December 12, 2006

Holocaust Denial Conference

For love of gods, what the hell are they thinking over there in Iran? I can't say I really buy that their leaders believe that the Nazis didn't kill systematically kill millions of people, but they've nonetheless gone and provided a forum for lunatics who believe exactly that.

Germany's prime minister has joined Israel's condemnation, which shouldn't be a surprise. It's against the law in Germany to deny the Holocaust. A willingness to irritate Germany should be of concern, as they've been one of the more reliably moderate foils to Bush's hawkishness in middle eastern matters for several years now.

I doubt very much, however, that this is more than a political statement. As noted on this blog previously, if Iran's leaders wanted to start ethnic cleansing against the world's jewish population, they could easily start with the 25,000 Jews in Iran. But not even Ahmadinejad seems to have anything against them personally and they can freely visit and call relatives who live in Israel:

... Despite the offence Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has caused to Jews around the world, his office recently donated money for Tehran's Jewish hospital.

It is one of only four Jewish charity hospitals worldwide and is funded with money from the Jewish diaspora - something remarkable in Iran where even local aid organisations have difficulty receiving funds from abroad for fear of being accused of being foreign agents. ...

The problem seems to be that on one hand, Israel seems to have finally achieved their apparent goal of getting a US administration to identify with them as completely as if they were a 51st state. That's great in terms of getting the US to take their side on every question, but it's also made Israel an excellent proxy stand-in for the new Least Popular Country on the planet. Ahmadinejad can do something like this that, through insulting the memories of Holocaust victims and driving the Israeli government crazy, allows him to gain points with other radicals while telling the US and Europe that he doesn't care what they think. Without firing a shot or holding a military parade, this is a sufficient leverage point through which he can thumb his nose at the west. On the other hand, the aftermath of the Iraq war has left Iran with a very strong hand, feeling perhaps "untouchable." This wasn't the case in 2003, when Iran made a sweeping offer to compromise on the nuclear issue and pull back from supporting Hezbollah, an offer brushed casually aside by the Bush administration. (h/ts Juan Cole)

They've created a good impression of it and have significant issues with human rights, but Iran doesn't act like a crazy country at home. At street level, it isn't even particularly radical. They're not a suicidal country, haven't started any wars in over a century, and surely know that any attack on Israel would be met with nuclear retaliation. Though they have good reason to distrust the US, the post-revolution governments have shown more willingness than several successive US administrations to reopen negotiations and potential diplomatic ties.

Yet the plain facts are that Iran no longer feels vulnerable and this conference should, beyond the strongly objectionable nature of the content, be interpreted as a loud statement of independence. We have only Bush's catastrophic adventurism in Iraq to thank for it, because this would have been unthinkable as recently as three years ago.

Update: David Neiwert writes in more detail about the holocaust denial movement and the historical revisionism that's a favorite of hate groups.

Posted by natasha at December 12, 2006 09:31 AM | Iran | Technorati links |

it's called "meat and bread for the base," and "rubbing salt in the wound."

perhaps you recall how the taliban leaders, after the US invasion, were revealed to live in compounds with lavish art and luxuries, despite enforcing a ban on such "unholy" images and substances in the afghan population. to me, this is the same thing. roil up the roving bands of goons who enforce strict sharia law, piss off the US and israel and thus make the base happy, and otherwise keep your name in the media.

iranian leaders are like any others: some are ideologues who probably believe this kind of tripe, some are educated and are cynically manipulating the domestic political scene. it looks to me as if the iranians are daring the rest of the world to do something, comfortable in the knowledge that nothing but words will be thrown at them.

boilerplate: i in no way advocate for a bombing campaign or invasion or iran.

Posted by: chicago dyke at December 12, 2006 11:04 AM

These nuts like Mahmoud are getting bolder because they know the U.S. is powerless to stop them.

The war in Iraq has destabilized the entire world because the U.S. can no longer keep these other rogue nations in line.

Posted by: PoliticalCritic at December 12, 2006 05:23 PM

Good to see you again ChiDyke.

Ahmidenejad is nuts, but so is our own Dear Leader. I'd say we need to figure out which one has a saner kitchen cabinet advising him and pulling the strings. And that's what scares me. Last April I and two other Seattlites had a meeting with one of Cantwell's staffers, laying out in stark terms the danger in even flirting with the idea of attacking Iran. We also demanded a response from Cantwell. It's 6 months later and well... we're still waiting for that response.

Posted by: shoephone at December 13, 2006 05:05 PM

cd - Exactly so. And yes, attacking Iran would be an unmitigated disaster. Completely sodding insane in the worst way. I don't know what else to say about that.

Posted by: natasha at December 13, 2006 06:55 PM

The similarities between Ahmedinejad and Bush are rather striking. Both are adherents to fanatic millenarianist versions of their respective religions, are isolationist, nationalist, and confrontational, have no aversion to war, have disrupted their country's economy, and have a country full of comparatively moderate citizens and political leaders that are hoping their president won't do anything critically stupid. In both cases, if the country can keep the nutcase under control for a bit longer, he'll be gone and calmer heads can sort out the conflict.

Posted by: tjewell at December 13, 2006 08:14 PM

Hefty words for Thai media after coup

Posted by: ccokz at December 13, 2006 10:09 PM