Ahmadinejad’s victory: predicted and feared

As we know the Islamic Republic often applies the death penalty, detains political opponents, uses torture when it suits. Human rights are violated, as Gary Sick notes in his latest blog, “Gary’s choice”, 13 June, Iran’s elections – the human rights dimension. Women’s rights have often been flouted. And the political system is boxed in by a constitution which debars “non-conformist” candidates from standing for election.

Even so, Iranian women have gained since 1979 (mainly through the eradication of illiteracy) and there has been progress in the struggle against poverty, access to potable water and to mains electricity. But let’s focus on the presidential system. Astonishingly, Iran is the only country in the region (apart from Lebanon and Palestine) where the outcome of elections is not known in advance. In Egypt and Algeria, for example, the sole question is whether the president will obtain more than 90% of votes cast…

As Reuters reported on the evening of 12 June, there was a huge turnout in Iran. According to the official results announced on the morning of 13 June, Ahmadinejad gained two thirds of the votes and his opponent Mousavi one third. But this result is contested and the situation in Iran is tense.

As Mohsen M Milani, professor and chair at the department of government and international affairs, University of South Florida, pointed out in a 10 June interview published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Iranian Presidents Have a Critical Role in Policymaking, contrary to many people think, the Iranian president is an important figure, even if he’s less powerful than the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Lively campaign

Observers noted that the presidential electoral campaign had been very lively, as Scott Peterson described in the Christian Science Monitor on 10 June, Once apathetic, young Iranians now say they’ll vote.
Hussein Mousavi was the most credible opposition candidate to Ahmadinejad, and on 10 June the TehranBureau website listed his election manifesto The Mousavi agenda.

Televised debates between the main candidates had enthralled viewers (some speeches are available with English subtitles on PressTV archive. The second debate between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, early in June, was watched by more than 40 million people. As the Los Angeles Times’s Tehran correspondent, Borzou Daragahi, reported on 4 June, Iranian president, rival spar in debate:

“Mousavi, struggling with his words during the beginning of the debate, hammered hard at Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy, accusing him of needlessly alienating other countries. He mocked what he described as Ahmadinejad’s erratic behaviour during several crises and trips abroad and repeatedly criticized Ahmadinejad for questioning the existence of the Holocaust, which he said hurt Iran’s national interests and unified the world behind Israel, Tehran’s rival,” Daragahi wrote.

As for the incumbent, “Ahmadinejad painted Mousavi as part of a cabal that includes Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential ayatollah and former president, and is dedicated to defeating him to secure vested interests. He named names, accusing several key political figures and their families of corruption and hinting at evidence showing Mousavi’s alleged wrongdoings.”

Such an attack on Rafsanjani, one of the country’s most powerful figures, is unprecedented. During the 2005 presidential campaign Ahmadinejad put himself forward as the candidate of social justice and the enemy of the mafia operators who had grabbed the country’s resources. He won after making many promises, some of which he has been able to keep because of high price of oil on the world market, but he has enjoyed no success in breaking the mafia rings (See Ramine Motamed-Nejad “Iran: money and the mullahs”, Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, June 2009). Economic and social issues were the main reason for the reformers’ defeat in 2005 and for Ahmadinejad’s victory. They will play a central role in the outcomes of this poll.

“Is the Rafsanjani aristocracy establishment supposed to perpetuate itself?” Ahmadinejad asked during the debate. Don’t hold your breath for the reply. In an open letter to the Supreme Leader, Rafsanjani protested against such attacks on him, as Muhammad Sahimi reported on 9 June for the TehranBureau website Rafsanjani’s Letter to the Supreme Leader :
Rafsanjani’s reply

“Following the presidential debates between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his reformist foes, Messrs Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, during which the president literally put the entire system of the Islamic Republic under question — he accused many national leaders and powerful politicians of nepotism and corruption, and claimed that since the 1979 Revolution only his administration has done extensive work for the nation (hence, indirectly attacking even the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was elected the president for two terms in the 1980s) — he was condemned by people across the political spectrum…

“In an unprecedented letter today to Ayatollah Khamenei, Mr Rafsanjani struck back at the president. The tone and clarity of the letter, especially for a politician who has always worked behind the scenes, were astounding. The letter starts:

“Unfortunately, the untrue and irresponsible statements of Mr. Ahmadinejad during his debate with Mousavi, the pre-debate statements [by him] and the events afterwards remind us of what the hypocrites [a reference to Mojahedin Khalgh Iran, an armed opposition group in exile] and counterrevolutionary groups said and did in the first few years after the Revolution, as well as the accusations during the 2005 [presidential] elections, the elections for the 6th Majles [during which Mr. Rafsanjani was strongly attacked by the reformists], and the nonsense that Paalizdaar propgated [a reference to Mr. Abbas Paalizdaar, who made numerous accusations similar to the President’s a few months ago in a speech], who has been convicted in the court of law. Since some of the [same] allegations had already been printed in the government-controlled media and had been repeated in the [president’s] speech in the holy [city of] Mashhad [a large city in northeastern Iran], the claim that he might have been influenced by the debate’s atmosphere and the attacks were unplanned is not acceptable. This is apparently an attempt to distract people’s attention from the many documented reports by the Government Accounting Office that $1 billion is missing [a reference to various reports that the GAO cannot account for $1 billion in the state budget], and that thousands of other unlawful acts have been committed with respect to the misuse of the national budget [approved by the Majles]; or it could be that he [the president] feels that his main competitor [Mr Mousavi] is a hero of a quarter of century of the Islamic Revolution [and, therefore, feeling vulnerable].

“The letter then asks if such unlawful acts are not stopped, and if the president, who has taken the oath of office to respect the law, can break the laws of the land without being persecuted, how can the nation consider itself the followers of the holy Islamic system of governance?

“The letter ends by asking Ayatollah Khamenei to ensure that the upcoming voting process will be devoid of any fraud.

“More than anything else, the letter reveals the deep fissures in the ruling establishment that have been created by Mr Ahmadinejad’s presidency. The letter in some way may also lessen the possibility of fraud in the Friday voting. In the 1997 elections that resulted in a landslide victory for Mr Mohammad Khatami, Mr Rafsanjani warned the nation a few days before voting about the possibility of fraud. Many believe that Mr Rafsanjani’s warning at that time was the prime reason why the conservatives could not resort to voting fraud, as they were terrified by a revolt by the people.”
Electoral fraud?

