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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

a diplomatic letter « Previous | |Next »
May 11, 2006

Iran's President Ahmadinejad, who is currently in Indonesia in response to American efforts to isolate Iran, has written an open letter to President Bush.

The opening paragraph of the letter poses a good question:

Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH) [praise be upon his name], the great Messenger of God, feel obliged to respect human rights, present liberalism as a civilization model, announce one's opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and WMDs [weapons of mass destruction], make war and terror his slogan, and finally, work towards the establishment of a unified international community - a community which Christ and the virtuous of the Earth will one day govern, but at the same time have countries attacked; the lives, reputations and possessions of people destroyed and on the slight chance of the ... of a ... criminals in a village or city, or convoy, or for example the entire village, city or convoy, set ablaze.

That gives you the flavour. It puts lots of uncomfortable questions on the table as it ranges across an array of international issues, including Third World poverty, superpower militarism, multinational exploitation, the plight of Palestinian people and, of course, Iran's right to civilian nuclear technology.

The letter opens up a different front in the war to the stance of defiance---an ethical critique of US foreign policy. The US is being judged by its own Christian values. The criticism is also pointed: United States' global policies, particularly in the Middle East, have made "people of the region increasingly angry with such policies".

Have a read of the letter if you have a moment. It is an interesting document. Some commentary.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:12 PM | | Comments (16)


Ahmadinejad needs a blog. It was a bit of a dissappointing read IMO, but it challenged a doctrinaire Bush to read the world as more complex. Yet the citizenry has been challenging Bush the same way for as long as he has been in power, and Bush has not noticed. Not sure why Ahmadinejad thinks he can make a difference since Bush has already decided - long ago - that Iran is in the axis of no tax cuts.


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is definitely an unpleasant character with ugly views about Israel.

I thought this section of the letter was on the money:

There are of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay that have not been tried, have no legal representation, their families cannot see them and are obviously kept in a strange land outside their own country..There is no international monitoring of their conditions and fate. No one knows whether they are prisoners, POWs [prisoners of war], accused or criminals.

European investigators have confirmed the existence of secret prisons in Europe too. I could not correlate the abduction of a person, and him or her being kept in secret prisons, with the provisions of any judicial system. For that matter, I fail to understand how such actions correspond to the values outlined in the beginning of this letter, ie the teachings of Jesus Christ (PBUH), human rights and liberal values.

Of course , it was to be expected that the US will reject the letter outright. But the letter is designed for a wider audience than America. It will be read quite differently in the Middle East. And the Middle East iand other Islamic nations arewhere the battles of the 'clash of civilizations' are.

An example is this report about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad receiving a rock-star reception yesterday from students at Indonesia's national university for his message of his message of defiance in the face of American threats to halt Iran's nuclear program.

Gary, It read like a blog entry that tried to trap Bush on his inconsistencies. It is nothing new - it is also water off a duck's back.

That type of writing is popular on blogs, I am not surprised it is popular amongst other parts of the world that has no favour for Bush.

It a bit rich for Iran to preaching to anyone about the mistreat of prisoners.Its record is hardly an exemplar.

If the prisoners at Guantanamo were not Muslims, he would have no sympathy for them.

Ahmaddinejad like many who share his views & beliefs is employing democratic/liberal principles to further his own undemocratic/antiliberal bandwagon.

Don't let your anti-Bush prejudges blind you.


preaching or an ethical critique? While the US continues to lecture Iran in the name of non-proliferation, the Bush Administration's credibility is undercut byits simultaneous bending of the rules that have for several decades helped slow the spread of nuclear weapons. In agreeing to help India, which refuses to sign the NPT, develop its nuclear industry - a move the Howard Government appears willing to endorse by selling uranium - Bush has issued a challenge to the future of the treaty as profound as Tehran's defiance.

Is this anti-Bush prejudice? Iran is sandwiched between two countries invaded and effectively occupied by the United States - Afghanistan and Iraq.

Moreover the US's opposition to proliferation has been selective, if not self-serving. While vehemently resisting the nuclear ambitions of Iran, Washington has been happy to see Israel get the bomb and it has done little to stem the nuclear arms race between its friends India and Pakistan, who sit astride one of the most dangerous strategic faultlines in the world today.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may well be a pariah in the West but he plays well in Indonesia. He was welcomed with open arms and the red carpet was rolled out. Indonesia looks as if stands shoulder to shoulder with Iran.

