Ahmadinejad's Interview with Der Spiegel

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Ahmadinejad's Interview with Der Spiegel

Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jun 04, 2006 1:35 am

SPIEGEL ONLINE - May 30, 2006, 12:01 AM
URL: http://service.spiegel.de/cache/interna ... 60,00.html

SPIEGEL Interview with Iran's President Ahmadinejad

"We Are Determined"

In an interview with SPIEGEL, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discusses the Holocaust, the future of the state of Israel, mistakes made by the United States in Iraq and Tehran's nuclear dispute with the West.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "By siding with Iran, the Europeans would serve their own and our interests."

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, you are a soccer fan and you like to play soccer. Will you be sitting in the stadium in Nuremberg on June 11, when the Iranian national team plays against Mexico in Germany?

Ahmadinejad: It depends. Naturally, I'll be watching the game in any case. I don't know yet whether I'll be at home in front of the television set or somewhere else. My decision depends upon a number of things.

SPIEGEL: For example?

Ahmadinejad: How much time I have, how the state of various relationships are going, whether I feel like it and a number of other things.

SPIEGEL: There was great indignation in Germany when it became known that you might be coming to the soccer world championship. Did that surprise you?

Ahmadinejad: No, that's not important. I didn't even understand how that came about. It also had no meaning for me. I don't know what all the excitement is about.

SPIEGEL: It concerned your remarks about the Holocaust. It was inevitable that the Iranian president's denial of the systematic murder of the Jews by the Germans would trigger outrage.

Ahmadinejad: I don't exactly understand the connection.

SPIEGEL: First you make your remarks about the Holocaust. Then comes the news that you may travel to Germany -- this causes an uproar. So you were surprised after all?

Ahmadinejad: No, not at all, because the network of Zionism is very active around the world, in Europe too. So I wasn't surprised. We were addressing the German people. We have nothing to do with Zionists.

SPIEGEL: Denying the Holocaust is punishable in Germany. Are you indifferent when confronted with so much outrage?

Ahmadinejad: I know that DER SPIEGEL is a respected magazine. But I don't know whether it is possible for you to publish the truth about the Holocaust. Are you permitted to write everything about it?

SPIEGEL: Of course we are entitled to write about the findings of the past 60 years' historical research. In our view there is no doubt that the Germans -- unfortunately -- bear the guilt for the murder of 6 million Jews.

Ahmadinejad: Well, then we have stirred up a very concrete discussion. We are posing two very clear questions. The first is: Did the Holocaust actually take place? You answer this question in the affirmative. So, the second question is: Whose fault was it? The answer to that has to be found in Europe and not in Palestine. It is perfectly clear: If the Holocaust took place in Europe, one also has to find the answer to it in Europe.

On the other hand, if the Holocaust didn't take place, why then did this regime of occupation ...

SPIEGEL: ... You mean the state of Israel...

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Ahmadinejad: ... come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime? Permit me to make one more point. We are of the opinion that, if an historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the more clearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it.

SPIEGEL: That has long since happened in Germany.

Ahmadinejad: We don't want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not. If it did, then those who bear the responsibility for it have to be punished, and not the Palestinians. Why isn't research into a deed that occurred 60 years ago permitted? After all, other historical occurrences, some of which lie several thousand years in the past, are open to research, and even the governments support this.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, with all due respect, the Holocaust occurred, there were concentration camps, there are dossiers on the extermination of the Jews, there has been a great deal of research, and there is neither the slightest doubt about the Holocaust nor about the fact - we greatly regret this - that the Germans are responsible for it. If we may now add one remark: the fate of the Palestinians is an entirely different issue, and this brings us into the present.

Ahmadinejad: No, no, the roots of the Palestinian conflict must be sought in history. The Holocaust and Palestine are directly connected with one another. And if the Holocaust actually occurred, then you should permit impartial groups from the whole world to research this. Why do you restrict the research to a certain group? Of course, I don't mean you, but rather the European governments.

SPIEGEL: Are you still saying that the Holocaust is just "a myth?"

Ahmadinejad: I will only accept something as truth if I am actually convinced of it.

SPIEGEL: Even though no Western scholars harbor any doubt about the Holocaust?

Ahmadinejad: But there are two opinions on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part. Hence, an impartial group has to come together to investigate and to render an opinion on this very important subject, because the clarification of this issue will contribute to the solution of global problems. Under the pretext of the Holocaust, a very strong polarization has taken place in the world and fronts have been formed. It would therefore be very good if an international and impartial group looked into the matter in order to clarify it once and for all. Normally, governments promote and support the work of researchers on historical events and do not put them in prison.

SPIEGEL: Who is that supposed to be? Which researchers do you mean?

Ahmadinejad: You would know this better than I; you have the list. There are people from England, from Germany, France and from Australia.

SPIEGEL: You presumably mean, for example, the Englishman David Irving, the German-Canadian Ernst Zündel, who is on trial in Mannheim, and the Frenchman Georges Theil, all of whom deny the Holocaust.

Ahmadinejad: The mere fact that my comments have caused such strong protests, although I'm not a European, and also the fact that I have been compared with certain persons in German history indicates how charged with conflict the atmosphere for research is in your country. Here in Iran you needn't worry.

SPIEGEL: Well, we are conducting this historical debate with you for a very timely purpose. Are you questioning Israel's right to exist?

Ahmadinejad: Look here, my views are quite clear. We are saying that if the Holocaust occurred, then Europe must draw the consequences and that it is not Palestine that should pay the price for it. If it did not occur, then the Jews have to go back to where they came from. I believe that the German people today are also prisoners of the Holocaust. Sixty million people died in the Second World War. World War II was a gigantic crime. We condemn it all. We are against bloodshed, regardless of whether a crime was committed against a Muslim or against a Christian or a Jew. But the question is: Why among these 60 million victims are only the Jews the center of attention?

SPIEGEL: That's just not the case. All peoples mourn the victims claimed by the Second World War, Germans and Russians and Poles and others as well. Yet, we as Germans cannot absolve ourselves of a special guilt, namely for the systematic murder of the Jews. But perhaps we should now move on to the next subject.

Ahmadinejad: No, I have a question for you. What kind of a role did today's youth play in World War II?

SPIEGEL: None.

Ahmadinejad: Why should they have feelings of guilt toward Zionists? Why should the costs of the Zionists be paid out of their pockets? If people committed crimes in the past, then they would have to have been tried 60 years ago. End of story! Why must the German people be humiliated today because a group of people committed crimes in the name of the Germans during the course of history?

SPIEGEL: The German people today can't do anything about it. But there is a sort of collective shame for those deeds done in the German name by our fathers or grandfathers.

Ahmadinejad: How can a person who wasn't even alive at the time be held legally responsible?

SPIEGEL: Not legally but morally.

Ahmadinejad: Why is such a burden heaped on the German people? The German people of today bear no guilt. Why are the German people not permitted the right to defend themselves? Why are the crimes of one group emphasized so greatly, instead of highlighting the great German cultural heritage? Why should the Germans not have the right to express their opinion freely?

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we are well aware that German history is not made up of only the 12 years of the Third Reich. Nevertheless, we have to accept that horrible crimes have been committed in the German name. We also own up to this, and it is a great achievement of the Germans in post-war history that they have grappled critically with their past.

Ahmadinejad: Are you also prepared to tell that to the German people?

SPIEGEL: Oh yes, we do that.

Ahmadinejad: Then would you also permit an impartial group to ask the German people whether it shares your opinion? No people accepts its own humiliation.

