Having been in transit during the start of the Iranian election protests, I've taken a little time to come up to speed on the issue. Scanning English-language (UK) papers in airports, I will say that my initial reaction to the euphoria I saw breaking out all over the West -- especially the US? -- to the obtusely labeled "green" revolution was, Why should we be so happy about Mousavi? When I learned that Mousavi was Mullah Rafsanjani's boy, that A-jad was Mullah Khameini's boy, my wonder deepened, as in: What's the diff? When I read John Bolton's piece at Politico noting that nobody runs for president in Iran without the express approval of the mullahs, my gut reaction was bolstered by some real facts. Here is Bolton's cheat sheet rundown:
First, only candidates screened and approved by the mullahs in the Guardian Council could run — in this case, exactly four presidential candidates out of nearly 500 who applied. Second, Iran’s highest official is not the president but, rather, the supreme leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Third, Iran’s election officials are not independent but rigorously controlled by the supreme leader. Fourth, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and other security forces stand ready, willing and able to preserve public safety if the “wrong” candidate appeared to win or protestd in defeat.
And fifth, whoever won wasn’t going to change Iran’s 20-year campaign to acquire deliverable nuclear weapons or its role as the central banker for international terrorism. The supreme leader and the IRGC control Iran’s foreign and national security policies, under both “reformist” presidents like Seyed Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) and incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alike.
Credulous foreign reporters missed all of this....
You can say that again.
When Bolton further noted that Mousavi had been the Ayatollah Khomeini's prime minister that was more than enough for me. Still, there was more. As Bolton put it to Fox's Greta van Susteren:
Well, he [Mousavi] was the Ayatollah Khomeini's prime minister. I mean, let's get started there. So that qualifies him. He is the person who negotiated with A.Q. Khan to set up the beginnings of the Islamic revolution's nuclear weapons program. He's fully committed to Iranian terrorism, a lot of it began under his administration. So whatever changes there might be inside Iran, make no mistake, the foreign policy would remain essentially the same.
So what is the difference between A-jad and Mousavi? Andrew Bostom, who at his blog has been working through the all-important backstory and historical context wholly lost in this media spectacular, sent me this revealing translation, via MEMRI, of a recent debate between the two "candidates" that perfectly conveys the tweedledumness-tweedledeeness that is camouflaged by the media's emotional reaction to the drama of the street.Here's one point of "conflict" regarding the 2007 Iranian seizure of 15 British sailors in Iraqi waters: Does Mousavi disagree with this hostile act? No! Here is part of what he said:
"With regard to the release of the British sailors - these sailors invaded our territorial waters, and our forces arrived on the scene and detained them, which made us proud. This action was worthy of support. According to what I've just said, we declared, at first, that they should be executed for invading our territory. Thus we created a major international crisis. But later, we decided to dress them up in suits, and our own president - who, in terms of status and responsibility, represents the entire people, not himself - went to bid them farewell, sending them off on their way, in a ceremony the likes of which are held only for heads of state.
"This was the dreadful situation in which we found ourselves with England. Was this an act that maintained the honor of our country? I think not.
In other words, had Mousavi had been in charge, the Brits would quite likely have been a) further humiliated b) still in captivity or c) perhaps executed to better maintain "the honor" of Iran. Which doesn't sound too "moderate." Meanwhile, Mousavi also explains in this same debate that when it comes to A-jad's endless acts of Holocaust denial, Mousavi's beef is not that A-jad engages in ahistorical ravings, but that it is bad PR for Iran. So much for our favorite "reformer." And if all that's not enough, the man is a founder of Hezbollah (and his wife is on film stomping on an American flag...).
Isn't it time for the media to take a breath and rethink this one?