Cartoon Brings Iran Media Crackdown

An Iranian newspaper's not-so-veiled reference to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's infamous "halo" comment after an appearance before the United Nations General Assembly last year seems to have been the last straw for the government, which shut down the reformist publication Tuesday.

The offense of the national daily Sharq was "publishing articles insulting to religious, political and national figures and fomenting discord in violation of orders of the Supreme National Security Council," according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

But the country's bloggers and online media say a cartoon published last week, titled "The Other Rules of the Game," precipitated the crackdown.

"Most Iranian political analysts, including some of the journalists at the paper said the most important thing that the Government did not like was a cartoon ... showing a chess board where a horse and a donkey, with a halo of light around its head are debating the regime's handling of nuclear issue with the West," according to the Paris-based Iran Press Service. "Though cartoonists say the halo is not a halo, but an effect to separate the animals heads, it seems that the censors at the Iranian judiciary have made a rapprochement between the donkey of the cartoon with President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad's talks last year..."

The cartoon that triggered a media crackdown in Iran is seen as mocking President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in nuclear negotiations with the West. (Sharq)

The halo, writes Persian blogger LadySun, is seen by the government censors as an allusion to his Ahmadinejad's much-reported and mocked comment that he felt a heavenly beam of light embracing him during a speech at the United Nations last year. Ahmadinejad made the comment during an exchange with a cleric that was captured on videotape.

"On the last day when I was speaking before the assembly, one of our group told me that when I started to say 'In the name of God the almighty and merciful,' he saw a light around me, and I was placed inside this aura. I felt it myself," Ahmadinejad said. "I felt the atmosphere suddenly change, and for those 27 or 28 minutes, the leaders of the world did not blink. When I say they didn't bat an eyelid, I'm not exaggerating because I was looking at them. And they were rapt."

The shutdown came after 70 warnings from the government's press monitoring office, according to Agence France Presse.

Sharq's moderate editorial line in recent weeks has emphasized the conflict between traditionalists and fundamentalists in the Middle East; expressed support for former President Khatami's visit to the United States; and asserted that press freedom is essential for Iran's development.

"The more a government is flexible toward the press, the more and better grounds will be paved for development of a society when its performance and other activities are under the watchful eyes of the print media," wrote the editors on Aug. 31.

"It is and should be natural for societies and nations to uphold the value of press freedom and the free flow of news and information as the instruments to help achieve decent levels of growth and development. Governments throughout the world owe their successes to the performance of their mass media. Governments should make appropriate use of the capabilities, potentials and opportunities that is made available by the media."

The government's decision to close the paper drew sharp condemnation from the Committee to Protect Journalists and Sharq editors themselves. The Inter Press Service quoted Sharq writer Akbar Montajabi's blog entry after the ban: "Shargh had become a political club for all the people who had become disillusioned by (last year's presidential) elections. The ban is a price it is paying for criticising the administration, however mildly, and this is a high alert situation."

"Reacting to a cartoon is not the press watchdog's job and [it] cannot shut down a paper for this reason," Sharq director Mehdi Rahmanian said, insisting "the court has to decide on that."

A PBS "Wide Angle" documentary from two years ago depicted Sharq as a "lightning rod for censorship," with a youthful staff (the average age is 28), more female journalists than any other paper and a committment to professional journalism and neutral reporting.

The editors of Rooz, Iran's leading independent news site in English, see the shutdown as more of the same from Ahmadinejad's government. "It appears that as the nuclear crises approaches its final hours of decision, the government will impose even [more] controls and restrictions on the media in an effort to control public opinion over the issue."

By Jefferson Morley |  September 14, 2006; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Democracy
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Sadly enough, this sounds like something that President Bush would say.

Posted by: Mike N. | September 14, 2006 09:49 AM

You mean the fantasy Bush the left wing believes in or the real President Bush?

Posted by: PJ | September 14, 2006 09:53 AM

"You mean the fantasy Bush the left wing believes in or the real President Bush?"

How different are they?

Posted by: Duck | September 14, 2006 10:15 AM

What about the fantasy Bush that the right beleives in. . .the mouthpiece for god.

Now that is different

Posted by: | September 14, 2006 10:48 AM

That fantasy is entirely of the Left's making. In the case of Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, there is hard evidence that he actually said that.

Posted by: Michael O. | September 14, 2006 11:18 AM

Boy, some people here sure have one-track minds. What are you going to do with yourselves on January 21, 2009?

The closing of Sharq is bad news for the people of Iran... but provides further clarity in our ideological war with Iran and Islamist movements. No matter what any commenter says about our president in this thread, the Washington Post won't be shut down, threatened, or even criticized by the U.S. government.

If I recall correctly, Michael Ledeen predicted the closure of Sharq before the end of this year. What else has he been right about lately?

Posted by: Steve in Princeton | September 14, 2006 11:24 AM

"Are you aware of the -- there's a BBC broadcast tonight that's quoting the Palestinian prime minister and foreign minister as saying that they were in a meeting with the president in June of '03, and there are some very detailed quotes here, saying that the president said to them, "God told me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan,' and I did," and then "God told me, 'George go and end the tyranny in the Iraq,' " and so forth and so on?"