SPIEGEL: All questions are allowed in our country. But of course there are right-wing radicals in Germany who are not only anti-Semitic, but xenophobic as well, and we do indeed consider them a threat.

Ahmadinejad: Let me ask you one thing: How much longer can this go on? How much longer do you think the German people have to accept being taken hostage by the Zionists? When will that end - in 20, 50, 1,000 years?

SPIEGEL: We can only speak for ourselves. DER SPIEGEL is nobody's hostage; SPIEGEL does not deal only with Germany's past and the Germans' crimes. We're not Israel's uncritical ally in the Palestian conflict. But we want to make one thing very clear: We are critical, we are independent, but we won't simply stand by without protest when the existential right of the state of Israel, where many Holocaust survivors live, is being questioned.

Ahmadinejad: Precisely that is our point. Why should you feel obliged to the Zionists? If there really had been a Holocaust, Israel ought to be located in Europe, not in Palestine.

SPIEGEL: Do you want to resettle a whole people 60 years after the end of the war?

Ahmadinejad: Five million Palestinians have not had a home for 60 years. It is amazing really: You have been paying reparations for the Holocaust for 60 years and will have to keep paying up for another 100 years. Why then is the fate of the Palestinians no issue here?

SPIEGEL: The Europeans support the Palestinians in many ways. After all, we also have an historic responsibility to help bring peace to this region finally. But don't you share that responsibility?

Ahmadinejad: Yes, but aggression, occupation and a repetition of the Holocaust won't bring peace. What we want is a sustainable peace. This means that we have to tackle the root of the problem. I am pleased to note that you are honest people and admit that you are obliged to support the Zionists.

SPIEGEL: That's not what we said, Mr. President.

Ahmadinejad: You said Israelis.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we're talking about the Holocaust because we want to talk about the possible nuclear armament of Iran -- which is why the West sees you as a threat.

Ahmadinejad: Some groups in the West enjoy calling things or people a threat. Of course you're free to make your own judgment.

SPIEGEL: The key question is: Do you want nuclear weapons for your country?

Ahmadinejad: Allow me to encourage a discussion on the following question: How long do you think the world can be governed by the rhetoric of a handful of Western powers? Whenever they hold something against someone, they start spreading propaganda and lies, defamation and blackmail. How much longer can that go on?

SPIEGEL: We're here to find out the truth. The head of state of a neighboring country, for example, told SPIEGEL: "They are very keen on building the bomb." Is that true?

Ahmadinejad: You see, we conduct our discussions with you and the European governments on an entirely different, higher level. In our view, the legal system whereby a handful of countries force their will on the rest of the world is discriminatory and unstable. One-hundred and thirty-nine countries, including us, are members of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) in Vienna. Both the statutes of IAEA and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well as all security agreements grant the member countries the right to produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. That is the legitimate legal right of any people. Beyond this, however, IAEA was also established to promote the disarmament of those powers that already possessed nuclear weapons. And now look at what's happening today: Iran has had an excellent cooperation with IAEA. We have had more than 2,000 inspections of our plants, and the inspectors have obtained more than 1,000 pages of documentation from us. Their cameras are installed in our nuclear centers. IAEA has emphasized in all its reports that there are no indications of any irregularities in Iran. That is one side of this matter.

SPIEGEL: IAEA doesn't quite share your view of this matter.

Ahmadinejad: But the other side is that there are a number of countries that possess both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. They use their atomic weapons to threaten other peoples. And it is these powers who say that they are worried about Iran deviating from the path of peaceful use of atomic energy. We say that these powers are free to monitor us if they are worried. But what these powers say is that the Iranians must not complete the nuclear fuel cycle because deviation from peaceful use might then be possible. What we say is that these countries themselves have long deviated from peaceful usage. These powers have no right to talk to us in this manner. This order is unjust and unsustainable.

SPIEGEL: But, Mr. President, the key question is: How dangerous will this world become if even more countries become nuclear powers -- if a country like Iran, whose president makes threats, builds the bomb in a crisis-ridden region?

Ahmadinejad: We're fundamentally opposed to the expansion of nuclear-weapons arsenals. This is why we have proposed the formation of an unbiased organization and the disarmament of the nuclear powers. We don't need any weapons. We're a civilized, cultured people, and our history shows that we have never attacked another country.

SPIEGEL: Iran doesn't need the bomb that it wants to build?

Ahmadinejad: It's interesting to note that European nations wanted to allow the shah's dictatorship the use of nuclear technology. That was a dangerous regime. Yet those nations were willing to supply it with nuclear technology. Ever since the Islamic Republic has existed, however, these powers have been opposed to it. I stress once again, we don't need any nuclear weapons.

We stand by our statements because we're honest and act legally. We're no fraudsters. We only want to claim our legitimate right. Incidentally, I never threatened anyone - that, too, is part of the propaganda machine that you've got running against me.

SPIEGEL: If this were so, shouldn't you be making an effort to ensure that no one need fear your producing nuclear weapons that you might use against Israel, thus possibly unleashing a world war? You're sitting on a tinderbox, Mr. President.

Ahmadinejad: Allow me to say two things. No people in the region are afraid of us. And no one should instill fear in these peoples. We believe that if the United States and these two or three European countries did not interfere, the peoples in this region would live peacefully together as they did in the thousands of years before. In 1980, it was also the nations of Europe and the United States that encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack us.

Our stance with respect to Palestine is clear. We say: Allow those to whom this country belongs to express their opinion. Let Jews, Christians and Muslims say what they think. The opponents of this proposal prefer war and threaten the region. Why are the United States and these two or three European nations opposed to this? I believe that those who imprison Holocaust researchers prefer war to peace. Our stance is democratic and peaceful.

SPIEGEL: The Palestinians have long gone a step further than you and recognize Israel as a fact, while you still wish to erase it from the map. The Palestinians are ready to accept a two-state solution while you deny Israel its right to existence.

Ahmadinejad: You're wrong. You saw that the Palestinian people elected Hamas in free elections. We argue that neither you nor we should claim to speak for the Palestian people. The Palestinians themselves should say what they want. In Europe it is customary to call a referendum on any issue. We should also give the Palestinians the opportunity to express their opinion.

SPIEGEL: The Palestinians have the right to their own state, but in our view the Israelis naturally have the same right.

Ahmadinejad: Where did the Israelis come from?

SPIEGEL: Well, if we tried to work out where people have come from, the Europeans would have to return to east Africa where all humans originated.

Ahmadinejad: We're not talking about the Europeans; we're talking about the Palestinians. The Palestinians were there, in Palestine. Now 5 million of them have become refugees. Don't they have a right to live?

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, doesn't there come a time when one should accept that the world is the way it is and that we must accept the status quo? The war against Iraq has put Iran in a favorable position. The United States has suffered a de facto defeat in Iraq. Isn't it now time for Iran to become a constructive power of peace in the Middle East? Which would mean giving up its nuclear plans and inflammatory talk?

Ahmadinejad: I'm wondering why you're adopting and fanatically defending the stance of the European politicians. You're a magazine, not a government. Saying that we should accept the world as it is would mean that the winners of World War II would remain the victorious powers for another 1,000 years and that the German people would be humiliated for another 1,000 years. Do you think that is the correct logic?

SPIEGEL: No, that's not the right logic, nor is it true. The Germans have played a modest, but important role in post-war developments. They do not feel as though they have been humiliated and dishonored since 1945. We are too self-confident for that. But today we want to talk about Iran's current mission.

