For sometime now I have been thinking
May 9, 2006 3:58 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday, the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wrote a letter to the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush. Here it is. (Courtesy Le Monde, 8 page PDF, English.) The letter has been "dismissed by its recipients as a rambling philosophical treatise." (Times) Further coverage at NYT and Le Monde (French). The letter ends 27 years of diplomatic silence.
posted by blacklite (95 comments total)
 
Oh yeah, I forgot to add NewsFilter. Thought it was bizarre and momentous enough of a letter to deserve a link, though. I don't think it's a double...
posted by blacklite at 4:00 PM on May 9, 2006


PBUH?
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:03 PM on May 9, 2006


peace be upon him
posted by elpapacito at 4:04 PM on May 9, 2006


Regardless of anything else, I find these kind of primary source documents endlessly fascinating. It reminds you how unommon it is to actually read stuff like this.
posted by cell divide at 4:06 PM on May 9, 2006


Yeah, I had to look up PBUH...thinking to myself, pointy-boss-un-haired? Why does the prez of iran read dilbert?
posted by nomisxid at 4:09 PM on May 9, 2006


The letter has been "dismissed by its recipients as a rambling philosophical treatise"

Quote:
There are prisoners in Guantanamo Bay that have not been tried, have no legal representation, their families cannot see them and are obviously kept in a strange land outside their own country. There is no international monitoring of their conditions and fate. No one knows whether they are prisoners, POWs, accused or criminals.
Oh yeah, that's real TimeCube stuff.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:09 PM on May 9, 2006


this would be a lot more convincing from a government that didn't oppress its own people and was sneakily trying to get some of those nasty wmds

he has a point, of course ... but he desperately needs to examine his own actions, too
posted by pyramid termite at 4:09 PM on May 9, 2006


I'd like it is George wrote back. After all, that would be the only polite thing to do.

Seriously, what I loathe about relations between countries is that they become fifth graders when there are signs of trouble. Giving a person the silent treatment and telling others behind their back isn't diplomacy. Talk. Even if all you can agree on is the sun rises in the east.
posted by birdherder at 4:13 PM on May 9, 2006


Yes, but the deeply religious have real problem with that, or at least the deeply religious political types.
posted by cell divide at 4:15 PM on May 9, 2006


I was totally with Mahmoud until he gets to the part about everybody uniting in a global theocracy.
Other than that, A+
posted by Flashman at 4:33 PM on May 9, 2006


Juan Cole


read it
posted by Substrata at 4:33 PM on May 9, 2006


Praise be unto him.

Or: peep be ultra-holy.
posted by fleacircus at 4:43 PM on May 9, 2006


I would almost rather see more angry shouting from Ahmadinejad. It suits his actions. This letter is deception... right?

Did anyone else catch the reference to the Israel-backed-9/11 conspiracy theory?
posted by anotherbrick at 4:48 PM on May 9, 2006


I dunno, Flashman. Mahmoud (PBUH) is one of the very few I respect less than W. I also don't think that atomic weapons are a nations right. I include the U.S. in this too.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:54 PM on May 9, 2006


Because I can't get enough of this joke....

Metafilter: dismissed by its recipients as a rambling philosophical treatise.
posted by Richard Daly at 4:56 PM on May 9, 2006


This is a very thoughtful and intelligent letter -- quite a surprise really. His points about Bush's actions being contrary to his Christianity are bang-on; his arguments about Israel surprisingly reasonable and short; his discussion of the Iraq war pointed and accurate but still very polite.

I am impressed.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:58 PM on May 9, 2006


...I tell them to study the history of WWI and II. One of my students told me that during WWII, which more than tens of millions of people perished in, news about the war, was quickly
disseminated by the warring parties. Each touted their victories and the most recent battlefront defeat of the other party. After the war, they claimed that six million Jews had been killed. Six
million people that were surely related to at least two million families.

Again let us assume that these events are true....


How nice of him.
posted by delmoi at 5:01 PM on May 9, 2006


My department occasionally receives self-published books from people who think philosophers, of all people, should want to know the TRUTH. As such, I can say with a certainty that no rambling philosophical treatise is compete without mention of:

1. Unified Field Theory which combines electromagnetism with sexual ergons as theorized by Wilhelm Reich!
2. Antimatter and antigravity
3. Monadic collider for analysis of sub-monadic particles!
4. Qualia as Gravitons
5. Exceptions to the incest taboo.
6. Harmonic meditation techniques for world peace
7. Blurbs from Robert Pirsig and the guy who wrote the Tao of Pooh.
8. The secret treatise contained within Bertrand Russell's Why I am not a Christian. Guess what? He actually is.
9. Master race theory is optional, but you can bet you aren't a member.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:13 PM on May 9, 2006


George won't respond. He's still trying to remember where he left his pencil.
posted by Jimbob at 5:26 PM on May 9, 2006


The letter is very spiritual in some places. It even seems he is inviting Bush to become a muslim.

I wonder if Bush would invite him to become a Christian.

Maybe both can attend worship services together. They might understand each other more.
posted by bugmuncher at 5:27 PM on May 9, 2006


He should have know that everything past the first paragraph was a waste of time. I'm sure there was something shiny in the room that distracted GW well before page two.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:28 PM on May 9, 2006


I despise the Prez of Iran and am pretty sure this letter was disingenuous, but it was a pretty good letter regardless (ignoring some bits about Israel and 9-11).
posted by Falconetti at 5:34 PM on May 9, 2006


Strange letter. I am unsure what it's overall effect will be.

In general, the wheels of the war cart has sort of stopped rolling recently at least the US's perspective. The most telling sign that the US is backing off is Israel's recent counter threat to wipe Iran off the map. US, while it was pushing for war or an attack, asked Israel to back off so that it didn't seem as if Israel was pushing the US to war. The fact that Israel is back to from and center in this confrontation is a sign the US is backing down.

