Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Mercury Rising... in the Middle East

Under what conditions does a nation deliberately radicalize itself? Under conditions in which it believes that it can best prosper through aggressive warfare. Under some conditions, it means that the nation is divided, facing an inevitable confrontation, and must unite. Under other conditions, it means that it senses weakness in an opponent. Assuming the translation is accurate, something we unfortunately have to remember to keep in mind ever since our military got into journalism, my guess is that the following represents the latter: Iranian president calls holocaust a 'myth' in live TV broadcast ... The outburst was the latest in a string of anti-Israeli statements from Mr Ahmadinejad. Analysts in Tehran yesterday said the wave of rhetoric was calculated to increase Iran's international isolation, strengthening the president's radical camp against more pragmatic regime figures who have been critical of his performance since he took office four months ago. Say what you will about Ahmadinejad, but don't underestimate his political skills or imagine that he is speaking without the support of the mullahs. Really, the only question is the precise translation. Separately, there is this story: More than 100,000 Lebanese Christians and Muslims gathered in Beirut yesterday for the funeral of a leading newspaper editor and critic of Syria.Mourners shouted slogans against the Syrian government, which many accuse of involvement in the death of Gibran Tueni, a politician and publisher of al-Nahar newspaper, who was killed in a car bomb on Monday. If Syria is behind this killing, it would suggest that there is a calculated attempt to provoke a war with Lebanon. If the US (or Israel, or one of Lebanon's factions) is behind it, it would suggest an attempt to provoke a war with Syria. Same effect, different actors. Add to this the US provocations against both Syria and Iran through the introduction of Special Forces teams into those countries. It's not clear whether the US and its friends are trying to start a war or whether Syria and Iran-- normally bitter enemies-- have decided that this is an opportune moment for a war and have decided to coordinate. Who is doing what is speculation, of course. But the pot is well stirred and looks to be about to boil over. Update, 12/15: I posed the question of context/translation over at AngryArab.blogspot. From one of his more recent posts, I think that there is no mistake. President Ahmadinejab is deliberately provoking a crisis.
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