Monday, October 31, 2005

Iran: Picking Fights on Purpose?

The Associated Press is reporting that Iran's ruling class is split over the wisdom of President Mahmoud Ahmadi'nejad's boilerplate diatribe against Israel. It's "a disgraceful blot" that ought to be "wiped off the map," he said last Wednesday. After a general uproar at the United Nations, including calls that Iran be expelled for advocating the obliteration of a member state, Ahmadi'nejad claimed his line was exactly the same as the Ayatollah Khomeini's -- as if that made it better. Persian blogwatcher Nasrin Alavi sends this impassioned note:

Hello Chris,

Just when I thought it was impossible, Ahmadi’nejad has again outdone his hostile stance with vile comments that Israel “must be wiped out from the map of the world”.

Describing the annual Qods (Jerusalem) rally in Tehran CNN reported that “Thousands of Iranians staged anti-Israel protests across the country Friday and repeated calls by their ultraconservative president demanding the Jewish state's destruction.” The annual Qods rallies have been going on since the beginning of the revolution (1979), when ayatollah Khomeini, declared that the last Friday of the month of Ramadan would be marked as a day in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Ahmadi’nejad and his ilk surely remember those early days when hundreds of thousands (not thousands) of Iranians would willingly join the march. Despite the headlines, the rally this year was a total flop and a pathetic show in the face of the harassment and pressures on state employees, civil servants, members of the armed forces, teachers, factory workers and students to attend.

Ahmadi’nejad beaming fearlessly now tells the outside world that "My word is the same as that of (the) Iranian nation". But in reality he is having difficulty even speaking on behalf of the regime’s inner circle. There are now rumours that a significant number of Iranian ambassadors are to lose their jobs, including key regime figures such as Zarif at UN, Adeli in London, Kharazi in Paris, Kharghani in Germany and Alborzi at the UN, Geneva.

Things aren’t going that great for our bolshie president even in Iran’s’ hardline-dominated parliament. Back in August four of his proposed cabinet ministers were rejected by parliament and months after his election victory, he has yet to fill four vacant ministerial posts.

The former revolutionary guard’s campaign pledge of social justice and distributing oil money to the poor remains increasingly unrealistic and may eventually bring about utter disappointment even from the regime’s core supporters. The new parliament has to date announced plans to reduce subsidies on the sale of imported petrol, bread and cement. Some are already reporting the beginning of the end for Iranian president's honeymoon period’.

The sabre rattling of fanatics as ever is also drowning out Iran’s active pro-democracy voices. Only a few days ago (26 October) at a gathering of over a thousand people (that included the elected heads of Iran’s’ largest nationwide student union Tahkim Vahdat) Mohsen Kadivar in a speech directly addressed ayatollah Khamanei, the leader of Iran and asked, "a symbol of freedom is for your opponents and those that criticise you to be safe in this society otherwise merely talking of social justice is easy... Why are Ganji, Soltani and Zarafshan still in jail? Kadivar added, “I ask the security officers who are at present amongst us to take my words to the leader...”

Amnesty International reported grave concern about the safety of Akbar Ganji Iran’s longest serving imprisoned journalist. According to Massoumeh Shafii, his wife, he had been severely beaten by Iranian security officers who wanted him to apologise in writing for his books and letters, and to undertake not to give interviews if he was to be granted prison leave.

It may be hard to believe but our former revolutionary guard president fears such speeches and the writings of activist like Ganji more than any US threat. He beams triumphantly like never before as he takes questions from the press about Israel and the US. Men like him thrive on war and their whole existence is based on conflict. They know that their power base will be strengthened, because even those Iranians who oppose them will move to their camp in defence against foreign aggression. They also know that they can put down dissenters with more force than ever before.

Writer and journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi, a one-time cellmate of Akbar Ganji, has said the Ganji is “a South Tehran [working class] stubborn lad that will fight any force or harassment.” Ahmadi’nejad became president on the backing of the noble south Tehran poor. He has promised them prosperity and jobs. He is more fearful of a confrontation with the great and good lads of South Tehran than any dirty war with the West.



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