Sunday, November 06, 2005

Sometimes, you gotta say, "Wha?"

Is Iran trying to get bombed by us? Are we trying to get on the bombing train toward them? Are they upping the rhetoric for their own internal purposes or because they want us to finally come after them and finally fight the war both they and us have wanted to fight since 1979? Are we upping our rhetoric to finally get even for one of the most humiliating events in the history of the U.S.? Are the Iranians funding terrorism in Palestine and Iraq? Are we funding dissident groups to attempt to overthrow the clerical administration of Iraq and install a new Shah? Will the tit-for-tat upscaling of rhetoric between "us and them" get so heated as to explode?

Of course, most of these questions are up for interpretation, but I have to finally get the words out: The U.S. and Iran are on a collision course that, since the Iranian Hostage Crisis (and the overthrow of the Shah that we helped installed before that) has been brewing for a long damned time.

And I doubt this time either side is really going to back down.

I use to know this Iranian guy in Detroit. We went to college together back in 1983. Well spoken, with the most beautiful green eyes, he use to make fun of his Arab friends by saying, "Just remember, I'm Persian, not Arab!" I always thought it was pretty funny, because even though he hung out with them and shared the same religion, he wanted to make sure that his Arab friends remembered he was different. Plus, it just goes to prove that everyone wants to be different in a crowd.

College was really my first exposure to people of Muslim persuasion. I have to say, however, that there was a bit of tension between the Black and Arab populations of Detroit when I was growing up. Many Arabs owned the liquor stores/minimarts in Detroit, and this created a great tension as many blacks didn't have access to the capital to buy and sustain stores, and Arabs were trying to not get robbed in their workplaces. There was a definite disconnect between the two groups in Detroit, and it was always kinda sad.

But back to Iran.

Here's the "wha?" part that I refer to in the title.

I've tried to be as open-minded as I possibly can toward Iran. Not easy, but I try. It's mostly because of the Iranian guy I met in Detroit and others I've met in New York. I appreciate, for the most part, their centuries-old heritage, and there may have been a good reason why the Iranian Revolution happened. I'm not sure what their or our endgame is, the only thing I know is that the road to collision is evident.

I was a bit appalled, along with others, with the rhetoric recently coming out of Tehran when their new President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made comments regarding Israel. Rhetoric, of course, is one of several tools that leaders use to stir their people up, be it to spur them on to greater heights or bolster them in the face of an enemy. But whether President Bush is claiming to "Bring Them On" or Ahmadinejad is proclaiming that America is the "Great Satan," the rhetoric gets a little overtired, stale, and wretched.

President Ahmadinejad, recently spoke at a "World Without Zionism" rally in Tehran. Oh boy, that must have been a fun gathering. According to Wikipedia, here's what happened at that rally.
"[Ahmadinejad,] quoting Ayatollah Khomeini the late Supreme Leader of Iran, [called] Israel a "disgraceful blot" that ought to be "wiped off the map." He went on to decry attempts to normalize relations with Israel and condemned all Islamic leaders who recognize Israel's existence as "acknowledging a surrender and defeat of the Islamic world"; many believe this attack was aimed at nearby nations Qatar, Bahrain, and Pakistan, who have taken steps towards improving relations with Israel."
Ok. That's going to go over well with folks that don't buy into the 'death to Israel' team. No wonder Islamic leaders are pigeonholed into difficult positions when non-Islamic leaders demand that they 'find' their voices when it comes to speaking out against radical Islamist violence, not to mention their own internal problems. Do so, and you'll be condemned by your own. This, in addition to the fact that many fall under the classic term of dictator, and it's just another volatile ingredient in the whole vile mix.

There's a website that I regularly visit when I want some sane opinions about Iranian politics. It's published by an Iranian-American, located in California. He publishes pieces from exiled Iranians from all over the world, mostly outside of Iran. It's written in English, with occasional Persian-language pieces. (Please note: Iranians speak Persian, not Arabic. My old friend from Detroit would want you to know this.) is secular, encourages debate, and above all, does not want to be 'bored to death' by bad writing, according to its FAQ.

So, to gain a little perspective on Ahmadinejad's words, I read some of the remarks from this primarily moderate site.

"The Mouse That Roared," by Iqbal Latif
Why anyone in his right mind would expose Iran to such brutal multifaceted retribution from entire international community. Iran and Iranians deserve better, they are creator of civilizations, this country has been overtaken by clerical thugs who want to put Iran on to a game of chicken, two heavy duty trucks hurtling down towards each other challenging each one to deviate, the one who does first is a chicken, weaker nations with in-house convulsions such as Iran some time can only survive if they are 'chicken' the real issue of Iran is prosperity of its proud, and worthy people.
"Old Policy, New Fears" by Masoud Kazemzadeh
Most observers have asserted that Ahmadinejad's words are the result of his inexperience and that they do not reflect the views of the fundamentalist regime or his faction. One of the more extreme examples of the dominant view is expressed by Columbia University Professor Gary Sick, who said: "Ahmadinejad's role has been very substantially reduced... He's been in office for a hundred days. He's done nothing. I think people are looking around and saying 'This guy is a disaster'. I think they [the regime] are going to isolate him and quarantine him." [See]

In this article, I present evidence which proves that the dominant explanation is false. I show that Ahmadinejad's words are the expression of the actual consensus of the ruling faction of the regime. In other words, Ahmadinejad's words are not the mere utterance of one inexperienced person. Rather, Ahmadinejad expressed the views of the Young Conservative sub-faction and the consensus of the hard-line faction which control virtually all the main levers of power in Iran.[2] This is not mere academic exercise. If the dominant explanation is correct, one may not be too concerned about the off-the-cuff remarks of one man. However, if my analysis is correct, we should expect a more confrontational foreign policy by the regime.

