Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Zakaria Gets His Talking Points From PE

...Ok, maybe not. But in this debate with NPod, Fareed Zakaria sounds an awful lot like I did in my posts here, and here. The transcript of the debate is worth reading, but the thrust of Zakaria's argument is that Iran has, for the last 25 years, shown no signs of acting counter to their rational interest, and is in no way, shape, or form crazier than Kim Jong Il or Mao Tse-Tung. Zakaria's best line? " When the Iranians elected a moderate, a man called Khatami, as the president, conservatives kept telling us the president has no powers....Now they elect Ahmadinejad, and they say he's got his finger on the button."

NPod responds with the tired old Neville Chamberlain/Hitler comparison, and the newer, but still tired, argument that Iran is more irrational than Jong Il and Mao because it is motivated by religious fervor (of course, our own President's religious zeal is irrelevant). NPod so understands the degree to which Zakaria is winning the debate that he tries to cut Zakaria and Woodruff off on at least 6 occasions. Realizing he can't win on an appeal to logos, NPod makes repeated appeals to fear and pathos, including the closing line of "God help us if we follow that counsel." And the Iranians are the ones who are irrational?

Anyhow, George Ajjan had an excellent post earlier this month on this issue that provides far better information than even the Zakaria discussion (based on information from someone who, I don't know, actually lives in Iran) here.

The key information from Ajjan's source:

The President in Iran does not have the authority to declare war nor does he control the regular Army or the Revolutionary Guards. There may be individuals or groups in both that support him but that does not mean that he commands a major allegiance which would allow him to use the military for his own purposes. Also, the Supreme Leader has used reshuffles in the IRGC and the Army to ensure that people do not remain long enough to establish power bases or to establish alliances with other political actors.One interesting thing that most people don't know is that the President in Iran doesn't even control the police forces, since the national chief of police is appointed by the Supreme Leader and the law enforcement forces broadly answer to him. This was one of the things that [former President Mohamed] Khatami was trying to change, i.e. to get the police to be accountable to the Interior Ministry rather than to the General Staff of the Armed Forces.To Question 1:There has been no indication whatsoever that Supreme Leader Khamenei wants to go to war with Israel. In fact, just a few days after Ahmadinejad first made his remarks about Israel in 2005, Khamenei gathered the main actors of the regime and made a very public speech in which he stated that:
1. Iran's policy vis-à-vis Israel has not changed (i.e. Iran continues to oppose the "oppression of the Palestinian people" and support their demands for their own rights)

2. Iran would "never carry out aggressive acts against any country". Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Leader's comments, which carry much more weight in policy matters in Iran, where not widely reported by the international media.

Why the neocons insist on ignoring Khamenei and instead choose to demonstrate fear of Ahmadinejad is beyond me. It's as if they don't realize that doing this just makes Ahmadinejad relevant on an international scale even though he is on the verge of irrelevance within his own country.