La Herradura (Spain), 13 May (IPS) One week after the historic decision of the messianic Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad to write directly to his American counterpart, Iranian and foreign analysts continue deciphering the reasons behind the unprecedented move in the one hand and the real meanings of its content on the other.
For both Mehrdad Sheibani in the outside-based, internet newspaper “Rooz” (Day) and Ms. Golnaz Esfandiari of the Prague-based “Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty”, the religious language and ideas contained in the letter are reminder of Grand Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini’s famous letter to former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989. In it, Khomeini described communism as dead and invited Gorbachev to embrace Islam...
The letter can be likened either to the letter by Imam Khomeini to Gorbachev or, it can be likened to the letters written by Prophet Mohammad to the Roman emperors.
"The letter can be likened either to the letter by Imam Khomeini to Gorbachev or, if you have a stronger imagination, it can be likened to the letters written by Prophet Mohammad to the Roman emperors and other emperors of his time to invite them to [convert to] Islam", said Dr. Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science at Tehran University, quoted by Ms. Esfandiari.
In the latter case, adds Mr. Sheibani, this is indicative of the self image that Ahmadi Nezhad has of himself, equating himself to the prophet”.
Though, in the letter, Ahmadi Nezhad criticizes Bush on the invasion of Iraq, treatment of detainees at a U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and support for Israel. He also suggests Bush's actions are inconsistent with his declared Christian faith, however, it could present an opportunity for direct dialogue between the two belligerents, opening the door for diplomatic relations between the Islamic Republic and the United States, ties that have been broken after islamist-revolutionary students stormed the American embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 and took 55 American diplomats and staff hostage for 444 days.
In the letter, the president of the United States of America, which Mr. Khomeini had called “The Great Satan” is addressed by Ahmadi Nezhad as “Excellency”, “freedom-seeker”, “believer in God”, “some one who opposes nuclear weapons, terrorism, and, who is a defender of human rights etc”...
Ahmadi Nezhad brands Western-style democracy a failure and he urges Bush to return to religious principles. After observing that, in his words, "people around the world are flocking toward...the Almighty God", the Iranian President advocates "faith in God and the teachings of the prophets" to help people overcome problems. He then asks the U.S. president whether he wants to "join them".
According to Mr. Ali Larijani, who is in charge of Iran’s nuclear talks, “Perhaps the letter will open a new diplomatic chapter, but it needs time” and Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Abtahi, a close aide to former moderate president Mohammad Khatami told Rooz that Larijani’ss comments means that what Larijani had said was that this is the introduction to diplomatic relations.
Mr. Gary Sick, a professor of Middle East politics at New York's Columbia University, was the principal White House aide on the region during Iran's 1979 revolution and the hostage crisis that accompanied it. He told RFE/RL that he thinks Ahmadi Nezhad is following in the footsteps of Ayatollah Khomeini.
“It's also, I think, a chance for him to demonstrate domestically that he can address the U.S. president on equal terms -- [to show] that he is not intimidated. Then, I think, there is a kind of naive underlying quality about the letter, which is [suggesting] that, 'If you only understood the realities of the situation, you would change your policy", he added.
By reviewing the events of the past year, during which time all the regime’s three powers fell under the control of the ruling conservatives, one can comfortably say that the view that Mohammad Javad Larijani had, is now very close to fruition.
On the event of Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad’s presidential victory last year, the elder Larijani, an advisor to the leader Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, had said that “Iran should end talking to peripheral countries and speak directly with the main contender, i.e. the US”. Larijani believes that “One can even talk to the Satan himself”.
The cold shouldering of the White House to Iranian President's initiative is both insulting and humiliating for all Iranians.
To attain their goal, Iranian hardliners tried to display their “power” by enriching uranium to low levels, developing a few new missiles, threatening to destroy Israel, and claiming to target US interests around the world, while at the same time openly and discreetly proposing talks with the US, which finalized with president Ahmadi Nezhad’s letter to President Bush.
So far, the US, which had earlier said no to Kofi Annan’s and Angela Merkel’s calls for direct Washington-Tehran talks, again said no to Ahmadi Nezhad’s initiative. Immediately after receiving the letter, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the letter “had nothing new and did not solve the main issue”, which is Iran’s controversial nuclear programme.
But perhaps the most succinct explanation came from Iran’s UN representative Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had been recently informed of some important decisions through a senior emissary in Larijani’s Deputy Mohammad Nahavandian, telling “Sky News” that, “Political wrangling will not help any one at this time. We must start a thoughtful process. This is a step towards compromise”.
Mr. Nahavandian traveled to the States two weeks ago, apparently entering the country with an American document. At first, and while the State Department said it was unaware of Mr. Nahavandian’s arrival, the Iranians said the trip was personal, but Mr. Larijani latter admitted than Nahavandian was sent to inform Zarif about “important subjects of decision”.
However, while some Iranian commentator and political analysts like Mr. Mohammad Qouchani, the Editor of the pro-reform newspaper “Sharq” (Orient) consider the cold shouldering of the White House to the Iranian initiative as “humiliating for Iranians”, others, American and Europeans alike think that Washington should not close the doors. “There are some positive elements in this letter, as well as many negative ones. So, we said we'll pick up on the positive things and respond to those and completely ignore the negative ones”, Sick suggested.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger welcomed the letter, saying it was a sign Tehran may be willing to negotiate to end the standoff over its disputed nuclear program, the French news agency AFP reported.
"Maybe it is the beginning of an understanding that they must come to some terms with the international community", he told reporters in Lisbon after meeting with Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva.
"We have to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of Iran but must do everything possible to avoid any sort of conflict," he added in comments broadcast on news radio TSF.
The United States must talk directly to Iran about its disputed nuclear programme as Tehran will not negotiate seriously if Washington is not involved, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said, AFP reported.
"As long as the Iranians have a sense that they are negotiating with the Europeans ad referendum (needing referral for a final decision), and what they discuss with them will have to be checked with the Americans, and then come back again to them, I am not sure they will put everything on the table," Annan told reporters, on the sidelines of an EU-Latin American summit in Vienna.
But will drinking this poison in some future time be sufficient to make a breakthrough? ENDS AHMADI LETTER 13506