Ahmadinejad: Then we would accept that Palestinians are killed every day, that they die in terrorist attacks, and that houses are being destroyed. But let me say something about Iraq. We have always favored peace and security in the region. For eight years, the Western countries provided arms to Saddam in the war against us, including chemical weapons, and gave him political support. We were against Saddam and suffered severely because of him, so we're happy that he has been toppled. But we don't accept a whole country being swallowed under the pretext of wanting to topple Saddam. More than 100,000 Iraqis have lost their lives under the rule of the occupying forces. Fortunately, the Germans haven't been involved in this. We want security in Iraq.

SPIEGEL: But, Mr. President, who is swallowing Iraq? The United States has practically lost this war. By cooperating constructively, Iran might help the Americans consider their retreat from the country.

Ahmadinejad: This is very interesting: The Americans occupy the country, kill people, sell the oil and when they have lost, they blame others. We have very close ties to the Iraqi people. Many people on both sides of the border are related. We have lived side by side for thousands of years. Our holy pilgrimage sites are located in Iraq. Just like Iran, Iraq used to be a center of civilization.

SPIEGEL: What are you trying to say?

Ahmadinejad: We have always said that we support the popularly elected government of Iraq. But in my view the Americans are doing a bad job. They have sent us messages several times asking us for help and cooperation. They have said that we should talk together about Iraq. We publicly accepted this offer, although our people do not trust the Americans. But America has responded negatively and insulted us. Even now we're contributing to security in Iraq. We will hold talks only if the Americans change their behavior.

SPIEGEL: Do you enjoy provoking the Americans and the rest of the world now and then?

Ahmadinejad: No, I'm not insulting anyone. The letter that I wrote to Mr. Bush was polite.

SPIEGEL: We don't mean insult, but provoke.

Ahmadinejad: No, we feel animosity toward no one. We're concerned about the American soldiers who die in Iraq. Why do they have to die there? This war makes no sense. Why is there war when there is reason as well?

SPIEGEL: Is your letter to the president also a gesture toward the Americans that you wish to enter into direct negotiations?

Ahmadinejad: We clearly stated our position in this letter on how we view the problems in the world. Some powers have befouled the political atmosphere in the world because they consider lies and fraud to be legitimate. In our view that is very bad. We believe that all people deserve respect. Relationships have to be regulated on the basis of justice. When justice reigns, peace reigns. Unjust conditions aren't sustainable, even if Ahmadinejad does not criticize them.

SPIEGEL: This letter to the American president includes a passage about Sept. 11, 2001. The quote: "How could such an operation be planned and implemented without the coordination with secret and security services or without the far-reaching infiltration of these services?" Your statements always include so many innuendos. What is that supposed to mean? Did the CIA help Mohammed Atta and the other 18 terrorists conduct their attacks?

Ahmadinejad: No, that's not what I meant. We think that they should just say who is to blame. They should not use Sept. 11 as an excuse to launch a military attack against the Middle East. They should take those who are responsible for the attacks to court. We're not opposed to that; we condemned the attacks. We condemn any attack against innocent people.

SPIEGEL: In this letter you also write that Western liberalism has failed. What makes you say that?

Ahmadinejad: You see, for example you have a thousand definitions of the Palestian problem and you offer all sorts of different definitions of democracy in its various forms. It does not make sense that a phenomenon depends on the opinions of many individuals who are free to interpret the phenomenon as they wish. You can't solve the problems of the world that way. We need a new approach. Of course we want the free will of the people to reign, but we need sustainable principles that enjoy universal acceptance - such as justice. Iran and the West agree on this.

SPIEGEL: What role can Europe play in the resolution of the nuclear conflict, and what do you expect of Germany?

Ahmadinejad: We have always cultivated good relations with Europe, especially with Germany. Our two peoples like each other. We're eager to deepen this relationship.

Europe has made three mistakes with respect to our people. The first mistake was to support the shah's government. This has left our people disappointed and discontent. However, by offering asylum to Imam Khomeini, France earned a special position that it lost again later. The second mistake was to support Saddam in his war against us. The truth is that our people expected Europe to be on our side, not against us. The third mistake was Europe's stance on the nuclear issue. Europe will be the big loser and will achieve nothing. We don't want to see that happen.

SPIEGEL: What will happen now in the conflict between the West and Iran?

Ahmadinejad: We understand the Americans' logic. They suffered damage as a result of the victory of the Islamic Revolution. But we're puzzled why some European countries are opposed to us. I sent out a message on the nuclear issue, asking why the Europeans were translating the Americans' words for us. After all, they know that our actions are aimed toward peace. By siding with Iran, the Europeans would serve their own and our interests. But they will suffer only damage if they oppose us. For our people is strong and determined.

The Europeans risk losing their position in the Middle East entirely, and they are ruining their reputation in other parts of the world. The others will think that the Europeans aren't capable of solving problems.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Stefan Aust, Gerhard Spörl and Dieter Bednarz in Tehran.


© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2006
All Rights Reserved
Reproduction only allowed with the permission of SPIEGELnet GmbH


More about this issue:

Related SPIEGEL ONLINE links:
The Iranian Challenge: An Apocalyptic Religious Zealot Takes on the World (05/30/2006)
http://service.spiegel.de/cache/interna ... 91,00.html
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Post by Ralph » Sun Jun 04, 2006 7:24 am

Well, this man certainly gets coverage. That's inevitable.

But the real issue is that Iran can not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
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Post by jack stowaway » Mon Jun 05, 2006 8:47 pm

Thank you, Corlyss, for posting this extraordinarily interesting interview.

To the Western mind, there is an unmistakeable air of fantasy and self-delusion in Arab reasoning which is amply evidenced in the interview. (I’m aware that Iranians are Persian, but in this instance it is the characteristic Arab mentality which is of most pertinence.)

To such a mindset, even the most innocuous question may contain the seeds of corruptive intent (especially when coming from an infidel!). Thus the reply had better be similarly cautious and ambiguous.

The tone is set from the opening question, when the interviewer seeks to establish whether Ahmadinejad will be attending the soccer World Cup in Germany,
SPIEGEL: Mr. President, you are a soccer fan and you like to play soccer. Will you be sitting in the stadium in Nuremberg on June 11, when the Iranian national team plays against Mexico in Germany?

Ahmadinejad: It depends. Naturally, I'll be watching the game in any case. I don't know yet whether I'll be at home in front of the television set or somewhere else. My decision depends upon a number of things.

SPIEGEL: For example?

Ahmadinejad: How much time I have, how the state of various relationships are going, whether I feel like it and a number of other things.
In other words, no.

Spiegel then asks Ahmadinejad whether the furore over his remarks regarding the Holocaust surprised him. Ahmadinejad responds by invoking that recurring theme of Islamist discourse --the zionist plotters working ceaselessly to annhilate Islam.
Ahmadinejad: No, not at all, because the network of Zionism is very active around the world, in Europe too. So I wasn't surprised. We were addressing the German people. We have nothing to do with Zionists.
Ahmadinejad goes on to suggest that the [zionist] enemies of truth and enlightenment might also have corrupted Germany.
Ahmadinejad: I know that DER SPIEGEL is a respected magazine. But I don't know whether it is possible for you to publish the truth about the Holocaust. Are you permitted to write everything about it?
The interviewer’s response is shocking in its frankness.
SPIEGEL: Of course we are entitled to write about the findings of the past 60 years' historical research. In our view there is no doubt that the Germans -- unfortunately -- bear the guilt for the murder of 6 million Jews.
Inured to such honesty by a thick layer of fantasy-speak, Ahmadinejad simply cannot cope and responds in characteristic fashion by retreating into the endless ambiguities of history:
Ahmadinejad: ... We are of the opinion that, if an historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the moreclearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it.
But the admirable interviewer is having none of it:
SPIEGEL: That [i.e. historical research] has long since happened in Germany.
The response is even more convoluted:
Ahmadinejad: We don't want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not. If it did, then those who bear the responsibility for it have to be punished, and not the Palestinians. Why isn't research into a deed that occurred 60 years ago permitted? After all, other historical occurrences, some of which lie several thousand years in the past, are open to research, and even the governments support this.
The interviewer will not be swayed:
SPIEGEL: Mr. President, with all due respect, the Holocaust occurred, there were concentration camps, there are dossiers on the extermination of the Jews, there has been a great deal of research, and there is neither the slightest doubt about the Holocaust nor about the fact - we greatly regret this - that the Germans are responsible for it. If we may now add one remark: the fate of the Palestinians is an entirely different issue, and this brings us into the present.
The available present! How inconvenient to the conspiratorial mind.
Ahmadinejad: No, no, the roots of the Palestinian conflict must be sought in history...

