Iranian President Makes Direct Appeal to Americans

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, left, sought help from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in stemming Iraq's sectarian violence.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, left, sought help from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in stemming Iraq's sectarian violence. (By Vahid Salemi -- Associated Press)
By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 30, 2006

In an unusual letter to the American people, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday called for the pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq and charged that Bush administration policy is based on "coercion, force and injustice."

The five-page letter, which was both conciliatory in references to "Noble Americans" and scathing in lambasting Jewish influence in the United States, said there is an urgent need for dialogue between Iranians and Americans because of the "tragic consequences" of U.S. intervention abroad.

In Iraq, he wrote, hundreds of thousands have been killed, maimed or displaced, while terrorism has grown "exponentially" and daily life has become a challenge. "With the presence of the US military in Iraq, nothing has been done to rebuild the ruins, to restore the infrastructure or to alleviate poverty," he wrote. ". . . I consider it extremely unlikely that you, the American people, consent to the billions of dollars . . . from your treasury for this military misadventure."

U.S. resources would be better spent at home, he added, to alleviate poverty and help the "many victims" of Hurricane Katrina.

Ahmadinejad also questioned whether terrorism can be defeated by traditional warfare. "If that were possible, then why has the problem not been resolved?" he wrote. "The sad experience of invading Iraq is before us all."

But the toughest language was reserved for Israel, which Ahmadinejad referred to as the "Zionist regime." The hard-line Iranian leader, who won an upset election last year, charged that Washington's "blind support" for Israel has allowed the nation to pursue policies against Palestinians without constraints. "No day goes by without a new crime," he said.

"What have the Zionists done for the American people that the US administration considers itself obliged to blindly support these infamous aggressors? Is it not because they have imposed themselves on a substantial portion of the banking, financial, cultural and media sectors?" he wrote. The letter was released by the Iranian mission to the United Nations.

The Bush administration dismissed the letter as a public relations stunt that included nothing new. "Actions speak louder than words, and I think if you look at the record of Iranian action, we, unfortunately, haven't seen any change in behavior that would indicate that they've got a new approach to things," said Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman.

The State Department also rejected calls for withdrawing U.S. troops, noting that the letter came one day after the United Nations, at Iraq's request, had renewed the mandate of the U.S.-led coalition force for another 12 months.

Casey told reporters that Iran has no credibility on Iraq, given Tehran's support for violence and the Shiite militias. "That includes its support for terrorism in Iraq. It includes its support for Hezbollah. It includes its support for Palestinianist rejection groups. It includes its continued defiance of the international community's efforts to deal with the Iranian nuclear program. . . . And that's why Iran finds itself in a very isolated place right now," Casey said.

In his letter, Ahmadinejad issued a warning to Democrats taking over the House and Senate that they would be "held to account" by history for their decisions.

"If the US Government meets the current domestic and external challenges with an approach based on truth and Justice, it can remedy some of the past afflictions and alleviate some of the global resentment and hatred of America," he wrote.

Iran's current positions on regional issues have taken on new importance in light of the debate over whether to include Iran and Syria in efforts to stabilize Iraq. The idea has been discussed within the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan panel led by former secretary of state James A. Baker III and former representative Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) that wrapped up deliberations yesterday on its policy recommendations for the White House.

This is not the first letter from the Iranian leader to the United States. In May, Ahmadinejad wrote a rambling 18-page letter to President Bush that reflected on common values between Christianity and Islam, then questioned how a "follower of Jesus Christ" could order countries to be attacked, lives destroyed and cities set ablaze. The White House did not respond.

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