What’s left to say about Ahmadinejad?

You might have noticed that, aside from a few asides, I haven’t had anything to say about Ahmadinejad’s little kaffee klatch at Columbia. Frankly, anything I’ve even thought has been said better and louder at some of my favorite blogs. For lengthy analysis, you should check in with American Thinker or Power Line; for hourly updates go to Michelle Malkin and Little Green Football. I bet you can add to the list of conservative (or reasonable) websites that are not wildly excited that this megalomaniac has come to town. (For the opposing point of view, of course, there’s always the Kos or HuffPo.) As it is, something will emerge from the depths of my brain in a week or two, after I’ve had a chance to get a little perspective on this whole thing but, for now, you’re going to have to read about Ahmadinejad’s “I’ll take Manhattan” moment somewhere else.

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  1. says

    Sept. 24, 2007 | Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly has become a media circus. But the controversy does not stem from the reasons usually cited.

    The media has focused on debating whether he should be allowed to speak at Columbia University on Monday, or whether his request to visit Ground Zero, the site of the Sept. 11 attack in lower Manhattan, should have been honored. His request was rejected, even though Iran expressed sympathy with the United States in the aftermath of those attacks and Iranians held candlelight vigils for the victims. Iran felt that it and other Shiite populations had also suffered at the hands of al-Qaida, and that there might now be an opportunity for a new opening to the United States.

    Instead, the U.S. State Department denounced Ahmadinejad as himself little more than a terrorist. Critics have also cited his statements about the Holocaust or his hopes that the Israeli state will collapse. He has been depicted as a Hitler figure intent on killing Israeli Jews, even though he is not commander in chief of the Iranian armed forces, has never invaded any other country, denies he is an anti-Semite, has never called for any Israeli civilians to be killed, and allows Iran’s 20,000 Jews to have representation in Parliament.

    There is, in fact, remarkably little substance to the debates now raging in the United States about Ahmadinejad. His quirky personality, penchant for outrageous one-liners, and combative populism are hardly serious concerns for foreign policy. Taking potshots at a bantam cock of a populist like Ahmadinejad is actually a way of expressing another, deeper anxiety: fear of Iran’s rising position as a regional power and its challenge to the American and Israeli status quo. The real reason his visit is controversial is that the American right has decided the United States needs to go to war against Iran. Ahmadinejad is therefore being configured as an enemy head of state.

    The neoconservatives are even claiming that the United States has been at war with Iran since 1979. As Glenn Greenwald points out, this assertion is absurd. In the ’80s, the Reagan administration sold substantial numbers of arms to Iran. Some of those beating the war drums most loudly now, like think-tank rat Michael Ledeen, were middlemen in the Reagan administration’s unconstitutional weapons sales to Tehran. The sales would have been a form of treason if in fact the United States had been at war with Iran at that time, so Ledeen is apparently accusing himself of treason.

    But the right has decided it is at war with Iran, so a routine visit by Iran’s ceremonial president to the U.N. General Assembly has generated sparks. The foremost cheerleader for such a view in Congress is Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., who recently pressed Gen. David Petraeus on the desirability of bombing Iran in order to forestall weapons smuggling into Iraq from that country (thus cleverly using one war of choice to foment another).

    American hawks are beating the war drums loudly because they are increasingly frustrated with the course of events. They are unsatisfied with the lack of enthusiasm among the Europeans and at the United Nations for impeding Tehran’s nuclear energy research program. While the Bush administration insists that the program aims at producing a bomb, the Iranian state maintains that it is for peaceful energy purposes. Washington wants tighter sanctions on Iran at the United Nations but is unlikely to get them in the short term because of Russian and Chinese reluctance. The Bush administration may attempt to create a “coalition of the willing” of Iran boycotters outside the U.N. framework.

    Washington is also unhappy with Mohammad ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He has been unable to find credible evidence that Iran has a weapons program, and he told Italian television this week, “Iran does not constitute a certain and immediate threat for the international community.” He stressed that no evidence had been found for underground production sites or hidden radioactive substances, and he urged a three-month waiting period before the U.N. Security Council drew negative conclusions.

    ElBaradei intervened to call for calm after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said last week that if the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear research program were unsuccessful, it could lead to war. Kouchner later clarified that he was not calling for an attack on Iran, but his remarks appear to have been taken seriously in Tehran.

