A critique of Trita Parsi’s observations on #Iran – #Israel in the NYT

As part of his op-ed for the New York Times on the 20th of April 2017, Trita Parsi, President of NIAC made the following points regarding the status of relations between Iran and Israel after the start of the nuclear talks, which I wish to examine more in details.

1 – In the middle of 10th paragraph in his op-ed Trita Parsi starts his observation on Iranian – Israeli relations by stating: Iran’s actions and rhetoric on the Jewish state have shifted remarkably ever since nuclear negotiations began.

A quick fact check shows that during the period since the nuclear negotiations began, in contrast to Parsi’s observation, the Iranian regime has continued with many of its key anti Israel rhetoric and actions. For example :

1.1- The Iranian regime has NOT cancelled the annual Quds day when repeated calls for the destruction of Israel are made and 10,000s are bussed in for this day.

1.2- The Iranian regime did NOT stop its Holocaust cartoon competition, held in May 2016.

1.3- The Iranian regime with the supreme leader at its head did not stop his antisemitic Holocaust denial.

1.4- The Iranian regime has NOT stopped calling for the destruction of Israel.

1.5 – The Iranian regime has NOT stopped trying to arm and financing Israel’s foe Hezbollah

1.6 – The Iranian regime tried to arm Hamas

2. Trita Parsi goes to use the 2014 Gaza war to prove his point that Iran has shifted its rhetoric and actions on Israel “ever since nuclear negotiations began”. He states “Iran’s stance on the 2014 Gaza war is a case in point: Tehran remained relatively silent and did little to add fuel to the fire compared with what it might have done under other circumstances.”

Did Tehran stay relatively quiet? Initially. But again here a quick fact check shows that Iran started viciously attacking Israel rhetorically, on July 29, 21 days after the start of the Gaza war and 29 days before it ended on the 26th of August 2014. So even before we were half way through the 50 days Gaza war, the Iranian regime, in contrast to Parsi’s statement started verbally attacking Israel. Examples include:

2.1 – 29th of July Iran’s supreme leader and the man in charge of Iran’s Palestine – Israel policy called on the Muslim world to arm Gaza

2.2- On the same day supreme leader Khamenei accused Israel of acting like a “rabid dog” in Gaza 

2.3 Khamenei also called for arming of the West Bank, as well as Gaza

2.4 – On August 4th Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the IRGC stated “Just as until now any show of strength in Palestine which caused the defeat of Zionists has its roots in the support of the Islamic Revolution [of Iran].”

2.5 – accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza

3. Trita Parsi then goes on to state that “The Iranians understood that they could not secure and sustain a nuclear deal with the United States without shifting their posture on Israel.”

Lets look at some of the actions and rhetorics of the regime during and after the nuclear negotiations, which show otherwise:

3.1- On March 2014, barely a year after the negotiations between Iran and the US had started, Israel intercepted a weapons shipment destined for Gaza

3.2- On November 10 2014, during the negotiations between the U.S and Iran, Khamenei publicized a 9 point plan for the “elimination of Israel”

3.3 – Khamenei in April 2014 states on his website that Iran has been helping groups in Gaza and will continue to do so

3.4- On Jan 28 2016, two weeks after the implementation day of the nuclear deal, on the day when Jews around the world were mourning the victims of Holocaust Khamenei posted a Holocaust denial video on his website. Lets remember that the United States who was negotiating with Iran has its fair share of Holocaust survivors and families of Holocaust victims, whose memory the supreme leader he made a mockery of.

3.5In March 2016, while VP Joe Biden was visiting Israel, Iran tested a ballistic missile which in an unprecedented manner had the words “Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth” in Hebrew!

3.6- then (as mentioned) in May 2016 the Iranian regime hosted a Holocaust cartoon competition and the supreme leader of Iran congratulated its organizers

Does this look and sound like a regime who has changed its rhetoric in order to “secure and sustain a nuclear deal with the U.S”, as Parsi states? Not a bit of it.

So how can the argument be made that Iran’s actions and rhetoric on the Jewish state have shifted remarkably ever since nuclear negotiations began, when there are so many cases showing otherwise?

It seems Parsi’s argument focuses on the government of President Rouhani which compared to Ahmadinejad has undoubtedly shifted its tone regarding Israel. Rouhani has attacked Israel, but not the same way and quantity as Ahmadinejad. Not at all. But the Iranian government does not have the last word on foreign policy, the Iranian regime does.

In this case, it seems Trita Parsi’s analysis has not taken into consideration the role and statements of the supreme leader regarding Israel. Ignoring the most powerful man in Iran’s constitution in terms of political standing and influence is a faulty and tilted way of analyzing Iranian foreign policy.

The supreme leader of Iran is not media shy. So why were his numerous anti-Semitic, anti- Israel attacks after the nuclear talks started and finished not mentioned, or taken into consideration by the analysis presented in the NYT op-ed piece?