Saturday, October 29, 2005

Why the blunt threats? Why now?

It is difficult to make the case I’d want to in one sitting. So, it’s best to break it down into more manageable chunks.

I would like to start, though, on a personal note first.

Iran is an old nation, and like some other ancient people, we are presently stuck in one of our less flattering, way-too-prolonged moments. These past twenty seven years have been terribly trying. The revolution, civil war and the war with Iraq along with the ongoing strife, social fragmentations and a perpetual tug of war—these all have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian psyche.

So while there are no expectations that Iran and Israel would come to have a common outlook on the world they cohabit--any time soon that is, if ever-- there are quite a few Iranians who don’t share in the sentiments of the Islamic regime and their supporters.

And while it is also true that we have not been the most effective of oppositions overall, judging by the history of the fundamentalist reign in Iran, the unruly ones haven’t been exactly patsies either.

But look, when all things are said and done, no two nations are ever expected to be enamored of one another. All that has to be achieved, really, is an agreement to keep the scruffy paws off one another’s throats and to remain guardedly, critically respectful if at all possible.

And the additional good sense to want to avoid a pathological loathing might not exactly hurt either.

Remember, for instance, that even under the Shah, when technically there was no (acted upon) malice towards Israel, the Israelis showed no qualms whatsoever about having too cozy a relations with an unpopular regime and his notorious secret police, SAVAK, and willfully cooperated in some areas that even the CIA had overall proved reluctant to be involved in long-term.

The simple fact of the matter is that the mere existence of Israel in a region littered with pathetic, indefensible, corrupt and violent regimes should never blind us to how Israel has herself never lived up to the promise of being that “light unto nations.”

So, there will always be divergent interests.

Although, if it is of any consolation, there are enough Iranians who’d want to see to it that no genocidal war would ever come to pass in the accursed region involving Iran--even if some might be solely motivated by a desire for self preservation given the extent of rumored Israeli nuclear stockpiles!

That said, let’s go back and refresh our memories about the typical Western reaction towards the normal utterances of the representatives of this Islamic regime. Case in point, the approach usually exhibited when encountering official declarations coming out of Iran about their objectives in pursuing nuclear technology.

This is one issue we’ve broached in the past and are likely to revisit again soon. I am singling out the following two sources --with many thanks once more to our thoughtful, incisive blogger Sima for having initiated a dialogue about them--because they are illuminating:

Using nuclear energy to build huge economical projects proves that Iran aims for peace. Yet, the misunderstanding between Iran and the rest of the world comes from the traditions of the common Iranian character. Iranian personality believes in "El Takya" which means that person should hide his real feelings and appear to be well.

Or this interpretation from one of the publications of the European Strategic Intelligence & Security Centre(pdf):

Finally, in promising "moderation," Mr. Ahmadinejad gives an example of one of the favourite exercises of the Shiite clergy and its allies: Takiya. Takiya is an ancient practice of the Shiites, a Muslim minority long persecuted by the Sunni majority. The term could be translated as "precaution" and is a mixture of ruse, lying and dissimulation, which allowed Shiites to protect themselves and to prosper in secret. It is also a sectarian way of organising which allowed them to hold on to their beliefs while escaping persecution by making it seem they were good Sunnis.

These are mangled renditions of a practice known as Al-Taqiah. And yes, there is even such thing as Torieh which involves oaths. Do a search and you’ll find it an intrinsic aspect of the case against the Iranians in certain circles.

But it is worth asking: is it sensible to paint with such broad brushstrokes an entire culture when wanting to deal with a political dispute in the troubling world of international relations?

And if it is right to dismiss what an adversary says on such sweeping grounds, how is it then possible, all of a sudden, to insist on taking Mr. Ahmadi Nejad’s words at face value now? Why choose to see him sending the exact signals the simplest literal construction would imply?

This is especially relevant once we recall that, strictly speaking, there is nothing new in what this seemingly excitable fellow has uttered. His words—as loathsome as they are—appear indeed a restatement of some of Mr. Khomeini’s earliest positions on Israel which have been repeatedly heard since the inception of the Islamic regime.

I might yet live to regret this. But here is a collection of Mr. Khomeini’s more memorable gems about Israel in English, provided you with the caveat that they should not appear in the same paragraph as with the phrase “mushroom clouds over Tehran.”

Some of the loudest rhetorical excesses about Israel, of course, were heard during the war with Iraq. And then, as some of you might recall, the Israelis were prominent among the Islamic regime’s few best friends. There was a steady flow of Israeli supplied weapons pouring into Iran at the time.

Additionally, the usual prattle of the perpetually concerned international community of “civilized” nations listed as suppliers to Mr. Hussein’s Chemical, Nuclear, Biological and conventional weapons program notwithstanding, the Israelis, along with the Syrians, were some of only few countries that didn’t profit from the mass poising of tens of thousands of Iranians in the course of Mr. Hussein’s chemical warfare against Iran.

Something some of us are unlikely to soon forget, even when we fully understand that the Israeli position was mostly due to enlightened self interest, and/or a desire to have two potential adversaries further weakened!

So, I guess, the question I would want us to pose and think about again is how it might be that given the progressively increasing pressure the Iranian authorities have been under on top of the brittle sensitivities of the post 9/11 universe, Mr. Ahmadi Nejad, knowing well the full extent of the scrutiny he is subjected to, has chosen this particular moment to loudly announce this position and so openly?

And why such a rush by the establishment to back him and why the officially sanctioned defiance?

So I ask again, why the boisterous threats? And why now? And what could they really signal?

More later!

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