Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ahmadinejad - let's not make a mistake about him

Newspaper headlines:
Iranian Leader Fails To Ease Tensions

Iran's leader courts Latin American leftists

New York: Iran's leader can't visit ground zero

NYC officials want Iran leader disinvited
Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Tuesday that Iran’s disputed nuclear program is closed as a political issue and said Tehran will ignore a U.N. Security Council demand imposed by “arrogant powers” that it halt uranium enrichment.
Hey, people, he's the leader of Iran! He's news!.... Speech is a valuable tool against tyrants. We need to take full advantage of it, especially when tyrants can use it to discredit themselves.

I hold no brief for Ahmadinejad, but he is the ruler of a strategically important nation and it might be useful to hear what he has to say. It might be useful to tell him a little bit about what we think. It might even be useful to try to reach an accommodation with him, in the same way that we are trying to reach an accommodation with Kim Jong Il.
University presidents:
a petty and cruel dictator
and otherwise intelligent, informed bloggers:
I have to wonder exactly where a man who runs a police state gets off asking a question like this.

As much as I hate laws outlawing Holocaust denial, it is bizarre in the extreme to see the leader of a theocratic police state chastise European nations on this issue.

Iranian Despot to Speak at Columbia University
Some people get it. Anne Penketh, Martin Woolacott (in fact, most Brits), Nicholas Kirstoff, and even usually kinda shallow - though dead on funny - Maureen Dowd (though she does apparently think he's an Arab):
There are several problems with America's demonisation of Mr Ahmadinejad. Firstly, it confers on him a prominence in the Iranian power structure that he does not have in reality. It is not the Iranian president who wields the most power in Tehran: the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calls the shots and decides nuclear policy. Secondly, scare-mongering has proved counter-productive by enabling him to portray nuclear power as a priority and a matter of national pride.

Ahmadinejad's equivalent disaster is internal. His inept domestic policies have led to discontent and even the occasional riot. In trying to regain popularity and keep the support of the real power in Iranian politics, the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, how useful to be able to shake his fist at the US, or to disarm US critics with a display of wit and quick thinking.

The U.S. vice president and Iranian president, each the No. 2 in his country, certainly seem to be working together to create conflict between the two nations.

And on top of all that, we help build up the self-serving doofus Iranian president, a frontman with a Ph.D. in traffic management, into the sort of larger-than-life demon that the real powers in Iran — the mullahs — can love.
Are we getting the point? Ahmadinejad does not run Iran. He's very much a second banana. Here's a quick rundown on how the Iranian government actually works (thanks to Wikipedia for saving me the typing):
The political system of the Islamic Republic is based on the 1979 Constitution called the "Qanun-e Asasi" ("Fundamental Law"). The system comprises several intricately connected governing bodies. The Supreme Leader of Iran is responsible for delineation and supervision of "the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran". The Supreme Leader is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, controls the military intelligence and security operations; and has sole power to declare war. The heads of the judiciary, state radio and television networks, the commanders of the police and military forces and six of the twelve members of the Council of Guardians are appointed by the Supreme Leader. The Assembly of Experts elects and dismisses the Supreme Leader on the basis of qualifications and popular esteem. The Assembly of Experts is responsible for supervising the Supreme Leader in the performance of legal duties.

After the Supreme Leader, the Constitution defines the President of Iran as the highest state authority. The President is elected by universal suffrage for a term of four years. Presidential candidates must be approved by the Council of Guardians prior to running in order to ensure their allegiance to the ideals of the Islamic revolution. The President is responsible for the implementation of the Constitution and for the exercise of executive powers, except for matters directly related to the Supreme Leader, who has the final say in all matters. The President appoints and supervises the Council of Ministers, coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the legislature. Eight Vice-Presidents serve under the President, as well as a cabinet of twenty-one ministers, who must all be approved by the legislature. Unlike many other states, the executive branch in Iran does not control the armed forces. Although the President appoints the Ministers of Intelligence and Defense, it is customary for the President to obtain explicit approval from the Supreme Leader for these two ministers before presenting them to the legislature for a vote of confidence.
So, can we all agree that Ahmadinejad is a first class jerk at best and a horrible, bigoted, aggressive man, but acknowledge that he does not "lead" Iran in any substantive sense of the word? Which means he's not a ruler, he's not a tyrant, and he's not a despot. He's a figurehead, he's window dressing, he's a Potemkin village of a president. Okay?

I know the fact he's called "president" makes it tempting to think he's the boss of Iran. But he's a lot like the president of Israel, or Germany that way: he's not the boss of much. Somebody else is.

In Israel, a Prime Minister. In Germany, a Chancellor. And in the case of Iran, the rather pointedly named "Supreme Leader".

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At 9:11 PM, September 27, 2007 Blogger fev had this to say...

And, as his (fairly liberal) predecessor found out, fixed terms and the tendency of the unelected powers to move the goalposts have a way of hamstringing the presidency anyway. But the bottom-feeders have to have an Iranian "dictator," so they overlook the Supreme Jurisprudent, which qualifies, and fixate on the loud guy.

I was surprised that Bollinger fell for the dictator thing. You expect it from Hannity and O'Reilly and Cal Thomas, but not from the freakin' academy.

At 9:28 PM, September 27, 2007 Blogger The Ridger, FCD had this to say...

His predecessor - that would be the one who sent us a letter via the Swiss back in 2003, putting everything on the table for talks? The one whose face we metaphorically spit in, thus pretty much ensuring that someone like Ahmadinejad would be elected? That guy? Yeah...


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