Ahmadinejad Takes a Trip
~Today, Singapore, 25/05/2006
Iran’s President has returned home from his trip to Indonesia where he worked hard at generating understanding for his position on nuclear issues and shore up support for his agenda vis-à-vis the West. At a time of leadership vacuum in the Muslim world, Ahmadinejad, the most radical, messianic, outspoken and charismatic leader Islam has generated in a long time, has made himself spokesman for oppressed Muslims, the victims of liberalism, democracy, the United States and Israel, in short, the victims of the West.
Anybody who has read the long letter he sent to President Bush has reasons to be worried. Ahmadinejad is a true believer and an active proponent of an Islamic revolution who is calling on President Bush to join him. The text of the letter, while self-serving and ignoring any Muslim faults, nevertheless has considerable relevance as a document expressing the genuine humiliation that much of the Muslim world has been feeling for many years and as such pointedly illuminates Western failings.
Ahmadinejad criticizes the US, Israel and the West with regard to the invasion of Iraq on false pretences, mistreatment of Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo, the unresolved Palestinian problem, the monopolization of technologies, interference in election outcomes in Latin America, the exploitation of Africa, meddling in Iran’s affairs in recent history and poverty in the US. For good measure, he suggests that the 9/11 attacks were a vast conspiracy and the truth is hidden from the world.
No doubt this document reflects Muslim sentiment the world over and Ahmadinejad who loves to play to an audience probably chose his words with just that in mind. He is sliding into the position of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who, because of his willingness to stand up to the US and Israel had a lot of admirers in the Arab and Muslim world. But Saddam’s messages were nationalistic and pan-Arabic and he rarely made use of Islamic themes. Ahmadinejad is running on a purely Islamic platform and is playing to a much larger audience, the Islamic world. It is no coincidence that he chose Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation, to try out his message abroad, apparently with great success judging by the vocal acclaim he received from students in Jakarta.
We are in the run-up to a clash of civilizations as it has been predicted years ago by the scholar of record on Islam, Bernard Lewis. Ahmadinejad sees himself as a tool of the Islamic revolution and will not relent until he achieves his goal. The purpose of his travels to the Muslim world is to spread his gospel and shore up support for the long run. He is not really concerned about the short term problems he has with the UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency over his nuclear program. His approach is strategic – he intends to wear the West down while playing for time. According to Israeli intelligence, he recently promised the end of history in two to three years.
The international community is neither united in concept nor in deed and a combination of commercial interests, lack of resolve and a crucial reluctance on part of most European nations, Russia and China to even consider tough measures, are likely to preclude major action against Iran until it is too late. That is why Ahmadinejad’s prospects to succeed at his game are considerable. What may put a spanner into his plans will be action by Sunni Muslim Arab nations should they feel threatened enough by this non-Arab Shiite rabble-rouser who supports Hamas in Palestine and does not hesitate bankrolling other radical movements that threaten the stability of Arab regimes. And, off-course, the Iranians themselves who may get nervous about their President seemingly willing to go all the way against Big Satan, the US. They may just feel the need to pull the plug on him before it’s too late.
Another potential spoiler, Israel’s PM Ehud Olmert, just returned from the US where he made sure that the administration understands that Israel cannot live in security as long as the Iranian nuclear issue remains unresolved. It is up to President Bush, weakened by his record in Iraq, to deal with Iran decisively preferably in cooperation with other leading nations but if necessary, also alone. Ahmadinejad better make damn sure that the world isn’t afraid of him or his nuclear program – if he cannot allay these fears, his days are numbered and he may go down like Saddam.