What should Ahmadinejad do to get the Nobel Price?
- 21 Oct 2009
Is Iran threatening the West? What were the real issues concerning the last elections in this country? Why did the United States support the opposition movement? What should Ahmadinejad do to get the Nobel Price? For our series “Understanding the Muslim World”, Mohamed Hassan answers those questions. As a specialist on the topic, he highlights the various forces confronting each other in Iran. He also explains to us why Ahmadinejad is so often on the news and how the Islamic republic will influence the future of the US Empire.
INTERVIEW: GREGOIRE LALIEU & MICHEL COLLON
The media says Iran is a big threat. Because of Ahmadinejad’s declarations about Israel and because of the nuclear issue. Is Iran really a dangerous country ?
First, you should know that this famous nuclear program started at the time of the Shah with the help of the United States ! Second, there is a campaign led by Ahmadinejad’s opponents inside and outside the country claiming that Iran wants to get into confrontation with Israel. This is not true. Iran does not want to get into confrontation with anybody. Iran just wants to solidify its national sovereignty. We should see the nuclear issue from that point of view. For the Iranian people, it is a question of the right to the self-determination.
But doesn’t Ahmadinjad deny the Holocaust ?
No, he does not. He acknowledges that the Holocaust was a terrible event but more importantly, he underlines the fact that the people who committed this genocide have not paid a price as high as the Palestinians have been doing. During the First World War, Germany attacked its neighbors and paid the price for that. Belgium, for example, received compensation from Germany. What is Ahmadinejad’s real position ? He said that in order to see who is responsible for the Holocaust and make them pay for it, we have to analyze this tragic event and make it public. This element is hidden in the campaign against Ahmadinejad : Certain people ask him a few questions, and then they take his answers out of their context. Moreover, the question of the responsibility for the Holocaust has become a taboo. All this propaganda against Ahmadinejad is made to marginalize Iran.
In his book The Fateful Triangle, Noam Chomsky explains how Israel, at the time of the Shah, wanted to build an alliance with Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia against the Arab nationalism in the region. Today, Israel leads a campaign against Ahmadinejad with the goal of having Iran ruled by an accommodating government once again. The aim is to end the relationship between Iran on the one hand, and Hezbollah and Hamas on the other hand. This could strength Israel’s position on two issues : first, the good relations the pro-western countries of the region, such as Egypt or Jordan, have with Israel would be reinforced ; second, in Palestine, Abbas would also be strengthened, and the factions who want to struggle with Israel would be weakened. Those are the reasons behind the Israeli policy against Ahmadinejad.
Could the Palestinian issue and the nuclear program have been a pretext for Ahmadinejad to rally the people on nationalistic feelings before the elections ?
That was also claimed by some of Ahmadinejad’s opponents in Iran during the elections. The Iranian people, who experienced deprivation during Shah’s reign, obviously have solidarity with the Palestinians. Nevertheless, it could not possibly have been a crucial element in determining the results of the elections. Palestinians are not in a position to provide work and food for the Iranians. The fact is that Ahmadinejad’s agenda is all about state control, i.e., the state must control everything. That is why he was elected by the working people, namely the peasantry and the working class of the cities, who benefit from state intervention by dictating economic policies. However, reformists like Moussavi, supported by western forces during the elections, do not agree with such a vision.
What is the position of the reformists ?
Those reformists come from what we call the “bazaar bourgeoisie”, a bourgeoisie that has been in existence for a very long time in Islamic countries. It is composed of the artisan class associated with peasantry. At the time of the Shah, the bazaar bourgeoisie was not that important, i.e., the country was dominated by the comprador bourgeoisie that utilized the state apparatus and the finances of the government to conduct business with the imperialist countries through import and export. The fact is that the comprador bourgeoisie was just selling and not producing. That is why the Iranian economy was very much dependent on foreign powers. During this time, the bazaar bourgeoisie was not supported by the compradors, and lacked capital and technology. Therefore, the former backed Khomeini in the Islamic revolution in 1979, and the Iranian economic system changed. With the growth of the bazaar bourgeoisie at the expense of the compradors, the country left its neo-colonial identity behind and embraced its independence. People of the bazaar bourgeoisie saw the revolution as an opportunity to use the state capital to become rich. And today, some of them are billionaires ! Reformists such as Moussavi, Rafsandjani or Khatami come from that group. They are called “reformists” not because they have progressive ideas but because they want to change the economic system towards less state intervention and more privatization. This enabled some of them to become richer as Iran is a huge market. That was the major issue in the last elections, and as I said, most of the Iranian people who benefit from the state intervention chose Ahmadinejad instead of the “reformist” Moussavi.
