Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dangers of Canalized information

The European package proposal – or better put the proposal of the UN Security Council – which was brought to Tehran 2 days ago by EU’s Javier Solana, had meandered through a diplomatic path, not common to such events. About two months ago the Europeans and the Americans had publicly announced some of the contents of the ‘package’, and without taking any official responsibility for the ‘incentives’ in fact assess Iran’s response to the idea, while also engaging international public opinion on the issue.

Since that time, Iranian officials have sent only one repeated message to the world: Iran will not forego nuclear enrichment. While having the effect of barring the expression or publication of any dissenting views in Iran, this policy aimed at forcing the West to make the maximum concessions to Iran on the nuclear issue. In fact this package seems to be a beefed up version of earlier package that was turned down by Iran and went into history. But during this period the concerns of peace activists and supporters have grown as well war and retaliation were the words of the conflicting sides. And as if intending to stay at par with all Western threats, on the even of Solana’s trip to Tehran, Iran’s supreme leader threatened to cut off oil supplies if Iran were attacked. This sounded much like US President George Bush’s declaration that ‘all options remained on the table.’

The silence that now has been imposed on Iran’s media, also raises the fear among peace-seekers in Iran and the world that the media picture that is presented may lead Iranian decision makers to wrong conclusion. Something that has numerous historic precedence in Iran. What augment such concerns - despite the global information revolution - are occasional leaks that surface. One became apparent during Khamenei’s recent speech.

On Monday, during the speech that Khamenei gave in which he threatened to cut off Iran’s energy supplies to the world if attacked by the US - which in itself was a first by the supreme leader – he called the claims of an international consensus against Iran a lie. By itself the comment may not be inaccurate. But the examples he gave certainly were. For example he said, ‘116 non-aligned countries have bravely expressed their support for Iran’s nuclear activities. In addition, the Islamic Conference Organization and even countries under US influence support our actions.’

It should be mentioned that the non-aligned movement, like other regional or even global organizations, does not determine the policies of the governments that make up that organization. Governments chose their policies based on their interests and not on group resolutions. We saw that India as the most important and influential non-aligned country supported two international resolutions against Iran on the nuclear issue. In general, the view that the support of the non-aligned movement or any international organization is the determining factor in international affairs is incorrect. One should not forget that even one of the most practical and coherent oldest international organizations with a 300-year history, i.e. the European Union, has not succeeded in dictating a single policy for all issues to its members, despite having a single currency and a common Parliament. Had it been otherwise, there would not have been a single European soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan today.

The second reference is to the Islamic Conference Organization (ICO). This grouping which has members ranging from Iran, to Iraq, Libya and Egypt, has no unanimity on any single international issue. None of its threats scare anybody, while none of its solidarity proclamations create hope for anyone. If for no other reason than that Iran’s rivals and friends all belong to the ICO. Iran lost eight years of its life and resources to one of its members during its war with Iraq. And Qatar another of its members which happens to be its only current rotating member at the UN Security Council, and which opposes the policies of the Tehran, while it in turn opposes Qatar for having relations with Israel, asked Tehran for the impossible in return for not voting against Iran, and whose Emir left Tehran only after using the term ‘Arabian Gulf’ in reference to the Persian Gulf.

These are all the problems of selective journalism and information dissemination that some of Iran’s rulers have decided to impose on the country’s media. So when political realities in Iran result in decision-makers basing the policies of the country on the announcements of 116 members of the non-aligned movement, it is time to worry about the fate of Iran.