This week the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, blamed America and Israel for the widespread anti-government protests around Sunday’s holy mourning day of Ashura. He insisted that “Americans and Zionists are the sole audience of a play they have commissioned and sold out”.
These allegations echo earlier episodes when Ahmadinejad, his ministers and loyal clerics, have insisted that Britain, Israel and the US are responsible for fomenting the mass protests that have followed June’s election-grabbing coup.
Iran has formally protested this alleged foreign interference, summoning ambassadors and crying foul. Relations with the west – already tense over the nuclear impasse – have been further strained by arrests of foreign nationals, harassment of embassy employees and the unsavoury record of Iranian involvement in Iraq. Just today this newspaper has published evidence showing that a British hostage captured in Iraq may in fact have been held in Iran by the Revolutionary Guard. This revelation will worsen already deeply strained relations.
At one level Ahmadinejad’s remarks blaming the west for recent protests seem a crass political attempt to discredit the opposition and to play both on a certain Iranian tradition of xenophobia and on a widespread public memory of repeated foreign power interference historically in Iranian affairs. At another, and more worrying, level they are clearly indicative of an irrational conspiracy theory mentality that p… >>>