On Thursday, Prof. Juan Cole of the University of Michigan commented on the National Post's apology for publishing a false story claiming that Iran had passed a law requiring religious minorities to wear identifying marks on their clothing, and demanded that the source of the story, Amir Taheri, also issue a retraction and an apology, which so far he has not.[1]  --  On Tuesday, Cole also commented on the Amir Taheri affair as part of a "black psy-ops campaign against Iran," and asserted in passing that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John "Bolton was put at the U.N. by Bush to get up a war against Iran, though for whom is not entirely clear."[2] ...


By Juan Cole

Informed Comment
May 25, 2006


Antonia Zerbisias follows up on the the bogus National Post story about Iran having passed a law requiring Christians and Jews to wear badges identifying them as such. She notes that the National Post has retracted the story, saying:

"Our mistake: Note to readers

"Last Friday, the National Post ran a story prominently on the front page alleging that the Iranian parliament had passed a law that, if enacted, would require Jews and other religious minorities in Iran to wear badges that would identify them as such in public. It is now clear the story is not true. Given the seriousness of the error, I felt it necessary to explain to our readers how this happened."

Ironically, the rest is behind a firewall and does not at the moment seem to show up at google.news! [NOTE: See here for full text. --F.M.]

As for rightwing expatriate Iranian journalist Amir Taheri, the source of the story, he has declined to retract. He continues to maintain that the law he referred to was "passed," and says that his sources are "three members of the Iranian Majlis" (parliament). But as many experts, including Israeli-Iranian experts, have pointed out, no such law has been passed. Some have doubted that Taheri is likely to be in close contact with three members of the new hardline parliament.

If Taheri were merely alleging that some hardline members of parliament had discussed among themselves the possibility of marking non-Muslims by badges, that would be one thing. In the 1980s under Khomeini, there actually was a measure requiring non-Muslim shopkeepers to so identify themselves in their shop windows. I understand that this measure backfired and was dropped, when the Muslim Iranians flocked to the minority establishments. (Minorities in Iran are custodians of many of the finer things in life, from liquor cabinets to pepperoni on pizza, and their merchants have often adopted a strategy of being scrupulously honest with customers so as to give a value-added beyond that offered by Muslim establishments.) While the law was something out of 1930s Germany, the reaction of the Iranian public was for the most part definitely not.

And if the allegation was merely that the matter had been discussed by MPs, you could understand him standing by what he says he was told by insiders. But he is alleging that a law has been passed. A law is a public thing. We would know about that. And, Maurice Motamed, the Jewish representative in the Iranian parliament, would certainly know about it. He denies that any such thing was even discussed in parliament.

So here is a case where an embarrassing mistake has been made. The National Post has retracted. So too should Taheri. Or else we have to assume that he is putting something else above journalistic integrity.

Larry Cohler-Esses of the Jewish Week reviews the fiasco.

See also Jan Frel at Alternet.

And Justin Raimondo. (http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=9032)

Unqualified Offerings made some interesting points on the affair a couple of days ago.


By Juan Cole

Informed Comment
May 23, 2006


The Iranian regime is despicable in its lack of respect for basic human rights and in its regimentation of its citizens into a rigid theocracy. But it is no more of a threat to the United States than Burma or the Congo, both of which are just as oppressive. Iran has a very weak military and just isn't a serious threat to any other country. Its values are not U.S. values. But if we are going to do things like send Marines into Iran to force Iranian women to wear bikinis at the beach, we are going to have a very busy century and Arlington Cemetery is going to run out of room.

The warmongers are undeterred.

Taylor Marsh has more on the bogus story from the National Post that Iran was about to make Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians wear identifying badges.

Marsh says that Iranian journalist Amir Taheri says he is standing by his column, which set off the furor, and that the law has been passed and is awaiting implementation. The laws passed by the Iranian parliament are available on the web and in Iranian newspapers, and certainly a law like this would have been written about and published. Could Mr. Taheri provide us please with a URL to the Persian text? If he does not, we have no reason ever again to believe anything he says.*

So we have now a non-existent Iranian law. Hmmm. How many more non-existents must we believe before breakfast?

Well, here is another. Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, is reported to have warned that 'Iran was "months rather than years away" from acquiring the capability to make nuclear weapons. "Time is running out . . ."'


I am typing while rolling around on the floor laughing uncontrollably at this blatant falsehood and hypocrisy. The International Atomic Energy Agency just a little over a week ago said it can find no evidence that Iran even has a nuclear weapons program, as opposed to a civilian energy research program. Supreme Jurisprudent Khamenei gave a fatwa in which he forbade nuclear weapons, and the Iranian government denies that it is seeking a bomb. The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate says that if Iran were trying hard to get a bomb and the international circumstances were favorable to all the needed imports, it would still take ten years. And, neither of those "ifs" is in evidence.

Moreover, it is Mr. Gillerman's government that introduced nuclear weapons into the Middle East and that has actually threatened to use them. The Likud government menaced Baghdad with the Bomb in the run-up to the March 2003 War that they helped get up by supplying unreliable intelligence to Washington. It was their way of warning Saddam against trying to hit them with chemical warheads. But would that have been a proportionate response? Iran doesn't have a bomb, has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and hasn't invaded another country since the 19th century. Israel has hundreds of bombs, had refused to sign the NPT, and has threatened first use of nukes.

This is just demagoguery and lying.

Mr. Gillerman is, however, occasionally capable of telling the truth. Reuters reports: "Ambassador Dan Gillerman, addressing a New York meeting of B'nai B'rith International, a Jewish humanitarian organization, heaped praise on U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, jokingly describing him at one point as 'a secret member of Israel's own team at the United Nations.' Noting that just five diplomats worked in the busy Israeli U.N. Mission, he told the group: "Today the secret is out. We really are not just five diplomats. We are at least six including John Bolton."

Bolton was put at the U.N. by Bush to get up a war against Iran, though for whom is not entirely clear. He is a notorious liar, who tried to peddle a ridiculous story about a supposed Cuban biological weapons program. He may well be the source of a flight of Judy Millerism that the Iranians had sent evil biologists to Havana to help with a supposed Cuban biological weapons program. Ooooooh. Those Marxist Ayatollah molecular biologist evil scientists are the absolute worst!

Imaginary laws. Imaginary bombs. Imaginary germs. Lies, lies intended to make a war.

If the Iranians were smart, they would dump that buffoon Ahmadinejad and get themselves a less inflammatory president. Ahmadinejad's antics are giving the warmongers in the West all kinds of pretexts to talk war on Tehran. They should take a lesson from what has been done to the Iraqis.