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The Jerusalem Post, despite Michael’s misgivings, has had some excellent articles, commentaries and reports in recent weeks. I thought this analysis of Ahmadinejad’s letter to Bush (also published in the New York Post on May 11) is penetrating and outlines that this may not be a conflict about nukes but something much deeper.

The author of the article is Amir Taheri, who is Iranian born and western-educated. He is obviously somebody who opposes the current regime in Iran, but also seems to have the pedigree and professional background that suggests that this article may contain some truth to its premise. Unlike Al Qaeda’s unruly structure of a bunch of terrorists planting cells wherever they think they can have an impact, Taheri is clearly suggesting that here we seem to have the leadership of a 60 million person Islamic theocracy – a state, as opposed to a rag-tag group of terrorists – trying to take over the mantle of leadership in a clash of civilizations.

To some in Washington, Ahmadinejad’s epistolary exercise may look like another of his quirks. But it is based on a long historic tradition and fits into a framework of religious practice developed by Muslims over the past 14 centuries.

Prophet Muhammad himself initiated the practice of writing letters to “the rulers of the world.” In 625 AD, having consolidated his position in Medina and established a secure power base for his rule, the Prophet decided it was time to call on “the infidel” to abandon their faith and submit to Islam. Accordingly, he dictated three letters: to Khosrow Parviz, the Persian King of Kings, a Zoroastrian; and to Emperor Heraclius of Byzantium and the Ethiopian monarch Negus, who were Christians.

THE PROPHET’S offer to the three recipients of his letters was simple: convert to Islam and secure a place in paradise or cling to your beliefs and face the sword of Islam.

and

Despite its many spelling and grammatical errors, and naive undergraduate style, Ahmadinejad’s letter contains a crucial message: the present regime in Iran is the enemy of the current international system and is determined to undermine and, if possible, destroy it.

It would be sheer folly to dismiss that message as the product of a 50-year-old teenager’s folie de grandeur.

Ahmadinejad believes that the Hidden Imam is about to return and that it is the duty of the Islamic Republic to provoke a “clash of civilizations” to hasten that return. As he asserts in his letter, Ahmadinejad also believes that the liberal democratic model of market-based capitalist societies has failed and is rejected even in its traditional homeland.

Well worth a read.

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