What Iranian bloggers are saying about the US election

My following article appears in today’s edition of Crikey:

Antony Loewenstein, author of The Blogging Revolution, writes:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in New York last week and conducted a number of fascinating interviews that confirmed his chameleon nature. He told Democracy Now! — after expressing typical bigotry against homosexuals… — that his country would accept a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians (despite the impossibility of now achieving this due to Israel’s colonial project).

The Guardian has reported this but few others. The Western media apparently didn’t think it was appropriate to mention this major shift in policy. The “new Hitler” is a far more necessary illusion.

It was just the latest example of Iran being the convenient punching bag in this US election season. Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has already said that Washington shouldn’t second-guess Israel if it wants to strike Iran.

Iran has become one of the leading foreign policies issues during the presidential election, but nuance has been completely lost behind bombastic rhetoric against Iran’s supposed threat. But what do Iranians themselves think about this? Blogs are a perfect way to gauge their mood.

Most appear to favour Barack Obama — due to the presumption that he’s less likely to launch military strikes — but both major candidates are faulted for issuing predictable and mis-guided talking points against Iran.

The blogosphere exploded after last week’s first presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama. Both men inaccurately called the Iranian Revolutionary Guards the Republican Guards and moderator Jim Lehrer failed to correct them.

Blogger Samsam1111 in Iranian.com wrote:

The old dude candidate while bragging about his immense foreign affairs expertise calls the regime Revolutionary Guards as Republican Guards. Hello! This is not Eye-raq, pal.

Other bloggers lamented the fact that Iran was the designated enemy and both candidates called her a real threat. Roznameh Negar No (which means New Reporter) argued: “The debate was not a very exciting one and it seems that insulting Iran is an a la mode story.”

But many Iranian bloggers were upset with Ahmadinejad’s claims in New York of respectable human rights in his country. Mojtaba Saminejad, a former jailed blogger who has been in prison for more than 20 months because of his writings, wrote:

Maybe Ahmadinejad is talking about another country … The President says that there are no political prisoners in Iran, but that there are many political prisoners in the USA. Denying this reality of all these political prisoners in Iran can only be a sign that the Islamic Republic knows it is violating human rights. If not, there is no need to talk about the USA when questions are being asked about Iran.

Despite the current Western rhetoric against Ahmadinejad… — and I discovered during my visit in Iran last year that the local print and online media, despite the censorship, featured robust criticism of the leadership — blogger Hoder points out that former President Mohammad Khatami was equally inflammatory against the Jewish state.

But as the blogger notes:

If any of these had been said after Iran officially started its nuclear programme, they would have easily become strong points of anti-Iran propaganda, the same way Ahmadinejad’s words have become. Especially given how easily they can totally mistranslates and misquote anyone, if they want to.

And that is the key point. Robert Fisk explains that the Western powers actively need a “crackpot” running Iran. “We wanted Iran to be bad”, he said.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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