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Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Iran Letter

Re-posted from TCSDaily with permission from the editor.

This opinion-editorial was written by Michael Rosen : Rosen's BIO 10 May 2006

We now know that in addition to a Holocaust denier, a fierce enemy of Israel, a nuclear aficionado, and an exponent of the Shia apocalypse, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fancies himself quite the defense attorney.

In a rambling, discursive letter cataloguing the iniquities of America and its leaders, Ahmadinejad asks President Bush dozens of pointed, rhetorical questions.[1] As petulant and accusatory as the missive is, though, it reveals volumes about the Iranian regime and its perspective on history and current affairs. American policymakers would do well to pay close attention.

The letter, thought to be the first direct communication between the Islamic Republic and the United States since 1979, attracted copious publicity on Monday. Newspapers, cable anchors, and talk radio buzzed rhapsodically about the possibility of a "diplomatic opening" between the countries, a possible step back from the nuclear brink. Even the Jerusalem Post quoted an Iranian spokesman as saying that the letter offered "new solutions for getting out of international problems and current fragile situation of the world."

Sadly, the fondest hopes of the media were dashed when the letter actually arrived in the U.S. (via the Swiss embassy) and was published by Paris's Le Monde.

The breathtakingly presumptuous correspondence begins with the Iranian leader wondering "how one can justify the undeniable contradictions that exist in the international arena."
And then the questions begin.

First, Ahmadinejad asks President Bush, "Can one by a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH [Peace Be Upon Him]), the great Messenger of God" and at the same time attack countries, destroy people's possessions, and kill one hundred thousand people (in Iraq)?

In this inquiry, the Iranian president begins to cultivate his penchant for lawyerly tactics. He starts with a feeble attempt to build rapport with Bush -- a man of faith -- by appealing to his Christian nature (and, for good measure, adding his own praise for Jesus, who is also a Muslim prophet and whom he later describes as "the Messenger of peace and forgiveness"). But reminding the U.S. president of his Christianity serves another purpose, too: laying the trap for one of the many "contradictions" presented by Bush's barbaric behavior.

Ahmadinejad hammers home this point less subtly later on in addressing inmates at Guantanamo and in "secret prisons" throughout Europe who are deprived of legal representation and "international monitoring." Never mind that the mullahs have largely transformed all of Iran into a prison state: at least they may know a little something about giving the boot to international monitors.

Mahmoud's view is, instead: "I fail to understand how such actions correspond to the values outlined in the beginning of this letter, i.e. the teachings of Jesus Christ (PBUH), human rights and liberal values."

He goes on to mention Jesus a total of ten times, devoting numerous paragraphs to his teachings and those of Moses and the Koran, where he quotes Jesus saying: "And surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord, therefore serves Him; this is the right path, Marium." (19, 36). Whether this is all meant as an ecumenical message of brotherhood or a more ominous prediction that Christians will soon be converted to Islam -- well, judge for yourself.

But consider this: the letter states that "changes happen fast and come at a furious pace" and that "the world is gravitating toward faith in the Almighty and justice." Read in light of Ahmadinejad's purported subscription to the esoteric, apocalyptic return of the 12th imam, the epistle to Bush appears menacing indeed.

Then the Iranian dictator really digs in on his favorite topic: Israel. By now, of course, he has established his reputation as an avowed opponent of the existence of the Jewish state.
He starts by observing that "the establishment of a new country with a new people, is a new phenomenon that is exclusive to our times" and that Israel didn't exist on a map 60 years ago. Ahmadinejad -- a self-described student and teacher of history -- seems to have forgotten that the Jewish people are about as ancient as the Persians and that a sovereign Jewish presence in the land now called Israel dates back 3,000 years.

His history lesson also encompasses World War II -- another pet project. In an elliptical passage that needs to be properly understood in the original Farsi, he writes that "after the war, they claimed that six million Jews had been killed...let us assume that these events are true." Well there's an improvement! The Tehran Terror at least acknowledges the possibility of the Holocaust. A diplomatic opening, perhaps?

Unfortunately not. This is just prologue to the standard script: Israel murders children, destroys houses, imprisons the innocent, etc. and the United States faithfully obeys, assiduously vetoing Security Council resolutions critical of Israel and funding the Jewish state. He takes Bush to task for pressuring the duly elected, Hamas-led Palestinian government into recognizing Israel.
Here, again, the lessons of history -- and democracy -- have eluded Ahmadinejad: the Palestinians were free to elect whomever they wished and, indeed, Hamas represents the values of a majority of its constituents. But if that government in turn chooses to repudiate the agreements solemnized by its predecessors -- namely, a recognition of Israel's right to exist -- it deserves none of the rewards promised in those treaties.

Meanwhile, in Israel, it's been a busy couple of days. On Monday, elder statesman Shimon Peres reminded Iran that it, too, could be "wiped off the map." And on Tuesday, the head of military intelligence acknowledged that Iran would acquire nuclear weapons by 2010 if its project proceeds apace. More disturbingly, he concluded that the Iranians have embarked on secretive projects that even Israeli intelligence cannot monitor. Oh, and on Sunday the London Times reported that Israel had foiled a plot hatched by Hamas, the Iranian surrogate in the region, to kill Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

But I digress; Ahmadinejad has so many more grievances to nurse. He waxes indignant about everything from America's Latin American policy to the 1953 coup that toppled Mossadegh in Iran to U.S. support for Saddam in the Gulf war to freezing Iranian assets to looting the natural resources of Africa to permitting homelessness and unemployment to take root at home, and so forth.

He even implies American connivance in the 9/11 attacks -- in the form of a question, of course: "Could [the attacks] be planned and executed without coordination with intelligence and security services -- or their extensive infiltration?" The U.S. is responsible for a cover up, for frightening its own citizens, and for warmongering in Afghanistan and Iraq. At times, it's easy to wonder whether he simply outsourced this letter to

But contrary to predictions that the missive wouldn't address the nuclear crisis, Ahmadinejad questions American opposition to the Iranian projects, wondering "in what other point in history has scientific and technical progress been a crime? Can the possibility of scientific achievements being utilised for military purposes be reason enough to oppose science and technology altogether?"

This final rhetorical question is one that policymakers here, in Europe, and at the UN will have to grapple with over the coming months and years. Given that harnessing the atom's energy can yield both peaceful and bellicose results, if we stick with the pure, technocratic, mechanistic approach set forth by the IAEA, the UN Security Council, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the like, it will be exceedingly difficult to convince the "international community" of Iran's malfeasance. We will surely find ourselves bogged down in a diplomatic quagmire of Moscow's and Beijing's making.

But if we open our eyes, actually pay attention to the words coming out of Tehran, and take those words seriously, we might build a united front in opposition to the hateful ravings of the mullahs. Fortunately, this letter provides us with just this opportunity; the State Department could begin by publishing it far and wide -- in Farsi and in translation.

Ahmadinejad concludes his epistle by claiming, quite correctly, that "History tells us that repressive and cruel governments do not survive." Here's hoping that his is among them.
Michael M. Rosen, TCS Daily's IP columnist, is an attorney in San Diego.


[1] If the whole situation weren't so tragic, it would call to mind the following classic exchange from the 7th season of The Simpsons:

Mona: (singing "Blowin' with the Wind" with Lisa) How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man....

Homer: (interrupts out of nowhere) Mmmmmm....Seven?

Lisa: No Dad, it's a rhetorical question.

Homer: (trying to think) Rhetorical, ey....Eight?

Lisa: Do you even know what 'rhetorical' means?

Homer: Do I know what "rhetorical" means?


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