Ex-Ahmadinejad translator: Lebanon war strengthened Iran

Ex-translator for Ahmadinejad and two other Iranian presidents speaks out at Harvard University.

By MATT RAND, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
October 21, 2007 21:09
2 minute read.
Ex-Ahmadinejad translator: Lebanon war strengthened Iran

Ahmadinejad badass2 298. (photo credit: AP)

The Second Lebanon War "bolstered Iran's position," while the Arab world "compromised" itself by its silence during the conflict, Banafsheh Keynoush, a former interpreter for three Iranian presidents - including Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - said in an address at Harvard University last week. Saudi Arabia's past support for Saddam Hussein had undermined its credibility with Iraq's Kurds and Shi'ites, she said. "Let's not forget that Saddam massacred 300,000 Shi'ites in [the] south of Iraq while all the countries in the region remained silent," said Keynoush. She added that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had provided more than $50 billion in assistance to Saddam during Iraq's 1980-1988 war with Iran. And during the Second Lebanon War, "The Saudis [and the] Arab League remained silent. They're no friends of Hizbullah, given that Hizbullah is a Shi'ite power in the region," Keynoush said. The Arab League perhaps though that by remaining silent they could give Israel a chance to destroy Hizbullah, she said. Keynoush also said Iran was seeking to strengthen its relationship with both Hamas and Fatah. She said Ahmadinejad had told her, "We [Iran] are very close to Hamas and Fatah. Hamas has an office in Teheran, Fatah has an office in Teheran and we work with both of them," and that Hamas had become closer to Iran as a result of the Lebanon war. Saudi Arabia "lobbied and worked very hard" to get the United States to accept Hamas as a legitimate part of the Palestinian Authority government and to remove its sanctions to allow Saudi money to flow to the [then-Hamas led] government, Keynoush said. The Saudi state was significantly restricted by its Islamic ideology, Keynoush said, and its weak political structure had allowed sub-state actors to become more involved in Iraq, she said. Keynoush said Teheran believed a pluralistic Iraq was "to its [Iran's] advantage" because it would not allow any one group to become powerful enough to ever attack Iran again, "so divided is better than one party in place as in the time of Saddam." She also said the Islamic Republic's policy toward Iraq was very similar to the one it had in Lebanon. "Iran engaged in infrastructure building, largely in the southern parts of Lebanon, and through that process it won the hearts and a great deal of respect from the Lebanese people," said Keynoush, adding that Iran planned to invest more than $1.8b in Iraq. Iran has gone out of its way to accommodate Saudi needs and Supreme Leader Ali Khameini had a special office reporting directly to him that oversaw the country's Saudi relations, she said. Saudi policy in Iraq had been not been well planned out, Keynoush said, not "hardly anywhere close to Iran's proactive policy." Saudi Arabia still did not have a clear policy in Iraq, she said. "It's always taken by surprise, and really does not have an appropriate response," she said.


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