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Thread: Do We Have Ahmadinejad All Wrong? - The Atlantic

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    Do We Have Ahmadinejad All Wrong? - The Atlantic

    Interesting, alternative analysis.
    ===

    Do We Have Ahmadinejad All Wrong?
    Jan 13 2011, 7:30 AM ET

    Is it possible that Iran's blustering president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, long thought to be a leading force behind some of Iran's most hard-line and repressive policies, is actually a reformer whose attempts to liberalize, secularize, and even "Persianize" Iran have been repeatedly stymied by the country's more conservative factions? That is the surprising impression one gets reading the latest WikiLeaks revelations, which portray Ahmadinejad as open to making concessions on Iran's nuclear program and far more accommodating to Iranians' demands for greater freedoms than anyone would have thought. Two episodes in particular deserve special scrutiny not only for what they reveal about Ahmadinejad but for the light they shed on the question of who really calls the shots in Iran.

    In October 2009, Ahamdinejad's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, worked out a compromise with world power representatives in Geneva on Iran's controversial nuclear program. But the deal, in which Iran agreed to ship nearly its entire stockpile of low enriched uranium to Russia and France for processing, collapsed when it failed to garner enough support in Iran's parliament, the Majles.

    According to a U.S. diplomatic cable recently published by WikiLeaks, Ahmadinejad, despite all of his tough talk and heated speeches about Iran's right to a nuclear program, fervently supported the Geneva arrangement, which would have left Iran without enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. But, inside the often opaque Tehran government, he was thwarted from pursuing the deal by politicians on both the right and the left who saw the agreement as a "defeat" for the country and who viewed Ahmadinejad as, in the words of Ali Larijani, the conservative Speaker of the Majles, "fooled by the Westerners."

    Despite the opposition from all sides, Ahmadinajed, we have learned, continued to tout the nuclear deal as a positive and necessary step for Iran. In February 2010, he reiterated his support for the Geneva agreement saying, "If we allow them to take [Iran's enriched uranium for processing], there is no problem." By June, long after all parties in the Geneva agreement had given up on the negotiations and the Iranian government had publicly taken a much firmer line on its nuclear program, Ahmadinejad was still trying to revive the deal. "The Tehran declaration is still alive and can play a role in international relations even if the arrogant (Western) powers are upset and angry," he declared. Even as late as September, Ahmadinejad was still promising that "there is a good chance that talks will resume in the near future," despite statements to the contrary from Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

    The second revelation from WikiLeaks is even more remarkable. Apparently, during a heated 2009 security meeting at the height of the popular demonstrations roiling Iran in the wake of his disputed reelection, Ahmadinejad suggested that perhaps the best way to deal with the protesters would be to open up more personal and social freedoms, including more freedom of the press. While the suggestion itself seems extraordinary, coming as it does from a man widely viewed by the outside world as the instigating force behind Iran's turn toward greater repression, what is truly amazing about this story is the response of the military brass in the room. According to WikiLeaks, the Revolutionary Guard's Chief of Staff, Mohammed Ali Jafari, slapped Ahmadinejad across the face right in the middle of the meeting, shouting, "You are wrong! It is you who created this mess! And now you say give more freedom to the press?"

    Taken together, these revelations paint a picture of Iran's president as a man whose domestic and foreign policy decisions - whether with regard to his views on women's rights or his emphasis on Iran's Persian heritage - are at odds not only with his image in the West but with the views and opinions of the conservative establishment in Iran.

    Take, for example, Ahmadinejad's comments in June 2010, when he publicly condemned the harassing of young women for "improperly" covering themselves, a common complaint among Iranians. "The government has nothing to do with [women's hijab] and doesn't interfere in it. We consider it insulting when a man and a woman are walking in the streets and they're asked about their relationship. No one has the right to ask about it." Ahmadinejad even criticized "the humiliating high-profile [morality] police crackdown already underway," and recommended launching what he called a "cultural campaign" against "interpretations of Islamic dress that have been deemed improper by authorities."