To me, it is nothing that there are huge contradictions in the standards one applies to other countries -- power and connections tends to rule in both personal, corporate, governmental and international affairs. To believe otherwise, probably because you've seen to many idealistic Hollywood movies, is foolish and dangerous.
posted by bhouston at 5:41 PM on May 9, 2006


lupus_yonderboy: This is a very thoughtful and intelligent letter...his arguments about Israel surprisingly reasonable and short...

"Why is it that any technological and scientific achievement reached in the Middle East regions is translated into and portrayed as a threat to the Zionist regime?"

"The show old documents and globes and say try as we have, we have not been able to find a country named Israel....After the war, they claimed that six million Jews had been killed. Six million people that were surely related to at least two million families. Again let us assume that these events are true. Does that logically translate into the establishment of the state of Israel in the Middle East or support for such a state? How can this phenomenon be rationalised or explained?"

...err, super-reasonable and intelligent. The right way to respond to a worldwide concern about Iran's potential violation of the NPT is a letter to George Bush that doesn't mention these issues, and instead is about religion, conspiracies around 9/11, and denying the Holocaust.

What are you guys praising this smoking? Can you imagine the equivalent letter from the US side being reasonable? I am baffled.
posted by blahblahblah at 5:42 PM on May 9, 2006


Interesting letter indeed, good points.

What is NOT here is also striking to me : no reference to petroil. WMD-menace ? Check ! Saddam-tyran ? Check. Oil....never..nobody ever talks about oil as a cause of this war, except ordinary people with a clue.

blahblahblah writes ""What are you guys praising this smoking? Can you imagine the equivalent letter from the US side being reasonable? I am baffled."

Oh yes I can imagine an equivalent rethoric..actually, I guess I was drown in U.S. (and coalition of the willing) rethoric , differently worded, but to the same effect. Except that I wouldn't expect that coming from U.S. govt or from an official body...it has been outsourced to pundits and partisan hacks, which are much more expendable ; at worst you can just blame the pundits and say you never supported their bombastically echo-chambered, but freedom of expression protected opinion.
posted by elpapacito at 5:51 PM on May 9, 2006


To clarify, I remain confused why anyone would think the message of the letter as praiseworthy, but I should mention that this letter IS worth paying attention to for two reasons. One, it shows a potential willingness to enter dialogue, which is a good thing, and the second because it shows the mindset of Iran, which is potentially a scary thing. From the NY Times:

"State Department officials who read the letter suggested that it offered an interesting window into the mentality and thinking of Iran, especially because it seemed to reflect a inclination to dwell on myriad grievances of the past rather than on the problem at hand, namely Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program."

"Vali R. Nasr, adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Mr. Ahmadinejad's motives appear to be to deliver an opening salvo to the United States and make the point that Washington has no viable option but to talk to Iran. But in doing so, he needed to strike the necessary tone, by lecturing Mr. Bush so as not to be seen as being conciliatory in approaching him, Mr. Nasr said.

"One of his intentions is to play to the bleachers," said Mr. Nasr."
posted by blahblahblah at 6:06 PM on May 9, 2006


I got an entirely different read. I interpreted it as saying "here are some of the opinions we share and do not share" "let us start a dialogue"

it may be disingenuous, but it fakes sincerity nicely.

If he had been all sweetness and light about Israel we could have just assumed it was fake. The fact that he assumed for the sake of argument that the Shoah wasn't made up is a big step for some fundamentalists.
posted by Megafly at 6:25 PM on May 9, 2006


Surprisingly coherent, brilliant like only an underdog can be. He sounds like Chavez at times, lashing out at the Bush administration and trying to sound like the good guy. It's no surprise that sort of rhetoric is eaten up here.

What this says is that Iran is ready for diplomacy, because America isn't. We're embroiled in enough conflict, our leaders are running in a panic for votes, and they can't do anything decisive without risking the future of the party. After the comments on Israel, I was wondering if Iran was being run by madmen who would destroy themselves. Sadly, I see this is not the case. We're facing solid diplomacy, and our last high ground is defense of Israel, not a particularly popular prospect due to rampant anti-Jewish sentiments around the world.

This letter is diplomatic brilliance, and eating it up is only going to play into their hands. Sadly, the apocalyptic dreams of fundamentalists could come into play here, and that's my greatest fear with this tension. At this point, I simply have to have faith in stabilizing forces and our natural inclination to not nuke each other to hell.

I can't really blame Rice for dismissing the letter. I can only hope she's up to the task of this diplomacy, regardless of the electoral implications. The Democrats aren't cure-alls, and letting this situation get worse for two years will be disastrous to say the least.

Still, I have to say, his comments on Israel closed off the possibility of diplomatic negotiation really going anywhere. Perhaps he knew this, and perhaps that was the goal. I can only wonder just how tense this will get.
posted by Saydur at 6:29 PM on May 9, 2006


and our last high ground is defense of Israel...

Why? Seriously?
posted by c13 at 6:37 PM on May 9, 2006


pyramid termite: "this would be a lot more convincing from a government that didn't oppress its own people and was sneakily trying to get some of those nasty wmds"

I don't think we Americans can walk around with our heads held high any more when talk turns to oppression and mistreatment of prisoners. This is similar to the USA blowing off Chinese allegations of our mistreatment of prison inmates, victims of rendition, and detainees. Even though China and Iran have terrible human rights records, that doesn't necessarily make our violations any less egregious, and instead of shooting the messenger (so to speak) we should take the message at face value. Perhaps diplomats from Iran and China appreciate the irony. I know I do.
posted by Sukiari at 6:38 PM on May 9, 2006


I'd love anyone wwho believes the letter has "good points", and that Bush and this guy are moral equivilents ... to go to Iran for a month (no, a week, no, even two days), and critisize this fellow as you are accustomed to critisizing Bush.

