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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Dear Mr. President

I just read Le Monde's translation of Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush. The English is a bit garbled, whether from bad translation or bad writing in the original Farsi. In other words, quite a bit more coherent than what we usually hear from Bush. For the most part, it comes across as a plaintive cry, appealing to the common sense and belief in Christian principles on the part of the reader, trying to reach W's inner soul and intelligence. In other words, wasted effort. Ahmadinejad says he too is glad that Saddam is no longer in power, but that that in no way justifies the brutal invasion or its continuation as brutal occupation. He seems actually befuddled that a man who professes to believe in democracy and Christian principles can really do what Bush is doing, and hopes that maybe one rambling letter translated into bad English (i.e., speaking Bush's language) might actually make a difference.

Of course, our Decider in Chief doesn't read--he was apparently only "briefed" on the letter.

Now, I'm not nearly as familiar with the hypocrisy of Mr. Ahmadinejad as I am with that of, say, Mr. Cheney. So I'm unable to pick apart every fine sentiment of his and point out the contradictions, as I did a few days ago with Cheney. But Juan Cole knows a lot about Iran, so I'll pick a few paragraphs out of his blog:
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote a letter to W., in which he insisted on Iran's right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to conduct scientific research on uranium enrichment. The NPT does in fact allow such research, but it is Bush administration policy to abrogate that right and stop even civilian research programs that might lead to the closing of the fuel cycle. It is another big leap from such an ability to making a bomb.

Ahmadinejad is a crank, and some of what he says is either badly translated or makes no sense in the original. Both are possible. Le Monde has a translation (pdf). Persian text here.

In any case, his letter to Bush holds no prospect of reducing tensions. It should be remembered that then Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh angered Washington in the early 1950s by nationalizing Iranian petroleum. Eisenhower slapped sanctions on Iran and destroyed its economy. Washington at that time thought Mosaddegh was a pinko, though in fact he was a relatively conservative aristocrat. At the height of the crisis, Mosaddegh wrote a letter to Eisenhower, which was ignored. Ike had the CIA overthrow the elected, parliamentary government of Iran and install the Shah as a megalomaniacal dictator. So the tradition of letter-writing by Iranian leaders at times of tensions with Washington isn't replete with successes. Of course, the Iranians took revenge for the heavy-handed US interference with their form of government. They made an Islamic Revolution in 1978-79, and more recently elected Ahmadinejad. What Washington wouldn't do to have that nice Mr. Mosaddegh back.

Shimon Peres says he wants to remind Iran that it, too, can be wiped off the face of the earth, implying that Israel is capable of obliterating it with its nuclear arsenal. Peres also had the gall to blame Iran for provoking a nuclear arms race in the area!
There is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, as opposed to a still backward civilian energy research program. But if you were Iran's security establishment, what would you conclude you had to do after Peres's remarks?

The misquotation of Ahmadinejad, who actually quoted Khomeini as saying, "This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time," now seems all by itself to be producing visions of nuclear war!

Ahmadinejad, however, has condemned mass killing of any sort and was not threatening military action (he is in any case not in command of the Iranian military). He compares his hope for an end to any Zionist regime in geographical Palestine to Khomeini's prediction that the Soviet Union would one day vanish. It wasn't a hope to kill Soviet citizens, but a desire for regime change. Ahmadinejad's hostility to Israel and his Holocaust denial and bigotry are beneath contempt. But he has not threatened military action, and has no unconventional weapons, and his words, however hurtful, do not constitute a legitimate basis for a war of aggression on Iran.
Of course, our Decider in Chief hasn't needed a legitimate basis for a war yet.