On Sunday, Feb. 17, the Los Angeles Times ran an oped by UCLA professor emerita of history Nikki Keddie entitled “Why Reward Iran’s Zealots? Reformers have no choice but to join the anti-American chorus.” Aside from downplaying the threat which Iran poses for the U.S. and Israel, in the third paragraph, Keddie completely dismisses Iran’s role in providing the Palestinians with illegal arms by way of the Karine-A ship.
Keddie includes outrageous allegations based on unspecified press reports: “Then there is the Karine-A incident, the ship loaded with Iranian-supplied armaments that was intercepted by Israelis before it reached the Palestinian Authority last month. Numerous articles in the European press and in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz have cast grave doubts on the Israeli government’s official story.
Some suggest a militant Palestinian faction opposed to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat arranged the shipment to embarrass Arafat and scuttle any hopes of peace. Others have raised the possibility that all or part of the smuggling operation was stage-managed by some Israelis.”
In the next paragraph she writes, “...Iran’s support for Arafat and his Palestinian Authority is overwhelmingly rhetorical.” Thus, Keddie herself agrees that Iran’s support for the Palestinians is just words not weapons.
While Keddie refers to unidentified Ha’aretz reports which supposedly “have cast grave doubts on the Israeli government’s official story,” Ha’aretz’s chief military analyst confirmed Israel’s version of events. In a Jan. 6 analysis entitled “A ship laden with strategic impact,” Ze’ev Schiff notes that “The capture of the Palestinian ship that ferried arms supplied by Iran across the Persian Gulf has far-reaching strategic meaning.” He continues that “Israel will emphasize the incident in its contacts with U.S. officials, using it as an example of Iran’s involvement in the export of arms to the PA. Despite Iranian attempts to conceal its activities in this regard, the capture of the ship is the latest in a series of proof of Iran’s arms export.”
In a Jan. 11 article entitled “Iran and the munitions ship,” Schiff comments that “a large role of the affair was played by Iran, which was the source of the arms that the Palestinians tried to smuggle in and which has long been involved in direct aggression against Israel. For example, Iran provides a payment for every terrorist attack launched against Israelis by Islamic Jihad.”
Similarly, Ha’aretz correspondent Amir Oren wrote in a Jan. 6 analysis: “In supplying a huge quantity of weaponry, including long-range rockets, to the Palestinian Authority, the regime of Ali Khamenei in Iran was attempting to create a Hizballah-like, southern Lebanon situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in a way that would pose a strategic threat to Israel.”
In a commentary on the same day, Ha’aretz’s Oren wrote: “Iran, for its part, has been revealed as an exporter of terror to both Hizballah and the Palestinians.”
In addition, in leveling these outlandish charges, Keddie ignores and contradicts the opinion of senior U.S. officials, including Colin Powell, and even Jordan’s King Abdullah II. As the Los Angeles Times itself reported Feb. 6 in a news article by Marjorie Miller:
Iran and the Palestinian Authority have denied any official connection to the 50-tons arms shipment, but the United States has accepted Israel’s intelligence on the ship, called the Karine-A.
“The Karine-A linked Iran with the intifada [Palestinian uprising] and has been interpreted as an attempt by Iran to be an actor here,” a U.S. official said.
That view reportedly was reinforced by Jordan’s King Abdullah II during a recent trip to Washington. The London-based Arabic newspaper Al Sharq al Aswat reported Tuesday that Abdullah presented evidence to Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that Iran was ‘directly and clearly involved’ in at least 17 attempts by the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad to launch missile attacks on Israel from Jordanian territory.
The paper said Abdullah had confronted Khatami with the reputed evidence in two heated telephone conversations, during which Khatami said he wasn’t responsible for the activity against Israel and that Iranian conservatives were trying to undermine his efforts to change the country’s foreign policy.
Likewise, Los Angeles Times Jerusalem correspondent Mary Curtius reported Jan. 10 that
The State Department said Israel had provided ‘extensive and compelling evidence’ about the direct involvement of senior figures in Palestinian Authority and the mainstream Palestinian movement Fatah.
Other U.S. officials said Israel had laid out evidence implicating Arafat as well as top officials in the Iranian government, disputing suggestions that it might have been a rogue operation.