Do report back after you've been released from prision. If you're still alive.
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:41 PM on May 9, 2006


I'd love anyone wwho believes ...

So until then we have no problems?
posted by c13 at 6:44 PM on May 9, 2006


Why?

Why is it a high ground, or why is it our last high ground?

We're already pushing the limits of good will in the international community regarding our open aggression, mistreatment of prisoners, disregard for the people in general, and our acceptance of India as a nuclear nation really complicates things. We accept India, but not our professed ally Pakistan. Sensible as it may be in some circles, it shows a distinct anti-Islam bias, regardless of official national position. Ahmadinejad could easily leap all over that. We aren't as bad as Iran, but for that to be a selling point is ridiculous. Diplomacy means garnering international support, and Iran's oil gets enough of that from dubious sources with interests competing with America. It doesn't matter how good or bad we are, it's how good or bad we appear, and we don't appear good enough to others right now.

Why is defense of Israel high ground? Let's see, open threats to wipe the nation off the earth is a start. It'd be religious genocide. Regardless of the situation forming Israel (Pretty common displacement and border redrawing after WW1/2 situation, I'd say), wiping a nation off the face of the earth is a threat nobody can take lightly.
posted by Saydur at 6:55 PM on May 9, 2006


Why is it a high ground, or why is it our last high ground?
Saydur, it's more of the latter. What "artificial" nations do we destroy in order to protect other "artificial" nations?

Also, if THIS is our last high ground, that's pretty pitiful.
posted by c13 at 7:06 PM on May 9, 2006


who believes the letter has "good points", and that Bush and this guy are moral equivilents

a does not imply b.
posted by flaterik at 7:06 PM on May 9, 2006


"is only going to play into their hands"

You're assuming an "our" there, buddy.
posted by wilful at 7:10 PM on May 9, 2006


and that Bush and this guy are moral equivilents

Did enyone say that? I dont think thay did, did thay? Helo? Helo? I dont meen to critisize but is their a remeedial langwidge teecher in the howse? Or neer equivilent?

Learn English or learn to refrain from exposing your disgraceful ignorance in public, you ill-educated, knuckle-dragging shitehound.
posted by Decani at 7:14 PM on May 9, 2006


a does not imply b.

Ah, but quite often it does. I have heard growing numbers of voices (in the US) cheering whenever a foreign leader trashes Bush, taking their intellectual points seriously, and willing to consider them reasoned and valid arguments.

Life, however, is not lived in the mind. The fiercest Bush critics (that are quite often cheered by some factions in America) are ... Iran. Chavez in Venezuala. China. At the end of the day, however, America is still one of the freest nation on earth (your speech is less limited than it would be even in the "enlightened" nations of western Europe).

Its easy to see parts of the Iran letter as reasonable, intelligent arguments, unless one actually LIVES there. or in China. Or in Venezuala ... and you happen to have even the most minor disagreement. You would be in JAIL for what you posted on Metafilter.

This seems to be worth mentioning ... though I doubt it will be acknowledged as vaild here ...
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:17 PM on May 9, 2006


I've read the letter.

Saydur, I think that you have the grave misfortune of being spot on.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 7:18 PM on May 9, 2006


Now that this has had some time to percolate...

I think, if I were the president of Iran and wanted to write a letter to Bush, knowing all I did know about the man, it would sound very close to this. Like him or hate him, Bush does present himself as a man of Christ, and Mr Ahmadinejad is being very open about that, surprisingly so to me, being as he's the leader of a Muslim theocracy.

Of course, Iran is a lot less scary than it seems from America -- I've had a number of Iranian friends here in Canada, they've been absolutely great, and I hear good things about life in their home country. (I also have been told by my same good friends that they would be going back to defend their home if America invades, which I can't argue with, even though it concerns me.)

I have no idea how sincere this letter actually is. World politics indicate that it's not incredibly sincere, but I would be surprised if it didn't have kernels of true sentiment in it. It at least feels heartfelt in places. The religious nature of so much of it doesn't sit well with me, but I can't deny Mr Ahmadinejad's final point: "Whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith [...]". We already know that Bush prefers faith over reason, so Ahmadinejad's not reasoning with him, he's... faithing with him?

Can't hurt. I just wonder if it actually got to him, really.
posted by blacklite at 7:40 PM on May 9, 2006


Ahmadinejad: GYOFB.
posted by SirOmega at 7:46 PM on May 9, 2006


Of course, Iran is a lot less scary than it seems from America -- I've had a number of Iranian friends here in Canada, they've been absolutely great, and I hear good things about life in their home country. (I also have been told by my same good friends that they would be going back to defend their home if America invades, which I can't argue with, even though it concerns me.)

And what do your friends tell you about their "good" nation's explicitly stated desire to wipe Israel out of existance? Will they also be considering going home to help in case their nations decides to enage in genocide? And would you argue with that?
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:57 PM on May 9, 2006


It is incongruous to read a group on these pages referring to the US and its President as "our" while hysterically trashing both.
posted by semmi at 8:13 PM on May 9, 2006


Any chance a Filter member can hook us up with a translation of the letter's last line?

