The Profs Who Love Obama’s Iran Deal

Meet the Mullahs’ academic cheerleaders.

Who supports the Obama administration’s increasingly unpopular Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) aimed ostensibly at curbing Iran’s nuclear program? Many of its strongest proponents come from the field of Middle East studies, which boasts widespread animus towards the U.S. and Israel along with a cadre of apologists for the Iranian regime determined to promote ineffectual diplomacy at all costs. 

University of California, Riverside creative writing professor Reza Aslan concedes that his generation of Iranian-Americans “feel[s] far removed from the political and religious turmoil of the Iranian revolution” before falling in line with the Iranian regime’s propaganda: the deal will “empower moderates in Iran, strengthen Iranian civil society and spur economic development,” and create “an Iran that is a responsible actor on the global stage, that respects the rights of its citizens and that has warm relations with the rest of the world.” “Warm relations” are the least likely outcome of the increase in funding for Iran’s terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah that even President Obama admits will follow the easing of sanctions. 

Flynt Leverett, an international relations professor at Pennsylvania State University, whitewashes these terrorist groups as “constituencies” and “communities” which the Iranian regime “help[s] organize in various ways to press their grievances more effectively,” effective terrorism being, for Leverett, a laudable goal.  Characterizing the regime as “a rising regional power” and “legitimate political order for most Iranians,” he urges the U.S., through the JCPOA, to “come to terms with this reality.”

Diablo Valley College Middle East studies instructor Amer Araim’s seemingly wishful thinking is equally supportive of Tehran’s line: “it is sincerely hoped that these funds will be used to help the Iranian people develop their economy and to ensure prosperity in that country.” Meanwhile, Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American international relations professor at Rutgers University, attempts to legitimize the regime by delegitimizing the sanctions: “The money that will flow to Iran under this deal is not a gift: this is Iran’s money that has been frozen and otherwise blocked.”

Others deny the Iranian regime intends to build a nuclear bomb. University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole has “long argued that [Iran’s leader Ali] Khamenei is sincere about not wanting a nuclear weapon” because of his “oral fatwas or legal rulings” indicating that “using such weapons is contrary to Islamic law.” His unwarranted confidence in the regime leads him to conclude:

[T]hey have developed all the infrastructure and technical knowledge and equipment that would be necessary to make a nuclear weapon, but stop there, much the way Japan has.

Evidently, Cole has no problem with a tyrannical, terrorist-supporting regime that seeks regional hegemony on the threshold of becoming a nuclear power.

Likewise, William Beeman, an anthropology professor at the University of Minnesota, maintains that, “It was . . .  easy for Iran to give up a nuclear weapons program that never existed, and that it never intended to implement.” Like Cole, he uncritically accepts and recites the regime’s disinformation: “Iran’s leaders have regularly denounced nuclear weapons as un-Islamic.”

Beeman—who, in previous negotiations with the Iranian regime, urged the U.S. to be “unfailingly polite and humble” and not to set “pre-conditions” regarding its nuclear program—coldly disregards criticism of the JCPOA for excluding conditions such as the “release of [American] political prisoners” and “recognition of Israel,” calling them “utterly irrelevant.” No doubt the relatives of those prisoners and the Israeli citizens who live in the crosshairs of the regime’s continued threats of annihilation would disagree.   

A number of academics have resorted to classic anti-Semitic conspiracy mongering to attack the deal’s Israeli and American opponents, calling them the “Israel Lobby.” Muqtedar Khan, director of the Islamic Studies Program at the University of Delaware, accuses “the Israeli government and all those in the U.S. who are under the influence of its American lobbies” of obstructing the deal, claiming that, “The GOP congress is now being described as the [Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin] Netanyahu congress.”

Hatem Bazian, director of the Islamophobia Research & Documentation Project at the University of California, Berkeley, takes aim at “pro-Israel neo-conservatives,” “neo-conservative warmongers,” “AIPAC,” and (in a mangled version of “Israel-firster”) “Israel’s first D.C. crowd” for “attempting to scuttle the agreement.” Asserting a moral equivalence between the dictatorial Iranian regime and the democratically-elected Israeli government, Bazian demands to know when Israel’s “pile of un-inspected or regulated nuclear weapons stockpile” will be examined before answering, “It is not going to happen anytime soon!” That Israel has never threatened any country with destruction, even after being attacked repeatedly since its rebirth, is a fact ignored by its critics.  

The unhinged Facebook posts of Columbia University Iranian studies professor and Iranian native Hamid Dabashi reveal in lurid language his hatred of Israel:

It is now time the exact and identical widely intrusive scrutiny and control compromising the sovereignty of the nation-state of Iran and its nuclear program be applied to the European settler colony of Jewish apartheid state of Israel and its infinitely more dangerous nuclear program! There must be a global uproar against the thuggish vulgarity of Netanyahu and his Zionist gangsters in Israel and the U.S. Congress to force them to dismantle their nuclear program--systematically used to terrorize and murder Palestinian people and steal the rest of Palestine! 

Elsewhere, Dabashi attacks adversaries of the JCPOA, including “Israel, Saudi Arabia, the U.S. Neocons, and their treacherous expat Iranian stooges masquerading as ‘Opposition,’” calling them a “terrorizing alliance,” a “gang of murderous war criminals,” and “shameless warmongers.” 

Willful blindness to Iran’s brutal, terrorist-supporting regime, moral equivocation, and an irrational hatred for Israel and the West characterize the fawning support enjoyed by the mullahs from these and other professors of Middle East studies. In place of objective, rigorously researched plans for countering Iran’s aggression and advancing the safety of America and its allies, they regurgitate the crudest propaganda from Teheran. Until their field of study is thoroughly reformed, their advice—such as it is—should and must be utterly ignored. 

Cinnamon Stillwell is the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. She can be reached at [email protected].

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