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WikiLeaks Cables Fuel Skepticism Ahmadinejad Faces in Tehran

by ALI CHENAR in Tehran

30 Nov 2010 10:229 Comments
AhmjadArmsOutspread.jpg

Will a wakeup call be heeded?

[ comment ] Iranians love conspiracy theories. They use them to explain almost any unexpected and unusual political event. So it is only natural to ask, "What is behind the WikiLeaks cable dump?" For the average Iranian, it is not conceivable that such an enormous volume of official documents could become accessible so easily, particularly as they divulge the secrets of a superpower. They are scratching their heads, trying to figure out why this information is out there. They wonder if there is a message for Iran in these leaked communications.

For one thing, many Iranians are realizing the seriousness of the threat of military action. The reports of talks about aborting Iran's nuclear ambitions via an attack on her nuclear installations have stunned many. The official cables that have been released do not present the military option as the preference of the United States, but they make clear that it is favored and demanded by its allies in the region. According to these documents, Washington has been hard pressed by certain Arab leaders to do something about Iran.

This picture stands in stark contrast to the image President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been selling to the Iranian people. He has portrayed Iran as a regional leader loved and supported by its neighbors and the Muslim world at large. To prove that Iran is not isolated, he has sought to expand its relationships with its neighbors all too blindly. He is the highest-ranking Iranian official ever to visit the UAE, which contests Iranian claims to three islands in the Persian Gulf. He is also the first Iranian head of government to publicly announce his readiness to resume political relations with Egypt overnight. Both moves were criticized by various political factions, conservatives in particular, as compromising national prestige and dignity.

The WikiLeaks documents also contradict one of Ahmadinejad's major foreign policy presumptions. For most of his two terms in office, he has assured the Iranian public that the Great Satan and its Western allies can do nothing to harm them. Only a fortnight ago, while visiting Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, he called NATO's members "political pygmies" whose decisions "do not change a thing in the future of the world." He maintains that Iran has never been in danger of military attack by the United States or its allies. This presumption has evidently encouraged many of his most controversial comments. Now it seems that he was very wrong about a very real threat. Perhaps that is the reason behind his strong denunciation of the WikiLeaks document dump.

This much is certain: Ahmadinejad wasted no time in joining the White House in condemning WikiLeaks. He called the released documents an "organized lie" and a "part of American psychological warfare" against Iran. He emphasized that nothing would or could come between Iran and its neighbors.

However, the Iranian president's dismissal of WikiLeaks can not conceal the fact that it has profoundly undermined the credibility of his foreign policy. Most crucially, its latest document release has confirmed the conviction of those Iranian conservatives who have taken the possibility of a military strike very seriously and recommended caution. Their ranks include such prominent figures as Ali Larijani, Majles (parliament) speaker, and Mohsen Rezaei, former commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and a contender in the last presidential election. Another very important individual has apparently shared their concerns: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Rezaei and many others have suggested that the large-scale military exercises of recent years were held on Khamenei's express orders to deter a potential strike. The WikiLeaks release may well strengthen the position of Ahmadinejad's critics within the ranks of the conservative camp significantly.

And perhaps that is the message Iran should be receiving, a reminder of the realities of the region -- ancient rivalries, eternal hostilities, ever-impending calamities. In truth, the character of the Middle East is largely unchanged despite the putatively earthshaking events of the past three decades. Threats must be taken very seriously and caution is invariably a wise policy.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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9 Comments

well I don't believe that iranian love conspiracy theories...They belive in two conspiracies only, the role British and CIA played in a coup d'etat and the 1979 revolution and the number of CIA agents in Iran back then in addition to the fact that it is obvious US and other countries helped the fall of Shah...but not all conspiracy theories that exist in the world specially those propagated by the current government. However to a certain degree they believe in conspiracies mainly theater shows performed by politicians to pursue certain policies! and they have no trust to nobody!

