US embassy cable - 01DUBAI1141

POPULAR IRANIAN VIEWS OF TEHRAN'S POLICY TOWARD ISRAEL (RESPONSE TO C-NA1-01033)

Identifier: 01DUBAI1141
Wikileaks: View 01DUBAI1141 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Dubai
Created: 2001-09-15 08:41:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PINR PREL KPAL KISL IR TC
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 150841Z SEP 01
FM AMCONSUL DUBAI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3519
INFO AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 
GCC COLLECTIVE
IRAN COLLECTIVE
NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 DUBAI 1141 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/15/2010 
TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PREL, KPAL, KISL, IR, TC 
SUBJECT:  POPULAR IRANIAN VIEWS OF TEHRAN'S POLICY 
          TOWARD ISRAEL (RESPONSE TO C-NA1-01033) 
 
REF:  A) DUBAI 1058 28 AUG 01 B) DUBAI 1197 08 NOV 00 
C) DUBAI 1254 10 NOV 00 
 
1.  (U) CLASSIFIED BY PRINCIPAL OFFICER RICHARD OLSON FOR 
REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D). 
 
2.  (C) SUMMARY.  IRANIAN VISA APPLICANTS, DUBAI-BASED 
TRADERS, AND IRANIANS RESIDENT IN DUBAI PROVIDED THEIR 
ASSESSMENT OF IRAN'S POLICY TOWARD ISRAEL AND THE 
PALESTINIAN CONFLICT.  OF THOSE WHO EXPRESSED OPINIONS-- 
MANY IRANIANS WHOM CONOFF APPROACHED CLAIMED THAT THEY 
EITHER DID NOT HAVE AN OPINION OR DID NOT INVOLVE 
THEMSELVES IN POLITICS--IT IS CLEAR THAT THERE IS A 
DISCONNECT TO SOME DEGREE BETWEEN THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT'S 
STRIDENT PUBLIC SUPPORT OF THE PALESTINIANS AND 
CORRESPONDING VITRIOL TOWARDS ISRAEL AND THE PRIVATE VIEWS 
HELD BY THE MAJORITY OF THE POPULATION.  WHILE IT APPEARS 
THAT MANY IRANIANS SYMPATHIZE WITH THE HUMANITARIAN PLIGHT 
OF THE PALESTINIANS, GIVEN IRAN'S DOMESTIC ECONOMIC 
DIFFICULTIES THEY QUESTION WHY IRAN IS OUT IN FRONT OF EVEN 
THE ARABS, DEVOTING SCARCE FINANCIAL RESOURCES TO FIGHTING 
'THE ARABS' FIGHT'.  SOME INTERVIEWEES REPORT THAT TEHRAN 
IS EXPLOITING THE ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT FOR DOMESTIC 
POLITICAL REASONS, WHILE OTHERS EVEN PROFESSED PRO-ISRAEL 
SENTIMENT.  ALL, HOWEVER, CAUTIONED ABOUT THE DANGER OF 
EXPRESSING THESE TYPES OF VIEWS OPENLY, EVEN TO OTHER 
IRANIANS.  OF THE FEW IRANIANS INTERVIEWED WHO APPEARED TO 
BE MORE SUPPORTIVE OF TEHRAN'S POLICIES, COUNTERBALANCING 
US INFLUENCE IN THE REGION WAS SEEN TO BE A MOTIVATOR FOR 
THE REGIME'S ACTIVITIES.  END SUMMARY. 
 
