TCS Daily


The Iran Letter

By Michael Rosen - May 10, 2006 12:00 AM

We now know that in addition to a Holocaust denier, a fierce enemy of Israel, a nuclear aficionado, and an exponent of the Shia apocalypse, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fancies himself quite the defense attorney.

In a rambling, discursive letter cataloguing the iniquities of America and its leaders, Ahmadinejad asks President Bush dozens of pointed, rhetorical questions.[1] As petulant and accusatory as the missive is, though, it reveals volumes about the Iranian regime and its perspective on history and current affairs. American policymakers would do well to pay close attention.

The letter, thought to be the first direct communication between the Islamic Republic and the United States since 1979, attracted copious publicity on Monday. Newspapers, cable anchors, and talk radio buzzed rhapsodically about the possibility of a "diplomatic opening" between the countries, a possible step back from the nuclear brink. Even the Jerusalem Post quoted an Iranian spokesman as saying that the letter offered "new solutions for getting out of international problems and current fragile situation of the world."

Sadly, the fondest hopes of the media were dashed when the letter actually arrived in the U.S. (via the Swiss embassy) and was published by Paris's Le Monde.

The breathtakingly presumptuous correspondence begins with the Iranian leader wondering "how one can justify the undeniable contradictions that exist in the international arena."

And then the questions begin.

First, Ahmadinejad asks President Bush, "Can one by a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH [Peace Be Upon Him]), the great Messenger of God" and at the same time attack countries, destroy people's possessions, and kill one hundred thousand people (in Iraq)?

In this inquiry, the Iranian president begins to cultivate his penchant for lawyerly tactics. He starts with a feeble attempt to build rapport with Bush -- a man of faith -- by appealing to his Christian nature (and, for good measure, adding his own praise for Jesus, who is also a Muslim prophet and whom he later describes as "the Messenger of peace and forgiveness"). But reminding the U.S. president of his Christianity serves another purpose, too: laying the trap for one of the many "contradictions" presented by Bush's barbaric behavior.

Ahmadinejad hammers home this point less subtly later on in addressing inmates at Guantanamo and in "secret prisons" throughout Europe who are deprived of legal representation and "international monitoring." Never mind that the mullahs have largely transformed all of Iran into a prison state: at least they may know a little something about giving the boot to international monitors.

Mahmoud's view is, instead: "I fail to understand how such actions correspond to the values outlined in the beginning of this letter, i.e. the teachings of Jesus Christ (PBUH), human rights and liberal values."

He goes on to mention Jesus a total of ten times, devoting numerous paragraphs to his teachings and those of Moses and the Koran, where he quotes Jesus saying: "And surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord, therefore serves Him; this is the right path, Marium." (19, 36). Whether this is all meant as an ecumenical message of brotherhood or a more ominous prediction that Christians will soon be converted to Islam -- well, judge for yourself.

But consider this: the letter states that "changes happen fast and come at a furious pace" and that "the world is gravitating toward faith in the Almighty and justice." Read in light of Ahmadinejad's purported subscription to the esoteric, apocalyptic return of the 12th imam, the epistle to Bush appears menacing indeed.

Then the Iranian dictator really digs in on his favorite topic: Israel. By now, of course, he has established his reputation as an avowed opponent of the existence of the Jewish state.

He starts by observing that "the establishment of a new country with a new people, is a new phenomenon that is exclusive to our times" and that Israel didn't exist on a map 60 years ago. Ahmadinejad -- a self-described student and teacher of history -- seems to have forgotten that the Jewish people are about as ancient as the Persians and that a sovereign Jewish presence in the land now called Israel dates back 3,000 years.

His history lesson also encompasses World War II -- another pet project. In an elliptical passage that needs to be properly understood in the original Farsi, he writes that "after the war, they claimed that six million Jews had been killed...let us assume that these events are true." Well there's an improvement! The Tehran Terror at least acknowledges the possibility of the Holocaust. A diplomatic opening, perhaps?

Unfortunately not. This is just prologue to the standard script: Israel murders children, destroys houses, imprisons the innocent, etc. and the United States faithfully obeys, assiduously vetoing Security Council resolutions critical of Israel and funding the Jewish state. He takes Bush to task for pressuring the duly elected, Hamas-led Palestinian government into recognizing Israel.

Here, again, the lessons of history -- and democracy -- have eluded Ahmadinejad: the Palestinians were free to elect whomever they wished and, indeed, Hamas represents the values of a majority of its constituents. But if that government in turn chooses to repudiate the agreements solemnized by its predecessors -- namely, a recognition of Israel's right to exist -- it deserves none of the rewards promised in those treaties.

