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memri
September 27, 2007 No.
389

Escalation in the Positions of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – A Special Report

By: A. Savyon and Yossi Mansharof*

Introduction

In several recent speeches, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad outlined Iran's nuclear policy and set forth his vision regarding the interrelationship between Iran and the West.

In a speech about Iran's nuclear program, Ahmadinejad declared that Iran has become a global power, and that it would place its nuclear technology at the service of those determined to confront the U.S. and other Western countries. He announced that Iran was now successfully operating over 3,000 centrifuges, continued to downplay the impact of the U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iran, and reiterated Iran's official stance of refusal to freeze its nuclear activity. Ahmadinejad also harshly censured senior Iranian officials who had called for compromise with the West on Iran's nuclear program out of fear of a possible U.S. attack on Iran, hinting that they were traitors.

In addition, Ahmadinejad declared that the world was now at an historic turning point. The history of the West, he said, had reached its end, and the appearance of the Hidden Imam, heralding the era of Islamic Shi'ite rule, was nigh.[1] Thus, he called on the nations of the world to rise up against the hegemony of the West, headed by the U.S., and predicted the imminent collapse of Israel, which he called "Satan's standard-bearer." [2]

Following are statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on various issues, from his recent speeches:

Iran's Nuclear Program

On several occasions, Ahmadinejad stressed that Iran would continue developing its nuclear program regardless of the sanctions. He noted that the sanctions were having no impact on progress in "the irreversible path of the nuclearization of the Iranian nation"[3] and denied Western reports of a slowdown in Iran's uranium enrichment. Ahmadinejad further promised to place Iran's nuclear technology "at the service of those who are determined to confront the bullying powers and aggressors [i.e., the Western countries, headed by the U.S.]..."[4] At a recent conference of Revolutionary Guards commanders, he also stated that "some violent powers [i.e., the West, headed by the U.S.] are now officially declaring that they want to cooperate with the Iranian nation, and that they acknowledge Iran's [status] as a regional power. However, they must know that Iran is a global power."[5]

In a report submitted in late August 2007 to the to the International Atomic Energy Agency Council of Governors, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei stated that as of August 19, 2007, 1,968 centrifuges at the Natanz facility had been injected with UF6 gas and were in operation. However, in early September, 2007, Ahmadinejad stated: "When we opened [the uranium conversion facility] at Isfahan, they [i.e. the West, headed by the U.S.] threatened military action [against us]. But now, we are operating over 3,000 centrifuges, and every week [another] new [centrifuge] system is installed... They have not managed to do anything against [our] united and steadfast nation."[6] He added, "They thought that they could make the Iranian nation withdraw with each of the sanctions resolutions that they issued – but after each resolution, the Iranian nation showed further progress [in its nuclear] program."[7]

On another occasion, Ahmadinejad harshly condemned senior Iranian officials who had in recent months called for compromise with the West: "With regard to obtaining nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, unreliable individuals have spoken of compromising... No one would believe it if I mentioned the names of these individuals, who in several meetings spoke of the need for compromise, enumerating the enemy's strong points, and [raising the possibility that the West could launch] an all-out war... We have experienced days when we were pressured from a hundred different directions from within [Iran] to withdraw [and to halt uranium enrichment]... But I said that I was willing to guarantee them that it was impossible for [the U.S.] to launch a war against us..."[8]

Ahmadinejad went on to explain: "At some meetings, I told these friends that I was an engineer, and that I had analyzed the problems and presented proof, [and thus] I told them that the enemies do not have the courage to launch a war against us. Some doubted my words, but I presented them with two [pieces of] evidence. First, I told them, I am an engineer, I am deliberate, I make tables and write and examine hypotheses for hours. I present proof and put together plans based on it, and that is how I proceed. They [the U.S.] cannot pose a problem to Iran. They are stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have problems there, and lack the ability [to act against Iran]. As further proof, I told them that I believe in the word of God. God said that those who act properly will triumph. Iran's Leader [Ali Khamenei] and the Iranian nation are steadfast in, attentive to, and agree with the word of God..." [9]

