Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wallace Interviews Ahmadinejad

........................................... Publicity still released by CBS of Wallace's interview with Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Tuesday.

Mike Wallace (nee Myron Leon Wallace in 1918) retired from full-time journalism in March of this year but he is set to make a major comeback cameo in the US tonight when small parts of his coup d'interview with Iranian President Ahmadinejad will be broadcast on the CBS network. (The full interview will be broadcast on Sunday's 60 Minutes program.)

Yup, 88 year old Wallace, who, like many Western journalists, had healthy access to Iran even shortly after the revolution, counts one of his greatest coup d'interviews (yes, this is a term I've made up) as the 1979 Q & A with le plus grand ayatollah himself Ruhollah Khomeini (the less said the better) in the midst of the Iran hostage situation. Of course, shortly afterwards, good ol' Ru stopped playing footsie with the West and well, with everyone, and decided it was time to terrorise his own (though there is little evidence that he cared about Iranians or the fact that he was Iranian at all) people and put into practice his dream of an Islamic dictatorship a la velayat-e faqih (which, by the way, was not his brainchild but that of a gurgling little mollah who Ru banished into house arrest ages ago: Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri).

So, this Ahmadinejad interview seems far more of a coup than the one with Ru.

Hopefully the clips will be available on YouTube soon, but for now, we can relish in the pre-broadcast, post-interview gushes from Wallace who says what most of us outside of the US of A (and increasingly, the UK where ignorance is spreading like rabies, or is it stagnating like halitosis? who knows...maybe we can doublecheck with Tony Bleh) already knew: Ahmadinejad is no fool. Though I suppose for someone coming from a country led by Major General Bushwhacker, expectations of intelligence amongst leadership are not terribly high.

"He's an impressive fellow, this guy. He really is. He's obviously smart as hell," Wallace says, adding that he was surprised the president is actually still teaching a graduate-level course at the university. What's more telling is that Wallace confirms that Ahmadinejad is not the crazy advertized by the Western press "I expected more of a firebrand [but] he comes across as more rational than I expected."

Wallace also managed to bring out in Ahmadinejad the only thing most Iranians like about him -- his sense of dignity about Iran, some might call it pride. "See how they [the US government] talk down to my nation," he said. Yes, Ahmadinejad, in contrast to every other leader in the world, including Tony Baloney, has successfully managed to bring to the fore the insulting diplomatic rhetoric that emanates continually and unabashedly from the US government toward other nations. "I don't think he has the slightest doubt about how he feels ... about the American administration and the Zionist state," Wallace says.

Of course, there is the added fascination here of Wallace being Jewish which no doubt Ahmadinejad was aware of, considering he surprised Wallace by knowing even more details about him, such as the fact that he'd retired. According to the Associated Press, Wallace said he nearly fell out of his chair when Ahmadinejad said "I hear this is your last interview." The point being that the whole anti-Semite theme doesn't float quite so well now, especially considering the much less widely reported news that apparently Ahmadinejad's statements on Israel were actually mistranslated (also see here) in the first place.

What does this all mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, on the one hand, Iran is hard core cracking down on human rights and free expression in Iran since last week. While on the other hand, at the same time, Iran has openly allowed one of its biggest critics, Akbar Ganji, and its most famous human rights campaigner (though not much of a critic) Shirin Ebadi to circulate the Western hemisphere promoting democracy and human rights in Iran. And add to the equation Ahmadinejad's sudden acceptance of a major Western media showcase this week.

What's the final calculation here?: two-faced politics. The Iranian government is exerting its strong arm of terror on its own people while internationally presenting a charming and cooperative leadership -- let's not forget that Ganji and Ebadi are by no means enemies of the state. This is clever politics and will no doubt be useful in Iran's trade and economic relations with the Western world, as well as this whole nuclear showdown at the end of the month.

Trouble is, it is highly unlikely that the Iranians themselves will tolerate hardline domestic policy for very much longer and if Ahmadinejad truly cares about Iran (which remains to be proven), he'll act to help his people and not Iran's investors.

Labels: ,