SPIEGEL: Are you still saying that the Holocaust is just "a myth?"

Ahmadinejad: I will only accept something as truth if I am actually convinced of it.

SPIEGEL: Even though no Western scholars harbor any doubt about the Holocaust?

Ahmadinejad: But there are two opinions on this in Europe. One group of scholars or persons, most of them politically motivated, say the Holocaust occurred. Then there is the group of scholars who represent the opposite position and have therefore been imprisoned for the most part.... Normally, governments promote and support the work of researchers on historical events and do not put them in prison.
Unlike an Arab interviewer, who would simply nod his head in silent agreement of this point, the German interviewer has the effrontery to challenge the implication.
SPIEGEL: Who is that supposed to be? Which researchers do you mean?
Ahmadinejad shifts ground while, at the same time, returning to the Jewish stalking horse:
Ahmadinejad: We are against bloodshed, regardless of whether a crime was committed against a Muslim or against a Christian or a Jew. But the question is: Why among these 60 million victims are only the Jews the center of attention?
The eloquent response to this rhetorical question must have knocked his socks off:
SPIEGEL: That's just not the case. All peoples mourn the victims claimed by the Second World War, Germans and Russians and Poles and others as well. Yet, we as Germans cannot absolve ourselves of a special guilt, namely for the systematic murder of the Jews.
The stubborn interviewer insists upon his guilt! Such an admission is inconceivable to a speaker raised on an endless diet of Arab propaganda and victimhood, and Ahmadinejad simply cannot grasp the point. He refuses the interviewer’s offer to move past the issue and brings out the most powerful appeal in Arab discourse: the inborn sense of grievance at the shame heaped upon Islamic civilisation by history. Surely, the thick-headed interviewer will respond positively to this fellow-invitation to wallow in the warm mud of humiliation?
Ahmadinejad: Why should they have feelings of guilt toward Zionists? Why should the costs of the Zionists be paid out of their pockets? If people committed crimes in the past, then they would have to have been tried 60 years ago. End of story! Why must the German people be humiliated today because a group of people committed crimes in the name of the Germans during the course of history?
Alas, the wretched infidel is not buying into it:
SPIEGEL: The German people today can't do anything about it. But there is a sort of collective shame for those deeds done in the German name by our fathers or grandfathers.

Ahmadinejad: How can a person who wasn't even alive at the time be held legally responsible?

SPIEGEL: Not legally but morally.
By this point in time, one must think that Ahmadinejad must simply acknowledge the persuasiveness of the other’s case. But that is a logical response, not applicable to the speaker, who tries again...
Ahmadinejad: Why is such a burden heaped on the German people? The German people of today bear no guilt. Why are the German people not permitted the right to defend themselves? Why are the crimes of one group emphasized so greatly, instead of highlighting the great German cultural heritage? Why should the Germans not have the right to express their opinion freely?

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we are well aware that German history is not made up of only the 12 years of the Third Reich. Nevertheless, we have to accept that horrible crimes have been committed in the German name. We also own up to this, and it is a great achievement of the Germans in post-war history that they have grappled critically with their past.

Ahmadinejad: Are you also prepared to tell that to the German people?

SPIEGEL: Oh yes, we do that.

Ahmadinejad: Then would you also permit an impartial group to ask the German people whether it shares your opinion? No people accepts its own humiliation.
The core theme of humiliation reveals itself again and again in Arab arguments. Its appeal is so extraordinarily deep and powerful that it sweeps aside all before it. All humiliations are rolled into one, overwhelming mound of injustice: the father whose son questions his prerequisites; the wife whose husband abuses her; the youth who cannot find a job, the citizen frustrated at the high-handed actions of hereditary rulers. All of these daily indignities swell together and fester into a single gigantic open sore whose only cause is Zionism and whose only cure is the eradication of Israel.

The interview continues on in this fashion, Arab grievance and Western logic foundering on the same rock of mutual incomprehension. At times, the contrasting modes of discourse (and thus, thinking) become comical in their sharp difference:
SPIEGEL: The key question is: Do you want nuclear weapons for your country?

Ahmadinejad: Allow me to encourage a discussion on the following question: How long do you think the world can be governed by the rhetoric of a handful of Western powers? Whenever they hold something against someone, they start spreading propaganda and lies, defamation and blackmail. How much longer can that go on?
Nevertheless, the interviewer tries to pin him, using the rapier foil of factual inquiry:
SPIEGEL: We're here to find out the truth. The head of state of a neighboring country, for example, told SPIEGEL: "They are very keen on building the bomb." Is that true?

Ahmadinejad: You see, we conduct our discussions with you and the European governments on an entirely different, higher level...
The interview continues in this vein of question and evasion....
SPIEGEL: The Palestinians have the right to their own state, but in our view the Israelis naturally have the same right.

Ahmadinejad: Where did the Israelis come from?

SPIEGEL: Well, if we tried to work out where people have come from, the Europeans would have to return to east Africa where all humans originated.

Ahmadinejad: We're not talking about the Europeans; we're talking about the Palestinians. The Palestinians were there, in Palestine. Now 5 million of them have become refugees. Don't they have a right to live?
Exasperated, the Spiegel interviewer takes out the ultimate weapon in the Western arsenal: reality.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, doesn't there come a time when one should accept that the world is the way it is and that we must accept the status quo?...
To which suggestion, naturally, the trump card is...humiliation!
Ahmadinejad: I'm wondering why you're adopting and fanatically defending the stance of the European politicians. You're a magazine, not a government. Saying that we should accept the world as it is would mean that the winners of World War II would remain the victorious powers for another 1,000 years and that the German people would be humiliated for another 1,000 years. Do you think that is the correct logic?
The interviewer’s reply is noteworthy for its quietly eloquent restatement of actual (unapologetic and unadorned) fact:
SPIEGEL: No, that's not the right logic, nor is it true. The Germans have played a modest, but important role in post-war developments. They do not feel as though they have been humiliated and dishonored since 1945. We are too self-confident for that.
Again, how extraordinary such a statement must sound to Arab ears!

