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Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Whose Iran? Amal Saad-Ghorayeb’s or Facebook’s?

Now what's the real source of Iran’s opposition to Israel? Is it all about Israel’s "expansionist policies" and "Zionism"? Alternatively, is it really all about the Jews and Judaism? 

It depends on both who you ask and when you ask. If the BBC or the Guardian (in the UK) is interviewing high-ranking Iranians, then those officials or leaders will say it’s all about the evils of Israel and Zionism. But if Islamic Iranians are talking to Islamic Iranians, it’s nearly always about the evils of the Jews and Judaism.

I finally became convinced of this when I read Hizbu’llah: Politics & Freedom, by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb. The writer is a Lebanese Leftist who also has a soft spot for Shiism – or at least for Shia political activism. However, she makes it crystal clear that for both Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, it’s not all about "Israeli crimes" or the "racism that is Zionism". It is indeed often – sometimes mainly – about the Jews and Judaism. And it is this aspect of Iran and Hezbollah that she doesn’t like. (She demonstrates this Jew-hatred with many quotes from various Lebanese and Iranian Shia.) And neither does she like the fact that both Muslims (when speaking to non-Muslims/Westerners) and Leftists deny this reality outright.

The former Iranian President (during his eight years of power) made many anti-Jewish statements. It's far from being only a case of Ahmadinejad's many denials of the Holocaust (which everyone knows about). Indeed it can – and must - be said that his denial of the Holocaust is a result (or a consequence) of a prior hatred of both the Jews and Judaism which existed in his mind long before any "revisionism" (as is also the case with European/US Nazis). In other words, Jew-hatred comes first; and then Holocaust denial follows it.

A lot has been made, by Western Leftist and the Liberal Left, of the new President’s moderation (vis-à-vis, presumably, Ahmadinejad). More relevantly, it recently became headline news – in the West – that President Rouhani had wished Jews a happy new year. He hadn’t done so! Rouhani’s office was very quick to tell reporters that the message had in fact been sent by someone else who wasn’t even a member of the government. It wasn't an official statement.

Officially it has been said that the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has handed over control of the negotiations over its nuclear programme to President Rouhani. Whether this is entirely - or strictly - true is hard to say because, in the end, all final decisions on issues of war and peace are made by the Ayatollah.

Nonetheless, there will be talks in New York later this month.
The man who will head these forthcoming discussions will be the foreign ministry’s Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Zarif is another Iranian leader who's been hailed as a "moderate" by various Western leaders and US officials. His particular talent was to ensure talks between the US and Iran, both previously and for the upcoming New York discussions.

There’s always a lot of talk about "talks" in political circles. (Sometimes there’s even talk about "talks about talks".) Nonetheless, as all those on the ground know, what really matters is not talks; but the results or consequences of talks. Are the results positive or negative? Or, more often than not: Are the supposed results actually non-existent: despite the theatrics? 

I suppose that’s both diplomacy and politics for you. The point is, at least in the Iranian case, that it could all be bullshit. It could all be Iranian taqiyya. All that will depend on two main questions. 

1) How truly independent is the President of Iran from the Ayatollah? 2) How genuinely moderate is President Rouhani?

It’s ironic that the other week I received comments (from a Wali Bak) on a piece I had written for American Thinker  - in which I discussed Iran's Press TV - which said that there's little freedom in the West because (among other things) no one is allowed to put a pro-Iran position here. (Except the Stop the War Coalition, Counterfire, George Galloway, the Guardian, The New York Times, CounterPunch, etc.). It’s ironic because Facebook (among) other social media, is banned in Iran. (Some reporters have said that it’s "banned but not illegal".)

It may seem strange, then, that the new spokesperson for the Iranian foreign ministry, Marzieh Afkham, has a Facebook page which recently received as many as 25,000 ‘likes’. This is a large figure if you bear in mind the fact that the Iranian regime blocks Facebook. It would be a surprise, too, were it not for the fact that it’s not actually Marzieh Afkham’s account in the first place. It was a hoax perpetrated by an Iranian exile. Afkham herself had to publicly deny the page after reporters kept on quoting lines - and sometimes whole posts - from the page.

This spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry isn't the only victim. Other ministers in the Iranian government have complained that the media is frequently quoting from Facebook - and other social media - accounts which don't in fact belong to them. They too are all fake.

The problem is even worse than that. The Supreme Leader’s own Facebook page has also received 56,000 ‘likes’. Yes, he hasn’t got a Facebook page either. It’s another fake page.

Consequently, just as we can get the Guardian’s nicey-nicey version of Iran (here in the UK), so we must also be aware of Facebook Iran too.

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