Posted by: | September 14, 2006 11:49 AM

On the other hand. . . we need to realize that everything we hear from Ahmedinejad is being filtered by several layers of people, translators, our gov't etc. Putting Words in Ahmadinejad's Mouth

> Johannesburg, South Africa
> In this frightening mess in the Middle East, let's get one thing straight.
> Iran is not threatening Israel with destruction. Iran's president has not
> threatened any action against Israel. Over and over, we hear that Iran is
> clearly "committed to annihilating Israel" because the "mad" or "reckless"
> or "hard-line" President Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened to destroy
> Israel But every supposed quote, every supposed instance of his doing so,
> is wrong.
> The most infamous quote, "Israel must be wiped off the map", is the most
> glaringly wrong. In his October 2005 speech, Mr. Ahmadinejad never used
> the word "map" or the term "wiped off". According to Farsi-language
> experts like Juan Cole and even right-wing services like MEMRI, what he
> actually said was "this regime that is occupying Jerusalem must vanish
> from the page of time."
> What did he mean? In this speech to an annual anti-Zionist conference, Mr.
> Ahmadinejad was being prophetic, not threatening. He was citing Imam
> Khomeini, who said this line in the 1980s (a period when Israel was
> actually selling arms to Iran, so apparently it was not viewed as so
> ghastly then). Mr. Ahmadinejad had just reminded his audience that the
> Shah's regime, the Soviet Union, and Saddam Hussein had all seemed
> enormously powerful and immovable, yet the first two had vanished almost
> beyond recall and the third now languished in prison. So, too, the
> "occupying regime" in Jerusalem would someday be gone. His message was, in
> essence, "This too shall pass."
> But what about his other "threats" against Israel? The blathersphere made
> great hay from his supposed comment later in the same speech, "There is no
> doubt: the new wave of assaults in Palestine will erase the stigma in
> [the] countenance of the Islamic world." "Stigma" was interpreted as
> "Israel" and "wave of assaults" was ominous. But what he actually said
> was, "I have no doubt that the new movement taking place in our dear
> Palestine is a wave of morality which is spanning the entire
> Islamic world and which will soon remove this stain of disgrace from the
> Islamic world." "Wave of morality" is not "wave of assaults." The
> preceding sentence had made clear that the "stain of disgrace" was the
> Muslim world's failure to eliminate the "occupying regime".
> For months, scholars like Cole and journalists like the London Guardian's
> Jonathan Steele have been pointing out these mistranslations while more
> and more appear: for example, Mr. Ahmadinejad's comments at the
> Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting on August 3, 2006. Radio
> Free Europe reported that he said "that the 'main cure' for crisis in the
> Middle East is the elimination of Israel." "Elimination of Israel" implies
> physical destruction: bombs, strafing, terror, throwing Jews into the sea.
> Tony Blair denounced the translated statement as ""quite shocking". But
> Mr. Ahmadinejad never said this. According to al-Jazeera, what he actually
> said was "The real cure for the conflict is the elimination of the Zionist
> regime, but there should be an immediate ceasefire first."
> Nefarious agendas are evident in consistently translating "eliminating the
> occupation regime" as "destruction of Israel". "Regime" refers to
> governance, not populations or cities. "Zionist regime" is the government
> of Israel and its system of laws, which have annexed Palestinian land and
> hold millions of Palestinians under military occupation. Many mainstream
> human rights activists believe that Israel's "regime" must indeed be
> transformed, although they disagree how. Some hope that Israel can be
> redeemed by a change of philosophy and government (regime) that would
> allow a two-state solution. Others believe that Jewish statehood itself is
> inherently unjust, as it embeds racist principles into state governance,
> and call for its transformation into a secular democracy (change of
> regime). None of these ideas about regime change signifies the expulsion
> of Jews into the sea or the ravaging of their towns and cities. All
> signify profound political change, necessary to creating a just peace.
> Mr. Ahmadinejad made other statements at the Organization of the Islamic
> Conference that clearly indicated his understanding that Israel must be
> treated within the framework of international law. For instance, he
> recognized the reality of present borders when he said that "any aggressor
> should go back to the Lebanese international border". He recognized the
> authority of Israel and the role of diplomacy in observing, "The
> circumstances should be prepared for the return of the refugees and
> displaced people, and prisoners should be exchanged." He also called for a
> boycott: "We also propose that the Islamic nations immediately cut all
> their overt and covert political and economic relations with the Zionist
> regime." A double bushel of major Jewish peace groups, US church groups,
> and hordes of human rights organizations have said the same things.
> A final word is due about Mr. Ahmadinejad's "Holocaust denial". Holocaust
> denial is a very sensitive issue in the West, where it notoriously serves
> anti-Semitism. Elsewhere in the world, however, fogginess about the
> Holocaust traces more to a sheer lack of information. One might think
> there is plenty of information about the Holocaust worldwide, but this is
> a mistake. (Lest we be snooty, Americans show the same startling
> insularity from general knowledge when, for example, they live to late
> adulthood still not grasping that US forces killed at least two million
> Vietnamese and believing that anyone who says so is anti-American. Most
> French people have not yet accepted that their army slaughtered a million
> Arabs in Algeria.)
> Skepticism about the Holocaust narrative has started to take hold in the
> Middle East not because people hate Jews but because that narrative is
> deployed to argue that Israel has a right to "defend itself" by attacking
> every country in its vicinity. Middle East publics are so used to western
> canards legitimizing colonial or imperial takeovers that some wonder if
> the six-million-dead argument is just another myth or exaggerated tale. It
> is dismal that Mr. Ahmadinejad seems to belong to this sector.
> Still, Mr. Ahmadinejad did not say what the US Subcommittee on
> Intelligence Policy reported that he said: "They have invented a myth that
> Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets."
> He actually said, "In the name of the Holocaust they have created a myth
> and regard it to be worthier than God, religion and the prophets." This
> language targets the myth of the Holocaust, not the Holocaust itself -
> i.e., "myth" as "mystique", or what has been done with the Holocaust.
> Other writers, including important Jewish theologians, have criticized the
> "cult" or "ghost" of the Holocaust without denying that it happened. In
> any case, Mr. Ahmadinejad's main message has been that, if the Holocaust
> happened as Europe says it did, then Europe, and not the Muslim world, is
> responsible for it.
> Why is Mr. Ahmadinejad being so systematically misquoted and demonized?
> Need we ask? If the world believes that Iran is preparing to attack
