Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge



iran-election-rally Ten days ago, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looked a shoe-in for re-election in Tehran. But as Iranians go to the polls later today, his lead looks to have all but evaporated after a massive outpouring of public support for his rival, reformist former Prime Minister Houssein Moussavi (a.k.a. Iran’s Barack Obama… possibly.) CNN reports:

Rivers of green have flowed through the streets… Called out by text message and email the numbers exceeded all expectations. By the end of the week Moussavi’s supporters stretched as far as the eye could see from one end of Tehran to another, in scenes not witnessed here since the Islamic Revolution swept this country back in 1979.

The New York Review of Books has some background on the election. If you haven’t time to read that, here’s a profile of the (hopefully outgoing) Iranian President I wrote for Mongrel Magazine in October 2007. Ahmadinejad had just returned from a visit to the U.N. in New York, where he had been controversially invited to speak at Columbia University:

Ahmadinejad is A-List, baby. If he wasn’t before his visit to New York last month, then he certainly is now. Robbie Williams. Soccer. Irony. All can attest to what a tough nut the US market is to crack. But this fucker made it look easy, strolling into town in a cheap suit, and making a few cracks about there being no homosexuals in Iran. America swooned. On the right, an outraged Bill O’Reilly branded Ahmadinejad a terrorist, and denounced Columbia University for offering him a platform. The left also reached for the most offensive epithets in its lexicon, with celebrity blogger Alec Baldwin, of the Huffington Post, just one of many who compared the Iranian president to George W. Bush.

So is the former Mayor of Tehran just a braggart flash-in-the-pan, or has he now emerged as a fully-fledged international supervillain?

Well, on the face of it, Ahmadinejad’s bad guy credentials are pretty impressive. He’s the president of a geopolitically important nation, a regional superpower, with vast oil reserves and a declared antipathy to the West. And although Iran has not attacked the West, two Iranian proxies, Hizbullah and the Madhi Army, have waged successful campaigns against western allies in Lebanon and southern Iraq respectively. Iran has recently acquired the capacity to reprocess and enrich uranium, and its president has publicly stated his intention to wipe Israel off the map. (Whether that precise translation of his remarks is accurate or not is moot, since he has never corrected it). The case for action against Iran, on that evidence, would appear to be compelling.

There is, of course, a counterargument. Indeed this argument is so hackneyed I feel like a drunken political science undergraduate at a shit house party even making it. But here goes. Yes, Iran has armed and funded groups that are hostile to the US. But America armed Saddam Hussein in a brutal war of aggression against Iran in the 1980s in which almost a million died. So it’s a bit rich to start getting pissy now about a few IEDs.

Secondly, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not forbid countries from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, and there is as yet no reliable evidence that Iran is building a nuclear bomb. A degree of suspicion about Tehran’s intentions in this regard is obviously wise, but, given what happened the last time the US advocated pre-emptive action against a perceived threat, they would do well to be cautious.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Ahmadinejad’s position in Iran is actually more akin to that of a Minister for the Interior. Foreign policy, including control of the armed forces, is strictly the domain of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. And he’s on the record as favouring of a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Indeed, in 2003, Iran offered to normalise relations with the United States, and negotiate a settlement on all outstanding issues, including the Palestinian and nuclear issues. But George Bush, at the height of his ‘Mission Accomplished’ hubris, not only rejected the overture, but also censured the Swiss diplomat who relayed it.

To conclude then, Ahmadinejad is a complete asshole. But so is Bush. Therefore, the Iranian situation is a complex one in which there are no easy answers blah blah blah… If I could offer one piece of advice, though, to both sides it would be this:

Just everybody be cool, okay?

June 11th, 2009.


  1. Conal Says:

    great tag line, missed the livestrong bracelet initially, mostly because tehran’s elite apparently has some seriously hot and unaccessable totty.

  2. Eoin Says:

    Come on Conal, the attitude you should be taking here is “Yes, we can!”

  3. MisterAdam Says:

    Jeez! Way to help a homophobic demagogue get elected, Butler! Ever heard of a little thing called reverse psychology?

    p.s. For the previous election his slogan was “It’s doable – and we can do it.” This time around he plumped for a snappier option: “Yes we can.”

  4. Eoin Says:

    Yes, all my fault Adam…. Won’t someone please think of the hot girls!

  5. TEHRAN, DAY 16: BON JOVI TO THE RESCUE | Tripping Along The Ledge Says:

    […] Incidentally, previous coverage of the Iranian election controversy on EoinButler.com can be found here, here, here, here and […]


    […] check out the rest of my in-depth and certainly-not-at-all-superficial coverage of Iranian affairs here, here, here, here, here and here. Consider it an education. October 4th, […]

Leave a Comment