Sunday, January 2, 2011

Israel’s favorite candidate for Iran’s next presidential election



Tehran's mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf

The Israeli intelligence analyst Yossi Melman has recently published a piece in Haaretz entitled “The man who says Iran does not need nuclear weapons” in which he acknowledges Israeli role in sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program through spreading the Stuxnet malware, selling faulty nuclear equipments to Iran and abducting or assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists. This is not the first time that Israeli media and officials have implicitly or explicitly admitted to Israel’s role in covert operations against Iran’s nuclear program, including through sponsoring terrorist attacks against Iran’s nuclear scientists. What motivates me to write this post on Melman's recent opinion piece in Haaretz is the fact that he implicitly expresses his preference for Tehran’s current mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf as a candidate for Iran’s next presidential election on the account of the fact that he has publicly stated that Iran does not need nuclear weapons.

Melman writes ,“Ghalibaf appears to have moderated his worldview in recent years, likely in the face of Ahmadinejad's radical rhetoric. In 2008 he attended the economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he gave a fairly rare interview to The New York Times. He said that Iran is not seeking to obtain nuclear weapons. He tried to explain that Iran is not a threat to any country: "If Iran needs to defend itself, it can use conventional weapons to resist any attack. We don't need any atomic weapons or unconventional weapons. In our Islamic belief, these kinds of things are forbidden." He also said that he believes in greater openness”.

While Mr. Melman’s story does not necessarily represent the official Israeli position, it highlights the degree of Israeli paranoiac obsession with Iran’s nuclear program to the extent that it drives its intelligence analysts to take sides in Iran’s internal politics. While it is a common but unacknowledged practice in international diplomacy for states to often support sympathetic political forces in other countries in order to advance their foreign policy goals, Melman’s analysis of Iran domestic politics is flawed and misguided. The main reason for this observation is that Mr. Ghalibaf is not the only political elite in Iran who has publicly stated his preference against the development of nuclear weapons. As I have demonstrated in my last article, the highest Iranian political elites have repeatedly expressed their strong opposition to the development of nuclear weapons in various forms . If politicians’ statements do not constitute a reliable base for determining their intentions , then no matter which politician is concerned. Iranian politicians have all expressed the same views with regard to nuclear weapons. Mr. Melman does not explain what reasons he may have to trust Mr. Ghalibaf’s statements but not those of the other Iranian political leaders. I doubt he has any reasons whatsoever for his observation and thus take it as another sign of his inadequate knowledge of Iran’s domestic politics. To read Melman’s full story, click here

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