    In response to those rather enlightened statements, the head of the clerical establishment in the Majles, Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, lambasted Ahamdinejad. "Those who voted for you were the fully veiled people," Rahbar said. "The badly veiled 'greens' did not vote for you, so you'd better consider that what pleases God is not pleasing a number of corrupt people." The ultra-conservative head of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, also weighed in on Ahmadinejad's criticism of the morality police. "Drug traffickers are hanged, terrorists are executed and robbers are punished for their crimes, but when it comes to the law of God, which is above human rights, [some individuals] stay put and speak about cultural programs."

    Ayatollah Jannati's comments reflect the growing rift between the president and the country's religious establishment, perhaps best exemplified by Ahamdinejad's unprecedented decision to stop attending meetings of the Expediency Council, whose members represent the interests of Iran's clerical elite. Ahamdinejad later questioned the very concept of clerical rule in Iran, raising controversy in Tehran and drawing the ire of the powerful religious establishment. "Administering the country should not be left to the [Supreme] Leader, the religious scholars, and other [clerics]," Ahmadinejad declared, lampooning his religious rivals for "running to Qum [the religious capital of Iran] for every instruction."

    Ahmadinejad's brazen opinions were echoed by his closest adviser and chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. "An Islamic government is not capable of running a vast and populous country like Iran," Mashaei said. "Running a country is like a horse race, but the problem is that [the clergy] are not horse racers."

    Bear in mind that advancing such anti-regime, anti-clerical views can be considered a criminal offense in Iran, one potentially punishable by death. And yet, they seem to be part of a larger push by Ahmadinejad and his circle to change the nature of the Islamic Republic. Indeed, Ahmadinejad seems to be actively pursuing what Meshaei has termed "an Iranian school of thought rather than the Islamic school of thought" for Iran, one that harkens back to Iran's ancient Persian heritage, drawing particular inspiration from Iran's ancient king, Cyrus the Great.

    While many Iranians - particularly among the supporters of Ahmadinejad's 2009 presidential rival, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who frequently used ancient Persian imagery during the campaign - share precisely the same view, the country's conservatives and the religious establishment most definitely do not. "The president should be aware that he is obligated to promote Islam and not ancient Iran," cried one member of Parliament, "and if he fails to fulfill his obligation, he will lose the support and trust of the Muslim nation of Iran."

    Even Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor, Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, criticized the notion of emphasizing Iran's Persian past, condemning those who support such a view as being "not our comrades; we have no permanent friendship to anyone, but to those who are following Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Islam," Mesbah-Yazdi said. "Did Imam Khomeini ever refrain from mentioning Islam in a speech and say Iran instead?"

    It might seem shocking to both casual and dedicated Iran-watcher that the bombastic Ahmadinejad could, behind Tehran's closed doors, be playing the reformer. After all, this was the man who, in 2005, generated wide outrage in the West for suggesting that Israel should be "wiped from the map." But even that case said as much about our limited understanding of him and his context as it did about Ahmadinejad himself. The expression "wipe from the map" means "destroy" in English but not in Farsi. In Farsi, it means not that Israel should be eliminated but that the existing political borders should literally be wiped from a literal map and replaced with those of historic Palestine. That's still not something likely to win him cheers in U.S. policy circles, but the distinction, which has been largely lost from the West's understanding of the Iranian president, is important.

    As always, both Ahmadinejad the man and the Iranian government he ostensibly leads resist easy characterization. The truth is that the opaque nature of Iran's government and the country's deeply fractured political system make it difficult to draw any clear or simple conclusions. It's not obvious whether Ahmadinejad is driven by a legitimate desire for reform or just tactical political interests. But if you oppose the Mullahs' rule, yearn for greater social and political freedoms for the Iranian people, and envision an Iran that draws inspiration from the glories of its Persian past, then, believe it or not, you have more in common with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than you might have thought.

