Pretenses the West Goes On Pretending
"The occupation of Palestine and Jerusalem is a wound that has sat on the body of the Muslim world for years and needs to be removed." – Iran's new "moderate" President, Hassan Rouhani.
Meanwhile, the centrifuges keep spinning.
Here we go again! Many will recall the former President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, referred to by the Western media as "controversial." Recently – with the sort of Foreign Office understatement which is both admirable and infuriating – the UK's paper of record described his eight year hold on the presidency as "turbulent." One has to wonders what it would take for them to describe a regime as "murderous," "terrorist" or "crazed."
Anyhow – with the "controversial" and "turbulent" presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad behind us, we now have the "moderate" and "reforming" presidency of Hassan Rouhani to look forward to. We know that it will be "moderate" and "reforming" because that is what, again, all the Western media has told everyone.
A few weeks ago, when this new "moderate" and "reforming" leader had just been elected, the British columnist and publisher Melanie Phillips found herself on the BBC's main political discussion show, "Question Time." During the program, the question of Syria and thus Iran came up. Phillips outlined the terrible ideology of the Iranian revolutionary regime. She pointed out, among other things, the intense and genocidal hatred which is at the root of its actions as well as its rhetoric. She even attempted to explain the peculiar end-time Shiite fantasies of the Iranian leadership. But the rest of the hall in London were having none of it. For her explanation, she was rewarded with boos and cat-calls from the audience and of course an unhealthy dose of incomprehension and disdain from her fellow panelists.
One of these fellow-panelists – a man so unremarkable that he is unremarkable even in his own Liberal Democrat party – Ed Davey, poured especial scorn on her. Without answering her charges, he explained that Melanie Phillips' comments were not merely wrong but "couldn't be more poorly timed." After all, he explained, the Iranian people had just gone to the polls and voted in a new president. And everybody knows that this is the time for the obligatory outpouring of optimism and mass idiocy.
And this, unfortunately, is the way in which the Western elites behave in relation to Iran. If there is a problem, it is pinned onto an individual rather than the regime. If there is a problem with the regime it is seen as something that can correct itself through – among other things – the miraculous and healing process of "an election."
It is hard to know where to start with this narrative. Of course it presumes that Iranian elections more closely resemble the British or American elections than they do, say, those in Zimbabwe. True the mullahs are more clever than Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF. Last week's Zimbabwean "election" saw the ruling party declare overwhelming victory over their opponents, not merely before the votes had been counted but before they had been cast. It is true that Tehran has a subtler approach. There is a process which looks like candidate selection. There is a slate of candidates (all approved by the mullahs) who are presented as representative of a varied slate of opinions. And there is the sweet pretense that once the people have gone to the polls, the results can be forever "unexpected" and "surprising" – as though an election like that of President Rouhani can have come out of nowhere and leave the Supreme Leader smacking his forehead and saying, "Wow! How did that happen?!"
So yes – as electoral charades go the Iranian process is an intelligent and subtle one, but it is a charade nonetheless. Yet in this perpetual tyrant "reboot" phase of American and Western foreign policy, perhaps even charades like these need to be welcomed, even though the illusion of a democratic process is not the same as actually having one, and merely serves to legitimize the deceit.
The White House even went so far as to congratulate President Rouhani on his swearing-in. They said he would find "a willing partner" in the United States. How unfortunate then, yet how unsurprising, that poor Mr. Rouhani had to go through another new tradition of West-Iran relations even before the tradition of his swearing-in. That tradition is the new saga of the perpetual "mis-quote."
For if one thing dogged the Presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and made it even more "turbulent" than it might have been, that issue was, surely, the issue of quotes. And in particular the issue of whether or not routine and repeated threats to annihilate another UN member state comprised a threat or not. There were those – like Juan Cole in the US and much of the press corps in the UK – who insisted for almost eight years that the words "wipe off the map" or "wipe from the page of time" or just plain "wipe," in fact meant something pleasant. Or that the words were merely a quote from Ayatollah Khomeini (true) and that quoting these words did not necessarily endorse them (false).
So it is almost touching that two days before even getting sworn in, the then Mr. Rouhani was quoted saying, at an 'Al-Quds day' event, "The occupation of Palestine and Jerusalem is a wound that has sat on the body of the Muslim world for years and needs to be removed."
