Hassan Rouhani (Photo: Amir Kholousi/LobeLog.com)

Hassan Rouhani (Photo: Amir Kholousi/LobeLog.com)

Award-winning Iranian journalist Kourosh Ziabari interviewed Foreign Policy Journal founder and editor Jeremy R. Hammond for the Fars News Agency. Following is the text of the interview, republished here with his permission.

TEHRAN (FNA) – Prominent American investigative journalist and political commentator Jeremy R. Hammond says that the sanctions imposed against Iran by the United States and its European allies are illegal and criminal and represent some kind of collective punishment aimed at paralyzing the Iranian government and the livelihood of the Iranian citizens.

According to Jeremy R. Hammond, even the US intelligence community has confirmed and verified that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and there has not been any single IAEA report indicating diversion in Iran’s nuclear activities; however, the United States and some EU members are adamantly insisting that Iran has a plan to develop nuclear weapons, while they have no evidence to substantiate this claim.

“The near universal failure of analysts and commentators to understand this compounds the problem by misinforming the public. The US mainstream media does so in a manner that serves to manufacture consent for US policy, just as it did in the run-up to the Iraq war by uncritically parroting the lies of government officials and essentially waging a propaganda war against the public. It is a myth that there was an “intelligence failure”. This was not incompetence on display. It was rather an extremely successful counterintelligence operation targeting the American people.,” said Hammond in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency.

Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst and recipient of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism. He is the founding editor of Foreign Policy Journal and his articles and interviews can be found on his website at Jeremy RHammond.com. He is the author of “Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman: Austrian vs. Keynesian economics in the financial crisis” and “The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Israeli-Arab Conflict”. His forthcoming book is on the contemporary US role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What follows is the text of FNA’s interview with Jeremy R. Hammond.

Q: Jeremy; how do you evaluate the international reactions to the election of moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s new president? Does the fact that foreign dignitaries from 60 countries traveled to Iran to attend his inauguration ceremony as Iran’s new president signal the beginning of a new era in Iran’s interactions and relations with the world?

A: This illustrates the failure of the US to isolate Iran to the extent it would like. Try as it might to convince the world that Iran is a rogue state that must be shunned until it is ready to rejoin the community of nations by becoming civilized, by which I mean by obeying orders from Washington, D.C., much of the world remains unconvinced, either that Iran is such a rogue state or that the US’s approach would be an appropriate one even if it was.

The US President, Barack Obama, came into office on rhetoric of “change” and the promise of being willing to engage in diplomacy with Iran. But there has been absolute continuity in his policy from the Bush administration. The policy is really one of regime change. To further this policy, the US hopes it can punish Iran and punish the civilian population of Iran enough that they come to their senses and realize that their current leadership must be overthrown and replaced with a government that understands its place in the world. This is the purpose of the sanctions, which target the civilian population.

The pretext for this policy of collective punishment is the claim that Iran is seeking to build nuclear weapons, just the same as the pretext for waging an illegal war of aggression against Iraq to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein was the claim that Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It’s the same playbook. There are some differences, though. One is that in the case of Iraq, the CIA collaborated with the White House to orchestrate a campaign of deception targeting the American public, along with the rest of the world, in order to manufacture consent for the war that was the means by which Washington executed its policy of regime change. Thus, the CIA pushed so-called “intelligence” saying things like that aluminum tubes acquired by Iraq were intended for building centrifuges to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon, when in fact the top experts on centrifuges in the U.S. intelligence community, at the Department of Energy, assessed that they could not be used for centrifuges but exactly matched the specifications for tubes for an existing conventional rocket program.

The State Department’s intelligence branch concurred with the DOE experts. Incidentally, this assessment was also shared by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is also actively monitoring Iran’s nuclear program. The CIA alleged that Iraq’s unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, were intended to deliver a payload of chemical or biological weapons (CBW), when in fact the US’s top experts on UAVs, in the Air Force, assessed that they were intended for surveillance. And so on. In the case of Iran, the CIA hasn’t been as willing to fall on its sword the way it was under George Tenet’s leadership under the Bush administration. It has instead honestly delivered the assessment of the US intelligence community, rather than trying to marginalize and conceal it, which is that Iran today has no nuclear weapons program.

The fact that the Obama administration’s policy is founded on the claim that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons even when the US’s own intelligence community assesses otherwise illustrates how Iran’s nuclear program is not the real issue. The real issue is Iran’s intransigence. Iran is a rogue state by definition because it refuses to follow marching orders from Washington. It has been a rogue state since the revolution in 1979 overthrew the government of Iran that was under Washington’s good graces, the brutal but compliant regime of the Shah, installed in 1953 when the CIA orchestrated a coup that overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mosadegh. It was under the Shah, actually, that Iran’s nuclear program began, with Washington’s blessing and active support. This, too, illustrates that the nuclear program is not the real issue.

The near universal failure of analysts and commentators to understand this compounds the problem by misinforming the public. The US mainstream media does so in a manner that serves to manufacture consent for US policy, just as it did in the run-up to the Iraq war by uncritically parroting the lies of government officials and essentially waging a propaganda war against the public. It is a myth that there was an “intelligence failure”. This was not incompetence on display. It was rather an extremely successful counterintelligence operation targeting the American people.

Q: The leaders of several European states, including France, Germany, Italy and Britain, sent congratulatory messages to President Hassan Rouhani following his election as Iran’s new chief executive. Do these messages indicate the EU’s intention and readiness for easing the tensions with Iran by lifting the unjust and cruel sanctions and avoid putting unnecessary political pressure on Iran?

A: I don’t think so. The EU is just obeying the world’s hegemon. It will continue to cooperate with the policy of collectively punishing the civilian population of Iran so long as this remains Washington’s marching orders.

The IAEA and UN Security Council, for that matter, are also just obeying Washington to the extent possible without appearing to all the world to be acting entirely as agents of US foreign policy. The Council has no authority to implement the sanctions resolutions it has passed. Iran is quite correct that these resolutions are actually illegal, a violation of the UN’s own Charter. The nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) makes it explicitly clear that Iran has an “inalienable right” to uranium enrichment for civilian purposes, and that nothing may be done to prejudice Iran’s right to do so.

What has happened is that the UN has cited a demand from the IAEA Board of Governors that Iran cease its enrichment. However, the IAEA has repeatedly reaffirmed that there has been no diversion of nuclear material to any military aspect of its program—in other words, that its enrichment of uranium has been strictly for peaceful civilian purposes. The IAEA has absolutely no authority to demand that Iran cease this perfectly legal uranium enrichment. It is strictly forbidden, in fact, from prejudicing Iran’s “inalienable right” to do so by the NPT, as I already mentioned.