What Nuclear Adventurism?

In a recent opinion column in Washington Post, Mr. Ganji has lavishly praised American the beautiful, as the abode of constitution and rule of law, as if little of the Abu Ghraib and Gunatanamo Prison atrocities had reached him while he was unjustly tormented in Iran’s prisons, and, worse, has accused Iranian government of “nuclear adventurism.”

Setting aside my own misgivings about injustice and discrimination in the US, which I have personally endured and repeatedly written about (to the deaf ears of Iranian academic community in the US who have proved to me their shallow depth and pseudo-intellectualism by their concert of silence on the viciousness perpetrated on me by some folks at Harvard), my question from Mr. Ganji is this: on what ground does he accuse the Iranian government of nuclear adventurism? And why is he so certain that the Iranian government is on its way to produce nuclear weapons? On what evidence does he base his claim?

As an expert on Iran’s foreign and nuclear policies, I am rather curious in Ganji’s response, since to my knowledge there is no “smoking gun” and any tangible evidence that Iran is engaged in either clandestine nuclear activities (which if it did, I am sure Mr. Ganji would not know about) or any diversion of peaceful activities to military purposes. Having spent a great deal of time poring over the IAEA’s reports and other reports by various Western governments and their think tanks, I am convinced that accusing Tehran’s rulers of “nuclear adventurism” is irresponsible without the empirical evidence to back such an important accusation, shared by so many neo-conservative and pro-Israel pundits in the US today.

May be Mr. Ganji has been listening to the likes of Abbas Milani, who has been similarly airing his views, e.g., on a radio program I listened to by chance a few weeks ago, on Iran’s “hegemonic intentions” behind its “definite” nuclear weapon drive, as well as Iran’s mullahs’ equally sinister goal of using the bomb against the “democratic forces” inside Iran, the assumption being that the nuclear-armed clergy would be impossible to dislodge and may trade their power for US’s forefiture of regime change.

Now, Milani, who has not set foot inside Iran for some three decades and has not published even one peer-review article or resarch piece on Iran’s foreign or nuclear affairs, may be forgiven for his outlandish accusations sure to endear him to his conservative colleagues at Hoover Institutions. The critical bar for a home-grown dissident like Ganji must be raised higher, which is why we dispense with even a mild curiosity about the sources of information for Milani’s wild claims.

Suffice to say that President Ahmadinejad was on the mark in his recent trip to NY, when he stated that the nuclear arsenal did not save the Soviet Union, nor proved an asset to Israel in its recent debacle in Lebanon. The argument that Iran’s government seeks the bomb as a deterrent against democracy is too problematic to deserve a critical pause, for it shows a fundamental ignorance of the proliferation history and logic, and Milani should stick with his popular biography-writing than sticking his head in such convoluted waters.

The poverty of Iranian dissidence is here partially displayed, however. Ganji, the heroic dissident exposing fearlessly the corruption of power, should know better than to level uncorroborated accusations against Iran, that would only endear him to Iran’s enemies and, simultaneously, weaken Iran’s moderate politicians, some of whom have worked with Ganji in the past. Those same politicians have rightly criticized Ganji in the past, for his excesses, e.g., vis-a-vis Hashemi Rafsanjani, and they must now reckon with the potential damage of befriending someone whose view point on the nuclear issue is at odds with the sentiment of vast majority of Iranians.

Long ago, this author reached the point of evolution in his own political discourse, by not conflating the political value of some one’s dissidence with the value of his intellectual or theoretical valor. Mr. Ganji, the journalist and great essayist, is a poor source when it comes to Iran’s foreign and national security priorities and it would be ill-advised for any one to follow his ill-informed insights on that front. Nor should we ignore the serious defects of his new, one-dimensional love for the United States of America, which shows the limits of his understanding of the dark sides of the US, and the post 9/11 perils to democracy and democratic rights particularly for the Middle East immigrants. Perhaps Ganji should spend more time with the critical texts of his idol, Noam Chomsky, who would have most likely thought twice about a photo session at his MIT office with Ganji, had Ganji published his Washington Post column earlier.

Speaking of Chomsky, he has informed me that at no point in his conversation with Ganji did he say that the present Iranian government and the one before that are one and the same, and, yet, this is precisely what Ganji claims that Chomsky has told him in his “interview” with him. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that one detects some silly signs of distortions of facts on Ganji’s part, which only undermine his own credibility. Hopefully, none of these criticisms of Ganji will be¬†misinterpreted as any sign of disrespect toward him, or the lack of empathy for his long and painful sufferings.

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