Ahmadinejad responds in the only way he can --by accusing the US of swallowing Iraq. But the interviewer has the bit between his teeth:
SPIEGEL: But, Mr. President, who is swallowing Iraq? The United States has practically lost this war. By cooperating constructively, Iran might help the Americans consider their retreat from the country.
More obfuscation follows by way of an appeal to the lost civilisation of Iraq-- an appeal that would be greeted with tearful applause by an Arab audience inured to non-sequiturs, but Spiegel is relentless:
SPIEGEL: What are you trying to say?
Towards the end of the interview, the journalist has the nerve to tackle a staple of Arab discourse, the insinuation that dark powers are at work to undermine the very fabric of Islam. The interviewer is recklessly brave in his pursuit:
SPIEGEL: This letter to the American president includes a passage about Sept. 11, 2001. The quote: "How could such an operation be planned and implemented without the coordination with secret and security services or without the far-reaching infiltration of these services?" Your statements always include so many innuendos. What is that supposed to mean? Did the CIA help Mohammed Atta and the other 18 terrorists conduct their attacks?
Confronted with the demand for factual proof, Ahmadinejad quickly retreats -- without, however, giving up ground:
Ahmadinejad: No, that's not what I meant. We think that they should just say who is to blame.
All in all, the interview offers a remarkable insight into the differences between Arab and Western perceptions of reality. It brings to mind the ‘debate’ between Wafa Sultan and the Egyptian cleric shown on Al-Jezeera: Two minds shouting at each other over a vast gulf of mutual incomprehension.

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Post by Werner » Mon Jun 05, 2006 11:23 pm

An exellent analysis of a fascinating post by Corlyss. But then, I've read many SPIEGEL inerviews, all done excellently, extensively, and knowledgeably. But this is the first one I've seen that, as you note in your last paragraph, Jack, becomes a debate rather than an interview. And, as you demonstrate, it lays out the interviewee's position with clarity and foreboding.

But in this case, I don't feel that there is mutual incomprehension. I'm quite certain the interviewers know Ahmadinjad's position quite well - he's not the first such "Crazy" to appear on the scene - but he is not open to any sort of persuasion, so there seems no common ground.
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Post by jack stowaway » Tue Jun 06, 2006 2:48 am

But in this case, I don't feel that there is mutual incomprehension. I'm quite certain the interviewers know Ahmadinjad's position quite well.
Yes, you are right, of course. The interviewer has evidently done his homework and, as you point out, has obviously come across this type of thinking before. What I find unusual is his determination to penetrate the layers of obfuscation, implication and innuendo which is characteristic of an idée fixe mentality.

Somehow, his failure typifies for me the larger failure of the West to dent the Islamic world's obsessive thinking in general.

Ahmadinejad's disinclination to deal with inconvenient facts reminds me of an incident reported by a friend who was visiting the Middle East with her Arab boyfriend. They were being driven by a relative of her boyfriend when the driver ran a red light and struck another vehicle. A furious argument followed between the occupants of both vehicles as both denied fault.

When my friend, fearing the argument might turn to violence, mildly proposed that the vehicle she was in had indeed run the light, her boyfriend rounded on her in fury. "That is not the point!" he screamed. "They are calling us liars!"

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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Jun 07, 2006 5:49 pm

I put up the original article as a teaser, then let it sit for a couple of days to let the members digest the ravings of the cunning lunatic Ahmadinejad before I put up the recent articles by WaPo's mid-east reporter, Karl Vick. Comments by Michael Ledeen will follow in another post.
A Man of the People's Needs and Wants
Ahmadinejad Praised in Iran as a Caring Leader

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, June 3, 2006; A01

ARAK, Iran -- The ordinary Iranians who poured into the local soccer stadium to hear President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad one day last month arrived carrying high hopes and handwritten letters. They left with just the hopes. The letters were collected in oversize cardboard boxes, then hoisted into the postal van Ahmadinejad has taken to parking prominently when he barnstorms the provinces, in an audacious campaign to make every Iranian's wish come true.

"I asked for a proper house," Vaziolla Rezaei, 57, said of the appeal he addressed to His Excellency the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. "And I also told him about my financial situation."

"I mainly wrote about my husband's lack of work," said Kobra Hedyatti, 30. "And also about our poor house and how far the children have to walk to school."

"I actually wrote him two letters," said Reza Karimi, 41. "One was about the problems we have in this neighborhood. The other was about my problems.

"Of course," Karimi added with a wave of the hand, "I do not expect him to answer me individually. But I believe he would at least solve the problem of the neighborhood.

"I believe if he really could, he would help us."

That belief, far more than anything Ahmadinejad has said about nuclear power or the Holocaust, defines Iran's energetic president for the people who elected him almost a year ago, as well as the legions he appears to have won over since taking office in August. If his image in the West is that of a banty radical dangerously out of touch with reality -- "a psychopath of the worst kind," in the words of Israel's prime minister -- the prevailing impression in Iran is precisely the opposite.

Here, ordinary people marvel at how their president comes across as someone in touch, as populist candidate turned caring incumbent. In speeches, 17-hour workdays and biweekly trips like the one that brought him here to Central Province, Ahmadinejad showcases a relentless preoccupation with the health, housing and, most of all, money problems that may barely register on the global agenda but represent the most clear and present danger for most in this nation of 70 million.

"It's good to have a very kind person near you, caring about your problems," said Akram Rashidi, 34, at the counter of a stationery store where the run on envelopes outpaced the supply of change. "The important thing is that the president and important people are caring about the people."

Ahmadinejad's ardent professions of solidarity with workaday Iranians defined his dark-horse campaign a year ago. But once in office, he took retail politics to a whole new level. The visit to Arak in mid-May was his 13th trip to the provinces, each time dragging along his cabinet in the name of bringing the government to the people.

"He made a lot of promises," said Aynollah Bagheri, 30, in nearby Khomein, one of eight towns the president hit in two days. "I can't remember them all."

The pledges -- of higher wages, housing loans, recreational centers, car factories -- already are stacked to a precarious height. And he's only halfway through Iran's 30 provinces.

"He's in a perpetual campaign, and he's doing pretty well," said an Iranian political analyst who asked not to be identified because his employer had not authorized him to speak. "But there'll come a time pretty soon when he'll have to pay a second visit to these provinces.

"We are in the stage of hope and demands. If he's successful, he'll turn these demands into results. If he doesn't, there may come a point where complaints turn into anger."

For the time being, Ahmadinejad's image at home stands in stark counterpoint to his notoriety elsewhere. Scrappy and bellicose to the West, his presidency has distinguished itself inside Iran by an almost total absence of pain.

Iran remains Iran, of course. Controls on the press are firmer than ever, and the April arrest of Ramin Jahanbegloo, a philosopher without a strong reputation for political activism, has both mystified and unsettled elements of Tehran's professional class.

But Ahmadinejad's government has delivered none of the widely predicted crackdowns on social behavior. Iranians remain free to drink, party and generally do as they please behind closed doors. In public, young couples can still canoodle lightly on the street, and young women stretch the definition of "Islamic dress" with form-fitting outerwear.

In fact, the hard-line president last month stunned conservatives and liberals alike by ordering the national stadium opened to female soccer fans, an egalitarian gesture that was thwarted when clerics appealed directly to Iran's unelected supreme leader.

But Ahmadinejad's primary focus is the ordinary people normally paid little notice by the country's insular, elitist political culture except at election time.

Ahmadinejad addresses them personally. "I love you too," he told the cheering crowd in Arak. But the only part of the speech heard in the world beyond Iran was what he said about Europe's emerging offer of incentives if Iran abandoned uranium enrichment: "walnuts for gold."

In the audience, Rezaei barely noticed that part.

"The main emphasis of his speech is that he's going to raise up the people who have been deprived of a good life," said Rezaei, who makes his living ambling along the sidewalks of Arak, one hand on a clarinet that plays a flowing, upbeat tune, the other on a crutch. "His main point is he's going to bring a balance between people who have a lot of money and the poor. He's going to give them opportunity. This was the point people loved very much."

