When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his outrageous remarks about Israel, the world reacted as though such a sentiment had appeared out of thin air, with no provocation.
Please do not take what I'm about to say as any sort of endorsement of Iran's quasi-theocracy. Long-time readers know that a staunch opposition to theocracy has always motivated my work. But let's face facts.
Regime change in Iran remains the official policy of America and Israel. Michael Ledeen and his neocon cronies -- a network which has had a profound impact on this administration's foreign policy -- lust for war with Iran. In his columns, Ledeen acts like a whining child in the back seat who can't wait for Dad to stop at the next restroom: I wanna see bombs drop on Tehran, and I wanna see 'em NOW
published by an Iranian news agency quotes the reaction of one Pirooz Mojtahedzadeh "a Tehran university professor and Director of Eurosevic Research Foundation in London." Professor Mojtahedzadeh may well be sucking up to Tehran; even so, he makes a couple of claims worthy of our attention:
"...Israel has threatened Iran with military attack at least 10 times and with nuclear attack in one case.
"Israel has been trying for years to force the US to enter into action and militarily attack Iran and wipe out this country from the (world) map."
He added that they should see how Israel is planning to eliminate Iran from the world map through the United States.
He also drew the attention of observers to the anti-Iran activities of the Bush Administration. He said Michael Ledeen, an advisor of US President George Bush has gathered together in Washington, all the separatist, secessionist, underground and even terrorist groups that (Iraqi dictator) Saddam Hussein had created to separate Iran's Khuzestan, and is masterminding a plot to eliminate Iran.
Of course, I do not accept the image of Israel manipulating the U.S. the way a kid playing a video game manipulates Mario. That, unfortunately, is how most in the Middle East see the relationship. Iranians know
that Bush and Cheney want to rain fire on Tehran; Ahmadinejad has responded in kind, voicing a wish for a similar fate on those he (wrongly) believes to be the puppetmasters.
I cannot see why our society should excuse Ledeen's repeated cries for blood while comdemning Ahmadinejad's invocation of Mars. Surely we should hold all sides to the same
standard? Iran's president may have issued horrifying rhetoric, but (so far as we know) that government has made no plans for attack. Can the same be said of the Americans?
A further point: Ahmadinejad is an elected
leader -- of sorts. Iranian democracy is so very flawed, one really cannot use that label; the clerics hold far too much power. Still, we have no reason to believe that the man's anti-Israel rhetoric does not reflect the opinion of the Iranian people.
Which brings us to the contradiction of this administration's call to "democratize" the Middle East. A fair vote in (say) Saudi Arabia would thrust power into the hands of people who despise us.
The not-terribly-stable government we have installed in Iraq has close ties to Iran. If we pull out of that country altogether, power will probably fall to someone whose rhetoric makes Ahmadinejad's seem mild.
And we may soon be forced
to withdraw. As Juan Cole
Aides around Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the chief spiritual leader of Iraqi Shiites, are broadly hinting that after the December 15 elections, he may begin a Gandhi-like campaign to demand a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq...
If Sistani gives The Fatwa for a US withdrawal, the Bush administration will simply have to acquiesce. The situation would be similar to what happened in the Philippines in 1991, when the Philippines senate declined to authorize the extension of the treaty that permitted US naval bases in that country.
And what then? You don't need to be a Middle East expert to recognise the signs of a massive civil war. Alas, we have no good options here.