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Ahmedinejad's Letter to Bush - Take II

05/16/2006

The letter of Iranian President Ahmadinejad to President Bush continues to stir controversy. That is very likely precisely what Ahmadinejad had in mind. His Holocaust denial speeches, his speeches about a "world without American and Zionism" (as Juan Cole pointed out, Ahmadinejad didn't literally say "wipe Israel off the map" - so what? He did say "a world without America and without Zionism") and this letter all seem to have one purpose. They are playing to a regional Muslim audience where such proclamations are often viewed with favor. This is Ahmadinejad's bid for regional leadership, to become the new Nasser or Saddam of the Middle East. Arab commentators have noted this, and not all the comment is favorable.

As I noted previously, the letter echos the kind of missives that might have been sent in the Middle Ages, by a caliph asking for surrender of a city he is besieging. Ahmadinejad tells Bush that his sinful ways are doomed, and bids him abandon liberal democracy and turn to religion.

The significance of this traditional Muslim theme, which may sit well with Islamists, has been noted by others. Iranian Amil Imani writes:


...

No sooner did President Ahmadinejad emerge from obscurity and assumed his new role as the head of the Executive Branch of the Islamic regime in Iran than he unleashed a torrent of venomous rhetoric against the United States and Israel.

He ... threatened Muslim leaders with consequences if they appeased Israel, "Any leader in the Islamic umma (community) who recognizes Israel faces the wrath of his own people."

His hateful rhetoric aside, President Ahmadinejad has reported on events that are terribly strange, to say the least: Behaviors and statements that raise serious questions about his mental state. During his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September of 2005, for instance, he claimed to have been enveloped by a light that made the entire audience focused on him for the duration without anyone blinking.

More recently, during his visit to Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah was unable to move away, because of the strength of force emanated from Iran's president, so he contends. President Ahmadinejad's repeated claims to his special connection with the supernatural forces, specifically those of the Shiite theology, need to be scrutinized with added concern.

Most recently, President Ahmadinejad has baffled the world by his 18-page letter addressed to President George W Bush. Lay people and experts alike are at a loss in their attempt to understand and decipher the significance, if any, of the letter -- a hodgepodge of religious, philosophical, historical and victimization phraseology that seem to bear very little relation to the present difficulties confronting the Islamic Republic of Iran on one side and the United States of America and much of the free world on the other.

The enigma is not hidden in the letter. Itís in the act of writing it. The mere sending of the letter--to the most powerful man on earth (President Bush) has epochal historical precedence.

In my view, President Ahmadinejadís letter can be better understood when examined within his frame of mind and system of belief. The letter constitutes another exercise in a series of summons, invitations or ultimatums from a person who considers himself a spokesman for Islam to a wayward ruler...in this instance President Bush.

This approach dates back to Prophet Muhammad himself who first called upon the infidels to embrace his faith or face his violent wrath. President Ahmadinejad believes he is doing what the Prophet Mohammad commands him to do. He also revered point of emulation, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, also addressed a similar letter to another infidel, contemporary ruler, of his time; the former Secretary General of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. Khomeini suggested that Gorbachev embrace Islam.

The founder of Islam Muhammad has ordained; "Invite them to embrace Islam. If they refuse, then war upon them." Employing this practice, Islam subdued Persia and other parts of the world by the force of the sword. Perhaps Iranís new presidential letter to President Bush follows the same strategy where he challenges him and the people of the United States to renounce the Christian faith and attain salvation by embracing Islam. "Will you not accept this invitation?" asks President Ahmadinejad in the letter.
...

It is said nearly 1,400 years ago that Umar Ibn Al Khattab, the second of four Islamic Caliphs sent a letter to King Yazdgird III of Persia to commit Bei'at (Joining with caliph and accepting Islam.) Umar wrote, "Once upon a time your land ruled half the known world but what has it come down to now? Your troops are defeated on all fronts and your nation is bound to collapse. I offer you a way to rescue yourself. Start praying to Allah, a single union God, the only God who created everything in the universe. We bring you and the world his message. Worship, Allah the only true God."

If we replace King Yazdgird III, with President Bush, Persia with the United States, and Persians with United States citizens, and the signature of Umar with Ahmadinejad, the new president of the Islamic Republic, the outcome could look horrific.

