world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. He is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years. His new book comes out today, titled Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.
Over the first 75 days of the Trump administration, the White House has taken multiple steps to escalate the possibility of a U.S. war with Iran. Trump included Iran on both his first and second Muslim travel bans. As a candidate, Trump also threatened to dismantle the landmark Iran nuclear agreement. For more on U.S.-Iranian relations, we speak with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you another question that came in, from Melbourne, Australia, Aaron Bryla. He said, "Defense Secretary James Mattis this week described Iran as the greatest threat to the United States. My question: Why does the U.S. insist on setting the potential grounds for war with Iran?"
NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s been going on for years. Right through the Obama years, Iran was regarded as the greatest threat to world peace. And that’s repeated over and over. "All options are open," Obama’s phrase, meaning, if we want to use nuclear weapons, we can, because of this terrible danger to peace.
Actually, we have—there’s a few interesting comments that should be made about this. One is, there also is something called world opinion. What does the world think is the greatest threat to world peace? Well, we know that, from U.S.-run polls, Gallup polls: United States. Nobody even close, far ahead of any other threat. Pakistan, second, much lower. Iran, hardly mentioned.
Why is Iran regarded here as the greatest threat to world peace? Well, we have an authoritative answer to that from the intelligence community, which provides regular assessments to Congress on the global strategic situation. And a couple of years ago, their report—of course, they always discuss Iran. And the reports are pretty consistent. They say Iran has very low military spending, even by the standards of the region, much lower than Saudi Arabia, Israel, others. Its strategy is defensive. They want to deter attacks long enough for diplomacy to be entertained. The conclusion, intelligence conclusion—this is a couple years ago—is: If they are developing nuclear weapons, which we don’t know, but if they are, it would be part of their deterrent strategy. Now, why is the United States and Israel even more so concerned about a deterrent? Who’s concerned about a deterrent? Those who want to use force. Those who want to be free to use force are deeply concerned about a potential deterrent. So, yes, Iran is the greatest threat to world peace, might deter our use of force.
AMY GOODMAN: Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King giving his "Beyond Vietnam" speech at Riverside Church, where he said the United States is "the greatest purveyor of violence on Earth." Your thoughts today, as we wrap up, and if—in the last 30 seconds?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, that speech by King was very important, also other speeches he gave at the same time, which have, at the time, seriously harmed his reputation among liberal Northerners. He sharply condemned the war in Vietnam, which was the worst crime since the Second World War.
AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.
NOAM CHOMSKY: The other thing he was doing was trying to create a poor people’s movement, a non-racially separated poor people’s movement.
AMY GOODMAN: And we’re going to do Part 2 of this discussion and post it at democracynow.org. Our guest, Noam Chomsky. I’ll be with him at the First Parish church in Cambridge on April 24th, and then to Denver this weekend, as well as British Columbia.