> Israel, then the US or Israel can claim justification in attacking Iran
> first. On that agenda, the disinformation campaign about Mr. Ahmadinejad's
> statements has been bonded at the hip to a second set of lies: promoting
> Iran's (nonexistent) nuclear weapon programme.
> The current fuss about Iran's nuclear enrichment program is playing out so
> identically to US canards about Iraq's WMD that we must wonder why it is
> not meeting only roaring international derision. With multiple agendas
> regarding Iran -- oil, US hegemony, Israel, neocon fantasies of a "new
> Middle East" -- the Bush administration has raised a great international
> scare about Iran's nuclear enrichment program. (See Ray Close, Why Bush
> Will Choose War Against Iran.) But, plowing through Iran's facilities and
> records, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have found no
> evidence of a weapons program. The US intelligence community hasn't found
> anything, either.
> All experts concur that, even if Iran has such a program, it is five to
> ten years away from having the enriched uranium necessary for an actual
> weapon, so pre-emptive military action now is hardly necessary. Even the
> recent report by the Republican-dominated Subcommittee on Intelligence
> Policy, which pointed out that the US government lacks the intelligence on
> Iran's weapons program necessary to thwart it, effectively confirms that
> the supposed "intelligence" is patchy and inadequate.
> The Bush administration's casual neglect of North Korea's nuclear program
> indicates that nuclear weapons are not, in fact, the issue here. The
> neocons are intent on changing the regime in Iran and so have deployed
> their propagandists to promote the "nuclear weapons" scare just they
> promoted the Iraqi WMD scare. Republican rhetoric and right-wing news
> commentators have fallen into line, obediently repeating baseless
> assertions that Iran has a "nuclear weapons program," is threatening the
> world and especially Israel with its "nuclear weapons program," and must
> not be allowed to complete its "nuclear weapons program." Those who
> nervously point out that hard evidence is actually lacking about any
> Iranian "nuclear weapons program" are derided as naïve and spineless
> patsies.
> Worse, the Bush administration has brought this snow-job to the UN,
> wrangling the Security Council into passing a resolution (SC 1696)
> demanding that Iran cease nuclear enrichment by August 31 and warning of
> sanctions if it doesn't. Combined with its abysmal performance regarding
> Israel's assault on Lebanon, the Security Council has crumbled into
> humiliating obsequious incompetence on this one.
> Like all phantasms, the nuclear-weapons charge is hard to defeat because
> it cannot be entirely disproved. Maybe some Iranian scientists, in some
> remote underground facility, are working on nuclear weapons technology.
> Maybe feelers to North Korea have explored the possibilities of getting
> extra components. Maybe an alien spaceship once crashed in the Nevada
> desert. Normally, just because something can't be disproved does not make
> it true. But in the neocon world, possibilities are realities, and a
> craven press is there to click its heels and trumpet the scaremongering
> headlines. It doesn't take much, through endless repetition of the term
> "possible nuclear weapons program," for the word "possible" to drop
> quietly away.
> Evidence is, in any case, a mere detail to the Bush administration, for
> which the desire for nuclear weapons is sufficient cause for a pre-emptive
> attack. In US debates prior to invading Iraq, people sometimes insisted
> that any real evidence of WMD was sorely lacking. The White House would
> then insist that, because Saddam Hussein "wanted" such weapons, he was
> likely to have them sometime in the future. Hence thought crimes, even
> imaginary thought crimes, are now punishable by military invasion.
> Will the US really attack Iran? US generals are rightly alarmed that
> bombing Iran's nuclear facilities would unleash unprecedented attacks on
> US occupation forces in Iraq, as well as US bases in the Gulf. Iran could
> even block the Straits of Hormuz, which carries 40 percent of the world's
> oil. Spin-off terrorist militancy would skyrocket. The potential damage to
> international security and the world economy would be unfathomably
> dangerous. The Bush administration's necons seems capable of any insanity,
> so none of this may matter to them. But even the neocons must be taking
> pause since Israel failed to knock out Hizbullah using the same onslaught
> from the air planned for Iran.
> But Israel can attack Iran, and this may be the plan. Teaming up, the two
> countries could compensate for each other's strategic limitations. The US
> has been contributing its superpower clout in the Security Council,
> setting the stage for sanctions, knowing Iran will not yield on its
> enrichment program. Having cultivated a (mistaken) international belief
> that Iran is threatening a direct attack on Israel, the Israeli government
> could then claim the right of self-defense in taking unilateral
> pre-emptive action to destroy the nuclear capacity of a state declared in
> breach of UN directives. Direct retaliation by Iran against Israel is
> impossible because Israel is a nuclear power (and Iran is not) and because
> the US security umbrella would protect Israel. Regional reaction against
> US targets might be curtailed by the (scant) confusion about indirect US
> complicity.
> In that case, what we are seeing now is the US creating the international
> security context for Israel's unilateral strike and preparing to cover
> Israel's back in the aftermath.
> Is this really the plan? Some evidence suggests that it is on the table.
> In recent years, Israel has purchased new "bunker-busting" missiles, a
> fleet of F-16 jets, and three latest-technology German Dolphin submarines
> (and ordered two more)- i.e., the appropriate weaponry for striking Iran's
> nuclear installations. In March 2005, the Times of London reported that
> Israel had constructed a mock-up of Iran's Natanz facility in the desert
> and was conducting practice bombing runs. In recent months, Israeli
> officials have openly stated that if the UN fails to take action, Israel
> will bomb Iran.
> But Hizbullah, Iran's ally, still threatens Israel's flank. Hence
> attacking Hizbullah was more than a "demo" for attacking Iran, as Seymour
> Hersh reported; it was necessary to attacking Iran. Israel failed to crush
> Hizbullah, but the outcome may be better for Israel now that Security
> Council Resolution 1701 has made the entire international community
> responsible for disarming Hizbullah. If the US-sponsored 1701 effort
> succeeds, the attack on Iran is a go.
> As Israel and the US try to make that deeply flawed plan work, we will
> doubtless continue to read in every forum that Iran's president - a
> hostile, irrational, Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying Islamo-fascist who has
> threatened to "wipe Israel off the map" -- is demonstrably irrational
> enough to commit national suicide by launching a (nonexistent) nuclear
> weapon against Israel's mighty nuclear arsenal. The message is being
> hammered home: against this media-created myth, Israel must truly "defend
> itself."
> Virginia Tilley is a professor of political science, a US citizen working
> in South Africa, and author of The One-State Solution: A Breakthrough for
> Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Deadlock