If we are to believe the reactions of Mousavi and his supporters the night that the results were announced, voting fraud was substantial all the same.

Rafsanjani’s position was supported by 14 clerics from the holy city of Qom according to Reuters on 9 June, Iranian cleric slams Ahmadinejad “fabrications”.

Moreover unconfirmed sources indicated that, in response to this open letter, the Supreme Leader had nominated Akbar Nategh Nouri, a conservative cleric critical of Ahmadinejad, to check for election irregularities in TeheranBureau’s 10 June Reaction to Rafsanjani’s Letter by Muhammad Sahimi.

A less optimistic, even alarmist, interpretation came from the Kamal Yaser Nassin of the Zurich-based International Relations and Security Network (ISN) on 11 June, Iran : Ahmadinejad’s Palace Coup.

“First, according to usually reliable sources, security forces are preparing for a massive crackdown on the protestors, once the winner of the contest is announced.

“Second, in a highly symbolic departure from past norms, the office of the Supreme Leader has issued an official disclaimer about alleged promises made to Hashemi Rafsanjani by Ayatollah Khamenei. The Supreme Leader also warned today against “ill-wishers” who spread malicious rumours and are lodged everywhere, adding “they may be found everywhere, in all agencies and groups.” Experts believe that since the Supreme Leader is not known as someone to bank on the losing side, this can be interpreted, with moderate confidence, as a sign that Mahmood Ahmadinejad is considered as the next president of the Islamic Republic.”
Concerning the nuclear issue, Rasool Nafisi, wrote on Radio FreeEurope’s website on 12 June, In Iran, The Election Is Being Televised :

“Despite some pretty fierce duels, the candidates have been careful not to cross any of the regime’s ‘red lines.’ All candidates have endorsed the country’s uranium-enrichment programme, and none has argued that continuing this policy in the face of UN resolutions and international sanctions is shaking the foundations of the economy or society. None of the candidates has asserted that the 25% inflation rate is at least partly due to the impact of sanctions.”

Washington had shown a deal of circumspection during this election campaign, fearing that favouring one candidate could backfire. In the Foreign Policy website of 10 June As Iran votes, all quiet on the western front , Luara Rozen spelt it out:

“We are committed to direct diplomacy with whatever government emerges,” a US official said Wednesday on condition of anonymity. The administration is “being tight-lipped on this one,” he acknowledged, noting that some planned interviews on the issue had been shut down out of apparent sensitivity to concerns that Iranian hard-liners could portray them as evidence of US meddling, a sensitive issue in Iran.
For the American and Israeli right – as Scott Harrop pointed out in Helena Cobban’s Just World News blog of 12 June, “Israel’s horse in Iran’s Race” – Ahmadinejad was the preferred candidate!

Elsewhere an influential American Democratic Senator pronounced, in a 10 June interview with the Financial Times’s Daniel Dombey, US senator opens Iran nuclear debate, that Iran had the right to enrich its own uranium and that arguments to the contrary made by the Bush administration were “ridiculous”.

And what next?

Ref: Le MOnde

IRANIAN ELECTION: What Actually Happened in the Iranian Presidential Election?

Since the June 12 Iranian presidential elections, Iran “experts” have mushroomed like bacteria in a Petri dish. So here is a quiz for all those instant experts. Which major country has elected more presidents than any in the world since 1980? Further, which nation is the only one that held ten presidential elections within thirty years of its revolution?

The answer to both questions, of course, is Iran. Since 1980, it has elected six presidents, while the U.S. is a close second with five, and France at three. In addition, the U.S. held four presidential elections within three decades of its revolution to Iran’s ten.

The Iranian elections have unified the left and the right in the West and unleashed harsh criticisms and attacks from the “outraged” politicians to the “indignant” mainstream media. Even the blogosphere has joined this battle with near uniformity, on the side of Iran’s opposition, which is quite rare in cyberspace.

Much of the allegations of election fraud have been just that: unsubstantiated accusations. No one has yet been able to provide a solid shred of evidence of wide scale fraud that would have garnered eleven million votes for one candidate over his opponent.

So let’s analyze much of the evidence that is available to date.

More than thirty pre-election polls were conducted in Iran since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main opponent, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, announced their candidacies in early March 2009. The polls varied widely between the two opponents, but if one were to average their results, Ahmadinejad would still come out on top. However, some of the organizations sponsoring these polls, such as Iranian Labor News Agency and Tabnak, admit openly that they have been allies of Mousavi, the opposition, or the so-called reform movement. Their numbers were clearly tilted towards Mousavi and gave him an unrealistic advantage of over 30 per cent in some polls. If such biased polls were excluded, Ahmadinejad’s average over Mousavi would widen to about 21 points.

On the other hand, there was only one poll carried out by a western news organization. It was jointly commissioned by the BBC and ABC News, and conducted by an independent entity called the Center for Public Opinion (CPO) of the New America Foundation. The CPO has a reputation of conducting accurate opinion polls, not only in Iran, but across the Muslim world since 2005. The poll, conducted a few weeks before the elections, predicted an 89 percent turnout rate. Further, it showed that Ahmadinejad had a nationwide advantage of two to one over Mousavi.

How did this survey compare to the actual results? And what are the possibilities of wide scale election fraud?

According to official results, there were 46.2 million registered voters in Iran. The turnout was massive, as predicted by the CPO. Almost 39.2 million Iranians participated in the elections for a turn out rate of 85 percent, in which about 38.8 million ballots were deemed valid (about 400,000 ballots were left blank). Officially, President Ahmadinejad received 24.5 million votes to Mousavi’s 13.2 million votes, or 62.6 per cent to 33.8 per cent of the total votes, respectively. In fact, this result mirrored the 2005 elections when Ahmadinejad received 61.7 per cent to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani’s 35.9 per cent in the runoff elections. Two other minor candidates, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezaee, received the rest of the votes in this election.

Shortly after the official results were announced Mousavi’s supporters and Western political pundits cried foul and accused the government of election fraud. The accusations centered around four themes. First, although voting had been extended several hours due to the heavy turnout, it was alleged that the elections were called too quickly from the time the polls were closed, with more than 39 million ballots to count.

