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By Kam Zarrabi, Intellectual Discourse


Kam Zarrabi

Ever since Mahmood Ahmadinejad was elected the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I don't recall anyone here, Iranian or American, or any visitor from Iran - those who had the wherewithal to travel to the United States - commenting on the man in favorable terms.

Is there really something wrong with the Iranian President? He has been called names that cover a wide spectrum of uncomplimentary connotations, from firebrand to crazy and even Hitler incarnate, depending on who does the name calling.

Some of his statements both at home and during his travels - as always embellished, mistranslated and exaggerated by the media - have caused quite a stir in the international community. Even many of his supporters at home have criticized him for some of his undiplomatic or, to put it mildly, politically incorrect utterances that have given his detractors abroad stronger pretexts to raise concern about Iran's political agendas and direction.

Of course, this concern about Iran's direction or regional and global ambitions are misplaced for two reasons: First, the President, according to Iran's Constitution, does not have the authority to declare war and has no jurisdiction over Iran's military and foreign policy. Second, even if he did have such powers, the real "decider", regardless of who the President might be, is the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Be that as it may, let us somewhat objectively examine Mr. Ahmadinejad, whose term as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran is expiring soon, at about the same time as George W. Bush's term here.

Mr. Ahmadinejad does not look presidential; he is very short, often totally dwarfed by his entourage, he wears clothes that seem too casual to suit the position of a head of state, and his looks and mannerism reflect the earthly air of a small town folksy atmosphere that the urban aristocrats look upon as unsophisticated. What brought him to political prominence from his background as the son of a small town blacksmith was the combination of his energy, shrewdness, his strong faith in Shi'a Islam and his folksy appeal to the less privileged.

His former counterpart, Mr. Khatami, was, in spite of his clerical garb, quite "presidential", indeed. He was highly sophisticated, well mannered, soft spoken and with a much milder demeanor. Mr. Khatami was regarded as a man of understanding, a proponent of social reforms at home and political reconciliation and rapprochement with foes abroad. He championed the idea of "dialogue of civilizations", to replace internecine antagonism and conflict between the West and the East that continues to threaten world peace.

But we all saw the effects of showing the softer, more conciliatory side of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the unyielding power centers of global dominance. Pressures, demands and accusations against Iran continued or actually intensified as Khatami's less hostile stance was viewed as a sign that Iran's resolve might be weakening. As the size of the carrots shrank, the sticks gained added dimension.

What was required, indeed demanded, of Iran never changed. It mattered little whether these demands were fair, logical, legal under international law, or even possible for a sovereign nation to accommodate. The United States continued to reject out of hand any attempt to enter a diplomatic dialogue with Iran to resolve points of contention, even when Iran's readiness to engage the US was clearly signaled more than once.

Under these circumstances, what could a moderate Khatami or a firebrand Ahmadinejad possibly do to change the equations of hostility that increasingly threaten the regional or even the international peace and security? Short of total unconditional capitulation and compliance, nothing!

The stated issues of concern by the so-called international community ("international community" here means the United States and its regional surrogate, Israel) include Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions and its support for international terrorist organizations, namely Hamas and Hezbollah. Other issues are Iran' destabilizing involvement in the neighboring Iraq, as well as Iran's designs to dominate the entire oil rich region.

The true underlying issues, however, are quite different:

With regard to Iran's nuclear project, even if Iran were to be pursuing a weapons development program, there is hardly any doubt in any sane or impartial observer's mind that the purpose of having such weapons would be to discourage an attack on its soil. This makes a lot more sense than alleging that Iran is governed by a group of suicidal maniacs who are determined to nuke Israel the first chance they get and await the annihilation of their nation in return.

Kam Zarrabi is the author of
In Zarathushtra's Shadow

Iran's support for the so-called terrorist groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, would be objectionable except for two caveats:

One; both groups represent the largest factions of their respective societies and are mostly involved in providing services that would not be available to their citizenries at large otherwise. Both also have militant elements that use whatever means available to them to confront, and retaliate against, Israeli atrocities and transgressions on their populations and territories. Two; clandestinely or openly supporting militant groups, labeled as terrorists or freedom fighters, in order to cause concern or to inflict pain on ones enemies is a routine practice throughout the world. American support for the terror group MEK (listed as a terrorist group by the State Department) to cause problems for Iran is an example. The grossly ignored fact that America's economic, military and diplomatic support for Israel constitutes aiding and abetting Israel's violations of international law, is another. Let us not forget that Israel is the only country whose official government policy of targeted assassination of its perceived enemies and its so-labeled preemptive attacks on sovereign states constitute international terrorism.

