Like Longine Symphonettes that once played over and over again, the U.S. is again playing a “false dilemma” record with Iran. When President Hassan Rouhan offered an olive branch by proposing “direct” and “protracted” talks on Iran’s disputed civilian-nuclear program, one would think the Obama Administration would have accepted. But not only did they denigrate President Rouhan’s statement, Congress reacted by wanting more severe and austere economic sanctions. They also claimed President Rouhani’ s (who is considered a moderate by the West) statement was not “substantive.”
But the U.S. is accustomed to playing false dilemmas. In a diverse world, it is difficult to try and maintain preeminence through a prism of only two possibilities. In Iran’s case, U.S. leaders claim it is pursuing nuclear enrichment for the purpose of developing atomic weapons. According to Iran, though, its nuclear enrichment is only for peaceful and civilian purposes, which is very common among many non-nuclear nations. In the past, direct talks, even public debates, have also been ridiculed and derided and often met with severe sanctions, ones that have hurt some of Iran’s civilian populations.
Along with being stuck in a two-scenario situation (Iran is pursuing nuclear enrichment for weaponry and must be stopped at all costs), false dilemmas are committed when actual facts and states of affairs are distorted. The press just misreported President Rouhani’s statement: “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.” Israeli and U.S. leaders claimed Iran wanted to destroy Israel with nuclear weaponry. President Rouhani never used the word “remove,” nor is it clear to what he meant by “wound,” which was mistranslated “sore.”
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In its context President Rouhani was honoring the Day of Quds, which is an annual event that began in Iran in 1979. The Day of Quds expresses solidarity with the Palestinian people in its opposition to Zionism, and the seizing and military occupation of its lands by Greater Israel. President Rouhani was also encouraging Iranians to display the unity of the Islamic world against any form of tyranny and aggression. Could other state of affairs, like Palestinian-Israeli-Iranian talks over land and historical grievances, or of pressuring Israel to dismantle its nuclear state and establishing a nuclear-free region, be pursued?
Furthermore, is not illegally seizing or colonizing sovereign lands, belonging to others, a type of tyranny and aggression? It is one of many sores-that needs healing-facing Islamic nations today, including ongoing preemptive wars and military invasions followed by lengthy and bloody occupations. President Rouhani said: “This day is in fact a reminder that Muslim people will not forgot their historic right and will continue to stand against aggression and tyranny.” But some use false dilemmas, divisionary forgetfulness, to stoke the fires of urgency, leading to false justifications, intellectual confusion, even war.
Whereas intelligence estimates show that Iran is developing nuclear enrichment to only power portions of its civilian sectors, hospitals and educational facilities, political-social estimates reveal it does not want to wipe Israel off the map. The U.S. must learn to reject its false dilemma ideology towards Iran-nuclear weapons and destroying Israel. As a significant nation in the Middle East and Asia, U.S. leaders should quit playing over and over again a broken record, a falsified record, that claims only one possibility exists: a destructive Iran versus U.S.-Israel end-of-the-world scenario.
Sadly, false dilemmas instigate false urgencies leading to war. This occurred when then-President George W. Bush claimed Iraq was developing and preparing to use weapons of mass destruction. But, “We face a threat with no precedent,” was wrong. It also turned out to be irrational. False dilemmas impose counter reasoning strategies by speculating there are only two consequences that will result if something happens-that actually does not! With non-nuclear Iran, there are other options, such as the U.S. and Israel accepting Iran’s peace overtures while eliminating their own nuclear weapons arsenals.