Vasalam Ala Man Ataba'al hoda
posted by EatTheWeak at 8:19 PM on May 9, 2006


Vasalam Ala Man Ataba'al hoda

It means "ho11a at ya boi!" is Farsi.
posted by Falconetti at 8:28 PM on May 9, 2006


Sy Hersh said in a recent interview that the Bush Administration policy is to not even talk to "enemies." He said that even some representatives of Iraqi insurgents approached some of our military officials in Iraq early on in the war, and were repeatedly rebuffed. Likewise, we have rebuffed Iran before, and obviously, Bush will continue to do so. In my mind, this behavior is the antithesis of a well-intentioned, competent head of state.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 8:33 PM on May 9, 2006


It is incongruous to read a group on these pages referring to the US and its President as "our" while hysterically trashing both.

This is not only incongruous - it is disproves the point of the posters. There are currently three nations that make a big deal - in their own public press - about the threat of an "invasion" by the US: Iran, Venezuala, and North Korea. Oddly enough, three of the most repressive regimes on earth when it comes to freedom of expression (if you hapen to be unlucky enough to disagree with the current leadership).

Ahmadinejad or Chavez can make public statements (often with someone like Cindy Sheehan standing on a podium with them), and it is used (by Americans) as ammunition to trash Bush.

Hey Matt! Tell me, how many times has the government requested records from you? Have they asked for the IP addresses of those posting here so they could track them down? In Iran, Venezuala, and North Korea they sure as hell would have if these folks posted anything even half as vitrolic as they freely post here. (oops, soory, not North Korea - you go through extensive and severe indoctrination before you even get access to the internet in that country).

The daily, weekly, monthly, yearly Bush-trashing here simply continues to the the US is, in reality, far different than the posters allege.

Really, its kind of funny.
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:38 PM on May 9, 2006


anotherpanacea, that was hilarious.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:39 PM on May 9, 2006


And what do your friends tell you about their "good" nation's explicitly stated desire to wipe Israel out of existance? Will they also be considering going home to help in case their nations decides to enage in genocide?

Aaah Midas, you confuse states with citizens once again. I've never met an anti-semitic Iranian - and I've met quite a few. The attitude of a government (an attitude taken primarily to flick rubber bands at the US and elicit cheers from certain internal factions) does not equal the philosophy of a citizenry of 70 million.

(As an aside - make you your mind here. The president was popularly elected - shit even the CIA says that. 62% of the people voted for him. Maybe 62% of the people want to see Israel wiped off the map. This kind of conflicts with your whole "dictatorship"line, though. A friend of mine actually ran for president of Iran - no-one came and locked him up, and he still sends me emails with pictures of kittens in them from his office in Tehran.)

Persia is, like Israel, an ancient, historic and proud culture. No wonder it's citizens abroad would want to defend it. So when Israel comes along, like it did a few days ago, and threatens to wipe it off the map, you can conveniently ignore that?

When Iran threatens Israel, we're supposed to get all pissed off, but when Israel threatens Iran, we're supposed to shurg and say "they deserve it"? Which is the state that has that capability here?
posted by Jimbob at 8:40 PM on May 9, 2006


The daily, weekly, monthly, yearly Bush-trashing here simply continues to the the US is, in reality, far different than the posters allege.

Give them some time, MidasMulligan, the situation here in the US has already changed a LOT in the last ten years. Nowadays, torture is okay, wiretaps don't need warrants, libraries have to turn over their lending histories, and government positions are being filled and government contracts being awarded based on the applicant's attitude to the Bush administration. Think how much further it could go in the next ten years...
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 8:47 PM on May 9, 2006


And what do your friends tell you about their "good" nation's explicitly stated desire to wipe Israel out of existance? Will they also be considering going home to help in case their nations decides to enage in genocide? And would you argue with that?

Have you stopped beating your wife yet?

I mean, really, this just isn't a useful question. Jimbob said it very eloquently (and much more patiently than I, obviously) -- states aren't people. When I'm in the US, I don't personally attack my American friends for what the US Administration does every day. It would be ridiculous, and it would imply that they have no personal conscience or decision-making ability and that one man speaks for them all. It just doesn't work like that.

As for Israel, I try to be as neutral as I can manage, and not drag it into (e.g.) MeFi threads, because it just descends into a shitfest. Although sometimes I wonder if I am doing the whole conflict a disservice - maybe we should be yelling about it - but I don't know what to do about it, so I stay quiet.
posted by blacklite at 8:54 PM on May 9, 2006


This letter makes me a little nervous because it might be the writing of a sweating guy who is trying to make nice with someone who he knows for a fact is preparing to nuke his country.

It is a diplomatic olive branch of sorts. In the world's eyes, if Bush sloughs this off out of hand he will be seen as the one not willing to talk.

It is massively surprising that this was written, and diplomacy has to start somewhere. I consider it a positive thing that should not be ignored.
posted by Nicholas West at 8:54 PM on May 9, 2006


And what do your friends tell you about their "good" nation's explicitly stated desire to wipe Israel out of existance?

I'm not convinced that he ever said that. It would suit your purposes if he did but the Juan Cole link in Substrata's comment argues otherwise.
posted by Jenga at 8:55 PM on May 9, 2006


If this is truly the writing of the Iranian President, I can't imagine that he actually said that; that it came from his brain.
posted by Nicholas West at 9:00 PM on May 9, 2006


Now that I'm actually looking at the Juan Cole link, it occurs to me that it would be lovely if someone from the World Of Blogs could check the English translation for us all. I am sure the Persian is more eloquent (and spelled more correctly) than what we got.
posted by blacklite at 9:11 PM on May 9, 2006


Thanks Substrata, that Juan Cole link was very informative. Especially this:

The misquotation of Ahmadinejad, who actually quoted Khomeini as saying, "This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time," now seems all by itself to be producing visions of nuclear war!

