Monday, November 01, 2004

The War: Iran's Endorsement for President Bush

John Lewis notes that Iran has endorsed President Bush:

President Bush received a new endorsement this week: from Hasan Rowhani, head of Iran's Security Council. This should give pause to those who think that Mr. Bush is viewed everywhere as an enemy by America’s enemies, and Senator Kerry as their friend. In fact, many Middle Eastern leaders will prefer to stick with President Bush.

Rowhani said that a Bush victory would be good for Iran, because, he claims, Democrats have often hurt Tehran more than Republicans. “We should not forget that most sanctions and economic pressures were imposed on Iran during the time of Clinton,” he said. “Despite his hard-line and baseless rhetoric against Iran, he didn't take, in practical terms, any dangerous action against Iran,” said Rowhani.

Iranian political analyst Mohsen Mofidi said that "Democrats usually insist on human rights and they will have more excuses to pressure Iran." In other words, since he knows that America under Bush will not act against Iran—only talk—he sees Kerry as more of a threat. Kerry might actually get international sanctions passed, and at least bring economic pressure to bear against Iran.

But what about the destruction of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein?

In terms both of regional politics and Islamic beliefs, Iran has always viewed those regimes as enemies. Iran spent years—and thousands of lives—trying to destroy Saddam. It took our help to make the dream a reality. The Iranians were similarly happy when the Taliban fell.

Mofidi said that getting rid of the Saddam and the Taliban was the "biggest service any administration could have done for Iran." Bush has ended the most direct regional threat to Iran, creating a power vacuum—and a more porous border—that the Shiites are struggling to fill. Hopefully the Iraqis will fill this vacuum, since Mr. Bush has chosen not to allow the American army to win.

Iraq has also made it more difficult for Bush to make the choices needed to use military force against Iran. "The experience of two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the responsibility Bush had, will make it a very remote possibility for him to risk attacking a much bigger and more powerful country like Iran," Mofidi said.

By all indications, Mofidi is right, although not because Iran—which could not beat Iraq—is as yet any great power. But to attack Iran, Bush will have to overcome massive opposition at home, confront his friend Putin of Russia, convince an international coalition—central to all of his actions to this point—to join us, and counter Iran’s claim that they, like us, have a right to nuclear weapons. The Iranians know how hard this will be.

"It's not an endorsement we'll be accepting anytime soon," said a Bush campaign spokesman. "Iran should stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons and if they continue in the direction they are going, then we will have to look at what additional action may need to be taken including looking to the U.N. Security Council."

American troops in Iraq should be a huge deterrent to the Iranians. But, if the mullahs think we lack the will to act against them, then that force will be no threat. To Mr. Rowhani, economic boycotts and human rights condemnations are more dangerous than any potential American military attack. He obviously thinks that Kerry will be more dangerous at the UN than Bush.

Rowhani is not alone in his endorsement. The Middle East Media and Research Institute, which monitors the Middle Eastern media, presents many reports in which the leadership in the Middle East prefers Bush to Kerry. To cite one commentator, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, former editor-in-chief of the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and director-general of Al-Arabiyya TV:

"Regarding Bush, the truth is that he is the only president who publicly undertook to support the establishment of a Palestinian state … And perhaps he is [also] the only one who can do this in the next four years, [as he will be] less subject to pressure – as was done by his predecessor Bill Clinton . . ..”

Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dahlallah told Al-ManarTV: "Whether it is Bush or Kerry, he will present the Israeli solutions and the Arabs will have to take it." "The question is not who will be president of the United States. This isn't important. "

Raghida Dughram wrote in the London Arabic-language Al-Hayat:"Most of the Arab governments have decided [to bet on] George W. Bush for a second term . . . The motivation to host conferences [with the U.S.], and daring to cooperate and tighten ties between [their] intelligence [apparatuses and those of the U.S.] are the Arab governments' 'vote' for Bush in the U.S. presidential election . . . These governments have reached the conclusion that they prefer to 'aid' Bush in the elections, so that maybe Bush will then exempt them from the change of [dictatorial] regimes that he wants.”

Galal Dwidar, editor of Egyptian state newspaper Al-Akhbar: "Bush and Kerry – despite the claim of a dispute between them – stressed that the war in Iraq sought to defend Israel's interests. In order to avoid losing any Jewish or Zionist vote, the two made sure not to discuss in any way [the issue] of advancing towards the solution of peace in the Middle East . . . After the Bush-Kerry debate, there is no place for optimism. We must realize that the solution to our problems as Arabs and as Muslims is in our hands only, and that Arab solidarity is the only path to salvation . . .."

Columnist Radhwan Al-Sayedwrote in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal: "Most of the Arab regimes think that it is in their interest to stick with Bush Jr., even if they are somewhat concerned by his administration… The Arab public, on the other hand, despairs greatly of America in general, and of Bush's administration in particular . . . But this trend is not the trend of the Arab regimes in general . . . Most regimes today, even if they do not explicitly declare it – except for Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar – think that it is better for them to stick with President Bush for another four years.”

It is of course true that many Arab intellectuals—especially in the US—favor Mr. Kerry. But this is far from unanimous. Arab governments increasingly realize that the person in the White House is less important than their capacity to influence policy through lobbying. In this regard, many are siding with Mr. Bush—for he is the one that will strengthen their own political positions, in the name of the “war on terror.”

Sources: Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press, “Bush Receives Endorsement From Iran,” 10/19/04.
Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI), Inquiry and Analysis series #194, “Arab and Iranian Media on the U.S. Presidential Election” by Y. Yehoshua. 10/29/04.

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