Posted by: Thom | September 14, 2006 11:54 AM

On the contrary there is a huge difference between Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for one, Mahmoud is a man a great leader, Mahmoud works for God only Mahmoud does not need to say things like this to impress any one or create lies to get people to believe in him while Bush is a coward a poor leader a follower of satin and he used Gods name in vane just to get attention and a way for peopl to belive in him.
The true loyal people of God know that Bush and all his followers are of Satin only.
The churches in the USA are runned by the USA government but as through hundreds of years you have heard that is not true but as everything in the USA all is a lie an illusion all intended and created by evil greed purposes so on the contrary nothing is real all a big evil false illusion.
Alison Shunstrom
Author of "World Peace"

Posted by: Alison | September 14, 2006 11:54 AM

Alison, learn how to post a link don't copy and paste a whole article.

Wasn't some paper in Iran sponsoring a cartoon contest to see how the West acts when they mock Jesus, etc in response to the Muhammed cartoons?

Ironic that they would shut down a paper due to a cartoon so soon after trying to make that point.

Posted by: Mike | September 14, 2006 12:01 PM

Anybody see the article in the Washington comPost today about the cartoons at UVA?

Oh those crazy Muslims. . . whatever will we do with them?

Posted by: | September 14, 2006 12:03 PM

To Mike. . . The copy and paste job was mine. . . It was sent to me in an email. . . easist way to get it in here.

I know it was too long, but it does make several good points.

Posted by: Thom | September 14, 2006 12:05 PM

As an American who has to live with the idiocy of President Bush everyday, I cannot wait for 2008 when he will leave office. However, along with many Americans, Alison does not understand the Bill of Rights with regard to religion. The 1st amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceaby to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances." In other words, freedom of religion is an individual right which government is not allowed to touch. There are prohibitions with regard to religions or religious practice. Again, the Bush Administration and Congress, in particular, cannot legislate for or against religion. It is an American individual Civil right which Governement cannot touch. It is the fundamental law of the land

Posted by: P. J. Casey | September 14, 2006 02:00 PM

That should read no prohibitions with regard to religious practice.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | September 14, 2006 02:02 PM

Yes, they are a repressive, religiously based regime. The Iranian people, however, who are generally well educated and more centrist, would throw these guys out on their asses if they were not so afraid of the US.

We helped saddam (who we also charactorized as a nut job in the run up to the war) cause hundreds of thousands of casualties in the Iran Iraq war, which we sponsored.

Apparently, when Rumsfeld was shaking Saddam's hand, giving him huge amounts of money and weapons to fight Iran with (including WMD), he must have overlooked Saddams nut job like qualities and resemblance to Hitler. This only became clear to him after Saddam lost his usefulness.

Now, we begin to see the same qualities in Irans Leader (during the attempted runup to the war) as well.

After the debacle that is the Iraq war, if the people in this country are so blind and have such short memories that they could be fooled again in the exact same way by the exact same people, then we probably actually deserve the leadership "we" have a great deal more than the people of Iran deserve theirs.


Posted by: J | September 14, 2006 02:09 PM

Two insane leaders who say they spoke to God.

Normal people who say they speak to God end up in a mental facility or you see them downtown screaming about the rapture.

Insane indeed.

Posted by: Joe Wilson | September 14, 2006 02:23 PM

Why is it that when humans talk to God it's called prayer, but when God talks to Humans it's called paranoid schizophrenia?

Posted by: | September 14, 2006 02:33 PM

"Are you aware of the -- there's a BBC broadcast tonight..." etc.

It's cute that you're trying to support yourself with a newspaper's apology for not printing the full story. So what we have here is not a quote from the president but a second-hand allegation from a hostile Palestinian politician, which was contradicted on the spot by another Palestinian politician who had been present at the same meeting.

Of course, the fellow who made the allegation, Nabil Shaath, is also known for having said, after the Jenin massacre myth had been debunked, that "even the death of one person can be considered a massacre". In short, we're talking about an individual with a hyperactive imagination and an easy approach to facts.

As to Ahmadinejad: You could have spared yourself posting that mile-long article. First because no one has that kind of time, and second, because even if it was three times as long it would not have changed facts that have solid substantiation and are known to all.

Posted by: Michael O. | September 14, 2006 02:55 PM

So you didn't read it! thank you for making the point. So stuck on your own belief that you are correct, you don't even have the patience to skim something that might change your mind.

Fact: a statement or assertion of verified information about something that is the case or has happened.

If you had read the post, you might have figured out that his comments are disputed. Therefore it is not a fact. Simple, no?

