Khatami On Challenges In Middle East

Khatami on the challenges in the Middle East

Outgoing Iranian president Mohammad Khatami Reflected on the challenges facing the Middle East in an interview with al-Hayat, translated/ paraphrased by Shahram Kholdi.

Khatami sees Middle East publics as caught between three major forces:

1) Authoritarian governments.

2) Neocolonial puppet regimes.

3) Reactionary radical movements.

You could read these as, from Iran’s point of view, say: 1) Saudi Arabia, 2) Egypt and 3) al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

In this moral universe, the opposite of these obstacles would be regimes elected by the people, which have an independent foreign policy, and fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda. I.e., from his point of view, while it has its own difficulties, Iran is closer to the ideal and farther from the problems than most other regimes in the area.

This point of view is not one I share, but the inclusion of the problem of puppet regimes is a key difference from how an American audience would look at the problems. (Thus, even authoritarian regimes friendly to Washington usually get a free ride in the US media).

It seems to me that this is the big problem that most American have in understanding the Middle East. They cannot conceive of a situation in which they had been under the thumb of foreigners for the past 200 years, so that national independence is a value in its own right, which might even be more important than democracy or human rights. (I’m not saying Khatami is ranking them this way, but many in the region do).

This is why an Iraq under American occupation simply cannot be accepted by most Middle Easterners.