Thursday, May 25, 2006

IRAN: An Historic Smackdown

While Olmert was making history in the Joint session of Congress yesterday, Ahmadinejad was making a different kind of history. Clearly Tony Blair is meeting with Bush now regarding this very thing. It is soooo not about Iraq, we done won Iraq. Sectarian violence is part and parcel of this global war on Islamic violence. Iraq is so yesterday. Blair is here to war game, right on the heels of Olmert. Coincidence? Hardly. I will try to liveblog the Bush Blair press conference tonight, but I am not home and the day is not my own. Meanwhile, get thee over to Kobayashi Maru here;

Yesterday Iranian President Ahmadinejad was widely reported as having said that the West would "receive an historic slap" if we so much as waved an unloaded BB gun in the direction of Iran. (In the American media it was "a historic slap". We prefer the British: "an historic".)

According to Google News, 56 stories contained that phrase, while a total of 1074 were 'related' to it. By contrast, the rest of Ahmadinejad's remarks - and, we would argue, the most relevant part that sets "historic slap" in its proper context - appeared in only seven, with a total of 619 'related' to it. What is the context of those remarks?

"Today, Iran has mastered the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from start to finish, thanks to young Iranian scientists. The enemies are looking to plot and want to create differences among Iranians to stop us getting our rights. But if they do the slightest damage to the Iranian people, if they commit the slightest aggression, they will receive an historic slap." [emphasis added]

A little different, no? Mastery of "the entire nuclear fuel cycle" and "historic slap" are clearly linked ideas... the fuel cycle that's going to be used entirely for generating electricity...

But let's not be too quick to judge. With Ahmadinejad's straight-faced assurance that Iran's nuclear capability is only for the peaceful purposes, we can all relax. (Never mind that Iran could have done the nuclear-generated electricity thing sans all the sturm and drang had it simply abided by the obligations it signed onto under the NPT and remained open to IAEA inspections. Never mind that an investment in petroleum refining capacity could have generated far more energy at far less cost than a nuclear program.)

Never mind all that. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt - again.

Perhaps "slap" is really a typo. What Ahmadinejad probably really meant to say was "zap". Of course. That's it. How could we have been so bellicose and arrogant in our interpretation of the nuance of their unique language, culture and customs? When the nuclear power grid goes on-line and Tehran's Sharia-compatible toasters and state-censored televisions get all the domestically generated, CO2-free, Kyoto-compliant juice they need, it will be a metaphorical 'zap' to the ego of insensitive, planet-stomping, war-mongering theocrats like Bush.

Back to reality for a second. Let's go deeper. Another version of the remarks, over at Iran Focus raises even more pointed questions that most of the MSM have chosen to ignore:

"Today we can proudly announce that Iran has at its disposal the nuclear cycle from zero to 100... Any thought of aggression against the rights of the Iranian nation will be met with a lasting and historic slap from the people of Iran. The enemies of Iran know that they are not capable of harming the Iranian nation in the slightest bit from the outside. The enemies failed to prevent the Iranian nation from obtaining [nuclear capabilities] through political pressure, plots, and use of international organisations and today are plotting and trying to create [ethnic] divisions and despair to prevent the realisation of all of the Iranian nation’s rights." [emphasis added]

What's interesting about this longer excerpt is the introduction of a third concept: the West (aka, 'the enemies') have failed - past tense. This is important in that it implies either facts on the ground (nukes already built and maybe already loaded onto missiles on container ships en route to Western capitals) or perceived empowerment - we'd guess both. Unfortunately we can't find a transcript of the full remarks. It would appear however, that the sequencing of the key sound bytes is consistent across many media outlets, as is the gist of the translations.

The idea that Iran believes the West to have already failed in stopping their nuclear ambitions is reinforced by the recent actions (or rather, non-actions) of pretty much everyone in the international community, including the U.S. Although Iran has not rolled its armies across any borders recently (a technical, though hardly meaningful, point of departure from literal Hitlerian analogies in light of Iran's outsized influence in Syria and elsewhere), the state of mind that Ahmadinejad appears to be in is the same that possesses any leader when his aggressive actions have gone unopposed. If they didn't stop us from doing 'x', he thinks (and quite logically) then why would they stop us from doing 'y'? And if that's true, then why should we believe them when they say that 'z' is really truly their bottom line and it "will not stand"?

In short, they are on a roll and they know it.

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