Monday, January 05, 2004

About an interview on Fox

Horace’s famous Persicos odi, puer, apparatus, flashes before my eyes in glowing colors each time I read a transcript of one of the frequent interviews our aspiring Monarch gives on the Fox channel. At the end of the day, I do think character counts for an awful lot.

One can justifiably claim that the institution of Monarchy in this land has ancient roots. So, how does one account for the dearth of personalities like this wonderfully fascinating Dane?

No one can be certain about the future, but can we ever count on anyone as noble, and decent as Margarethe? I doubt it, although, given a particularly macabre alignment of the moon and the stars, we might have to settle for a mediocre tergiversator. And that, of course, wouldn’t be the first time! You will always go bankrupt underestimating the unwise affection of Iranians for unworthy rulers.

I have no clue why the nexus between elevated social positions, the expected personal rewards, and the apprehension of the corresponding social obligations and public responsibilities become so distorted in this aged land of ours.

In his latest interview, Mr. Pahlavi tries to push all the right buttons-- on the alleged Al-Qaeda link, the murderous Usama, and, quite naturally WMD’s:

WALLACE: All right. Let's deal with some facts now, not some diplomacy. You are in contact with many people in Iran. Do you believe that there are senior members of Al Qaeda, either in custody or at large?
PAHLAVI: I think there has been tremendous amount of evidence gathered over the years that points to the direction that Al Qaeda members have been operating and active on Iranian soil, either been trained there or been financed by them or at least assisted directly or indirectly. It's been long established.
WALLACE: Do you believe that -- we hear reports that Osama bin Laden himself might be in Iran.
PAHLAVI: That I don't know for a fact. I've heard some rumors about it. I cannot tell you right now that I have a yes-or-no answer to that question. There are speculations.
WALLACE: And very briefly, if I might, sir, how close do you believe Iran is to getting a nuclear bomb?
PAHLAVI: I think that there is a lot of prediction that points to the direction that Iran is not too far from it, in terms of the level of approaching it

Spreading rumors and gossip is something we—Iranians-- are exceedingly good at. But hard facts? So, a few obvious questions follow: What are the practical implications of these rumors? Who is spreading them? Why spread them if one can’t be certain? Are there any connections between those who spread these? If so, what? For what purpose? Can one plausibly infer that Mr. Pahlavi Jr. has access to the identical sources as Mr. Ledeen? Can one then infer the reliability of Jr.’s assertions based on Ledeen’s? Let’s hear from him about the latest date of the supposed explosion of the bomb in Iran:

Khamenei had hoped to be able to test an atomic bomb by the third week in October, but his scientific advisers recently told him they could not make that deadline. They are now aiming for November 4 or 5, the anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran during the revolution.

And then it was supposed to be on an anniversary date of some Imam or other’s birth, death or disappearance. Not much of a bang then either! Nonetheless, he speaks always with authority, and with so much confidence. Amir Taheri speaks in identical tone. They are connected through this agency! Do they advise Jr.? I don’t know for sure.

Could it be that they actively spread disinformation? Or is it that they repeatedly fall for the exaggerated and the alarmist utterances of their sources? I understand that Persian is by nature a flowery and ornamental language. So, it is conceivable that one can get away with uttering all manners of nonsense consistently. So to repeat, are these the same sources Jr. uses?

Let us take a close look at the one we know about: he is an arms dealer with quite a long history with Ledeen, Manouchehr Gorbanifar. He publicly claims that Usama is in Iran. To judge the veracity of his claims and that of his sources, consider this report:

Ghorbanifar says he told his U.S. interlocutors that ousting the mullahs would be a breakthrough in the war on terror because top Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, are in Iran. ("You won't be surprised if you find that Saddam Hussein is on one of the Iranian islands.")… He also says he had advance info about Iranian nukes and a terrorist plot in Canada.

I can’t know whether or not some elements of the Iranian regime might have a working relation with some Al-Qaeda operatives. But I do know about two particularly savage exchanges between the security forces here and some of Al-Qaeda’s. One was in Tehran recently that left an Iranian armless, and jawless and the other in Eastern Iran where some out of control, angry Iranian brutalized the bodies of the dead terrorists by repeatedly shooting at their corpses. If their sources don’t know about these, then they are not particularly knowledgeable and if they do and choose not to publicize these “minor” detail to advance their objectives, then….?

The broader issue of the political background of the rise and the expanding influence of fundamentalism in this region is another matter perhaps better left for another post. To conclude then, why is Jr. spreading these rumors? Is he not aware of the consequence of his utterances? What are his objectives?

Of one thing I am certain. If this regime is still in power and if things come to blows at some point this year, or the next, I expect from him nothing less than getting off the fence. He is a trained fighter pilot. I want to see him either as the wingman of the first Squadron of the American Jets dropping bombs on our heads or else, here with us, in a basement somewhere, until the matter is settled. What he ultimately chooses to do can resolve the many questions about his character for a while.

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