When Iranian leaders consistently declare they have no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons or attacking any country, they are either dismissed as liars or, more often, totally ignored.
It is clear that, for Jeffrey Goldberg, along with a large majority of the mainstream press, the record is only the record if it conforms to and reinforces predetermined assumptions and a political agenda.
* The very first quote listed in Rosen’s catalog has the incorrect date applied to it. It’s actually from a meeting in Cairo on June 4, 2009, not – as Rosen labeled it – June 5, 2008. Also, Rosen could have included Obama’s 2004 statement that while “launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position,” he said his “instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran.” Goldberg himself is aware of this statement, but it didn’t make the list, which probably means he outsourced his post almost entirely to Rosen’s mildly-capable hands.