Second, these critics insinuated that election monitors were biased or that, in some instances, the opposition did not have its own monitors present during the count. Third, they pointed out that it was absurd to think that Mousavi, who descended from the Azerbaijan region in northwest Iran, was defeated handily in his own hometown. Fourth, the Mousavi camp charged that in some polling stations, ballots ran out and people were turned away without voting.

The next day, Mosuavi and the two other defeated candidates lodged 646 complaints to the Guardian Council, the entity charged with overseeing the integrity of the elections. The Council promised to conduct full investigations of all the complaints. By the following morning, a copy of a letter by a low-level employee in the Interior Ministry sent to Supreme Guide Ali Khamanei, was widely circulating around the world. (Western politicians and media outlets like to call him “Supreme Leader” but no such title exists in Iran.)

The letter stated that Mousavi had won the elections, and that Ahmadinejad had actually come in third. It also promised that the elections were being fixed in favor of Ahmadinejad per Khamanei’s orders. It is safe to assume that the letter was a forgery since an unidentified low-level employee would not be the one addressing Ayatollah Khamanaei. Robert Fisk of The Independent reached the same conclusion by casting grave doubts that Ahmadinejad would score third – garnering less than 6 million votes in such an important election- as alleged in the forged letter.

There were a total of 45,713 ballot boxes that were set up in cities, towns and villages across Iran. With 39.2 million ballots cast, there were less than 860 ballots per box. Unlike other countries where voters can cast their ballots on several candidates and issues in a single election, Iranian voters had only one choice to consider: their presidential candidate. Why would it take more than an hour or two to count 860 ballots per poll? After the count, the results were then reported electronically to the Ministry of the Interior in Tehran.

Since 1980, Iran has suffered an eight-year deadly war with Iraq, a punishing boycott and embargo, and a campaign of assassination of dozens of its lawmakers, an elected president and a prime minister from the group Mujahideen Khalq Organization. (MKO is a deadly domestic violent organization, with headquarters in France, which seeks to topple the government by force.) Despite all these challenges, the Islamic Republic of Iran has never missed an election during its three decades. It has conducted over thirty elections nationwide. Indeed, a tradition of election orderliness has been established, much like election precincts in the U.S. or boroughs in the U.K. The elections in Iran are organized, monitored and counted by teachers and professionals including civil servants and retirees (again much like the U.S.)

There has not been a tradition of election fraud in Iran. Say what you will about the system of the Islamic Republic, but its elected legislators have impeached ministers and “borked” nominees of several Presidents, including Ahmadinejad. Rubberstamps, they are not. In fact, former President Mohammad Khatami, considered one of the leading reformists in Iran, was elected president by the people, when the interior ministry was run by archconservatives. He won with over 70 percent of the vote, not once, but twice.

When it comes to elections, the real problem in Iran is not fraud but candidates’ access to the ballots (a problem not unique to the country, just ask Ralph Nader or any other third party candidate in the U.S.) It is highly unlikely that there was a huge conspiracy involving tens of thousands of teachers, professionals and civil servants that somehow remained totally hidden and unexposed.

Moreover, while Ahmadinejad belongs to an active political party that has already won several elections since 2003, Mousavi is an independent candidate who emerged on the political scene just three months ago, after a 20-year hiatus. It was clear during the campaign that Ahmadinejad had a nationwide campaign operation. He made over sixty campaign trips throughout Iran in less than twelve weeks, while his opponent campaigned only in the major cities, and lacked a sophisticated campaign apparatus.

It is true that Mousavi has an Azeri background. But the CPO poll mentioned above, and published before the elections, noted that “its survey indicated that only 16 per cent of Azeri Iranians will vote for Mr. Mousavi. By contrast, 31 per cent of the Azeris claim they will vote for Mr. Ahmadinejad.” In the end, according to official results, the election in that region was much closer than the overall result. In fact, Mousavi won narrowly in the West Azerbaijan province but lost the region to Ahmadinejad by a 45 to 52 per cent margin (or 1.5 to 1.8 million votes).

However, the double standard applied by Western news agencies is striking. Richard Nixon trounced George McGovern in his native state of South Dakota in the 1972 elections. Had Al Gore won his home state of Tennessee in 2000, no one would have cared about a Florida recount, nor would there have been a Supreme Court case called Bush v. Gore. If Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards had won the states he was born and raised in (South and North Carolina), President John Kerry would now be serving his second term. But somehow, in Western newsrooms Middle Eastern people choose their candidates not on merit, but on the basis of their “tribe.”

The fact that minor candidates such as Karroubi would garner fewer votes than expected, even in their home regions as critics charge, is not out of the ordinary. Many voters reach the conclusion that they do not want to waste their votes when the contest is perceived to be between two major candidates. Karroubi indeed received far fewer votes this time around than he did in 2005, including in his hometown. Likewise, Ross Perot lost his home state of Texas to Bob Dole of Kansas in 1996, while in 2004, Ralph Nader received one eighth of the votes he had four years earlier.

Some observers note that when the official results were being announced, the margin between the candidates held steady throughout the count. In fact, this is no mystery. Experts say that generally when 3-5 per cent of the votes from a given region are actually counted, there is a 95 per cent confidence level that such result will hold firm. As for the charge that ballots ran out and some people were turned away, it is worth mentioning that voting hours were extended four times in order to allow as many people as possible the opportunity to vote. But even if all the people who did not vote, had actually voted for Mousavi (a virtual impossibility), that would be 6.93 million additional votes, much less than the 11 million vote difference between the top two candidates.

Ahmadinejad is certainly not a sympathetic figure. He is an ideologue, provocative, and sometimes behaving imprudently. But to characterize the struggle in Iran as a battle between democratic forces and a “dictator,” is to exhibit total ignorance of Iran’s internal dynamics, or to deliberately distort them. There is no doubt that there is a significant segment of Iranian society, concentrated around major metropolitan areas, and comprising many young people, that passionately yearns for social freedoms. They are understandably angry because their candidate came up short. But it would be a huge mistake to read this domestic disagreement as an “uprising” against the Islamic Republic, or as a call to embark on a foreign policy that would accommodate the West at the expense of Iran’s nuclear program or its vital interests.