----------------------------- 
A DIFFICULT ISSUE TO DISCUSS 
----------------------------- 
 
3.  (C) IN LATE AUGUST/EARLY SEPTEMBER DISCUSSIONS WITH 
CONOFF MANY IRANIANS SHIED AWAY FROM OFFERING THEIR 
OPINIONS OF IRAN'S POLICY VIS A VIS THE ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN 
CONFLICT.  CLAIMING EITHER TO BE APOLITICAL OR AFRAID TO 
DISCUSS THE ISSUE, EVEN RELATIVELY BENIGN QUESTIONS SUCH AS 
"WHAT IS IRAN'S FOREIGN POLICY TOWARD THE CONFLICT" WENT 
UNANSWERED.  APPARENTLY SPEAKING TO AN AMERICAN OFFICIAL 
WAS NOT THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM; AS ONE 45-YEAR OLD 
BUSINESSMAN EXPLAINED "IT IS TOO DANGEROUS TO TALK 
ABOUT THE SUBJECT EVEN AMONG IRANIANS."  (REF DUBAI 1058 
DATED 28 AUGUST 01 FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT 
INCREASING IRANIAN HESITANCE TO ENGAGE IN DISCUSSION ABOUT 
A NUMBER OF POLITICAL ISSUES.)  IN THWARTING DISCUSSION OF 
THE ISSUE MANY PROFESSED TO CONCERN THEMSELVES ONLY WITH 
THEIR WORK AND HAD NO INTEREST IN POLITICS.  OTHERS WHOM 
CONOFF APPROACHED ATTESTED THAT IRANIANS ARE VERY 
PREOCCUPIED WITH THE ECONOMY AND MAKING ENDS MEET AND 
THEREFORE ARE NOT FOCUSED ON WHAT IS HAPPENING OUTSIDE OF 
THE COUNTRY. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
CONCERN FOR BOTH PALESTINIANS AND THE COST OF THAT SUPPORT 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
 
4.  (C) OF THE IRANIANS WHO ENGAGED IN DISCUSSION ABOUT THE 
ISSUE, IT APPEARS THAT THAT A LARGE SEGMENT OF THE 
POPULATION WOULD CLASSIFY THEMSELVES AS PRO-PALESTINIAN AND 
THEY ARE CONCERNED--ON A HUMANITARIAN LEVEL--ABOUT THE 
PALESTINIANS' PLIGHT.  ONE IRANIAN DUBAI-BASED BUSINESSMAN 
ESTIMATED THAT 80% TO 90% OF IRANIANS ARE SYMPATHETIC 
TOWARDS THE PALESTINIANS' CONDITION, AND AN IRANIAN STUDENT 
SPOKE FAVORABLY ABOUT THE UP-TICK IN VISIBLE IRANIAN 
HUMANITARIAN SUPPORT FOR THE PALESTINIANS THIS PAST YEAR. 
ACCORDING TO HIM THE GOVERNMENT HAS ISSUED PUBLIC APPEALS 
FOR IRANIANS TO DONATE MONEY TO PALESTINIANS AND HAS 
BROUGHT INJURED PALESTINIANS TO IRAN FOR TREATMENT. 
 
5.  (C) DESPITE THESE SYMPATHIES, HOWEVER, THE IRANIAN 
DUBAI-BASED BUSINESSMAN REPORTED THAT IT APPEARS TO MANY 
IRANIANS THAT IRAN IS AT THE FOREFRONT OF FIGHTING WHAT IS 
AN ESSENTIALLY AN ARAB FIGHT.  IT IS BELIEVED THAT IRAN IS 
THE MOST SUPPORTIVE AMONG THE REGION'S COUNTRIES OF GIVING 
FINANCIAL AND POLITICAL SUPPORT TO THE PALESTINIANS AND 
THEY WONDER WHY ARABS ARE NOT SHOWING A SIMILAR LEVEL OF 
COMRADERIE.  MOREOVER, IRANIANS ARE CONCERNED THAT THEIR 
COUNTRY CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT AFFORD TO GIVE SUCH FINANCIAL 

SUPPORT AND THAT GIVEN THE DIFFICULT ECONOMIC CONDITIONS 
FACED AT HOME BY THE MAJORITY OF THE POPULATION "EVERY 
PENNY COUNTS." 
 
