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Transcript – “U.S-Iran -Where Do We Go From Here?” – War or Negotiation? with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. June 25, 2019 @ 6 pm Mountain Time – Part Two

July 2, 2019

Transcript – “U.S-Iran -Where Do We Go From Here?” – War or Negotiation? with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. June 25, 2019 @ 6 pm Mountain Time – Part Two

(Part One)

Reminding the listeners about the Cuban Missile Crisis needs to be put into perspective. We’re not simply talking about a military confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, what was involved was nothing less than the fate of the earth which was at stake. The example should give a modicum of hope for the present situation. If, in 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union could find common ground enough to come to an agreement, why can’t the United States and Iran, in 2019, follow a similar path?

Rob Prince

Rob Prince: These kind of missions are also a way of testing the Iranian computer systems to see how they respond

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Well, if you remember Leon Panetta, the former C.I.A. director under Obama made it clear…

Looking at the last couple of years, from 2011 up until now, the United States has constantly sent various drones, either from Afghanistan, Iraq or from other sources. Eight or nine of them have already, in the past, been shot down.

Rob Prince: So this is not the first time that an American drone has been shot down violating Iranian air space?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Yes. Two of them were brought down during the Obama Administration years. Immediately, through reverse engineering, the Iranians actually copied these drones. I remember Obama asking the Iranians to return American drones.

So, this is not the first time.

But these previous “shoot downs” were of smaller vehicles. This is the first time, that the Iranians have shot down “such a huge monster of a drone,” the creme de la creme of the American spy industry. That is what is troubling Washington.

What is happening now?

We have on the one hand the information given by the American media that the incident is Iran’s fault.

On the other hand, facts and figures clearly counter the American narrative, the media narrative here (in the USA).

For the benefit of our listeners, I want to remind them of a few facts:

1. Number one – there is a convention – the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation that clearly gives the right of every state to have complete and exclusive sovereignty over air space above their territory. When it comes to the territorial control of off shore waters, the law is sovereignty over the waters up to twelve nautical miles (twenty-two kilometers) from shore.
2, Number 2 – People talk about the Strait of Hormuz as if it’s a vast area but at its narrowest point it extends for only thirty-one kilometers – 21 nautical miles.

Since 1972 Iran has always agreed to accept the twelve nautical mile definition of sovereignty. Since Oman became independent, it has also accepted the twelve nautical mile definition.

So what do we have?

Twenty-one nautical miles divided between two countries – Oman and Iran. There are no international waters for the United States to claim that it was within international air space. It was either within Omani or Iranian air space.

That clearly indicates that this notion of international waters in the narrowest point in the Strait of Hormuz does not exist. So what has been happening? American ships have been going through Omani territory, not Iranian waters because the Iranians have never allowed any military vehicles to pass through.

So there are no international waters for the United States to claim its drone was flying into it. That is one of the fundamental problems that we need to access.

Rob Prince: I want to add a few points to what Ibrahim just said. It has to do with how the mainstream media is shaping the aftermath of the downing of the drone and the Iranian response. I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking at different news sources – left, right and everything in between.

The one who really defines the narrative that so many others have picked up on is U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham. On June 19 he gave extended remarks to the media. They were typically strident and aggressive: everything is Iran’s fault. This is no surprise, we expect this from Graham who has a history of being a militarist – and the be quite frank – something of a warmonger.

What interested me is that the narrative that Graham puts forth is picked up “hook, line and sinker” by the mainstream media. I want to briefly give three examples, first the New York
Times, secondly, the Guardian of London and finally National Public Radio – NPR – supposedly a liberal source.

Looking at how they describe the situation, basically what they do is to take Lindsay Graham’s arguments that they put forth as “the truth” – that this is the way the situation unfolded, when in fact it was quite different.

What do I mean by this?