Ahmadinejad added, "I have documents [to prove] that some people, who [are supported by] newspapers that do nothing but malign [the government] on a daily basis, made every effort to ensure that sanctions were issued against Iran. They would provide [the West] with the latest updates [about Iran's nuclear program], and urge it to exert as much pressure as possible [on the Iranian government]. It was not one or two people, but at least eight or 10. Now, these people are turning to the Gulf states and telling them not to cooperate with the Iranian government."[10] In his speech to the Revolutionary Guards commanders, Ahmadinejad said, in a similar vein, "Unfortunately, some elements [in Iran] have encouraged some of the violent powers to increase the pressures on Iran."[11]

In a press conference during his August 21-22, 2007 visit to Azerbaijan, Ahmadinejad said that the West's attempts to stop Iran's nuclear program had been in vain, and that Iran had not changed its policy: "Thanks to the determined stance of the Iranian nation, which has stood united in defense of its right [to nuclear technology], Iran's enemies have not succeeded in preventing its progress, and in imposing their positions upon it, for Iran has [now] achieved a full nuclear fuel cycle... [The Western countries] know very well that their actions have no effect [on Iran], and that they will [eventually] be compelled to acknowledge its right [to develop this technology]... If these aggressive countries pay no heed to our friendly advice, their prestige in the world will suffer, and their situation will be more difficult...

"When I visited Baku last year, Iran was only at the halfway point on the winding and difficult path [to nuclear technology]. But today, with God's grace and thanks to the determined stand and resistance of the Iranian people, Iran has seen this narrow and difficult path through to its end... and now nobody can stop the progress of the Iranian nation [in the area of nuclear technology].

"There are countries whose attainment of nuclear technology did not bring about any change in the world. Iran's nuclearization, on the other hand, is the beginning of a very great change in the world, since its nuclear activities are in the service of peace, justice, and welfare for all the [world's] countries... You [i.e. the Western countries] have used the language of force, and have failed to realize [the greatness] of the Iranian nation. You thought that if you increased the pressure [i.e. the sanctions] on Iran, the Iranian nation would withdraw [from its position]... I said to these countries: You are wrong, and you are making fools of yourselves – for you cannot harm Iran in the slightest..."[12]

At an August 28, 2007 press conference at the presidential palace, Ahmadinejad said further: "As for the reports about [Iran] slowing down or accelerating its nuclear program, most of them are not grounded in reality. We are working to [enrich uranium]. This is a technical process, and any acceleration or deceleration [of the activities] has to do with technical circumstances and capabilities. Political decisions play no part in this... I hereby officially announce that, as far as Iran is concerned, the nuclear issue is closed. Those who thought that they could stop the Iranian nation through discriminatory political moves [i.e. sanctions], and by abusing their [power] in the international decision-making bodies, now realize that the path they took was wrong..."[13]

The Return of the Mahdi is Imminent; The West's Hegemony Has Come to an End

In his speech at the annual International Seminar on the Doctrine of Mahdism, held in Tehran August 25-26, 2007, Ahmadinejad stated that Western dominance has come to an end, and called on the nations of the world to rebel against "the oppressive imperialist powers" in preparation for the coming of the Hidden Imam:

"The Hidden Imam is heir to everything that has been good and beautiful throughout history, and the call [to await his coming] is a call [to have faith] in the missions of the divine prophets, in monotheism, and in justice... In these days, humanity longs for monotheism and justice. With God's grace, the [preparations] for a flood of compassion, truth and justice will soon be complete...

"The message of Mahdism, which calls [to believe] in the Savior [i.e. the Hidden Imam], brings hope and joy to people [throughout the world]. [It is] a message of steadfastness and patience and of resisting the oppressors [i.e. the West, headed by America]; it is a message of submission [to God] and of the pursuit of justice and honor. The current situation in the world has led the nations to reject in disgust the rule of the oppressors. Now is the time to invite people to accept the rule of the righteous, and [especially that] of the most righteous of [rulers] – the Hidden Imam...