Posted by: | September 14, 2006 03:16 PM

"So you didn't read it! thank you for making the point."

I've read the likes of it many times over and those points are old and familiar. It's getting tiresome to try and prove to people that water is wet, and furthermore it's an excercise in futility.

If you go back and read newspapers of the 1930's you will see that very few people actually took Hitler at his word. Check out, for instance, the New Yorker's collection of all the cartoons they printed since their inception in the early 20's. You will find many cartoons mocking Hitler. Lots of people apparently thought he was funny. Until they stopped laughing.

Posted by: Michael O. | September 14, 2006 03:39 PM

"if you go back and read newspapers of the 1930's you will see that very few people actually took Hitler at his word."

The point is that these are not Ahmedinejad's words. What he said, and what we say he said are two entirely different things.

not only that, but noone is laughing at him. The cartoons and jokes are all about Bush.

Also, water is only wet in its liquid form, time for a new analogy, eh?

Posted by: | September 14, 2006 03:40 PM

"The point is that these are not Ahmedinejad's words."

Sure they are, except for people who have a political motive to prove the opposite. You want a (more or less) objective discussion of this, here's one:

Posted by: Michael O. | September 14, 2006 03:58 PM

The New York Times!!!
Please don't make me laugh any more than you already have. There's a reason for the religious play on it's name. It has to keep its constituents happy. And you're saying it doesn't have a motive? Please.

Writing that is like telling me if I wanted something that was objective about President Bush to ask his daughters.

The author of this piece is a woman, a US citizen living in South Africa. If ever there were a person who has a reason not to have bias it is she. Clearly no political motive either.

Posted by: | September 14, 2006 04:05 PM

Oh yeah, you conveniently ignored "What he said, and what we say he said are two entirely different things." We includes the NYTIMES.

Posted by: | September 14, 2006 04:07 PM

Can't read the article, I won't pay for the privilege. Could you paraphrase, or even better post it.

Posted by: | September 14, 2006 04:15 PM

While we argue about whether Iran's president is more or less influenced by his delusions of direct connection to the almighty than our own president, we might take a moment to determine whether our own government is even competent to understand and interpret the very clear communications from the IAEA, who can answer any questions directly, as opposed to relying on halos or signs that seem to indicate the return of Christ.

Below is evidence that the Bush administration should concentrate on correctly interpreting the more temporal matters at hand before criticizing other religious whackos on their inability to correctly determine the will of God.

"IAEA protests "erroneous" U.S. report on Iran
By Mark HeinrichThu Sep 14, 5:51 AM ET

U.N. inspectors have protested to the U.S. government and a Congressional committee about a report on Iran's nuclear work, calling parts of it "outrageous and dishonest," according to a letter obtained by Reuters.
The letter recalled clashes between the IAEA and the Bush administration before the 2003 Iraq war over findings cited by Washington about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that proved false, and underlined continued tensions over Iran's dossier.
Sent to the head of the House of Representatives' Select Committee on Intelligence by a senior aide to International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, the letter said an August 23 committee report contained serious distortions of IAEA findings on Iran's activity.
The letter said the errors suggested Iran's nuclear fuel program was much more advanced than a series of IAEA reports and Washington's own intelligence assessments have determined.
It said the report falsely described Iran to have enriched uranium at its pilot centrifuge plant to weapons-grade level in April, whereas IAEA inspectors had made clear Iran had enriched only to a low level usable for nuclear power reactor fuel.
"Furthermore, the IAEA Secretariat takes strong exception to the incorrect and misleading assertion" that the IAEA opted to remove a senior safeguards inspector for supposedly concluding the purpose of Iran's program was to build weapons, it said.
The letter said the congressional report contained "an outrageous and dishonest suggestion" that the inspector was dumped for having not adhered to an alleged IAEA policy barring its "officials from telling the whole truth" about Iran.
Diplomats say the inspector remains IAEA Iran section head.
The IAEA has been inspecting Iran's nuclear program since 2003. Although it has found no hard evidence that Iran is working on atomic weapons, it has uncovered many previously concealed activities linked to uranium enrichment, a process of purifying fuel for nuclear power plants or weapons.
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said: "We felt obliged to put the record straight with regard to the facts on what we have reported on Iran. It's a matter of the integrity of the IAEA."
Diplomats say Washington, spearheading efforts to isolate Iran with sanctions over its nuclear work, has long perceived ElBaradei to be "soft" on Tehran.
"This (committee report) is deja vu of the pre-Iraq war period where the facts are being maligned and attempts are being made to ruin the integrity of IAEA inspectors," said a Western diplomat familiar with the agency and IAEA-U.S. relations."


Posted by: J | September 14, 2006 04:36 PM

"Please don't make me laugh any more than you already have."

Are you saying the NY Times (and everyone who writes in it) has a pro-Bush bias? That's a laff riot indeed. I would be interested to know what publications are fair and balanced by your standards.

"The author of this piece is a woman, a US citizen living in South Africa. If ever there were a person who has a reason not to have bias it is she. Clearly no political motive either."

Why? Because she is a woman? Because she is a U.S. citizen living in S. Africa? Is that the definitive profile of a person without bias and without a political motive?

Here is the article for you:


THE WORLD; Just How Far Did They Go, Those Words Against Israel?

(NYT) 971 words
Published: June 11, 2006

EVER since he spoke at an anti-Zionism conference in Tehran last October, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has been known for one statement above all. As translated by news agencies at the time, it was that Israel ''should be wiped off the map.'' Iran's nuclear program and sponsorship of militant Muslim groups are rarely mentioned without reference to the infamous map remark.