Meanwhile, in Israel, it's been a busy couple of days. On Monday, elder statesman Shimon Peres reminded Iran that it, too, could be "wiped off the map." And on Tuesday, the head of military intelligence acknowledged that Iran would acquire nuclear weapons by 2010 if its project proceeds apace. More disturbingly, he concluded that the Iranians have embarked on secretive projects that even Israeli intelligence cannot monitor. Oh, and on Sunday the London Times reported that Israel had foiled a plot hatched by Hamas, the Iranian surrogate in the region, to kill Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

But I digress; Ahmadinejad has so many more grievances to nurse. He waxes indignant about everything from America's Latin American policy to the 1953 coup that toppled Mossadegh in Iran to U.S. support for Saddam in the Gulf war to freezing Iranian assets to looting the natural resources of Africa to permitting homelessness and unemployment to take root at home, and so forth.

He even implies American connivance in the 9/11 attacks -- in the form of a question, of course: "Could [the attacks] be planned and executed without coordination with intelligence and security services -- or their extensive infiltration?" The U.S. is responsible for a cover up, for frightening its own citizens, and for warmongering in Afghanistan and Iraq. At times, it's easy to wonder whether he simply outsourced this letter to MoveOn.org.

But contrary to predictions that the missive wouldn't address the nuclear crisis, Ahmadinejad questions American opposition to the Iranian projects, wondering "in what other point in history has scientific and technical progress been a crime? Can the possibility of scientific achievements being utilised for military purposes be reason enough to oppose science and technology altogether?"

This final rhetorical question is one that policymakers here, in Europe, and at the UN will have to grapple with over the coming months and years. Given that harnessing the atom's energy can yield both peaceful and bellicose results, if we stick with the pure, technocratic, mechanistic approach set forth by the IAEA, the UN Security Council, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the like, it will be exceedingly difficult to convince the "international community" of Iran's malfeasance. We will surely find ourselves bogged down in a diplomatic quagmire of Moscow's and Beijing's making.

But if we open our eyes, actually pay attention to the words coming out of Tehran, and take those words seriously, we might build a united front in opposition to the hateful ravings of the mullahs. Fortunately, this letter provides us with just this opportunity; the State Department could begin by publishing it far and wide -- in Farsi and in translation.

Ahmadinejad concludes his epistle by claiming, quite correctly, that "History tells us that repressive and cruel governments do not survive." Here's hoping that his is among them.

Michael M. Rosen, TCS Daily's IP columnist, is an attorney in San Diego.


[1] If the whole situation weren't so tragic, it would call to mind the following classic exchange from the 7th season of The Simpsons:
Mona: (singing "Blowin' with the Wind" with Lisa) How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man....
Homer: (interrupts out of nowhere) Mmmmmm....Seven?
Lisa: No Dad, it's a rhetorical question.
Homer: (trying to think) Rhetorical, ey....Eight?
Lisa: Do you even know what 'rhetorical' means?
Homer: Do I know what "rhetorical" means?

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34 Comments

given that the Iranian President
took part in th 1979 kidnapping and imprisoning of US embassy staff, he doesn't have much of a leg to stand on in regards to Guantanamo.

The Iran leader
I think his own people will take him out before this goes too much further. I'd give him 6 months to a year.

First direct communication?
"The letter, thought to be the first direct communication between the Islamic Republic and the United States since 1979..."

Oliver North sold weapons to Elbonia, right?

This Translation just in
Dear USA,

U Suck!

Signed,
Iran

P.S. The Jews suck too

Just Nuke 'Em and get it over with
A cluster detonation of neutron warheads over Tehran and several ground bursts where their 'cities' are over the underground facilities.

Send in the marines to secure the oil facilites on the coast. Cancel all the oil contracts with China and then divide Iran up (only 53% or so of its population is Persian) into little 'stans'.

Otherwise, we'll end up with a North Korea with a lot of oil we can't really touch.

The point regarding the nuclear fascility is made clear in this letter.
There is a valid point here. The letter states:

"Why is it that any technological and scientific achievement reached in the Middle East regions is translated into and portrayed as a threat to the Zionist regime? Is not scientific R&D one of the basic rights of nations?

You are familiar with history. Aside from the Middle Ages, in what other point in history has scientific and technical progress been a crime? Can the possibility of scientific achievements being utilised for military purposes be reason enough to oppose science and technology
altogether? If such a supposition is true, then all scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, engineering, etc. must be opposed."