It’s really what they fail to mention. For example there is very little discussion of the fact that the U.S. withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – and this reneging on a treaty its president signed. It was a plan meant to reduce tensions between the United States, other countries and Iran. Withdrawing from the JCPOA sets the stage for the kind of confrontation that we are now experiencing.

Virtually no mention of what was essentially a reckless act – and its consequences – on the part of the Trump Administration to unilaterally withdraw.

Jim Nelson: The accumulated trust, so carefully nurtured, has been lost.

Rob Prince: That’s right. The trust is just broken.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Can I just interject here. It’s not just the language, the narrative that the media uses.

We saw a similar pattern in 2002, 3 that led to the occupation of Iraq. Cheney at night would have an interview with a media correspondent (Judith Miller, then of the NY Times), the article would appear the next morning by the Times – from the information they received from Cheney – later that day, Cheney would be interviewed by Fox News and cite the same information, using the NY Times as the source!

We saw a similar pattern in 2002, 3 that led to the occupation of Iraq. Cheney at night would have an interview with a media correspondent (Judith Miller, then of the NY Times), the article would appear the next morning by the Times – from the information they received from Cheney – later that day, Cheney would be interviewed by Fox News and cite the same information, using the NY Times as the source!

Jim Nelson: Nor was it just Fox. He would go on NBC , Meet The Press.

Rob Prince: And then it would appear again, in the NY Times, page one. What is happening today is quite similar: an uncritical media that basically swallows the line coming out of the Administration and acts as if the United States has no responsibility for the current crisis.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: There is another issue here, again similar to the Iraqi situation.

If you remember in the case of the occupation of Iraq there was an infamous lawyer, John Yoo I believe, who has since become a law professor at (University of California at) Berkeley, among all places in California. He gained notoriety by stating that the United States can violate the Geneva Convention (on Torture), with his “torture memo.”

We are beginning to see similar kinds of lawyers coming out to defend Administration policies and claiming that – yes, Trump can go to war against Iran based on these drones, giving Trump the authority as long as there is nothing contrary from Congress.

So it’s not just the media; now the legal system is participating in providing a legal foundation for war-making. “The whole shenanigan” (the entire system) is gearing up to provide the pretext for an attack on Iran.

This is dangerous and what needs to be dealt with.

Rob Prince: Although there are many examples that could be cited, I just want to give one example of how the media has contributed to the current tense atmosphere and that is the way in which NPR reported on the downing of the drone.

Rachel Martin, hostess for Morning Edition, a popular, widely listened to program – she began the segment, immediately after the drone was shot down with the following sentence:

“Since the Trump Administration announced a `maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran, Iran has responded by attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.”

This statement is unproven, almost certainly untrue, a classic example from a supposedly a liberal, critical source, of accepting the narrative that is coming out of the Administration, Bolton, Pompeo and the like.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: By the way Rob, the United Arab Emirates, somehow pressured by the United States, opened an investigation into what happened to these tankers. They wanted to take it, and use it for disgracing Iran at the United Nations.

After nearly a week of investigations, they would have loved to find something that would have implicated Iran. They had to go to the United Nations and simply left the responsibility (for the attack) open. All they could conclude was that somebody, somehow had attacked these two tankers.

So how can NPR’s Ms. Martin so openly declare that Iran was behind the attacks unless she has swallowed lock, stock and barrel the narrative of the Administration. They are embedded.

Rob Prince: Something else needs to be noted here.

We’ve talked about “manufacturing consent” – this wonderful expression that explains how it is that a government – the U.S. government in particular – gets the public behind its plans for war – or whatever…

Certainly that is happening how too. Certainly when you make the comparison with 2003 – this (today) is what they are trying to do again today. But this particular time frame, the way that the government is “manufacturing consent.” is much shorter in length, the time frame for building the case for going to war in the aftermath of this incident last week (the attack on the two tankers) with no evidence – is done more cynically. It’s almost as if Washington hardly cares anymore about manufacturing consent; they seem determined to go ahead regardless of public opinion or what Congress thinks.

