The West Judges Iran by Not One, But Two Double Standards

Iranian émigré Muhammad Sahimi is a petroleum engineering professor at the University of Southern California and a regular commentator at PBS Front Line’s Tehran Bureau. In an article at IDE: Views on MidEast, he writes about the recent assassination of a young chemical engineer working in Iran’s nuclear program.

Such cowardly assassinations are nothing but state-sponsored terrorism at its worst. … Just as the international community justifiably condemns any terrorist operations against innocent civilians, and in particular those in which Iran is accused of being indirectly involved (such as providing support to the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas), it must also condemn such assassinations in Iran, but it has not. The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn an alleged Iranian plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States last year, but has it taken any action regarding the assassinations? No, and it is highly unlikely that it will ever do so.

Thus, it should be abundantly clear that there are two types of terrorist operations in this world: the “good” ones committed by the West, and the terrible ones perpetrated by the West’s foes, and in particular the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). Just try to imagine the international outcry had an Israeli or American nuclear scientist been assassinated here in the United States or in Israel. … But when it comes to murdering Iranian nuclear scientists, they are either mute, or even applaud and support it.

In other words, the West applies two double standards to Iran. The first: even if NPT signatories such as Iran that hadn’t developed nuclear weapons prior to signing were allowed to after signing, Iran would still be perceived as too irrational to entrust with nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, existing in a parallel universe to international law is an unspoken rationality index, according to which even those states that have already developed nuclear weapons outside the NPT (India, Israel, Pakistan) are allowed to keep them because they score higher on the index (marginally in the case of Pakistan). In other words, they’re allies of the West.

The wellsprings of the irrationalism seem to be a belief for which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — and not Supreme Leader Ali Khameini — has shown sympathy: the return of the Twelfth or Hidden Imam, which translates into a form of apocalyticism similar to that of American fundamentalists and their day after.

Sahimi neatly outlines the second double standard: that assassinations assigned by Tehran are terrorism, while those carried out by the West are not. Trying to distinguish the ethics — or lack thereof — of the two is splitting hairs.