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THE SECRET IS OUT September 25, 2007

Posted by wmmbb in Middle East, US Politics.
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Yes, the American media can be critical of the President, especially when he makes foolish and obviously untrue statements. They must have been given permission by the owners. Oh! he is the President of Iran without any executive authority and a ceremonial role. I was thinking his role might be similar to the Governor-General, but on reflection I might have to stick to the previous suggestion that Ahmedinejad power is similar to that of the office of Vice President before the ascent of R B Cheney.

Columbia University through the behavior of its dean or president has not done it international reputation any favors. I am astounded as L Bollinger’s offensive remarks, but then I suppose those who pay the piper call the tune, which in it turn is no trivial issue. There may be a solution, but I am not aware of what that might be. Whatever Ahmedinejad’s failings he won the audience, reported to be seventy per cent against him, by saying that in Iran in a similar circumstances they would be courteous. Ahmedinejad’s rejoinders including that the US was continuing to develop and provide nuclear weapons and the bullying of smaller nations do resonance, if not in the United States, in the wider world.

In due course the obvious comparison will be made to Bush’s competence. Bush would not be able to address a similar meeting at Columbia let alone Tehran. Anybody with a anti-Bush t-shirt would be removed from one of his closed political meetings. The to and fro between speaker and audience is a thing of the past, and now we seem to be in the age of stage-managed television productions.

Nevertheless Ahmedinejad’s anti-imperialism plays well in the Muslim World, including among Egypt’s Sunni population. Meanwhile back in Tehran, people who know something about the working of power in Iran wonder why is the fuss made over the president.

History and reactions to it help explain attitudes and likely future behavior. One leading Iranian dissident, Akbar Ganji, observed in a letter to the Secretary-General of the UN, published in Time observed:

Far from helping the development of democracy, US policy over the past 50 years has consistently been to the detriment of the proponents of freedom and democracy in Iran. The 1953 coup against the nationalist government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq and the unwavering support for the despotic regime of the Shah, who acted as America’s gendarme in the Persian Gulf, are just two examples of these flawed policies. More recently the confrontation between various US Administrations and the Iranian state over the past three decades has made internal conditions very difficult for the proponents of freedom and human rights in Iran. Exploiting the danger posed by the US, the Iranian regime has put military-security forces in charge of the government, shut down all independent domestic media, and is imprisoning human rights activists on the pretext that they are all agents of a foreign enemy. The Bush Administration, for its part, by approving a fund for democracy assistance in Iran, which has in fact being largely spent on official institutions and media affiliated with the US government, has made it easy for the Iranian regime to describe its opponents as mercenaries of the US and to crush them with impunity. At the same time, even speaking about “the possibility” of a military attack on Iran makes things extremely difficult for human rights and pro-democracy activists in Iran. No Iranian wants to see what happened to Iraq or Afghanistan repeated in Iran. Iranian democrats also watch with deep concern the support in some American circles for separatist movements in Iran. Preserving Iran’s territorial integrity is important to all those who struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran. We want democracy for Iran and for all Iranians. We also believe that the dismemberment of Middle Eastern countries will fuel widespread and prolonged conflict in the region. . .

It would be more diplomatic to treat the Iranian president with courtesy and where possible encourage his more internationalist and progressive ideas. There would be potentially better outcomes than to engage in crude political theatre. In doing so to give support and oxygen to the more liberal and progressive forces, but recognizing, independent of the existing government, nations have strategic and historical concerns and relationships.

Postscript:

Bruce Sharpiro on Late Night Live (25 September 2007) expresses a contrary and more charitable view of the actions of the Columbia Dean/President. The link is available for two weeks or so.

UPDATE: 27 September 2007

A video record of the Ahmedinejad presentation at Columbia is provided by The Largest Majority, via Truthdig.

Juan Cole and his commenters express views on what Ahmedinejah said or was reported as saying, noting among other considerations that attitudes to homosexuals have changed and not changed even in America.

UPDATE: 29 December 2007 

Rosa Brooks writing in The Los Angeles Times, republished in Common Dreams. draws the obvious implications. Her comments are published. Nothing changes. Delusion rules.

Acknowledgment: Most links here are form War in Context.

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