December 3, 2006


What Should We Make of Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad’s “Letter to the Noble Americans” (Timothy R. Furnish , 12/04/06, HNN)

There is one theme in this letter that sounds a more hopeful note for American-Iranian relations, even under this theocratic regime: several times Ahmadinezhad refers to the American people as “God-fearing,” and once as “followers of Divine religion.” This flies totally in the face of Sunni jihadist ideology, a la Bin Ladin, which maintains that Americans are nothing more than “infidels” and “Crusaders.” If, as many suspect, Ahmadinezhad takes his marching orders from the ayatollahs (primarily Khamanei), this may indicate a more accommodationist strain toward the American Christian imperium in institutional Iranian Shi`ism than in hardline Sunnism. Or it may simply indicate another aspect of the attempt by the Iranian leadership to further drive a wedge between a significant chunk of the American electorate and the current administration. For that reason, President Bush should probably keep Teheran at arm’s length for the time being.

But how long can the U.S. afford to refuse diplomatic relations with one of the key nations in the Middle East? The hostage crisis is long past, Khomeini is long dead and we do have ambassadors in capitals of countries every bit as unsavory as Iran (Beijing comes to mind). If, as Ahmadinezhad claims, both the American and Iranian people “embrace…compassion, empathy, respect for the rights of human beings, securing justice and equity and defending the innocent and weak,” then having a Farsi-speaking ambassador in Teheran to question the persecution of, say, Baha’is would, if nothing else, point out the hypocrisy of such self-righteous epistles as this.

Ambassador? Why not have W go himself and point out the hypocrisies to the Iranian people?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 3, 2006 9:09 PM

The letter was the 2nd call to islam, nothing more.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 3, 2006 9:46 PM

Certainly there are times we should believe what our enemy is tellin us, but this ain't one of them.

Posted by: Tom Wall at December 3, 2006 10:23 PM

Bush is not able to befriend Iran because such an event would not jive with the Jack Bauer element of his political personality. We can't invade (yet), so the issue is avoided as much as possible to keep obvious contradictions, between what we say and what we do in foreign policy, to a mininum.
The next administration won't have the burden of lying through their teeth to start two wars, and opening up better relations with Tehran will probably be easier.

Posted by: Macduff at December 3, 2006 10:33 PM

lying through their teeth to start two wars

Macduff, so you're saying Bin Laden wasn't responsible for 9/11 and wasn't being harbored by the Taliban in Afghanistan? And that Clinton was also lying when he claimed Saddam had WMD?

Posted by: PapayaSF at December 4, 2006 12:14 AM

What I believe about your questions has nothing to do with my assertion, and answering it would just lead to a wider side debate that really isn't worth discussing in this medium and context.
However, I will say that I respect Bill Clinton as little as I respect Bush II. And, I find it shameful when debaters invoke popular misconceptions about 9/11 to justify the two most recent wars to dominate the Middle East.
So I don't mean to be rude when I pass the ball back to you: You don't think this administration had to lie in order to get us into these two wars?

Posted by: Macduff at December 4, 2006 12:44 AM

Macduff, here's a clue for you. No charge.

When somebody attacks you embassies, attacks your military ships while they are in port, kidnaps and kills your ambassadors, attacks and knocks down your skyscrapers-----you are by definition in a war. You aren't "starting" the war when you respond militarily.

Posted by: ray at December 4, 2006 1:07 AM

Bush may have screwed up in the execution of the plan in Iraq, however Saddam needed to be taken out even if the reason turned out to be wrong.

Iran is a Mohammedan Shi'ite nation that believes in al taqiyya (lying to the infidel) to achieve desired results. They also believe in the radical Twelver ideology in that the 12th Imam will return as the Mahdi to straiten out the world's chaos. America cannot truly engage in any viable diplomacy with such a nation.

Posted by: Theway2k at December 4, 2006 1:10 AM

"having a Farsi-speaking ambassador in Teheran" Can anyone guarantee the former hostage taker wouldn't repeat his glorious death to the Great Satan acts when things got tough and took our Farsi-speaking ambassador as hostage again? You can't trust someone who does not believe in diplomatic niceties.

Posted by: ic at December 4, 2006 4:25 AM

America is basically Twelver too. We just call Him Christ.

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2006 7:14 AM

The next president -- whether McCain or Hillary -- has told all the same lies in order to start the same two wars.

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2006 7:17 AM

I wrote back in September 2005:

If Iraq is like Vietnam, it's a good time to remember the man who extricated us from Vietnam: Richard Nixon. No one gives Nixon much credit. But the fact is, he got us out of a jam, and managed to contain the damaging consequences of withdrawal. Indeed, had Nixon not been felled from high office in the Watergate scandal, South Vietnam would likely be a free country today, the prosperous, capitalist South of a nation divided by communism, like South Korea. The Nixon administration's policies in the early 1970s, as they pulled out of Vietnam, deserve careful study by the Bush administration.

