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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:
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:
This should be compared with Ahmadinejad's closing:
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:
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?
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Replies: 7 comments
For another take on the Iran letter:
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?????
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:
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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