"Today's imperialist forces give humanity nothing by forcing wars [upon it], plundering its resources, violating [human] rights, issuing threats, trampling human dignity and [spreading] corruption, vice and insecurity... The oppressors and tyrants are responsible for all the difficulties and problems currently faced by the nations, and the only way to establish justice is through popular uprising and determined resistance in the face of these oppressors...

"[The day] of these aggressors... who are oppressing and controlling the nations, is now coming to an end. Those who [seek to] distract the people with materialistic philosophy of one kind or another, and who pursue materialism, have brought humanity nothing but despair and deception... The time of the righteous rulers will come, and the most righteous of rulers, [i.e. the Hidden Imam], will form a government and thereby instate the monotheism of Abraham [throughout the world]. That day is not far away...

"Our enemies naturally feel threatened by the call to [believe in] the Mahdi, for they do not want people to think about justice. But our reply to them is that the era of the aggressive [powers] has come to an end. We believe that it is time for the righteous to rule, and for humanity to be properly [re]born out of love, knowledge, and spirituality."[14]

In his speech at the opening of the fourth World Assembly of the Ahl Al-Beit Foundation, held in Tehran August 18-19, 2007, Ahmadinejad said:[15]

"Today we must prepare ourselves to discharge the responsibility [placed] upon us... which transcends the [boundaries of the] Muslim world... Islam is the truth. This truth was only partly revealed in Judaism and Christianity, but is fully revealed in Islam... Today, as ever, the world needs the Hidden Imam, [for] it is suffering under the yoke of dishonest [rulers]... Our mission transcends the geographical boundaries of the Muslim [world]. Our clerics have a responsibility to call upon humanity as a whole to [embrace] the [true] monotheism and the rule of monotheistic principles."[16]

In an August 28, 2007 speech, Ahmadinejad added, "The current problems faced by the world result from [the rule] of unworthy rulers. The ultimate solution is to replace these unworthy regimes and rulers, and to establish the rule of the Hidden Imam..."[17] "Those who are not versed in [the doctrine of Mahdism] believe that the return [of the Hidden Imam] will occur only in a very long time, but, according to the divine promise, [his return] is imminent..."[18]

On August 29, 2007, Ahmadinejad said, "The Iranian nation and the Islamic Revolution have a pivotal role in preparing the ground for the coming of the Hidden Imam... We must rapidly develop Iran in order to create the [right] conditions for his coming, and we must also help the rest of the world's nations [to prepare for his return], in order to precipitate this great event..."[19]

"The responsibility that currently rests on Iran's [shoulders] is very heavy; it is the kind of mission [with which] the divine prophets [were entrusted]. It does not permit us to rest or slumber even for a moment. Have you ever seen a prophet take a rest from the fulfillment of his mission?..."[20]

Israel Has No Right to Exist; Its Collapse is Imminent

Ahmadinejad's recent speeches have also been characterized by statements against the Zionists and against Israel, which he called "Satan's standard-bearer."[21]

At the August 28, 2007 press conference, he said: "[The Zionists] have no religion, for religion means having faith in others and maintaining friendly [relations] with [other] nations. But everywhere they exist there is war. They are responsible for much of the injustice in the world. The Zionists are a minority which numbers no more than a few tens of thousands, but they have formed clandestine organizations, because they do not want peace and friendship to prevail among the nations... They thrive on war and hatred. If peace [ever] prevails in the world, the people of the world will eradicate Zionism. If the [European] nations could have acted [freely], they would have thrown them out of Europe."[22]

In his speech at the Ahl Al-Beit assembly, Ahmadinejad said: "You also saw the outcome of the 33-day war in Lebanon [in the summer of 2006], and how Hizbullah stood fast against the Zionist regime. Can such a regime [conceivably] last? A regime whose entire philosophy and existence are founded upon lies is bound to collapse... The extent of the defeat of the world superpowers is reflected by the extent to which their ideology and reasoning have failed... [Israel] is the standard-bearer of aggression, occupation, and discrimination in the world. Considering all this, [how] can this regime [possibly] last?"[23]

