Saturday, July 30, 2005

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad practises the Takiya Takiya, the art of institutionalizes lying, is second nature to the rulers of Iran.
The media have been full of the first declarations of the newly-elected president of Iran, who promised on Saturday that his country would be governed by a "moderate" government which gave special place to dialogue with "the West" (excluding, apparently, the United States, with whom Iran "has no need" to establish ties, dixit Mr. Ahmadinejad). And he added: "Our main objective today is to build an exemplary, advanced and powerful Islamic state".

1) The Iranian people didn't have an Islamic revolution to gain democracy

Those few words give us a perfect snapshot of what Iranian policy will be in the months to come.

For a man who describes himself as a devotee of the Ayatollah Khomeini, and who
stated during his campaign that the Iranian people had not had an Islamic revolution to win themselves democracy, a man whose first public action after his election was to genuflect before the tomb of the founder of the Islamic Revolution, as if to remind everyone of his devotion to Khomeini, an "exemplary nation" can only be one where Sharia is applied with the utmost rigour. There's reason, then, to fear the people of Iran will be "brought back into line" in short order, following the few timid openings, not the least of them sartorial, from which women and young people have benefited in recent years.

2) Nationalism and power

The new regime can be expected to play the nationalist card to the utmost: "Iran is agreat nation and cannot be put under pressure" to change its policies or modify its strategic choices –that is bound to be the theme of the coming months.

"Advanced" clearly means that Iran will invest its oil riches in industrial and scientific
development –among other things in "civilian" nuclear programs –as explicitly stated by the new president, who saluted the efforts of "young people" and scientists in this field.

That brings us to the third term of the statement of Mr. Ahmadinejad: "powerful" – which needs little or no comment. What does "powerful" mean, exactly, to a nation dominated by ideology, which wants to be seen as an exemplary Islamic state and which has for 25 years been one of the main destabilising forces in the region –if it does not mean that Iran intends to provide itself with the means to ensure it will be "respected" on the international stage? One of those means obviously being a strengthening of its military potential and, more likely than not, the development and manufacture of a nuclear weapon.

3) One objective: split the Western camp

On a tactical level, the new president's distinction between Europe and the US clearly shows Tehran means to divide the international community and, in particular, break up the fragile entente existing between the two sides of the Atlantic on the crucial matter of Iran's nuclear energy program, suspected by many experts of having no other objective than to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.

4) Takiya comes back in force

Finally, in promising "moderation," Mr. Ahmadinejad gives an example of one of the favorite exercises of the Shiite clergy and its allies: Takiya

Takiya is an ancient practice of the Shiites, a Muslim minority long persecuted by the Sunni majority. The term could be translated as "precaution" and is a mixture of ruse, lying and dissimulation, which allowed Shiites to protect themselves and to prosper in secret. It is also a sectarian way of organising which allowed them to hold on to their beliefs while escaping persecution by making it seem they were good Sunnis (1). READ MORE

Islamic Iran and its offshoots, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, have extended Takiya into a mode of government which allows a manifest policy to be pursued in the interest of a hidden agenda. Thus, in the 1980s, the Iran of Khomeini offered itself as a key intermediary for the release of hostages held in Lebanon, at the same time as the kidnappings, organized and carried out by Hezbollah (under its various masks donned to sow confusion) were being ordered directly by the Iranian secret services to apply pressure on France or the US, and to affect relations between various western nations (2).

In promising "moderation" now, Mr. Ahmadinejad does no more than give Takiya a modern twist: he (and with him the true ruling power in Iran, the Supreme Guide Ayatollah Khomeini) counts on Europe's willingness to believe in Iran's good will, as shown in many and various fine statements and symbolic promises. Meanwhile, in the shadows, Iran will continue to pursue the development of an atomic weapon, playing for time and hoping to arrive at that Point of No Return which will see Iran as a de facto nuclear power become virtually untouchable.

5) Future divergences between the US, Europe, Russia and China

Taking the lesson of the presidential election, Washington is now getting ready to bring the Iranian nuclear question to the UN Security Council. Will Europe follow, or will they be lulled into a false sense of security by the promises of Mr. Ahmadinejad?

We will know soon enough, but one thing for now is certain: this new diplomatic dispute will only widen the gulf between Washington and Moscow (Tehran's main supplier of nuclear technologies) and especially between Washington and Beijing. For obvious reasons, China has always opposed any country being sanctioned for "internal" matters, or what it sees as meddling.

For Europe, on the one hand seduced by the siren-song of Chinese trade and careful, on the other, to preserve good relations with Moscow, such tensions only make it more difficult to do what needs to be done in the near future.

The European Union seems, for the time being, to speak with one voice –a voice of firmness which will only be reinforced by the British presidency beginning on July 1 – but we know that at least two countries, France and Germany, have long been in favor of a more easy-going approach to the Iranian reality. Almost, it has to be said, as if they had forgotten that it is not so long ago that Iran was killing French soldiers and organizing the kidnapping of French and German citizens in Beirut, when it wasn't murdering exiled opponents in France and Germany.

All that was being done, in those days, under the benevolent gaze of Ayatollah
Khomeini, Mr. Ahmadinejad's role model, and the Revolutionary Guard, to whom the
new Iranian president gave up the best years of his life.

6) The Israeli X-factor, and the risk of regional conflagration

The pack contains one wild card: the level of Israel's tolerance, in the face of Tehran's rhetoric and the reality of Iran's support for the worst enemies of the Hebrew state, for the very idea Iran might one day have the Bomb. If the international community can't recall Iran to reason, or if the West is split with one part trusting to the bona fides of Iran, the Middle East could find itself on the edge of a new conflagration –let there be no doubt. Because, even if the Arab countries distrust Iran's mullahs, how can they be expected to react to a pre-emptive strike by Israel?

That is precisely the crisis the world will be facing if it fails to resolve the
Iranian nuclear crisis.

1. Xavier Raufer, La nébuleuse : le terrorisme du Moyen-Orient, Paris Editions
Fayard, 1987.
2. Claude Moniquet, La Guerre sans visage, Paris, Editions Michel Lafon, 2002.
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