Nations display respect to other nations only when they respect their sovereignty. If any nation, for instance, were to dictate the United States’ economic, foreign or social policies, Americans would be indignant. When France, under President Chirac opposed the American adventure in Iraq in 2003, some U.S. Congressmen renamed a favorite fast food from French Fries to “Freedom Fries.” They made it known that the French were unwelcome in the U.S.

The U.S. has a legacy of interference in Iran’s internal affairs, notably when it toppled the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953. This act, of which most Americans are unaware, is ingrained in every Iranian from childhood. It is the main cause of much of their perpetual anger at the U.S. It took 56 years for an American president to acknowledge this illegal act, when Obama did so earlier this month in Cairo.

Therefore, it would be a colossal mistake to interfere in Iran’s internal affairs yet again. President Obama is wise to leave this matter to be resolved by the Iranians themselves. Political expediency by the Republicans or pro-Israel Democrats will be extremely dangerous and will yield serious repercussions. Such reckless conduct by many in the political class and the media appears to be a blatant attempt to demonize Iran and its current leadership, in order to justify any future military attack by Israel if Iran does not give up its nuclear ambition.

President Obama’s declarations in Cairo are now being aptly recalled. Regarding Iran, he said, “I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.”

But the first sign of respect is to let the Iranians sort out their differences without any overt –or covert –interference.

Ref: counterpunch
Esam Al-Amin can be reached at alamin1919@gmail.com

Also read: Humanitarian Rhetoric and U.S. Imperialism in Iran – The Electoral Façade

IRANIAN ELECTION 09: Western Misconceptions Meet Iranian Reality

Iran_crisis_by_Latuff2

In 1979, when we were still young and starry-eyed, a revolution took place in Iran. When I asked experts what would happen, they divided into two camps.

The first group of Iran experts argued that the Shah of Iran would certainly survive, that the unrest was simply a cyclical event readily manageable by his security, and that the Iranian people were united behind the Iranian monarch’s modernization program. These experts developed this view by talking to the same Iranian officials and businessmen they had been talking to for years — Iranians who had grown wealthy and powerful under the shah and who spoke English, since Iran experts frequently didn’t speak Farsi all that well.

The second group of Iran experts regarded the shah as a repressive brute, and saw the revolution as aimed at liberalizing the country. Their sources were the professionals and academics who supported the uprising — Iranians who knew what former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini believed, but didn’t think he had much popular support. They thought the revolution would result in an increase in human rights and liberty. The experts in this group spoke even less Farsi than those in the first group.

Misreading Sentiment in Iran

Limited to information on Iran from English-speaking opponents of the regime, both groups of Iran experts got a very misleading vision of where the revolution was heading — because the Iranian revolution was not brought about by the people who spoke English. It was made by merchants in city bazaars, by rural peasants, by the clergy — people Americans didn’t speak to because they couldn’t. This demographic was unsure of the virtues of modernization and not at all clear on the virtues of liberalism. From the time they were born, its members knew the virtue of Islam, and that the Iranian state must be an Islamic state.

Americans and Europeans have been misreading Iran for 30 years. Even after the shah fell, the myth has survived that a mass movement of people exists demanding liberalization — a movement that if encouraged by the West eventually would form a majority and rule the country. We call this outlook “iPod liberalism,” the idea that anyone who listens to rock ‘n’ roll on an iPod, writes blogs and knows what it means to Twitter must be an enthusiastic supporter of Western liberalism. Even more significantly, this outlook fails to recognize that iPod owners represent a small minority in Iran — a country that is poor, pious and content on the whole with the revolution forged 30 years ago.

There are undoubtedly people who want to liberalize the Iranian regime. They are to be found among the professional classes in Tehran, as well as among students. Many speak English, making them accessible to the touring journalists, diplomats and intelligence people who pass through. They are the ones who can speak to Westerners, and they are the ones willing to speak to Westerners. And these people give Westerners a wildly distorted view of Iran. They can create the impression that a fantastic liberalization is at hand — but not when you realize that iPod-owning Anglophones are not exactly the majority in Iran.

Last Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected with about two-thirds of the vote. Supporters of his opponent, both inside and outside Iran, were stunned. A poll revealed that former Iranian Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi was beating Ahmadinejad. It is, of course, interesting to meditate on how you could conduct a poll in a country where phones are not universal, and making a call once you have found a phone can be a trial. A poll therefore would probably reach people who had phones and lived in Tehran and other urban areas. Among those, Mousavi probably did win. But outside Tehran, and beyond persons easy to poll, the numbers turned out quite different.

Some still charge that Ahmadinejad cheated. That is certainly a possibility, but it is difficult to see how he could have stolen the election by such a large margin. Doing so would have required the involvement of an incredible number of people, and would have risked creating numbers that quite plainly did not jibe with sentiment in each precinct. Widespread fraud would mean that Ahmadinejad manufactured numbers in Tehran without any regard for the vote. But he has many powerful enemies who would quickly have spotted this and would have called him on it. Mousavi still insists he was robbed, and we must remain open to the possibility that he was, although it is hard to see the mechanics of this.

Ahmadinejad’s Popularity

It also misses a crucial point: Ahmadinejad enjoys widespread popularity. He doesn’t speak to the issues that matter to the urban professionals, namely, the economy and liberalization. But Ahmadinejad speaks to three fundamental issues that accord with the rest of the country.

First, Ahmadinejad speaks of piety. Among vast swathes of Iranian society, the willingness to speak unaffectedly about religion is crucial. Though it may be difficult for Americans and Europeans to believe, there are people in the world to whom economic progress is not of the essence; people who want to maintain their communities as they are and live the way their grandparents lived. These are people who see modernization — whether from the shah or Mousavi — as unattractive. They forgive Ahmadinejad his economic failures.

Second, Ahmadinejad speaks of corruption. There is a sense in the countryside that the ayatollahs — who enjoy enormous wealth and power, and often have lifestyles that reflect this — have corrupted the Islamic Revolution. Ahmadinejad is disliked by many of the religious elite precisely because he has systematically raised the corruption issue, which resonates in the countryside.

Third, Ahmadinejad is a spokesman for Iranian national security, a tremendously popular stance. It must always be remembered that Iran fought a war with Iraq in the 1980s that lasted eight years, cost untold lives and suffering, and effectively ended in its defeat. Iranians, particularly the poor, experienced this war on an intimate level. They fought in the war, and lost husbands and sons in it. As in other countries, memories of a lost war don’t necessarily delegitimize the regime. Rather, they can generate hopes for a resurgent Iran, thus validating the sacrifices made in that war — something Ahmadinejad taps into. By arguing that Iran should not back down but become a major power, he speaks to the veterans and their families, who want something positive to emerge from all their sacrifices in the war.

