By Ramin Mazaheri cross-posted by special agreement with Press-TV
(Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of “I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China”.)
The Western world has an unusual way of practicing diplomacy, and this was aptly summed up recently by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani:
“You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks,” he said, referring to Washington sanctions on Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“The White House is afflicted by mental disability and does not know what to do,” Rouhani continued.
Well, that might be an exaggeration – I’m not a doctor.
However, if it is true, then it’s clear that the governments of England and France suffer from the same affliction.
But before getting to that, we are forced to clear up the latest example of Western Mainstream Media propaganda designed to portray Iran as troglodytic savages: it has been falsely reported that Rouhani used the phrase “mentally retarded”.
This is a phrase which is no longer in vogue in the Anglophone world, though it was for many decades – it is now considered insensitive. The goal of the false translation is obvious: to portray Iran’s leadership as cruel and – in something so very, very important to the neo-imperialist, Islamophobic, warmongering West – “insensitive”. The West is fine with war, death and blockades, but nobody can come back from “insensitive” in the 21st century!
Firstly, “Political Correctness” is a fine, modern lens to view things through… but it is not the apex of political enlightenment and engagement. There should be much more anger over the disabled Iranians (and the disabled Koreans, Venezuelans, Cubans, etc.) who are victimised by Western sanctions on even humanitarian goods like medicine than over anyone’s failure to use “disabled” instead of “retarded”.
Countless Iranians have taken to Twitter and social media to testify that Rouhani did not use the word “retarded”, but the false claim will likely live on in manufactured infamy.
This is not the first time the Western media has done this – all Iranians know that the turmoil over Ahmadinejad’s alleged claim to “wipe Israel off the map” was another untrue, malicious translation created and avidly relayed by Iranophobic Western mainstream media. Retractions, not even tiny ones, are never forthcoming.
Whatever you call it – and I always give senior citizens leeway on not using the constantly-updating PC language – Rouhani’s exasperation was clearly justified.
On June 23 the UK Minister for the Middle East at the Foreign Office, Andrew Murrison, held talks in Tehran. He declared his mission was to call for “urgent de-escalation“. The Foreign Office declared, “…this visit is an opportunity for further open, frank and constructive engagement with the government of Iran.”
However, the very next day Jeremy Hunt, the leader of the Foreign Office and Murrison’s boss, fuelled speculation of imminent bloodshed by saying the UK would consider Washington’s requests for military support for war on Iran.
I imagine that the Iranian civil servants who had just played host to Murrison wondered: why did they waste our time? They likely threw their work into the garbage. Indeed, ever since the JCPOA has been signed there is a widespread feeling that Western diplomats are just “wasting Iran’s time”, and not implementing any of the actions they promised.
Does not Murrison get his orders from Hunt? How can the UK and Iran have “constructive engagement” when diplomatic efforts are torpedoed from above less than 24 hours after they occurred?
However, the next day Hunt walked back his comments, no doubt forcing many Iranian diplomats to rifle through their wastebasket! There is certainly evidence of instability, if not disability, at the UK Foreign Office.
The French, however, are exceptional diplomats. They likely watch the uncoordinated, tactless US and UK and roll their eyes. But the reality is that France exemplifies the same schizophrenia as their nuclear-armed allies.
Paris continues to do what they always do when it comes to the JCPOA – tell the truth, and then… do nothing to right the wrongs being committed against the rule of law and Iran. An anonymous leak to CNN from France’s defense department this week saying that there is “no signal the US is interested in dialogue” with Iran may be a subtle (and unaccountable) form of diplomacy, but subtlety is not always appropriate. Diplomacy is not a pose – it has life and death consequences, and Iranians are exasperated over the endless nothing which is the French-led special purpose vehicle INSTEX to finally enable trade.
These three nations have many things in common – neo-imperialism serving as their guide to foreign policy, current leaders who are devoted to the most right–wing form of economics (neoliberal capitalism), secret police which are given unparalleled invasiveness, massive military budgets which eagerly sell war to the highest (or any) bidder, an omnipresent yet detested mainstream media – but most of these are their own domestic issues.
The thing they have in common which affects Iranians, however, is that the leaders of these three governments are exceptionally notable in the way they are seemingly immune from incorporating democratic public opinion into their public policy.
A poll this week showed that just 5% of Americans want Washington to declare war on Iran… and yet the top leaders of their executive and legislative branches are uniformly and rabidly anti-Iranian. Certainly, 5% is a laughable figure in any democracy, and I imagine a poll in the US would also find 5% of respondents wanting Washington to declare war on France!
In France, public opinion is being violently repressed by police in a manner unseen anywhere in the 21st century. There has been seven months of guaranteed weekly state violence against the Yellow Vests, prison terms for several thousand anti-government protesters, and the total rejection of any of the Yellow Vests thoroughly un-radical demands.
Three years ago this week the UK had a democratic vote about staying in the European Union – they voted to exit. That decision has not been honored, and who knows if it ever will? Certainly, the UK’s 1% and upper-middle class want to remain – will they orchestrate a 2nd vote to do so? That would be a flagrant violation of democracy, because public opinion was already polled – will there be a 3rd vote if Remainers lose again? Why not a 4th or a 5th, then?
These are all issues which Iranians cannot resolve for Americans, the French or the British, of course. However, there is no lack of evidence that at their highest levels of civil service, these nations are incredibly dysfunctional.
The problem this poses to the world is that – due to the compound debt-accruing legacy of imperialism – these nations remain incredibly powerful. Their elite can wage murderous sanctions for decades on places like Iran, Cuba, Korea, as they did in the past on nations like China, the USSR and many others.
However, everyone knows – both inside Iran and outside – that the peoples of the US, France and the UK want genuine, lasting diplomacy with Iran. War with Iran will only create hardship and danger for them.
Iran has made massive, repeatedly-verified efforts to create peace, but where are the genuine diplomats in the West? “Dysfunctional”, “disabled”, “retarded” – the label is not as important as what is inside the jar!
If they continue to produce such poor top politicians, these nations need to consider that their systems are corrupted to the point of being incapable of preserving the welfare of its own citizens.
What worries Iran is that it might even get worse in the West! Indeed, a world with a “US leader worse than Trump”, or “France with a more Jupiterian president than Macron”, or “the UK preparing for its 9th Brexit vote”, is going to be a very dangerous world indeed.
That’s a diplomatic certainty which cannot be lost in translation.