2007-09-21

Iran and terrorism

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, has decided that he will not "insist" on a visit to the WTC site. Yet, as a comment on a NY Times blog site says, "Why does anyone - even a visiting president of any nation, one we like or don't like - need permission to go to a public place?"

It is a measure of the success of terrorism and of the right-wing noise machine that has meant that most Americans now see Iran as a grave threat to them and to world peace.

I'm not arguing that Iran is somehow the paragon of all virtue and peace and love - of course they're not. Yet Iran is nowhere near as dangerous or as threatening as some people - read George W. Bush - make them out to be.

Consider the following facts:

  • Iran has never invaded any other nations. Admittedly Iran tried to take over Iraq back during the Iran-Iraq war but that was in repsonse to Iraq invading them first. In all other respects Iran has been peaceful, both after the 1979 revolution and in the decades before it. Unlike Saddam and Iraq, they have no history of aggression towards their neighbours.
  • Iran's beef with America goes back over 50 years. In 1953 the CIA engineered a coup that overthrew a democratically elected Iranian government and replaced it with a corrupt dictatorship. In 1979 Iranian nationalists and fundamentalists were responsible for the Shah's overthrow in their own revolution. Since the CIA used the US embassy in Tehran as a staging and co-ordination point during the 1953 coup, the new Fundamentalist government in 1979 took over the embassy. The resulting hostage crisis was regrettable, but, in the context of 1953, understandable. Iran wanted to prevent any US influence in their new nation.
  • Ali Khameni, Iran's Supreme leader (pictured), is the official head of the armed forces. Any stupid or inflammatory comments that president Ahmadinejad made about destroying Israel need to be understood in that context. Ahmadinejad, for all his fiery rhetoric, has no power at all to use the Iranian military against another nation. Moreover, Ali Khameni publicly denounced the 9/11 attacks soon after they occurred, saying "Mass killings of human beings are catastrophic acts which are condemned... wherever they may happen and whoever the perpetrators and the victims may be". Sympathy towards America by ordinary Iranians resulted in candlelit vigils in memory of those who died on 9/11.
  • Ahmadinejad succeeded Mohammad Khatami, who was Iranian president during the 9/11 attacks. In response to the terrorist attacks, Khatami said "On behalf of the Iranian government and the nation, I condemn the hijacking attempts and terrorist attacks on public centers in American cities which have killed a large number of innocent people. My deep sympathy goes out to the American nation, particularly those who have suffered from the attacks and also the families of the victims. Terrorism is doomed and the international community should stem it and take effective measures in a bid to eradicate it."
  • Iran also has a large and influential reformist movement that has reacted against fundamentalism and likes women's heads uncovered and their rock music loud and heavy. Within this Islamic fundamentalist state there is a growing and important force of secularism that wants nothing but peace.
  • Lastly, Iran is dominated by Shi'a Islam. While a minority in international Islam, Shi'ites are the majority in Iran. To fundamentalists who adhere to Sunni Islam, Shi'ites are essentially heretics. It makes no sense that Sunnis like Osama Bin Laden and Sunni terrorist groups like Al Qaeda would wish to support the Iranian government.

What to conclude therefore? As I said, Iran is not all peacefulness and light. No doubt there are some within the government or within the population who wish to bring terror to the world. Yet the evidence of history shows that Iran is much less threatening to the world - and to America - than what many might think. They have a history of non-aggression; various top politicians have publicly denounced terrorism; they offer deep sympathy to America in response to 9/11; they have acted peacefully towards religious minorities in their own midst, most notably Jews; they have a growing reformist movement that wishes dialogue and peace with America and other western nations.

I say Ahmadinejad should lay the wreath. It is to America's shame that they would not accord to him the courtesy of other world leaders.


© 2007 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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15 comments:

Dave Lankshear said...

I agree with many of your points, and the 1953 CIA thing is of course well know... but still makes me wonder, “Why?” Back in 1953 Hubbert's famous speech — in which he predicted the USA would peak in 1970 — was still 3 years away. America had no idea that their own oil would peak in 1970. It took until 1980 for the oil industry to acknowledge that Hubbert was right. So in theory, America could have sold oil to Britain instead of participating in this dreadful act. Also, the oil geology of Britain screams out that they should have looked in the North Sea for more oil... but I guess the offshore technology was pretty poor back then. I guess the lure of supplying a weapons program to the new dictatorship could have been part of it, but I'm still hazy on why they did it.