6.  (C) THE MAJORITY OF IRANIANS INTERVIEWED BELIEVE THAT 
IRAN'S SUPPORT OF THE PALESTINIANS IS LIMITED TO POLITICAL 
AND HUMANITARIAN FINANCIAL SUPPORT.  INTERVIEWEES COULD NOT 
QUANTIFY THE LEVEL OF FINANCIAL SUPPORT, HOWEVER ONE 
BUSINESSMAN SURMISED THAT THE CURRENT LEVEL "IS LESS THAN 
IN THE PAST."  THE IRANIAN DUBAI-BASED BUSINESSMAN DID NOT 
BELIEVE THAT IRAN GAVE THE PALESTINIANS MILITARY SUPPORT. 
HE ASKED RHETORICALLY "WHAT COULD THEY [IRAN] REALLY GIVE 
THAT COULD COUNTERACT ISRAEL?  THE ISRAELI MILITARY COULD 
FLATTEN PALESTINE, SYRIA AND LEBANON WITHIN TWO TO THREE 
DAYS." 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
PUBLIC DOES NOT SHARE REGIME'S VITRIOL IN PRIVATE 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
7.  (C) BESIDES THE ECONOMIC COST OF SUPPORTING THE 
PALESTINIANS, SEVERAL IRANIANS REPORTED THAT PEOPLE DO NOT 
SHARE THE LEVEL OF VITRIOL THE REGIME ESPOUSES VIS A VIS 
ISRAEL.  THE IRANIAN DUBAI-BASED BUSINESSMAN REPORTED THAT 
PEOPLE ARE TIRED OF THE HARSH RHETORIC BUT THAT THEY 
BELIEVE THAT "AS LONG AS THE MULLAHS ARE IN GOVERNMENT" 
IRAN WILL WANT TO "ANNIHILATE" ISRAEL AND WILL HOLD THAT 
GOAL AS A TENET OF THE REGIME.  INTERVIEWEES DID NOT SEEM 
TO SEE DIVISIONS WITHIN THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT ON THIS 
ISSUE.  AS A 70-YR OLD RETIREE CAUTIONED, "YOU MUST NOT 
LUMP IRANIAN PEOPLE IN WITH THE REGIME."  (SIMILAR POPULAR 
IDEOLOGICAL FATIGUE HAS BEEN REPORTED IN THE PAST. REF 
DUBAI 1197 DATED 08 NOV 00.) 
 
8.  (C) THE BELIEF ALSO EXISTS THAT IRAN'S SUPPORT OF THE 
PALESTINIAN CAUSE HAS A DISINGENUOUS ANGLE TO IT. 
ACCORDING TO A UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR THE IRANIAN REGIME 
HYPES THE ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT TO SUIT ITS OWN 
PURPOSES DOMESTICALLY.  THE REGIME TRIED TO BLAME THE 
SERIAL MURDERS OF INTELLECTUALS ON "ISRAELI INTERVENTION" 
AND IS CURRENTLY HIGHLIGHTING THE SUFFERING OF THE 
PALESTINIANS TO TRY TO MAKE THE IRANIAN POPULACE FEEL 
FRIVOLOUS AND GREEDY FOR WANTING REFORMS AND "HAVING FUN" 
WHILE THEIR PALESTINIAN "BRETHEREN" ARE IN THEIR DARKEST 
HOUR. 
 
9.  (C) EXPRESSING VIEWPOINTS ABOUT THE ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN 
ISSUE THAT DEPART FROM THE OFFICIAL LINE IS SEEN TO BE A 
DANGEROUS UNDERTAKING.  THE PROFESSOR EXPLAINED THAT PEOPLE 
ARE AFRAID TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT, AND DO NOT 
PUBLICLY VOICE THEIR OPPOSITION TO GOVERNMENT SUPPORT OF 
THE PALESTINIANS.  HE ADDED THAT THE CURRENT PUBLIC 
RETICENCE TO EXPRESS OPINIONS ABOUT A RANGE OF 
CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES IS WIDESPREAD, AND THAT SINCE THE 
BERLIN CONFERENCE MANY INTELLECTUALS--LIKE PHILOSOPHER 
ABDOLKARIM SORUSH--HAVE STOPPED SPEAKING OUT AND ARE 
CHOOSING TO LIVE LOWER PROFILE LIVES. 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
SOME SEGMENTS EVEN SYMPATHETIC TOWARDS ISRAEL 
--------------------------------------------- - 