Here, for example, is R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, recently: ''Given the radical nature of Iran under Ahmadinejad and its stated wish to wipe Israel off the map of the world, it is entirely unconvincing that we could or should live with a nuclear Iran.''

But is that what Mr. Ahmadinejad said? And if so, was it a threat of war? For months, a debate among Iran specialists over both questions has been intensifying. It starts as a dispute over translating Persian but quickly turns on whether the United States (with help from Israel) is doing to Iran what some believe it did to Iraq -- building a case for military action predicated on a faulty premise.

''Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map because no such idiom exists in Persian,'' remarked Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan and critic of American policy who has argued that the Iranian president was misquoted. ''He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse.'' Since Iran has not ''attacked another country aggressively for over a century,'' he said in an e-mail exchange, ''I smell the whiff of war propaganda.''

Jonathan Steele, a columnist for the left-leaning Guardian newspaper in London, recently laid out the case this way: ''The Iranian president was quoting an ancient statement by Iran's first Islamist leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, that 'this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,' just as the Shah's regime in Iran had vanished. He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The 'page of time' phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon.''

Mr. Steele added that neither Khomeini nor Mr. Ahmadinejad suggested that Israel's ''vanishing'' was imminent or that Iran would be involved in bringing it about. ''But the propaganda damage was done,'' he wrote, ''and Western hawks bracket the Iranian president with Hitler as though he wants to exterminate Jews.''

If Mr. Steele and Mr. Cole are right, not one word of the quotation -- Israel should be wiped off the map -- is accurate.

But translators in Tehran who work for the president's office and the foreign ministry disagree with them. All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement, including a description of it on his Web site (, refer to wiping Israel away. Sohrab Mahdavi, one of Iran's most prominent translators, and Siamak Namazi, managing director of a Tehran consulting firm, who is bilingual, both say ''wipe off'' or ''wipe away'' is more accurate than ''vanish'' because the Persian verb is active and transitive.

The second translation issue concerns the word ''map.'' Khomeini's words were abstract: ''Sahneh roozgar.'' Sahneh means scene or stage, and roozgar means time. The phrase was widely interpreted as ''map,'' and for years, no one objected. In October, when Mr. Ahmadinejad quoted Khomeini, he actually misquoted him, saying not ''Sahneh roozgar'' but ''Safheh roozgar,'' meaning pages of time or history. No one noticed the change, and news agencies used the word ''map'' again.

Ahmad Zeidabadi, a professor of political science in Tehran whose specialty is Iran-Israel relations, explained: ''It seems that in the early days of the revolution the word 'map' was used because it appeared to be the best meaningful translation for what he said. The words 'sahneh roozgar' are metaphorical and do not refer to anything specific. Maybe it was interpreted as 'book of countries,' and the closest thing to that was a map. Since then, we have often heard 'Israel bayad az naghshe jographya mahv gardad' -- Israel must be wiped off the geographical map. Hard-liners have used it in their speeches.''

The final translation issue is Mr. Ahmadinejad's use of ''occupying regime of Jerusalem'' rather than ''Israel.''

To some analysts, this means he is calling for regime change, not war, and therefore it need not be regarded as a call for military action. Professor Cole, for example, says: ''I am entirely aware that Ahmadinejad is hostile to Israel. The question is whether his intentions and capabilities would lead to a military attack, and whether therefore pre-emptive warfare is prescribed. I am saying no, and the boring philology is part of the reason for the no.''

But to others, ''occupying regime'' signals more than opposition to a certain government; the phrase indicates the depth of the Iranian president's rejection of a Jewish state in the Middle East because he refuses even to utter the name Israel. He has said that the Palestinian issue ''does not lend itself to a partial territorial solution'' and has called Israel ''a stain'' on Islam that must be erased. By contrast, Mr. Ahmadinejad's predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, said that if the Palestinians accepted Israel's existence, Iran would go along.

When combined with Iran's longstanding support for Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah of Lebanon, two groups that have killed numerous Israelis, and Mr. Ahmadinejad's refusal to acknowledge the Holocaust, it is hard to argue that, from Israel's point of view, Mr. Ahmadinejad poses no threat. Still, it is true that he has never specifically threatened war against Israel.

So did Iran's president call for Israel to be wiped off the map? It certainly seems so. Did that amount to a call for war? That remains an open question.

Posted by: Michael O. | September 14, 2006 04:51 PM

The problem is not merely the government. The problem is the people of Iran. They overwhelmingly support the government and its actions.

Starting from 1979, the Iranians have had total control of their destiny. During the ensuing 26 years, they voluntarily created a brutal theocracy that exports terrorism. The Iranians voluntarily spend millions of dollars on developing a nuclear weapon and on supporting terrorism.

By contrast, during the 16 years from 1990, the Czechs have created a liberal democracy with a free market. The quality of life in the Czech Republic is substantially higher than the quality of life in Iran.

What is the problem with the Iranians?

The entity that is suppressing freedom of the press in Iran is the people of Iran. The Iranian people, not merely the government, supports the brutal theocracy.

How do people behave when they support freedom of the press? Look at the Czech Republic. Look at the nation of Japan.

In the ensuring 26 years starting from 1947, the Japanese created a properous democracy that promotes freedom across the globe. Japan has numerous newspapers that regularly criticize the government. They include "The Japan Times", "Yomiuri Daily", "Mainichi News", and "Asahi News".

What, the hell, is the problem with the Iranians? Someone. Anyone. Please tell me what, the hell, is the problem with the Iranians. Why do they act in this way?

