The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


As events in Iran continue unfold, little is certain. But ideological attitudes in the West have begun to change – at least for now. Michael Goldfarb comments:
There’s an amazing thing happening in the blogs over the last few days that one assumes is a fair reflection of a broader shift in attitudes towards Iran. Six months ago, few Americans would have disputed that Ahmadinejad was a thug and a tyrant, but there were many on the left who supported Obama’s push for direct engagement with the Iranian president anyway. America deals with all kinds of thugs and authoritarian leaders, and Obama and his supporters made the case that we should deal with this one, too. But the left, I think a little to their own surprise, became deeply invested in the Mousavi campaign. Perhaps you could see it most clearly on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, but much of the media liked the simple narrative of Mousavi the Obama-like reformer against Ahmadinejad the Bush-like ideologue. And after the Lebanese elections, the media was primed for a story on the “Obama Effect” in the Middle East.

When things went the other way, something changed. The left, which may have reviled Ahmadinejad but was willing to do business with him anyway, seems to have become deeply hostile to any kind of diplomacy that could be seen as legitimizing this election result. The administration hasn’t quite caught up to this reality, offering weak statements about “irregularities” in the voting but no real sign that it will stand up and support the Iranian kids who are pleading for help as they’re beaten in the streets. I suspect it will soon. If Roger Cohen [a very Left columnist for the NYT] can’t stomach seeing Obama reach out to this regime after what has happened and what is happening, then who can?

But a desire to engage with a demonstrably Islamofascist dictatorship was only the Left’s first mistake. Now, they’ve put a halo around the head of Ahmadinejad’s challenger, Hossein Moussavi.

Wretchard of the Belmont Club suggests that a halo may not be in order.
Mousavi is no more a “moderate” than Ahmadinejad according to a former Indian diplomat, M K Bhadrakumar. “Most likely, he had a hand in the creation of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Ali Akbar Mohtashami, Hezbollah’s patron saint, served as his interior minister.” That’s Mousavi, who Michael Ledeen called one the architects of the some of the most repressive features of the current Iranian regime. So why, with the elections fundamentally rigged by the state and in fact a disguised process of appointment between two members of the Iranian establishment, did the clerics choose Ahmadinejad over the man who so artfully depicted himself as a reformer and who captured the protest vote of the Iranian youth and intelligensia?

The probable answer is one word: money. Within Iranian ruling circles, Mousavi represented the economic enemies of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad according to Bhadrakumar. While Mousavi could package himself as a ‘reformer’ and to some extent genuinely capture the enthusiasm of the dissidents, the choice of between him and Ahmadinejad was really over who would get to control the economy. It was a battle between two factions of the ruling elite for the chairmanship of the board.

So … it’s not about “freedom” or “moderation” or “reform” in the sense that many in the West and some in Iran believe it is. It’s about money and power.

Would Mousavi be a better option than Ahmadinejad? I suppose. After all, the current Iranian president is a true thug.

But do not delude yourself into believing that Mousavi is a creation of Barack Obama’s outreach—a man who would sue for better relations with the west, more moderate politics within Iran, a rejection of nuclear weapons, and true freedoms for Iranians. Don’t make this second mistake, even if you made the first.