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IRAN: Noam Chomsky says Americans support Iran's right to nuclear energy

October 26, 2008 |  8:52 am

Chomsky_2 The scholar and leftist political activist Noam Chomsky says his fellow countrymen support Iran's nuclear enrichment program and oppose any kind of military confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

Chomsky, a noted linguistics professor who is among the most outspoken American critics of U.S. foreign policy, spoke in an interview with Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency. The 80-year-old scholar and Massachussets resident was in Berlin:

"Now nobody thinks they have the right to develop nuclear weapons, however that's a different issue. But the majority of the [American] population agrees [on Iran's right to enrich uranium]. ... Public opinion here overwhelmingly holds that Iran should have the right to develop nuclear energy."

Mastering the enrichment of uranium is a key step toward building either a peaceful nuclear energy program or creating a homegrown atomic-bomb industry. The U.S., Israel and Europe accuse Iran of exploiting loopholes in international arms-control regulations to build nuclear-weapons capability. Iran has strongly denied the charge.

Chomsky is enormously popular in the Middle East, where his books are widely sold and translated. His critiques of U.S. Middle East policy are a huge hit with Iranians and Arabs.

In the interview published today, he said the U.S. had flubbed chances to improve relations and understanding between Tehran and Washington:

"With regard to Iran, a substantial segment of pretty mainstream opinion has been harshly critical of the confrontational approach and has called for negotiations and diplomacy. ... It did not happen because the extremism of the Bush administration was simply directed at making relations harsher, more bitter, militarizing them, and that's why the Bush administration even antagonized allies."

He criticized Western media for characterizing Iran's continued insistence on enriching uranium as a matter of concern for the entire world. "That's a funny definition of the 'world,' " he told the Islamic Republic News Agency. "The Non-Aligned Movement, for example, which is the majority of countries, endorses Iran's right to enrich uranium."

Iran policy has been a relatively major campaign issue in the presidential race between John McCain and Barack Obama. Recently, a committee of mostly neoconservative scholars and politicians published a 117-page paper called "Meeting the Challenge," which argues for stronger sanctions or military confrontation as a way of ending Iran's enrichment program.

But Chomsky voiced optimism that the confrontation between Iran and the U.S. would be solved peacefully. "There is a strong establishment pressure ... moving toward a diplomatic and developmental approach rather than a military approach," he said. "The American popular opinion is strongly in support of it."

-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Noam Chomsky. Credit: First Run Features

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