Perhaps the greatest factor in Ahmadinejad’s favor is that Mousavi spoke for the better districts of Tehran — something akin to running a U.S. presidential election as a spokesman for Georgetown and the Upper East Side. Such a base will get you hammered, and Mousavi got hammered. Fraud or not, Ahmadinejad won and he won significantly. That he won is not the mystery; the mystery is why others thought he wouldn’t win.

For a time on Friday, it seemed that Mousavi might be able to call for an uprising in Tehran. But the moment passed when Ahmadinejad’s security forces on motorcycles intervened. And that leaves the West with its worst-case scenario: a democratically elected anti-liberal.

Western democracies assume that publics will elect liberals who will protect their rights. In reality, it’s a more complicated world. Hitler is the classic example of someone who came to power constitutionally, and then proceeded to gut the constitution. Similarly, Ahmadinejad’s victory is a triumph of both democracy and repression.

The Road Ahead: More of the Same

The question now is what will happen next. Internally, we can expect Ahmadinejad to consolidate his position under the cover of anti-corruption. He wants to clean up the ayatollahs, many of whom are his enemies. He will need the support of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This election has made Ahmadinejad a powerful president, perhaps the most powerful in Iran since the revolution. Ahmadinejad does not want to challenge Khamenei, and we suspect that Khamenei will not want to challenge Ahmadinejad. A forced marriage is emerging, one which may place many other religious leaders in a difficult position.

Certainly, hopes that a new political leadership would cut back on Iran’s nuclear program have been dashed. The champion of that program has won, in part because he championed the program. We still see Iran as far from developing a deliverable nuclear weapon, but certainly the Obama administration’s hopes that Ahmadinejad would either be replaced — or at least weakened and forced to be more conciliatory — have been crushed. Interestingly, Ahmadinejad sent congratulations to U.S. President Barack Obama on his inauguration. We would expect Obama to reciprocate under his opening policy, which U.S. Vice President Joe Biden appears to have affirmed, assuming he was speaking for Obama. Once the vote fraud issue settles, we will have a better idea of whether Obama’s policies will continue. (We expect they will.)

What we have now are two presidents in a politically secure position, something that normally forms a basis for negotiations. The problem is that it is not clear what the Iranians are prepared to negotiate on, nor is it clear what the Americans are prepared to give the Iranians to induce them to negotiate. Iran wants greater influence in Iraq and its role as a regional leader acknowledged, something the United States doesn’t want to give them. The United States wants an end to the Iranian nuclear program, which Iran doesn’t want to give.

On the surface, this would seem to open the door for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Former U.S. President George W. Bush did not — and Obama does not — have any appetite for such an attack. Both presidents blocked the Israelis from attacking, assuming the Israelis ever actually wanted to attack.

For the moment, the election appears to have frozen the status quo in place. Neither the United States nor Iran seem prepared to move significantly, and there are no third parties that want to get involved in the issue beyond the occasional European diplomatic mission or Russian threat to sell something to Iran. In the end, this shows what we have long known: This game is locked in place, and goes on.

Ref: Straford

The Iranian Elections and the Hysterical Media

Here comes the hysteria and bold-faced lies. In the wake of the Iranian election, various commentators and so-called reporters in the United States are reacting as if the end of the world was at hand. Although nobody knows for certain and everyone only has the words of western press pundits and an angry candidate to go by, virtually every mainstream US news source is calling the re-election of Ahmadinejad the result of fraud. There has been no verification of this from any objective source, nor has there been any proof beyond the speculation of media folks who either want to create a story or are so convinced of what they believe to be the incumbent’s essentially evil nature that they can not comprehend his re-election.

A good example of this is a story by Bill Keller in the New York Times. In that piece, Ahmadinejad was once again incorrectly called a Holocaust-denier and his support was put down as being comprised mostly of women-hating peasants and civil servants who somehow benefited from his patronage. The liberal reformer Moussavi’s supporters were portrayed in a considerably more favorable light.

Completely missing from Keller’s piece and many other pieces in the US mainstream media (and liberal magazines like the Nation) is any genuine attempt to analyze both the class nature of the different candidate’s supporters and the role Washington plays in the media’s perception of Iranian politics. Keller’s most honest analytical statement in his entire piece: “Saturday was a day of smoldering anger, crushed hopes and punctured illusions, from the streets of Tehran to the policy centers of Western capitals.”

Keller and his fellow journalists accept that the desires of Western capitals, especially Washington, should be important to Iranians. While this may certainly be the case among a small number of the intelligentsia and business community in Iran, the fact is that the West, especially Washington, is still not very popular among the Iranian masses. Not only are they aware of decades of western intervention in their affairs, the fact that thousands of US troops continue to battle forces in two of Iran’s neighbors makes Washington unwanted and detested. Why should they do anything to please it? Yet, in the minds of the US news media, it is Washington’s needs that dominate all discussion.

As for the class analysis. Rightly or wrongly, Ahmadinejad seems to appeal to the majority of peasants and workers in Iran. Just like Marat and the Jacobins appealed to the peasants and urban poor during the French revolution while Brissot and the Girondins appealed to the merchants and educated classes, Ahmadinejad’s support comes from those who need bread while Moussavi’s comes from those with plenty of bread and now want more civil liberties. While it is arguably true that Ahmadinejad’s policies have caused as many economic policies as they have solved, the fact remains that his supporters believe in his 2005 campaign call to bring the oil profits to the dinner table. Mr. Moussavi’s statements regarding the eventual reduction of commodity subsidies that benefit the poor may have hurt him in that demographic more than his supporters acknowledge. In a Washington Post article published the day before the election, it was noted (along with the fact that Ahmadinejad won the 2005 election with a “surprising” 62% of the vote) that his economic policies included the distribution of “loans, money and other help for local needs.” One of these programs involved providing insurance to women who make rugs in their homes and had been without insurance until Ahmadinejad came to power. Critics, including Moussavi, argue that his “free-spending policies have fueled inflation and squandered windfall petrodollars without reducing unemployment.” There are other elements at play here, including the fabled corruption of certain unelected leaders in Iran and the role the international economic crisis plays in each and every nation’s economy–a factor from which Iran is not immune. In addition, the particular nature of an Islamic economy that blends government and private business creates a constant conflict between those who would nationalize everything and those who would privatize it all.

