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By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse


The Iranian 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 issues.


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 believe?


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.


With that 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 text.


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 people.


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 points.


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 preaches.

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 United 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 East.

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.



... Payvand News - 5/15/06 ... --

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