piers and ahmadinejad

I am not a huge Piers Morgan fan <CNN> but when I saw he was going to interview Iran president Ahmadinejad I had to tune in. Heck. My site is called enlightened conflict. How could I ignore the opportunity to hear from a source of conflict and possibly gain some perspective?

Reminder 1: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the sixth and current President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the main political leader of the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran, a coalition of conservative political groups in the country.

Reminder 2: Some things Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said in the past:

–          “Iranians defend and present their Islamic and Iranian identity to other people worldwide.”

–          “The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world.”

–          “For this reason, the expansion of relations with all countries is on the agenda of the Islamic Republic of Iran. I mean balanced relationships, based on mutual respect and observation of each other’s rights.”

–          “Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury.”

–          “Israel has reached the end of its function and will soon disappear off the geographical domain.”

–          “We’ve never been anti-Semitic.”

Reminder 3: Let me note a president is a president. I know that may sound obvious, if not silly, but it is a reminder that no matter what perception you may have from sound bites and news flashes a leader of a country is charismatic, articulate, crafty-savvy and smart. He was all of these.

Reminder 4: He fully recognized CNN represented a global communications platform. Some of his answers were not answers and almost all of his words were measured but within the entire interview you certainly gained some perspective.

That said.

Some things he said:

Ahmadinejad: We condemn ‘extremism’

Ahmadinejad: Homosexuality ‘ugly’

Ahmadinejad: Iran has right to defend itself

Ahmadinejad: ‘Very close’ with Iran Jews

Here are some of my thoughts.

–          Americans should watch this interview. Your point of view may not change but taking a moment to look at how our actions can be seen thru another’s eyes is always worth a moment or two.

I will paraphrase this thought but as he noted the American 9/11 event as a tragedy where 3000 died he immediately qualified it by asking if it justified the reaction in which Muslims dying in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeded 900,000 and almost 1.7 million injured <combatants & civilians>.

Not saying I agree it is just perspective/point of view. Just pointing out if we wonder on occasion why the Middle East may have a chip on their shoulder.

–          He reminded me of something Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his new book: “america needs to remember that its foreign policy is inextricably linked to domestic actions.”

Ahmadinejad said something like “the Arab spring was a reflection of the fact the middle east is in need of reform … in my eyes the entire world should be seeking to reform.” Ah. Reading between the lines …”doesn’t America need to reform?” … leading to “how dare America tell me what I can or cannot do when they can’t even keep their own house in order.” Beyond that … the implied was “would you quit talking to me about what I need to do to reform because I am not the only one who needs to.”

–          Governing within a religious construct suggests freedom with some pretty tight rules.

Some of the things he talked about (homosexuality in particular) sounded eerily like what a Christian fundamentalist would say. His answer with regard to his thoughts on homosexuality could have come straight out of the mouth of a Christian fundamentalist. I never begrudge anyone their religious beliefs and whether I agree or not with how they allow it to guide their lives I believe it is their choice. Oh.  That is called ‘freedom of choice.’ Extreme religious leadership imposes limitations on freedom of choice. My point? Individuals certainly can be guided in such a way n their own lives but an entire country creates issues <assuming 100% of the people will not agree all the time>.

–          With regard to that stupid amateur film disparaging the prophet he nailed the issue: “freedom of speech is not the same as abuse of speech.”

His words:

“Fundamentally, first of all, any action that is provocative, offends the religious thoughts and feelings of any people, we condemn, likewise, we condemn any type of extremism. Of course, what took place was ugly. Offending the Holy Prophet is quite ugly. This has very little or nothing to do with freedom and freedom of speech. This is the weakness of and the abuse of freedom, and in many places it is a crime. It shouldn’t take place, and I do hope the day will come in which politicians will not seek to offend those whom others hold holy.”

Personally I couldn’t agree with him any more on that one particular issue <not having much to do with freedom of speech>. I have written this before … freedom of speech is a responsibility. And it is also not freedom to be provocatively stupid, moronic & offensive to others’ beliefs.

Beyond that. He did not condone the violence. He walked a fine line on this topic – but I noted as I listened that I had to think hard about this. He governs within a religious construct – Iran is basically a religious state. We in America, and many nations for that matter, have elected to not govern that way. His response <in words and thoughts> is going to be different than most of ours. We see the film as a moronic example of freedom of speech. He sees the film as a religious affront. He doesn’t try to justify the reaction he simply gets aggravated we don’t understand the depths of the affront.

–          Whew. The Israel-Palestine discussion.

As a Muslim, and a Muslim leader, his perspective of self-determination skews his view to “don’t Palestinians have a right to determine their future.”

His words:

“If a group comes and occupies the United States of America, destroys homes while women and children are in those homes, incarcerate the youth of America, impose five different wars on many neighbors, and always threaten others, what would you do? What would you say? Would you help it? … Or would you help the people of the United States?”

Ahmadinejad asked in response to whether Israel should be “wiped off” the face of the map, as he once said.

“So when we say ‘to be wiped,’ we say for occupation to be wiped off from this world. For war-seeking to (be) wiped off and eradicated, the killing of women and children to be eradicated. And we propose the way. We propose the path. The path is to recognize the right of the Palestinians to self-governance.”

He is relentless with imposing ‘self-determination.’

Oh. He surprised me when asked how he would feel if his daughter fell in love with a Jew when he said “I would have to see who that Jewish man or woman would be. I see love amongst people as completely acceptable. There are many Jews living in Iran with whom we are very close. There are … some Muslims that marry into Jewish families or marry Christians.”

“I — we have no such problems,” he added.

Well. I cannot even come close to fathoming how he thinks on this. It is so far out of my dna I can’t grasp it.