Of course apart from in Israel, most of the world tried to ignore this quote. And before the day was up, there were denials from Iran and the rest of the world that the words reported to have come out of Mr. Rouhani's mouth were in fact the words that had come out of his mouth.
"Hear no evil, see no evil," the old saying goes. And so the new presidency of Iran continues as the old one intended to go on. And the West continues the pretense that it wishes to go on pretending. For with Rouhani, as with Ahmadinejad, there will always be those – officials, semi-officials, non-officials – who will claim that the leader has been misrepresented or mistranslated, and then the rest will all go away. Won't it? Or was the very presence of Rouhani at al-Quds day, like that of the North Korean officials at the swearing-in and the promise of greater cooperation between these rogue regimes against the US and its allies, all just misspeak too?
The root of the problem with our relations with Iran is not a problem of mishearing or mis-speaking. It is a problem of our not listening. Not listening to the words that have repeatedly come from their mouths. And not recognizing that the whirring noise in the background is not the noise of their subtle brains working overtime, but of their centrifuges performing that very task.
Reader comments on this item
|Political Shia Islam, Iran, and Taqiyya [175 words]||Ryley Howard||Dec 1, 2013 12:47|
|Pretences (Oz spell) Iran [54 words]||Sydney Sider||Nov 23, 2013 20:29|
|Disaster [18 words]||Murali N.||Aug 21, 2013 05:19|
|Origins [53 words]||Mustapha||Aug 12, 2013 14:35|
|Iran and the Third Person Threat [248 words]||Phillip Slepian||Aug 12, 2013 12:11|
Comment on this item
by Raymond Ibrahim
"I abducted your girls. I will sell them on the market, by Allah... There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell." — Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram.
Hillary Clinton repeatedly refused to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization.
In Malaysia -- regularly portrayed in the West as a moderate Muslim nation -- any attempt to promote religions other than Islam is illegal.
"The reason they want to kill me is very clear -- it is because of being a convert to Christianity." — Hassan Muwanguzi, Uganda.
by Dexter Van Zile
Rev. Hanna Massad does not mention that perhaps Hamas actually wants the blockade to end so it can bring in more weapons and cement to build attack-tunnels so it can "finish the job."
Hamas does not just admit to using human shields, it brags about using human shields. Why does Massad have to inject an air of uncertainty about Hamas's use of human shields when no such uncertainty exists?
The problem is that any self-respecting journalist would confront Massad with a follow-up question about Hamas's ideology and violence, but not the folks at Christianity Today.
by Burak Bekdil
In Turkey however, the protests were not peaceful. They included smashing a sculpture than was neither Jewish nor Israeli.
It was the usual "We-Muslims-can-kill each other-but-Jews-cannot" hysteria.
If Turkish crowds were protesting against Israel in a political dispute, why Koranic slogans? Why were they protesting in Arabic rather than their native language? Do Turks chant German slogans to protest nuclear energy?
by Burak Bekdil
So in the EU-candidate Turkey, a pianist should be punished for his re-tweets, but a pop-singer should be congratulated for her first-class racist hate-speech. This is contagious.
No reporter present at Mr. Ihsanoglu's campaign launch speech thought about asking him if his commitment to the "Palestinian cause" included any affirmation of the Hamas Charter, in particular a section that says, "…The stones and trees will say, 'O Muslims, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'"
Turkey is also the country where a few years earlier, a group of school teachers (yes, school teachers!) gathered in a demonstration to commemorate Hitler.
by Debalina Ghoshal
Despite Chapter VII of the UN Charter and UNSC Resolutions, it seems that North Korea will continue developing its missiles -- and eventually weaponize them with nuclear warheads.
"North Korea's ballistic and nuclear threat is very much a near-term threat. ... Steady progression in their program is not harmless." — Victor Cha, Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
On March 26, 2014, North Korea reportedly test-fired medium-range ballistic Rodong missiles -- capable of reaching Japan and U.S. military bases in the Asia-Pacific region.
Since February, South Korean officials claim that North Korea has confirmed at least 90 test-firings, among which ten were ballistic missiles.