Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is Jewish

Well, well, well, Apparently the Rat springs from a Jewish family. There is a large Jewish minority in Iran, perhaps the largest such group in the Middle East. Nobody in Iran changes their religion, becomes a naw-kish (one with a new

Rat's family is Jewish

Rat's family is Jewish

religion), unless they are desperate – to escape persecution. Someone who converts from Islam is a mortad, one who turns his back, who is then under sentence of death. (Islam being rather like a concentration camp: Anyone attempting to escape will be shot.)

Ahmadinejad’s family was called Sabourjian (‘cloth weaver’) until they embraced Islam shortly after little Mahmoud was born, when they changed their family name. Apparently this is known to many Iranians, though it might be more unsettling if all Basiji got to hear about it, but it certainly was not known to me. What does this say about his fanaticism and insecurity?

I hope his blacksmith father was properly proud of his son with the doctorate in traffic management.

The singer not the song

Apparently Colonel Gaddafi, who recently tore up the charter of the United Nations in public, though with less reason to do so than Benjamin Netanyahu, has been having a quiet word with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Do you want to govern or do you want the bomb?” he is said to have asked.

This is precisely the right question, because, however messy and undesirable would be the process of de-fanging the military dictatorship in Iran, it would undoubtedly spell the end of the Islamic regime.

It was Gaddafi, remember, who voluntarily renounced nuclear ambitions and opened his doors to IAEA inspectors when Saddam Hussein was dug out of his foxhole and had his hair and beard cut in front of television cameras.

Since this reported conversation in New York, the Iranian regime has sung a sweeter song – marginally – and co-operated in Geneva with a partial internationalisation of its nuclear industry. Indeed Mohammed ElBaradei has flown to Tehran this weekend to discuss a lightning inspection of the newly disclosed Qom facility. Of course, as serial deceivers they have absolutely no leeway for being believed by the 5 + 1 nations, but the brink seems just a tad further off than it did at the beginning of the week.

Thanks to Colonel Gaddafi.

Himalayan beatitude

Dalai Lama signs up to the Green Wave

Dalai Lama signs up to the Green Wave

At the end of September,  Nazanin Afshin-Jam met the Dalai Lama in Vancouver:

I asked His Holiness if he would stand in solidarity with the Iranian people by holding a sign that says “Freedom for Iran” and “Human Rights for Iran”. When the Dalai Lama agreed without hesitation, I hugged and thanked him. I was so elated because I knew what an important symbol it would be for the people inside Iran. I want the Iranian people to know that they have not been forgotten and that the international community stands beside them.

The Qom bomb

Always anxious to be helpful, the Israelis have given Tsar Putin a list of all the Russian scientists believed to be helping Iran develop a nuclear warhead. Knowing the value of both grace and tact, they chose this method of implying that such help was not official and that Putin knew of no such scientists.

It was thus altogether an unembarrassing moment, one afterwards greeted in Western capitals by a concerted purring:

American and British officials argued that the involvement of freelance Russian scientists belonged to the past.

Iran nuclear sites and rocket range (Economist 3-Oct-09)

Iran nuclear sites and rocket range (Economist 3-Oct-09)

But its supposed influence over Iran remains highly important to Russia:

So far as Mr Putin is concerned, the Iran crisis presents Moscow with a golden opportunity to assert itself as a global player. “Iran is the only card the Russians have to play on the world stage, so they will hang on to it for as long as possible,” commented a senior Western diplomat. “It is not in Russia’s interests to have this problem resolved any time soon.”

The canter towards offensive nuclear weapons, which Ayatollah Khomeini believed, before his death, could have delivered victory against Saddam Hussein, is turning into a gallop:

The Israelis believe the Iranians have “cold-tested” a nuclear warhead, without fissile material, for its Shahab-3B and Sejjil-2 rockets at Parchin, a top-secret military complex southeast of Tehran.

The graphic here is from today’s Economist.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Sayeed Jalili (whose predecessor accused Mr Ahmadinejad of corruption before departing), is said by diplomats to specialise in ‘monologue’. Con Coughlin comments:

During the six years that Iran has been negotiating with the West over its controversial nuclear programme, it has taken the politics of procrastination to an entirely new level. Keep the talks going, and keep those centrifuges spinning – that has been the dictum that has defined Iran’s approach to the nuclear crisis and, from Iran’s perspective, it continues to pay dividends … They have repeatedly promised to freeze their controversial uranium enrichment activities at Natanz, only to resume enrichment once they realised there was nothing the West could do to stop them.

Imprisoned green bird

Imprisoned green bird

Meanwhile, are the Obama people getting real?

More broadly, the US side is uncertain whether meaningful progress can be made with the current Iranian government. “We’re not back explicitly at regime change,” says this official. “But incrementally there is agreement, a [growing] realisation within the administration that this is not a regime that can make the compromises we want them to make.” In fact, the Obama administration has been widely reported in the past week to have stepped up its examination of various sanctions options. US officials in Washington have begun to speak of the president’s outreach efforts in the past tense.