In line with his view of Israel as a foreign body in the region, Ahmadinejad said, at a September 4, 2007 meeting with deposed Palestinian foreign minister Ziad Abu 'Amru: "The only way out of the crisis is through armed resistance by a united Palestinian nation, with determination and faith in God... It would be naïve of us to believe that America and certain European countries might take steps to help the Palestinian people – for the Zionist regime is their representative, and is flesh of their flesh... The Palestinian nation is now invincible... The Iranian nation and government believe in the Palestinian cause, and are interested in its fulfillment. [They] will continue to stand by the Palestinian people..."[24]

On the Situation in Iraq

In line with his view that the Western hegemony is coming to an end, Ahmadinejad stated that the depth of the West's defeat mirrors the depth of its ideological defeat. He predicted that the Coalition forces will soon be forced to withdraw from Iraq, and declared that Iran would be willing to fill the vacuum.[25]

In his speech at the Ahl Al-Beit assembly, he said: "The hegemony of America and its allies in Iraq has been shattered, and [the Americans] have suffered an historic defeat. The depth of the [military] defeat [suffered by] the Global Arrogance [i.e. America] mirrors [the depth of] their ideological defeat...

"The world is now at a historic turning point. This is apparent from the briefest glance at the global balance of power, which is rapidly tipping towards truth and away from falsehood... America and its allies in Iraq are now sinking in a quagmire, from which they... can escape only at great cost..."[26]

On another occasion, Ahmadinejad said, "The aggressors have become entangled in Iraq. They attribute no importance to Iraqi lives... I hereby announce loud and clear that the occupier's political forces are facing defeat in Iraq... [and that] we will soon see a serious leadership vacuum in the region. I hereby announce that Iran is willing to fill this vacuum, with the help of its neighbors and friends in the region, including Saudi Arabia. With the help of the Iraqi people, we will fill this vacuum. This is already happening; we must open our eyes to see it...

"I advise the aggressors to stop their stubbornness and selfishness... Even if you stay in Iraq for another 50 years, not only will conditions fail to improve, they will deteriorate... Iraq is, in the present circumstances, [just] another example of the corrupt rule of the superpowers... We have announced [in the past] our willingness to extricate you from the Iraqi quagmire – but if you choose to stay there, you are welcome to do so!... Wait a few months, and [you will see] that under pressure, the [Al-Maliki] government will be defeated..."[27]

On Renewing Relations with Egypt

On August 28, 2007, Ahmadinejad reiterated that Iran was willing to renew relations with Egypt,[28] and added that both countries would benefit from this, as two dominant forces in the region.

"Iran and Egypt are both great and civilized nations, which [maintain] ties of mutual friendship. The truth is that the Egyptian nation is clearly interested in [relations] with Iran, and that the Iranian nation is interested in [relations] with Egypt. The two countries have many distinctive characteristics in common, such as a unique and ancient culture. Furthermore, both have significant influence in regional and global issues, and therefore, friendship between them will benefit the Muslim countries and the world [at large].

"[During my visit] to the UAE [in May 2007], I announced that if Egypt declares its willingness to renew the relations [with Iran], we would promptly dispatch an ambassador [to Cairo]. The deputy foreign ministers of the two countries are due to meet [to discuss this issue], and this [meeting] will be followed by a meeting between the foreign ministers [themselves] in order to prepare the foundations for [renewing] relations. I hope that these [plans] will be realized shortly..."[29]

On Human Rights in Iran

In the same speech, Ahmadinejad said that all citizens and groups in Iran enjoyed complete and full freedom, and can express their opinions freely. Addressing the issue of the Iranian-American academic Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, who was recently released from an Iranian prison after being detained for over three months, he stated that her case would be decided by the Iranian judiciary.[30]

* Y. Mansharof is a Research Fellow at MEMRI; A. Savyon is Director of MEMRI's Iranian Media Project.

Endnotes:

[1] According to Shi'ite belief, the Twelfth Imam (known as the Mahdi, or the Hidden Imam) disappeared in 941 CE. Shi'ites are commanded to anticipate his reappearance, which will bring their redemption and the proof of the rightness of the Shi'ite belief. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 357, "The Doctrine of Mahdism: In the Ideological and Political Philosophy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," May 31, 2007, Editor of Saudi Government Daily Al-Riyadh: Statement on 'Purim' Blood Libel Articles.

