October 4, 2007


The myth of the all-powerful Ahmadinejad (Philip Giraldi , 10/05/07, Asia Times)

Contrary to the assertions of Columbia president Lee Bollinger last week, Ahmadinejad is no "petty and cruel dictator". He is an elected president with very little power, frequently at odds with the country's religious leadership and its Parliament. Even if Iran had a nuclear arsenal, which it does not, his finger would not be on the trigger. Ahmadinejad is extremely unpopular for a variety of reasons; if he runs for president again in 2009, he will almost certainly be defeated. He does not command the Iranian armed forces and he does not determine Iranian foreign policy. Far from being a belligerent expansionistic power, the last time Iran attacked a neighbor was in the 17th century.

This is not to say that the United States does not have genuine issues with Iran. They include containing Iran's nuclear ambitions, determination of its legitimate and possibly illegitimate roles in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq, reducing its involvement with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and improvement of its generally unsatisfactory human rights record. All of those bones of contention should be on the negotiating table with the ultimate objective of encouraging a peaceful and democratic Iran that has full and normal relations with all other countries, including the United States. But the George W Bush administration has preferred the stick to the carrot, starting with consigning Iran to the "axis of evil" in January 2002.

The White House currently insists that it is exercising the diplomatic option with Iran, even though it is not. Bilateral sessions in Baghdad have consisted of little more than staking out adversarial positions. The United States is demanding that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment program as a precondition for serious negotiations, but Iran is legally entitled to carry out enrichment as part of an energy program and both the Iranian public and the government are strongly supportive of that right. The US insistence on Iranian capitulation in advance of any talks means that the negotiations are intended to be a non-starter, leaving only a military solution to the Iran problem.

Many of the claims of Iranian interference in Iraq and Afghanistan are based on unverifiable assertions by the US Defense Department or have been contradicted by the Iraqi and Afghan governments, both of which insist that they have positive working relationships with Tehran. Iran has every reason to favor a stable Afghanistan and Iraq in terms of its own self-interest.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards: Quds force (Daily Telegraph, 04/10/2007)
The Quds Force is a special paramilitary unit attached to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards whose mission is to help organise, train and equip militia in the Middle East.

The feared group, which enjoys a degree of autonomy from the rest of the Iranian military, is believed to have been created during the Iran-Iraq war in the eighties, when it helped organise the Kurdish insurgency in Iraq to fight Saddam Hussein’s forces.

It also played a role in the Soviet war with Afghanistan helping the Northern Alliance, which later joined US forces to overthrow the Taliban.

These stress lines within the state ought to be easy to exploit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 4, 2007 6:46 AM
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