Informed Perspective at Spirited IHR Meeting
On Iran and the US-Israel Campaign for War

News from the Institute for Historical Review

At an IHR meeting in southern California, three seasoned speakers provided informed perspective on Iran and Iranian society, the threats of war by Israel and the US, the impact of the US-organized sanctions campaign against the Islamic Republic, and the prospects for military conflict. (Recordings of the talks are posted on the IHR website, and are available on CD disc)

Paul Sheldon Foote, a California professor with years of experience in the Middle East, and Art Olivier, a filmmaker and former mayor in southern California, joined IHR director Mark Weber at the spirited gathering on March 2, 2013. Local friends of the IHR provided food and beverages for this friendly, semi-private event. Such meetings have helped make the Institute an ever more important center and rallying point for like-minded men and women in the region.

Art Olivier

Paul Sheldon Foote

The alleged danger of Iran’s nuclear program, and the US policy of sanctions against this nation of 75 million have been topics of heated discussion during the past year, Weber noted. And Israeli prime minister Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran if it develops even the capability of building a nuclear weapon. Given the danger of a calamitous new war, fueled by a well-organized campagin of sensationalist propaganda, informed and reasoned perspective on Iran is all the more important, said Weber.

Prof. Foote, who teaches at California State University, Fullerton, lived for years in Iran and other Middle East countries, and for a time worked at the US embassy in Tehran. His insights on Iran and the Middle East, and on Iranian culture and attitudes, and his pointed remarks on US policy, reflect an exceptionally knowledgeable understanding of the character and history of the region.

Few people realize the sheer evil of the “neoconservatives” and the other pro-Israel politicians and public figures who direct US policy in the Middle East, said Dr. Foote. In that regard, he cited Washington’s support for the “Mojahedin-e-Khalq,” a cult-like group also known as the MKO or MEK that has a decades-long record of murder and terrorism. Although for years it was listed by Washington as a terrorist organization, and is even responsible for killings of Americans, the “Rajavi cult” group now has official US backing.

Art Olivier and Mark Weber first met at the recent “Hollywoodism” conference in Tehran, a four-day gathering that brought together several dozen writers, filmmakers, scholars and researchers from the US, France, Italy and other countries, as well as dozens of Iranian cinema specialists, journalists, officials and others.

Olivier is writer and producer of “Operation Terror,” an action movie that depicts the 9/11 attack as a “false flag” operation by rogue elements within the US government. He is also a former mayor of Bellflower, California, and Libertarian Party vice-presidential candidate in 2000. He and Weber spoke about the Hollywoodism conference, and reported on what they did and observed during their recent visit to Iran. Olivier spoke about the range of speakers and attendees at the international gathering, and his impressions of Iran and its people. He remarked on the friendliness and hospitality of Iranians, and humorously recalled the death-defying driving in Tehran’s dense and bustling traffic. In spite of the US policy of sanctions, he said, Iran’s economic life still seems robust, with major construction projects noticably continuing across Tehran.

In his address at the IHR meeting, Weber spoke about his recent six-day stay in Tehran, including his role in the Hollywoodism conference. Highlights of this stay – his second visit to Iran -- included appearances on national television, many interviews, useful discussions with Iranian scholars and officials, informative talks with writers and opinion-makers from a range of countries, and a well-received address to the conference, titled “Hollywood’s Agenda, and the Power Behind It.”

Weber’s talks with both Iranian officials and ordinary citizens helped him to better understand the views and outlook of both the nation’s leadership, and of the general public. He also saw more of Tehran, the nation’s sprawling capital city, which has more than twice the population of Los Angeles, including a ride on its clean and modern subway.

Weber also spoke about the decades-long campaign of economic warfare and threats by the US and Israel against Iran, and what this conflict means for Americans. Public opinion polls show that most Americans regard Iran’s nuclear energy program as a “threat” or danger. This attitude is hardly surprising, said Weber, given the alarmist rhetoric of US politicians and the routinely skewed and hyped coverage of the US media. In fact, he noted, even high-level US intelligence officials, along with a range of informed specialists, have acknowledged that there is no evidence that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. (Iranian leaders have always insisted that their nation’s nuclear energy program is entirely peaceful.) The director of US national intelligence, for example, has expressed “a high level of confidence” that Iran has no nuclear weapons program – an assessment that reflects the consensus view of 16 US intelligence agencies.

Weber also cited a recent statement by former British foreign secretary Jack Staw, who emphasized that even if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon, it would not justify going to war. What is needed, says Straw, is a much more realistic and open-minded attitude by Britain and other countries toward the Islamic Republic.

American ignorance about Iran and its policies, Weber said, is yet another expression of the way in which Americans are systematically misinformed, misguided and misled. Washington’s hostility toward Iran, he went on, is a reflection of the Jewish-Zionist hold on US political life. Israel and pro-Zionist politicians in the US threaten Iran because the Islamic Republic forthrightly opposes Zionist occupation and aggression, and steadfastly supports Palestinian freedom and resistance to Israeli hegemony.

US policy in the Middle East, Weber emphasized, is not driven by what’s best for Americans and the world, but rather – as even the US ambassador to Israel has acknowledged – by concern for Israel's security and identity as a Jewish ethno-religious state.