And Now a Word From the Reality-Based Community

Experts challenge White House line on Iran's influence (FT)

This is from the Financial Times in the UK, via MSNBC.com. As we've noted here before, the Financial Times' primary readership is the business elite in the UK and Europe; these are people who need to know what's really going on in the world. They have no use for the vaporous, willfully ignorant waffle habitually emitted by most of the mainstream US media. (That's also why the Wall Street Journal's news pages – as opposed to the unhinged ranting of the editorial section – are also good sources of reality-based news. It's an effective combination for them, actually: the news pages gives the American elite what they need to know; the editorials stroke their ids with bilious fantasy of how the world "should" be.)

As we can see below, those who are genuinely concerned about peace and democracy in the Middle East – including Iran – decry the knee-jerk, unrestrained bellicosity that now characterizes the policies of the governments of Israel and the United States.

Excerpts: From the moment last Wednesday when Hizbollah fighters seized two Israeli soldiers, the Bush administration immediately held Iran and Syria responsible. The White House mounted a systematic campaign on the US airwaves to get that message across while seeking to put pressure on the G8 summit to unite in confronting those two governments.

That it has become the received wisdom in the US that Iran was directing Hizbollah to deflect international pressure on Tehran's nuclear programme, is testimony to the Bush administration's ability to dominate the discourse in the mainstream media. The crisis has also demonstrated how it can rely on the support of the US foreign policy establishment – Democrat and Republican – when it comes to matters of vital national interest to the US and Israel.

Challenging these assertions, Iranian analysts and activists in the US – both those for and against the Iranian theocracy – are warning that such simplified arguments may not only be completely erroneous, but will also complicate the process of calming down the crisis while raising the chances of a direct conflict between Iran and the US.

Akbar Ganji, Iran's most prominent dissident who recently emerged from six years in prison, began a symbolic hunger strike outside the UN headquarters in New York at the weekend to press for the release of all political prisoners in Iran. But he also said his mission to the US was to prevent the spread of war.

"There are two voices in this – one is the voice of warmongers, terrorists and fundamentalists. The other is the voice of pacifists, pro-democracy activists and freedom-seekers," he told the FT.
"Unfortunately, the Christian-Jewish-Islamic fundamentalists are stirring up this situation and setting [Lebanon] ablaze," he said. "They should all be isolated."

…An Iranian expert, who is close to Tehran's thinking and did not wish to be identified, told the FT that Iran was not looking for a crisis in Lebanon at a critical moment in the nuclear diplomacy. He said Iran had received signals from members of the UN Security Council last week that it would be given more time to consider the west's proposals.

It was inconceivable that Iran had ordered Hizbollah to take Israeli soldiers prisoner. Iran wanted a negotiated way out of the nuclear stand-off, he said. He argued that Israel's fierce retaliation for the abduction of the soldiers strengthened the hands of US hardliners who did not want such a settlement. 
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