    Reza Aslan is author of the international bestseller No god but God as well as Beyond Fundamentalism and Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East.

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    Contributor Aryajet's Avatar
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    I'm sorry to say that this Reza Aslan character have been acting like a grandfather clock pendulum. He constantly keeps swinging to left and right.

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    Aryajet Reply

    "I'm sorry to say that this Reza Aslan character have been acting like a grandfather clock pendulum. He constantly keeps swinging to left and right."

    You engage in an ad hominem assault instead of addressing the message. Aslan's over-riding view expressed here may be very correct that we have a poor conception of the true power structure within Iran.

    If you're not Persian it's highly likely you haven't a clue who truly wields power inside their decision-making apparati. Even suggesting the theologians hold sway doesn't really get to the heart of the matter.

    Aslan's words are well-put and hopefully are being considered carefully where it matters most.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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    IMO Absolutely NOT!


    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's president said Wednesday he is certain the wave of unrest in the Middle East will spread to Europe and North America, bringing an end to governments he accused of oppressing and humiliating people.

    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose own country resorted to violence to disperse an opposition rally earlier this month, also condemned Libya's use of force against demonstrators, calling it "grotesque."

    Iran's hard-line leaders have sought to claim some credit for the uprisings in Arab nations, saying it is evidence that its 1979 Islamic Revolution, which ousted the U.S.-backed shah, is being replayed.

    The embattled movement calling for social and political reforms in Iran has labeled that view hypocritical - and to prove it they tried to stage their own rallies in solidarity with the anti-government protests in Egypt last week. Clashes between security forces and demonstrators left at least two people dead and dozens injured.

    "The world is on the verge of big developments. Changes will be forthcoming and will engulf the whole world from Asia to Africa and from Europe to North America," Ahmadinejad told a news conference Wednesday.

    The tone of the remarks seemed to draw on the belief by Shiite Muslims that a revered ninth century saint known as the Hidden Imam, will reappear before judgment day to end tyranny and promote justice in the world.

    Ahmadinejad said the world was in need of a just system of rule that "puts an end to oppression, occupation and humiliation of people."

    "It's a wave that's coming," he said.

    Even while denying his own opponents the right to demonstrate, the president urged Libya's Moammar Gadhafi to heed his peoples' demands. He sharply criticized Libya's leaders for their use of force.

    "This is very grotesque. It is unimaginable that there is someone who kills and bombards his own people. I strongly advise them to let nations have their say and meet their nations' demands if they claim to be the officials of those nations," Ahmadinejad said.

    "Of course anyone who does not heed the demands of his own nation will have a clear fate," he added.

    Iranian police and paramilitary groups brutally put down protests on their own streets after Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in 2009. The opposition claims the vote was rigged and hundreds of thousands of protesters poured into the streets, posing the most serious challenge to Iran's ruling system since the 1979 revolution.

    The opposition says more than 80 demonstrators were killed in the crackdown. The government puts the number of confirmed deaths at 30.

    The opposition has compared the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere to its own campaign for change.

    Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims to have been the real victor in the 2009 vote, said last month that Iran's protest movement was the starting point and that all popular protests in the Middle East aimed at ending the "oppression of the rulers."

    Mousavi and Iran's other senior opposition leader, Mahdi Karroubi, have been under house arrest since earlier this month after they called their supporters to attend the Feb. 14 rally.

    Security forces also raided Karroubi's house, locking him and his wife in separate rooms and confiscating books and documents, according to Karroubi's website.

    iWon News - Ahmadinejad: Mideast upheaval will reach America
    Fortitude.....The strength to persist...The courage to endure.

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    Sure they are against tyranny and dictators.:D

    This visit took place after Berlin bombing and a year before Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie


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    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    "I'm sorry to say that this Reza Aslan character have been acting like a grandfather clock pendulum. He constantly keeps swinging to left and right."

