March 18, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1825

Iranian Journalist to Ahmadinejad: "You Should Learn from Sarkozy"

March 18, 2008
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 1825

On November 17, 2007, the French daily Le Monde reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy had received a belligerent letter from his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the letter, which French diplomats called "blunt and full of veiled threats," Ahmadinejad called Sarkozy "young and inexperienced," and condemned France's attempts to persuade other EU countries to support further sanctions against Iran. He also stated that "destroying the long-standing relations between Iran and France and [undermining] their joint interests – especially in Lebanon – could [lead to] unfortunate [results]," and hinted that Iran might refrain from supporting France's attempts to mediate a solution to Lebanon's presidential election crisis.[1]

On November 29, 2007, the reformist Iranian daily Rooz published an article by Iranian journalist Nooshabeh Amiri, who resides in Paris. In the article, titled "Mr. President, Learn from This 'Young Man,'" Ms. Amiri condemned Ahmadinejad's oppression of various Iranian sectors critical of him, including students and workers, and said that instead of trying to teach Sarkozy how to run a country, Ahmadinejad should learn from him.

The following are excerpts from the article, as it appeared in the English edition of Rooz.[2]

"In one of his recent public speeches, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called ?French President Nicolas Sarkozy – who, incidentally, did not get into the presidential ?palace through 'complex and multi-layered presidential operations' like his Iranian ?counterpart – a 'young man without experience.' He lectured him on politics, and of ?course sweetened his pep talk with some threats, too.?

"A review of the recent measures [taken by] this 'young man,' as compared with what the ?president of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been doing, may be instructive to the ?supporters of the chief executive in Iran [Ahmadinejad], especially as he himself listens to nobody.?

"France has seen some tough and turbulent events during the last few weeks: student unrest, youth rebellions and riots, transportation strikes, teachers' ?demonstrations, etc. Students launched nation-wide protests, demanding changes in the laws and ?regulations governing the universities. They put up barricades on campuses. They prevented ?teachers and other students from even entering the schools. They held up placards [bearing] ?some pretty serious and radical messages. But none of them were arrested.

"Furthermore, ?they openly expressed their views and feelings on national television, radio stations and ?[other] media. They met the minister of higher education and expressed their views to him, ?and even made accusatory remarks in his presence.?

"That was in France. Iran too us going through tough times. There, too, students were unhappy with ?their situation and with the rules and regulations governing their campuses. They said ?many things, including that they did not want to have a dictator [ruling] the country or ?security operatives running the schools; and [they] called for the release of their fellow students who ?were in prison.

"And what happened to them? One by one they were rounded up by the ?state and put into that lovely prison, which Iranian officials claim to be 'the best ?prison in the world.' Yes, we are talking about none other than Evin prison in the ?northern part of Iran's capital, lying at the foot of the ever-cool Alborz mountains. ?Ward 209 of that prison, now famous worldwide, is [reserved for] anyone who expresses – or is ?suspected of having expressed – the slightest disagreement with the rulers of Tehran.

"These ?students were beaten up; some have been prevented from continuing their higher education, ?and many have been banned from even setting foot in the universities... And in response to all of these abuses and ?violations, Iran's president simply presented the onlookers with a calm and satisfied ?smile and laughed off these events.?

"In France, the disgruntled young [immigrants] stormed the streets with? Molotov cocktails, injured more than 80 police officers, set fire to ?buses [and] libraries and other public buildings, [and] even assaulted ordinary citizens, with masks [on their faces] to hide their ?identities.

"The French president was out of town when some of these ?events were unfolding, but when he returned, he went straight from the ?airport to the hospital where some of the injured policemen were hospitalized and consoled them. He ?also told them that he would confront those who had broken the law. Then he [approached] the ?families of the two young men whose deaths had precipitated the riots, and invited them to the Elysee ?Palace. [He] expressed his heartfelt sympathy [for their loss], and promised that he would ?follow [the investigation] of the deaths, and punish those responsible.?

"The transportation strike in France crippled the whole country and caused millions of Euros in damage to the country's economy. And even though a sizeable portion of ?French society disagreed with the strike, nobody was arrested. What's more, the French ?media remained at the disposal of the strikers, allowing them to speak their mind and ?spreading their message, while their representatives continued their talks with the president and the prime minister at the presidential ?palace.?

"In the Islamic Republic, the striking workers from the Haft Tappeh Agro [company]... who gathered in front of provincial government buildings and the Majlis, ?demanding pay for months of [unpaid] work, were treated differently – ?even though they were not demanding a raise in their wages or an improvement in their ?work [conditions]. They were violently attacked, their blood was spilled, and their leaders ?were rounded up and sentenced to years in jail... [Tehran Bus Drivers Union Chairman] Mansoor ?Osanloo, who was recovering from eye surgery, was taken to a prison which lacked any ?medical [facilities].?

"On the other side of the Eurasian continent, Mr. Sarkozy embarked on a world ?trip that took him to the United States, to Hungary, to Morocco and to China. In the U.S., he ?strengthened his ties with American leaders. In China, he signed multi-billion dollar ?contracts while reminding their leaders to be more responsible in their relations with Iran. ?In Hungary and Morocco, he did not stir up any controversy or hurl accusations. ?

"The Iranian president also went on a trip. In Saudi Arabia he preached his world view and displeased everyone. He wrote a letter to Sarkozy, which everyone ignored. His ?international Caspian Sea conference rivaled the sellout that Iran had ?experienced in the Turkmenchay agreement of the 19th century.[3] The meetings he held with ?his Arab 'brethren' did not produce any results, and the Annapolis conference was held ?in the U.S. without Iran's participation. And though Mr. Ahmadinejad claims to be the ?initiator of all events, yet another [Security Council] resolution was being prepared against Iran.?

"Still, both presidents continue their work in their respective countries. Iran's president is ?obsessed with the acquittal of a former senior administrative official (on the nuclear negotiations team),[4] and fails to see that, with every passing moment spent on ?trivia, Iran's international status drops closer to the abyss. And at the end of ?the day, it is the 'young man' on the banks of the Seine who laughs at the man who is trying to teach him [how to do] politics. ?

"How I wish that our president, too, were 'young' and 'inexperienced.'?"

[1] Al-Sharq Al-Aswat (London), November 18, 2007. Ahmadinejad's letter was not published in the media. Hamid Reza Haji Babai, member of the Majlis Presidential Committee and of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, objected to the tone of the letter, and to the "personal insults such as 'young and inexperienced'" aimed at Sarkozy. Aftab (Iran), November 17, 2007.

[2] Rooz (Iran), November 29, 2007. The text has been edited for clarity.

[3] This refers to agreements through which Russia took control of the Caucasus, which was until then under Iranian rule.

[4] ?This refers to Hossein Mousavian, who is close to Ahmadinejad's chief political rival Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Mousavian was recently acquitted of spying for the West, but Ahmadinejad and his associates continue to claim that he revealed information about Iran's nuclear program, and to demand further legal measures against him.

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