Now, entirely unsurprisingly, Tait has effectively been expelled from the country. He has written an excellent final report on Iran, combining his disdain for its leaders with his deep affection for the country and its people. (He married an Iranian woman.)
The austere image fostered by the Islamic authorities is very different from the Iran I know. Far from being the religious monolith projected by the regime, it will be forever associated in my mind with glorious food, dancing, dramatic landscapes, dazzling mosques and stunningly beautiful women. My departure is involuntary. The authorities have refused to renew my residence permit and have resisted all entreaties to reconsider.
It was the second attempt in the past year to send me packing, an earlier refusal to renew my documentation having been reversed after the Guardian appealed on my behalf. The culture and Islamic guidance ministry, which is responsible for monitoring the activities of foreign journalists, provided no reason for the latest decision but a foreign ministry official told me I had been deemed guilty of negative coverage of “his excellency”, by whom he meant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Whether or not it can be taken at face value, the explanation provides an illuminating counterpoint to Ahmadinejad’s protestations that the Islamic regime allows free speech and tolerates criticism.
I think Tait tries too hard to find one or two kind things to say about President Ahmadinejad.
It may not redeem him in the eyes of his many critics, but his demagoguery and ignorance of western history are often leavened by a capacity to be funny, intentionally or not. It is hard not to laugh about a politician brazen enough to offer his services as a US presidential election observer. There is also something reassuringly human about a man so sensitive to mockery that he orders aides to monitor jokes circulating about him on text messages or so fearful of assassination that he suspends his Islamist principles by deploying sniffer dogs to detect possible explosives.
I don’t find anything particularly reassuring about that myself.
However Tait expresses the belief, which I share, that internal pressure– not counter-productive external threats– is likely to be the key to fundamental change in Iran.
[T]he radical president could be washed away in a tidal wave of economic problems of his own making. If so, events may show him to have been an essential catalyst to political change by demonstrating the limitations of Islamic radicalism.
(Hat tip: Azarmehr.)