Pen and Sword: A Letter From Iran

Via Le Monde, a translated text of the letter from Ahmadinejad to Bush.

This week, for the first time in 27 years, an Iranian leader has written directly to an American president. As Juan Cole notes, the letter from Iranian President Ahmadinejad to George W. Bush is either badly translated, or, equally likely, an accurate reflection of Ahmadinejad’s own muddled thoughts. (As evidenced by his less-than-towering intellect, embrace of rabid fundamentalism, ascension to power through a fixed electoral process, and incessant appeals to the worst instincts of his people, Ahmadinejad is in many ways a Persian Dubya.) But the fact of the letter is important in itself, almost a “Nixon goes to China” moment for the Iranian leadership.

It is worth noting here, yet again, that despite the attempts by Bush and the corporate American media to turn Ahmadinejad into another Saddam, he is, in fact, not the ruler of Iran, he is not the dictator of Iran, he has very little real power — and no power at all over Iran’s armed forces or its nuclear program. Iran is ruled by the Ayatollah Khamanei and his Supreme Council of clerics. But herein lies the importance of the Ahmadinejad letter: it would never have been sent without Khamanei’s approval. It does represent an unprecedented public step for the Iranian regime.

(There has, of course, been much backroom dealing between the two nations' leadership in the past decades – such as the Reagan-Bush Administration dealing illegal arms to the fundamentalist regime in the Iran-Contra scam, and, of course, the clandestine “October Surprise” negotiations in 1980 between candidate Ronald Reagan’s campaign team and the Khomeini regime that was holding American hostages. These secret talks, confirmed by some of the Iranian principals involved and directed, according to eyewitness testimony, by then-VP candidate and ex-CIA chief George H.W. Bush, were aimed at preventing the Iranians from releasing the hostages before the 1980 presidential election. [Robert Parry has the whole story here.] It goes without saying, of course, that such secret dealings by private citizens with foreign governments is high treason. And Iran’s agreement to abide by Bush’s request to prolong the suffering of the American hostages and their families by several months was very likely the deciding factor in Reagan’s elevation to power. So there is your “conservative movement” for you, your “morning in America”: the conservative ascendancy was founded on high treason and has now culminated in an unprovoked war of aggression and a self-declared presidential dictatorship above the reach of law.)

A good deal of Ahmadinejad’s letter is a religious rant that Bush will doubtless feel quite at home with: “The Almighty has not left the universe and humanity to their own devices. Many things have happened contrary to the wishes and plans of governments. These tell us that there is a higher power at work and all events are determined by Him.” These lines could have been lifted directly from any boilerplate Bush speech. But amongst the Bush-like blather, there are also a few substantial points made, most notably the one we mentioned above: that Iran has the right, by treaty, to enrich uranium for a nuclear energy program.

There is also the point — again, almost entirely ignored by the mainstream media — that Iran has denounced, over and over, in every way possible, any intention to develop nuclear weapons. Khamanei has issued a fatwa against such a move, calling it un-Islamic, raising the prohibition to the highest possible level in the theocratic regime. Ahmadinejad also denounces — yet again — any act of aggression and the taking of innocent life, and reaffirms — yet again — the Iranian people’s condemnation of the September 11 attacks, a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy for America that, in those brief, post-attack days — before Bush and his gang began cynically exploiting the tragedy to pursue their long-held goal of “full spectrum dominance” — made it seem that the world had indeed been changed.

The letter represents yet another move by Tehran to call Bush’s bluff. The superheated rhetoric of Bush and his embattled minions — desperate for war or rumors of war to stave off the Dear Leader’s inexorable slide into the black hole of Nixonian poll-number oblivion — have raised the intensity of what should be a knotty but manageable diplomatic challenge to a dangerous pitch of bellicosity entirely unwarranted by the reality of the situation. (Then again, when has the reality of a situation ever deterred the professional fearmongers of the Bush Regime from unwarranted bellicosity?)