Ahmadinejad, however, has condemned mass killing of any sort and was not threatening military action (he is in any case not in command of the Iranian military). He compares his hope for an end to any Zionist regime in geographical Palestine to Khomeini's prediction that the Soviet Union would one day vanish. It wasn't a hope to kill Soviet citizens, but a desire for regime change.

posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 9:11 PM on May 9, 2006


And what do your friends tell you about their "good" nation's explicitly stated desire to wipe Israel out of existance? Will they also be considering going home to help in case their nations decides to enage in genocide? And would you argue with that?

Exactly the sorts of questions I find myself having to answer when I find myself defending American people while still condemning the words and actions of their government. Ironic, huh?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:15 PM on May 9, 2006


I found his style rather bland. Although I suppose that could be the fault of a translator.
posted by Grod at 9:20 PM on May 9, 2006


Persia is, like Israel, an ancient, historic and proud culture. No wonder it's citizens abroad would want to defend it. So when Israel comes along, like it did a few days ago, and threatens to wipe it off the map, you can conveniently ignore that?

Certainly did not ignore it. Read it - in detail. Did you? It said that Iran could ALSO be wiped off the map ... a direct response to the statements by Iran's President (who, in fact, is making a great deal of other middle-easten Islamic countries nervous).

Israel has NEVER said Iran shouldn't exist, or called for its extermination - in fact largely seems to want to simply be left alone.

Aaah Midas, you confuse states with citizens once again.

No confusion here. If these citizens are going to go home to fight on behalf of their government against the (alleged) coming US invasion, then they've bought their government's line in at least one case. Not unreasonable to assume they'd buy it in others.

Additionally, I too, know a good number of Iranians (both in New York and in the middle east). And you are correct - few of them are actively anti-semitic. I'd also say that many of them that I know do NOT think Iran is in good shape right now, disagree at profound levels with some of the statements that the government is making (and the hyper-conservative direction it is heading) ... and also would know better than to say so publicly in Tehran right now.

As an aside - make you your mind here. The president was popularly elected - shit even the CIA says that. 62% of the people voted for him.

Bullshit bullshit BULLSHIT. This is such a gross misstatement of the truth that it has to be answered. Yes - 62% voted for him in 2004. What is missing from this is that the "Guardian Council of the Constitution" - made up of Islamic Clerics and lawyers (non-elected, but with veto power over the parliment) has to approve all candidates. In the 2004 elections, they banned literally thousands of candidates, including almost of the reformist members of the parliament (that were making real inroads) and all of the Islamic Iran Participation Front party.

So big suprise - the current government is "popularly elected", and the government can claim legitimacy. (Curiously, even after removing virtually anything resembling an opposition, Ahmadinejad still got only 62% of the vote).

The whole scheme was rigged such that the only ones on the ballot were pre-approved ... didn't matter if a person won or lost - either candidate would enforce the same ideaology. If your friend got on the ballot - he certainly has nothing to fear.

But running bogus elections (regardless of whether you legitimitize them to the world by having more than one candidate) does not change the reality. I'd invite your friend to start an orgaization, and start speaking loudly in public - and blogging - about his disagreements with the current regime.

Perhaps, however, he should read this first:

http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/civilsociety/articles/eav111604.shtml

(If, that is, the filtering software Iran now uses would let him have access to it).
posted by MidasMulligan at 9:21 PM on May 9, 2006


Sorry, spoke to soon. It grew on me towards the end.
posted by Grod at 9:22 PM on May 9, 2006


What I found most interesting was the way Ahmadinejad, in keeping with Islamic tradition, referred repeatedly to Christ as a prophet. Surely Ahmadinejad is aware that for Christians like Bush, Christ is not a prophet but rather God Himself. The letter therefore seems to work at cross purposes, so to speak: It cites Christ for moral authority in a seemingly diplomatic and religiously accommodating way while at the same time pointedly demoting Him in the eyes of its recipient.

Either Ahmadinejad doesn't understand that citing a non-divine Christ to someone like Bush is pointless or, and this is probably stating the obvious, the intended audience for the letter is the Islamic world not America. Maybe Ahmadinejad knows something we don't about a possible strike on Iran and is attempting to rally the Islamic world against us. Wild speculation, but what else could he hope to accomplish with this letter?
posted by Toecutter at 9:32 PM on May 9, 2006


Either Ahmadinejad doesn't understand that citing a non-divine Christ to someone like Bush is pointless or, and this is probably stating the obvious, the intended audience for the letter is the Islamic world not America. Maybe Ahmadinejad knows something we don't about a possible strike on Iran and is attempting to rally the Islamic world against us. Wild speculation, but what else could he hope to accomplish with this letter?

In diplomatic circles there's no mystery here. The UN is in the midst of serious discussions - Iran is not just pissing off the US, but is making a great numer of nations quite nervous (in Eurpe and even the Islamic world). He has seemed quite strident. China and Russia bothneed Ian's oil, so they'll veto anything serious, but they also know they'll take a real dipomatic hit in global public opinionfor doing so ... which will be worse the more Iran seems like an extremist nation with no intent o comproise on anything.

The letter was some sort of attept to appear to be "reaching out" as UN voting approaches. It was pure diplomatic BS, was hyped (by Iran - before it was published) as a new move to "resolve" the growing world crisis, but contained nothing new, and was simply meant to distract attention. And every diplmat on earth knows this.

Digesting the content of it is really meaningless ... it has already served its purpose.
posted by MidasMulligan at 9:47 PM on May 9, 2006


I'd love anyone wwho believes the letter has "good points", and that Bush and this guy are moral equivilents ... to go to Iran for a month (no, a week, no, even two days), and critisize this fellow as you are accustomed to critisizing Bush.

Can you site any spesific instances of anyone being imprisioned for critisizing Ahmadinejad?
posted by delmoi at 9:49 PM on May 9, 2006


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must be a super forgiving guy. Only a twenty years ago, he was fighting in a war against Iraq where his country lost over 100,000 people to Iraq's use of WMD's, and here he is in 2006 essentially ridiculing the WMD's as a 'pretext' for the US war in Iraq.

