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May 20, 2008

Total Ayatollah Recall
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Following-up on Ilan's post, it seems to me that McCain has a real problem on his hands. This passage from a 2003 CQ piece suggests that when moderates held elective power in Iran, McCain himself acknowledged that the theocratic leaders (ie the Ayatollah and the Council of Guardians) wielded ultimate political power in Iran:

The administration's nod to the Biden-Hagel gesture toward Iran appears at odds with its stated policy. Last year, the White House said it would abandon its policy of cultivating the moderates surrounding Khatemi, saying they had little influence. The administration said it was opting instead for direct appeals to the Iranian people through U.S.-funded radio broadcasts and other programs.

Some other lawmakers strongly supported Biden's initiative. "If you're looking for
progress with a member of the 'axis of evil,' the best chance is probably here," said Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the incoming chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But others saw the effort as futile. "People go in there and meet the moderate foreign minister and the moderates around him, and they fool themselves into thinking the regime will change," said John McCain, R-Ariz., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "The religious mullahs will never let them."

So, for McCain, when the moderates held elective office, the religious clerics were the final arbiters of Iranian politics and policy. But now that a more hard-line president has control in Iran, he is characterized as the true leader and the religious clerics are marginalized. The ideology of Iran's presidents may have differed over the years, but this in no way changes the fact that the political structure itself over time doesn't change, and largely hasn't changed, since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Even in January of this year, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rather publicly overruled President Ahmadinejad  in a way that directly contradicts McCain's recent assertions:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wields ultimate authority in Iran, ordered Ahmadinejad to implement a law that would supply natural gas used to heat remote villages. The issue has become critical during an unusually harsh winter in Iran, and illustrates Ahmadinejad's weakness on domestic policy despite the high profile the anti-American populist has acquired abroad.

It certainly is disconcerting, as Ilan stated, to have in McCain a presidential candidate who doesn't understand the basic nature of Iran's political system. It certainly undercuts any credibility he has on the issue, and for all his recent posturing on Iran, it demonstrates a world view in disarray, whether on purpose or not.  But whatever the root of the confusion may be, it does, in the end, perpetuate the conservative tactic of muddying reality in order to beat the politically expedient drum of fear. 

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It sounds as if Sen. McCain thought that former Iranian president Khatami had been neutered by Iran's conservative clerics, and believes now that Ahmadinejad speaks for the clerics on most issues of concern to us. Distribution of gas to rural Iranian villages is not one of those as far as I know.

So basically, McCain's understanding of what is going on in Iranian politics looks to be pretty accurate, and Adam Blickstein's objections to it reflect the superficial pedantry one might expect from a commentator of his age and limited experience.

That still begs the substantive question of why McCain has chosen to adopt in toto the tone and content of President Bush's position toward Iran after he has already secured the Republican nomination, and when the suspicion of him remaining in the GOP is based on his record on other issues. The course he is on is the opposite of politically expedient; it does not appeal to the great majority of Americans who no longer like, trust or even respect Bush, and does not address the reasons many of Bush's remaining admirers distrust McCain. Banging on about Iran may appeal to a specific group of voters who dread its government's potential to do harm to Israel at some point in the future, but McCain is bound to get most of those voters no matter what he says about Iran now.

There is nothing pedantic about Blickstein's commentary, and I can only infer that labeling it so enables Zathras to dismiss it out of hand rather than respond to it with even a nominally significant argument. Unfortunately, such is the state of political discourse in this country anymore.

Blickstein's (and Goldenberg's) commentary is entirely on point - McCain equivocates on the significance of interacting with Iran's President as it suits his arguments. When it is politically expedient to oppose efforts to work with Iran's moderates (including then-President Khatami), McCain posits Iran's presidency as subject to the will of the mullahs and impotent to bring about meaningful change. When it is politically expedient to portray Obama as a foreign-policy rube, McCain perpetuates the "average American" notion that now-President Ahmadinejad is the "the Boss".

Make no mistake. McCain KNOWS Ahmadinejad is NOT "the Boss". And his indulgence in this notion for political gain is an attempt to mislead (even if subtly) the public, and blatant sophistry.

So much for the "Straight Talk Express".

Unfortunately the average American public doesn't know that the Iranain supreme religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei and not Ahamdinejad holds most of the power in Iran. What Obama needs to do, which is not an easy task, is to educate the American people about the structure of the Iranian government and why John McCain seems to be grossly ill informed about that country.

Its apparent your your writing with your head between your legs, and while your at it, kiss you butt good-bye. The leading Democrats in Congress today have officially already started America on the downtrend as they always do, with the exception of JFK.

A U.S. Veteran

To Phil Gatchell:0000000

It appears to me that you have proved my point about Americans being stupid about knowing the political dynamic in Iran. Instead of reading of Blickstein's article you just reply with a Republican soundbite. It is nice to know that you neglect your duties as citizen of this country by being so ignorant of foreign affairs.

Intrigued though I am at the idea that knowledge of the organizational relationships within the Iranian government should be a qualification for presiding over the government of the United States, I wonder if supporters of Sen. Obama should be as enthusiastic about it as they appear to be.

As I recall, it was Obama who began discussion of this subject back in the early days of the campaign, when he suggested he'd be willing to meet with Ahmedinejad. Perhaps he knew then that the Iranian President has no authority in either domestic Iranian affairs or foreign policy, perhaps not -- but if Ahmedinejad is indeed such a powerless figure, why would a President Obama want to meet with him?


Zathras:
'As I recall, it was Obama who began discussion of this subject back in the early days of the campaign, when he suggested he'd be willing to meet with Ahmedinejad.'

You recall incorrectly. Klein prefaced his question to McCain by stating that he had done research and concluded that Obama only spoke of meeting 'the leader of Iran'. McCain and others, including journalists who should know better, have been interpreting this as meaning Ahmadinejad.

This isn't so much McCain staying on Bush's message, as both Bush and McCain staying on the neocons' message. McCain was on board with the neocons before Bush was.

I do think it will hurt McCain with independent voters, as the realization spreads that he is ignorant or lying.

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Blickstein's (and Goldenberg's) commentary is entirely on point - McCain equivocates on the significance of interacting with Iran's President as it suits his arguments. When it is politically expedient to oppose efforts to work with Iran's moderates (including then-President Khatami), McCain posits Iran's presidency as subject to the will of the mullahs and impotent to bring about meaningful change. When it is politically expedient to portray Obama as a foreign-policy rube, McCain perpetuates the "average American" notion that now-President Ahmadinejad is the "the Boss
seslichat

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