Posted by: Atheist, Boston, USA | September 14, 2006 05:04 PM

A quick googling of articles by "the woman with no bias and no political motives". No big surprises:

Counterpunch, May 3, 2004: Torture, Incorporated. Let the Wall of Silence Fall

Quisling and Occupier, 3 November 2005

The One-State Solution, 6 November 2003

New Left Review 38, March-April 2006

The Case for Boycotting Israel ( Virginia Tilley) CounterPunch August 5 / 6, 2006

And so on and so forth. Oh yes. No bias and no political motives absolutely whatsoever at all.

Posted by: Michael O. | September 14, 2006 05:10 PM

"Also, water is only wet in its liquid form, time for a new analogy, eh?"

Exactly the type of hairsplitting I would expect from someone who puts his efforts into trying to whitewash Ahmadinejad. I've got some news for you: Water is liquid by definition. If it's not liquid, it's something else. If you have any doubts, walk into a bar and order some scotch with solid water, see what kind of a response you get.

Posted by: Michael O. | September 14, 2006 05:32 PM

I once saw a halo around Tipper Gore after an unscripted emission on Charlie Rose.

Posted by: Reynolds | September 14, 2006 05:36 PM

Access to the online version of the NY Times is free. You just have to register.

Posted by: Catawba | September 14, 2006 05:50 PM

You are right Michael O. and I was completely wrong. Please forgive me for not signing any of my posts, but I am so ashamed of being so ignorant that I can't bring myself to reveal my identity even with a made-up screen name.

Posted by: | September 14, 2006 05:57 PM

If anyone would take the time to look at anyone else with a focused eye, you will see an aura around them, that means every one. It`s an magnetic energy field around each of us. Some see auras in colour, most see them as light circled around the head and top half of body.We don`t think we are Gods or angels for that matter. Just alive with an aura around each of us.As in all cases its open to interpretation,people only see what they want to see, and hear what they want to hear.Ill leave you to your debate, goodnight x to all.

Posted by: Pat | September 14, 2006 06:51 PM

Access to NY Times articles online is free only within a week of publication date, and even then some "prime" items are pay-only. After a week you have to subscribe or pay per-article.

Posted by: Michael O. | September 14, 2006 06:54 PM

Iran is many years away from having Nukes. IF they had them, their primary use would be to goad us into treating them as we do Pakistan, who actually has the bomb, and who has exported nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea, and god knows who else. Furthermore, Pakistan is virtually brimming over with Muslim radicals who hate Israel and us and to top it all off, Pakistan is probably harboring Bin Laden. Yet, we consider them our allies.

regardless of who our current or future administration can fool us into attacking, we should endeaver to not start one other Middle East conflict until we have forced Israel into relenquishing the occupied territories and allowing a free Palestine to emerge, which we should fund to help build infrastructure and start businesses.

Then, we can act decisively, working from the moral high ground, with the majority of the world (including Israel) as our allies. I believe, however, that the "need" to start other conflicts in the ME will drop off dramatically after we do this anyways. Israel would benefit (its what the Kadima party has been trying to accomplish since it's inception), and so would we.

I'm not sure how it can be put any more clearly; our problems in the Middle East are massively inflated by our dysfunctional relationship with Israel, and it has brought nothing but blood and tears to everyone involved.



Atheist, We financed a war against Iran in which one million casualties were caused. I would hardly call that "total control of their destiny".

Face, it, when Bush appologized for our policies in the middle east, he was right on the mark. Unfortunately, he and his administration appears to have utterly dropped the ball when it comes to doing something about actually changing them.


Posted by: J | September 14, 2006 09:13 PM


Thanks for posting the article by Virginia Tilley in its entirety.

Michael O.

"As to Ahmadinejad: You could have spared yourself posting that mile-long article."

What is your problem with the length of the article? Mr. Morley has not requested that we limit/confine our comments to x number of words/sentences, etc. Anyway, you are not the owner of this blog - just express your views about the substance of the article.

"First because no one has that kind of time..."

Don't speak for others on this blog. I certainly made the time to read the article as I was not aware of some of the facts that Tilley mentioned. In any case, just scroll down or page down if you are not interested. Could it be that you are embarrassed by the article as it debunks some of the myths our press has purposely created around Iran's president?

"second, because even if it was three times as long it would not have changed facts that have solid substantiation and are known to all."

You are certainly open-minded, aren't you?

"Are you saying the NY Times (and everyone who writes in it) has a pro-Bush bias?"

No, just pro-ISRAEL bias.

'When combined with Iran's longstanding support for Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah of Lebanon, two groups that have killed numerous Israelis, and Mr. Ahmadinejad's refusal to acknowledge the Holocaust, it is hard to argue that, from Israel's point of view, Mr. Ahmadinejad poses no threat."

So the above organizations "have killed numerous Israelis". How many THOUSANDS of Palestinians and Lebanese has Israel killed since its inception? Mossad and CIA engineered the coup which brought down the democratically elected gov't in Iran in 1953 and installed our puppet, the Shah. I guess, Iranians have absolutely no right to hate us and Israel - two FOREIGN powers interfering in its domestic affairs for their benefit.

"Still, it is true that he has never specifically threatened war against Israel."

The above sentence says it all - there is no proof except for Israeli and our govt's propaganda against Iran.

Posted by: RB | September 15, 2006 12:30 AM

Too many are donkeys who feel such lights. Such are mentally retarded puppets serving Satan who draw nations to war and distinction. But they claim to speaking to GOD!!! Intellectuals are true angels who have a difficult job in Iran, US and elsewhere in the world and they need constant support to survive, to open our eyes.

Posted by: Pirashkee | September 15, 2006 09:04 AM

So, might we say that Michael O. was mistaken when he wrote,

"In the case of Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, there is __hard evidence__ that he actually said that."