First there was Ahmadinejad’s declaration in Baku last week that Iran would be quite willing to limit its nuclear energy program according to guidelines laid down by the UN through the International Atomic Energy Agency, within the structure of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which Tehran signed many years ago, like the United States (and unlike Bush’s brand-new bestest buddy, the outlaw nuclear weapons state of India, whom Bush has handsomely rewarded for its wanton proliferation). Ahmadinejad’s declaration went virtually unreported in the Western press, of course — unlike the statement from Tehran a few days later, reiterating Iran’s long-held position that it will withdraw from the NPT if the UN punishes it for its entirely legal and treaty-supported enrichment of uranium at a level far below that required for the development of atomic weapons. This statement was treated as a new “threat” and yet another sign of Iranian “intransigence” and “defiance” of the international community.

(Bush, and his yappy lapdog, Tony Blair, have re-defined “defiance of the international community,” you see. It no longer means breaking (or “unsigning”) solemn treaties or, say, launching unprovoked wars of aggression. No, “defiance” is now defined as acting in accordance with international law in a way that George W. Bush doesn’t like. Or heck, maybe it’s just acting in accordance to any law whatsoever — no matter what you do — that Bush doesn’t like, given his now-open disdain for legal restrictions of any kind.)

Now comes the letter, another bluff-calling move: “If you’re really worried about the nuclear program, we’ll try to allay those concerns — unless you break the NPT by forbidding us activities which are allowed by the treaty. If you really think we’re such a danger to you, an implacable, unapproachable Other that can only be dealt with by threats of force, then we’re willing to talk directly with you. So who then is the aggressor here? Who is really causing the problem?” These are subtle maneuvers, as might be expected from the inheritors of one of the world’s oldest civilizations. (The subtlety is not Ahmadinejad’s, of course, but the nation’s true leaders who, despite their fervent Islamic faith, do see themselves as the heirs and continuers of Persian civilization.) They are not Saddamite thugs. They also aren’t admirable men, by any means (although their harsh regime is less repressive than the state run by the Bush Family’s friends and business partners, the Saudis). But while they needn’t be embraced, lauded, supported or fawned upon, they should be dealt with seriously, soberly, with genuine engagement and negotiation toward a peaceful resolution of any conflicts.

Bush now has an opportunity for some diplomatic bluff-calling of his own. He could match this overture with some equally dramatic gesture, a call for direct negotiation, even a summit. Why not? American presidents used to meet and negotiate with Soviet leaders who were pointing hundreds of nuclear missiles at the United States; why not meet and talk about a situation that is infinitely less threatening — or in fact, poses no real threat to the United States at all? There are dozens of actions — or even mere gestures — that Bush could use to see if the Iranians are sincere about a peaceful settlement and a weaponless nuclear program.

But there is no chance — zero, zilch, zip — that Bush will make any move at all to lessen the tension. We will probably never know if Iran’s nuclear ambitions are peaceful now because the Bush gang is taking every possible step to goad Tehran into leaving the NPT and girding itself for the coming war by seeking nuclear weapons. They are moving systematically to cut off every possibility of a peaceful solution — save the abject surrender of Tehran. The Bush Regime’s insistence that any Security Council resolution on Iran’s program contain the draconian “Chapter Seven” strictures — which allow for military action in response to non-compliance — give glaring indication of Washington’s true intentions. They want war — or else they believe that by ratcheting up the war fever to intolerable levels on the diplomatic front (along with the covert ops they are now running inside Iran), they will force the Iranian regime to crumble on its own, after which the Americans can march in — at the head of an “international coalition,” no doubt — to “restore order” and receive the hosannas of the grateful population.

This won’t happen, of course. So we will, in the end, if Bush has his way, have war. It is therefore incumbent upon us all to do whatever we can to keep this swaggering fool from having his way, and his war. Let’s close by giving the last word, via Juan Cole, to the Iranian dissident Shirin Ebadi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her resistance to the Iranian theocracy. Her words present a clearer vision of what will come than the bloated fantasies of the Bush Regime’s puerile strategists:

“The only beneficiaries of the war are people who sell arms. As a Muslim Iranian, I state here that I do criticize the government of Iran. But this does not mean that America has the right to invade Iran. And if America has not learned its lesson from Iraq and thinks of invading Iran, notwithstanding all of the criticisms we have of our government, we will defend our country to the last drop of our blood. And we will not let an alien soldier set foot on the land of Iran. If American speaks of globalization, this doesn’t mean that the whole world is seen as one village and Bush is seen as the only sheriff of that village.”

May 12, 2006

Chris Floyd, Global Eye columnist for the Moscow Times, is the author of Empire Burlesque: The Secret History of the Bush Regime.

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