Unusual trifecta

Published May 22, 2024
Mahir Ali
Mahir Ali

THERE appears to be no reliable source for the quote that there are decades when nothing happens and weeks when decades happen, commonly (and possibly apocryphally) attributed to Vladimir Lenin, but the beginning of this week felt a bit like that.

The likelihood that Iran’s president and foreign minister had perished in a helicopter crash alongside seven others seemed obvious long before Tehran officially acknowledged the tragedy and announced five days of mourning. This was followed by reports that the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) chief prosecutor had sought warrants against leading figures in Israel and Hamas. Soon afterwards came the news that a pair of British judges had allowed Julian Assange the right to appeal against the British government’s determination to extradite him to the US for a trial on patently absurd and politically motivated espionage charges.

Ebrahim Raisi, elected president in 2021 on a low turnout, and his foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, were guests in Islamabad last month after a period of tensions between the two countries and an exchange of hostilities targeting purported militants on both sides of the Balochistan border. Last Sunday, they were returning from a dam inauguration on the border with Azerbaijan also attended by the latter nation’s president, Ilham Aliyev — the scion of Heydar Aliyev, who segued easily from a reliable Soviet apparatchik to a typical Central Asian potentate.

For the Iranians, the transport back to Tabriz relied on an old, US-designed helicopter, flying through hilly terrain in poor weather. A ‘hard landing’ was the initial official description in Tehran, although segments of Iranian media were talking about a crash early on, and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tried to reassure the nation that the consequences would not be disruptive long before official sources admitted that there were no survivors.

It has already been a busy week for newshounds.

Raisi will be succeeded by his unelected first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, in an interim capacity, with fresh presidential elections due within 50 days. There is no reason to expect the pattern will be any different from the recent past, with the clerical hierarchy effectively picking the favoured candidate while offering the mirage of a democratic contest. It hasn’t always been easy, though, with the clergy occasionally facing mild resistance from the likes of Rafsanjani, Khatami and Rouhani. Even the militantly conservative Ahmadinejad was too much of a loose cannon for it.

With Khamenei now 85, Raisi was considered a contender for the top job. The former is the second supreme leader since 1979. When Ruhollah Khomeini died 10 years later, the Khaleej Times put out a special edition. The only picture we could find of Khomeini with a foreign leader featured Yasser Arafat soon after the revolution. That found a prominent place in the paper — and one of the KT’s photographers came close to being roughed up by Iranian mourners at a mosque in Dubai because of that image. The Palestinian leader had apparently turned into persona non grata since the early days of the revolution, after which the regime had welcomed arms from Israel as part of the Iran-Contra deal under the Reagan set-up.

Iran has lately stood out as the only significant Middle Eastern power to meaningfully rage against the genocide in Gaza, but its motivations are suspect. Raisi had been implicated for decades in the repression that has stood out as a key characteristic of the regime that smothered the best aspects of the rebellion against the Pahlavi monarchy 45 years ago.

Iran might have been a very different country had the US not conspired seven decades ago to turn it into an Israel-friendly Middle Eastern satellite. Today, it is determined to defend Israel, with Joe Biden denying any ‘equivalence’ posited by the ICC between Hamas and the Zionist regime, notwithstanding their deadly inclinations — let alone the Israeli Defence Forces’ military supremacy, courtesy of a steady supply of US military hardware.

Assange’s WikiLeaks exposed the brutal absurdity of America’s military endeavours in places where it has no right to be, which is why the Trump and Biden administrations have conspired to permanently silence him. It would make sense for Biden’s government to drop the ridiculous charges, given that the British establishment would reprehensibly be unwilling to liberate him without Washington’s imprimatur.

The ICC’s endeavour has been condemned by Hamas, Israel and Biden. That alone suggests it might be worthy, even though the prosecutor’s request is yet to be processed by the judges. It is, of course, highly unlikely that either the Israeli or the Hamas leadership will ever find itself in the dock at The Hague, but pushing this genocidal conflict in the direction of accountability just might bring it to a halt.

mahir.dawn@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2024

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