‘The blogging Mullah’

Link via a blog at the website of the German business paper Handelsblatt:

Update: Tatyana informs me in the comments that one of Abtahi’s post I’m linking to, ‘Freedom of Holding Demonstrations against America’, alludes to an old Soviet joke about being perfectly free in the Soviet Union to protest against America.

The Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Abtahi, Vice President under former Iranian President Khatami has a blog of his own. According to Handelsblatt he is posting almost daily, his subjects mostly being ‘rumors heard in mosques, indiscretions [uttered] at official receptions and inside stories from the halls of power’. Abtahi still is a welcome guest all over the Arabic world, so he has a lot of such stories on offer. He mostly blogs in Farsi, but some stories are also translated into a quite idiosyncratic English here.

Abtahi and his former boss Khatami are quite moderate as Iranian Ayatollahs go, although the latter demonstrated this April the limits of his moderation by telling some Israeli journalists to ‘go to hell’. Furthermore, even people reporting for German public TV now and then feel compelled to point out that the Iranian government under Khatami was no less intransigent as far as their nuclear program was concerned as the present one under Ahmadenejad is right now.

Fitting his milquetoast image, Abtahi’s translated posts are on the face of it quite mild stuff and sometimes even insipid, but some offer revealing glimpses into the mindset of the Iranian rulers, while others are deceptive and downright alarming under present circumstances. This is a real beauty (typos are from the original text):

Freedom of Holding Demonstrations against America

One of the companions of Mr Khatami in his trip to Kazakhstan said once the discussion was on freedom and one said in America the protestors chant slogans against Bush in front of White house. Primakof, the head of Security Council of Russia, answered that the same story is true in Russia. In Moscow thousands of people hold demonstrations in front of Kremlin and chant: Down with America. Since this was said by Primakof, many had laughed. The same story happened in Media and the Arab World roundtable. One said we are a group of anti-Israel Arabs and we have held demonstrations against and in front of White House quite a lot. Emad Adib, the famous presenter, said in Arab countries there is even more freedom. Throughout Arab world we hold anti-American demonstrations every day. It was revealed that this is a well-known and general comedy.

It’s a real blast (and emphasis mine). Then there is this:

97 percent referendum in Syria

A referendum, held in last Sunday, endorsed president Bashar Al-Assad for a second seven – year with 97 percent of the votes.

Mr. Motaki, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited in order to felicitate president Al–Assad. The Iranian officials have always been very reliable advisers for Syrian Government. I wish Mr.Motaki would advise president Bashar Al–Assad that the Syrian government had better to announce the result more reasonably in order to gain more legitimacy. Playing games with democracy is really risky and dangerous one.

Emphasis again mine. Except for noting the open admission that Syria does what the Iranians tell them to do, I can only say that these two posts are simply beyond belief and beyond parody.

This entry from May 29 is a bit more substantial:

Negotiation with America: for Iraqis or Iranians?

Yesterday at last the taboo of negotiation between and was broken and the representatives of the two countries sat on the negotiation table. …

It has been officially announced that the yesterday’s negotiation between Iran and America has been on issue and that they have not talked about Iran with all the problems it is experiencing….

While is the most influential body for the life and fate of Iranians by being involved in the case of nuclear program at present, why the problems of Iranians should not be as important as the problems of Iraqis for Iranian officials?…

I think Iranian officials have also understood this and now that they have lost the honor of symbolic resistance against America, they can at least settle our greatest present problems with America.

The phrase ‘the honor of symbolic resistance against America’ is easier to understand if you read his post ‘Background on the US-Iran Relations

After revolution when Iranian students seized the American Embassy in on Nov. 1979, the relationship became antagonistic and the US broke diplomatic relations with Iran. Imam Khomeini supported the breaking of the relations further to this event in such critical revolutionary atmosphere. From that time onward, the relations between two countries became very sensitive issue and symbol of honor.
As time was passing, this anti American policy became a symbol of power and any possible losses or missed opportunities was justified due to this fact.

The admission that Iran needs those talks as much as the United States or Iraq sounds at first quite encouraging, but unfortunately it is just too good to be true. Given the current political climate in the US, Iran has nothing to gain by acting assertively. In fact, feigning weakness is right now the most advantageous course they can take, for it strengthens the position of those American anti-war politicians who misguidedly argue that Iraq should best be managed in cooperation with Iran and that the presence of large numbers of American troops is therefore no longer necessary. If the Iranians play it smart, the public just might buy it. While few people are going to pay any attention to his blog per se, his latest posts obviously reflect the deceptive message he seems to be sending while touring the capitals of the Middle East, namely that Iran is cooperative and allegedly in as much in need of the talks on Iraq as the US. Normally, those would be far too many assumptions at once to be credible, but considering the fact that Ahmadenejad has just now threatened again the destruction of Israel and also that Abtahi had helped Khatami to play for time while Iran was working on its nuclear capabilities while still in office, they don’t look like that much of a stretch.

The ‘blogging Mullah’ isn’t the human face of the Iranian regime after all.

4 thoughts on “‘The blogging Mullah’”

  1. Ralf, the first episode, about “freedom to demonstrate against American President”, is a very (and I mean – bearded) old Soviet joke. I heard it first at the time of the 1st Afghan war, that is, from the Russian side, with characters in the story being Brezhnev and Reagan.

  2. Are you sure this is real? It seems too good to be true.

    Something like this could get him assassinated by the current regime.

  3. Thanks, Tatyana!


    yes, it’s real, I saw this guy a couple of times on TV, and his weblog akways is mentioned. Abtahi actually is useful to the Mullah regime, for he looks like the ‘smiling, human face of it.

  4. “Abtahi actually is useful to the Mullah regime, for he looks like the ’smiling, human face of it.”

    As the Russkies used to joke about Gorby “putting a human face on Communism” – even Frankenstein’s Monster had a human face…

Comments are closed.