In September 2007, Stephen Zunes fell under the spotlight of the mass media following his meeting with the controversial Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in New York during his third trip to the U.S. to attend the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Dr. Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as the chairman of Middle Eastern Studies program.
His articles constantly appear in the major media outlets and news websites including Common Dreams, Tikkun Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, Foreign Policy In Focus, Huffington Post, Open Democracy and AlterNet. Zunes also appears on BBC, PBS, NPR and MSNBC as a Middle Eastern studies expert to present his viewpoints, analyses and commentaries on the outstanding issues of conflict in Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran.
In accordance with many independent intellectuals and rhetoricians, Prof. Zunes believes that Iran has unfairly become a villain for the American corporate media and certain political lobbies; a "rogue" to be attacked on a regular basis.
In an exclusive interview with Foreign Policy Journal, Stephen Zunes stressed the scope of this in detail: “Traditionally, in order to justify U.S. militarism and intervention, certain countries and leaders have served the role of countries American pundits love to hate. Often, including the case of Iran, there are certain policies which are legitimate to criticize,” he added. “However, also in the case of Iran, these policies are not fundamentally worse than those of many U.S. allies.”
I asked Zunes about the reasons for his criticism of what he calls President Ahmadinejad's “reflective superficiality” on religious matters. “My concern with President Ahmadinejad,” he responded, “like that of President Bush, is the use of religious principles which, while in themselves may be legitimate testaments of faith, are used to justify policies which are contrary to basic moral principles on which the faith tradition is based.”
We continued our discussion by switching to the long-term tedious nuclear dossier of Iran. “There is no question there is a serious [American] double-standard, not just in regard to Israel's nuclear program, but that of Pakistan and India as well,” he observed. “Israel is required, under UNSC resolution 487 to put its unclear program under the trusteeship of the IAEA and both Pakistan and India are obliged under UNSC resolution 1172 to eliminate their nuclear weapons and long-range missiles altogether.”
Zunes criticized the G5+1 pressures on Iran to halt its nuclear activities: “the G5+1 has no right to demand that Iran abide by its obligations to the UN Security Council while allowing Israel, Pakistan and India to continue their defiance of the UN Security Council.”
The author of “Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism” is skeptical about a recent CIA report that predicted the political annihilation of Israeli regime within the next 20 years. “I assume Israel will continue to exist as a Jewish state,” he said. “But unless it is willing to accept a two-state solution along the lines of the Geneva Declaration of December 2003 or the Arab Peace Plan, it will become increasingly militarized, repressive, undemocratic, and bankrupt.”
The hypocritical approach of the U.S. and its western allies toward the human rights record of Iran was our next topic for discussion. “While Iran deserves criticism for its poor human rights record,” affirmed Zunes, “as long as the United States remains the world's number one military, diplomatic and economic supporter of autocratic regimes in the greater Middle East, the U.S. government has no moral standing to unfairly single out Iran.”
Stephen Zunes is an associate editor of the “Peace Review” and has long commented on the Israeli occupation of Palestine and its habitual aggression on the Palestinian people. “Arab governments have long given lip service to the Palestinian cause while doing little to actually support the Palestinian people,” he said. “While Iranian support for extremist groups like Hamas probably does more harm than good for the Palestinian cause, it should be remembered that it was the Saudis and other [Persian] Gulf Arabs who were the primary supporters of Hamas for many years, providing them with far more support than has Iran more recently.”
In his spring 2009 article for the Yes magazine, Stephen Zunes had praised the widespread support of international human rights activists for the downtrodden Palestinians who were subject to a 3-week long massacre by Israel during December and January. “In the United States, which provides Israel with most of its weaponry, an unprecedented number of peace and human rights groups mobilized their memberships to challenge the Bush administration and Congress in their support of the war.”
Speaking with Mr. Zunes, one walks away with a more in-depth view of current affairs in the Middle East, and demonstrates that one may be critical of Iran while also rejecting U.S. unilateralism and interventionist policies in the tumultuous region, including its support for Israel.