The title I choosed for this post represents all my sadness – and disillusion – about actual (dis)equilibria in international relations: in particular, about the scandalous absence of an effective EU’s foreign policy. I believe our countries simply do not count (so they simply do not exist…) in managing situations of global crisis. And everytime, all democratic responsabilities fall into Uncle Sam’s hands.
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2008
Imagine yourself as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now in your fourth year as president of Iran and about to make yet another appearance at the U.N.’s General Assembly in New York. Superficially — but only superficially — things do not appear to be going well.
Over the weekend, you replaced the head of your central bank over differences about an inflation rate of 28%, up from 12% in 2006. He’s the second one to go in just a year. Ali Larijani, once your top nuclear negotiator, resigned last year over his objections to your confrontational style, and may challenge you in next year’s presidential election. Your boss, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also cooled on your presidency.
Abroad, your tenure has brought about three binding, albeit weak, U.N. sanctions. The often pliant International Atomic Energy Agency last week issued a scathing report, scoring your government for obstructing its investigations and citing evidence that your military has sought to refit long-range missiles to carry a nuclear warhead. Now France and Britain are pressing for another round of sanctions — and another kick in the shins to your faltering economy.
As for your well-publicized doubts and disquisitions on the future of Israel, or the existence of homosexuality in Iran, or the Holocaust, or the divine halo you sensed the first time you spoke at the U.N., you have succeeded — as George W. Bush never could have done on his own — in convincing the American public that Iran is a clear and present danger. In Tel Aviv they say you must be a Mossad mole. Could the Islamic Republic possibly have an uglier face?
Of course not. And that’s the whole point of your presidency. Your goal has been to define Iranian deviancy down. You’ve succeeded handsomely.
A decade ago, before anyone outside the torture chambers of Tehran’s Evin prison knew your name, it was former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who personified the Iranian hard line. He green-lighted terrorist attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina; he refused to revoke the death sentence on novelist Salman Rushdie; a German court fingered him in the assassinations of Iranian-Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant. When Mohammad Khatami succeeded him as president, the world breathed a sigh of relief.
Now it is Mr. Rafsanjani who is often spoken of as a “pragmatist” and a “moderate” — as compared to you.
As for the nuclear file, in 2004 the West’s bottom line was that Iran had to suspend uranium enrichment as a precondition for negotiations. Mr. Khatami obliged (or at least pretended to); the West’s negotiating position barely budged.
By contrast, since you took over you have installed thousands of centrifuges, spinning uranium roughly at a rate of a bomb’s worth of fissile material every year. And while you’ve paid a price in U.N. sanctions, you’ve also caused Russia and China to split with the rest of the Security Council over stiffer penalties. Better yet, the Bush administration has gone from refusing to negotiate, to offering conditional negotiations, to pursuing low-level negotiations and now, lately, feeling its way toward tacit diplomatic normalization. All that without you bending an inch toward the West.
Above all, you have given the world time to digest the notion that Iran will inevitably become a nuclear power, and that nothing can be done to stop it — at least at any kind of acceptable price. Will Americans agree to open a third military front in the Middle East? Does Israel, which couldn’t so much as defeat Hezbollah, want to roll the dice on a bombing run that will spark another bloody regional war but retard Iran’s nuclear programs by at most a few years? How will the U.S. afford its epic Wall Street bailouts if you shut down the Straits of Hormuz?
Surely your enemies will take no such risks. Which is why you’re pleased that the more far-seeing Americans are coming around to your point of view. Look at former CIA spy Robert Baer. Mr. Baer has a new book arguing that the U.S. ought not “to stand in the way of Iran’s quest to dominate Islam.” He thinks Israel’s nuclear arms should be put under U.N. supervision. He believes the U.S. and Iran are ripe for the kind of alliance Nixon forged with Mao.
It cannot surprise you that such ideas are now taking root with the American intelligentsia; useful idiots always contribute to the revolution.
And what about your own future? It’s true that Iran has inflation and other economic headaches, but didn’t the Imam Khomeini say he didn’t start a revolution to bring down the price of melons? If the Almighty wills that you will leave office next year, so be it. As president, you have done more for the Islamic Republic in your four years than all your predecessors combined managed in their 25.
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