Monday, June 20, 2005

Loose Lips

From the AP:

Iran’s spy chief used just two words to respond to White House ridicule of last week’s presidential election: “Thank you.” His sarcasm was barely hidden. The backfire on Washington was more evident.

The sharp barbs from President Bush were widely seen in Iran as damaging to pro-reform groups because the comments appeared to have boosted turnout among hard-liners in Friday’s election — with the result being that an ultraconservative now is in a two-way showdown for the presidency.

“I say to Bush: ‘Thank you,”‘ quipped Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi. “He motivated people to vote in retaliation.”

Bush’s comments — blasting the ruling clerics for blocking “basic requirements of democracy” — became a lively sideshow in Iran’s closest election since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. And they highlighted again the United States’ often crossed-wire efforts to isolate Iran.


At a news conference Sunday, Iran’s foreign minister, Kamel Kharrazi, said Bush “should apologize to the people of Iran for his comments.” He also extended another wry “thank you.”

“Bush’s statements brought out voters who didn’t want to participate in the elections,” Kharrazi said. “We have to thank him for this.”

Across the Middle East, Bush’s blast hit a fault line.

The president is trying to firm up the United States’ pro-democracy credentials by encouraging gradual reforms in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

But at the same time, the White House often is seen as having double standards with the occupation of Iraq and alleged abuses of Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The Bush comments are an example of “the kind of American intervention” that often boomerangs in the region, said Egyptian political analyst Salama Ahmed Salama.

“Bush meant to discourage the hard-liners,” he said, “but instead he mobilized their supporters.”

To quote the immortal Archie Bunker: “Dingbat!”