In regards to what this means for relations between Washington and Tehran–they will continue down whatever path Mr. Obama wishes them to go. Tel Aviv, which criticized the election results, would not have changed its desire to quash Tehran no matter who won. Indeed, the fact that Ahmadinejad was re-elected makes it easier for Tel Aviv to continue demonizing the only genuine threat to its dominance of the region.

The bottom line, however, is that the president of Iran really has no power in the course Iranian foreign policy takes. That power remains with the Council of Guardians and the legislature. Mr. Obama would do well to continue his attempts to negotiate without conditions. He would also be wise to end any covert activity against the Iranian government currently being conducted. The western media would do well to inform themselves on the real nature of Iranian politics and society instead of taking the viewpoint that what’s best for Washington is best for Tehran. Then again, that media should consider the non-Washington viewpoint in all of its international coverage.

For the left, the answer is clear. The situation in Iran has changed. The apparent popularity of Moussavi and other officially reocgnized reformers showed this before the election. The dispute over the truth of the election results proves this even further. However, neither Ahmadinejad or Moussavi represent a genuine move away from the power of the bazaar class and its appointed clerical council. The desire for more civil freedoms must be coordinated with the need for economic justice. Both of these aspirations seem to be currently at odds.

It seems apparent that only a leftist movement is capable of bringing the two together in a nation divided between its cities and its countryside;its middle class and its workers and rural dwellers. This was the case prior to the takeover of the Iranian revolution by socially conservative religious forces in 1980 and it could be the case again.

Ref: Counterpunch

Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

From Durban II With No Love

News of Western diplomats walking out during a speech made by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, in protest over his criticism of the State of Israel and its Zionist culture made me pause. A day before the conference convened, the newly elected Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Ahmadinejad, declared that he won’t negotiate with the Palestinians until they accept and recognize Israel as a Jewish State for the Jewish people. If this is not racism, I do not know what is.

Ahmadinejad is a controversial figure for denying the Holocaust and other remarks. His unusually extensive list of sworn enemies around the globe range from Israel and the US to Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and from gay rights activists and hippies to neo-cons and war mongers. But I do not like how the media has turned him into the mascot for Israel bashing. Under this model, now, you either support Israel’s inhumane policies or risk being counted as a sidekick for Ahmadinejad, resurrecting the President Bush’s with us or against us rhetoric.

Thanks to Ahmadinejad a good conference to discuss racism — a serious issue — was turned into a media love fest where the Israeli narrative went unquestioned. Although no country is perfect, no other country can have it both ways as Israel does — an oasis of democracy that has institutionalized racism and is beyond reproach. Israel does struggle with racism — Sephardic Jews make less money and have lower levels of education than the European Jews; Russian Jews’ bona fides are questioned; Ethiopian Jews are treated with skepticism; and yes, Arab citizens of Israel are viewed as traitors and treated as second class citizens. Unfortunately, the Western counties do not see any of that, and accept the Israeli narrative of how anti-Semitism is the root of all evil–but can the death of 1500 Palestinians (Semitic people) in Gaza recently be condemned as anti-Semitic behavior?

Obviously European and American leadership chose not to lead on the issues of racism because they do not have much to offer on the subject. After all, given their history of racism, colonialism, and imperialism, third world countries have plenty to say on those subjects. But Europeans and Americans who perfected the art of slavery chose to be no-shows and not to take part in the conference on racism. The old boys club avoided the guilt trip and opted out and instead chose to defend one of their own, Israel — a European colonial settler state. Unfortunately those who had hoped to talk about their experience with racism — much like Candidate Obama did in his much hailed Philadelphia speech — were denied a forum.

I think the president of Iran was wrong regarding Israel and its people, even though what he said is on par with what some of the new members of the Israeli government have said about Ethiopian Jews. Although there are many justified criticisms of the Israel’s discriminatory policies, it’s not helpful to have Ahmadinejad point them out. However, I think he would have done better to avoid the anti-Israel rant and talk about racism and prejudice suffered by blacks and North Africans in countries like France and South Asians in the United Kingdom.

It seems to me that the West is much harsher on those that criticize Israel, but look the other way when Israel carries out an offensive and innocents are killed by the scores. Having said that, the West usually make things right and I just hope that in the Palestinian case it does not take too much more time.

Most of the forty Western diplomats who walked out accused Ahmadinejad of incitement against Israel come from the same group of countries either carried out the racist Holocaust, financed or failed to stop it. Yet serving another slice of hypocrisy pie by condemning those who are too weak and too dysfunctional to do harm to Israel of being insensitive. I am left with one unanswered question, why did none of those “courageous ” diplomats walk out during the UN meetings in the days leading to the Iraq war in 2003?

Ref: Huffington post

President Ahmadinejad’s speech at the Durban Review Conference on Racism

The following is the speech of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Durban Review Conference on racism in Geneva on April 20.

Mr. Chairman, honorable secretary general of the United Nations, honorable United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Ladies and gentleman:

We have gathered in the follow-up to the Durban conference against racism and racial discrimination to work out practical mechanisms for our holy and humanitarian campaigns.

Over the last centuries, humanity has gone through great sufferings and pains. In the Medieval Ages, thinkers and scientists were sentenced to death. It was then followed by a period of slavery and slave trade. Innocent people were taken captive in their millions and separated from their families and loved ones to be taken to Europe and America under the worst conditions. A dark period that also experienced occupation, lootings and massacres of innocent people.

Many years passed by before nations rose up and fought for their liberty and freedom and they paid a high price for it. They lost millions of lives to expel the occupiers and establish independent and national governments. However, it did not take long before power grabbers imposed two wars in Europe which also plagued a part of Asia and Africa. Those horrific wars claimed about a hundred million lives and left behind massive devastation. Had lessons been learnt from the occupations, horrors and crimes of those wars, there would have been a ray of hope for the future.

