Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Intolerance

Say what you like about the man, but it took courage to stand up in front of what was always going to be a hostile audience and allow himself to be assaulted by a barrage of searching questions.

Perhaps President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expected some heckling from the audience, but its doubtful he anticipated the vitriolic attack that was launched by the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger.

In a statement that was embarrassing to himself, his institution, and indeed the United States of America, Bollinger excoriated the Iranian president with insults and slanders, even before Ahmadinejad had been given the chance to speak.

Interestingly, looking through the reader's comments on CNN.com and the BBC website, a majority of people seem to agree that Bollinger's outburst was arrogant, rude, uncivilized and belligerent. Or "typically American" if you prefer the short version that some posters offered.

Doctor Philip Brenner, a professor of international relations in Washington says there is a lot of propaganda in the United States against Iran and the Iranian government. He praised Ahmadinejad's courage in responding to Bollinger's remarks in a calm, measured and non-confrontational way.

From our unique vantage point here in Tehran, it’s a very odd experience watching world opinion forming on television about Iran – mostly based on uninformed and simply erroneous assumptions made by people like Bollinger or Bush.

For example, we saw extensive coverage of the International Atomic Energy Agency's report on Iran, declaring without reservation that the country's nuclear program was not in violation of any IAEA rules or guidelines, that the Iranian authorities were cooperating fully with inspectors, and that there was no evidence whatsoever of a military program.

We then witness French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warning that war could ultimately be only way to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. We see Bush ranting about Iran's determination to develop a military nuclear program. Based on what exactly gentlemen? The same intelligence sources that told you there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

A few hours after Ahmadinejad reiterated to the UN General Assembly that Tehran's nuclear case was a matter that should be handled by the IAEA, German Chancellor Angela Merkel used her speech to tell the assembly that her country would push for tougher sanctions against Iran.

Last week Israel once again managed to avoid being on the receiving end of an IAEA resolution calling on it to join nuclear non-proliferation treaty and subject its nuclear installations to international supervision. The protection being offered Israel by many western countries, led by the United States, has made a mockery of the NPT – and now we are seeing existing members threatening to withdraw. They rightly argue that if Israel isn't going to be held to the same standards demanded of them, then it becomes rather pointless and possibly dangerous for them to remain as members.

Sigh.

Meanwhile, Iranian businessmen and government officials are being arrested by U.S. forces in Iraq at an alarming rate. They are frequently accused – among other things - of smuggling weapons into the country to feed the growing insurgency. Without exception, the Iraqi government immediately denounces the abductions, offers evidence pointing to the innocence of the Iranian captives and demands their immediate release. The Iraqi president has described the abductions of the Iranians as an affront to Iraqi sovereignty.

With 170,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Iraq, supported by a huge but rather disreputable collection of private contractors such as the now notorious Blackwater, the president still believes that Iraq has "sovereignty."

Another sigh.

We get to speak to ordinary Iranians on a daily basis. As I have mentioned previously, they are curious and always full of questions when I say "I am British." When circumstances have allowed a longer conversation, one question invariably pops up in one form or another and usually goes along the line of, "Why is the American government so determined to destroy us?"

Why indeed.

Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Lillian said...

"Why is the American government so determined to destroy us?" Sadly, oil, again, seems to be the answer, I must say.