Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Not cool, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, not cool at all

In 2003, when Fidel Castro threw a bunch of poets and dissidents in jail and (following a quickie show trial) executed three men who had hijacked a ferry, Cuba expert Anne Louise Bardach made a convincing case that Castro's actions were specifically designed to prevent the U.S. embargo from being lifted. After all, the sanctions benefit Castro's regime most of all, allowing him to keep tight control on the island's economy.

Reading Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent showy display of anti-semitism and rejection of Israel's right to exist, I was reminded of Castro's little dictatorial two-step, and curious about whether something of the same dynamic could be at work. I've seen analysis of how the statements work as domestic politics: Ahmadinejad is doing a little base-consolidation of his own and eliminating the possibility of a more open stance toward the West. But, "pure product of the [Islamic] revolution" or no, he is also aware of how his remarks will be received abroad.

And, oh look!, it so happens that on 12/21 Iran is scheduled to resume talks with the European Union about their nuclear aspirations. It is only a short leap to the conclusion that Ahmadinejad is intentionally undercutting these talks, creating a distraction and underlining points of irreconcilable difference. Why? One frightening possibility is that it's because Iran's nuclear program is going like gangbusters, and Ahmadinejad wants to make sure that the EU negotiations go nowhere so that Iran can keep doing whatever it is they're doing on the road to getting nukes. Like Castro, this regime benefits from greater isolation from the international community, not less.

Here is the part where some form of constructive solution would be nice. Unfortunately I can't think of one. No nation should ignore or minimize comments like "Israel should be wiped off the map" or "The Holocaust is a myth," and the international community sure doesn't want someone who says shit like that to have nuclear weapons on hand. But with the U.S. bogged down in Iraq, threats of military force are not credible, either.

Another article comes to mind, this one by Thomas PM Barnett for Esquire, which argued that the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran would not be so bad if we could get the Iranian government to recognize Israel's right to exist. Barnett had a point, but increasingly it looks like we could end up with the worst of all worlds: a nuclear-armed Iran that also wants to wipe Israel off the map.

UPDATE -- Appetite for foreign policy talk not sated? More Iran stuff here here and here.


Kell said...

Not cool, indeed. It certainly doesn't leave you with a good feeling about his "leadership" down the road. The last bit of reasoning that seems left for Ahmadinejad seems to be to remind him that Israel is made of Jewish AND Muslim AND Christian faiths (not that I think Christianity is going to help this case). Muslims, nevertheless have a visible presense in Israel, which is not to excuse his anti-semitic comments...just seems strange that he'd target his own people as well for the sake of trying to (re)claim the land.

g33kgrrl said...

This is really interesting; I wouldn't have made the connection myself. Thanks for posting it.

Rob said...

Kell: This guy seems like he might not listen to reason.

g33kgrrl: "Really interesting"! Wow, thanks...