The response has been overwhelming in more ways than one. When Ahmadinejad offered Iranians low-interest loans for housing, his office prepared for 30,000 applications. It received 2 million. Other new programs offer loans to newlyweds, farmers, villagers and small businesses.

"Each day we get between 130 and 150 requests," said Hamed Alizadeh at the walk-up window at an office in Tehran, set up around the corner from the modest townhome that symbolized Ahmadinejad's personal integrity during the campaign.

Labeled "President's Public Relations Office," the window receives hand-delivered letters from 8 to 5:30 six days a week. Alizadeh, part of a constituent service staff of 200, runs a highlighter over each essential passage, fills out a form for the relevant ministry, then hands the citizen a phone number to call after 10 days.

The requests can be amusing, he said: One woman wanted the president to find her a husband. But seven in 10 ask for money. The president's visit to Iran's poorest province, Sistan and Baluchistan, brought 200,000 letters alone.

"Everybody is saying he will actually solve the problems, so I've come all this way," said Ashraf Samadi, 47, who borrowed $320 from neighbors for the 16-hour bus ride to Tehran to deliver her letter in person. She wanted funds for a son's failing kidney and a daughter's wedding.

"Is there any chance of seeing the president himself?" she asked.

For a politician, the consequences of disappointing such achingly personal hopes could be catastrophic. But Ahmadinejad's government has been cushioned by the flood of revenue from oil exports at $70 a barrel, a price that in part reflects markets made nervous by his belligerent remarks on nuclear power and Israel.

To many Iranians, the tough talk is simply that. Among a population with both the pride of the Persian empire and a long history of defensive wars, Ahmadinejad's defiance is regarded as welcome and routine. "These kinds of words have to be used," said Azar Mahdavi, 20, behind the counter of a children's boutique. "You have to show that you're a strong man."

Some citizens even resent attention to any issue beyond themselves. One placard in Arak read: "A better life is our undeniable right" -- a pointed play on the government's constant pro-nuclear slogan. Union members at a May Day rally chanted, "Forget about Palestine. What about us?"

"People have high expectations," said Rashidi, at the stationery shop. Her look was introspective as she told of accompanying her sister to see Ahmadinejad when he was still Tehran's mayor, to appeal a zoning issue. There was no result, but what she remembered, years later, was having his attention.

In Khomein, Zabihollah Sarlak asked Ahmadinejad to see that his mentally disabled son is looked after if he should die. "He promised everybody, but he also said it'll take some time," said Sarlak, 50. "He said if you buy a kilo of meat at the market and take it home and cook it, it takes time.

"But he'll do what he says."
© 2006 The Washington Post Company http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 01699.html
washingtonpost.com
Iran Requests Direct Talks on Nuclear Program

By Karl Vick and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, May 24, 2006; A01

TEHRAN, May 23 -- Iran has followed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent letter to President Bush with explicit requests for direct talks on its nuclear program, according to U.S. officials, Iranian analysts and foreign diplomats.

The eagerness for talks demonstrates a profound change in Iran's political orthodoxy, emphatically erasing a taboo against contact with Washington that has both defined and confined Tehran's public foreign policy for more than a quarter-century, they said.

Though the Tehran government in the past has routinely jailed its citizens on charges of contact with the country it calls the "Great Satan," Ahmadinejad's May 8 letter was implicitly endorsed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and lavished with praise by perhaps the most conservative ayatollah in the theocratic government.

"You know, two months ago nobody would believe that Mr. Khamenei and Mr. Ahmadinejad together would be trying to get George W. Bush to begin negotiations," said Saeed Laylaz, a former government official and prominent analyst in Tehran. "This is a sign of changing strategy. They realize the situation is dangerous and they should not waste time, that they should reach out."

Laylaz and several diplomats said senior Iranian officials have asked a multitude of intermediaries to pass word to Washington making clear their appetite for direct talks. He said Ali Larijani, chairman of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, passed that message to the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, who arrived in Washington Tuesday for talks with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley.

Iranian officials made similar requests through Indonesia, Kuwait and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Laylaz said. American intelligence analysts also say Larijani's urgent requests for meetings with senior officials in France and Germany appear to be part of a bid for dialogue with Washington.

"They've been desperate to do it," said a European diplomat in Tehran.

U.S. intelligence analysts have assessed the letter as a major overture, an appraisal shared by analysts and foreign diplomats resident in Iran. Bush administration officials, however, have dismissed the proposed opening as a tactical move.

The administration repeatedly has rejected talks, saying Iran must negotiate with the three European powers that have led nuclear diplomacy since the Iranian nuclear program became public in 2002. Within hours of receiving Ahmadinejad's letter, Rice dismissed it as containing nothing new.

But U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said government experts have exerted mounting pressure on the Bush administration to reply to the letter, seconding public urgings from commentators and former officials. "The content was wacky and, from an American point of view, offensive. But why should we cede the high moral ground, and why shouldn't we at least respond to the Iranian people?" said an official who has been pushing for a public response.

Analysts, including American specialists on Iran, emphasized that the contents of the letter are less significant than its return address. No other Iranian president had attempted direct contact with his U.S. counterpart since the countries broke off diplomatic relations after student militants overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

Iranian analysts said Ahmadinejad's familiar list of grievances on Iraq, Israel and terrorism was designed largely for domestic consumption. CIA analysts and experts on Iran within the government said it also could be interpreted as an attempt to articulate points for possible discussion with Washington.

"There is no question in my mind that there has been for some time a desire on the part of the senior Iranian leadership to engage in a dialogue with the United States," said Paul Pillar, who was the senior Middle East intelligence analyst with the CIA until last fall.

"Much stranger first steps have led to dialogues than this letter. And as weird as the letter may be, if the Iranians want to begin discussions based on the theme of righteousness, that's something we should not be afraid to engage on," Pillar said. "We have pretty strong arguments about justice and righteousness of our own, so we should not shy away from that."

Inside Iran, the letter effectively widened an opening toward the United States that began in March, with Larijani's unusually public acceptance of an American invitation to direct talks on the situation in neighboring Iraq. That acceptance provoked sharp criticism from hard-liners until it was publicly endorsed by Khamenei.

By contrast, Ahmadinejad's letter sparked lavish praise from perhaps the most conservative cleric in Iran's government, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, who chairs the Guardian Council, which oversees Iran's electoral process. Delivering the Friday sermon on May 12 in Tehran, Jannati called it "an extraordinary letter" and "an inspiration by God."

"The taboo is gone, for the first time when someone like Jannati endorses the message," said an Iranian political analyst who said he could not to be quoted by name because his employer had not authorized him to speak publicly.

Earlier attempts at outreach to Washington have been thwarted by conservatives. "The tradition is the hard-liners need American hostility," the analyst said. The most serious attempt was by Ahmadinejad's predecessor, reformist cleric Mohammad Khatami.

"When Khatami tried to do it, the leader rejected it," said the European diplomat. "But I guess they're worried enough. People don't want sanctions. Domestically, it's a good move."

Indeed, by last week, a prominent member of Iran's conservative parliament made headlines proposing talks with members of Congress.

"The taboo of the discussion is gone, but I don't think they've formed a consensus about normalization of relations," said a Western diplomat in Tehran. "But 'let's talk to the Americans' -- that was very controversial until recently."

The change appears rooted at least partly in Iran's political scene, now dominated entirely by conservatives. Pillar pointed out that with reformists driven from government, conservatives no longer fear that political credit for renewing contact with Washington will accrue to a rival domestic force. The Iranian public strongly favors restoring ties.

Laylaz also saw a second reason: Iran's nuclear program, which recently crossed a key threshold by enriching uranium.

"Now we have something to negotiate," Laylaz said. "The nuclear program of the regime has been successful, because five years ago nobody wanted to hear our voice."

Ordinary Iranians appear to approve of Ahmadinejad's overture. His letter remains at the top of the presidential Web site, http://www.president.ir .

"We have not had any relations for so many years, and Iran was always accused of being unwilling to talk," Masood Mohammadi, 23, said as he left Friday prayers last week. "Now Iran has taken the first step, and I hope the U.S. president replies in kind."

Linzer reported from Washington.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 01540.html
U.S. Push for Democracy Could Backfire Inside Iran

By Karl Vick and David Finkel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 14, 2006; A01

TEHRAN -- Prominent activists inside Iran say President Bush's plan to spend tens of millions of dollars to promote democracy here is the kind of help they don't need, warning that mere announcement of the U.S. program endangers human rights advocates by tainting them as American agents.

In a case that advocates fear is directly linked to Bush's announcement, the government has jailed two Iranians who traveled outside the country to attend what was billed as a series of workshops on human rights. Two others who attended were interrogated for three days.

The workshops, conducted by groups based in the United States, were held last April, but Iranian investigators did not summon the participants until last month, about the time the Bush administration announced plans to spend $85 million "to support the cause of freedom in Iran this year."

"We are under pressure here both from hard-liners in the judiciary and that stupid George Bush," human rights activist Emad Baghi said as he waited anxiously for his wife and daughter to emerge from interrogation last week. "When he says he wants to promote democracy in Iran, he gives money to these outside groups and we're in here suffering."

The fallout illustrates the steep challenge facing the Bush administration as it seeks to play a role in a country where American influence is called unwelcome even by many who share the goal of increasing democratic freedoms.

"Unfortunately, I've got to say it has a negative effect, not a positive one," said Abdolfattah Soltani, a human rights lawyer recently released from seven months in prison. After writing in a newspaper that his clients were beaten while in jail, Soltani was charged with offenses that included spying for the United States.

"This is something we all know, that a way of dealing with human rights activists is to claim they have secret relations with foreign powers," said Soltani, who co-founded a human rights defense group with Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi. "This very much limits our actions. It is very dangerous to our society."

Activists here said the Bush initiative demonstrates the chasm that often separates those working inside Iran for greater freedoms -- carefully calibrating their actions to nudge incremental changes in a hostile system -- and the more strident approach of many Iranian exiles who often have the ear of Washington policymakers.

"Our society is very complicated," said Vahid Pourostad, editor of National Trust, a new newspaper aligned with Iran's struggling reform movement. "Generally speaking, it is impossible to impose something from outside. Whatever happens will happen from inside.

"It seems to me the United States is not studying the history of Iran very carefully," Pourostad said. "Whenever they came and supported an idea publicly, the public has done the opposite."

Advocates and ordinary Iranians say the U.S. project also may suffer from poor timing. Just four years ago, the Iranian public's appetite for greater freedom was vibrant here, with a reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, returned to office in a landslide and his allies in control of parliament.

But public disillusionment grew steadily as the reformists failed to wrest crucial powers from the appointed clerics who control much of the power in Iran's theocratic system of government. The clerics cemented their grip by excluding dissenters from subsequent elections.

At the same time, hard-liners in the government maintained relentless pressure against independent institutions, closing more than 100 newspapers and jailing students by the hundreds. Many had ventured into the streets at the encouragement of satellite TV stations run by exile groups that breathlessly announced a new revolution in the offing.

"They said I would be joined by millions," said one student, who endured a beating by paramilitary militiamen unleashed against the demonstrators. "I just got beat up."

Today, Pourostad said, the capacity for civil society is so depleted that homeowners cannot be bothered to protest the cutting of trees in an eastern Tehran park to make way for a freeway extension.

"If such a thing had happened four or five years ago, the newspapers could have mounted a social movement," he said. "Now, we can put it in the paper, but we can't create a social wave. A disaster happens, but we can't do anything about it."

The Bush administration is asking Congress for $75 million in emergency funding to promote democracy in Iran, in addition to $10 million already budgeted. Most of the money, $50 million, would be spent to build a satellite television station. The plan also calls for $5 million each for scholarships and public diplomacy that includes fostering independent media inside Iran.

The final $15 million would go toward nongovernmental organizations and civic education on the lines of what the federally chartered National Endowment for Democracy carries out in a wide variety of countries.

"It's going to be hard for them to spend it here," said a diplomat at a European embassy in Tehran, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The diplomat refused to be identified because the embassy has had some success with a program aimed at fostering reform in one Iranian ministry and publicity could make it a target of hard-liners.

"There is a downside," the diplomat said. "There always is. And they'll have to be clever about how they spend it."

Iran on Monday lodged a formal complaint against the Bush plan through the U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy here. At the same time, Iran's parliament allocated the equivalent of $15 million to "probe and defuse" U.S. conspiracies and interventions in the country, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

The experience of Baghi's group is cast as a cautionary tale for all concerned, including a prosecutor notorious for using arrests and detention to make examples.

Baghi, 44, has been prominent in Iran's reform movement for a decade. Once a theology student, he worked in sociology and came to prominence as an investigative journalist. After writing articles that exposed the role of Iran's Intelligence Ministry in the murders of dissidents in the 1990s, he served three years in prison.

After his release he started a newspaper, Jumhuriyat. Prosecutors closed it after 13 issues. He then founded the Society for Protecting Prisoners' Rights, a group that provides free attorneys for inmates and lobbies Iran's judiciary for due process and humane treatment.

Baghi said a friend in Europe approached him 16 months ago with a proposal to send members of the group to Dubai for a "human rights workshop." The friend gave the impression the United Nations was involved, Baghi said.

Unable to attend because authorities continue to withhold his passport, Baghi sent three other members of the rights group: his wife, Fatehmeh Kamali; their adult daughter, Maryam Baghi; and Ali Afsahi, a cleric turned film critic. Kamali's nephew, Ehsan, a law student who lived with them, went along for the ride, Baghi said.

By all accounts, the workshops did not go well. "They were very angry about this trip," Baghi wrote his friend in an e-mail. "They felt offended and insulted."

Quoting his wife, who was not available to be interviewed because of her interrogation, Baghi said the workshops offered only rudimentary training in human rights. Other sessions highlighted popular revolts in Serbia, Ukraine and elsewhere. The three Iranians were the only participants and were moved from one hotel to another by the organizers, who conjured an air of cloak and dagger, Baghi said.

"You know what a vulnerable situation we have here in Iran," Baghi wrote. "It was not a good thing to invite us to such a workshop."

Peter Ackerman, who chairs the Washington group that ran a portion of the workshops, took issue with Baghi's description. Ackerman said the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict promotes the potential of nonviolent change by highlighting experiences in formerly oppressive countries, as depicted in the film "A Force More Powerful," which was screened in Dubai.

Baghi's group left Dubai early, saying the workshops were not what they had expected. Back in Iran, their attendance brought no immediate repercussions, even though it apparently was known to government security services. Baghi said the intelligence office of the Higher Education Ministry asked his daughter about the trip while vetting her for a graduate degree four months ago.

Then on Feb. 12, with reports emerging in Washington of the Bush initiative, Afsahi was taken into custody. Ehsan Kamali, the law student, was detained at a filling station four days later. Both remain in solitary confinement in Evin Prison in the north of Tehran, their condition unknown.