So according to you, the Iranian elections were not manipulated ?
Of course they were not. The idea that the elections were rigged comes from a propaganda organized in order to marginalize Ahmadinejad and establish a government that would support western interests in Iran. Let us analyze some elements to show that the notion of election’s being fixed is not to be taken seriously. First, the Rockefeller foundation subsidized an NGO to take an opinion poll two weeks before the elections. This poll predicted Ahmadinejad’s victory three to one. Secondly, our media never showed the debate taking place in Iran during the campaign. This very open debate made it possible to understand why Ahmadinejad was elected, namely due to the fact that most of the working people backed him. Thirdly, we could ask some questions : Who are these people claiming that the Iranian elections were rigged ? Why is the United States not interested in the emergence of democracy in the Emirates ? Why is there no campaign against Afghanistan’s rigged elections ? So on and so forth. Reports are written to define which elections are good and which ones are bad according to the imperialist interests in different parts of the world. Finally, the Iranian people saw what the imperialist forces did in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is also the reason why the Iranians voted for Ahmadinejad, who has been forming some kind of anti-imperialist alliance with countries such as China or Russia. On the other side, the reformists who are more “pragmatic” were ready to build good relationships with the imperialist countries in order to conduct business.
Hillary Clinton confessed recently that the United States encouraged the Iranian opposition movement after the elections. But this is not the first time Washington got involved in the Iranian domestic affairs, is it ?
Indeed, in 1953, the CIA overthrew the Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh. He had been elected for his nationalistic and liberal ideas. In 1951, he had nationalized the oil industry. This nationalization upset Anglo-American interests in the region. Therefore, through a CIA operation, Mossadegh was replaced by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah, who would defend the imperialist interests for a long time. For the United States, having Iran as an ally was very important. Indeed, the Gulf used to be dominated by British imperialism but after the sixties, the latter had such an economic decline that the Brits no longer had the ability to finance their strategic position in the region. When the Brits left the Gulf region, the United States were afraid that the Soviet influence and Arab nationalism would increase. Thereby, they used the Shah as a police in the region to defend their interests. The Shah used the oil revenues to build a huge military power and a very strong intelligence service, the SAVAK. At the time, there were two opposing forces in the region : on the one hand there were revolutionary forces, which were acquiring a lot of legitimacy among the masses, such as the movement led by Nasser in Egypt or the republican revolution in Yemen ; on the other hand there were pro-imperialists, such as the Wahhabite Saudi regime as well as the governments of Kuwait or Jordan. The military state established by the Shah, thanks to the backing of the United States had a significant contribution in helping the pro-imperialist forces win.
What was it like in Iran under Shah’s dictatorship ?
The Iranian people suffered a lot under that regime. As I said before, the country was dominated by the comprador bourgeoisie, led by feudal royalists and a militaristic regime in a semi-colonial state with no vision of building a national industry. The nationalistic bourgeoisie for its part was very weak and the majority of the population was composed of peasantry, petty bourgeoisie and proletariat. The fact is that there was a huge gap between the social classes. While some people were even richer than those you could find in Beverly Hills, a lot of Iranians did not even know what a shoe was. That is why most of the Iranian people supported the Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979. The issue of social classes is in fact the key to understanding Iran before and after the revolution.
How did the revolution happen ? How was Iran transformed ?
Because of the huge gap between social classes, some political parties and associations naturally wanted to topple Shah’s regime. For a long time, the most important of those factions was the communist party, Toudeh. The Shah was used to fighting against the communists in Iran but his biggest mistake was probably allowing the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI) to develop. The PMOI was inspired by the theory of liberation and used a Marxist analysis of classes struggle together with a liberation theory, and thereby synthesizing Marxism with the Islamic doctrine. The Shah thought that if a group brought about a new theory combining Islam with Marxism, the influence of its main enemy, communism, would be weakened. But the PMOI turned out to be better than any other party because it had a vision, like the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. They became popular and very strong. In any case, the PMOI needed a leader to be able to overthrow the Shah. That is why they wanted to use Khomeini, who was in France at the time, since he was a charismatic leader with a religious and anti-imperialistic disposition. However, Khomeini had its own vision. Once the Shah was overthrown, Khomeini openly declared his ideology as he came to power. This brought about conflicts with the Mujahedin. After he fought off the Mujahedin, Khomeini finally took over the state power thanks to the support from the bazaar bourgeoisie
What was Khomeini’s vision ?