There's no dealing with the delusional.
This is what happens when one interferes with a wonderful war. Although Ronald Reagan's place in history is probably secure, his greatest international error was in being a peace-maker in the Iran-Iraq War.

When you have two enemies sworn to your destuction at war with one another, don't make peace between them. Let them bleed each other white.

if they oppose the US, they must be the good guys
1) Iran has declared their intention to destroy Isreal.
2) If Iran was interested in peacefull nuclear power, they would have accepted Russia's offer to process the uranium for them.
3) You over generalize. Nobody said all technological advances were problematic. Just those that relate to weapons of mass destruction. If Iran wants to develop a world class computer engineering infrastructure. More power to them.
4) If Japan or Sweden decided to develop nuclear weapons, there might be some hand wringing, but nobody would be considering military strikes to stop them. The reason for this is that Japan and Sweden are rational countries. Iran is not. When Iran rejoins the 20th century (21st is probably too much of a stretch at this time), then the situation will be different. Until then ...

I agree with most of this.
Your point 1) is surely correct. Much of the letter was a complaint against Israel and posing asking obvious questions regarding the Palestinians.

Your point 2), however, does not make logical sense nor does it speak to the point of a sovereign country being able to perform scientific research. Iran was talking with Russia about nuclear fuel for reactors. So that indicates that they were interested in peaceful nuclear power. That they did not come to an agreement may more to do with cost than intent. We don't know.

In regards to your 3rd point, I did not invent the point regarding scientific research. I took those statements regarding scientific research out of the letter from Iran posted by the French press.

I have Iranian colleagues. They do not feel that Iran is that far behind the rest of the world. But they do believe that there is room for improvement if only the government would change. But Iran is a democracy. Perhaps it is there like it is here in the US; perhaps academics are never satisfied with their government or the state of education.

Iran has a strong and intelligent female (as well as male) work force (as did Iraq, by the way). (Perhaps thanks to a certain female Nobel Prize winner) They have large corporations. They have corporations and universities that do scientific research in pharmaceuticals, etc. Iran cities are "modern".

Finally, the Iraq letter argues that their culture is as valid, if not more so, as the liberal culture of the US (and as you put it Sweden and Japan). The sense of your 4th point is that relatively liberal cultures should be ale to have the ability to process their own nuclear fuel while the conservative cultures should not. You imply that the governments of Sweden and Japan are “rational” and state that the government of Iraq is not. I agree with you.

But we need to concede that the Iraq letter accurately argues the opposite point. It points out several ruthless acts that are accepted by what they call “liberal” governments. One point in particular that the illegal Iraq invasion by the US murdered thousands of innocent people and that this goes against the Christian ethic that the US, read that Bush, claims to approach global affairs with. Iran did, however, agree that Saddam should have been removed from power. In fact, it is well known that Saddam was a thorn in the side of Islam and his removal allows for conservative Islam rule.

Love letters from Iran
An ancient formula of staulling, friendly jesture, sophisticated rudness, accusatory, and what do we need these Jews for anyways attitude, like an elder scolding the child. The whole thing is as Bolten said "nonsense, thats all".

iran is a democracy
only in the sense that most communists countries claim to be democracies.

In Iran, the govt decides who will be permitted to run for office, and then the people are allowed to pick between those choices.

Great
Great summation.

Peace offer, or death threat
I've just learned that the letter ends with the phrase "Vasalam Ala Man Ataba'al hoda." What this means is "Peace only unto those who follow the true path."

This phrase is significant in the Muslim culture According to Islamic tradition the prophet Mohammad sent letters to the Byzantine emperor and the Sassanid emperor telling them to convert to the true faith of Islam or be conquered. These letters included the same phrase that Ahmadinejad used to conclude his letter to Mr. Bush. For Mohammad, the letters were a prelude to a Muslim offensive, a war launched for the purpose of imposing Islamic rule over infidels.


If there is a vote, then there is a choice
My Iranin friends say that they didn't see the difference between candidates.

But one could argue the same is true in the US.

So, how is their "democracy" different than ours?

So you were commenting on this letter even before you read it?
It is on-line on the French Press you know.

It is interesting what you say. i wil check out the accuracy of your claim.

But I am also curious about you commenting on the letter even before reading it.

The world's greatest scientist can't see the
the difference between a country in which the govt selects the candidates, and countries in which the people select the candidates?

When the govt picks the candidates, it's hardly surprising that they are pretty similar in their views.

