By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse
President Ahmadinejad's letter to the US President
George W. Bush stirred up the international community for a couple of days
before being dismissed by the Administration as no more than a rhetorical
ranting by a delusional fanatic.
The State Department
was, of course, correct when it discounted Ahmadinejad's letter as having
offered nothing new in the way of an opening with the United States,
or having addressed the basic issues of contention, such as the nuclear
"standoff" dilemma. A meaningful opening as expected by the State Department
would have included an acknowledgement by the Iranian president of America's
concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions, support for international terrorism and
human-rights violations, as well as, perhaps, asking the President how Iran
might hope to enter a direct dialogue with the United States to resolve such
Should it surprise
anyone that the letter did not address anything of real substance relating to
the current rift between the two states, or that Mr. Ahmadinejad did not humbly
appeal to George Bush for mercy as would an underling to his superior or a petty
king to a mighty emperor? Instead, he seems to have taken the position of an
equal, if not a morally superior, authority in addressing his counterpart. The
question is: Why did Ahmadinejad bother to write an almost 4000 word sermon-like
dissertation at all?
Was the writing of
that letter a thoughtless act, a gesture of arrogance, or a delaying tactic at a
critical time when the Security Council is discussing how to respond to
Iran's belligerent defiance regarding
its nuclear programs?
Before we can
attempt to answer this question, it might help to clarify a more important
underlying point. We have been hearing all along, with some justification, that
the Iranian president lacks any real authority when it comes to
Iran's security and military
matters, areas that remain within the jurisdiction of Iran's spiritual
leadership, the office of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Kameneh'i. At the same
time, the Western media, particularly in the United States, Western Europe and
especially Israel, have been portraying the supposedly powerless President
Ahmadinejad as a Hitler incarnate who might decide to unleash his atomic weapons
to attack Israel, Western Europe and the Unites States, even if it meant a total
devastation of Iran. But, we also
read in various articles by our Middle East
"experts" that the Ayatollahs wouldn't do anything that might endanger their own
lot in any way or jeopardize their grip on power. So, which "truth" are we to
It would be a safe
bet to assume that the Iranian president would not and could not make any major
decisions bearing on Iran's security and vital interests without the approval of
the Iranian parliament and, above all, the support from the highest authority,
that of Ayatollah Khameneh'i. It is, therefore, inconceivable to maintain that
Mr. Ahmadinejad got up one morning and had a revelation to compose a personal
letter to President George W. Bush. We must, therefore, assume that the decision
to write this letter, including its contents, had met the approval of the
Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameneh'i and his close-knit assistants.
assumption, let us now speculate on the purpose and possible impact of
Ahmadinejad's letter to George W. Bush.
First, those who can
read and understand Farsi will notice that the translated versions into English
are quite accurate and faithfully portray the original context and the spirit of
The principle theme
of the letter is a critique of the American administration's policies in the
Middle East, particularly with respect to Iran. In it, Mr.
Ahmadinejad points to the Bush administration's uneven and hypocritical approach
in dealing with the Islamic Middle East, as well as those policies' violation of
the true Christian values that the American president appeals to in his many
equally sermon-like speeches.
The letter also
blames the United
States for committing the very violations of
the international norms that the American president is accusing other nations of
committing. Here he lists resorting to deception and lies to justify aggression
and mayhem that have brought about large scale death and devastation in the
region, as well as great loss of lives and financial suffering for the American
Quite aware of the
backlash from his often misquoted and deliberately misrepresented rhetoric about
the Jewish state and the Holocaust in the Western media, Ahmadinejad once again
addresses the issue of Israel. Here, his remarks echo his
and the Iranian regime's long standing position regarding the Jewish state.
Iran is, and has been since
the Islamic revolution of 1978, the only state in the Middle East that has not
been intimidated or coaxed by the United States to remain compliant or
cooperative. Iran's view of
the state of Israel is shared by every other state
in the region, views that are seldom if ever expressed openly in the
international domain by the client or dependant Islamic states.
Rather than call for
the destruction of the state of Israel, he blames the United States for aiding and abetting inhumane
and ruthless policies of Israel and the Zionist agendas.
Regarding the Holocaust, instead of denying that it ever took place, he
questions the merits of establishing and supporting a Jewish state in the
Islamic Middle East, resulting in large scale persecution and continued
suffering of the indigenous inhabitants.
The media frenzy
over Ahmadinejad's letter is over now. So, what did this letter accomplish or
establish, if anything at all?
It may have
accomplished nothing; but it has, in my opinion, established a few significant
1- Rather than
making any meaningful gestures toward a rapprochement with the
United States, Mr.
Ahmadinejad self righteously counters all the allegations against his country by
accusing the United
States of hypocrisy, violating international
norms and committing acts counter to true Christian values and ethics that it
2- By ignoring
America's concerns over the
issues of contention such as Iran's nuclear program, Ahmadinejad is sending a
message that he is not at all worried about the threats of hostile action
against Iran by the
States or its Western allies.
3- The letter also
attempts to put Iran at a
moral and legal parity with its much bigger antagonist by stating
Iran's own grievances against
the United States and its
decades-long policies in the Middle
4- It is also
possible that this correspondence might lead to a decision by the American
administration to at least consider opening a direct channel of communication
with the Iranian regime in a face-saving diplomatic way that neither side could
claim as a victory or as a capitulation of sorts.
5- And finally, he
is setting the records straight regarding his statements about the state of
Israel, statements that have
been contextually doctored up and grossly exaggerated by the Western and Israeli
media to portray Iran as an immanent existential
threat to the Jewish state.
As we know, gambling
is officially forbidden under the tenets of Islam. Nevertheless, there is a belief that
President Ahmadinejad is acting as a skilled poker player. In the game of poker
the gambler's ability to convincingly bluff his opponents plays an even more
important role than the actual cards in his hand.
In my personal
opinion, Mr. Ahmadinejad is not sitting at a poker table; that would be
un-Islamic, anyway. He is, instead, playing chess, an ancient game perfected in
Iran that tests a player's mental
skills in maneuvering the pieces on the chessboard to gain advantage. There is
no bluffing in the game of chess, as the board and the positions of all the
pieces are visible to both parties. Here, there are no aces or trump cards up
Ahmadinejad's sleeve that might give him the self confidence - or the arrogance,
if you will - evidenced in his letter to Mr. Bush.
In chess games there
are bystanders who tend to outguess and outthink the players, as we are all
doing. But, there are also some who
look over a player's shoulder to guide or coach him along. There is little left
to guesswork as to who has been influencing our foreign policy decisions in the
Middle East for the past decades. That coaching
hasn't done us much good so far. We are now potentially engaging in a serious,
possibly history making, tournament with Iran. Let's
sideline the meddlesome coach and get down to some meaningful diplomacy, if only
for America's sake this time. Any good
chess player will tell you that there is much to be gained even in losing the
game; what's more, nobody needs to die in the process.