25 September 2010

Ahmadinejad preaches conspiracy theory and gets a hearing

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has gotten himself into the headlines again, something he's very good at. This time for supporting the popular conspiracy theory that 9/11 may have been orchestrated not by al-Qaeda but by the American administration.

I'm not much for conspiracy theories myself, so I think Ahmadinejad is just doing his usual piss-off-the-Israelis-and-the-Americans shtick. But then he's not preaching to me. He's preaching to the Middle East. And there his words will earn a friendlier reception.

He is quite wrong when he claims that most Americans, as well as most people in other parts of the world, agree that elements within the U.S. government orchestrated 9/11 in order to "reverse the declining American economy" and to justify US military operations in the Middle East to "save the Zionist regime." According to a 2008 world public opinion study carried out by the University of Maryland, only 15 per cent of the people in the 17 countries studied believed the U.S. government carried out the attacks.

The Middle East is another matter.  In Egypt, only 12 per cent thought the Americans were responsible, but 42 per cent believed Israel was. Only 16 per cent blamed al-Qaeda. In Jordan, 31 per cent blamed Israel with only 11 per cent blaming al-Qaeda. And in Turkey almost as many accused the U.S. (36 per cent) as accused al-Qaeda (39 per cent). Among the Palestinians, al-Qaeda was the most likely culprit (42 per cent), but the U.S. (27 per cent) and Israel (19 per cent) were high on the list. Ahmadinejad's rantings obviously get a hearing in this part of the world

President Obama Obama lashed out at Ahmadinejad's view, claiming it contrasts with that of the Iranian people. But judging by the above results, he might be wrong. This wouldn't be the first time the Americans have misjudged the attitudes of people in the Middle East. Just such a blunder helped lead them into the Iraq debacle.

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