The election of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as president of Iran in June shocked Western governments, apparently misled by their own propaganda that suggested that Iranians had turned against the Islamic State. ZAFAR BANGASH, director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, explains why Iranians elected him, and the threats Iran now faces.
By electing Dr Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as Iran's sixth president, the people of Iran have not only reaffirmed their commitment to the Islamic system; they have also slapped the arrogant Western leaders, especially the cowboys in Washington, on their faces. The US was reduced to saying there was “no democracy” in Iran because it did not like the winner. People in the West can be forgiven for not understanding the reality of other societies, but Western rulers are hypocrites and pathological liars. These are accepted as normal practices in Western politics: mouthing slogans about democracy and freedom but acting contrary to all such pronouncements. US-friendly tyrannies in the Muslim world are praised for their “moderation”—read subservience to the West and to zionist Israel—and their eagerness to “fight terrorism”, a euphemism for killing their own people who oppose Western influence and interference in their societies.
The President-elect of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, a dedicated public servant with a doctorate in civil engineering, has been dubbed a conservative hardliner. Presumably, standing up for the interests of Iran and its people is not supposed to be part of his mandate; he should be looking after the West's interests. Some of the West's complaints about the elections are really quite funny: he won because the “conservatives” got the vote out. Are contestants not supposed to get the masses out to vote in an election? – or does the West want a pre-determined result in the manner of the US, where there is much noise about democracy, but no real choice? They must do as they are told, according to Harold Lasswell, the political scientist who warned as early as 1933 against allowing the masses to get carried away with thinking they can choose their leaders. He argued that this must be left to the “enlightened elite” who know what is best for them.
Dr Ahmedinejad ran a clean, simple campaign; he did not rely on Western-style election gimmicks, nor did he discuss peripheral issues. Instead, he concentrated on issues close to the hearts of the people: employment opportunities, ending corruption and nepotism, and ensuring that the revenues of the country's oil resources are used for the benefit of the people. He is neither a politician in the conventional sense, nor a smooth talker; he has a track record of rendering service to the people both as governor of Ardebil province, and as mayor of Tehran. He had earlier been a commander in the Revolutionary Guards, and served for many years at the war front.
In his two years as mayor of Tehran, he has transformed the city. Immense landscaping work has been done throughout the sprawling metropolis, so that it now resembles a huge park. The traffic gridlock has been eliminated with a carefully calibrated policy that regulates flow into the city. Even in dusty South Tehran, where the poor reside, there has been a massive tree-plantation programme. Parks have sprung up everywhere and potholes have been repaired. As mayor, he did not shy away from donning the orange uniform of a sweeper and joining city crews in cleaning work. And he continued to drive an old Peykan instead of going around in a Mercedes, as has become the habit of some officials in Iran. His door was always open to the poor, while he shunned the rich who are adept at wheeling and dealing and manipulating high officials for personal gain.
As the sixth president of Iran, he is the third non-alim to be elected. The first president of Iran, Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr, was elected because he created the impression that he had the backing of Imam Khomeini. The post went to his head and when he tried to subvert the Revolution, the Majlis started impeachment proceedings against him. Instead of defending his position, Bani-Sadr fled the country disguised as a woman, and went to Paris, where he lives to this day. His successor, Mohammad Ali Rajai, was a humble and modest man. While prime minister, a visitor to his office was surprised to find him unpack his lunch and sharing it with his guest — bread, cheese and an onion that he had brought from home. He was martyred in a terrorist bombing attack perpetrated by the Mujahideen-e Khalq Organization (MKO), better known as the munafiqeen, on August 3, 1981, together with his youthful prime minister, Hujjatul Islam Mohammad Bahonar.
Two years later, this writer had the opportunity to visit his widow at her modest home in Tehran. By then a member of the Majlis, Khanam-i Rajai displayed the same taqwa and modesty that were the hallmarks of her late husband. She insisted on preparing tea herself, there being no servants in the house, and serving it before we started our interview. There was little furniture except for an old sofa that had clearly been worn out by years of use. This tradition of modesty and simplicity is the hallmark of most of the leadership in Islamic Iran, shunning the ostentatious lifestyle that is so prevalent elsewhere in the Muslim world. Imam Khomeini himself resided in a very modest house with the barest essentials. Both his living and eating habits were extremely simple, a tradition maintained by his successor, Ayatullah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. It is this simplicity and humility that so appeals to the people of Iran, and it wasprecisely this that attracted so many people to Dr Ahmedinejad.
His election also signifies another factor in Iranian politics that has been discernible since last year's Majlis elections. The drift away from Islamic values irked many in the Islamic Republic, but the system accommodated all those who wanted to try their hand at liberalism and other Western notions that are unworkable in a Muslim society, before vesting power back in the hands of true revolutionaries. Dr Ahmedinejad is a genuine fruit of the Revolution, with impeccable revolutionary credentials. The results also confirm that people aping Western values, even among the youth, are a tiny minority in the Islamic Republic; but because they reside in North Tehran, the haunt of Western reporters because the top hotels are located there, their pronouncements created the impression that they represent a majority. Iran's silent majority, in the simple, working-class areas of its cities, as well as in rural areas, has spoken, to elect the simple and popular mayor of Tehran to the country's top executive post.
Those who were flirting with the idea of making a deal with the US have also been stopped in their tracks. The overwhelming majority of Iranians do not support such an approach; their vote has sent shockwaves throughout the West, where the ruling elites were hoping for the election of some so-called moderate with whom they could strike a secret deal to re-enter Iran. The people of Iran have demonstrated their faith in Islamic principles and values and brought about a second revolution in the history of the Islamic Republic.
