25 June 2009

Iran: "Ahmadinejad's useful idiots"

Salon offers a compelling interview with Hooman Majd, an Iranian-American whose father was an Iranian diplomat and whose grandfather was an ayatollah.

Last year sawe the publication of Majd's study of contemporary Iran, The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran. The book examines Iran as,
a country that is fiercely proud of its Persian heritage, mystified by its outsider status, and scornful of the idea that the United States can dictate how it should interact with the community of nations. [. . . .] a country that is deeply religious yet highly cosmopolitan, authoritarian yet with democratic and reformist traditions—an Iran that is a more nuanced nemesis to the United States than it is typically portrayed to be.
It has been well reviewed. But it looks as though Majd's audience doesn't include some important US players. In Majd's view, folks like John McCain, Mike Pence, and Lindsey Graham might find it helpful to study up a bit more on Iran prior to vocalizing support for the anti-Ahmadinejad movement. Salon's Jeanne Carstensen posed a question to Mojd about such actions:

Would you say that the neoconservatives’ extremely vocal calls to intervene on behalf of Mousavi are playing into the hands of the most conservative forces in Iran?

The neocons know nothing about Iran, nothing about the culture of Iran. They have no interest in understanding Iran, in speaking to any Iranian other than Iranian exiles who support the idea of invasions — I’ll call them Iranian Chalabis. It’s offensive, even to an Iranian American like me. These are people who would have actually preferred to have Ahmadinejad as president so they could continue to demonize him and were worried, as some wrote in Op-Eds, that Mousavi would be a distraction and would make it easier for Iranians to build a nuclear weapon and now all of a sudden they want to be on his side? Go away.

I’m not saying Obama is the most knowledgeable person on Iran, but he’s obviously getting good advice right now. He understands way more about the culture of the Middle East than any of the neocons. For them to be lecturing President Obama is a joke. I have criticized Obama; for instance, I criticized him for having a patronizing tone in his Persian New Year message. But right now I think he’s doing a good job. The John McCains of the world, they’re Ahmadinejad’s useful idiots. They’re doing a great job for him.

This is something we've heard, continually, from Iran and from Iranians. How these Americans think they're actually serving the protesters puzzles me. Surely they knew, based on the USA's history with Iran, that the moment they opened their mouths the conservative ayatollahs would use them to discredit the opposition movement, to demonize its leaders, and to punish the protesters as traitors. And no, saying "well, they would have blamed America anyway" is no excuse. What McCain, Pence, Graham, et. al. have done is provided the hardliners with support for their false claims of US involvement.

No comments: