29 December 2010

Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Ali Akbar Siadati: reusable villains

You may want to ask what do the late Iranian "Israeli spy" Ali Akbar Siadati and the Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky have in common. In fact, you don't want to ask, not being especially interested in these obscure persons.

It is known that Mr Khodorkovsky was jailed, while the second trial on allegedly unrelated charges proceeded. It is less known, but is told in the linked article, that the alleged Israeli spy Mr Siadati was arrested by Iranian authorities several times on spying-related charges. Not only does this fact show the Ayatollah's lies (espionage being punished by death sentence in Iran, why was Siadati repeatedly released?), it points to the same method: repeated use of public enemies in both countries.

The advantages of the method are clear: the "perpetrators" are already known and available, the investigation process is simplified and shortened, the public is used to the images of the accursed enemies: a sound policy that just cannot miss.

That both regimes borrow a page from the history of Stalin's years where quite a lot of people were released from jails only to be re-arrested in a few years and sentenced again, is hardly surprising. After all, Russia and Iran are both "vibrant democracies", according to some learned commentators, so the similarity is not exactly striking...