The victorious powers called themselves the conquerors of the world while ignoring or down treading upon rights of other nations by the imposition of oppressive laws and international arrangements.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us take a look at the UN Security Council which is one of the legacies of World War I and World War II. What was the logic behind their granting themselves the veto right? How can such logic comply with humanitarian or spiritual values? Would it not be inconformity with the recognized principles of justice, equality before the law, love and human dignity? Would it not be discrimination, injustice, violations of human rights or humiliation of the majority of nations and countries?

The council is the highest decision-making world body for safeguarding international peace and security. How can we expect the realization of justice and peace when discrimination is legalized and the origin of the law is dominated by coercion and force rather than by justice and the rights?

Coercion and arrogance is the origin of oppression and wars. Although today many proponents of racism condemn racial discrimination in their words and their slogans, a number of powerful countries have been authorized to decide for other nations based on their own interests and at their own discretion and they can easily violate all laws and humanitarian values as they have done so.

Following World War II, they resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering and they sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in occupied Palestine. And, in fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.

The Security Council helped stabilize the occupying regime and supported it in the past 60 years giving them a free hand to commit all sorts of atrocities. It is all the more regrettable that a number of Western governments and the United States have committed themselves to defending those racist perpetrators of genocide while the awakened-conscience and free-minded people of the world condemn aggression, brutalities and the bombardment of civilians in Gaza. The supporters of Israel have always been either supportive or silent against the crimes.

Dear friends, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen. What are the root causes of the US attacks against Iraq or the invasion of Afghanistan?

Was the motive behind the invasion of Iraq anything other than the arrogance of the then US administration and the mounting pressures on the part of the possessors of wealth and power to expand their sphere of influence seeking the interests of giant arms manufacturing companies affecting a noble culture with thousands of years of historical background, eliminating the potential and practical threats of Muslim countries against the Zionist regime or to control and plunder the energy resources of the Iraqi people?

Why, indeed, almost a million people were killed and injured and a few more millions were displaced? Why, indeed, the Iraqi people have suffered enormous losses amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars? And why was billions of dollars imposed on the American people as the result of these military actions? Was not the military action against Iraq planned by the Zionists and their allies in the then US administration in complicity with the arms manufacturing countries and the possessors of wealth? Did the invasion of Afghanistan restore peace, security and economic wellbeing in the country?

The United States and its allies not only have failed to contain the production of drugs in Afghanistan, but the cultivation of narcotics has multiplied in the course of their presence. The basic question is that what was the responsibility and the job of the then US administration and its allies?

Did they represent the countries of the world? Have they been mandated by them? Have they been authorized by the people of the world to interfere in all parts of the globe, of course mostly in our region? Are not these measures a clear example of egocentrism, racism, discrimination or infringement upon the dignity and independence of nations?

Ladies and gentlemen, who is responsible for the current global economic crisis? Where did the crisis start from? From Africa, Asia or from the United States in the first place then spreading across Europe and their allies?

For a long time, they imposed inequitable economic regulations by their political power on the international economy. They imposed a financial and monetary system without a proper international oversight mechanism on nations and governments that played no role in repressive trends or policies. They have not even allowed their people to oversea or monitor their financial policies. They introduced all laws and regulations in defiance of all moral values only to protect the interests of the possessors of wealth and power.

They further presented a definition for market economy and competition that denied many of the economic opportunities that could be available to other countries of the world. They even transferred their problems to others while the waves of crisis lashed back plaguing their economies with thousands of billions of dollars in budget deficit. And today, they are injecting hundreds of billions of dollars of cash from the pockets of their own people and other nations into the failing banks, companies and financial institutions making the situation more and more complicated for their economy and their people. They are simply thinking about maintaining power and wealth. They could not care any less about the people of the world and even their own people.

Mr. President, Ladies and gentlemen, Racism is rooted in the lack of knowledge concerning the root of human existence as the selected creature of God. It is also the product of his deviation from the true path of human life and the obligations of mankind in the world of creation, failing to consciously worship God, not being able to think about the philosophy of life or the path to perfection that are the main ingredients of divine and humanitarian values which have restricted the horizon of human outlook making transient and limited interests, the yardstick for his action. That is why evil’s power took shape and expanded its realm of power while depriving others from enjoying equitable and just opportunities of development.

The result has been the making of an unbridled racism that is posing the most serious threats against international peace and has hindered the way for building peaceful coexistence in the entire world. Undoubtedly, racism is the symbol of ignorance which has deep roots in history and it is, indeed, the sign of frustration in the development of human society.

It is, therefore, crucially important to trace the manifestations of racism in situations or in societies where ignorance or lack of knowledge prevails. This increasing general awareness and understanding towards the philosophy of human existence is the principle struggle against such manifestations, and reveals the truth that human kind centers on the creation of the universe and the key to solving the problem of racism is a return to spiritual and moral values and finally the inclination to worship God Almighty.

The international community must initiate collective moves to raise awareness in afflicted societies where ignorance of racism still prevails so as to bring to a halt the spread of these malicious manifestations.

Dear Friends, today, the human community is facing a kind of racism which has tarnished the image of humanity in the beginning of the third millennium.

World Zionism personifies racism that falsely resorts to religions and abuses religious sentiments to hide its hatred and ugly face. However, it is of great importance to bring into focus the political goals of some of the world powers and those who control huge economic resources and interests in the world. They mobilize all the resources including their economic and political influence and world media to render support in vain to the Zionist regime and to maliciously diminish the indignity and disgrace of this regime.

This is not simply a question of ignorance and one cannot conclude these ugly phenomena through consular campaigns. Efforts must be made to put an end to the abuse by Zionists and their political and international supporters and in respect with the will and aspirations of nations. Governments must be encouraged and supported in their fights aimed at eradicating this barbaric racism and to move towards reform in current international mechanisms.

There is no doubt that you are all aware of the conspiracies of some powers and Zionist circles against the goals and objectives of this conference. Unfortunately, there have been literatures and statements in support of Zionists and their crimes. And it is the responsibility of honorable representatives of nations to disclose these campaigns which run counter to humanitarian values and principles.

It should be recognized that boycotting such a session as an outstanding international capacity is a true indication of supporting the blatant example of racism. In defending human rights, it is primarily important to defend the rights of all nations to participate equally in all important international decision making processes without the influence of certain world powers.

