Archive Sections: letters | music | index | features | photos | arts/lit | satire Find Iranian singles today!

Old policy, new fears
Ahmadinejad's comments about Israel are nothing new. But the international outrage reflects concerns about where Iran's nucler program may be heading.


November 1, 2005

Ahmadinejad's bellicose speech [1] on October 26 has spawned strong reactions and numerous commentaries. Most observers have asserted that Ahmadinejad's words are the result of his inexperience and that they do not reflect the views of the fundamentalist regime or his faction. One of the more extreme examples of the dominant view is expressed by Columbia University Professor Gary Sick, who said: "Ahmadinejad's role has been very substantially reduced... He's been in office for a hundred days. He's done nothing. I think people are looking around and saying 'This guy is a disaster'. I think they [the regime] are going to isolate him and quarantine him." [See]

In this article, I present evidence which proves that the dominant explanation is false. I show that Ahmadinejad's words are the expression of the actual consensus of the ruling faction of the regime. In other words, Ahmadinejad's words are not the mere utterance of one inexperienced person. Rather, Ahmadinejad expressed the views of the Young Conservative sub-faction and the consensus of the hard-line faction which control virtually all the main levers of power in Iran.[2] This is not mere academic exercise. If the dominant explanation is correct, one may not be too concerned about the off-the-cuff remarks of one man. However, if my analysis is correct, we should expect a more confrontational foreign policy by the regime.

The next question is: why are the hardliners pursuing a more confrontational policy at this juncture? In my next article I will argue that there is a rationale behind the position of Ahmadinejad and the hard-liners. The "new" aggressive policy is intended to serve both their domestic and foreign policy goals. The unusually strong reaction by EU, UN Security Council, Russia, and even Venezuela, were not expected. However, these reactions may or may not undermine the main intended goals of the regime or their pursuit of the more aggressive policy. But first, we need to establish whether Ahmadinejad's bellicose words reflected his own views or those of the ruling faction in Iran.

If Ahmadinejad's words were out of line with the policy of the regime, other members of the oligarchy would have immediately made clear that Ahmadinejad did not speak for the regime. Ahmadinejad, himself, might have been compelled to retract his remarks by the Supreme Leader and/or other members of the oligarchy.

If other members of his sub-faction (Young Conservatives) and his faction (hard-liners) publically state that what Ahmadinejad said is what their "Imam Khomeini" had said and that in fact the destruction of Israel is the policy of the fundamentalist regime, that would show that Ahmadinejad correctly reflected the policy consensus of the ruling faction in the oligarchy. In addition, if we observe other official statements repeat the same words and demands, then one can conclude that Ahmadinejad's words reflect the official policy of the regime.


On Friday the 28th, two days after his initial remarks, Ahmadinejad said: "My words are the Iranian nation's words... Westerners are free to comment, but their reaction is invalid. These people have a lot of nerve and they think that the whole world has to submit to them." {last sentence is my translation}[See]

On Sunday 30th, Ahmadinejad added: "We only repeated the words of the last 27 years which were the stances of the Imam, and the supreme leader [Ali Khamanehi] and Islamic nation. It was very clear." He went on and repeated his earlier words such as: "Today under the pretext of Gaza pullout, they want to force a few countries to recognize this country. The ones who do that must know that they are standing in front of Islamic nations and that is an unforgivable crime." [AFP, "Iran won't return to nuclear freeze: Ahmadinejad," October 30, 2005.]

The official news agency, IRNA, writes that the slogans at the official rally organized by the regime were: "Our President, Thanks Thanks," "Good Job Hezbollah, Ahmadinejad Hezbollah, President Hezbollah." {my translation} [See]


Gen. Rahim Safavi, the Supreme Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said: "The words of the president were the words of our nation... Americans and Israelis have made a psychological war against our nation to overcome their defeats in the Gaza Strip and Iraq. Zionists and Americans want to overthrow the Islamic Republic and they have said this, therefore repeating the words of Imam Khomeini and the nation by the president is unbearable for them... Our nation confirms the words of their president and this means that all the Islamic nations should in unity in an economic and cultural struggle for the Palestinian nation work together. This does not mean that they should use military methods, and we hope that 1.5 billion Muslims in a wise process expel a few hundred thousand Zionists from Palestine." {my translation}[See]

Hossein Shariatmadari, the ideologue of the Young Conservatives and the feared torturer at Evin, who has been the appointed by Supreme Leader to be editor-in-chief of the Kayhan daily wrote: "Our respected president has not said anything new or unprecedented about Israel to justify such a huge political tumult. Iran's nuclear case... could be a reason for the recent clamor." [Christian Oliver, "Iranians say Israel spat used to up atomic pressure," Reuters, October 30, 2005.]