In the New York Times, Elaine Sciolino, notes a more recent historic parallel: The letter of the Ayatollah Khomeini to Mikhail Gorbachev. She compares the two letters section by section, and shows remarkable similarities. In particular, the last sections:


KHOMEINI Mr. Gorbachev: Let me call on you to study Islam earnestly, not because Islam and the Muslims may need you but because Islam has exalted universal values which can bring comfort and salvation to all nations and remove the basic problems of mankind. A true understanding of Islam may forever release you from the problem of Afghanistan and other similar involvements. In conclusion, I declare outright that the Islamic Republic of Iran as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world can easily fill the vacuum of religious faith in your society. In any case, our country, as in the past, honors good neighborhood and bilateral relations.

This should be compared with Ahmadinejad's closing:


Liberalism and Western-style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the Liberal democratic systems.

We increasingly see that people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point -- that is the Almighty God. Undoubtedly through faith in God and the teachings of the prophets, the people will conquer their problems. My question for you is: "Do you not want to join them?"

Mr. President,

Whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating toward faith in the Almighty, and justice and the will of God will prevail over all things.

These parallels are far from perfect. Ahmadinejad was careful in the letter never to insist on conversion to Islam for Bush, but rather on "return" to the Christian faith and the ways of Jesus, as interpreted by Ahmadinejad. Nonetheless, given the fate of Gorbachev and the USSR, and the obvious parallels between the letters, it is very tempting to conclude that Ahmadinejad wanted us to think of Khomeini's letter, as well as similar letters sent by Muhamad and by Umar.

Ahmadinejad also mentioned the demise of the USSR in his "World Without America and Zionism" speech. He noted that Khomeini predicted the end of the USSR and the end of Saddam Hussein, and he drew a parallel to Israel, and an implicit parallel to the USA:


"'That day, when Imam [Khomeini] began his movement, all the powers supported [the Shah's] corrupt regime. and said it was not possible. However, our nation stood firm, and by now we have, for 27 years, been living without a government dependent on America. Imam [Khomeni] said: 'The rule of the East [U.S.S.R.] and of the West [U.S.] should be ended.' But the weak people who saw only the tiny world near them did not believe it.

"'Nobody believed that we would one day witness the collapse of the Eastern Imperialism [i.e. the U.S.S.R], and said it was an iron regime. But in our short lifetime we have witnessed how this regime collapsed in such a way that we must look for it in libraries, and we can find no literature about it.

"'Imam [Khomeini] said that Saddam [Hussein] must go, and that he would be humiliated in a way that was unprecedented. And what do you see today? A man who, 10 years ago, spoke as proudly as if he would live for eternity is today chained by the feet, and is now being tried in his own country...

"'Imam [Khomeini] said: 'This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.' This sentence is very wise. The issue of Palestine is not an issue on which we can compromise.


It is important to note that Iran does not claim a direct role in the breakup of the USSR or the ousting of Saddam Hussein. Ahmadinejad is only pointing out, from his point of view, that the Imam Khomeini foresaw the end of these regimes, and the end of the U.S. and Israel. Apparently, he is hinting that this will be accomplished because it is the will of God. It is not clear how much Ahmadinejad feels he must be the agent of God.

Is it just the expression of an individual? Hardly likely, since the Supreme Council and Ayatollah Khameinei would never have let him send this letter without their consent.

Is it a show for the masses? Is it an act of faith by a fanatic who claims a special relation with the hidden Imam?

Ami Isseroff

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Replies: 7 comments

For another take on the Iran letter:

http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=8968

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 05/17/2006 05:17 AM CST

The one thing common between all the 3 letters are that they were sent to leaders of states on decline (Persia, USSR and now USA). This is the scary part. This letter is just symbolic, and a show of divine strength to the muslims. The worrying part is that like the other 2 powers USA is also on the decline, and is taking steps that might not be very good for it in the long term.

Posted by Anubhav Singh @ 05/17/2006 09:02 AM CST

I agree with Anubhav Singh, about the steps being taken by the US, that may lead it down a declination. But I see nothing to worry about, I stick to the prophecy, "There will be no peace in isreal until the Antichrist comes." I think america will be in that last battle, I dont feel the US will fall next. But it is disturbing none the less.

