Right out of the gate, let’s get one thing straight: Iran is our enemy. There are many reasons for this, from our own shortsighted, capricious treatment of allies, to the hard-line ‘revolutionary’ ideology of the Islamic Republic, to the simple need of a repressive regime to have an external enemy. (Hint: the last one is the most important.)
But crap like this article, written by Thomas Sowell for the National Review, is simply idiotic.
There has been some apocalyptic rhetoric coming out of Iran over the years, most strongly while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president. Ahmadinejad was an avowed ‘Twelver,’ a believer in the coming of the Twelfth Imam. Some Twelver rhetoric points to global chaos being the window for the coming of the Twelfth Imam, the punishment of the unbelievers, and the transformation of the world into an Islamic paradise.
“The world will not come to an end,” said the Prophet Muhammad, “until a man from my family (Ahlul Bayt) and of my name shall be master of the world. When you see a green ensign coming from the direction of Khorasan, then join them, for the Imam of God will be with the standards who will be called al-Mahdi. The Mahdi will be descended from me; he will be a man with an open countenance and a face with a high nose. He will fill the earth with equity and with justice, just as it has been filled with tyranny and oppression.” (Biharul Anwar, Majlisi)
But Ahmadinejad is no longer president. This does not reveal a shift in the voting Iranian public’s attitude, because in reality, the Islamic Republic of Iran is not a democracy. The Council of Guardians determines what will happen as far as governance. The fact that Ahmadinejad was replaced by Rouhani points to the the Council of Guardians deciding he had to be replaced. Why? A theory is that Ahmadinejad was letting himself get carried away with his Twelver talk. The Guardians, the mullahs, are not Twelvers. (Not that you’d know that from listening to the right-wing news sources.) The author’s theory is that the Guardians decided that Ahmadinejad was stirring the pot with the Twelver stuff too much, so he got swapped out with Rouhani. Ahmadinejad was no longer useful.
Therein lies the truth of the matter. The apocalyptic rhetoric coming from the Islamic Republic is for the mob. It does not accurately reflect the goals and philosophy of the real powers of Iran—the Council of Guardians and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Apocalyptic nutjobs don’t last as the rulers of a country. Ask Caligula. Sooner or later, the pragmatists (who tend to actually control the killers) knock them off and either take over or put their own chosen puppet in power.
The Council of Guardians and the IRGC control the vast majority of Iran’s wealth. They have pragmatic ties with Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, and Argentina, to name a few. Notice that none of the named countries are Islamic. In fact, Russia, as the core of the old Soviet Union, was known by the Iranians as the ‘Lesser Satan’ during the Soviet-Afghan War. So much for Islamist purity.
What is somewhat revealed by that list is that Iran has aligned itself with the pseudo-bloc that has formed to challenge American hegemony in the years since the ‘end’ of the Cold War. (Interestingly enough, a lot of that pseudo-bloc falls inside the old Eastern-Bloc/Warsaw Pact sphere, anyway.) The United States is also the go-to boogeyman for the ‘revolutionary’ ideology shared by Marxists and Islamists alike. (Another by-product of the proxy wars of the Cold War.)
Hardline Shi’a Islamism is the framework for how the Council of Guardians and the IRGC maintain their power over the Iranian people. Alone, it wouldn’t be enough; the Green Movement wouldn’t be a factor if that was the case. But adding in an exterior enemy (most notably the U.S. and Israel) provides another lever of power. It also provides a common ground with allies in South America and the Caribbean. Iranians don’t need visas to enter Venezuela, and are generally welcome in Cuba as well. Alberto Nisman appears to have been murdered for calling out Argentina’s connections with Iran and Hezbollah.
So, with this pattern of behavior tending to contradict the propaganda put out for the mob, why do we have the political right and left in the U.S. either taking the propaganda literally or insisting that Iran wouldn’t really be our enemy if we’d just be nice to them?
The linked article above, by Thomas Sowell, is emblematic of the right’s view of Iran. President Obama’s public statements (notwithstanding the recent nuclear talks, which appear to be a lot of talking past each other) have been a series of conciliatory messages to the Supreme Ayatollah, all of which have been ignored. So what’s going on? Are the decision makers in D.C. just ignoring the facts for the sake of political narratives? Or is there something else going on? Perhaps it’s a complete intelligence failure, as there’s no reliable information coming out of Iran, and the decision makers are relying on Al Fars and PressTV for their information.
By no means will it be a good thing if the Islamic Republic of Iran attains nuclear weapons. A nuclear deterrent may well embolden their irregular activities abroad. They have already demonstrated considerable sophistication at proxy warfare, waging war on their rivals by way of uprisings, terrorism, and sowing instability on their borders. Yemen is a prime example. The Iranians have been arming the Houthis for quite some time, putting an Iranian proxy right on Saudi Arabia’s border.
Buying into propaganda is usually a bad idea. When you are basing national strategy (or attempting to) on it, it becomes disastrous. Once again, American leadership appears to be letting itself be blinded by a combination of a dearth of information and an artificial, Hollywood-esque ‘good guys and bad guys’ dichotomy that doesn’t fit the reality on the ground.
(Featured image courtesy imgkid.com)
Note: Peter Nealen’s latest American Praetorians thriller, “The Devil You Don’t Know,” is now available for pre-order here.