So, Mr. Ahmadinejad has concluded that Israel or, as he prefers to call it, the Zionist entity, is Iran's chief antagonist because the Islamic Republic has dared to stand in the way of Israel's unchallenged regional supremacy. He has also concluded that America's hostile and unbending posturing against his country, something that he believes is counter to America's own best interests, is motivated by the Zionists who guide America's policies in the Middle East.

This isn't as though Ahmadinejad is a paranoid schizophrenic; he is in the company of many highly respected academics, politicians and diplomats, including the former President, Jimmy Carter, who have similar sentiments.

The only difference is that President Ahmadinejad speaks his mind, while others engage in the more politically correct utterances or make no mention of it to protect themselves against some of the most ruthless defamatory and slanderous attacks by the powerful pro-Israel groups.

Clearly, Mr. Ahmadinejad's unmeasured comments about the Holocaust or the disappearance of the "regime of occupation", did in no way change the current or the intensity of hostile rhetoric against Iran for which his bold remarks could be blamed.

Yes, Mr. Ahmadinejad has made, and continues to make, some unsubstantiated comments, such as his most recent remarks questioning the detailed accounts of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings. But so has President Bush, actually on more occasions than has the Iranian president. Taking into account the fact that the US president's opinions and remarks carry a lot more weight than does his Iranian counterpart's, makes one wonder which one poses a greater threat as a result of his callousness or misinformation.

George W. Bush has said publicly on at least two occasions that the Iranians have declared their intentions to develop nuclear weapons! This statement is, unlike President Ahmadinejad's vague statements, not subject to interpretation. Mr. Bush's remarks that Iran is the number one state sponsor of international terrorism, or that the Iranian officials have declared their intentions to produce the bomb, do not contain any ambiguities. What is more, the American Commander in Chief is in a position to inflict real harm upon the Iranian nation, something that Ahmadinejad is in no position to reciprocate.

I personally do not believe that George W. Bush says anything that he does not believe is true. The problem with the President is his utter disregard for facts; he simply doesn't know that what he says may not be true!

Against this background, could a kinder, gentler Iranian leader have succeeded in defusing the international tension between the West and Iran? Could a more resilient and diplomatically talented Iranian president have brought about a meaningful rapprochement between the United States and Iran?


If anything, a less confrontational posturing by the Iranian government would have emboldened the hardliners, neocons and pro-Israel activists who are in the driver's seat here to exploit any visible cracks in Iran's resolve for a final assault.

What Mr. Ahmadinejad has done during his tenure has been to exhibit the naked, raw and crude side of a nation that refuses to acknowledge or bow to the mandates of a superpower from a position a weakness or subservience. This attitude hasn't tipped the scale in Iran's disfavor in the international scene in any way, while it has, at the same time, reinforced a people's national pride as a consequential force to be recognized and reckoned with.

Ahmadinejad does not enjoy much popularity among the moneyed upper crest, the Western oriented or the aristocracy in Iran, and many among the bourgeoisie and the downtrodden are disappointed at his failure to deliver on his promises of economic betterment. Yet he is highly admired by the masses at home, for the same reasons that his popularity among the masses in other Islamic countries, even the non-Shi'a Arabs, has been soaring. They all see him as representing a presence, unlike their own despised leaders, that dared to stand boldly against the most ominous adversaries on earth.

It is with a sense of admiration and pride when we watch Mel Gibson meet his end in the motion picture Brave Heart. The little figure representing Iran's image in the media might not be regarded in the same light; but like it or not, he is leaving a similar legacy in that part of the world for his people and those who look up to him. He most represents those who believe in the Shi'a axiom: Don't take a beating lying down! 

... Payvand News - 04/21/08 ... --

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