Brilliant article from the ever-excellent MK Bhadrakumar on Asia Times Online on Iran’s role in the Middle East uprisings, particularly Bahrain. He argues that Iran is too clever to ‘walk into the trap’ of getting its hands dirty by providing any material support to the Bahraini protestors, knowing that the US and allies will be picking over the debris to find any sign of Iranian involvement, which would doubtless be used to ramp up rhetoric, or action, against Iran. Instead, they’re pursuing a far more subtle strategy which hinges on persuading the general public (the so-called ‘Arab Street’, an Orientalist term I can’t stand because it simply does not exist) that this is not a religious, Sunni-Shi’a issue, and that Saudi is defying its mandate as Custodian of the Holy Places (Mecca and Medina) by killing Muslims in a foreign country. That Iran can condemn the attacks on protesters while brazenly attacking its own protesters is of course the height of irony; but then again, foreign policy is rarely without irony.
The Middle East is being remade now, as I type; the geopolitics of the region is changing forever, and all the major players are desperately tying make sure they’re at the top of whatever the new alignment is going to be. So far, Iran’s looking like it is well-placed to come out of this even more powerful than when it all began.
VERDICT: The Islamic Republic goes forth, with or without an appreciation of irony.
Apologies everyone for the delay in blogging. Occasionally the real world takes over – it shouldn’t.
However, we can all be heartened by the news that Iran, on the same day that it started fueling its nuclear power plant, has unveiled a new long range drone bomber. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – a man known for his colourful prose, if not for his subtlety – has called it “An Ambassador of Death”, a title which demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of an ambassador’s role. It may look like something off the set of an Austin Powers movie, but the most salient bit of information released about the Ambassador of Death is that he (it’s definitely a he) can go 620 miles with ease. No, that’s not enough to reach Israel from Iran, but it’s pretty close. And it’s more than enough to reach Israel from Lebanon.
Ahmadinejad’s been having a good few days. He also told Al-Jazeera that Israel was “too weak to face up to Iran militarily“, a comment which set off a firestorm of indignation within Israel. The thing is, the man may sounds crazy, but he’s probably right. Yes, we all know Israel has the technological capacity to do it, but I’m not sure they have the political capital. They spent most of that in Gaza. An unprovoked, premeditated attack on Iran – particularly its nuclear facilities – will create far more immediate problems than it will solve, not least amongst them war in southern Lebanon. Bibi will hold his guns for the time being.
Ahmadinejad is a fascinating politician. His off the wall, inflammatory comments often make him sound like a mad man, but he is anything but; he’s one of a new breed of politicians who have figured out that the crazier they sound, the more the world will hate them but – and this is crucial – the more they will appeal to their core audience, the people who form the basis of their power. Hugo Chavez is another; Julius Malema in South Africa; and even the Tea Party Republicans in the States. None of these people are crazy; they’re just canny politicians, doing what politicians do best – keeping themselves in power.
Iran has recently been rejected for a spot on the Human Rights Council of the UN. And rightly so. Its dismal human rights record of late means that putting it on such a council would be like putting someone who can’t read in charge of a library. Which makes it even more ridiculous then, that on Wednesday this week, Iran was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women(CSW) in exchange for giving up its bid to sit on the Human Rights Council. What?!
It’s not so much that the CSW is particularly useful. After all, it has only ever issued one resolution and it was against Israel of all places. The problem is more the symbolism of the action: yet again women’s rights have been sold down the river for the sake of a political bargain. Since when were seats on UN committees something to be bartered for? And since when did the UN start allowing countries that stand for the exact opposite of the CSW to sit on it? The current Iranian government is doing its level best to destroy thirty years of progressive development in the Women’s Rights realm. It has banned women from certain departments in universities, segregated healthcare, leading to a severe shortage in female doctors for women, shut down childcare centres (making it even more difficult for women to work outside the home) and even begun dictating exactly what women may or may not wear in their public and private lives. Not to mention the ‘Boobquake’ saga of last week, when an Iranian cleric blamed the world’s earthquakes on female immodesty!
Allowing such a terrible example onto a Commission, especially in the manner in which it was done, is a terrible reflection on the UN and will certainly not make life any easier for a Commission that already struggles more than more to have its concerns taken seriously. Fabulous.