Bush v. Ahmadinejad
Egypt’s Jamal Mubarak Rejects “New Middle East”
Announces Nuclear Quest
The speeches given at the UN by US President George W. Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were mirror images of one another.
Bush accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons and of supporting terrorism.
Ahmadinejad said that his own country’s nuclear research program is purely civilian and that Iran is not seeking a bomb and remains committed to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But he said that the real threat anyway was from countries that already possessed nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and who insisted on continually increasing their stockpiles of these weapons and their sophistication. What, he asked, do they intend to do with these ever expanding arsenals? Why do they need them?
Bush said that the problem in the Middle East is authoritarian government, which breeds despair and terrorism.
Ahmadinejad said that the problem in the Middle East is the meddling in its affairs of a neo-imperialist power, which worked by dividing and ruling.
Bush said that Afghanistan and Iraq were great success stories and beacons of democracy.
Ahmadinejad said that Iraq is a mess and that he suspects that the US is deliberately keeping it that way so as to have a pretext to stay and dominate it. He said that Iraqi forces turned captured terrorists over to the US, but that the US often just released them after a few months.
Bush said Saudi Arabia’s municipal elections were a step toward democracy. (Only half of the municipal councils are elected, the other half are appointed by the monarchy, as are the mayors).
Iran, for all the substantial faults of its electoral system, is far more democratic than Saudi Arabia.
Bush said that the Lebanon war came out of an unprovoked attack on Israel by Hizbullah.
Ahmadinejad said an aggressive Israel was a constant source of instability in the region.
But it is clear which speech resonated best in the Middle East itself, where Bush is extremely unpopular and deeply distrusted. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Jamal Mubarak of Egypt paid a very sincere compliment to Ahmadinejad Tuesday.
While Bush and Ahmadinejad were wrangling, Egypt’s Jamal Mubarak unexpectedly entered the arena. He is the son and likely successor of President Hosni Mubarak.
Bush did not mention Egypt in his speech, but it is a soft military dictatorship in which the liveliest challenger to the government is the Muslim Brotherhood, which has authoritarian Islamist tendencies. Egypt is a close US military ally and receives $2 bn a year in US aid.
Jamal Mubarak announced that Egypt is trying to fill its energy gap with nuclear power plants. It was the first public admission that Egypt has a civilian nuclear powere research program. He said that the question of energy is pivotal to his country’s economic development. (Egypt has had a small and desultory nuclear energy research program for many years, and has been criticized by the IAEA for trying to hide it.)
He rejected the “Greater Middle East” plan for Iraq of the Bush administration, which Washington says involves democratization but which many Middle Easterners view as a pretext for US dominance of the region. Jamal Mubarak said, “We do not accept initiatives that come to us every day from outside.”
For more see New York Times reporting on the issue.
Even Bush’s friends in the region are imitating Ahmadinejad.