Friday, May 12, 2006

Cold and Dry Response to Ahmadinejad’s Letter

Kurosh Salimi, Rooz Online:
Just four days after Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a letter to the US, his advisors are so disappointed in the American response which did not respond as well as they thought it would, that fear a wave of criticism will rise about his gesture from inside the country. According to political analysts, after Ahmadinejad suffered a defeat in attempting to allow women to attend sporting events in public stadium, his team banked that the letter to US president George Bush would create a breakthrough and enthusiasm among the youth of the country.

While reports indicate that the main target of the propaganda over the letter of the president was the urban population of Iran, evidence now shows that they showed the least interest and the televised programs of the Islamic Republic failed to create this hoped enthusiasm. On the contrary, groups ranging the political spectrum have come out in criticism of the president’s initiative. In the Iranian Majlis (Parliament), representatives of both factions criticized the letter on the grounds that once again the president had bypassed them and did not find it useful to even inform them of his plans. READ MORE

But the criticism has also targeted the Majlis leader as well. While he threw in his usual support in the first hours of the news, Jabarzadeh, a deputy from the right criticized him last Wednesday stating that the Majlis leader did not have the position publicly speak in favor or against the issue. This small comment threw the legislature into a commotion.

In the days that followed the letter, many Majlis representatives spoke of their displeasure with the letter as was published in the local papers. The representative of Tabriz Akbar Elmi for example, who was a presidential candidate in the June 2005 elections whose qualifications were rejected by the powerful Guardians Council, said he hoped the president would not have rescind the letter, a reference to what the president had to do about his decree allowing women to enter stadiums to watch sporting events.

The official newspaper of the reformists in Iran, Etemad Melli, wrote the following: "One must ask that while the president until just a few days ago used the most undiplomatic language when addressing certain countries, what suddenly changed his mind and made him believe that if he wrote a letter to someone like Bush from a religious and moral position, he would be able to raise the consciousness of the US president."

Another issue is that does writing a letter to Bush at this critical time when Iran’s nuclear issue is before the UN Security Council, not convey the message that the Islamic Republic has accepted US hegemony over international relations, and views him as the sole eligible person to solve global issues? Why was this letter not addressed to the Security Council?

While we believe that no effort should be spared in the goal of avoiding conflict and meeting the national interest of Iran, it would not be irrelevant to remind the readers of the response of the domestic ideologues to the interview that former president Seyed Mohammad Khatami gave to CNN in which his audience was the American public. That interview which took place at a time when Iran’s international image had been rebuilt and regained and its position was much stronger than what we have today, was nevertheless criticized by the supporters of the president.”

Jomhurie Islami newspaper along with another pro-government conservative newspaper Keyhan, has refrained from writing any comments on the president’s letter to Bush. But in its “For Your Information” column of Wednesday, it wrote, “Unlike the first day after the publication of the letter which produced a supportive wave among the public, after the publication of the contents of the letter two days ago, a wave of negative opinion over the issue has taken over the media. The arrogant response of American authorities has lowered the value of the letter to be not worth mentioning and have said they will not respond to it.”

And while the editor of another newspaper, Akbar Loui of Resalat, who praised Ahmadinejad’s letter from day one and had said that it was a very thoughtful decision, his former colleague, Falahat Pishe who is now a Majlis representative publicly expressed his opposition to it and said that this message was a complete departure from the foundations of Islamic Republic’s foreign policy. “I hope what will be achieved is worth the costs,” he added. He also criticized the gesture because the president had chosen to keep the Majlis in the dark about it.

Another conservative representative who praised Ahmadinejad’s initiative also said that the decision was that of the senior leadership of the country which had simply emerged from Ahmadinejad’s channel. He added that Ahmadinejad had deliberately not mentioned the nuclear issue as that would have been erroneously interpreted, in view of the nuclear situation today.

The Kargozaran’s new newspaper editorialized that the Americans interpreted the letter to be outside normal diplomatic channels but from a psychological perspective, they responded to it in the harshest possible way, i.e. by ignoring it. Referencing the different national interests of the US and Iran, the writer argues that for a real breakthrough, each side must reinterpret its definition of its national interest, or simply wait for a more suitable time, and thus avoid increasing the existing misunderstanding.

But the most interesting comment was that of Iran newspaper which said that in his meeting with the Swiss ambassador in Tehran (who acts as the go between the US and Iran) the director of IRNA news agency had called “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s letter” a brave gesture, adding that if the Americans were brave too, they would take advantage of this to resolve the issues. The news report did not publish the responses of the Swiss ambassador, who has been called by a journalist to be always ready to praise the head of Iran’s government.