Now. I honestly don’t believe it is quite as simple as that in Iran but given how measured he was on other touchy topics it was enlightening to hear him go on record with that <and I share my perspective on this in my conclusion>.

–          When asked whether he believes in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ahmadinejad declined to comment.

“I cannot express an opinion. That is their prerogative but the people of Palestine must be allowed by everyone, and helped by everyone, to allow them, to give them the right to choose for themselves.”

–          The Holocaust.

I won’t even touch the holocaust discussion. He will not admit there was ever a Holocaust or directly answer a question about whether $6million jewish people lost their lives in WW2. Suffice it to say he didn’t answer the question (did he believe the holocaust occurred) and there was certainly a point where it looked like if he had a holy scimitar handy he would have sliced Piers head off right then and there.

Bottom line on the interview?

1. Perspective.

I believe any time we can see our own actions thru others eyes it cannot hurt. Did I agree with at all? Absolutely not. Did it make me think a little? Absolutely yes.

Foreign policy is complex. It is not just “make a strong stance” <or drawing some colored line in the sand like kids getting ready to challenge each other>. He also reminded me of another thing Brzezinski said on TV the other day … “if we <America> act unwisely the region could erupt.” Because whether I agree with Ahmadinejad or not he said something like “some of US actions have prompted extremism.” The point? Taking actions in anyone’s backyard generates some response particularly if it is perceived as a religious affront. Do I believe if the West did nothing that there would be no activity? Surely not. Do I believe countries around the world believe USA is ‘soft’ or isn’t as dangerous as it ‘used to be’? Absolutely not. America has the strongest, most far reaching, capable military in the world. The struggle is actually America itself … the bulk of America talks tough about foreign policy but doesn’t really have the stomach <nor should they> for doing some of the things that would need to be done to step in.

Beyond that … Ahmadinejad clearly points toward the best path is one in which the Middle East resolves their own issues if it can be done that way. We Americans tend to like to think that everything is about us … but here is a truth about the Middle East situation – it is really a war between moderate Muslim and radical Muslim. At its heart & soul it is a religious war. The best person to manage Iran is a relative sharing the religion … not a distant neighbor who does not.

2. Frankly, Ahmadinejad concerned me for a number of reasons.

(a) He is smart, crafty smart.

He portrays himself as an enlightened, reasonable person who thinks everyone should just be left alone to do whatever they want in their own country. He complains about a world where Israel can threaten Iran over suspected nuclear ambitions and in the next breath refuses to recognize Israel as a state and has said that he wants the current Israeli political regime to cease to exist. Iran also funds and supports militants & terrorists on Israel’s border who have thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli population centers. The concept that Iran just wants to live in peace and security with its neighbors is a fiction … well … as long as Israel is one of its neighbors that is.

(b) He is intolerant within a religious construct.

This has nothing to do with Sharia law but everything to do with whether you believe the Koran <or Bible for that matter> is a metaphorical guide for actions or an actual guide for actions. Just as he wields ‘self-determination’ like a bludgeon <see c.> he wields the Koran as his unswerving constitutional guide … not just for moral direction but also for leadership action.

Think of it as almost exactly opposite of say Turkey.

This creates internal country issues but let’s imagine any country can elect to govern as they wish. However, it also creates massive external repercussions globally in dealing with other governmental constructs. And, more importantly, within the Middle East in which while he may chafe with his more moderate brethren he happens to have a neighbor, on the same street mind you, that has a country founded upon a completely different religious construct. With such a rigid, values based <which makes it a ‘divine’ construct> construct I cannot envision the tolerance and flexibility needed for realistic compromise that takes place in any diplomacy.

(c) He invokes “self-determination” nonstop (which invariably stokes resentment anytime anyone from the west decides to be involved in the region’s business).

This circles back to the crafty smart comment. Self-determination is an American foreign policy lynchpin established by Woodrow Wilson post WW1. It is stated beliefs that the established population has a right to self determine their future as a state/country.

Well, in a wildly imagination-driven world even I addressed this <in my ‘remapping the middle east’ post: http://brucemctague.com/a-new-map-of-the-middle-east) but there is always a relationship to the ‘bigger picture’ regardless of whether it simply be regional <Middle East> or globally <the globe>. Most self-determination type discussions involve domestic <what is right for me at home> and internationally <what impact will this have economically and exchange of trade/ideas/etc.>. he is only showing us one side of the coin.

He is also crafty with regard to self-determination and Israel.

This next thought may get me in trouble but here goes … Ahmadinejad may not be anti-Jewish but rather simply anti-Israel <he continues to refuse to acknowledge Israel as a legitimate state>. But, heck, he may not even give a flip about Israel … if it was say maybe located near Paraguay or Luxembourg.

The crux of this thought/concern? I do believe he would guide his country to take any steps possible to eliminate Israel from the Middle East but I believe his whole self-determination argument suggests that he believes the REGION would self-determine that Israel just didn’t belong there. It is a frightening argument. And one that takes you down an inevitable path where Israel is not going to simply move near Paraguay/Luxembourg therefore the leader of Iran is suggesting if they don’t move we will move them. Ultimately that is why this man, and this situation, is dangerous.

I am glad I watched.

It reminded me of something I wrote last week … it is becoming more and more difficult to discern the good guys from the bad guys. When reasonable is so intertwined with unreasonable it becomes easy to think ‘that makes sense’ and … well … just move on. What I have found is that the unreasonable are excellent at wielding the ‘reasonable’ thoughts like a surgeon … cutting into doubt just enough that you hesitate from saying what you know in your heart of hearts is the right thing.

Watch it.

It never hurts to listen.

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Written by Bruce