Easy for us to say here in the US, but for him to say it, well, that's practically Jesus-like! (PBUH).
posted by extrabox at 9:54 PM on May 9, 2006


Обидно мне, досадно мне, ну ладно...
posted by c13 at 9:55 PM on May 9, 2006


Regardless of how reasonable or not reasonable this brief is, it will be ignored and Iran demonized because certain members of the administration and it's close collegues do not want a dialog of any sort with Iran.

They want the current power structure completely gone, and in their manichean worldview that means no negotiation, only war or capitulation.
posted by moonbiter at 9:57 PM on May 9, 2006


Regardless of how reasonable or not reasonable this brief is, it will be ignored and Iran demonized because certain members of the administration and it's close collegues do not want a dialog of any sort with Iran.

You actually believe the letter was Iran's genuine attempt to open a dialogue with the US? Sweet Jesus, even Iranian diplomats know better than that.
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:03 PM on May 9, 2006


Can you site any spesific instances of anyone being imprisioned for critisizing Ahmadinejad?

There are many ... conveniently, I'll quote for the link I posted above:

"The November 1 arrest of women’s rights activist and journalist Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh drew a strong protest from Human Rights First (HRF), formerly known as the Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights. Abbasgholizadeh, editor of the women’s rights journal Farzaneh, has long been a leader in the campaign to achieve equal rights for women in such spheres as child custody, inheritance, domestic violence, and divorce. Until a few years ago, Iran’s clerical establishment did not interfere with the establishment of non-governmental organizations in these spheres, which were deemed non-political.

The mood, however, has changed dramatically in just the past year, as a neo-conservative movement in Iran has gained momentum. Since sweeping to power in the February parliamentary elections, neo-conservatives have pushed a radical agenda that strives to roll back reforms.

"By targeting leaders like Dr. Abbasgholizadeh," said Neil Hicks, HRF’s director of international programs, "authorities are erasing divisions between secular and religious Iranian reform activists and demonstrating that they will not permit any dissent."
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:06 PM on May 9, 2006


You actually believe the letter was Iran's genuine attempt to open a dialogue with the US? Sweet Jesus, even Iranian diplomats know better than that.

I assume you have spoken with said diplomats then (and what, pray tell, would you consider a genuine attempt?)

Nevertheless, regardless of whether or not this was a sincere attempt at opening dialog, it will be ignored.
posted by moonbiter at 10:14 PM on May 9, 2006


The point is this: The administration wants the current Iranian power structure gone. The only way the government of Iran could comply with the administration's desire is to throw itself out of power. Of all people, you should know that this is not going to happen -- after all, these are bad actors, and bad actors are anything but selfless patriots willing to sacrifice their own power for the greater good.

So, we have one entity that doesn't want to fall on it's own sword, and another entity that will only be satisfied if that condition is met. I don't think it takes a savant to see where this is going.
posted by moonbiter at 10:25 PM on May 9, 2006


Life, however, is not lived in the mind. The fiercest Bush critics (that are quite often cheered by some factions in America) are ... Iran. Chavez in Venezuala. China. At the end of the day, however, America is still one of the freest nation on earth (your speech is less limited than it would be even in the "enlightened" nations of western Europe).

Is speech the only freedom? And again, I reiterate: what evidence is there that you would actually be imprisoned for criticizing the elected leader of the secular government of Iran? I haven't heard of any political oppression with regard to the secular government, the previous president of Iran received lots of negative feedback without anyone going to jail.

The fact is, I do believe that Bush and this guy are moral equivalents. If you disagree, please bring up specific actions you believe show his immorality, and I shall then bring up specific actions I believe show bushes immorality.

A presumption of guilt is downright un-American, Midas. So I don't know why you would defend a president who's imprisoned thousands of people without trial.


Its easy to see parts of the Iran letter as reasonable, intelligent arguments, unless one actually LIVES there. or in China. Or in Venezuala ... and you happen to have even the most minor disagreement. You would be in JAIL for what you posted on Metafilter.


If America is Freer then china, why does America, a country with a quarter billion people, have more people in prison, in total, then China, a country with 1.2 billion people?

What metric are you using to determine national freeness? Why is freedom of speech more important then the freedom of not being in jail?

MidasMulligan, the arguments you've presented in this thread are weak, stupid, and pathetic, they display no intellect philosophical ability (from my perspective) rather, they are the rhetoric of the mindless tribalist, certain in his nations virtue sans fact or knowledge. America is Axiomatically right, and therefore Ahmadinejad is Axiomatically wrong and morally weaker then bush.

George W Bush has sent 2,500 Americans to their death. So far Ahmadinejad hasn't killed a single Iranian. That makes Ahmadinejad Bush's moral superior, by any measure that matters.
posted by delmoi at 10:31 PM on May 9, 2006


From Amnesty International

Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh was arrested on 1 November 2004. Her personal effects reportedly were seized and the authorities sealed her office. Tehran’s Chief Prosecutor reportedly authorized the arrest but appears to have failed to give any reason for it. A month later she was released on bail, with no trial date set.

So she was released. That's much better off then the thousands held at Guantanimo held without any charge.

So if we are going to go by man-hours held without charge, that makes bush thousands and thousands of times worse then Ahmadinejad. But do be more specific about your metrics for moral depravity.
posted by delmoi at 10:35 PM on May 9, 2006


Publically advocating that another country be eliminated might not beat Guantanamo yet in terms of moral depravity, but it's a darn good start. Given time and nuclear weapons this guy could go far.
posted by extrabox at 10:53 PM on May 9, 2006


At the end of the day, however, America is still one of the freest nation on earth (your speech is less limited than it would be even in the "enlightened" nations of western Europe).