    You engage in an ad hominem assault instead of addressing the message. Aslan's over-riding view expressed here may be very correct that we have a poor conception of the true power structure within Iran.

    If you're not Persian it's highly likely you haven't a clue who truly wields power inside their decision-making apparati. Even suggesting the theologians hold sway doesn't really get to the heart of the matter.

    Aslan's words are well-put and hopefully are being considered carefully where it matters most.
    S-2
    I'm Persian and I follow Iranian news/affair in daily basis on top of my frequent contact with friend and relatives so by now I think I can guess who really holds power inside Iran. who is no other institution than IRGC and their populist poster boy A-jad.
    My objection to Reza Aslan's analisis was based on him calling A-jad a notionalsit, he is not. No Iranian ntionalsit will ever call Cyrus the Great "the most corrupt leader in the history of Iran".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aryajet View Post
    I'm Persian
    Forgive me, good Sir, but the way you defend Armenians lead me to believe that you're ethnic Armenian. I knew that you wore Iranian Wings during the Iran-Iraq War but your fevor lead me to believe that you were not Persian.

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    Aryajet Reply

    "I'm Persian and I follow Iranian news/affair in daily basis..."

    So too 1980s, who's provided some excellent analysis in the past and is a valued contributor here. My comment wasn't aimed at Persians. Even amongst Persians, however, you've proven there's a dispute. However, it's likely that western observers, as example, too-often lump all Iranian theologians together.

    Aslan's argument, however, goes beyond that and cautions the rest of us (and perhaps some Persians too) that there's a greater complexity to the facade of a monolithic, lock-step uniform governmental view-

    "As always, both Ahmadinejad the man and the Iranian government he ostensibly leads resist easy characterization. The truth is that the opaque nature of Iran's government and the country's deeply fractured political system make it difficult to draw any clear or simple conclusions."

    There's not a thing wrong with such a perspective.

    "My objection to Reza Aslan's analisis was based on him calling A-jad a notionalsit, he is not."

    You didn't specify your objection so succinctly before. Here's what you said-

    "I'm sorry to say that this Reza Aslan character have been acting like a grandfather clock pendulum. He constantly keeps swinging to left and right."

    I looked hard for mention of Cyrus the Great. Alas, no such luck finding him there...
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    So he's a highly enlightened Leader who wants to destroy Israel?

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    S-2 reply

    Apologies offered if my comment was not clear and I assure you I did not and will not mean or imply any disrespect to highly valued WABer like 1980s. I should also mention that it is a honor for me to feel I'm in the same side as 1980s in our national struggle for civil liberty.

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    Aryajet Reply

    "I should also mention that it is a honor for me to feel I'm in the same side as 1980s in our national struggle for civil liberty."

    And it's an honor for the rest of us WABBITS to be able to enjoy the thoughts of 1980s and yourself on these and other issues. Both of you guys are important contributors to our community.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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    Quote Originally Posted by S2 View Post
    "I should also mention that it is a honor for me to feel I'm in the same side as 1980s in our national struggle for civil liberty."

    And it's an honor for the rest of us WABBITS to be able to enjoy the thoughts of 1980s and yourself on these and other issues. Both of you guys are important contributors to our community.
    Agreed S-2.
    Fortitude.....The strength to persist...The courage to endure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by S2 View Post
    "I should also mention that it is a honor for me to feel I'm in the same side as 1980s in our national struggle for civil liberty."

    And it's an honor for the rest of us WABBITS to be able to enjoy the thoughts of 1980s and yourself on these and other issues. Both of you guys are important contributors to our community.
    Why thank you sir, I must express my gratitute just for being considered as a WABBIT.

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    As it turns out, he hopefulness was misplaced

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    This thread is from more than 5 years ago.

    Yeap, Iran had a warmongering clown called A-jad back then as head of state.
    Now the White House has one like that as well. Which was considered ok at least by 50% of voting population and possibly worshipped by about 10-20% of the population.

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