American journalists and Iranian elections
March 5, 2004
A recent Harvard book (1) reminds the public about
the controversy provoked by New York Times' Walter Duranty
reports from the Soviet Union and the Pulitzer prize he won in
1932 . Like many
other journalists and intellectuals
he was soft on Stalin's terrible suppression of peasants opposed to the
forced "collectivization" of agriculture . Duranty and other Western
reporters found many excuses for the bloodshed and repression accompanying
the so-called Communist "experiment".
Reading about Iran in the past seven
years in the New York Times , the Washington Post,
the Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Le Monde and
many other Western
papers, reminded me of the Soviet "enthusiasts" of the 1930s
and 1940s in the West.
Indeed a majority of the Middle East reporters
the "landslide" election of Mr Khatami as president of the Iranian
Khomeinist theocracy as a sign of democratization. They created their own
out of whole cloth analysis of Iranian politics in presenting
Khatami and his minions
as "reformists" if not totally "liberals".
to Western journalists these so-called "moderates" opposed the "conservatives"
harsh liners and the supreme leader ayatollah Khamenei who
had to compromise with them
because of the popular support they enjoyed . This fictious explanation
of Iranian politics perdured for seven years even in Western
governmental circles .
British, French and German officials, in turn, invented the so-called
"constructive dialogue" with Tehran. They even boasted recently
that they had persuaded
Tehran's mullahs to make a clean breast of their nuclear programs and
Not only did Khatami and his group of so-called reformists
produce no reforms
and were consequently rebuffed often by the hardliners, but
it appears now that the mullahs, including Khatami and his ministers,
the UN atomic agency.
In that context, last month's elections, came as a clarifying
"nostrum". Tired by the inefficiency and inaction of Khatami and
his group, a
majority of Iranians shunned the ballot box despite pressures and
even menaces. The
limited turnout of voters deprieves the theocratic regime of the
few shreds of legitimacy
it claimed. The conservatives impeached Khatami's parliamentary
supporters before the vote and are therefore assured of a legislature
During the past seven years they had already
muzzled the press
and the media
without facing any real reaction from Khatami. They also had
unleashed their organized thugs against the students and other
opponents. It seems that
the general population, living in hardship, has lost hope
for any peaceful reform
and even turned its back to politics altogether. Only the
students and a few
liberal, democratic or leftist minded small groups pursue
their opposition inside and outside the country.
Will finally journalists
and other observers in the West come to a realistic assessment
of Iranian politics? It took the
of the thirties and fourties almost half a century to revise
opinion. I don't
think that Iranians can wait that long.
A quarter of century has already passed since the
so-called Islamic revolution. Iranians seem totally
the attitude of the
West. Some official
declarations by the president about Iran and the Middle
East in the past two and a half years kindled some hope.
But they were
and comments by cabinet members.
One can understand governmental fickleness: Indeed,
Iran's Shiite theocratic regime can indirectly manipulate Iraq's
60% Shiite population
problems for the Bush administration, especially in
an electoral year.
But what about
the press and the media? What about the Pulitzer
Prize comittee? Are they going
to help the mullahs gain another lease on life, as
they did with the Soviet leaders in the thirties and fourties?
From the Other Shore, by Daniel C.
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Fereydoun Hoveyda was Iran's ambassador to the United Nations
from 1971 to 1978. To learn more about the Hoveydas, visit their
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