by Rasmus Christian Elling.
Here is a short summary of the reactions in Iranian media to Ahmadinejad’s show at the Durban II conference yesterday. More headlines (and, if I can find the time, a proper analysis) will be added later today or tomorrow.
KEYHÂN (state-run, close to the Leader):
“With his speech, Ahmadinejad bombarded Israel”
“Ahmadinejad: ‘Despite the wishes of the West, I will attend all global meetings'”
“The support of 210 Majles deputies for the president’s viewpoints in the Geneve conference”
IRNA NEWS AGENCY (state-run):
FÂRS NEWS AGENCY (state-affiliated)
RAJÂ NEWS AGENCY (close to Ahmadinejad):
MEHR NEWS AGENCY (state-affiliated):
TÂBNÂK (‘moderate’ conservative, Mohsen Reza‘i-affiliated).
“The insulting action of Westerners: Exit from the auditorium during Ahmadinejad’s speech” (carries a picture of empty chairs at the conference, something that state-run news agencies did not bring)
E‘TEMÂD-E MELLI (‘reformist’, Karubi-affiliated)
ÂFTÂB-E YAZ (‘reformist’, Karubi-affiliated)
[Karubi:] “When experts deem insults possible why is it necessary to participate in such meetings?”
AFTÂB (‘centrist’, allegedly Rafsanjani-affiliated)
I haven’t had time to read all the news items, but it seems clear that only the ‘reformist’-affiliated media outlets’ description of the events fits that of major international media.
State-run and pro-Ahmadinejad media interprets the speech as a historic victory for the Islamic Revolution that shows that Iran is now a superpower and a leader of the Muslim world community. These portrayals reduce the protests against Ahmadinejad’s speech to isolated provocative acts financed by some states who are against Iran.
In the meantime, Ahmadinejad has promised to show up at every international gathering from now on; that ‘the divine promise and shining day for humanity’ is near; and that if the European countries would allow a ‘referendum’, it would show that ‘70% of the people’ in Europe ‘supports the Iranian nation since the speeches of the Iranian nation arises from God’s inner nature’. Last but not least he promised to hold a similar referendum in Iran, which he promised would show that ‘100% of the Iranian people is against your [i.e., the West’s] policies in the world’.
Allegedly, the people who came out to greet the returning president answered with the slogan ‘O, you, the hope of the dispossessed; you turned Geneve into Tehran; welcome to Iran’.
Zibakalam, professor at Tehran University, argued that Ahmadinejad’s speech might not benefit Iran in the way his supporters believe.
Zibakalam stated that apart from Ahmadinejad’s own entourage, “only a number of diplomats from Arab countries (Sudan)” clapped for the president. Not only was the topic of his speech not that important or necessary right now, argued Zibakalam, the speech itself could have been formulated better. “The important issue is that we will have to decide whether Iran’s foreign policy strategy should be aimed at national interests or ideological [goals]”, stated Zibakalam, referring to the national(ist)/ international(ist) dichotomy, which is as old as the Islamic Republic itself.
ZIbakalam concluded that Iranians could ask themselves which was more important: “the Sudanese’s encouragement and applause or the exit of diplomats from many influential countries of the world during Iran’s president’s speech?”.
(By the way, Sudan’s ‘Justice Minister’ stated today in Tehran that the international arrest order for Sudan’s president is due to the fact that Khartoum does not recognize Israel).
In today’s Âftâb-e yazd, the chief editor wrote that the insult against Ahmadinejad was also an insult against Iran, but that the president’s trip to Geneve was completely unnecessary when only three presidents of insignificant countries attended the conference. Furthermore, the editor stated that Ahmadinejad had nothing new to say at the conference and that, apart from the UN general secretary and the Swiss president, Ahmadinejad did not meet any world leaders, as promised. Indeed, the editor concluded, Ahmadinejad’s Geneve performance was not the ‘epic’ act that his supporters have named it.
So far, the most notable criticism from within the system has come from Musavi. While he stated that the provocative act against Ahmadinejad (the clowns? the exodus?) was deplorable and an insult against Iran, he also blamed the president’s advisors for not warning Ahmadinejad of the possible ‘scenes’ he could encounter at the conference. He then implied that when uttering ‘words of epic poetry’ (kalamât-e hamâsi) one should know the outcome – in other words, that Ahmadinejad should have worded his views differently to prevent the embarrassing scene. By using the word ‘hamâsi‘, Musavi might also be playing with the words: could we maybe even translate it as ‘Hamas wording’? Anyhow, Musavi then said:
“The repetition of such an event will threaten our reputation and the reputation of the Islamic Republic and that of Iranians abroad. This event should not be repeated. After all, for what purpose have we established such a magnificent diplomatic institution? I think there is a problem.”
This might not seem as harsh criticism compared to the international outcry. Nonetheless, in my interpretation – and I welcome alternative readings – this is quite harsh for a figure so high up in the political system as Musavi: he is stating that Ahmadinejad’s actions were wrong and that the diplomatic institution is not working correctly despite all its ‘splendor’ (sarcastic?). Also note the way Âftâb has distorted Musavi’s words in the headline. As far as I can see, there is no mention of ‘insults’ against ‘countries’ in the text itself. Nonetheless, an editor must have ‘read’ this between Musavi’s lines. Furthermore, Musavi is quoted slightly differently on other sites (see for example Entekhâb)
Finally, by mentioning ‘Iranians abroad’, Musavi reflects the feeling I have gotten from browsing the internet today: that many Iranians, in particular those in the West, are simply embarrassed with their president.