Newsweek on why we should trust Iran

Ed Lasky
Newsweek reinvented itself a couple of issues ago, to widespread derision. Cover of this week's Newsweek: Everything You Know About Iran is Wrong 

The title almost says it all but some excerpts give it some additional flavor: The article is written by Fareed Zakaria who avers:

The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What's the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime's founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were "un-Islamic." The country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that "developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam." Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini's statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.

Now that sounds like a fine basis for diplomacy: let's just rely on what a few Iranian leaders say. We can all go back and put our heads in the sand now.

Of course, Iranian leaders have also excelled at the fine art of dissimulation over the decades as well. There is an Islamic tradition known as Taqiyyah -- lying about one's true beliefs. . Zakaria gives short shrift to this possibility. But he practices his own brand of dissimulation by completely ignoring other proclamations from Iranian leaders promising the wipe Israel off the map and those  touting how a single nuclear bomb could destroy Israel (because of its small size). Why let inconvenient facts stand in the way of a good fictional story.

Zakaria later writes:

Iran isn't a dictatorship. It is certainly not a democracy. The regime jails opponents, closes down magazines and tolerates few challenges to its authority. But neither is it a monolithic dictatorship. It might be best described as an oligarchy, with considerable debate and dissent within the elites.

He neglects to mention that the leadership vets candidates running for President and keeps off the ballot anyone who does not pass muster by their standards. That winnows the playing field quite a bit, no?

This is not the first time Zakaria has erred -- just the worst time. Jonathan Tobin over at Commentary noted a recent major error of Zakaria's:

Zakaria blunders when he repeats some of the usual myths about the birth of the Palestinian refugee issue. He refers to "the forced expulsion of most Palestinians from the Jewish state in 1948."

Such a broad generalization undermines his credibility. If he has read the works of historian Benny Morris that he cites, he knows that the answer to what caused the flight of Arabs from the territory of Israel in 1948 is a lot more complex than that simple phrase. Some were forcibly expelled. But most of those who fled did so before any Jewish soldiers appeared on the scene. Arab refugees were caught in the crossfire of a war that had been fomented and launched by their own leaders. Those leaders refused to countenance any sort of Jewish state in any part of the country and never tried to build a Palestinian state in the areas allotted for one by the same United Nations resolution that called for a Jewish state. As in many other wars of that era, the factor that mandated flight was fear, not an actual direct threat.

And let's not forget that hundreds of thousands of Jews fled or were forced from their homes in Arab countries as the result of pogroms and discrimination. They were largely resettled in Israel or elsewhere in the world. By contrast, Palestinian refugees remain stateless so as to keep alive the Arab and Islamic world's war to wipe Israel off the map.

What is most distressing is the fact that Zakaria enjoys some status as a geopolitical expert. He has a megaphone by virtue of his position at Newsweek and the Washington Post. Is anyone distressed that our President seems to rely on Zakaria's expertise?  Barack Obama was seen carrying one book with him during the campaign: The Post-American World, written by none other than Fareed Zakaria. The book was about America's decline in the world and the rise of other nations.

Zakaria's mistake regarding Palestinian refugees that Jonathan Tobin noted could have been lifted straight out of the Palestinian media handbook. The mistakes Zakaria makes about Iran could have come direct from the Iranian Information Ministry-assuming they have one.

Was Zakaria's article just one more way that Newsweek is trying to burnish Barack Obama's image and make his job easier? After all, if Newsweek minimizes the threat from Iran, the American people can be lulled back into accepting Barack Obama's kick the can approach towards that number one terror-supporting nation in the world.
Newsweek reinvented itself a couple of issues ago, to widespread derision. Cover of this week's Newsweek: Everything You Know About Iran is Wrong 

The title almost says it all but some excerpts give it some additional flavor: The article is written by Fareed Zakaria who avers:

The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What's the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime's founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were "un-Islamic." The country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that "developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam." Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini's statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.

Now that sounds like a fine basis for diplomacy: let's just rely on what a few Iranian leaders say. We can all go back and put our heads in the sand now.

Of course, Iranian leaders have also excelled at the fine art of dissimulation over the decades as well. There is an Islamic tradition known as Taqiyyah -- lying about one's true beliefs. . Zakaria gives short shrift to this possibility. But he practices his own brand of dissimulation by completely ignoring other proclamations from Iranian leaders promising the wipe Israel off the map and those  touting how a single nuclear bomb could destroy Israel (because of its small size). Why let inconvenient facts stand in the way of a good fictional story.

Zakaria later writes:

Iran isn't a dictatorship. It is certainly not a democracy. The regime jails opponents, closes down magazines and tolerates few challenges to its authority. But neither is it a monolithic dictatorship. It might be best described as an oligarchy, with considerable debate and dissent within the elites.

He neglects to mention that the leadership vets candidates running for President and keeps off the ballot anyone who does not pass muster by their standards. That winnows the playing field quite a bit, no?

This is not the first time Zakaria has erred -- just the worst time. Jonathan Tobin over at Commentary noted a recent major error of Zakaria's:

Zakaria blunders when he repeats some of the usual myths about the birth of the Palestinian refugee issue. He refers to "the forced expulsion of most Palestinians from the Jewish state in 1948."

Such a broad generalization undermines his credibility. If he has read the works of historian Benny Morris that he cites, he knows that the answer to what caused the flight of Arabs from the territory of Israel in 1948 is a lot more complex than that simple phrase. Some were forcibly expelled. But most of those who fled did so before any Jewish soldiers appeared on the scene. Arab refugees were caught in the crossfire of a war that had been fomented and launched by their own leaders. Those leaders refused to countenance any sort of Jewish state in any part of the country and never tried to build a Palestinian state in the areas allotted for one by the same United Nations resolution that called for a Jewish state. As in many other wars of that era, the factor that mandated flight was fear, not an actual direct threat.

And let's not forget that hundreds of thousands of Jews fled or were forced from their homes in Arab countries as the result of pogroms and discrimination. They were largely resettled in Israel or elsewhere in the world. By contrast, Palestinian refugees remain stateless so as to keep alive the Arab and Islamic world's war to wipe Israel off the map.

What is most distressing is the fact that Zakaria enjoys some status as a geopolitical expert. He has a megaphone by virtue of his position at Newsweek and the Washington Post. Is anyone distressed that our President seems to rely on Zakaria's expertise?  Barack Obama was seen carrying one book with him during the campaign: The Post-American World, written by none other than Fareed Zakaria. The book was about America's decline in the world and the rise of other nations.

Zakaria's mistake regarding Palestinian refugees that Jonathan Tobin noted could have been lifted straight out of the Palestinian media handbook. The mistakes Zakaria makes about Iran could have come direct from the Iranian Information Ministry-assuming they have one.

Was Zakaria's article just one more way that Newsweek is trying to burnish Barack Obama's image and make his job easier? After all, if Newsweek minimizes the threat from Iran, the American people can be lulled back into accepting Barack Obama's kick the can approach towards that number one terror-supporting nation in the world.