It would, however, be naive to conclude from this that the West will give up its policy of interfering in Iran's affairs, or abandon its dreams of subverting the Islamic system. Western editorial writers have wasted no time in condemning Dr Ahmedinejad as a “hardliner” and parroting the US-zionist propaganda accusing Iran of making nuclear weapons, a charge vigorously denied by Tehran. That Iran is within its rights to enrich uranium under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is seldom mentioned. Almost every newspaper and every stray dog in the West barks about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme. There is not a whisper about Israel's huge nuclear arsenal—more than 200 warheads, according to well-placed Israeli sources themselves—and its deep animosity towards the Islamic Republic. Why should Islamic ran lower its guard in such a hostile environment?
Both the US and Israel are openly funding groups in the US and elsewhere to continue their propaganda and terrorism against the Islamic Republic. According to the Los Angeles Times (March 4, 2005), the US funding of US$14.7 million a year on Persian “opposition broadcasts” into Iran is likely to be augmented by an additional $5.7 million requested by the Bush administration. The Voice of America's Persian service also beams daily hostile propaganda into Iran.
As early as 2003 Reuters news agency reported that the US had funneled several million dollars into Iran to bribe officials and to pay protesters. The Economist magazine of Londonconfirmed this soon thereafter in a stunning headline: “More unrest on the streets of Tehran. Is America pulling the strings?” (June 13, 2003). The so-called student unrest that received so much media attention in the West was financed and instigated by the US-Israeli axis, according to the West's own media sources. Uzi Arad, the former head of Mossad's foreign intelligence division, told Worldnetdaily.com – an Iranian opposition website linked with another US-funded anti-Iran group called Iran Freedom Foundation – “Support of Iranian opposition by the international community could be an effective way to handle the current regime” and that “its stability can be greatly reduced by the people themselves.”
One needs to take note of expressions such as the “international community” and the [Iranian] “people” in Arad's statement. The US and Israel do not constitute the international community; in fact, they are hated for their arrogant and racist policies. As for the “Iranian people” to whom Arad was referring, the presidential elections in June have provided a fitting reply to those hoping to turn them against the Islamic Republic.
Pro-Israeli lobbyist Michael Ledeen, who is considered the principal architect of America's anti-Iran policy, wrote for the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute: “Mr. Bush is correct that we should actively help the brave Iranians who are leading demonstrations against the regime ...” When US thinktanks make such pronouncements, it is an admission of the fact that such a policy is already being implemented, and that anti-government demonstrations in Tehran are instigated and financed by US and zionist agents. Such interference in Iran's internal affairs is also a violation of the Algiers Accords the US signed with Iran in January 1981. Dr Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's ambassador to the UN, said the US had promised “not to intervene directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs”. Iran may file a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague to stop US interference, he said. Uncle Sam, however, is not likely to be deterred by complaints to the ICJ; what is needed is a much more vigorous response from the Iranian leadership and people.
That groups opposed to the Islamic Republic have embraced the US-zionist criminals is also evidence of their desperation and lack of support within Iran, where the people are fully aware of US-backed and dollar-funded zionist crimes in Palestine, as well as the US's other crimes around the world. The Americans and their zionists allies, however, will not be content with supporting the loud but non-representative Iranian exiles. Aware that these people cannot deliver because they have no support in Iran, Israel has mobilized its considerable manpower in the European Jewish community to help.
Last April, a series of violent demonstrations, allegedly staged by Iranian students and dissidents, outside Iranian missions in Europe, were actually organized by members of Israel's Student Solidarity Movement and the Jewish Agency. These European zionists work to advance Israel's agenda, often to the detriment of countries where they reside as citizens. In the US, meanwhile, the America-Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which acts virtually as an extension of the Israeli government, has been pressing Congress to pass a sanctions bill against Iran, according to an Israeli Hebrew newspaper, Ha‘aretz. AIPAC is also exerting pressure on the US government to support the MKO terrorists to destabilize the Islamic Republic. The MKO has been on the US state department's list of terrorist organizations since 1997, but some 150 congressmen have signed a petition urging Bush to remove it from that list. American hypocrisy about fighting terrorism is nowhere more apparent than in the case of the MKO.
Not only has the MKO been allowed to keep all its weapons and training facilities in Iraq, where it was closely allied with the Saddam regime; it has also been provided with satellite broadcast capabilities by the Israeli Communication Ministry to broadcast two channels into Iran. Iran-interlink.org even hints that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon personally approved funding for the broadcasts, because of his alliance with Maryam Rajavi, the MKO's leader. The zionists and the MKO deserve each other; they are criminals in arms; the Islamic Republic has to be very wary of any approaches by the US and its apologists, and not lower its guard. They must bear in mind that the venom that these enemies of Islam spout is nothing compared to the hatred they harbour in their hearts, as the noble Qur'an warns us (3:118).
In May, the US congress demanded a bill aimed at overthrowing the Islamic government in Iran by increasing aid to opposition groups by US$50 million (Financial Times, London, May 5). This was in addition to the millions of dollars provided by the state department's Middle East Partnership Initiative which, according to Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations, has “turned opposition into a profession”. And Nicholas Burns, US under secretary of state for political affairs, has said the Bush team is “taking a page from the playbook” of coloured revolutions, where US-funded pro-democracy NGOs helped non-violently overthrow noncompliant governments, according to the New York Times (May 29, 2005).
Whether such campaigns are really non-violent is highly doubtful; nonviolence is a concept alien to the US, which was born in blood, rose to power by shedding the blood of innocents, and has continued to kill at will in pursuit of its interests around the world. What America cannot understand or accept is that it is none of America's business to decide what kind of government other people should have. Those who wish to have peace in their lives, and to run their own countries and societies according to their own beliefs, values and interests, must keep far, far away from Uncle Sam.