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Thursday, May 04, 2006

What Iran's President Really Says

In mid-March, Michigan History Professor Juan Cole had an excellent piece "Fishing for a Pretext to Squeeze Iran" on the Truthdig website.

In the article, Cole reveals some of the words uttered by Iranian President Ahmadinejad that have not been widely quoted in the US:
Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei has given a fatwa or formal religious ruling against nuclear weapons, and President Ahmadinejad at his inauguration denounced such arms and committed Iran to remaining a nonnuclear weapons state.

In fact, the Iranian regime has gone further, calling for the Middle East to be a nuclear-weapons-free zone. On Feb. 26, Ahmadinejad said: “We too demand that the Middle East be free of nuclear weapons; not only the Middle East, but the whole world should be free of nuclear weapons.”
In the piece, Cole also points out many of the same facts about Iran's alleged nuclear program that I have mentioned.

None of Iran's actions in pursuit of nuclear energy are illegal (only the secrecy), its research facilities are not especially sophisticated, and the best guess of the US intelligence community is that an Iranian bomb is a decade away -- under worst-case assumptions.

Professor Cole also recasts some of Ahmadinejad's words that have been often quoted in the US:
President Ahmadinejad, it should be freely admitted, has, through his lack of diplomatic skills and his maladroitness, given his enemies important propaganda tools. Unlike his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier. He went to an anti-Zionist conference and quoted Ayatollah Khomeini, saying that the “Occupation regime” must “vanish.” This statement about Israel does not necessarily imply violence. After all, Ariel Sharon made the occupation regime in the Gaza Strip vanish. The quote was translated in the international press, however, as a wish that “Israel be wiped off the map,” and this inaccurate translation has now become a tag line for all newspaper articles written about Iran in Western newspapers.

In another speech, Ahmadinejad argued that Germans rather than Palestinians should have suffered a loss of territory for the establishment of a Jewish state, if the Germans perpetrated the Holocaust. This argument is an old one in the Middle East, but it was immediately alleged that Ahmadinejad was advocating the shipping of Israelis to Europe. That was not what he said.
This coincides with what I wrote yesterday about the way the administration is manipulating its rhetoric to make Iran sound like a bigger threat than it is. Nuclear Iran has noticed too, and the media is again behaving like a lapdog rather than a watchdog.

These issues seem much more important to me than the flame war pitting blogger Cole against journalist Christopher Hitchens.

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