". . . Second, because even if it was three times as long it would not have changed __facts__ that have __solid substantiation__ and are known to all."

Even his own example, biased though it might be (mine too for all I know) shows that there is certainly no "hard evidence" of what Ahmedinejad said, I would venture to say that it falls short of "solid substantiation" as well.

At any rate they are certainly not "facts" by definition or by any stretch of the imagination.

Posted by: Thom | September 15, 2006 11:35 AM

Hey Michael O. Sorry we couldn't finish our discussion yesterday. . . Just wanted to needle you a little more.

Water: a compound of hydrogen and oxygen, H2O, freezing at 32°F or 0°C and boiling at 212°F or 100°C, that in a more or less impure state constitutes rain, oceans, lakes, rivers, etc.: it contains 11.188 percent hydrogen and 88.812 percent oxygen, by weight.

So, ice = 11.188% Hydrogen, 88.812% oxygen.
steam = 11.188% Hydrogen 88.812% oxygen.

Scientifically, which is the most imperical measurement in the world, says water is water in any form. It is not always wet.

Just like the rest of your arguments, this one falls flat on its face with less than fifteen minutes of research.

Posted by: | September 15, 2006 12:52 PM

Let he who is guiltless cast the first stone! Since we can't do anything about foreign media, Why don't we deal with American Media? I switch on CNN today expecting to see my favorite news program "Your World Today". Instead, I had to watch Bush campaign and spin over the Geneva Convention. Later, I was forced to watch two anchors and assorted experts debate his spin as if it had some real meaning. Bush's basic contention was that article 3 was too vague for "Modern times". The next question that came from the reporters should have been, what changes would you make using American law, and would the torture memo that came out of the Attorney general's office be your idea of modernizing article 3. His second "point" was should American law be should be second to International law. The next question from reporters should have been, " Would you favor leaving the WTO, an international angency that controls our trade policy?" Another question that might have been asked was, "The Geneva convention, along with other treaties, are confirmed by the Senate. Should we abrogate all our treaties? They all become law when they are confirmed! Bush is doing two things, with these trial commisions. He is trying to force Congress to confirm the Attorney General's torture memo in law, and second he is trying to pretend to be tough on terrorism, when he makes no effort to control our borders or ports. Did the Iraq war make America safer, or did it create more terrorists?
When the Media automatically goes along with Bush's spin, or are too ignorant to ask the right questions, The American media needs to get it's act together before we began reforming other countries media.

Posted by: P. J. Casey | September 15, 2006 02:33 PM

Colin Powell and four republican senators defying the bush administration, essentially saying that we are trying to subvert the geneva convention by createing a kangaroo court for anyone who is deemed a terrorist, which will undermine our credibility with any country that would otherwise join us in the fight against terrorism.

It is suppossed that this is being done, in part, in order to gag the hundreds of detainees at Guantonamo that will soon be able to appeal their cases to US courts, because when the truth hits the press about what has actually happened, it will have a very negative impact on the current administrations credibility.

At precisely the same time, the IAEA is saying that we are lying about their findings concerning Iranian nuclear activities. We are grossly mischaractorising them in order to help build a case for war and to escalate tensions, in just the same way that we did in the run up to the war agaisnt Iraq.

Hey kids, can you say "Desperate".


Posted by: J | September 15, 2006 03:10 PM

what is this article about? that cartoon is not even funny!

Posted by: Annonomous | September 17, 2006 10:01 PM

Now we have two nations with leaders who speak directly to the Lord.

Posted by: Oscar Mayer | September 18, 2006 11:19 AM

I see the Washington Post and NY Times are now taking sides and asserting that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the 'loser' in the Mexican presidential elections -- despite the fact that there was no transparent recount in a country with a long and sorry history of electoral fraud, despite the fact that one of the two main camps in that election has not accepted the officially sanctioned (and highly dubious) 'result.'
Once again, the Post and the Times side with the Mexican establishment instead of giving us the story straight. Why can't you call Calderon the 'officially sanctioned winner' rather than take sides and assert, despite all the doubts and the controversy, that he is the 'winner'?
At this point, we have no idea of who the 'winner' or the 'loser' in that election was.
This coverage reminds me of how the Post and the Times treated Carlos Salinas. At the time, his electoral 'victory' was asserted as fact in your news reports. Now it's commonly accepted that he stole that election.
History will not look kindly on the Times and the Post for their blatantly biased coverage of Mexico's elections.

Posted by: Sergio | September 18, 2006 12:48 PM

I see.
But Sergio, this is a thread about Iran.

Posted by: | September 18, 2006 12:52 PM

"World Opinion Roundup by Jefferson Morley"

A Daily Survey of What the International Online Media Are Saying

Daily? Really? What about the last three days. What about today.

If it ain't daily, don't label it as such.

Posted by: | September 18, 2006 02:36 PM

So Ahmadinejad is upset that he was shown with a "halo" around him rather than being shown as a donkey (a stupid animal in the Western World as opposed to a horse). Am I missing something here?

Posted by: Anagadir | September 19, 2006 08:42 AM

Yes, it's a thread about Iran but there's no other forum on this website to point out this outrageous bias and distortion of international news copy. So that's why I've put my remarks about the Post's and the Times' biased coverage of Mexico here.

Posted by: Sergio | September 19, 2006 12:26 PM

"Are you aware of the -- there's a BBC broadcast tonight that's quoting the Palestinian prime minister and foreign minister as saying that they were in a meeting with the president in June of '03, and there are some very detailed quotes here, saying that the president said to them, "God told me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan,' and I did," and then "God told me, 'George go and end the tyranny in the Iraq,' " and so forth and so on?"

Posted by: President Bush | September 19, 2006 07:00 PM

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