Defiant Iran stays away

ROBERT FISK

Tehran

Hours before the Israeli prime minister rose to denounce Tehran as the "capital of terror", I was walking down a rainy street in that same Iranian city with a man who once took up arms to fight Iranian opponents of the revolutionary regime.

"Peres will call Iran a terrorist state, Clinton will applaud him but the others won't join in," he said. "The Israelis don't know what to do when they can't use their tanks and planes." By midday yesterday, the first part of the man's prediction was proved correct.

Iran predictably called the Sharm el-Sheikh conference a "propaganda ploy by Israel and America to distract the world" - a view shared by several Arab regimes who are no friends of Iran - while the Iran News called for a "anti-terrorist" conference to be held in Tehran.

"The United States . . . alleged that the Islamic republic was behind a series of bomb blasts," its editorial declared. "The same America rolled out the red carpet for the reception of Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA which publicly claimed responsibility for the massacres of many innocent civilians."

In Tehran, the Russian ambassador, Sergei Tretyakov, confirmed that President Yeltsin had sent a letter to President Rafsanjani proposing "joint efforts in the fight against terrorism". Mr Tretyakov chose his words carefully. "When we talk about Iranian involvement in acts of political violence, we should say `so-called' or `alleged'," he said. "We discussed this in Moscow with the Americans. But still no one has provided evidence."

When "terrorist acts" were committed in Israel, the ambassador said, "Iran was immediately accused . . . When hostage-taking took place in Russia, no wide-scale campaign took place as it did for Israel."

Mr Tretyakov's reference to Chechnya might not go down too well in Iran where there are strong feelings about Moscow's suppression of what is seen as a Muslim war of liberation.

Yet Iran can hardly show the world a squeaky-clean record. At a press conference on Monday, Ayatollah Rafsanjani - as he now is - tried to avoid reference to an Iranian sentenced in a French court to 10 years jail for the murder of the former Iranian prime minister Shahpour Bakhtiar, in Paris.

Nor can Iran be surprised when the world does not know who to believe in Tehran. Immediately after the suicide bombings in Israel, for example, the Iranian news agency Irna called the slaughter "divine retribution"; less than 48 hours later European diplomats were summoned to the foreign ministry to be told that the report did not represent the policy of the Rafsanjani government which condemned all acts of violence against civilians.

And if Iranian authorities abandoned their war against the regime's opponents three years ago, there are ominous signs that those who choose to call for a separation of clerical and governmental power cannot do so freely. One proponent of such a policy was lecturing at Tehran University's department of sociology last Saturday when a group of young radicals led by clerics closed down the class.

"You must understand that power remains fragmented here," a Tehran University politics student complained. "Rafsanjani is the president of Iran but he is also the president of only a powerful faction. Still, the radicals are losing and the clerics who used to demand war with Israel are isolated.

"It's confusing, but we find the West confusing too. A few years ago, Israel was calling Beirut the "capital of world terror" because Arafat was there. Now Israel says Tehran is the capital of world terror - and Arafat is sitting next to the Israeli prime minister when he says it."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Administrator / Planner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee