Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Method Behind Iran's Madness

There's a fascinating and meaningful analysis of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel tirades available from Reuters today that I would heartily recommend to anyone who truly wants to understand whats going on in the region.

Paul Hughes, writing from Tehran, thinks that far from being the ravings of a madman, Ahmadinejad's strident attacks are carefully thought out and designed primarily for domestic and Arab consumption.
His remarks calling the Holocaust a myth and suggesting Israeli Jews be moved to Germany or Alaska have brought worldwide condemnation and imperiled diplomatic negotiations with Europe over Iran's nuclear program.

But while some analysts put his remarks down to excessive zeal, inexperience and an inability to distinguish between domestic and international audiences, others say his repeated verbal attacks were clearly planned.

"These comments are not being made by accident," said Tehran-based political analyst Mahmoud Alinejad. "This is something he has deliberated and thought out."

Elected in June with support from millions of Iran's devout lower classes, Ahmadinejad soon found his influence undermined by Iran's complex political structure and factional rivalries.

Soon after he took office in August Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei granted extensive supervisory powers over the government to an unelected council headed by Ahmadinejad's chief political rival, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Subsequently Ahmadinejad, whose 18 months as mayor of Tehran served as a launchpad to the presidency, ran into stiff opposition from fellow conservatives in parliament over his nominees for the key post of oil minister.

...By speaking out against Israel, however, Ahmadinejad has carved out a policy niche that appeals to his core supporters and cannot be easily contradicted by his opponents.

"He is pursuing it (the anti-Israel line) because he doesn't really have any choice internally. Otherwise he will be sidelined," said Alinejad. "It's very hard, even for people like Rafsanjani, to adopt a more moderate stance."
Further, The Iranian President's speeches play well to the Shiite common people of the Arab world:
Speaking out against Israel appeals to those who feel Shi'ite Muslim Iran's leadership role in the Islamic world, undisputed at the time of the 1979 Islamic revolution, has been overshadowed by the rise of Sunni fundamentalism.

"Iran aspires to be the leader of the Islamic world," said a political analyst in Tehran, who declined to be named.

Speaking in southeastern Iran on Thursday Ahmadinejad said: "Today, the only messenger of true Islam and complete Islam is the Iranian nation," the official IRNA news agency reported.

Iran has been alarmed by creeping recognition for Israel, such as by Pakistan, following its Gaza withdrawal. If that trend continued Iran would face almost complete isolation.

"By saying what he said Ahmadinejad is putting Arab leaders into a corner and appealing to the masses who feel their leaders are too accommodating to the West," he added.
Suddenly, Hughes has injected a modicum of commonsense into the pervasive hawkish paranoia, unhappily prevalent from both Left and Right, which seems to want to define America solely as the opposition to madmen hell-bent on world destruction and will manufacture threats when there isn't an easy one to find.

Ahmadinejad can now be put in context - just another national leader with popularity problems who decides to take the easy road of castigating the "enemy other". It doesn't mean that he really intends carrying out his rhetoric.

Come on, we can all easily think of other examples of the same kind of empty play. The rhetoric is familiar. An "Axis of Evil" (where two of the three accused still remain untouched), a "crusade" against evil which stygmatises an entire religion, a vow to rid the world of "evildoers" and a non-plan for carrying all this out.

In context, Ahmadinejad's crap is the same old crap rewarmed.

No comments: