Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Focus on Iran and Palestine, Not Iraq

Leftists in the West (the US, the EU, and Japan) should focus on Iran and Palestine, Latin America, and Moscow and Beijing (in that order), rather than Iraq, on the foreign policy front. Face it -- Iraq is a goner. We failed Iraqis, and we won't be in a position to do much for them for many years to come.

Ahmadinejad, albeit religious, is an equivalent of Hugo Chavez. He can be a Bolivar in Tehran, though he isn't yet, till he pulls off a passive revolution against the gerontocracy of clerics.

Explain to the Western public what Ahmadinejad is doing in Iran -- objectively. Do NOT defend the indefensible -- e.g., flirtations with Holocaust revisionism -- that WON'T be credible and WON'T help Ahmadinejad AT ALL. Instead, CLARIFY his economic and social policies and foreign policy and inspire support for them. He is the most important leader to arise in the Near East in decades. He needs our INTELLIGENT (NOT blind and uncritical) support.

Why put Iran rather than Venezuela at the top of our agenda? Because Chavez's domestic and regional support is far more solid than Ahmadinejad's. Economic troubles and political collapse of the ruling-class party duopoly in Venezuela had cleared the political field for Chavez and Bolivarians. Not so in Iran. Ahmadinejad is the president of Iran, but Iran's military, police, and militias officially answer to Khamenei, who is perfectly capable of cutting deals with Washington behind Ahmadinejad's back and perhaps having him killed. Ahmadinejad needs to change that, in a war of positions, but he needs time, much time, to transfer the allegiance of soldiers to him, away from Khamenei. Our job is to buy him time.


MC said...

While agreeing which much of this, the problem is that there is little evidence that Ahmadinejad is the anticlerical that you suggest. After a recent visit to Tehran, which included conversations with some very well connected Iranian film-makers, it's obvious there are various differences with some of the clerics, but Ahmadinejad himself is a confirmed religious believer who is not about to challenge the basis of the Islamic regime. May I quote my own comments on the subect: "one should have no illusions about Iran, a country that 'represses its people, treats its women like second-class citizens, and applies the death sentence to homosexuals'. Recent cases of concern include the repression of Tehran bus drivers seeking to form a trades union, the oppression of Sufis, and the detention of the philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo." But yes, the Western media's slighting response to Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush is of a piece with the way they treated the speech by Venezuela's Hugo Chavez to the UN last September: both of them are much too close to the bone in the way they lay out what Ahmadinejad calls 'the undeniable contradictions that exist in the international arena'. Both presidents are not surprisingly thoroughly demonised by the media, who readily succumb to disinformation and even lies about them and their regimes. No doubt the same treatment is about to be meeted out to Bolivia's Evo Morales.

Yoshie said...

In my view, it's good that Ahmadinejad is religious. No one who is irreligious -- unless he is a cleric from the ruling class like Rafsanjani -- will get to where he is any time soon. Besides, religious faith gives him a political backbone.

Ahmadinejad doesn't have to be against clerics as a whole. Circumstances will force him to choose between his own economic, social, and foreign policy agenda and the gerontocracy of clerics (i.e., highest-ranking clerics who actually possess the levers of power unlike the rest of clerics). I bet he is capable of choosing the former.