First, Nixon twisted the geopolitical kaleidoscope by making a friendly eight-day visit to Mao's China, thus taking advantage of the Sino-Soviet split to open another front of containment against the Soviet Union. This was a startling, even unprincipled, move for the arch-anti-Communist president. But in effect, Nixon decided that we couldn't afford the luxury of antagonism with both sides of the Sino-Soviet feud within Communism, and it may be time for us to make the same decision for the Sunni-Shia split within militant Islam. For a contemporary equivalent of Nixon's trip to China, Bush could show up in Teheran, lift the economic sanctions (unilateral economic sanctions are not much use anyway), and chat with President Ahmadinejad about the common threat of militant Sunni Islam, to Iran, and especially to the Shias in Iraq, from al-Qaeda as well as from a vulnerable, nuclear Pakistan, and the possibilities of joint action. This would give a good stiff scare to the Sunni Arabs, and maybe soften them up -- while allowing Bush to be a peacemaker. (James Kurth makes a similar argument in the cover story of the latest American Conservative.)

Second, when the Vietcong started operating out of Cambodia, Nixon bombed them there. If Bush wants to follow suit, he would work with -- or without -- the Iraqi government to form an Iraqi-Arab intelligence agency that would identify where in Syria and Jordan terrorists are taking refuge, and, if extradition is not forthcoming, tell the Air Force where to send the smart bombs. If we could attack Afghanistan for harboring the terrorist organization that killed 3,000 Americans in New York, then Iraq can attack Syria and Jordan for harboring the friends and backers of the terrorists who have killed thousands of innocent Iraqis in the streets of Baghdad. Or delegate this task to its superpower ally.

We're not as badly off as we were in 1972, and we probably don't need to be as cynical as Nixon and Kissinger were then. But it will take some creative thinking to get out of Iraq without losing face. If we do, we can start rebuilding our military strength, and rewriting the rules about when we'll use it. Then the tyrants will tremble.

A US-Iran rapprochement would give the Sunni Arab countries a good stiff scare.

Posted by: Nathan Smith at December 4, 2006 8:37 AM


Bush won't go because he's out of gas.

The next 2 years will be one of "compromise and retreat" on the issues he's won.

Some of these things may be beneficial, but as for anything new and bold, Bush is done. You can hear it in his speech.

As for Iran/Islam, I'm beginning the think the entire Sunni/Shia dichotomy is a Good Cop / Bad Cop routine, not by design but out of convenience.

The Islamic world will be happy to set aside its debate until all of us can participate in it.

Posted by: Bruno at December 4, 2006 9:28 AM

Overthrowing the Ba'athists in Syria will probably force Mahmoud to write a very different type of letter. As has been said before, if Assad is still in office on Jan. 21, 2009 - then Bush will have failed, and we will know for sure that no one wants any real peace in the Mideast.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 4, 2006 10:43 AM

Neither Reagan nor Clinton backed off when they lost Congress, and they were both cautious men.

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2006 12:07 PM

For some odd reason, the Iranian parliament wants to move up the presidential election by 18 months.

Macduff, how old are you? Generalization is fine.

I also suggest you start visiting Rantburg.

We didn't start it, they came out of the Arabian peninsula w/ swords a swishing, we didn't go in. We've been trying to beat them off ever since.

For some odd reason, 11/79 and 444 days sticks in my brain about us starting this.

And then there's 83, 85, 93, attempted 95, 96, 98, 2000 and 2001.

And let's not forget GWI, where Saddam threatened to blow planes out of the air. I was working for a travel agency then.

HMMMM, almost makes me wonder where "Live by the sword, die by the sword" came from.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 4, 2006 12:16 PM

And in 82 we saved the thug Arafat's ass by sending in the fleet, IIRC. I almost met a sailor in that fleet in Rome, IIRC. And it wouldn't have been in a good way. They took him away for psychological help.

He either climbed up or down onto our balcony and got into our room. He thought he was Jesus, IIRC.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 4, 2006 12:21 PM

Sandy P:

For some reason, the name Mohammed Mossadeq comes to mind. Are you old enough to remember him?

Iran-Contra ring a bell?

Supporting both sides in the Iran/Iraq War?

Ok, howabout the word "mujahdeen"?

As I said before, I did not want to engage in this kind of argument. It will go no where.
My original point was that Bush and company are avoiding Iran because it presents a difficult contradiction to the way we have responded to the mostly invented threats from Iraq and Afghanistan: The worst thing he can do at this point, in terms of managing his image, is appear to be inconsistent. Its the same reason why Saudi Arabia never gets any press.
I don't care about Hillary or McCain, the question originally raised was why Bush won't do anything about Iran. They will have a clean slate.

Posted by: Macduff at December 4, 2006 1:38 PM

As a matter of fact, yes they do ring a bell, IC- good intentions, wrong way to do it, but it did keep Danny Boy out 20 years, mebbe he's mellowed. They want him, they're about to find out. And if it does go bad, it'll be our fault cos it always is.

And I have no problem with them fighting each other instead of us, do you?

I prefer not to find out up close and blood-soaked, myself, but they're here now, I'll be some are in Dearborn, MI.

You're right, this conversation will go nowhere.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 4, 2006 2:19 PM

Carter should have bombed them.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 4, 2006 2:21 PM

What contradiction? Iran is a messianic universalist democracy that just needs a mild nudge to become liberal.

Iraq and Afghanistan had artificial Sunni despotisms.

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2006 3:25 PM

Ahhh, but which messiah?

Posted by: Sandy P at December 4, 2006 4:56 PM

It doesn't matter. Jews, Christians, Sunni or Shi'ites will turn out to have been right eventually and the other three will simply accept Him.

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2006 5:13 PM