[2] IRNA (Iran), August 18, 2007.

[3] IRNA (Iran), August 25, 2007.

[4] IRNA (Iran), August 21, 2007.

[5] Kayhan (Iran), September 12, 2007.

[6] ISNA (Iran), September 2, 2007.

[7] Kayhan (Iran), September 3, 2007.

[8] Aftab (Iran), September 2, 2007.

[9] Etemad-e Meli (Iran), September 3, 2007. In its September 3, 2007 editorial, the reformist daily Etemad-e Meli – owned by former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, who ran for president in 2005 but was forced to drop out of the race after he accused Ahmadinejad of election fraud – stated that, with all due respect to the president's Ph.D. in transportation engineering, there was no guarantee that Iran would not be attacked by the U.S., and that Ahmadinejad should be more realistic. Ahmadinejad was also criticized by the reformist daily Aftab-e Yazd in its August 19, 2007 editorial; the editorial condemned Ahmadinejad for failing to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Kyrgyzstan in August 2007. The editorial stated: "Those who followed the news about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Conference noticed the conspicuous absence of one significant report, [namely] a report about a meeting between Ahmadinejad and Putin." In an August 28, 2007 speech, Ahmadinejad claimed that he had, in fact, met with Putin during the conference, and that Putin had promised him that Russia would complete the construction of the Bushehr reactor. However, it was later confirmed by several Iranian media sources that no meeting had taken place.

[10] Rooz (Iran), September 3, 2007. According to another Rooz report, Ahmadinejad said: "More than there were Western pressures, there were pressures by cowardly circles within [Iran]... who called for compromise. But if we had withdrawn [from our position], the pressures would not have stopped. God told us [in the Koran] that we must stand fast, and that if we give in, even in the slightest, nothing would remain of our independence... In [certain] circles, there was an official who would pass intelligence to foreign agents, and who encouraged [the West] to increase the sanctions. This individual, from a [certain] faction within the government whose newspapers malign [the government] even today, held regular meetings with [foreign agents], passed information about disagreements [within the Iranian leadership], and opposed the issuing of [relatively] moderate sanctions against Iran. Now he has turned to the Gulf states, and, maligning the Iranian government, he has asked them not to cooperate with [Iran]." Rooz (Iran), September 3, 2007.

[11] Kayhan (Iran), September 12, 2007.

[12] ISNA (Iran), August 28, 2007.

[13] ISNA (Iran), August 28, 2007.

[14] IRNA (Iran), August 27, 2007.

[15] The term "Ahl Al-Beit" refers to the lineage of Ali Ibn Abi Talib and Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, whose descendents are regarded by the Shi'ites as the true heirs of the Prophet. The Ahl Al-Beit Foundation, founded in 1990, aims to promote the study and culture of Shi'ite Islam. Its members are religious and political figures from several Muslim countries.

[16] Kayhan (Iran), August 19, 2007.

[17] IRNA (Iran), August 28, 2007.

[18] ISNA (Iran), August 28, 2007.

[19] IRNA (Iran), August 30, 2007.

[20] Aftab-e Yazd (Iran), September 3, 2007.

[21] IRNA (Iran), August 18, 2007.

[22] ISNA (Iran), August 28, 2007.

[23] Kayhan (Iran), August 19, 2007.

[24] Mehr (Iran), September 4, 2007.

[25] At central Friday prayers on August 17, 2004, Council of Experts member Ahmad Khatami said that the Arab countries should remember that after the U.S. leaves Iraq, Iran will still be right there in the region. See MEMRI TV clip No. 1542: http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/1542.

[26] Kayhan (Iran), August 19, 2007.

[27] ISNA (Iran), August 28, 2007.

[28] For Ahmadinejad's statements on this topic from May 2007, and reactions to these statements, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 364, "Dispute in Iran over Renewing Relations with Egypt," June 15, 2007, President of Tel-Aviv University: 'The Warped Saudi Initiative' .

[29] ISNA (Iran), August 28, 2007.

[30] ISNA (Iran), August 28, 2007.