Don't get us mixed up
Ahmadinejad is not, REPEAT not, the epitome of Iranian people's aspiration and their logic
December 16, 2005
There are countries of the world about which the world cannot afford to be ignorant. Iran is one such country and though the International community is slow in realising, it will have to be as informed and uncluttered in the their judgement about Iran as they are about France say. They would have to because Iran matters a lot and I am not saying that as an Iranian patriot but as an informed observer.
It is precisely because of this imperative that when I read Mr Mordechai Kedar's article "Nucleotheism" last night I was amazed at the sheer lack of insight in his assertions. I reiterate Iran cannot be generalised away in the stereotypes we are accustomed to about Mid Eastern countries. This was particularly disappointing to me as generally the Israeli politicians and opinion makers are people of sober judgement. There has always been a general pragmatic intelligence which has underpinned the modus operandi of Israeli Statecraft. Let us hope that despite Mr Kedar's very professional credentials and academic standing he will not wield any where near the kind of influence when he is under this level of misconception.
The argument he has marshalled is that the aggressive stance that the Islamic republic has adopted in relation to its alleged nuclear proliferation finds its justification in the state sponsored theology. Which theology has the concept of Velayat Faqih at its apex. Indeed the writer says and I quote:
'According to the principle of Wilayat al-Faqih, all these matters must be under the control of the Man of Faith in view of the fact that he enjoys divine illumination, granting him understanding of God's ways in the world, whereby the Deity illuminates his path and guides his footsteps and his decisions'.
Later on he continues in a very simplistic way:
''The Iranian logic is as follows: 'If Allah gave us the ability to develop nuclear weapons, and if we decided that we must carry out this development, then this decision cannot be wrong, for Allah illuminates our path and guides us to the correct decision. The decision to proceed with the nuclear development is not our decision but a divine decision, our part being merely to carry it out. Were we to terminate the development of our nuclear capability, we would be guilty of violating a divine command'."
It is actually very difficult to find any kind of distinction in Mr. Kedar's argument between the people of Iran and the regime. He asks rhetorically: 'And, overall, how can one understand the Iranians at the present time?', and later on he claims; 'The Iranian constantly asks himself: "Who appointed these infidels to tell us what to do and what not to do?''.
Given that he has also written:
'As a Shi'ite Moslem, he [Ahmadinejad] is obligated to do all in his power... to build up the country's power, seeing that Allah, in his grace and mercy, has endowed the Iranian Shi'ite Moslems with the ability to develop nuclear weapons'.
I can only assume that he sees absolutely no distinction between Ahmadinejad and other regime figures and the Iranian people. He is not simply referring to the government ruling in Iran as 'the Iranians' but in some bizarre fashion all of the Iranian people.
Now I do not know which Researcher can seriously have recourse to the best practices in empirical validation and yet be culpable of this magnitude of generalization. To inform his judgment however may we remind Mr. Kedar of the same fact that we have reminded the regime apologists in this and other forum that: no sound opinion poll has ever been conducted to solicit the true views of the Iranian people on this issue. On the odd occasion that the results of an opinion poll have been published (in the Khatami years), the conclusion was so unequivocal and uncomfortable for the regime that the regime arrested the pollsters.
As this writer has previously written to this forum may I remind the gentleman in question that the Islamic Republic is not exactly a transparent regime. Free flow of information is anathema to its existence and only a select few insiders have access to premium intelligence. As such any information pertaining to the state of public opinion is at best intelligent guess work at worst speculation. There are some parameters however within which some kind of forecasting can be conducted (again by no means accurate but within reason):
1. The Iranian people are diametrically opposed to the concept of Velayat-e-Faqih; we know so as there are now factions within the regime itself who are openly questioning its validity within temporal and theological domain. Needless to say these regime opportunists are no better than their so-called Conservative counterparts but they do sense a great schism between the regime and the general population at large.
2. The people of Iran would like a serious rapprochement with the West; no other country in the Middle East was as sympathetic to the Americans post 9/11 as the Iranians were. This we know to be true by the outpouring of serious sentiment on the morrow of this tragic calamity on the streets of Tehran. They are also spurned on to better relations with the West as the Iranian economy with its long-term youth unemployment is desperate to get on the Globalization bandwagon to benefit from it. The regime is institutionally and organically opposed to this as it knows that Globalization can destroy it.
3. The Iranian people are still licking their wounds from the Iran Iraq war. Perhaps less clear-cut for them is the desperately reckless Post Revolutionary policies of Ruhollah Khomeini in encouraging an Iraqi attack with US blessing (another story, another fallacy, another tragedy). As such they feel very much threatened by potential attacks on their country in the future. Again there are disturbing signs that a certain portion of the Iranian public does not understand the greater responsibility of the Islamic Regime in creating this crisis in the first place. What proportion we do not know and with this regime in power we have no way of telling. It is a safe bet to say however that this is by no means the majority but it does constitute a big minority. We know so because large numbers of people did go to the polls last July and regrettably afforded legitimacy to this vile regime. Given that the numbers of those who opted for the Non-Conservative candidates along with abstainers was higher than the Conservative voters we can be relatively comfortable with the assertion that the majority of Iranians do want a change in their country and are not happy with its direction.
