Friday, May 12, 2006

Ahmadinejad's long game

Ahmadinejad has confirmed that his letter to Bush was not making any offers to negotiate about Iran's nuclear program.

Stressing that the letter was beyond the nuclear issue, the chief executive said that in principle, the country's nuclear case is not so significant to make him write a letter about it.

"We act according to laws and our activities are quite clear. We are rather intent on solving more fundamental global matters.

"The letter was an invitation to monotheism and justice, which are common to all divine prophets. If the call is responded positively, there will be no more problems to be solved," added the president. The president said that the letter actually contained a clear message of invitation to human beliefs, adding that its response will determine the future.
So, it was not about nukes; it involved something "more fundamental". And the response may mean that "there will be no more problems to be solved", or will, in any case, "determine the future". Is it, therefore, a dawa, a prelude to war, as I speculated the other day? Dinocrat and Robert Spencer lean this way. My problem with that interpretation is that, though I can't dismiss it, equally I can't conceive of how the Iranians could threaten anything truly serious, either to the United States, or even to Israel, the subject of most of his direct threats. For example, this one

“Like it or not, the Zionist regime is heading toward annihilation,” Ahmadinejad said at the opening of a conference in support of the Palestinians. “The Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm.”
Are we to assume that Iran is capable of mounting such an attack? Much as they would like to, that would involve a capability beyond what any obervers attribute to them. A storm of terrorist attacks is certainly conceivable, though none of the players (Iranian-backed or otherwise) seem to be able to do this at the moment. A strategic aim that he hints at several times is that of separating Israel from its Western support.

Referring to the concern expressed by western countries over his remarks about Israel, he said he was merely stating the truth, and urged countries who were threatened by his remarks to end their support for the cruel regime and see what would happen.
The letter may well be one step towards this goal rather than the prelude to a direct attack. Amir Taheri points to a tradition of letter writing started, of course, by Muhammad, and continued by the caliphs and by Khomeini in 1987. This last letter, to Gorbachev, was merely to refuse to help in Afghanistan, though the refusal was motivated by the Russians' un-Islamic ways and accompanied by the usual call to convert. The call was not underlined by a threat to attack.

I cannot come to any conclusion about this, other than the need to take the letter seriously in at least this sense: it is part of a long game, one that may lead to war, or to humiliation for either side. No scenario can be dismissed; all should be considered.

(via Dinocrat)

Then, of course, there is this.

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