With that in mind Ibrahim, can we speak of any models out of the past where there was a possible major conflagration, where there appeared that there was no way out yet somehow or other the parties involved were able to find some kind of common ground at the last moment to help defuse what seemed to be an inevitable crisis?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: The most likely model that approximates the current situation is the Cuban Crisis of 1962 between the United States and the Soviet Union where the world came to the brink of annihilation. Both parties had huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons. That annihilation was only averted through some kind of negotiations.

The most likely model that approximates the current situation is the Cuban Crisis of 1962 between the United States and the Soviet Union where the world came to the brink of annihilation. Both parties had huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons. That annihilation was only averted through some kind of negotiations.

But if you would like to expand upon this, why don’t you?

Rob Prince: Before I come on this program, I’ve gotten into the habit of going over to the Boulder Creek, which is near by, to collect my thoughts. Since last month, the water has become much more turbulent. Already it’s running so fast, high. Looking up at the sky, only adds to the somber scene; tonight the sky is a dark gray except for a small spot to the west over the mountains where the sky wasn’t blue, but it was not so dark, a lighter shade of gray. Almost a tiny bit of blue was trying to shine through.

That is more or less what we are trying to present here. We don’t have an illusions about the dangers of the current situation, but still, there are some openings.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Here is Rob in his poetic mode!

Rob Prince: Yes, I’m known for my poetic, spiritual approaches to life!

Having said that, I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis in vivid detail – as do most people from my generation. I was a freshman in college. Should I study for my exams or not – because the world could end this weekend. I didn’t study for the exam and flunked it and the world didn’t end.

This was the kind of discussion my classmates and I were having at St. Lawrence University upstate New York in October, 1962. It was a frightening moment. I was eighteen years old at the time. Ibrahim was correct about how close the world came to nuclear war. We (the world) actually found out decades later when the participants from the two sides of this crisis came together and talked about what was happening at the time.

Yet, at that moment when the distrust between the United States and the Soviet Union could not have been greater – a deal was reached. It was a complex deal in a certain manner. In exchange for the Soviets removing the nuclear missiles that they had placed in Cuba ninety miles from Miami the United States agreed to remove Jupiter nuclear missiles from Turkey six months later.

Jim Nelson: Which prior to the crisis, President Kennedy said he had no idea even existed.

Rob Prince: What was the U.S. concern at the time? Washington was willing to make the deal, as long as it remained secret in order to save face, ie, while agreeing to proceed to withdraw the missiles, Kennedy refused to admit that a deal was actually struck so that it appeared that the Soviets had backed down and the U.S. had conceded nothing in return… which was not the case. Kennedy wanted the deal to be made in such a manner so that it didn’t appear that a deal had been struck. Why? Because the United States was concerned about its image – it was the superpower; superpowers are not supposed to make deals (even if it did – and still does).

The Soviets agreed.

Moscow basically didn’t care if the United States, for appearances sake, looked as if they were dictating terms to Moscow, as long as the agreement was reached and consummated, which it was. The American missiles were thus removed from Turkey some six months after the Soviet missiles were removed from Cuba; furthermore, it was done quietly, without fanfare or much press. At the time the Kennedy Administration denied that there was any connection between the withdrawal of the Soviet missiles from Cuba and the U.S. missiles from Turkey, although that was precisely “the deal” that was struck.

The main point: the United States and the Soviet Union, two bitter enemies, came to an agreement; they stuck to it. How they packaged it for their national constituencies and audiences really doesn’t matter that much in the long run. What does matter, is that an agreement was reached that brought the world back from the precipice.

Reminding the listeners about the Cuban Missile Crisis needs to be put into perspective. We’re not simply talking about a military confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union, what was involved was nothing less than the fate of the earth which was at stake. The example should give a modicum of hope for the present situation. If, in 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union could find common ground enough to come to an agreement, why can’t the United States and Iran, in 2019, follow a similar path?

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