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Losing Ahmadinejad's Translation

By Lawrence Davidson
September 22, 2010

Editor’s Note: The propaganda drumbeat against Iran continues unabated in the U.S. press corps, but there have been some positive signs, both in terms of Iran’s refusal to be baited into an escalation of the tensions and President Barack Obama’s resistance to neoconservative pressures.

In this guest essay, professor Lawrence Davidson outlines the current state of play:

Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was at the United Nations on Tuesday to address the Millennium Development Goals Summit. What he had to say was, as usual, a mixed bag of worthwhile insights and questionable assertions.

We will get to some of them in a moment. But first something odd. As soon as the Iranian president took the podium and began speaking the audio feeds supporting the UN translators started to have "technical" problems.

It is a sign of the suspicious world we live in that few astute observers are ready to believe that explanation without further proof. On the other hand, very few media outlets even commented on the glitch. Al-Jazeera, however, did prosaically refer to the incident as "Ahmadinejad lost in translation."
According to a written transcript of his speech, and apropos of the subject of the summit, the Iranian president stated that the global decision making bodies such as the UN Security Council, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the like are unjustly monopolized by aggressive and hegemonic great powers. And, if you really want to know why poverty persists in the modern world you have to take a long and hard look at the avaricious economic policies of those same powers.

Actually, he has a point on both scores. It would be easy to produce the evidence for these assertions but much harder to get anyone of authority to listen. Thus, the hall in which he was making his address (sans translation) was nearly empty and he got very little media coverage.

Ahmadinejad might very well complain that he was "talking to the wall." This time, at least, the problem is with the wall and not the speaker.
There are other claims, all substantially true, that the Iranian president may soon be making for the one hundredth time (he speaks to the General Assembly on Thursday). He will probably tell the world body all or some of the following:
1. That Iran has no nuclear weapons program and there is no hard evidence to the contrary.

2. That his country is pursuing the development of a peaceful nuclear energy program which is legal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to which it is a signatory.

3. That on September 6, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified, yet again, that no declared nuclear material in Iran has been diverted for military use.

4. That the total amount of Iran’s enriched nuclear stockpile is for domestic energy and medical isotope programs.

5. That all of this is safeguarded by the IAEA.

6. And, finally, that any recently observed "lack of full cooperation" on Iran’s part is a product of persistent U.S. and European hectoring about the alleged insufficiency of the fairly good cooperation they have got. In other words, the West has created a self-fulfilling prophecy in this regard. If you continuously question a people’s character, don’t expect them to fully cooperate with you.
Despite a policy of insisting that if Iran wants to "come back into the international community" its government must prove a negative, there was this week a glimmer of reason coming out of Washington. President Obama publicly stated that "we don’t think that a war between Israel and Iran, or military options, would be the ideal way to solve this problem."

Given the American media distortions on the topic of a "nuclear Iran," President Obama ought to repeat this obvious, common sense fact every day of the week indefinitely. 
Getting back to Amadinejad, I think it is fair to say that the man does head a civilian controlled government that can be quite ruthless and any claims that his regime does not target peaceful protesters are false.

On the other hand, it is equally as accurate to say that he is not the crazy person the Zionists and their allies make him out to be. For instance, he repeated his assertion that he is not anti-Semitic, although he certainly is anti-Zionist.

Unfortunately, he does question the extent of the Holocaust and for various historical and political reasons that is enough to earn him the anti-Semitic label here in the West.

But, while he is factually wrong about the Holocaust, his disavowal of anti-Semitism is believable for two reasons: one is that attacking the Zionist nature of the Israeli state, which is what the Iranian president does, is not the same as attacking Jews. Zionists may claim it is but they too are factually wrong.

There are an increasing number of Jews worldwide who see Zionism as just a racist political ideology and absolutely not a stand-in for their Jewishness. The second point is the relatively prosperous and stable position of the 25,000 Iranian Jews.

If Ahmadinejad was such a flaming anti-Semite, these people would not be in as good a shape as they are.
The political hype in the U.S. over Iran is, in good part, a combined product of Zionist and neo-conservative political pressure, media irresponsibility, and periodic indiscretion on the part of the Iranian president – the latter unfortunately feeding the former.

And, we can rely on Israel and its supporters to keep calling for the destruction of Iran’s nuclear program as some sort of litmus test for world peace.

Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, told Fox News recently that "history will judge the [Obama] administration...on whether Iran has nuclear weapons or not." It is a red herring, Ehud. Go home, make a truly just peace with the Palestinians, and you will grow old safely and die in bed.
Sensibly, President Obama seems to be backing away from all this hype. He knows that it represents the same formula worldview used against Iraq in the run up to the invasion of that country. He probably got pressured to replay it by congressional supporters of Israel and Rahm Emanuel.

It is a dangerous game to play, even for the sake of a president’s domestic politics. The Iraq invasion resulted in the estimated deaths of over one million people. Who wants to do that again? Well, it appears that some Zionists and the neo-cons do!

Let us hope that the Democrats do well in this November’s elections. If they do, we may see an Obama more insistent on real peace policies when it comes to places like Iran and Israel.

Then he can call in the opposition (including his Democratic "blue dogs") and tell them that, if they want to reduce the world’s population, it would be easier and cheaper and quite a bit saner, to promote contraception rather than another bloody war.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest; America's Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

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