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Saturday, 20 June 2009

Iranian outburst

I'm not at all sure what to make of the Iranian "Supreme Leader's" Friday sermon. Up to now I had thought that the US government and the UK collection of apparatchiks had been remarkably sensible and kept their message to Iran simple - basically, "Your problem - please try to resolve it peacefully". But listening to the Ayatollah I got the impression that we were massing tanks, planes and troops on the border of Iran and were all set to stage the Third World War to overthrow their "Revolutionary Democracy". I did a quick check to see if I'd missed something, but no, we aren't engaged in making threats, or in whipping up support for a mass invasion, so now you have to ask, what is he on about?

I confess that I am left with the overwhelming feeling that the present government is desperately looking for a whipping boy, someone they can blame for the mess they have got themselves into and the mess they have made of their country's economy. The US would have been an obvious "enemy" given relations between the two since 1979, but I really can't understand why the UK came in for such venom. Have we refused the Ayatollah or one of his minions a visa lately? Or seized his bank account? That might explain it, but nothing else does.

I can't escape the feeling that the present regime in Iran is afraid of losing power and are prepared to do anything and everything to hold onto it. For thirty years now they have been trading on what nasty people the west are, particularly the US, "The Great Satan" as some Mullahs refer to it. Classically the resort of any dictator is to "invent" an external "enemy" or try to provoke one, preferably of course, one weaker than oneself. That way, if it does come to war, you have a good chance of a satisfactory "victory", so the Iranian determination to play the biggest game in town has to be tied into an attempt to play off the NATO partners against the former Soviet Bloc defence league - a very dangerous game indeed. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is an Arabic saying, but it is not complete, the missing words are, "Until I am strong enough to dispose of him." The art of politics in a nutshell.

Something else you very quickly learn in Iran is that what is said publically may not be what is said in private. Everything revolves on trust and that is a society that has very little of that. Secret police informers are everywhere, one businessman there told me that at least half his staff "work for the government" - his problem was, he didn't know which half! There is a schizophrenia to everything, privately the people are open and friendly, especially the Parthian part of the nation, publically they go through all the motions and display all the devotion and ritual necessary to convince the Ayatollahs that they are obedient and doing as they are told.

Equally interesting is the fact that the Ayatollah Khomenei was dead set against the religious leaders being directly involved in politics and only took on that role himself when the politicians proved to be so corrupt they were going to destroy everything the people wanted. Now it would appear that his successors have not only forgotten that lesson, but want to hold onto power at all cost. The old man is probably not very pleased with the result of their refusal to follow his lead.

Who knows what the outcome of this debacle will be? I certainly don't and it is very worrying when you hear people telling the media that they were told the outcome of the election at midday on the day of the election when some polling stations closed - "Because Mister Armedinejad has won." The Ayatollah says 40 million people voted , 24 million for Armejinedad, but apparently this doesn't tally up with the number of votes supposedly cast or with the known voting preferences in some constituencies where Mister Armejinedad has no or little support. No wonder the electorate are angry. And no wonder the "Revolutionary Council" are worried.

In the meantime all the rest of us can do is pray for the people of Iran, for the large Christian, Druse, Kurd and Zoroastrian communities and especially for the many Muslims who, like the rest of us, just want a system which allows them the freedom to make their own choices and to live quietly and without fear. Only the Iranians themselves can solve this - perhaps with a little divine intervention.

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