[snip] Instead of dismissing fundamentalists as idiots or their actions as amateurish, we should attempt to analyze and understand the motives behind their actions. This could help those who wish to replace the current nightmarish tyranny with a secular and democratic system.
"Deliberate Mistake?" by Yassamine Mather
There is no doubt that many inside the regime were quick to distance Iran from the implications of the words. One observer in Tehran wrote that Ahmadinejad's comments sounded like an invitation to Bush and the US to attack Iran. Others have written with sarcasm that maybe Ahmadinejad is a secret royalist who is keen to give the US a pretext to invade....Even before Ahmadinejad's alleged faux pas, Tehran was full of rumours that every day his office receives phone calls from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, ticking him off for making this or that mistake....One explanation of Ahmadinejad's comments is that, following its victory of seeing a Shia state established in Iraq (the main component of the occupation government being pro-Iran Shias), the Iranian regime's image is tainted by its support for the US-UK-imposed government in Iraq....Over the last few months, especially since the coming to power in Baghdad of Iran's main allies, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Daawa Party, as well as most of the Arab press are critical of Iran's influence in the region. This could explain Ahmadinejad's outburst, as Tehran tries to distance itself from accusations of complicity with US policies....Another explanation could be found in the increasing role of Israel and Mossad agents in Iraqi Kurdistan....Iran sees Iraqi Kurdistan as being used by Israel and the USA as a base to strengthen their opposition to Tehran in the same way that Iraqi Kurdistan was used to destabilise the Baathist regime.

So here we have several opinions regarding Ahmadinejad's reasoning behind his rhetoric: Iran is playing "chicken" in order to bolster its status in the world; this language is nothing new, just a continuation of official policy, only this time, it was televised loudly in the West; he's expressing the hardline core of the country's conservatives and clerics; he's constantly being upbraided by current Supreme Leader Khamenei and therefore wanted to say things that would please the clerical leadership; Iran can't afford to stay silent as Israel and the Mossad gain footholds in a new Iraq; Iran is trying to step away from its tacit support of US-UK involvement in Iraq; Iraqi Kurdistan is a problem for Iran, and therefore Iran must up the ante for its own ruling majority to feel empowered.

Whatever the reasons, one thing is for sure, Israel is a sovereign nation, and when threats are made against it or any other nation, one must take notice, no matter what one's opinions regarding said country is. Words are like knives and people are on edge these days. It would be no wonder if Israel didn't take retaliatory measures. But it's also a tip in their favor that Israel didn't retaliate with force. Israel is use to words like this, but there will come a day when words lead to action, and no one can say Israel wasn't provoked.

Which means that the U.S. will be provoked as well.

I don't know if we'll ever really go to war with Iran, but they and we are on notice. Remember the "Axis of Evil?" One country down, so to speak, two to go. I don't want to fight with anyone, and I was against the war in Iraq. But if rhetoric turns into action on the part of Iran, I may have to reconsider. It also depends on what the U.S. does in the next few months as well.


Red Tory said...

Brilliant post. At the risk of vastly oversimplifying, it seems that, as in the case of North Korea, what we have here is a total communications breakdown. In both instances, the failure of the Bush administration to engage these regimes directly and forthrightly (as opposed to simply name-calling – “Axis of Evil” – and getting their putative allies to negotiate on their behalf) has been a complete failure.

It seems the administration has finally come to its senses regarding North Korea and is at least willing to sit down and hammer out some sort of a deal with them (basically a re-hash of the Clinton-era accord), but Iran remains problematic. Which is rather an odd posture to take given the considerable influence that the country has on the political dynamics of Iraq – one would think this to be an imperative priority.

The radical clerics entrenched in the upper levels of the government are highly unpopular and demographics alone will almost certainly ensure their speedy demise in all good time. If anything, antagonizing Iran in the meanwhile simply provokes ever-more hostile rhetoric and perpetuates a defensive nationalistic reaction on their part. It’s really quite counter-productive.

In both the case of Iran and North Korea, it would be more advisable to gradually “subvert” them culturally and politically than to poke them with sticks. You catch more flies with honey and all that...

Elderta said...

I agree with the "flies and honey" approach, though in reading the book, "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris, I'm really beginning to understand the "Protocols of Zion" and blood libel crap. Unfortunately. A lot of people in the mid-east have lapped that stuff up, and it's clouding the ability for them to really get past. It's crazy that many in the West don't believe that stuff for the most part anymore, but quite a few Muslims still adhere to the idea. If we don't combat that stuff, it's hard to get through to them as well. I may write more about this some other time. And I'm glad you like the post. It means a lot to me, coming from you! Cheers!


Red Tory said...

I imagine this would be part of Karen Hughes' portfolio to disabuse Arabs of some of these nutty ideas and improve the image of America. She's not off to a great start however and I have no confidence whatsoever in her abilities to get the job done. She's a hack journalist and propagandist for Bush.

Elderta said...

I doubt if anyone in this administration can actually talk about the real issues that are at stake. They are way too interested in "evil" and "crusades" to get down to the nitty gritty of ignorance.