I understand why you mention that part of their history. Americans perceive Iran as “the enemy” because of the hostage crisis and other events and of course, being subjected to Fox News, many Americans might not even know that — as kids say in the play ground — “they started it. As Wikipedia says, In 2000, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, during the administration of President Bill Clinton, admitted that the coup was a "setback for democratic government" in Iran.[4] Ya think?

And America now wants democracy in the Middle East? Oh the irony!

But I have trouble understanding why you waste paragraphs on Khatami and other “ancient history”. His and other peaceful sentiments you quote are no longer part of the picture. We are talking about today's crisis, not yesterday's men; today's maniacs, not yesteryears' wishful thinking. Would Bill Clinton have invaded Iraq? Probably not — it took a genius like George W Bush to do that. And exactly what calibre of genius is Iran now being ruled by?

I have to disagree with your conclusion because it includes too much data that is no longer relevant. America is very dangerous under Bush, but might change it's behaviour under another leader. The same with Iran. I only hope that the secularising and modernising movement wins out before Iran's leaders provoke the USA any further.



My long term utopian dream for that region.... and this is decades away.... is that the slow expansion of the EU gradually swallows up the whole region. Now that would be a different world!

Dave Lankshear said...

I also meant to include... what was France's position on invading Iraq? What are they now saying about Iran? Compare and contrast.

:-(

One Salient Oversight said...

Back then France didn't have an idiot like Sarkozy as president.

BLBeamer said...

Any discussion of Iran's peaceful intentions is incomplete without consideration of the Jewish day care center in Buenos Aires that was bombed by Iranians or their agents.

Over 100 civilians were killed.

There is a large population of Iranian Jews now in the US who fled out of fear for their lives, any fatwa notwithstanding. The mayor of Beverly Hills is one of them.

None of these excuse American mistakes regarding Iran, but they certainly should make one think twice before assuming Iran is filled with Quakers.

One Salient Oversight said...

Beamer,

I don't think Iran is full of quakers. In fact I'm a little annoyed that you made that quip since I made it clear in the article that I wasn't saying that Iran was full of lovesick hippies.

Have you checked the Wikipedia article on the 1994 AMIA bombing?

The article seems to make it clear that Iran may not have been the perpetrators. Moreover I have checked out some of the sources and there is no clear evidence beyond allegations by Argentinians or reports from an revolutionary organisation called the People's Mujahedin of Iran who are committed to overthrowing the government of Iran and who have been identified as a terrorist organisation by international observers.

Without any credible evidence, Iran cannot be blamed for this crime and has publicly stated that it was not to blame.

Conjecture is not fact.

BLBeamer said...

I'm glad you recognized it as a quip. You did say they were not perfect but seemed to be soft soaping the nature of their government.

My "conjecture" is based on news reports on the US's National Public Radio. Wikipedia, while often interesting, is just not satisfactory as a reliably credible or determinitive source. Sorry.

Iran's government has also stated they are not behind any of the violence in Iraq or Lebanon. Do you believe them?

Look, I have Iranian colleagues and I have a great deal of respect for Persian culture which has a long, rich and deep history.

But I also believe one should call a spade a spade. The current Iranian government is not peaceful towards its neighbors or its own citizens.

I have too much respect and empathy for those living in Iran, including the few thousand Jews (down from several hundred thousand 30 years ago) to not recognize that government for what it is.

I'm perfectly willing to face up to my own government's failings and it is hypocritical to do otherwise to other nations.

Double standards are ugly, not to mention un-Christian.

One Salient Oversight said...

My "conjecture" is based on news reports on the US's National Public Radio. Wikipedia, while often interesting, is just not satisfactory as a reliably credible or determinitive source. Sorry.

I've been a Wikipedia editor for some years. Most of my editing has been to ensure that articles there are as neutral and as objective as possible. Most Wikipedia editors are like this.

I know full well that Wikipedia cannot be completely trustworthy, yet I trust it more than many American news outlets (especially those run by Rupert Murdoch, one of my own countrymen).

Wikipedia is useful in that it supplies a starting point for research, including links to news websites like the BBC.

So I checked through those links and checked the BBC. No evidence has been proven yet that there was a direct Iranian involvement.

If you have an NPR link then can you please find it. I might even update the AMIA bombing page on Wikipedia if you can find it.

Years ago it was reported that the Libyan government was responsible for destroying the PAN AM flight over Lockerbie. The reports proved correct and Libya has admitted their involvement.

Yet nothing of the sort has been proven by investigators of the AMIA bombing, including corroborating evidence from agencies like Interpol.

Bottom line - can't prove it.

BLBeamer said...