How much support Indonesia wil lend Iran in its stand off with the West is still an open question. Iran does have the right to enrich uranium and to develop a civilian nuclear industry under the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.

Martin, Don't let your anti-Bush prejudges blind you.

Which reminds me Homo Sacer arrived in my mailbox today.

India & Pakistan have nuclear weapons; it’s a fact-past tense!
You can't do anything to stop-it, short of a wholesale war with each.
And I'm sure you'd like that option!

In the case of Iran we still have hope through diplomacy or threats to halt it.

Further, the present regimes in both India & Pakistan -for all their faults-show signs that they want peaceful co-existence. Whereas Iran still talks openly of the annihilation of other countries-surely that must be a red flag even to you.

And as for Ahmadineyad being welcomed by Indonesian students- did you expect anything else?
If he went to any Muslim country he would be a cult hero –he fosters & feeds-on the myth that the Muslims are a poor downtrodden group –and all their woes are attributable to Israel or the west.

Europe had a man who had a similar line many years ago –but his downtrodden group was the Germans.

Iran does not possess nuclear weapons. So the issue cannot be a matter of global security - an Iranian nuclear threat in defiance of the international community. There is no nuclear threat.

A realist account of the conflict in terms of Iran as a regional power that blocks the hegemony of the US in the Middle East.

Iran has not got nuclear weapons (we hope !) and that is the way we'd like to keep it. But if we get weak kneed and practice appeasement, it won't stay that way long.

And the issue is very much global security -and common sense.

Some people are letting their dislike/distrust of George Bush stand in the way their good judgment.
Let me refresh your memory as to what Ahmadinejad said:
1."Israel must be wiped off the map."
2."Westerners are free to comment but their reaction is invalid
3.Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation."

Let me also remind you that the terrorists he funds and encourage, openly & deliberately target civilians. With them it’s not a case of ‘collateral damage’ but a deliberate & systematic aim to kill as many civilians as possible.

Neville Chamberlain would have been well pleased with Gareth Porters approach to the issue.

You did not engage with the linked material re a realist approach that questions your approach, and argues that your approach to the Iranian issue is misleading.

Nor do you acknowledge that Iran has a right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to conduct scientific research on uranium enrichment. Nor do you acknowledge that the Iranian nuclear programme began under the Shah with technology offered by the Americans; or that Brazil, which has a much more ambitious nuclear program, has faced no international pressure whatsoever.

That implies that Iran, for you, is an evil regime, period. Your position also presupposes the doctrine of prevention: namely, the US should use a pre-emptive strike to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon.

You are implying that Iran has nuclear weapons program contrary to the evidence and the estimate that Iran is anywhere from three to 15 years away from constructing a nuclear weapon if it so desires. You also characterise those who defend Iran's right to have civilian nuclear energy research program as appeasers, and then link the issue back to Europe in the late 1930s.

Your refusal to engage with realist account of the Iranian conflict (as opposed to your ideological one), means that I'm going to interpret you as saying that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program (despite IAEA claims that there is no evidence for one), and that the program must be terminated (at some unspecified point) before Iran builds its first nuke.

This places you in the neocon camp. This holds that the mullahs are producing nukes sooner rather than later; advocates regime change in Iran while Bush is in office; sells the attack on Iran as justifiably preemptive---as an attack to defend the American people; and considers the pre-emptive first-use of nuclear weapons.

Your arguments for such an attack on Iran are pretty thin:

1. You follow Israel's leaders in characterising Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a psychopath and a fascist dictator along the lines of Hitler. This ignores the diverse centres, or concentric circles, of power of power in Iran, and the fact that a popularly elected Ahmadinejad does not control the military. It is the clerics.

2. Words are not the same as deeds. Ahmadinejad says some crazy things, and he is a crank re the Holocaust, but that does not mean Iran poses a threat to the US. Though Ahmadinejad threatened to destroy Israel, he did not in fact menace Israel with a military attack. Wishing a regime would fall or disappear (as the US continually did with the Soviet empire) is not the same thing as militarily attacking it.

3. Your denial that Iran is entitled to act as a regional power in its own sphere of influence in the MIddle East, indicates that your "commonsense" arguments are not based on the way power actually works in international relations.

