Twists and turns in the fallout from Iran’s disputed election just keep coming thick and fast at the moment. Combined with the issue of Iran’s uranium enrichment program and the continued frostiness of US – Iran relations, there’s no more newsworthy nation on the planet right now. For better or for worse, Iran is a state that will have its voice heard in international affairs. The news summary in brief:
* With the public demonstrations being crushed out of existence for the time being, Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi states his intent to create a political front of various like-minded pro reform groups. Supposedly, Mousavi will pursue a “legal framework” to continue the dispute of the allegedly fraudulent elections, although quite how this is to be attained was not outlined. The group intends to “promote democracy and challenge hard-liners who impose their will on the nation in the name of Islam and democracy”, according to Mousavi’s aide, Ali Reza Beheshti.
To what degree this will be tolerated by Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime remains to be seen. Overt political dissent has a tendency to end in arrest in Iran . But detaining Mousavi might be considered too much of a potential flashpoint for the regime to contemplate at this stage. A public prayer address scheduled to be held this Friday will be attended by Mousavi, leading to a potential public confrontation between hardliners and Mousavi’s reformist backers. This could be the trigger for further public demonstration.
* In another example of the rift developing in Iran’s clerical class, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has declared a fatwa (religious ruling) against Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime. Years ago, Montazeri was one of Iran’s most prominent political figures, at one point being groomed to succeed Ruhollah Khomeini as Iran’s Supreme Leader. In any event, Ali Khamenei got the nod, and Montazeri was marginalised. Nonetheless, he’s been a thorn in the side of Khamenei ever since, repeatedly criticising his regime’s infringement of human rights. Montazeri was placed under house arrest by the Iranian government for a number of years following Khamenei’s succession, and his latest comments might well land him back there.
* Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has condemned the German government after an Egyptian Muslim woman was murdered inside a German courtroom. The woman was involved in a court case against her German neighbour, who had earlier been convicted of racist abuse. The neighbour was somehow able to stab the woman 18 times in the middle of court as her 3 year old son looked on. When her husband attempted to intervene, he was shot by German police. Ahmadinejad cites the case as evidence of ingrained prejudice against Muslims and human rights abuse in the West.
This is quite probably a correct assertion. But apparently Ahmadinejad has missed the irony in his condemnation of “human rights abuse”, coming as it does in the aftermath of the Iranian government’s violent crackdown on peaceful public protest on the streets of Tehran.
* US President Barack Obama has been in negotiations with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev regarding a mutual scaling down of their respective nuclear arsenals. Apparently, the US has tried to get Russian support for tougher sanctions against Iran as part of the deal. Yes, that’s right, the US continues to take the line that Iran’s uranium enrichment program is not for domestic energy purposes as claimed by Tehran, but is actually aimed at developing a nuclear arsenal. This, despite the complete lack of any evidence to support the notion whatsoever, and despite this recent comment from the incoming head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program:
“I don’t see any evidence in any IAEA documents about this”.
Iran has been open to regular IAEA inspections since October 21, 2003. Russia flatly turned down the US overtures for tougher sanctions against Iran.
Still, the Iran issue aside, negotiations over nuclear disarmament must be considered a step forward in building a safer world for future generations. Under the new agreements, the US and Russia would only have a combined nuclear arsenal powerful enough to destroy all human life on the planet about 30 times over, rather than the 45 odd times they could do so at present.
* If further evidence were needed of the bizarrely paranoid outlook the US has on the outside world, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has recently been jumping up and down over alleged Iranian plans to build a large new embassy in Nicaragua. “And you can only imagine what that’s for,” Clinton said in May, adding that she found the news “quite disturbing”.
Precisely why we were supposed to find this piece of news so alarming was not explained. Perhaps Clinton has been missing a few hours of sleep here and there and her imagination has been working overtime? As it happens, she needn’t have been so dismayed, as the embassy worksite does not in fact exist, forcing the State Department to issue a refutation. Perhaps a little fact checking might be in order before the new Secretary of State starts shooting her mouth on future non-issues?
The possibility of Iran forging ties with various Latin American states has long been a source of paranoid over reaction in the White House administration. It’s assumed as a matter of course that any developing links must be directed at opening up a new front against the US. In actual fact, Iran is far from reaching any kind of consensus with any Latin American state. Ideologically as well as geographically, the Middle East is thousands of kilometres apart from Latin America. Surely the US has little to fear?
The real issue is, of course, that the US no longer enjoys the influence over Latin American that it once did. The old US sponsered military dictatorships have now been done away with, and everywhere in Latin America there is a new shift towards self dependent centre left government. The US no longer gets to treat Latin America as if the region was part of its own backyard, and they’ve got sour grapes about it.