And secondly, it is necessary to restructure the existing international organizations and their respective arrangements. Therefore this conference is a testing ground and the world public opinion today and tomorrow will judge our decisions and our actions.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, the world is going through rapid fundamental changes. Power relations have become weak and fragile. The sound of cracks in the pillars of world systems can now be heard. Major political and economic structures are on the brink of collapse. Political and security crises are on the rise. The worsening crisis in the world economy for which there can be seen no bright prospect, demonstrates the rising tide of far-reaching global changes. I have repeatedly emphasized the need to change the wrong direction through which the world is being managed today and I have also warned of the dire consequences of any delay in this crucial responsibility.

Now in this valuable event, I would like to announce to all leaders, thinkers and to all nations of the world present in this meeting and those who have a hunger for peace and economic well-being that the unjust economic management of the world is now at the end of the road. This deadlock was inevitable since the logic of this imposed management was oppressive.

The logic of collective management of world affairs is based on noble aspirations which centers on human beings and the supremacy of the almighty God. Therefore it defies any policy or plan which goes against the influence of nations. The victory of right over wrong and the establishment of a just world system has been promised by the Almighty God and his messengers and it has been a shared goal of all human beings from different societies and generations in the course of history. Realization of such a future depends on the knowledge of creation and the belief of the faithful.

The making of a global society is in fact the accomplishment of a noble goal held in the establishment of a common global system that will be run with the participation of all nations of the world in all major decision making processes and the definite root to this sublime goal.

Scientific and technical capacities as well as communication technology have created a common and widespread understanding of the world society and has provided the necessary ground for a common system. Now it is upon all intellectuals, thinkers and policy makers in the world to carry out their historical responsibility with a firm belief in this definite root.

I also want to lay emphasis on the fact that Western liberalism and capitalism has reached its end since it has failed to perceive the truth of the world and humans as they are.

It has imposed its own goals and directions on human beings. There is no regard for human and divine values, justice, freedom, love and brotherhood and it has based living on intense competition, securing individual and cooperative material interest.

Now we must learn from the past by initiating collective efforts in dealing with present challenges and in this connection, and as a closing remark, I wish to draw your kind attention to two important issues:

Firstly, it is absolutely possible to improve the existing situation in the world. However it must be noted that this could be only achieved through the cooperation of all countries in order to get the best out of the existing capacities and resources in the world. My participation in this conference is because of my conviction to these important issues as well as to our common responsibility of defending the rights of nations vis-à-vis the sinister phenomena of racism and being with you, the thinkers of the world.

Secondly, mindful of the inefficiency of the current international political, economic and security systems, it is necessary to focus on divine and humanitarian values by referring to the true definition of human beings based upon justice and respect for the rights of all people in all parts of the world and by acknowledging the past wrong doings in the past dominant management of the world, and to undertake collective measures to reform the existing structures.

In this respect, it is crucially important to rapidly reform the structure of the Security Council, including the elimination of the discriminatory veto right and to change the current world financial and monetary systems.

It is evident that lack of understanding of the urgency for change is equivalent to the much heavier costs of delay.

Dear Friends, beware that to move in the direction of justice and human dignity is like a rapid flow in the current of a river. Let us not forget the essence of love and affection. The promised future of human beings is a great asset that may serve our purposes in keeping together to build a new world.

In order to make the world a better place full of love and blessings, a world devoid of poverty and hatred, merging the increasing blessings of God Almighty and the righteous managing of the perfect human being, let us all join hands in friendship in the fulfillment of such a new world.

I thank you Mr. President, Secretary General and all distinguished participants for having the patience to listen to me. Thank you very much.

Ref: Votersforpeace

Ahmadinejad, Durban and another fine mess

This is hardly the time for levity, but watching delegates at the Durban anti-racism review conference walk out while President Ahmadinejad served up his version of Zionist history, I couldn’t help thinking of that immortal phrase from Laurel and Hardy: “Well, that’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.” The Geneva UN gathering is an event of high seriousness. It coincides with Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day and Hitler’s birthday. It has been heading for disaster for months while western states and Jewish groups have been at loggerheads over strategy. It appears to have been completely derailed by a publicity-seeking, not especially powerful politician, desperately campaigning for re-election as president. And meanwhile, the millions whose lives are utterly blighted by racial discrimination, violence and hatred are relegated to a footnote. Part farce, part tragedy? Seeking refuge in humour doesn’t seem an entirely inappropriate way of responding when none of it seems to make any sense.

Some who stayed in their seats clapped and cheered. In whose interests? Did the anti-Israel rhetoric at the 2001 Durban anti-racism conference help alleviate the plight of the Palestinians one iota? No. The last eight years have seen a gross deterioration in their position. Did the attempt to brand Zionism a form of racism help bring closer an end to the aggressive settlement policy on the West Bank? No. It continued apace. And with the new rightwing dominated government now in power in Israel, that policy looks likely to intensify. The Palestinians, who deserve no less than a complete and immediate end to occupation and all the repressive policies and human rights abuses that go with it, lost out then and will lose out again.

Jewish groups have long been agonising over what stance to take. Bitter accusations of appeasement and betrayal have been flying around between self-styled individual champions of Jewish and Israeli honour, and Jewish defence organisations unable to make up their minds about fighting expected antisemitism from inside the tent or avoiding the taint of appearing powerless to prevent it by remaining outside. The pugnacious American lawyer Alan Dershowitz epitomises the latter position by demonstrating outside Ahmadinejad’s hotel. The UK Jewish Human Rights Coalition epitomises the former by deciding to attend, but shows the confusion at the heart of their strategy by calling on the UK delegation to withdraw because of Ahmadinejad’s attendance.

A mess, and doomed, it may well be. But the boycotts by the US, Canada, Israel, Italy and others only hand a kind of victory on a plate to those who want to hijack the conference for their own, narrow political purposes. Since when has the UN been a children’s tea party? It can’t help for powerful countries to give the impression that they cannot make the arguments that need to be made against Ahmadinejad and his ilk. And these arguments need to be addressed to a wider world audience. And in whose interests is it for Israel to be playing the victim? Israel too is perfectly capable of making its arguments. What on earth will withdrawing its ambassador from Switzerland achieve? When the dust settles, it will be easy for other states to ask: “Why should we entertain the likes of a far right racist like your foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman?”

Laurel and Hardy’s famous signature tune was The Cuckoo Song. A pompous and dramatic melody and an out-of-key harmony, with just two notes. Sounds like this benighted conference.

REf: Guardian