Posted by Ijesua @ 05/17/2006 10:35 PM CST

The US may be in a quandry in Iraq, but it is quite a reach to claim that it is falling apart, or in "decline." It is still, just before its infantile 230th year in existance, the most powerful nation in the world. Its true problem lies in the current insistence of political correctness in all of its actions as well as the notion that it must try to please every other nation on earth (even during a time of war). If instilling a democracy in Iraq fails, although it would truly be tragic, Iraq was still conquered in record time and Saddam will still be rightfully executed by his own country - both achievements being the initial primary objectives of the US attack. If the US learns a lesson from its post-war efforts in Iraq, it will go back to fighting wars the way they used to be fought - from the beginning of history up until WWII; bring a country you are at war with to its knees by any means necessary. If Iran does build nuclear weapons and somehow manages to strike the US, do you think it will be concerned if any civilians are killed? Why should the US be, then, if war is forced upon her and victory is necessary for her survival? Attack with a ferociousness that will shock and stun every enemy who thinks they need not fear US military action because of her political correctness. Kadafi is a good example: he was on a mission against the US, he threatened her continuously, he attacked her, we bombed his home swiftly and without hesitation, and he immediatly backed off completely and is now voluntarily disarming his weapons. I say we respond in a like fashion to Iran as soon as its talk of destroying Isrial and the US becomes more than just talk.

Posted by Shane @ 05/18/2006 08:19 AM CST

The Iranian Amil Imani is making claims that are not true. He compares the prophet with the Iraninan president?????? based on what?????
Can the highest and best learned men of our time be compared to the great prophets?? No way. Can any present day christian compare himself the Jesus (PBUH) NO. Can Jew of today compare himself to Moses (PBUH) NO. and no one in our present day can compare himself to the prohet Mohammed (PBUH). Amil Imani, can you tell us how many muslim soldiers with sords invaded Indonesia?????
Just because one may be exiled or not happy with his position in this world or what goes on in his native land, does not warrant one to make false accusations against anyone.
To the doomsday lovers and wishers, I hope all your wishes remain wishes. Also Israel can easily remove it self from the equation. All it has to do is accept the arab initiative and return to the 1967 border and make peace with the arab and muslim world. This suggestion seems like a broken record, but it is the only way out of the hell in the middle east. ( Micha, I know what you say, Israel will never accept the return of refugees)

Ami, good going on the spam prevention :)

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 05/18/2006 03:00 PM CST

Mike, if you want to talk about an initiative, why not talk about the "Geneva accord which involved both Israeli and Palestinian politicians. It is much more detailed, and addresses the concerns of both sides, and has as much support in Israel.

Meanwhile, we have several problems:
1) How to get Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table?
2) What to do with all the problems that inevitably occur during the negotiations and which have undermined them in the past: terror, oppression, unfullfilled promises, a vocal opposition (on both sides), etc?
3) How to get the Israelis and Palestinian public and politician to agree on a deal when negotiating. In Camp David both parties were supposedly interested in reaching peace, and have accepted each other, but were unable to overcome the problems?
4) What to do about the risk that failure in negotiations will result in another shift back to violence, as has happened after the collapse of Oslo?

These are the issues we have to deal with to end the conflict, simply saying that Israel should accept the Arab initiative simply ignores the real problems on the ground both for Israelis and Palestinians.

As for the Iranians. There is no military solution and diplomacy is not going to prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons. All we can do is learn to live in a cold war mutual deterance kind of relationship and hope the Iranian government is not as crazy as it sometimes sounds. The letter is irrelevant game in crazy theology. It is pointless to worry about it. The focus should be on what Iran does (the same is true of the Hamas and Hizballa).

The US and the West are not in a state of decline. If there are problems fix them, and leave the discussions about decline to the historians of the future.

Posted by Micha @ 05/18/2006 11:48 PM CST

Why I keep repeating the arab initiative: It deals with not only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It deals with the arabs as a whole including Palestinians. Micha and some others focus mainly on the Israeli-Palestinian problem as if that is the only problem. Don't forget about Syria and Lebanon. There can be no peace without including these two countries. The only way to involve the two countries is through the arab initiative. If people think they can isolate the Palestinians and make side agreements with only a part of the group, no peace will be achieved. It's the whole package that is needed for real peace. Does anyone think peace can be achieved between Israel and Palestine if Syria or Lebanon still have occupied land and Israel comes and goes into Lebanon as it pleases?

Posted by Mike Jebara @ 05/19/2006 04:29 PM CST


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