Baghi's wife and daughter were summoned to a prosecutor's office last Tuesday, when a Washington Post reporter arriving for a previously scheduled appointment found Baghi cursing Bush. The women were questioned into the night for three days by deputies of the Tehran prosecutor, Said Mortazavi, the government's most widely feared enforcer.

Diplomats said pressure on individuals has increased since the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president and the showdown over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"The people who did this workshop don't realize what kind of world we live in here," Baghi said. "Here, we've got Mortazavi and the system behind him. The other side has got the U.S. and its money. The pressure is on people who are trying to promote human rights inside the country.

"I feel Ahmadinejad and President Bush are like two blades of a scissor."

Ackerman took a different view.

"The question is: Why are they going to jail?" he said. "What kind of people are sending these people to jail? What's going on here is wrong. It's despicable."

Finkel reported from Washington.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 01761.html
"Reportage" this incompetent and ignorant ought to be criminal.
Last edited by Corlyss_D on Wed Jun 07, 2006 6:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Jun 07, 2006 5:55 pm

Vick Sticks with His Story
The mullah spin.

By Michael Ledeen

If you want to know what the mullahs want you to think, just read the “reporting” by the Washington Post’s own Karl Vick, who Wednesday shared a byline with Dafna Linzer from Tehran to announce nothing less than “a profound change in Iran’s political orthodoxy.” You may have thought that Iranian clerical fascism was not subject to such dramatic transformation, but Vick, the consensus candidate for the Walter Duranty Prize awarded to apologists for tyrants, believes otherwise. And what is the evidence? The Iranians are calling for direct talks with the United States on the mullahs’ project to go nuclear.

Vick and Linzer would have you believe that this proposal “(erases) a taboo against contact with Washington that has both defined and confined Tehran’s public foreign policy for more than a quarter-century...”

Notice that little word “public.” Because, in fact, the mullahs have been chatting with the Great Satan throughout the history of the Islamic Republic, even during the Bush administration. Just ask Richard Haass, the former head of policy planning at the State Department, who organized several such conversations. Or ask George Tenet, who sent some of his spooks to talk to the Iranians. As for earlier periods, you can ask me about the talks with senior ayatollahs in which I was engaged in the mid-1980s. Or call up Robert McFarlane, who went to Tehran to talk to regime officials in 1986. It’s an old story, and the mullahs and their mouthpieces down on 15th Street know it, so they had to sneak in that “public.”

But it isn’t even true to say that Iran has not called for, or engaged in, “public” talks with us. There were innumerable talks, quite public ones, about the future of Afghanistan following the decimation of the Taliban regime, and of late the Iranian regime eagerly accepted—albeit with all kinds of provisos—the American suggestion that the two countries talk about the future of Iraq.

Profound change? Pfui.

The announcement, via the Post, is a fairly transparent tactical maneuver, and Post readers would recognize it as such if Vick and Linzer bothered to report the news from Iran, which is that there are demonstrations all over the country, and that the regime continues its cruel iron-fisted policy toward the Iranian people.

A few days ago, following the publication of an offensive cartoon (equating the Azeri people with cockroaches) in the state-run Iran newspaper, there were huge demonstrations in Tabriz. According to one eyewitness account there were more than three hundred thousand demonstrators. There were numerous casualties on both sides. The regime is busing in thousands of pro-regime demonstrators today in an attempt to show popular support for the mullahcracy;

Last month, in reprisal for the killing of 12 regime officials, North Balochistan was bombed by government planes, and hundreds of presumed activists were rounded up, continuing a pattern of systematic repression that has been going on for many years;

In the last few days there were big demonstrations on college campuses all over the country, and the regime responded with force. The demonstrations were at least in part in response to new restrictions on political activity at the universities;

A week ago, 54 Bahais, engaged in humanitarian activities in Shiraz, were arrested and jailed, hard on the heels of raids on six Bahai homes, and more than a year of “revolving door” detentions, often with no pretext of legal justification.

All these demonstrations have proximate causes, but all are aimed at an end to the regime, and a transition to democracy, as the chants and placards of the demonstrators demonstrate without question. And the demonstrations are taking place against a background of an ever more aggressive opposition movement. In late April, the Islamist prosecutor in Shadgan was shot by a masked commando. Attacks against government facilities in Ahwaz—in the heart of the oil-producing region—have been ongoing. Two militiamen were assassinated in Shiraz in late April. And you can be sure that many other such actions have been taken, but have gone unreported.

In other words, despite the mounting repression, Iranians of all ethnic backgrounds take advantage of local issues to demand regime change. But this picture is lacking from publications like the Post, even though it goes a long way to explain the mullahs’ disinformation campaign suggesting “profound change” in its dark heart. For the mullahs’ greatest fear is that they will be overthrown by the Iranian people, and they know that the peoples’ greatest hope is that the United States will support them. The mullahs must therefore “prove” to the Iranian people that there is no hope the United States will rally to the cause of Iranian freedom, and the easiest way to do that is to trick the Bush administration into an ongoing dialogue. “You see?” the mullahs will say to the people, “the Americans recognize our legitimacy, they are not calling for our removal, on the contrary they are negotiating with us.”

It was most welcome, therefore, that Tony Snow announced that there would be no such negotiations with the mullahs. Would that the proposed talks with Iran about Iraq were similarly scrubbed.

Indeed, we have nothing to negotiate with them. For they relentlessly wage war against us, whatever they may whisper in Karl Vick’s gullible ear. As Iraq the Model reported the other day, Iranian Revolutionary Guards are supplying Zarqawi’s killers in Iraq with Russian anti-aircraft missiles. The supply route runs through the bloody hands of Hezbollah, arranged at a meeting in Damascus a month or so ago, when Imad Mughniyah, the operational chief of Hezbollah, sneaked into town as part of Ahmadinejad’s delegation.

And if you really want to understand the depth of Iranian hatred for those who challenge them, and the patience they show in carrying out their revenge, consider the amazing information that was published by the London Sunday Times in early April: “Iraqi pilots who flew in Saddam Hussein’s air force are being targeted by armed militias in an apparent witch-hunt against veterans who fought in the war against Iran two decades ago.” The Times said that 182 former pilots and 416 senior military officers had been killed by the beginning of 2006, and more than 800 such people had fled Iraq.

Such a regime does not undergo profound change. It just continues to kill all who challenge them.

Forget negotiating, and boycott the Post.


— Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. He is resident scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZD ... U2MWQ0Yjk=
Corlyss
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Post by Werner » Wed Jun 07, 2006 6:24 pm

Let's go after Iran as we did in Iraq. It's been SOOOOOO successful!

(Not even GWB seems to be buying that line at present.)
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Post by Ralph » Wed Jun 07, 2006 6:56 pm

Werner wrote:Let's go after Iran as we did in Iraq. It's been SOOOOOO successful!

(Not even GWB seems to be buying that line at present.)
*****

I'd support attacking Iran in a heartbeat if it would open up our access to their pistachios.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Jun 07, 2006 10:26 pm

Werner wrote:Let's go after Iran as we did in Iraq. It's been SOOOOOO successful!
Doing nothing is 10 times worse.
(Not even GWB seems to be buying that line at present.)
Watch what they do; not what they say.
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Post by Ralph » Wed Jun 07, 2006 10:35 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Werner wrote:Let's go after Iran as we did in Iraq. It's been SOOOOOO successful!
Doing nothing is 10 times worse.
(Not even GWB seems to be buying that line at present.)
Watch what they do; not what they say.
*****

And they won't do nothing before the elections this fall.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Jun 07, 2006 10:47 pm

Ralph wrote:And they won't do nothing before the elections this fall.
No question.
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