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Zimmerman: Oh no he Ahmadinejadn’t!

July 21, 2011

When discussing world events many people prefer to repeat often used catchphrases and talking points, rather than appreciate the full complexities of the world.  Today I wanted to discuss one such talking point that has been repeated way too many times for too many years now.  We have been speculating on an attack on Iran since 2003.  There was talk of it right after the Iraq War since Iran was next in line in George W. Bush’s infamous Axis of Evil (even though the nations in this axis were not linked together in any meaningful way).  An American attack on Iran became less likely once they became bogged down on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Iran was in the middle, right between Iraq and a hard place, but the talk of the United States attacking Iran died down over the years, save the occasional talks from John Bolton and a few other neocons.

Strategically an attack on Iran, much like the ill-fated Iraq fiasco, would be nothing short of a terrible mistake.  I examine this from a strategic angle here, letting the immense moral implications take a backseat for this exercise.  It would endanger the American troops in Iraq as the Shia population in Iraq, which as a whole has been more tolerant than the Sunni Iraqis towards the U.S. occupation, would likely become inflamed at the attack.  An attack could also potentially strengthen the Islamic Regime in Iran, as often happens when a country is under attack.  Iran is not Iraq.  They have the potential to unleash serious damage on the strategic interests of the United States in the Middle-East and most likely would if provoked.

Israel, particularly with the government of Netenyahu, has long talked of attacking Iran though.  There is ample discourse in Israeli political circles on this subject, but it is hard to discern if such an attack is really in the works:  http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2084380,00.html

It’s hard to say at this point.  An attack has the potential to be catastrophic for the region and possibly the world.  Through all this discussion I wish to highlight and clarify one thing.  This is one of those superficial talking points that gets repeated again and again despite the fact that it’s been debunked ages ago:

 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who is the most evilest man alive by the way) said that ‘Israel must be wiped off the map!’

 

I once got cut off from a call-in Christian Zionist cable talk-show for refuting this.  My mere mention of Ahmadinejad, according to the host, apparently revealed my agenda.  I didn’t have much of an agenda beyond refuting that same oft-repeated untruth.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, although he can rightly be described as autocratic, conservative, inflammatory, and repressive, never actually said “Israel must be wiped off the map”.  This has been debunked for years now, but this hasn’t stopped the lie from being repeated.

What did Ahmadinejad say then?  The speech that is referred to and constantly parroted by Western pundits took place on October 26, 2005 at a conference entitled World Without Zionism; a provocative conference no doubt (and I also wish to note here that Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust rhetoric is inflammatory and disgusting).  President Ahmadinejad’s speech was picked up and “translated” into English by the New York Times on October 30th, 2005, including the apparently threatening “wiped off the map” statement.  In Ahmadinejad’s same speech he also stated: “the day that all refugees return to their homes [and] a democratic government elected by the people comes to power”, in reference to the Palestinian exiles.  Of course this last bit hasn’t been repeated over and over again by the Western media since it doesn’t quite fit into the image of Iran being as a completely irrational and threatening boogeyman.  Of course I doubt Ahmadinehad is committed to democracy, but then…what world leader authentically is?  We’ll save that topic for another date.  Now, back to the content at hand.

While the media in the United States, Israel, Canada, and Europe were shrieking hysterically at the threat (not unlike how they did about Saddam Hussein back in 2002), Farsi speakers, both in and outside Iran contradicted the Western “consensus” on what the Iranian President said.  Arash Norouzi, an Iranian exile and no friend to Ahmadinejad, described the rumour as potentially having “catastrophic implications”.  Narouzi repeated the sentence of contention into Farsi using the English alphabet: “Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shaved.”  To a non-Farsi speaker this passage means nothing, but one word is of utmost importance: “rezhim-e” which in English means regime.  It is the regime, not the land that Ahmadinejad was referring to.  Nothing was stated about it being wiped off the map, as the Farsi word for map “nagsheh” is completely absent from the passage.  Earlier in the speech Ahmadinejad spoke of the fading of other opposing regimes, including the Soviet Union and Saddam’s Baath regime in Iraq.  He spoke of the regime in Jerusalem, like the ones in Moscow and Baghdad, fading from the page of time.  Iran had nothing to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union (thank Afghanistan for that) or the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government, so it does not logically follow that this speech was a threat to cause the regime in Jerusalem to collapse.

"Whoa, did I actually say that?"

A direct translation is: “The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”.  It can be seen that Ahmadinejad was referring to something someone else said altogether.  This is not friendly talk by any means.  It can easily be argued to be inflammatory, but not a threat nonetheless.  Having seen the proper translation, is it worthy of getting hysterical about it?  This is really old news now, which leads us to ask why this debunked translation still being paraded around as truth.

The government in Iran is not a nice government.  There are plenty of hideous things we can say and a quick look through some human rights organizations can give us further insight into their violations.  The fact that the government is repressive does not make them a threat.  Saudi Arabia, it can be argued, has an even worse human rights record, but no governments or organizations are calling for military attack on Saudi Arabia as some pro-Israel organizations are doing so with Iran.  As bad as the government in Iran may be, it is naive and misguided (and downright patronizing) at best to think that a direct military attack is going to improve the situation for oppressed people in Iran, whether we are speaking of women, homosexuals, religious and/or ethnic minorities.  Vulnerable groups, it is found, often suffer more during crises.  It is important to distinguish those groups that truly advocate human rights through solidarity, and those who shed crocodile tears for ulterior motives.  An attack on Iran would likely be detrimental to the people of Iran, but may have the effect of strengthening the government (see Cuba, Iraq, etc.).

Again, before Jason Kenney and Peter Shurman get wind of this article and start spinning its author (me) as a radical agent of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, let me state that I am no fan of President Ahmadinejad, but am simply sick of seeing war-mongers repeat this lie.  Let’s just stop repeating what’s already been proven to be utter bullshit and engage in worthwhile discussions instead.  In the months ahead there may be a large-scale discussion on the possibility of an Iranian war.  Let’s sift through the nonsense and stop repeating the same misinformation.

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