I would honestly like to know how we in Europe are less free?
posted by canned polar bear at 11:16 PM on May 9, 2006


Delmoi, since you mentioned Amnesty International...may want to read their assessment of the human rights record under Ahmadinejad. The report's titled, New Government Fails to Address Dire Human Rights Situation" and it has a whole lot of 'metrics' (starting with the fact that they disagree with you on whether or not Ahmadinejad's killed any Iranians).
posted by extrabox at 11:41 PM on May 9, 2006


As usual on these threads, a single right-wing troll has managed to divert the course of an entire conversation. Why do we bother engaging? As soon Midas dropped a mention of Cindy Sheehan into a comment, it was clear that he or she had nothing to contribute beyond the standard stink bombs.

Thanks to Delmoi for kicking Midas right in the facthole.
posted by palinode at 11:50 PM on May 9, 2006


So Bush is facing a belligerent saber-rattling conservative nut-job who makes inflammatory remarks using aggressive rhetoric, believes God chose him to lead his nation, eschews international diplomacy, runs clandestine programs, and breaks long-standing treaties unilaterally as he sees fit?

What a pair of leaky knobs. They should get a room and leave the rest of us alone. Fuck 'em both.
posted by trondant at 11:58 PM on May 9, 2006


I realized what was really nagging me about this letter (outside of what I articulated earlier) -- it seems that Ahmadinejad really doesn't get that the President is not absolute ruler. I mean, Bush has 29% approval ratings (17% on foreign policy), and only two more years in office. There is the possibility that he may soon have a hostile legislative branch. The fact that he does this (and blames Israel for everything) is indicative of his not getting the way the US system works.

As for the odd defense that Ahmadinejad was '"democratically elected" (odd since he says in his letter "Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems.") Here is what Amnesty International has to say:

People continued to be denied state employment because of their religious affiliation and political opinions under gozinesh, or “selection” provisions which serve to prohibit individuals from working for state bodies. Analogous laws applied to professional bodies such as the Bar Association or trades unions.

In January, gozinesh criteria were deployed by the Guardians’ Council, which reviews laws and policies to ensure that they uphold Islamic tenets and the Constitution, in order to disqualify around 3,500 prospective candidates from standing in the February parliamentary elections. The exclusion of around 80 incumbent parliamentarians attracted domestic and international condemnation..


Further "Baha'is are banned from government employment. In addition Baha'is are regularly denied compensation for injury or criminal victimization." In practice, Jews and Christians are also banned from government or jobs in higher education.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:10 AM on May 10, 2006


I think it would be a mistake to interpret the intended recipient of this letter as George W. Bush or the U.S. government. The point of the letter is to inflame anti-American sentiment, and to position Iran as the champion in the field challenging the United States.

Ahmadinejad and Bush have something in common besides their religiosity: They rely on the strategy of smearing their opponents, rather than referring to their own actions and accomplishments. It's no accident that the criticisms of the United States resonate with people here. They're intended to. Keep in mind that in this day and age, Osama Bin Laden watches "Fahrenheit 9/11", too.

I think the rhetoric about the "Zionist entity" is especially telling. Ahmadinejad is upping his bid for the position of the champion of Islam against the West, a position that has been more or less vacant since Saddam Hussein was deposed and Bin Laden went into hiding.

Letter writing has also been used in a similar way by Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden.
posted by shunpiker at 1:52 AM on May 10, 2006


At the end of the day, however, America is still one of the freest nation on earth (your speech is less limited than it would be even in the "enlightened" nations of western Europe).

canned polar bear: I would honestly like to know how we in Europe are less free?

Oh, stop pretending to be so naive: Europeans are less free to be illegally wiretapped, less free to absorb Foxaganda, less free to lock up people indefinitely without trial, less free to ignore or breach international treaties, less free to disregard the UN, less free to avoid decent public healthcare & education, less free to be chained to the desk 50 weeks per year, etc...

/off-topic snark
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:12 AM on May 10, 2006


(oh, whoops! in terms of an alleged lesser freedom of speech in europe, i assume that it was a reference to laws in some places making it a crime to deny the holocaust. probably also laws against hate-speech - incitements to violence etc. like any civilised country really wants that sort of shit. but a fair point...i mean, even in kazakhastan they can freely sing "throw the jew down the well")
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:17 AM on May 10, 2006


I like how the administration considers "philosophical treatise" to be a dismissive insult.
posted by xthlc at 5:43 AM on May 10, 2006


I'm glad that I'm not a diplomat, as my response to that whole "assuming the Holocaust DID happen" thing would be something along the lines of...

O RLY? D00d! No Wai!!eleven!11

I mean, after that, it loses all credibility for me. Though I did like this bit :

If billions of dollars spent on security, military campaigns and troop movement were instead spent on investment and assistance for poor countries, promotion of health, combating different diseases, education and improvement of mental and physical fitness, assistance to the victims of natural disasters, creation of employment opportunities and production, development projects and poverty alleviation, establishment of peace, mediation between disputing states and distinguishing the flames of racial, ethnic and other conflicts were would
the world be today? Would not your government, and people be justifiably proud? Would not your administration’s political and economic standing have been stronger? And I am most sorry to say, would there have been an ever increasing global hatred of the American governments?


Touché, anti-Semitic guy, touché.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:05 AM on May 10, 2006


For this administration a 'philosophical treatise' IS a dismissive insult. They aren't known for 'deep thinking.' They're from Texas, and NOT Austin. Yeeeehah.