I infer from these arguments that you are arquing that US national interests are identical to Israel's national interests--given you equation that threats to Israel are the same as threats to global security. This the only way you can realistically justify your claim that America has the right to invade Iran and bomb a civilian population.

Russia and China, in opposing provisions in the draft proposal by the U.S., Britain and France that invoke Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, are the ones acting sensibly. They reject the US neocon claim that Iran's nuclear program is a threat to global security; and oppose the attempt by the US to use Chapter 7 to pave the way for sanctions - or even military action - against Iran.

The Permanent Five members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany actually failed to reach a compromise. It was to be expected in the absence of any credible evidence of Iran's misuse of its nuclear program for weapons. So the Security Council lacked the legal foundation for calling Iran's resumption of enrichment-related activities a "threat to international peace and security" as set forth in Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.


Iran can develop nuclear power but it needs to adhere to ALL of the conditions of NNT,
conditions it initially agreed to, and conditions the International Atomic Energy Commission says it is now trying to flout.

I put it to you that Ahmadinejad is potentially more dangerous than Hitler because the weapons he is seeking are more deadly than Hitler ever saw, but also because he has potentially a large support base outside his country, a support base as evidence by his reception in Indonesia, which will simply see him as “one of ours” and "see no evil' he may do.

If he called for the annihilation of Cloud Cuckoo Land I'd be equally as concerned.
(On the other hand, your argument seems to imply that if he threatens/attacks Israel and it doesn’t affect Australia’s national interests, we should be unmoved)

As for the argument put forward by Gareth Porter. That it is mere ploy/bargaining chip.
It does not sync with reality:
1) Ahmadinejad views about Israel are, according to moderate Iranians, views he has held since student days -no recent creation.
2) If you sought international/regional legitimacy It would be counter-productive to inflame/polarize opinion by talk of annihilating one enemies
In Porters argument of, all he wants is recognition as a regional power.
I hear echoes of Chamberlains ‘All Hitler wants is Sudetenland’

As for him being all words/bluff & no action, everyday his surrogates, aided & abetted by Iran, launch attacks on Israel & those in Iraq who are of the wrong persuasion.

One last question:
Would you hand a gun kit to some who had threaten to kill his neighbor?


Despite my presenting the above arguments I realize that the American officials who talk about the need to eliminate Iran's nuclear infrastructure are doing more that engaging in a propaganda campaign aimed at pressuring Iran to give up its weapons planning.

I also recognize that the US has already moved against Iran with military commandos in covert operations despite all the talk about diplomacy being the first choice etc etc.

I also realize that the Pentagon is operating unilaterally in a number of countries where there is a perception of a clear and evident terrorist threat, including the Sudan, Yemen; and these operations are without Congressional oversight.

You write that Ahmadinejad's open letter to George Bush like a blog entry that tried to trap Bush on his inconsistencies. It is nothing new - it is also water off a duck's back.

So though the US says is a liberal democracy that favours to talk about things it refuses to talk.

That letter mostly framed from the standpoint of justice was an effort by Ahmadinejad to tap into global populism, as it were, and its talk about the world order was designed for a global audience. The justice angle will resonate in South America and the Middle East where inequality is rising, and the benefits of market liberalization haven't been widely felt.

The remarks about a democratically elected Hamas being belted by the Americans will resonate in the Arab street

Gary, I meant the ducks back as Bush. I agree that it was written for an audience other than the White House and west.

Gary of chap.
Sorry to barge-in
but I just heard some news that you might like to hear.

Last time we spoke, I said I heard echoes of Hitler in the antics of Ahmadineyad.
( and of course you poo poo that )

Well, I just heard that Iran has decided that all Jews & Christians are to be made to wear special clothing or labels.
(a’ la you know who)

And another thing too-Ahmadineyad is said to have identified himself as the Madhi,
which is the Islamic version of the messiah.

Now I know one swallow does not make a summer,
BUT this is the second, nay, third swallow now,
and there is a dark cloud on the horizon moving our way -it could be a flock of the blighters!!!

You'd better run that by your advisors in ‘The Internationist’ to see what the official line is on these developments will be.

It all depends on whether the report in Canada's National Post, that the Iranian legislature has passed a law requiring members of religious communities to wear identifying badges, is true does it not?

I'll wait until the reports about the content of "the law are verified by Canadian Government officials.

This kind of response, based on an unverified newspaper report, is way over the top.