Supreme Leader Ali Khamanehi attacked the negative reaction against Ahmadinejad's remarks and said: "... leaders of the west and Europe should be ashamed of being so much under the influence of Zionists." [See]

Ayatollah Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroodi, the Chairman of the Judicial branch, said: "The words of the president were reiterating the positions of the system." Shahroodi went further than Ahmadinejad and condemned the negative world reaction to the position of IRI as stated by Ahmadinejad and blamed it on the influence of Zionists on international organizations. {my translation} [See (1) (2)]

Ali Larijani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said: "Awakening in society with the help of this global movement can be important and highlight the role of Iran in the world of Islam.... The huffing and puffing around world is to reach another goal. The Zionist regime and the criminal America in the past years many times said words to insult the president of the Islamic Republic. {my translation}[See]

Hojatolislam v al-Moslemin Ibrahimi, who is a member of the Central Committee of the Society of Combatant Clergy (the main hard-line party) told ISNA: "What he [Ahmadinejad] said is exactly the same as what the late Imam [Khomeini] had said and the esteemed Supreme Leader [Khamanehi] had said earlier. These words are heavy for the arrogance [United States] and they think that time have changed these. However, the ideals of the revolution, that are in fact the ideals of the late Imam, do not change with time. Therefore, these words were the just words that were spoken."{my translation}[See]

Hojatolislam v al-Moslemin Movahedi Kermani, who is the Representative of Supreme Leader in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) defended president Ahmadinejad in his interview with ISNA and added: "We should speak our positions without any fear." He further added that the reactions of the West to Ahmadinejad's words were natural. He said: "We should not escape after these reactions. We should tell the truth and not fear any of these international reactions. We should plane our calculations based on Islamic and religious principles. One of the Islamic principles is the defense of the oppressed, and the world has become aware of the oppression and corruption of the regime that has occupied Jerusalem, therefore the stronger we hold our ground, the better the world becomes aware of our position." {my translation} [See]

Secretary-General of Motalefeh Party (another party in the hard-line faction that is very different than the Young Conservatives), Mohammad Nabi Habibi, told ISNA: "The words of the president were not new; because as long as the Zionists have a conflict based on elimination of Islamic nations, they should expect the same policy of elimination against them by Islamic countries." He added: "Although [global] media have begum new propaganda against the president outside the country, but the president's words are a subject that all the Islamic nations believe in... Jews around the world like all adherents of religions should have a tranquil life without usurping the rights of other nation; but when Zionists has been formed to eliminate Islamic countries then they should expect similar policies will be imposed on them by the Islamic nations." {my translation} [See]

Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri, member of the Expediency Council, and Gholam-Ali Hadad Adel, speaker of the Majles provided implicit support to Ahmadinejad and made attacks on Israel that were even harsher than those made by Ahmadinejad while maintaining that by eliminating Israel they mean taking the land from Zionists and giving it to Muslim Palestinians. {my translation} [See]


The "International Qods [Jerusalem] Day" rally is the main official program of the regime, where the regime announces its policies as the "Statement of Marchers." The Statement of the Marchers repeats exactly what Ahmadinejad had said on October 26th. The statement explicitly threatens the governments of Arab and Muslim countries that have recognized Israel "with instability and violence" and calls them "traitors." It adds that they do not "accept anything less than the destruction of Israel."