    Kouchner made the remarks after there had already been substantial speculation in the U.S. press that impatient hawks around U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney were seeking a pretext for a U.S. attack on Iran. Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation probably correctly concluded in Salon last week that President Bush himself has for now decided against launching a war on Iran. But Clemons worries that Cheney and the neoconservatives, with their Israeli allies, are perfectly capable of setting up a provocation that would lead willy-nilly to war.

    David Wurmser, until recently a key Cheney advisor on Middle East affairs and the coauthor of the infamous 1996 white paper that urged an Iraq war, revealed to his circle that Cheney had contemplated having Israel strike at Iranian nuclear research facilities and then using the Iranian reaction as a pretext for a U.S. war on that country. Prominent and well-connected Afghanistan specialist Barnett Rubin also revealed that he was told by an administration insider that there would be an “Iran war rollout” by the Cheneyites this fall…

    In the end, this is hardly the kind of conflagration the United States should be enabling. If a spark catches, it will not advance any of America’s four interests in the Middle East: petroleum, markets, Israel and hegemony.

    The Middle East has two-thirds of the world’s proven petroleum reserves and nearly half its natural gas, and its fields are much deeper than elsewhere in the world, so that its importance will grow for the United States and its allies. Petro-dollars and other wealth make the region an important market for U.S. industry, especially the arms industry. Israel is important both for reasons of domestic politics and because it is a proxy for U.S. power in the region. By “hegemony,” I mean the desire of Washington to dominate political and economic outcomes in the region and to forestall rivals such as China from making it their sphere of influence.

    The Iranian government (in which Ahmadinejad has a weak role, analogous to that of U.S. vice presidents before Dick Cheney) poses a challenge to the U.S. program in the Middle East. Iran is, unlike most Middle Eastern countries, large. It is geographically four times the size of France, and it has a population of 70 million (more than France or the United Kingdom). As an oil state, it has done very well from the high petroleum prices of recent years. It has been negotiating long-term energy deals with China and India, much to the dismay of Washington. It provides financial support to the Palestinians and to the Lebanese Shiites who vote for the Hezbollah Party in Lebanon. By overthrowing the Afghanistan and Iraq governments and throwing both countries into chaos, the United States has inadvertently enabled Iran to emerge as a potential regional power, which could challenge Israel and Saudi Arabia and project both soft and hard power in the strategic Persian Gulf and the Levant.

    And now the American war party, undeterred by the quagmire in Iraq, convinced that their model of New Empire is working, is eager to go on the offensive again. They may yet find a pretext to plunge the United States into another war. Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York this year will not include his visit to Ground Zero, because that is hallowed ground for American patriotism and he is being depicted as not just a critic of the United States but as the leader of an enemy state. His visit may, however, be ground zero for the next big military struggle of the United States in the Middle East, one that really will make Iraq look like a cakewalk.
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2007/09/24/ahmadinejad/

  2. says

    Infantile Nation
    by Patrick J. Buchanan

    Does this generation possess the gravitas to lead the world?

    Considering the hysteria that greeted the request of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to lay a wreath at Ground Zero, the answer is no.

    What is it about this tiny man that induces such irrationality?

    Answer: He is president of a nation that is a “state sponsor of terror,” is seeking nuclear weapons, and is moving munitions to the Taliban and insurgents in Iraq.

    But Libya was a “state sponsor of terror,” and Col. Ghadafi was responsible for Pan Am 103, the Lockerbie massacre of school kids coming home for Christmas. And President Bush secretly negotiated a renewal of relations in return for Ghadafi giving up his nuclear program and compensating the families of the victims of that atrocity. Has Ahmadinejad ever committed an act of terror like this?

    Richard Nixon went to Moscow and concluded strategic arms agreements while Moscow was the arms supplier of the enemy we were fighting in Vietnam that used, at Hue, mass murder as a war tactic.

    Nixon went to Beijing to toast Mao Zedong, the greatest mass murderer in history, responsible for the deaths of 37,000 Americans in Korea, who was, in 1972, persecuting and murdering dissidents in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution run by his crazed wife, and transshipping Russian weapons into Vietnam.

    And Nixon is today hailed as a statesman for having gone there.

    In 1959, President Eisenhower rode up Pennsylvania Avenue in an open convertible with Nikita Khrushchev, Stalin’s gauleiter in Ukraine, who, three years before his tour of the United States, had sent tanks into Budapest to butcher the patriots of the Hungarian Revolution.

    What has Ahmadinejad done to rival these monsters?

    It would be an obscenity, we are told, if Ahmadinejad were allowed to place a wreath at Ground Zero. This is a public-relations stunt that should never be permitted.

    That the Iranian president has PR in mind is undoubtedly true. Much of what national leaders do is symbolic. But that wreath-laying would have said something else, as well.

    It would have said that, to Iran, these Americans were victims who deserve to be honored and mourned and, by extension, the men who killed them were murderers. Bin Laden celebrates 9/11. So do all America-haters. By laying a wreath at Ground Zero, the president of Iran would be saying that in the war between al-Qaeda and the United States, he and his country side with the United States.

    How would we have been hurt by letting him send this message?

    To the hysterics, Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler and we are all at Munich, and we should behave like Churchill and gird for war.

    This is absurd.

    True, as the Washington Times charges, Ahmadinejad invited David Duke to Tehran to a conference of Holocaust deniers, and his minions chant “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

    But every mob in the Middle East shouts such slogans. And Duke was the Republican candidate for governor of Louisiana in 1991 and got a majority of the white vote. And Holocaust deniers meet regularly in the United States. Yet we seem to survive.

    Far more serious was the threat of Khrushchev in 1956 to rain down rockets on Britain in the Suez crisis and his “We-will-bury-you” rant. Still, JFK met him in Vienna and negotiated a test-ban halt.

    Far more serious was Mao’s talk, after the Cuban missile crisis, of accepting “300 million dead” in a nuclear war – talk that scared even Khrushchev. Fidel Castro reportedly urged the Russians to fire their rockets rather than give them up. Those were deadly serious times.

    Hitler could destroy the Jewish population of Europe because he was able to conquer Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. Iran has no air force or navy we could not dispatch in a week and no nukes. Israel has 200 to 300 nuclear warheads and, if it believed its survival was at stake, could turn Tehran into toast in 10 minutes.

    Why does Iran want nuclear weapons if it doesn’t want to use them? For the same reason Israel wanted them: deterrence.

    After seeing what America did to its non-nuclear neighbor Iraq, which had done nothing to America, and after hearing Bush call them an axis-of-evil nation and prime candidate for U.S. preemptive strikes, a not-unreasonable ayatollah might conclude they need nuclear weapons, or the Americans will be dictating to them forever.

    America and Iran have great differences, but also common interests. Among the latter, no Taliban in Kabul, no restoration of a Sunni Ba’athist dictatorship in Baghdad, and support for the present governments. Iran cannot want a Sunni-Shia war in the region, which would make her an enemy of most Arabs, and she cannot want a major war with America, which could lead to the destruction and breakup of the nation where only half the people are Persians.

    That is plenty to build a cold peace on, if the hysterics do not stampede us into another unnecessary war.
    http://www.antiwar.com/pat/index.php?articleid=11667

  3. zhombre says

    Another comment: to refer to Ahmadinejad as a populist is loonie. A quick wiki definition of populism is a political doctrine or philosophy that purports to defend the interests of the common people against an entrenched, self-serving or corrupt elite. To refer to a front man for an entrenched and repressive theocratic regime as a populist makes no sense. To apply a term from Western politics to Middle Eastern and Muslim politics and culture is quixotic at best and at worst indicative of the third rate level of intellectual inquiry that has dominated academia for the last 30 years.

  4. says

    Thanks, Z. I was debating deleting both of those comments as spam, because I’m not pleased about having other people place whole other lengthy articles on my blog, especially articles with which I do not agree. Your responses, however, are so excellent, I’m going to leave the Buchanan- and Cole- speak there, just so that your responses make sense.

  5. says

    Amanie, when dead, will have to be replaced. All other things are simply temporary concerns. It is far better to plan for the long term consequences.

    For example, consider what kind of deals Iran is making, face to face, with the bureacrats and ambassadors living at the UN building. Consider what kind of meetings Iran is going to have with professors at universities, in order to figure out who goes where and what programs to fund. Bribery and political deals are almost always better done face to face, after all.

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