Thanks for at least displaying a willingness to consider the story. I will try to find the links I had to the NPR story. I don't know if I still can. I will email them to you if I do.

I still believe your attitude towards Iran's government to be troublesome, however.

Consider, if an American president declared that another sovereign country should be wiped off the face of the earth, you would be indignant and rightfully so. Yet, Iran's president has done so and the only reaction from too many is a wink and a nod and a "Oh, that silly fellow."

One Salient Oversight said...

Consider, if an American president declared that another sovereign country should be wiped off the face of the earth, you would be indignant and rightfully so. Yet, Iran's president has done so and the only reaction from too many is a wink and a nod and a "Oh, that silly fellow."

The US President has authority over America's armed forces. If, say, Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid came out and said "We should bomb New Zealand" then the result is serious but not altogether problematic since neither of them have any individual power to send US forces anywhere.

That's the case with Ahmadinejad. He's not the equivalent of George Bush. The Iranian equivalent to Bush is Ali Khameni, who has not made any threats of the sort voiced by Ahmadinejad.

The fact that Ahmadinejad came out with these statements is certainly problematic, but it is not as dangerous as you make it out to be.

One Salient Oversight said...

And as you can see I used the word "problematic" too often to make sense.

Dave Lankshear said...

Back then France didn't have an idiot like Sarkozy as president.

Which proves my point entirely about the nature of international relations. Do we look at whether or not France has invaded another country in the last few decades when discussing their stance on international matters? Do we spend time analysing their proud tradition of democracy, Liberty, Fraternity, and all that? Do we even look at their not inconsiderable pastry skills? No, when we don't like their president's views on international matters we call him an idiot. He may indeed be an idiot... he's a right wing pro-capitalist big business, tobacco chewing, gun toting, nature napalming, anti-greenie Republican..... oh, sorry, we were discussing France not the USA.

Beamer, for me to be consistent I should admit as much as I would love to lay the AMIA bombing on Iran to satisfy some perverted and unfair bias against Islam... it's irrelevant. In terms of international relations, it's pretty much ancient history.

Again, just as OSO went for the French president, it's the actions of the current leaders that matter.

Consider, if an American president declared that another sovereign country should be wiped off the face of the earth, you would be indignant and rightfully so.

American Presidents would never say such an outrageous thing. They "bring democracy" to them instead! ;-)

BLBeamer said...

Neil - The fact remans that over 100 people were killed in Buenos Aries. Evidently by no one. Perhaps B'nai B'rith should be investigated. They have too perfect an alibi.

You have not denied that Iran is behind much of the violence in Lebanon and Iraq and elsewhere. Yet they have declared their innocence despite publicized evidence of their involvement. Ahmedinejad has no official capacity, but we are not referring to offical actions. I am not implying he is acting alone, and that is exactly my point.

Dave - One doesn't have to hold a perverted and unfair bias against Islam to recognize that there is a large percentage of Muslims who not only are anti-Jewish but are willing to act against Jews.

My French relatives don't think much of Sarkozy, but they thought even less of Royal. Unfortunately, as you have probably noticed in your country as well (I am assuming you're an Aussie), the choices are sometimes between Bad and Worse. Certainly that has been our unhappy situation in the US for an embarassingly long time.

Dave Lankshear said...

Hi Beamer,
yeah, I'm an Aussie all right.

Agreed, agreed, and agreed. I agree with a lot of what Neil has been saying as well, and think there are some very positive things beginning to happen in Iran. Neil seems to be trying to balance the one sided presentation of them in the media.

I guess I'm thinking more about the long term world scene should Iran get nukes, and should their President decide to do something with them.

I'm not confident that Ahmadinejad is as powerless as Neil thinks. A little pressure in the right areas, a little late night legislation changed, some tinkering with the constitution... or not. Maybe none of that will be necessary. I haven't studied Iran's constitution, but have just absorbed the reactions of other nations to the President's "wipe Israel" remarks. They certainly didn't seem to think Ahmadinejad was a powerless twerp misrepresenting Iran's intentions, but spoke the very words of "Iran" itself.

IAblogger said...

Remember How Iran Responded to the 9/11 Attacks?

