The Region: 'Osama bin Ahmadinejad'

What does the Arab world make of the Iranian president's speech?

ahmadinejad 88 (photo credit: )
ahmadinejad 88
(photo credit: )
Even by the Middle East's usual hyperactive standard, these have been turbulent times. Just reading a list of the latest horrific, shameful, and amazing developments is pretty awesome. Ready? • Iran's president calls for Israel's extinction. The confident assertions of "Never again" might now be better rephrased, "Here we go again." It is encouraging that many Western countries denounced the speech. But actually, the story of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement is even worse than you think. • Speaking of Iran, at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair, perhaps the world's most prestigious, Iran's official exhibition sold such works as the discredited Protocols of the Elders of Zion and anti-Semitic works some of which were reprints of volumes published originally under Nazi auspices. So Teheran is now the reincarnation, at least in matters concerning Jews, of the Third Reich. Even added to Iran's avid pursuit of nuclear weapons, is the world actually going to do anything about this? • A UN report concluded that high-ranking Syrian officials, including relatives of President Bashar Assad, assassinated former Lebanese President Rafik Hariri. • Another UN report finds that huge numbers of companies, current or former government officials, and public personalities were bribed by Saddam Hussein for supporting his regime or paid kickbacks for doing business with it. There is evidence that some of this money, paid to a leading French parliamentarian, went to subsidize President Jacques Chirac's political party. • In a number of interviews in both the Arab and Western media, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar made clear that if Hamas won a future election it would establish a radical Islamist state which would fight on until Israel is destroyed. At home, this regime would impose a radical Islamist state more extreme than what exists in Iran, and refuse to disarm. On the contrary, it would use the Palestinian Authority's military assets - largely financed and supplied by the West - to attack Israel. The Islamist government would also cut off all ties with the West and reject any negotiations with Israel. • The leader of the Iraqi insurgency called for a jihad to kill the maximum number of Iraqi Shi'ites, who comprise about 55 percent of the country's population. There was an overwhelming lack of criticism in the Arab world, which largely supports the insurgency, about this threat against fellow Arabs and Muslims. NATURALLY, GIVEN the above list of events, one would assume that Iran, Syria and Hamas are now seen as outlaws which the world will fight, boycott and sanction. It might further be taken for granted that the apologists for Saddam Hussein, and now for the Iraqi insurgency, would be completely discredited. No way. Let us return to Ahmadinejad's speech for some additional background. But I will tip you off in advance on one key point: read Ahmadinejad's words and then try to find some difference between his ideology and that of Osama bin-Laden. It is precisely the same world-view even though, of course, Ahmadinejad's inspiration is Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of Islamist Iran. To a large extent the Western media spin put on the speech was that the Arab world rejoiced in the speech because it would further isolate Iran, rather than the more obvious point that much of the Arab world agrees with what Iran's president said. At any rate, it might be worth noting that: • Hamas, Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad were officially represented at the "World Without Zionism" meeting as a demonstration of their goals and orientation. • Israel was largely declared as evil because it was really the spearhead of a Western attempt to destroy Islam. • Not only was it easy and desirable to destroy Israel but the United States should also be wiped out. • In still another direct threat, he warned that any Muslim country that recognizes Israel would face the wrath of all Muslims, i.e., Iranian-sponsored terrorism. • The idea that Palestinian groups should focus on getting an independent state or improving living standards was an Israeli trick to divert them from eliminating Israel and encourage them to fight among themselves. • In a future Palestine, Jews would have no rights since they had only come to the country from far away to plunder the country. • No matter how bad the strategic situation looks or how much it costs, the Muslims should battle on for as long as it takes to destroy Israel. OF COURSE, as many observed, the prospect that Iran does have long-range missiles and might have nuclear weapons to use in carrying out such a threat makes the new president's words even more worrisome. Yet there are more wide-ranging aspects to the danger. After all, even if Iran did have nuclear weapons they would have a more immediate effect for intimidating the local Gulf states. It should also be noted that outside of Saudi Arabia most Gulf Arab states are increasingly indifferent to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But what the speech really shows is how millions of young Muslims are being systematically indoctrinated with the idea that they should sacrifice living standards, democracy, and common sense in pursuit of the fantasy of destroying Israel and defeating the West. Few will become suicide bombers; many more will participate actively in encouraging their own societies to commit suicide. The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and edits Middle East Review of International Affairs and Turkish Studies.