By the way, what's this our garbage, you've stated that you are proud to be european, and I personally am very glad that you are happy to stay a european.

No magic, frenh paper easy, they squeal on everybody.

Examine their policy on women and handi-caps and gays!

Wow! Great ResearchYes!
The Muslims don't falter from their path, only the disguise changes, remember ancient Arab Wisdom "keep your enemies close at hand, for a friendly disguise is worth a thousand surprises". Also by tradition, they are suppose to warn the enemy of a choice and a altimatum. Through out history it been this way, Especially during 16th century the hight of the Ottoman Empire, wild that you found this.

Theocracy
the religious leaders make the major decisions according to the Shari laws, and onlythey are allowed to interpret these laws. Oh Well.

Wrong again
I didn't say I was European (well, any more than other Americans aof European decent).

I said that I work and live in Europe.

I am a US citizen and vote in all national elections.

Now, as far as this concept of who choses the candidates, I can see that you are mistaken about the practice in the USA.

The candidates are chosen by the political parties and those active within them. That there are effectively only two political parties, and that they make up roughly equal components of the federal goverment means that, in fact, the candidates are chosen by the government in the USA as well.

So again, I pose the question to you of is there any practical difference is between Iran and USA democracies?

Now, if you want to comapre the USA to a true democracy, then look fno further than France. They have a system of proportional representation where the candidate is not as important as the party affiliation. This system avoids political corruption and insures that the views of the people are represented in govenment.

Given that there is no difference between Democrats ad Republicans in the USA, perhaps it is time to revamp the US government.

As I understand it,
and mind you this is only second hand information obtained from talking with women scientists from Iran and Iraq, women are appreciated in Iran and Iraq.

However, there is no denying that Iran law is more brutal than that in the US, and definitely more so that EU. You might want to read this to get some perspective on women in Iran

http://women4peace.org/women-rights.html

Now, compared to states like Idaho ad Utah, professional women are more acceptable in some Middle Eastern countries.

I have no information on handicapped persons.

As far as gays are concerned, the USA and Iran see eye-to-eye on this and back the same discrimiatory UN measures.

http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/01/25/iran12535.htm

On the other hand, the US does not have laws that allow incarceration or death penalty of gay men.

There is no denying that the US is much more liberal than Iran when it comes to law. But Iran is not the worst place on the planet either. So if these are the points you want to focus on, there are more important countries to take this issue up with.

God is listed predominantly in US law...
and so... ?

In fact, the penalties of Sharian law are not practiced except in extreme cases and in conservative areas.

You probabaly heard about penalties under Sharian adultery laws being applied in Nigeria? But these are really anomolies any more.

I suspect that the whole planet is growing up and that communicaitons, in particular the internet, will help "liberalize" all the planets societies.

French press reports information without interpretation
Their philosophy is tht the information is important to document. You, the reader, can decide what the information means for yourself.

Of course the French press also runs editorials describing their interpretation of the information, just as is done in the USA.

The subtle difference is that they often give the data itself, much like the US government putting the Starr report on-line for the whole world to see before congress considered impeachment of President Clinton.

So you have been able to verify his claim?
Can you please point me to a resource that would validate that interpretation of the phrase?

yes, maturity
Although not without mischeviousness, 60% of internet is poinography, that's not taking care of our future generations, computer double edged sword.

amazing
he claims to be active in US elections, yet he doesn't know how they work.

Candidates are selected by those who vote in primaries. Typically there are 10's of millions of people who vote in primaries.

In Iran, a committe of about a dozen people select the candidates. The committee also selects replacement members for itself.

As a committed communist, I'm not surprised that you are upset because your candidates are always losing. But it's because the people reject your philosophy, not because some cabal is preventing them from running.

And who picks who runs inthe primaries?
Thud.

Habitual liar Mark does it again.
Another lie from Mark the Great who by now has lost all credibility.

Mark says "As a committed communist, I'm not surprised that you are upset because your candidates are always losing. But it's because the people reject your philosophy, not because some cabal is preventing them from running."

I am not a committed communist.

So Mark lies even though he has no reason to. By his own definition, he is a pathological liar.

The Iranian president
This man strikes me as being childish, not well educated; yet he is head of state ??.
I do not think he is smart enough to be dangerous.

That's what they said about Hitler, 1933.

the candidates decide, based on their poll numbers and how much money they have raised
the only thing thuding here is stephen's credibility

if it walks like a duck, ...

please list where God has a predominate position in US law.
and please, don't discredit yourself even further by mentioning the Dec. of Independance.

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