With all the ruckus over the request of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's request to visit “Ground Zero” during his visit to New York to lay a wreath [1], it is somewhat worth remembering how Iran responded to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Knowing how short American memories are and knowing how many Americans share President Bush’s habit of conflating all U.S. opponents and enemies into some sort of utterly fictional “united front,” like the now famous “Axis of Evil” (none of whom had anything whatsoever to do with the 9/11 attacks); I began preparing in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It was fully predictable that there would be an Islamaphobic backlash in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and that people with a vested interest in promoting anti-Muslim hatred would later try to equate the entire Islamic world with the attacks in New York and Washington DC. So, beginning on September 12, 2001, I began compiling the actual responses to the attacks by all the countries of the world with a Muslim majority regardless of their political standing or relationship with the United States. Visiting and saving snippets from official government outlets for these states (embassy websites, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, &c.) as well as searching the media for relevant articles discussing the reactions of these states, I saved all this data for the fifty-two states in question and put it online in the “International Islamic Response” website. After several moves to different hosts, I kept all this data and it can now be found online at: http://iir.internetactivist.org/

So what was Iran’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks?

"On behalf of the Iranian government and the nation, I condemn the hijacking attempts and terrorist attacks on public centers in American cities which have killed a large number of innocent people," President Khatami said in reaction to the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. ... "My deep sympathy goes out to the American nation, particularly those who have suffered from the attacks and also the families of the victims," he said, noting, "terrorism is doomed and the international community should stem it and take effective measures in a bid to eradicate it." Khatami added that the Islamic Republic of Iran is treading a road to uproot terrorism and to this end, he noted, it will spare no efforts.

And related news stories included:

“Iranians Honor U.S. with Moment of Silence” (NY Post)

“Khatami Condemns ‘Terrorist’ Attacks on U.S. Targets (People’s Daily, Iran)

“US calls Iran’s response ‘positive’” (Economic Times)

“Terror attacks transform U.S. image in Iran’s media” (Gulf News)

“Powell sees hope in Iran, Syria response to attack” (Reuters)

“'Iran News’ deplores attacks on major US landmarks” (Iran News)

“Iran expresses rare sympathy for U.S. over attacks” (Reuters)

“Iran ayatollah says he is heart-broke over U.S. attack” (Gulf News)

“Iran seals Afghanistan border” (AP)

All of this was saved in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 at http://iir.internetactivist.org/020.html though of course many of the links are no longer valid, being six years old.

The point was – and remains – to show that contrary to whatever the Islamaphobic hate-mongers might say today, the vast majority of the Islamic world, even including states that the US has had difficult relations with, were sympathetic and supportive in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The whole supposition that there should be any problem with President Ahmadinejad laying a wreath at “Ground Zero” is just a statement of American ignorance, bigotry, and hated completely unjustified by anything Iran has done.

Anyway, to learn more about the response of the world’s majority Muslim countries in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, visit the International Islamic Response website at: http://iir.internetactivist.org/ Just click on any of the countries listed on the left to see how they responded. Just to save you some time, the ONLY majority Muslim states that were not sympathetic was Iraq (at the time under Saddam Hussein and suffering from US imposed sanctions that resulted in the death of over a million Iraqis [2]) and Afghanistan (then under the Taliban).

John S.

Notes:

[1] Pat Milton, "New York bans 'photo op' visit to Ground Zero by Iran's president," The Scotsman, 21 September 2007, http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=1509712007

[2] Peace Action, “End Sanctions on Iraq,” Peace Action Education Fund, undated, http://www.peace-action.org/camp/justice/iraqfs.pdf

Dave Lankshear said...

Thanks John S , and some important points there. But my concern is with this current leader. His statements have been incredibly inflammatory for an Iranian leader.

If only Khatami were still in power, the middle east might be a different place. For instance, what other anti-terrorist / anti insurgent plans might Khatami have put in place to stem the tide of weapons drifting into Iraq from Iran?

Neil ,
I've been thinking some more about this statement.

The fact that Ahmadinejad came out with these statements is certainly problematic, but it is not as dangerous as you make it out to be.

Surely we are not expected to know the ins and outs of every country's constitution to judge whether these statements were surreal and dangerous? It's not what we think of his power position in his country that's important, it's how others might use his statements that is important.

I don't want a war in Iran, the Iraq thing was a big enough debacle. (But I agree with John S's stats about 1 million Iraqi's dead under Saddam and Sanctions, and actually think it was about 1.5 million... double the fatalities this war has caused so far.)

I'll leave you with his wiki. He has some surprisingly "soft" edges (about dress codes for women etc) and some other "hard" edges, such as an apparent crackdown on the liberal, academic community in universities. He's a scary fellow. There may be some hope for Iran to reform, but this guy should not be in charge of a nuclear Iran, both because of what he might do, and because of what he might enable others to do.

In my opinion we don't need another nuclear power, we need less. MAD truly is Mad.