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August 7, 2009

Preconceptions hobble understanding of Iran

Greg Felton

As much as I hate to admit it, neither Israel nor its colony on the Potomac is responsible for the unrest in Iran.

It would be easy to charge Zionist agents provocateurs with inciting popular unrest to challenge the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election, since:

• Ahmadinejad is staunchly and overtly anti-Zionist;

• Israel is itching to launch a premeditated attack on Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear power;

• Saudi Arabia agreed to allow Israel to overfly its territory for such an attack;

• Egypt permitted an Israeli nuclear submarine to pass through the Suez Canal for military exercises; and

• The U.S. has been conducting covert operations in Iran for years.

These factors, though, speak only to Iran’s external relations; the election is an internal matter, and there’s no logical cause-and-effect between the two.

Those who argue for a connection are forced to impute one, which forces events to serve a pre-established frame of reference.

We can clearly see two examples of this irrationality in the sophistries employed to defend the official narrative of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack.

Appearance is not Reality

On Sept. 11, the world saw two hijacked aircraft hit the World Trade Centre, and then watched the buildings fall, albeit after 90 minutes. (Hmm!) According to the official story, fanatical U.S.-hating Muslim hijackers were responsible. The proof is in statements made by Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden did admit to anti-U.S. bombings in Riyadh (1995) and Dhahran (1996) and he did issue a declaration of war on the U.S. (1996), but there was, and is, no demonstrable connection between this external frame of reference and the attack itself.

The fact that this scenario violates the laws of physics and ignores irrefutable proof of controlled demolition still does not seem to bother people. It is enough that events be forced to fit the preconceived illusion.

Now, compare the preceding with this statement on Iran from Professor James Petras:

“What Western commentators and their Iranian protégés have ignored is the powerful impact which the devastating U.S. wars and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan had on Iranian public opinion: Ahmadinejad’s strong position on defense matters contrasted with the pro-Western and weak defense posture of many of the campaign propagandists of the opposition.

“The great majority of voters for the incumbent probably felt that national security interests, the integrity of the country and the social welfare system, with all of its faults and excesses, could be better defended and improved with Ahmadinejad than with upper-class technocrats supported by Western-oriented privileged youth who prize individual life styles over community values and solidarity.”

Petras is trying to argue that the election was not “stolen” and protests by supporters of defeated candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi amount to sour grapes, yet at no time does Petras show any connection between Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy and public opinion, or that this policy enjoyed wide popular support.

Despite his hard-line stand against Israel, many Iranians consider Ahmadinejad to be a needlessly provocative buffoon. Far from enhancing Iran’s image, his anti-Israel bombast has likely done more damage because he made himself a convenient target.

“Ahmadinejad is our greatest gift,” former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy told the U.S.-sponsored Arab satellite television station al-Hurra. “We couldn’t carry out a better operation at the Mossad than to put a guy like Ahmadinejad in power in Iran.”

Petras’s assertion “majority of voters…probably felt” shows that he is merely guessing, and his depiction of protesters as “pro-Western” and “campaign propagandists” is simply ad hominem. His comments about “upper-class technocrats” is unsubstantiated.

The idea that Iranians could have justifiable reason to protest the election of a radically anti-Zionist president does not fit within his frame of reference. If Petras, who is otherwise highly knowledgeable about Palestine and Israel, had looked at the election from the public’s point of view he would have realized that it was a rejection of the sort of conservatism that has frustrated political reform since the end of the Khomeini era—a conservatism embodied by Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni.

In contrast, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and former high-ranking State Department official, does think the election was stolen, and his reasons are qualitatively different from Petras’s:

 “I find the arguments of those who suggest otherwise baffling. The speed with which the Iranians proclaimed victory, literally days before they could have counted the ballots, and the heavy handed way they’ve acted, suggests to me that the clerical establishment working with the Revolutionary Guards did not want this to go to a second round if nobody had an absolute majority or did not want Mousavi to win on the off chance that he himself had a majority.

“There’s no other explanation for why they would have reacted in such a heavy handed manner. If they had the ballots on their side, they could have wrapped themselves in the cloak of democracy… and have the world see that Ahmadinejad was as popular as this alleged vote count suggests. Clearly he wasn’t. So again, I don’t believe we know the full extent of the fraud, but it had to have been sufficiently large to justify the price the Iranian government is willing to pay.”

Indeed, why did the Iranian leadership turn on its own people? Peaceful protest is guaranteed by the Iranian constitution, yet the police have vandalized private property, and arrested and beaten protesters. These actions speak to cowardice, not leadership; tyranny, not Islamic democracy.

How is this different from the Bush administration’s reaction to the WTC attack? Just as the Iranians declared victory precipitously, “experts” went on television just minutes after the WTC was hit to “explain” what happened before anyone knew anything. If the buildings collapsed as the government said they did, it also had nothing to fear from an honest enquiry, yet those who challenged the official version were persecuted or marginalized.

Since we know the official narrative of the WTC attack is a fraud, and since there are so many similarities to the Iranian government’s reaction to the protests, it is logical to conclude that Ahmadinejad’s election might well also be a fraud.

Cognitive denial

Nothing exposes the irrationality of Western thinking like the “it couldn’t have happened” argument. It goes like this: Proposition “A” couldn’t be true because Proposition “B” is absurd, and “A” necessarily implies “B.”

However, if “A” is true then “B” must also necessarily be true, which means that attacking the credibility of B to disprove A is logically incompetent.

A particularly egregious example of this comes from Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. D.C. (Dependent Colony). As a trained economist who writes on economic matters for an economic organization, Weisbrot somehow deemed himself competent to write on Iranian politics.

After giving a detailed explanation of Iran’s voting procedures, he tells us:

“The vote totals are then sent to a local center that also has representatives of the Guardian Council, Interior, and the candidates. They add up the figures from a number of ballot boxes, and then send them to Interior. In this election, the numbers were also sent directly to Interior from the individual polling places, in the presence of the 14-18 witnesses at the ballot box.…

“If this information is near accurate, it would appear that large scale fraud is extremely difficult, if not impossible, without creating an extensive trail of evidence. Indeed, if this election was stolen, there must be tens of thousands of witnesses—or perhaps hundreds of thousand—to the theft. Yet there are no media accounts of interviews with such witnesses.”

This is the exact argument used by people to explain why the WTC collapse could not have been an act of self-sabotage:

• “A complicated operation like that would have been noticed”;

• “A secret like that can’t be kept out of the media”;

• “Someone would have been caught.”

Of course this isn’t really an argument; it’s just “what if?” speculation masquerading as insight. In the case of the WTC:

• people did see it happening;

• the secret did get into the media;

• people were caught, but nothing was done.

In the case of Iran, The Guardian Council is controlled by the conservative leadership. The press, especially Tehran’s inflammatory Kayhan Daily newspaper, support Ahmadinejad and Khameini. When combined with overt armed repression of dissent, Weisbrot’s dismissive opinion can itself be dismissed as worthless.

So long as Westerners persist in viewing Middle East affairs through the wrong end of its ethnocentric binoculars, ignorance and intolerance will persist. The only winner will be Isramerica.

Greg Felton is a freelance writer based in Vancouver. This column originally appeared in the Canadian Arab News on July 9.

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On July 7, 2024 in Toronto, Canada, Dimitri Lascaris delivered a speech on the right to resist oppression.

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