Friday, September 26, 2008

What He Will Bring from America

Last Friday Iran’s leader made a fiery speech at Tehran’s weekly prayer gathering in ‎which he once again defiantly snubbed the power of the regime at its opponents. Coming ‎on the eve of President Ahmadinejad’s trip to New York to attend the annual General ‎Assembly meeting, the snub sends a special message.

Some opponents of the regime will ‎simplistically compare the words of the leader that, “sympathy for the people of Israel is ‎not the view of the government” with the remarks that Ahmadinejad made at a press ‎interview in which he said, “Mashai’s message is my message and that of the ‎government” (Mashai is Ahmadinejad’s vice-president who had a few months ago ‎publicly stunned the hardliners by talking positively about friendship with Israeli people), ‎and conclude that these two politicians have very opposing views. The reality however is ‎something else.‎

The controversy over Mashai’s remarks and the finality of the storm it caused is ‎indicative of an unfolding political plan. The implementation of similar plans by earlier ‎administrations had failed because the leader, and right-wing groups in Iran, had opposed ‎them. Today, however, the leader does not even attempt to hide his support for the ‎current administration and its allies, creating an opportunity to go ahead with ‎implementing plans that had proved impossible in the past.‎

Except for Ahmadinejad’s first trip to the UN which was to send a religious message ‎when he claimed in his speech at the General Assembly that a halo of light surrounded ‎his body as he stood at the podium, his trips to the US have been aimed at opening a ‎channel to the White House.

And despite the humiliating gestures in the way the ‎Americans issued entry visas to their country and tens of other more subtle barriers they ‎created – whose reasons will be revealed in the future - Ahmadinejad has continued his ‎knocks at the door by presenting different models and formulas to break the impasse, ‎while George Bush’s administration has till now rejected each and every one of them. ‎But the Iranians have not been dissuaded and have now relegated the task of building the ‎ground for Iran-US relations to Mowlana and Amir Ahmadi.‎

It appears that in the latest scenario for Ahmadinejad to get close to the White House he ‎must first retract his comments about Israel and the Holocaust, as a way to win the ‎American heart. I think a roadmap has been prepared in this regard which would begin ‎with Rahim Mashai publicly declaring friendship with the people of Israel. When he ‎announced, “I will repeat this a thousand more times that we love the people of Israel and ‎I am not afraid of anybody for saying this,” however, another hullabaloo erupted.

Clerics, ‎theological centers, Friday prayer imams, 200 Majlis representatives, members of the ‎Experts Assembly on Leadership, Majlis clerics etc, all protested the message to the point ‎that even a resolution to subpoena the president to the Majlis was signed by eighty ‎conservative MPs.‎

The president however not only ignored the protests, but responded with these words: ‎‎“Clerics are respectable but we have to do what we have to do. You make your ‎recommendations, but (bear in mind that) we cannot implement every recommendation ‎that you make. The responsibility of running the country rests with us, and that has its ‎own rules.” Even the former king of Iran, the Shah, could not utter such words in public. ‎And with these words, the president clarified the issues, and subsequently stressed that, ‎‎“Mashai’s words are my words and those of the government.”‎

The storm continued and required a larger intervention. This is when the leader of the ‎Islamic regime stepped in to help the president, and through them stopped the growing ‎protests against the fiery chief executive. At last week’s Friday prayers, he said that while ‎talking about friendship with Israeli people was not right, there should be no attacks on ‎the government because of Mashai’s words! In short: Stop the uproar and leave the ‎government alone. End of the matter!‎

This message was immediately heard by Mashai who responded that he is a dedicated ‎follower of the leader. Ali Motahari, an MP from Tehran who had initiated the process to ‎subpoena the president to the Majlis, announced that they were removing the resolution ‎and others too said that with the words of the leader, the issue had ended.‎

So with these words and maneuverings, the basis for Iran-US talks is now laid and we ‎must wait to see what the president will bring from Washington. The outcome may result ‎in a product that will require more propaganda (similar to the claims of seeing a “halo of ‎light” or the “victory” at Columbia University) or a better product, which may come ‎about because the president’s new advisors (Hushang Amir Ahmadi and Hamid ‎Mowlana) being Americans with a better understanding of that society and its political ‎workings, may perform better than his previous advisors.‎

Recent events in Iran clearly demonstrate that under Ahmadinejad’s administration, ‎anything that is willed can be implemented, and, because of the total support of the ‎leader, Iranian politicians and officials don’t have much to worry about. This is so ‎because inside the country, everybody has accepted the regime. Stay tuned.‎

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Necessary Correction

The explanation or correction offered by the spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry that ‎the Iranian government has taken an independent posture regarding the recent events in ‎the Caucuses (i.e. Georgia), and the denials of Iranian authorities that the country has ‎sided with Russia in its dispute with Georgia, contains both good and bad news.‎

The good news is that the spokesperson understands the importance of acting quickly to ‎correct an impression before it is too late. Otherwise it would not be clear what would the ‎confrontation between the Iranian cat and the Russian bear would lead to. Just as it is not ‎clear that if the Iranian government had taken a few more steps, what other unwanted ‎requests it would have to heed to, taking the country into some further unknown ‎direction.‎

But the bad news is that reason for the explanation and correction that was provided was ‎not what it should have been. ‎

The explanation of the spokesperson was so choreographed as if the world press or ‎analysts opposing the government had said something that had not been calculated and ‎thought through which now needed an explanation or a correction. This as we know was ‎not the case. When one looks at last week’s major headlines of government and pro-‎government newspapers such as Kayhan, and more importantly when one listens to the ‎remarks that the president himself made on Monday and others made during his presence ‎at the Shanghai gathering, it becomes clear that the domestic and international ‎commentators had actually been right.‎

The cartoon that the Daily Telegraph, a British right-wing newspaper, published showing ‎a bear whose one claw was holding oil pipelines – showing Russia’s hold on portions of ‎the international gas and oil connections around the world – while the other was giving ‎Iran a gift, which was nothing but Russian missiles, was exactly what the headline of the ‎Iranian right-wing newspaper Resalat had for its readers: “Iran Acquires Most Advanced ‎Missiles”, or Kayhan’s headline on Sunday [even though it is a quote from Western ‎sources] which claimed that the Georgian crises had removed the possibility of a George ‎Bush military attack against Iran. So commentators and analysts who had said that Iran ‎was probably supportive of the Russian position were not off the mark.‎

Even if these and all other similar announcements made by Iran’s state-run national radio ‎and television network last week are attributed to the media, one cannot ignore the ‎remarks and the joyous laughter that Iran’s president demonstrated in Dushanbe, the ‎capital of Tajikistan, when he talked of moves by Georgia’s uncalculated state authorities ‎and attributed the crises in the Caucuses to foreign powers saying, “We have reports that ‎the Zionists were very active in this issue.”‎

President Ahmadinejad’s remarks amid the condemnation of Russia’s military attack by ‎almost all of Russia’s neighbors or at the least condemnation of the military attack by a ‎powerful neighbor meant nothing but a show of support for the Kremlin. But it was now ‎the job of the spokesperson of Iran’s foreign ministry to change the president’s words ‎from “intervention of powers outside the region” and “foreign and non-regional ‎intervention in the Georgian crises” to saying that “this crises was not in the interest of ‎peace or stability for the region”, without naming the source of the intervention.‎

It is already late for the Islamic republic of Iran, after its thirty plus years of existence, ‎and with the forced retirement of its diplomats, not to know that one cannot be successful ‎at the international stage by making categorical statements or displaying uncalled for ‎laughter.‎

What the president said at the Dushanbe meeting about the Caucasian crises, and the ‎following correction or explanations that were offered, not only harmed Iran in a normal ‎way, but they also damaged the country’s dignity and standing. The mere presence of ‎Iran’s president at a meeting whose members are not too keen on accepting Iran as one of ‎them, and clinging on to Putin and others are not things that bring respect for the country.‎

These childish initiatives, such as gathering three participating members who spoke Farsi ‎and then portraying this as a major event in the Iranian press, are not only valueless, but ‎also show our thirst for newspaper headlines, while instructing them how to deal with us.‎

In all honesty, what is the importance of being in the same room with Hamid Karzai - ‎while everyone knows how he came to power in Afghanistan - and president ‎Ahmadinejad’s counterpart in Tajikistan who loudly proclaims two points every time he ‎comes across an Iranian, that first of all they do not need any clerics in their country, and ‎secondly that they drink vodka there, and plenty of it, except to feed the Iranian state run ‎news agencies?‎