Little Green Footballs

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Peace conspirators

"Screw 'em. Let them fight their own battles. Why should our government support them when we can't even meet our own people's needs?"

A typical Nazi-Commie-Islamo-Marxist Kossack ranting against U.S. support of Israel?


TEHRAN, July 22 — There is a huge amount of anger here about what is happening in Lebanon, but it is not all the result of Israeli bombs, missiles and artillery.

“Of course I am angry," said Hamid Akbari, 30, a deliveryman. "All our income is going to Palestine and Hezbollah."

For decades, Iran has been Hezbollah’s prime patron, helping create it as a Shiite Muslim militia and then nurture it with money, expertise and weapons. But now that Hezbollah is in the midst of full-blown fighting with Israel, Iranian officials have been adamant in insisting that they had nothing to do with the events that set off the crisis.

Part of the reason may be fear, or concern, that the United States and Europe would punish Iran, if it were proved otherwise. But Iranian officials may have a wary eye on their public. In interviews in central Tehran Saturday, person after person said the same thing: Iran should worry about Iran’s problems and not be dragged down by others’ battles.

"We Iranians have a saying," said Ali Reza Moradi, 35, a portrait artist who works in a small booth downtown. “We should save our own house first and then save the mosque. A lot of people think this way. The government should help its people first, and then help the people in Lebanon."


Although Iran sits atop one of the largest known oil reserves, it cannot refine enough gasoline to meet its own needs — and so prices are rising. Mr. Ahmadinejad may have been elected on a populist economic message, but on the streets people report more pain, more unemployment and higher prices.

Hamidreza Jalaipour, a sociologist and former government official, said that on this point Iranians might agree but that they were also fickle.

"Iranians are very sensitive and want our money to stay in the country and be spent for Iranians to solve their problems," Mr. Jalaipour said. “But, you cannot rely on what they say because their opinion changes quickly, and if the war continues, they might say something else."


Despite the country’s authoritarian leadership, Iranians are often outspoken about their political beliefs, and many were willing to be quoted by name.

"Let them fight with each other until they get tired," said Reza Muhammadi, 33, who runs a small grocery in the center of town. "Arab countries are not supporting Hezbollah, but my country is? They are giving my share to the Arabs."

Mr. Muhammad said he worked six days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to feed his family. So, he said, he had no tolerance for his government’s financial commitments abroad. "One percent of our budget has been approved by my Parliament to give to Palestine," he said. "Why should I not get angry about this?"

In a recent edition of the daily newspaper Aftab-e Yazd, one reader wrote in saying: "Radio and television broadcast so many programs about Arab countries that I sometimes wonder if it is the Iranian TV or an Arab TV. Such vast and big propaganda has caused a kind of indifference and even negative sense toward Arab nations."


Whether or not Iran played a role in actually inciting the crisis seemed irrelevant to people interviewed Saturday.

Ali Muhammadi runs a small DVD shop, a closet-size booth where he sells pirated DVD’s for about $1 each. "I don’t think it’s an important issue for us," he said of the conflict in Lebanon. "I think the government should take care of its people first."

As the article also points out, many Iranians do support their government's backing of Hezbollah. It would be naïve to think that the isolationist position represents a majority, or even a large minority, of Iranians. But it's clear that American "peace conspirators" are not the only ones who want no part of a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran in Lebanon.

Michael Ledeen, call your office.

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