I'm wondering how much these clowns in Washington understand that documents written in one langauge and translated to another will often have stilted language. I'd like to read W's letter back in the Farsi. I mean, this guy can't even speak English coherently. Talk about a rambling idiot.

Having said all of that, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is probably a maniacal theocrat, but he makes some good points and some moronic ones. Not so dissimilar to discussions in the blue...or elsewhere.
posted by sfts2 at 6:11 AM on May 10, 2006


I have absolutely no love for Bush (I'm proud to have voted for his opponent in both presidential elections) and I'm very worried about the mindless militarism he represents. That said, I don't think any fair reading of this letter can result in the conclusion that this is a genuine, constructive overture to the United States.

As I said above, the subtle and wily use of Christian principles alone shows that the letter isn't intended for its stated recipient (imagine, say, a letter to Ahmadinejad from a western leader in which he or she refers to Mohammed as a wise politician instead of Prophet -- it would be downright offensive to a muslim reader). This is propaganda in sheep's clothing.

Now the question of whether Ahmadinejad is justified in using such propaganda comes down, in some sense, to which country is wearing the black hat -- a question of much interest in this thread, but a separate issue in terms of understanding what this letter is.
posted by Toecutter at 6:13 AM on May 10, 2006


I think Bush should meet with Ahmadinejad and gaze into his eyes so as to see his soul.
It worked so well with his good buddy PootiePoo it would be worth a try.

Many Jewish sects are anti-Semitic. Methinks many use the term wrongly.
posted by nofundy at 6:28 AM on May 10, 2006


trondant writes above:

"So Bush is facing a belligerent saber-rattling conservative nut-job who makes inflammatory remarks using aggressive rhetoric, believes God chose him to lead his nation, eschews international diplomacy, runs clandestine programs, and breaks long-standing treaties unilaterally as he sees fit?

What a pair of leaky knobs. They should get a room and leave the rest of us alone. Fuck 'em both."


I don't think I've seen a better comment about the general world situation.
posted by Nicholas West at 6:44 AM on May 10, 2006


What the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran is incapable of understanding is that President Bush is not actually a Christian, he just plays one on TV.
posted by dobie at 6:58 AM on May 10, 2006


Ladies and Gentleman, I believe Armageddon (for those who believe in such nonsense has begun). I'm sure the theocrats will come to see "Stinky" as the current incarnation of the Antichrist.
posted by rzklkng at 7:48 AM on May 10, 2006


For all the people trotting out the improper (but oh so convenient!) translation of Ahmadinejad's Israel comment, consider this from Juan Cole:


Shimon Peres says he wants to remind Iran that it, too, can be wiped off the face of the earth, implying that Israel is capable of obliterating it with its nuclear arsenal. Peres also had the gall to blame Iran for provoking a nuclear arms race in the area!

There is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, as opposed to a still backward civilian energy research program. But if you were Iran's security establishment, what would you conclude you had to do after Peres's remarks?

The misquotation of Ahmadinejad, who actually quoted Khomeini as saying, "This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time," now seems all by itself to be producing visions of nuclear war!

Ahmadinejad, however, has condemned mass killing of any sort and was not threatening military action (he is in any case not in command of the Iranian military). He compares his hope for an end to any Zionist regime in geographical Palestine to Khomeini's prediction that the Soviet Union would one day vanish. It wasn't a hope to kill Soviet citizens, but a desire for regime change. Ahmadinejad's hostility to Israel and his Holocaust denial and bigotry are beneath contempt. But he has not threatened military action, and has no unconventional weapons, and his words, however hurtful, do not constitute a legitimate basis for a war of aggression on Iran.

posted by Juan @ 5/09/2006 06:38:00 AM

posted by sic at 8:18 AM on May 10, 2006


Vasalam Ala Man Ataba'al hoda
Peace be upon (the one) who follows the guidance.

I wish he would have had the letter translated on his end rather than allowing it to be translated by the third parties who put forth this barely readable version.
posted by leapingsheep at 8:25 AM on May 10, 2006


leapingsheep: thanks for the translation.

No one seems clear on who supplied the English translation, apparently it was just whatever Le Monde was able to get a hold of. (Persian here, btw). Some stories I've read indicate that it was supplied with the original text, but I'm pretty sure it's just conjecture.
posted by blacklite at 11:22 AM on May 10, 2006


Delmoi, since you mentioned Amnesty International...may want to read their assessment of the human rights record under Ahmadinejad. The report's titled, New Government Fails to Address Dire Human Rights Situation" and it has a whole lot of 'metrics' (starting with the fact that they disagree with you on whether or not Ahmadinejad's killed any Iranians)

FWIW, Amnesty International has 91 reports on Iran, and 431 about the Good Ole' USA.

For comparison, they have 25 reports on Canada.
posted by delmoi at 12:01 PM on May 10, 2006


Delmoi -- they have 39 on North Korea. I guess, by your standards, that North Korea is almost as good as Canada.

Did you actually read the reports? Scary stuff -- bans on religions, minorities officially not allowed access to jobs, people "disappeared" 8,500 candidates disallowed from running for office, etc.

Amnesty isn't allowed to operate in Iran, by the way, which might influence the number of reports. I find it totally insane that you are arguing that Iran is somehow okay from a human rights perspective.
posted by blahblahblah at 4:00 PM on May 10, 2006


meanwhile: ... some participants in the drawn-out nuclear drama questioned whether this was an offer intended to fail, devised to show the extent of Iran's intransigence.
...
Ms. Rice spent a long weekend in early May drafting a proposal that included a timetable for diplomatic choreography through the summer.
...
In the end, said one former official who has kept close tabs on the debate, "it came down to convincing Cheney and others that if we are going to confront Iran, we first have to check off the box" of trying talks. ...

posted by amberglow at 9:27 AM on June 1, 2006


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