Anonymous / November 30, 2010 5:20 PM

There are 22 Arab countries and the leaks refer to the handful who have always been known for their overt (support and financing of Saddam's war agains Iran) and covert support (it is said that there is much Saudi money behind the terrorist bombings in Shi'ite sacred places in Iraq for instance) of forces seeking to undermine Iran's influence and growing power in the region. Iran enjoys close ties with Arab countries like Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, Oman and Gaza. Opinion polls in the Arab world have repeatedly shown broad support for Iran's nuclear rights. Ahmedinejad is a a popular street hero in the Arab world. No Arab leader, in recent memory, has received the genuine warm welcome that he received from the majority of the Lebanese. Iranians whilst seeking to improve things at home should be proud of their foreign policy achievements and the help they have given to the oppressed people of Gaza and South Lebanon. Further they gave, despite an imposed war upon them, refuge to 3-4m Iraqis and Afghans, many of whom have now returned home and everyone knows that no major decisions can be made in these countries without Iran's input. This is a significant achievement for Iran. It is now venturing into Pakistan, where for too long Saudi money has fuelled violent sectarianism mostly directed against Shi'ites.

rezvan / December 1, 2010 6:11 AM

The largest revelation of Wikileak is the fact that Obama pursued an aggressive agenda against Iran since the beginning. Documents show that he NEVER intended to engage Iran, and his Norouz address was an utter lie to all Iranians and Americans who were hoping for an engagement policy.

What is truely missing is that true analysis that the double talk of the Arab leaders, to their own people, regarding Iran, will only serve to harm them. Contrary to this article's assertions, the likely thing to occur is that Iran will now be more popular in the region.

Also expect "a rallying around the flag" effect in Iran.

Anonymous / December 1, 2010 11:09 AM

I'd hate to break up the volley between our Basiji brothers, Rezvan and Anonymous (can't you be more creative? How about John or something?).

But since guys claim that Iranian people "should be proud of their foreign policy achievements", can you help us understand how these so-called accomplishments helped ordinary Iranians?

Have these foreign policy accomplishments reduced unemployment? reduced soaring inflation? reduce drug addictions? reduced # of Iranians in prisons? increased people's satisfaction with their lives?

Anyone can send the national oil revenues that belong to all Iranians to buy off friends in Syria, Venezuela, Lebanon, and Gaza...but it takes an effective government to use those national resources to improve Iranians' lives....something that after 30 years of being in charge the Islamic Republic has still failed to do.

Bahman / December 2, 2010 6:01 AM

Bahman

that just means you have not been to Iran.

I have news for you, IMF ranks Iran's economy 17th in the world. Surpassing Saudi's, even though they export 4 times the oil exports. Then, what gives? Iran's non-oil economic growth. It's tough to swallow reality.

The first thing that gives you away as a hatemonger, and a low life, is your proclaimation that people are "basiji" because you don't agree with their opinion. Don't worry, it won't discourage us to tell your peabrain the truth.

Everthing is not black and white. Even the IR has some accomplishments. Denying that would only mean you are not to be trusted as a fairminded individual. Just because we can see some positivity and would like to encourage it, it does not mean we don't like to see a secular state in Iran free of Mullahs.

Anonymous / December 2, 2010 11:49 AM

Just a correction...according to the 2009 IMF list of the world economies, Iran is 28, not 17. And Saudi Arabia is 26. They still rank behind countries such as Turkey (17) and Indonesia (18) which export no oil.

The difference between Iran and Saudi Arabia is only about $50 billion though.

Correction / December 2, 2010 10:31 PM

False correction.

IMF has ranked Iran number 17th.

It's time the "independent" source calling itself Correction read IMF website on Iran. That is why Iran gets invited to G20 as a "guest" of Italy, and Saudi Arabia gets to go instead as a full member. Weren't the Saudi's at G20 meeting in Korea?

Great Correction!!

Anonymous / December 3, 2010 7:11 AM

Ohhh...I see what you are doing. You are going by the Purchasing Power Parity ranking instead of the Nominal ranking, which is the one used for all proper measurements. The G20 uses nominal measurements to calculate GDP, and they rank Iran as having the 28th largest economy and Saudi Arabia having the 26th. There is a huge difference between these two forms of measurement, as anyone with an elementary education in economics (which I'm sure you do not have) would be able to recognize.

And I have never heard of Iran being invited to the G20 by Italy, would you care to provide a link that shows this?

Correction / December 3, 2010 9:04 PM

All are after national interest

adebayo / December 31, 2010 3:50 AM