Khomeini declared that the people of the third world oppressed by imperialism had to gain power. He thought that it was important to form a united front composed of them, and, for instance, backed the Sandinistas in Nicaragua for this reason. Following this conception, Iran transformed from a neo-colonial state into an independent one. The first measure the new government took was to nationalize the oil industry as Mossadegh had done earlier. Khomeini also changed the political system inside Iran, which was dictatorial under the Shah. Khomeini said that there would be a parliament and someone to control it, namely the Supreme Leader, on the basis of the principles of Islam and national independence.
Keeping in mind that the candidacies in the elections have to be approved by the Supreme Leader, can one really say that the Iranian political system is democratic ?
The definition of democracy is a big question. Does Iran have a western type of democracy or a bourgeois state democracy ? Obviously neither. The Supreme Leader controls the political system in Iran but it would be naïve to believe that the elections in the western countries are better examples for democracy. The elections in the West are based on party politics with powers behind closed doors one cannot see directly. Iran for its part is an Islamic republic, and all the political parties must be founded on religious principles. From that point of view, secular parties are seen as a western invention that could divide the population and threaten the national sovereignty. This Iranian independence is exactly what makes the imperialist countries angry. The latter have no problem with the fact that Iran is an Islamic state. There is an Islamic state in power in Saudi Arabia, where they do not even have elections. However, imperialist countries have no problem with that because Saudi Arabia is a friend. The problem is that Iran has a vision of independence concerning its national sovereignty. Let us imagine that Ahmadinejad abandoned his vision of national independence and adopted a system defending the imperialist interests as Saudi Arabia does. He would definitely receive the Nobel Price for that !
A few days ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Obama’s advisor, declared that if Israel attacks Iran, the United States should intercept its bombers. Surprising, isn’t it ?
Brzezinski now sees that the United States have been seriously weakened economically and militarily for two reasons. First, when they took power, the neoconservatives used 11th September as a pretext for the war and made the whole Islamic world their enemy. That was very foolish and counter-productive for the United States. Secondly, the invasion of Iraq was a serious mistake. It did not strengthen the U.S.A. but brought them serious problems.
In this case, Brzezinski is trying to find solutions, keeping in mind that the most important objective for his country is to contain the growth of their main rival, China. One part of the solution is to strengthen NATO, because it can provide a solution for the problems of the West in general, and for the American ones in particular. For this reason, Brzezinski supported the proposal of Great Britain, France and Germany to have a new international conference for Afghanistan. He said that it was necessary to avoid NATO’s being defeated in Afghanistan as the Soviets were, because NATO is the only key to allowing the United States to play an important role in the world once again.
Another part of the solution is to build new partnerships to form a stronger alliance against China. With that prospect in mind, Brzezinski conceives the policy towards Iran in particular, but also towards other Islamic countries as well as Russia, not to be aggressive. It should be based on dialogue and not trapped by the Zionist propaganda. That is the rationale behind Obama’s speech in Cairo. The United States has to convince the Muslims, the Hindus and the Russian bourgeoisie that they have more to gain by being partners with western powers than with China. For that reason, Brzezinski said that the anger of the countries that were considered as enemies by the previous administration must be taken into account. Those countries should now have the right to use their own resources. The reason for such a change in the American foreign policy is the need for the United States to prevent those countries from building another world system, and to keep them in the system where Washington is the leader.
Is this a sign that the relations between United States and Israel are not as good as they used to be ?
First of all, Israel is not the policy maker in the United States. It is the American bourgeoisie who makes the decisions. But there is a division within the U.S. imperialism. The first, backward faction still maintains that the U.S. can continue on a militaristic path. But this is not realistic, as the country will face a demographic problem and it is impossible for it to win a direct war against China. The other faction, where you can situate Brzezinski and Obama, knows that they have to be very tactical and realistic to keep the U.S. hegemony. They say : “We should know our strength and our limits, and we have to work on that to make sure that our strength is not seen in the negative sense but in the positive one. Our strength must constitute security for our partners.” The United States certainly has important links with Israel but the Euro-Asian issue is more important than this relation, since the future of the humanity will be decided in this region. Therefore, Brzezinski wants to control the pot. He knows that the temperature of the pot must be decided by very wise cooks, not by lunatic people, because it can be very dangerous. If the temperature is a little bit out of control, it will burn everybody, and it will kick the Americans out of the region. You can see Brzezinski’s declaration about the Israeli bombers in this light which also illuminates the reason behind the American decision to make a concession for the first time by allowing other western powers to come into the Gulf region, with, for example, France having a military basis in the United Arab Emirates. But this also implies the weakening of the United States.