EDITORIAL
from issue no. 10 - 2005

Few enemies


Why did the Iranian leader drop a bomb that has stirred a reaction that will be very difficult to get over? I want to exclude the hypothesis of a connection with those American circles that, not having learned from events in Iraq, would want to punish another “empire of evil”


Giulio Andreotti


The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the Conference “The world without Zionism”, on October 26 2005, in which he expressed the hope of the wiping-out of the State of Israel

The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the Conference “The world without Zionism”, on October 26 2005, in which he expressed the hope of the wiping-out of the State of Israel

One of Mussolini’s “eternal mottos”, that seemed particularly mistaken to me, was: «Many enemies much honor». And in fact he was so successful in his aim that for the first time in its history Italy found itself in a position of total international isolation. On the way to reconstruction we joined the Atlantic group (that blocked Soviet aggressive initiatives, dangerous up to the crisis of the USSR itself) and we began to build the European community.
That framework should serve for an interpretation of Italian foreign policy, in which particular attention to the Arab-Islamic world also stands out, dictated both by an ancient cultural tradition and by our position in the Mediterranean, where we coexist with many countries of that extraction. Of course there has been, and there still is today, no lack of cyclical difficulties. At the beginning, around the independence movements of countries such as Algeria and Tunisia, adherences in principle were created that caused politico-diplomatic complications with France. And for that matter there was the illogicality of seeing the loss of Italian overseas territories justified as a modern democratic development, while protectorates belonging to others remained untouched. In particular around the Algerian struggle for liberation enormous controversial attention focused, which was afterward followed by concern with the Palestinian cause, still very large and deep, even if the occupation of Iraq has partly shifted the world’s attention.
In the last few weeks, however, something of great importance and danger has taken over. In a sudden outburst President Ahmadinejad of Iran clamored that the State of Israel must be wiped out.
For some time invective of the kind had disappeared and the recurrent provocative attacks on Zionism had gone from the UN. Vice-versa the dawn of a new policy in Palestine was being followed throughout the world with attention and hope, a policy that only a figure who could not be suspected of liking for the Palestinians such as Sharon could bring into play. The exodus of the Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip has this enormous emblematic meaning. On the other hand the Palestinians many years ago cancelled their demonization of the State of Israel from their statutes, as Arafat had foreshadowed in Rome in 1982, when he expressed a wish for dialogue at the Inter-parliamentary Union Conference.
Why did the Iranian leader drop a bomb that has stirred a reaction that will be very difficult to get over? I want to exclude the hypothesis of a connection with those American circles that, not having learned from events in Iraq, would want to punish another “empire of evil”. The possible hypotheses are at least two. On the one hand there is fear that the normalization of Israeli-Palestinian relations could lead to widespread agreement with the moderate line, against which the diehard Khomeinists are set with obstinate determination. From this standpoint the external isolation that has been created around Kathami’s reform movement is particularly wrong-headed and harmful. I know that at an intercultural meeting with Americans ironic remarks were even made about some reforms, such as the slight raising of the minimum age for women to be given in marriage. But here there would be much more to be said. US-Iran relations have always been difficult. I remember a New Year passed by President Carter as guest of the Shah, with a public speech that was in fact very severe about the need for large openings. The warning was passed over, while everyone gave space to the fact of the festive friendship. Not much time later the Shah was forced into exile and the Americans wouldn’t even allow him to die in peace in their own country.
Much of the world has reacted to the death threat to Israel, even with explicit threats of war on Iran. There are those who make dangerous reference and speak about the “mistakes of Munich”, so asking for preventive military action against Iran. I think that, apart the debatable nature of such a drastic judgment on the Munich Treaty, those who talk for a war against Iran point to a catastrophic path and one not to be taken
In one of his books Schlesinger tells of an unsupported attempt, passing through Italy, at a solution of the crisis created by the occupation of the American embassy in Teheran. The US experts put their faith in a disastrous helicopter expedition, convinced that it would be a signal to the population, in their view still loyal to the exile, to rise up. The crisis was resolved immediately after Carter’s failed attempt at re-election.
But in the background to many happenings in Iran there are emblematic confusions. Including the Shah’s own that the revolutionary ferments were insubstantial. I had occasion to speak to him about it after a meeting in Milan with Iranian students, who were divided between neo-Marxists and believers in a return to nature after the corruption of industrial modernism. He called me a visionary, declaring that his country had the maximum of modern freedom and that he himself could hold all the receptions he wanted even during the days of Ramadan. A few months later he had to flee.
One’s view of the Shah’s personality cannot be simplistic, however. He was a multi-faceted character. I remember him as frivolous at the Venice Festival and instead very profound in a meeting with the Italian Defense Staff on the problems of security.
But let’s have a look at the other hypothesis explaining Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s outburst.
Jumping many intermediary stages (including the very warm Anglo-American support for Saddam Hussein when he attacked Iran), we come to an alarming shift. For some time there has been fear that Iran wants to provide itself with the atomic bomb (I use the old idiom) and that obviously disturbs not only Israel and America but all of us. In truth the intent - legitimate – seems to be that of power plants, and the fact that Iran has large oil deposits doesn’t stand against that. The checks of the Vienna Agency should assure the “civilian” purpose, but suspicion of deceit can always arise. Which is why there have been expressions of concern, not only from Israel. The extremist wing of the Iranian revolution is alleged to have felt rightly offended by the international veto and have reacted with the toughness proper to these extremists.
An anti-Israel demonstration in Teheran, October 28 2005

An anti-Israel demonstration in Teheran, October 28 2005

Much of the world has reacted to the death threat to Israel, even with explicit threats of war on Iran. There are those who make dangerous reference and speak about the “mistakes of Munich”, so asking for preventive military action against Iran.
I think that, apart from the debatable nature of such a drastic judgment on the Munich Treaty, those who talk for a war against Iran point to a catastrophic path and one not to be taken. The UN has other means of reacting to the provocation that occurred, not least by helping to isolate the provokers from the context of a population that is certainly not in agreement. Among other things there is an untroubled Christian presence. I remember that during one of my visits President Rafsanjani told me: «I know that you met yesterday with the Catholic bishops. That could not happen with your Saudi friends».
It is a moment, the present one, requiring supplementary doses of reflection and relaxation of mind.
One cannot forget that moderation and prudence are virtues, individual and collective.



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