‘A BLESSING from God”: So have Iran’s leaders, starting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, described the controversy over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed.
A closer look at the row, however, shows that the whole rigmarole was launched by Sunni-Salafi groups in Europe and Asia, with Ahmadinejad and his Syrian vassal, President Bashar al-Assad, belatedly playing catch-up. God had nothing to do with it.***
In Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood told the Danish group that this was not the time to kick a fuss over the cartoons. The brotherhood was busy plotting its election strategy and pretending to be a “moderate” political party. The last thing it wanted was to be branded as a rabid anti-West force. The brotherhood leaders suggested that the matter be put on ice until January.
The Danish militants also received a negative reply from Hamas, the Palestinian radical movement. Hamas was busy trying to win a general election and needed to reassure at least part of the Palestinian middle classes. The Hamas advice was: Wait until after we have won.***
For Denmark is set to assume the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council — at the very time that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to refer Iran to the Security Council and demand sanctions. What better, for Tehran’s purposes, than to portray Denmark as “an enemy of Islam” and mobilize Muslim sympathy against the Security Council?
To regain the initiative from the Sunni-Salafi groups, Ahmadinejad quickly ordered a severing of commercial ties with Denmark, thus portraying the Islamic Republic as the Muslim world’s leader in the anti-Danish campaign.
Syria was next to jump on the bandwagon, again for mercenary reasons. The United Nations wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and five of his relatives and aides, including his younger brother, for questioning in the murder of Lebanon’s former premier, Rafiq al-Hariri. (Assad has tried to negotiate immunity for himself and his brother in exchange for handing over the others — but the U.N. wouldn’t play.) As with Iran’s nuclear program, the Syrian dossier will reach the Security Council under Danish presidency. To portray Denmark as “an enemy of the Prophet” would not be such a bad thing when the council, as expected, points the finger at Assad and his regime as responsible for a series of political murders, including that of Hariri.
The Danish-cartoons cow will also be milked in another way: Tehran and Damascus have launched a diplomatic campaign to put the issue of “protecting religions against blasphemy” on the Security Council agenda. If that were to happen, issues such as Iran’s quest for the atomic bomb and Syria’s murder machine in Lebanon might be pushed aside, at least as far as world public opinion is concerned.
Pretty plausible. It appears the Bush administration thinks so, too:
The Bush administration yesterday condemned the violent response to European cartoons mocking Islam and accused Iran and Syria of exploiting the international controversy to incite unrest and protests in the Middle East.
“I have no doubt that Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and have used this for their own purposes,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters yesterday. “The world ought to call them on it.”
A few hours earlier, at a White House ceremony with Jordan’s King Abdullah, President Bush rejected the violence but not the cartoons that incited bloody protests from Afghanistan to Denmark, where the drawings first appeared. “We reject violence as a way to express discontent with what may be printed in a free press,” Bush said.
Bush and Rice, making their first public remarks on the growing worldwide controversy, highlighted a shift in White House strategy to focusing on the killings and destruction during Muslim protests in several nations — in contrast to earlier statements that included criticism of the provocative drawings. Administration officials said Bush does not want a debate over free speech to diminish or deflect attention from the U.S. condemnation of the violence.
Meanwhile, ‘moderate’ Muslims protest in England to show that they can protest nonviolently:
A demonstration by thousands of UK mainstream Muslims protesting against controversial cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad is under way.
Organisers and police expect at least 10,000 people to gather in London’s Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon.
Apparently, they are wholly unaware they are still being played like a fiddle. Meanwhile, the first violinist of this sham symphony of ginned up outrage is sounding some old notes:
Iran’s president on Saturday rejected U.S. and European pressure to freeze the country’s nuclear program and hinted that Iran may withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The remarks came in a speech to tens of thousands of Iranians massed in Tehran’s Azadi Square to mark the 27th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that brought a Muslim theocracy to power.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also said that the true Holocaust was happening now in the Palestinian territories and Iraq. The Iranian leader has caused worldwide outrage by questioning the Jewish genocide and arguing Israel should be “wiped off the map.”
Don’t you just love the Middle East?