The idea that Israel, through some kind of monolithic, broadly defined “Israeli lobby”, dictates US policy is a popular one, but one that I find hard to take seriously. The “Israeli lobby” is also widely charged with being responsible for the US policy that led it to war with Iraq, for example. But this is preposterous. This idea is advanced by defining the misnamed “neoconservatives” in Washington who advanced the policy as members of the “Israeli lobby”, as though they were nothing more than agents of Israel who had no US interests in mind when they decided to go to war. It’s true many so-called neoconservatives are Zionists, and many are Jewish, but that circumstance is about as far as the logic behind this argument goes.Proponents of this hypothesis point to a document titled “A Clean Break” written by a number of prominent American neocons in the mid-90s for the Netanyahu government, which outlined reasons why it would be in Israel’s interests to support a policy of regime change in Iraq. But this document hardly supports the hypothesis, because it wasn’t the Israelis trying to convince the Americans to further this policy, but vice versa.

And are we supposed to believe that guys like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George W. Bush had Israel’s interests in mind rather than the US’s? All one has to do to understand the motives behind the policy the neocons favored is to read their own policy documents. They were perfectly candid about their reasons. Read the manifesto of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), for example, titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses”, for example.We are supposed to believe that US global hegemonic designs had nothing to do with it, despite the policy documents explicitly stating otherwise? Iraq’s oil had nothing to do with it, despite the policy documents explicitly stating otherwise? Propping up the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency had nothing to do with it? Maintaining US “credibility” after a decade of failed sanctions—which were becoming politically untenable due to the punishing effect on the civilian population, having been directly responsible, according to UN estimates, for over a million Iraqi deaths, including half a million children—had nothing to do with it?

This idea that Israel through this broadly defined “lobby” controls US policy in the Middle East is one that unfortunately is taken with more seriousness than it deserves. It is also unfortunate because trying to blame Israel for US policies and their consequences shifts the focus away from the American policymakers who are 100% responsible for the actions of the US government. The whole issue tends to serve as a red herring in this regard.

Q: The spokesman to the EU foreign policy chief, Michael Mann, has said that if Iran demonstrates that its nuclear activities are peaceful, there will be no need for the further imposition of sanctions or the continuation of the current disputes. What’s your viewpoint about his remarks? Is it Iran’s responsibility to convince the world that its nuclear program is peaceful? What about EU’s response? How should it prove its goodwill and that it is not seeking hostility towards Iran?

A: His remarks illustrate how the EU just goes along for the most part with whatever policy comes out of Washington. His statement is nonsense. It is asking the impossible of Iran. The West has made sure to make it impossible for Iran to ever be able to demonstrate that its nuclear activities are peaceful, the same way they made it impossible for Iraq under Saddam Hussein to prove that it had no WMD. The fact is that the IAEA is actively monitoring and inspecting Iran’s program and has continued to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material to any military aspect of the program. The fact is that the US’s own intelligence community assesses that Iran has no active nuclear weapons program. What more can Iran do to “demonstrate” that its program is peaceful besides honoring its safeguards agreement with the IAEA under the NPT regime? This is the whole point of the existence of the IAEA.

What the EU is really saying with such remarks is that Iran must obey Washington and surrender its right to uranium enrichment. This will be the demonstration required that is program is for peaceful purposes. Once Iran obeys, then and only then will the EU consent to lifting the sanctions regime. This is the meaning of the EU’s statement. If the EU wished to demonstrate that it has goodwill towards Iran, it would immediately end its criminal sanctions. The fact that it doesn’t is made self-evident by the fact that it won’t.

Q: Iranian people and statesmen have usually voiced skepticism toward the US government and its calls for dialogue with Iran. They cite the black record of Washington’s policy of failed military intervention, sanctions, media propaganda and terror campaign against Iran and say that the United States is not a reliable partner. However, some people say that Washington can correct its mistakes and return to the table of negotiations with Iran based on mutual respect and on equal footing. What’s your take on that?

A: The Iranian people clearly understand the situation better than the intelligentsia in the United States who shape the discussion in the US media to manufacture consent for the government’s policies, with room for permissible dissent only along very narrow grounds. Certainly, the US government can correct its criminal and immoral policies, just as the US can, very easily, cease its support for Israel’s constant violations of international law. The real question is whether it will, and I think the unfortunate answer to that is already evident.