It goes on to add: "We, the Muslim nation, participating in this march on the International Qods Day, explicitly state that the Zionist occupying regime is a cancerous tumor for the entire world and humanity and therefore the demand of all freedom-seeking people of the world, especially the Muslims is the destruction and complete annihilation of this infected cancerous tumor. The announced position of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran (on the wiping of Israel from the map) is the true and religious opinion of the late esteemed Imam and all the Muslims especially the brave and revolutionary people of Iran, and we strongly support his [Ahmadinejad's] words." {my translation; the words in parentheses are in original; the words in brackets are mine} [See]

The official news agency IRNA editorialized: "The racist actions of the Zionists in the genocide of the Muslim Palestinians is exactly what Mr. Ahmadinejad pointed to and comes from the racist and oppressive mentality of global Zionism and the struggle against it has its roots in Islamic history and it dates hundreds of years. For this reason the president emphasized that the issue of Palestine is the central issue of the world of Islam." {my translation} [See]

The Chairman of the General Inspection Organization of the Country [the bureau responsible for inspecting various state agencies] Hojatolislam val-Moslemin Mohammad Niazi told ISNA that the current methods of the president is following the policies of the system and added: "These polices have been formulated by the late Imam and the responsible officials of the system have interpreted them and the president is duty-bound to work within the system's policies and continue them." Niazi said that: "The reactions of other countries against Iran is natural because they are under the influence of Zionism and these reactions were always even evident to the words and position of the late Imam and until the time that Zionists have influence in the systems of the West and arrogant powers, these reactions are natural.... Zionists want to dominate and influence Islamic countries and the issues of Iraq and Afghanistan are the plans of Zionists and they are following their plans...." {my translation} [See]

Hojatolislam Seyed Abol-Hassan Nouri, Imam Jomeh [the most powerful cleric appointed by the Supreme Leader in each city] of Khorramshahr told IRNA: "The precise and polite words of the president is the exact words of the late Imam.... The words of this revolutionary president are the sayings of the Imam and all the devout and freedom fighters and the huffing and puffing of the oppressors of the world against these words are useless and wrong.... The words of our dear president has no place for criticism and he as a Muslim and revolutionary person who supports the Koran has said good and just words and know that the threats of the enemy is empty... The believing and good people and those expecting the 12th Imam in this holy land should take this land from the Zionists and give it to the 12th Imam... These shouts come from the steel determination of the nation in liberating Palestine and will bear fruit and will utterly destroy and annihilate the remnants of the Zionists.{my translation} [See]

Shahaboldin Sadr, the head of the Medical Association told ISNA: "Th sentence that the president said was also said by the late Imam that this cancerous tumor should be eliminated from the body of the Islamic world." {my translation} [See]

Ayatollah Zeinolabedin Ghorbani, the Representative of the Supreme Leader in Gilan province and the Imam Jomeh of Rasht condemned the world's reactions to Ahmadinejad. {my translation} [See]


Although the demand for the destruction of Israel goes back to 1979, President Khatami (1997-2005) had toned down vitriolic attacks on Israel and the United States. Nevertheless, slogans "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" remained the official slogans at the official Friday Prayers. Moreover, during parades, the regime hung banners on the missiles which read "Death to Israel" and "Death to American." Before Khatami, President Rafsanjani used different language when addressing Iranian and Western audiences.

HamidReza Taraghi, a member of the Central Committee of Motalefeh Party told ISNA: "The speech of the president showed that the strategy of the new government is not like the strategy of the previous government [Khatami's administration] and is an aggressively offensive [tahajomi] strategy and our nation will no longer allow Europeans and Americans to use bombs and bullets instead of logic." {my translation} [See]

Hojatolislam v al-Moslemin Mojtaba Zolnour, the commander of the 83rd Imam Jafar Sadegh Brigade, said in his sermon on Friday prayer on the 28th: "Unfortunately, in the past eight years, the officials of the country had lackadaisical commitments to the ideals of the Islamic revolution... This caused the enemies of Islam to become bolder and today they have this reaction to the recent revolutionary position of the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The global arrogance that had observed the lackadaisical commitment to the ideals of the revolution, today that heard the words of Mr. Ahmadinejad had become angry... The dear president, away from the compromises that some politicians do, has presented the destruction of Israel which was the word of the late Imam and has caused commotion around the world.... Today, the late Imam's spirit has come alive in the body of the society and the youth of the country have returned to the ideals of the revolution.... The policies of the former officials [Khatami administration] were to give in to the demands of the enemies such as in the nuclear arena... What was the result of retreat from our principles? Didn't they become bolder? The preservation and prolongation of us is not to go in that direction and instead stand up to their impositions." {my translation} [See]

Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, Chairman of the Experts Council, declared in his Friday prayer sermon on the 28th: "The silence of the Islamic countries against the crimes of the regime occupying Jerusalem in the Palestinian lands is shameful and haram [forbidden according to Shariah]... Unfortunately, this shamelessness has reached such an extent that some of the these countries have normalized their relations with Israel... The normalization of relations between Islamic countries and the criminal Israeli regime means support for oppression of this regime against Palestinians." {my translation} [See]

Gen. Ahmad Roozbehani, Deputy of the Greater Tehran Amr be Maroof va Nahi az Monker [Official Agency to Promote Virtue and Forbid Vice] said: "The cancer tumor that is the occupying regime of Jerusalem should be wiped out." {my translation} [See]


In his October 26 speech, Ahmadinejad did not say that Iran will use nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. Rather he said that Iran will help Palestinians and other Muslims to destroy Israel through armed struggle (e.g., suicide bombs, rocket attacks by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Lebanese Hezbollah). This has been the official policy of the fundamentalist regime for the past 27 years. In the past 27 years, the fundamentalist regime has provided funds, training and arms to Islamic fundamentalist forces that have killed Israelis, Americans and others. Moreover, threatening or condemning governments of Arab or Muslim-majority countries that have recognized Israel is also not new.

What is new is the perception around the world that the fundamentalist regime has had a covert nuclear weapons program, and that the completion of nuclear weapons would provide the fundamentalist regime the capability to destroy another country.

Ahmadinejad's words on October 26 accurately reflect the long-standing policies of the fundamentalist regime. From Ayatollah Khomeini to Supreme Leader Ali Khamanehi, those words have been spoken publicly. In this article, I presented a small number of the much larger body of support that many members of the oligarchy have provided Ahmadinejad and his position.

A close reading of the text of Ahmadinejad's speech shows that he had chosen his words very carefully (and arguably purposefully). Not only Ahmadinejad did not retract a single word of his speech, but he succeeded in gathering the main figures in the Islamic Republic to support him and condemn his critiques. Many non-fundamentalists legitimately regard Ahmadinejad's bellicose words to be reprehensible. But this does not mean that those words were chosen without a rationale behind them nor that they may not serve the interests of the Young Conservatives or the hard-line faction.

For example, attacking the U.S. Embassy and taking its diplomats hostage by Khomeini and his fundamentalist student supporters were reprehensible acts and against international law. Those actions, however, helped Khomeini get rid of prime minister Bazargan, impose the fundamentalist constitution on a reluctant nation, get rid of president Bani Sadr, and consolidate power in his own hands. Taking and holding the hostages were against the national interests of Iran and the interests of the Iranian people. By placing their own interests above the national interests, fundamentalists were able to consolidate their power.

Instead of dismissing fundamentalists as idiots or their actions as amateurish, we should attempt to analyze and understand the motives behind their actions. This could help those who wish to replace the current nightmarish tyranny with a secular and democratic system.

[1] For an English text of Ahmadinejad's speech see here.
[2] For a brief discussion of various faction comprising the fundamentalist oligarchy ruling Iran see my article. Ahmadinejad's remarks on October 26 vindicate my analysis published October 11.

Masoud Kazemzadeh is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. He is the author of Islamic Fundamentalism, Feminism, and Gender Inequality in Iran Under Khomeini (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2002), and The Bush Doctrine and Iran: Alternative Scenarios and Consequences (forthcoming).

For letters section
To Masoud Kazemzadeh

Masoud Kazemzadeh



Book of the day

The Persian Sphinx
Amir-Abbas Hoveyda and the Riddle of the Iranian Revolution
by Abbas Milani
>>> Excerpt

Copyright 1995-2013, Iranian LLC.   |    User Agreement and Privacy Policy   |    Rights and Permissions