10. (C) SEVERAL INTERVIEWEES REPORTED THAT A LATENT PRO- 
ISRAEL BIAS EXISTS.  A DUBAI TRADER WHO RECENTLY RETURNED 
FROM IRAN TOLD CONOFF THAT SEVERAL IRANIANS THAT HE SPOKE 
WITH EXPRESS PRO-ISRAEL SENTIMENTS BENEATH THE SURFACE.  HE 
ATTRIBUTED THIS TO THE FACT THAT ALTHOUGH IRANIANS WERE 
CONVERTED TO ISLAM, MANY STILL PERCEIVE A BOND OF KINSHIP 
BETWEEN THEIR ORIGINAL RELIGION OF ZOROASTRIANISM AND 
JUDAISM.  A SECOND BUSINESSMAN REPORTED THAT SENTIMENT 
EXISTS WITHIN THE IRANIAN BUSINESS COMMUNITY THAT IF THE 
REGIME WOULD ONLY TONE DOWN ITS RHETORIC IRAN COULD HAVE 
GOOD BUSINESS RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL. 
 
11. (C) PAST INTERVIEWS WITH IRANIANS HAVE ALSO HIGHLIGHTED 
SOME PRO-ISRAEL SENTIMENT.  A MEMBER OF THE IRANIAN JEWISH 
COMMUNITY LAST NOVEMBER REPORTED THAT IRAN'S JEWISH 
POPULATION FEELS A STRONG--BUT WELL-HIDDEN--AFFINITY FOR 
THE STATE OF ISRAEL. (REF DUBAI 1254 DATED 10 NOV 00) 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
MINORITY OPINION: IRAN INVOLVED TO COUNTER US 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
12. (C) OF THE SMALL NUMBER OF IRANIANS INTERVIEWED WHO 
BELIEVED THAT IRANIAN INVOLVEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE 
PALESTINIANS WAS WARRANTED, COUNTERING PERCEIVED PRO-ISRAEL 
US INFLUENCE WAS CITED AS THE PRINCIPAL MOTIVATOR. 
ACCORDING TO THE OWNER OF AN IRANIAN TRANSPORTATION COMPANY 
THE US HAS STOKED THE MIDDLE EAST CRISIS AS A WAY TO PUSH 
IRAN TO INTERVENE IN THE REGION.  HEAVY US SUPPORT OF 
ISRAEL HAS INSURED THAT IRAN WOULD SUPPORT THE 
PALESTINIANS, AND PROVIDED A CONVENIENT PRETEXT FOR US 
CONTINUANCE OF ILSA.  HE LABELED ILSA PROPONENTS AS PRO- 
ISRAEL AND STATED THAT THOSE PROPONENTS HAD WANTED GORE 
INSTEAD TO WIN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. 
 
13. (C) A DUBAI-BASED IRANIAN ENTREPRENEUR PROVIDED HIS 
OPINION OF WESTERN ASSERTIONS THAT THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT 
IS A STATE SPONSOR OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM.  HE IS 
PRAGMATIC, BELIEVING THAT NEARLY EVERY GOVERNMENT SPONSORS 
TERRORISM, AND MAINTAINED THAT THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT IS 
NOT DOING "ANYTHING DIFFERENT THAN ISRAEL, THE US OR UK." 
ACCORDING TO HIM THE US SELECTIVELY SINGLES OUT IRAN AND HE 
USED THE UAE-IRAN DISPUTE OVER ABU MUSA AND THE TUNBS 
ISLANDS AS AN EXAMPLE, SAYING THAT THE ONLY TIME THE GCC 
MAKES BELLIGERENT STATEMENTS AGAINST IRAN IS WHEN THE US IS 
PRESSURING THEM TO PUNISH TEHRAN.  HE CONTINUED THAT THE 
ORGANS IN IRAN THAT CARRY OUT INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM--SUCH 
AS THE INTELLIGENCE SERVICES--ARE NECESSARY IN ORDER FOR 
THE GOVERNMENT TO RETAIN POWER. 
 
 
OLSON 

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