14 January 2011

Reconsidering Iran's Ahmadinejad in light of Wikileaks' revelations

An interesting op-ed piece at The Atlantic raises some viewpoints about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that I have not previously heard expressed.  Herewith some excerpts:
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...

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." ...

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...

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."...

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...

...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.
More at the The Atlantic.

n.b. - I was reminded by a comment yesterday that my prior habit of using links to highlight blocks of text for quick scanning was confusing.  I adopted that method with the original TYWKIWDBI because no other method of underlining was available and the color scheme rendered boldfacing almost inapparent.  Starting with this post I'm going to try to use bold fonts to highlight key points for those skimming through the material.


  1. The egg is starting to hatch.
    People in the states should be starting to read more of the international analysis and less of the official propaganda (cable news, ft, nyt) to understand what is going on in the world. u.s. army and contractors are the leading perpetrators of violence in the world, and without any justification whatsoever. It is only possible because of a internal support that is inconcievable for outsiders.

  2. And how are you going to reconcile his ridiculous views on Gays.

  3. Who is saying that Ahmadinejad is a good guy?

  4. gbradley, the point being made at the linked article is not a defense of Ahmadinejad's positions per se, but rather a viewpoint (expressed in the leaked cables by ambassadors) that he is more liberal than the military brass and the clerical establishment in Iran.

  5. I am in support of Ahmadinejad for the reason that he (allegedly) wants nukes.

    At least then there would be some balance in the region!

    The US and Israel would not have invaded Iraq IF Saddam had had NBC weapons!
    They are too cowardly!

    They only invaded Iraq when they were certain that Saddam had NO "weapons of mass destruction", contrary to the popular "western" media lies.

    And it was Saudis who did 9/11!


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