4. Iranian people are just as prone to populist and demagogic policies as any other country. Perhaps more so as they have never tasted real democracy in their history except for a brief period in the Pahlavi era.
5. Iran does have serious economic considerations to contend with. The oil is running out and the population is on the rise. It is imperative for the Iranian economy to be able to diversify its energy resources so as to be able to sustain its perspective economic growth. The Iranians understand this but again regrettably what they fail to realize is that the regime occupying the seats of power has actually signed the Non-Proliferation treaty and acted with typical lack of transparency with the International community. We know that it has been less than candid with its true intentions not only by serious concerns voiced by IAEA but also Rafsanjani's opportunistic pre-election admission-cum-gimmick regarding this lack of frankness.
6. The Iranian population is looking more and more towards a secular and Nationalistic model of political development for its country. Its new cultural mores and values are far more in tune with what was left behind in 1979 by the Pahlavis than what the left and right of the anti-Shah revolution aspired to. This we know from increasing popularity of Nationalist writers such as Kasravi and the mushrooming of secular and nationalistic groups not only outside Iran but also inside. It is also palpable by the choice of names given to the newborn, pennames, dress codes, choice of mythology and folklore and attempts at purifying the Persian language. This we also know in the increasing and unfortunate estrangement of national minorities who believe (rightly or wrongly) that there is a lurking chauvinistic backlash in the offing against them. No wonder that buoyed by the thesis of regime change many of these groups are trying to hide their separatist tendencies by calls for Federalism.
7. There is an increasingly estranged and impoverished working class who nevertheless lurk further and further to reaction. This social class- and contrary to the machinations of nostalgic Communists- are arguably the most reactionary group in Iran. The youth and women groups are amongst the most progressive.
8. The regime is good at one thing and one thing alone; the ability to crisis manage its way to another round of odious survival. It did this before with the American hostage issue to drive out liberals; it later on smashed the left by prolonging the war and it has dissipated people's energies for establishing Civil Society by Kahatami type distractions.
With the above points made it is obvious that for the regime to survive it has to create another crisis, this time by concocting a phony nationalism and tagging its destructive and regressive values on that movement in order to survive.
Mr. Kedar asks rhetorically:
'And what motivates president Ahmadinajad of Iran, in such a complex situation, to voice declarations on "a world without Israel" and "the transfer of Israel to Europe"?'
Let me inform Mr. Kedar of what motivates Ahmadinejad to spew out his inflammatory poison and create further tension in the region. I need to inform him of this as his comments are not only unhelpful but downright misleading to say the least.
As I argued above the regime is expert at crisis management. When it sees that the US is regrettably caught up in an apparent quagmire and its forces stretched in Iraq and Afghanistan and further sees the political backlash amongst the Western electorate it knows that the possibility of military invasion is remote. It further sees that for the duration of the time that there are foolish governments in London, Paris and Berlin who chose to appease the Mullahs when there is a laughing clown like Khatami in power but still continue with the same appeasement when an obnoxious figure by the name of Ahmadinejad is holding the reins; he sees no incentives in moderating his tirade.
When Ahmadinejad further sees that there are vile regimes like that of Vladimir Putin (the ex-KGB Communist thug) and even more disgusting murderous Communists in China and Cuba which can aid it in the UN, it is buoyed up in playing a game of chicken with the West. It does so because by its murderous, regressive, fascistic nature it needs to. It needs to because it has defined its authority by speaking from a position of strength and if that bullying authority is undermined its power is diminished.
Ahmadinejad is not, REPEAT not, the epitome of Iranian people's aspiration and their logic. He is the laughing hyena who mocks the pathetic ignorance of people like Emma Nicholson of the Social and Liberal Democrats in the UK who call this regime some kind of Democracy. He is the irony of fate who mocks at the reckless silliness of President Clinton who believes that the regime is semi-democratic. He is a jester at the court of Khamenei who through his sarcastic frankness inadvertently lets the cat out of the bag and embarrasses the likes of Khatami who are the 'human face' of the Islamic Republic.
For the duration of the time that the West is ignorant about Iran Ahmadinejad will continue. For the duration of the time that sections of the foolish Iranian opposition are busy fighting each other prolonging petty squabbles about 1953 rather than fighting the regime; the Iranians will go along with this Islamic dog and pony show. For the duration of the time that Iranian Democrats and students inside are forgotten instead of receiving the moral support of the International community in the same way that anti-Apartheid movement did a few decades ago the regime will act cocky and self righteous.
For the duration of the time that the Liberal tendency in the West is ignorantly busy portraying Regime Change as synonymous with American military intervention rather than Iranian people's just right to oust their vile theocracy the world will be held to ransom. For the duration of the time that otherwise rational politicians and opinion makers in the US such as the American Enterprise Institute and Michael Ledeen are busy appeasing separatists to bring pressure to bear the people of Iran are apt to close rank behind this vile theocracy.
This debacle is a zero sum game between nations and behind the smokescreen of apparent irrationality there are many rational calculations which I have delineated above. The more vile the regime ruling that country is the more vile the objectives of that diplomacy will be. The higher the pressure on that regime to change its behavior the more flexible it will be. The world needs to decide: does it want a pariah state in the 21st century or the noble people of Iran by its side? The choice is that simple but the distance a great leap of faith.