'In 1980, Ayatollah Khomeini proclaimed "We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. I say, let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant." 'The Ayatollah Rafsanjani said that "the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality." Rafsanjani ---[a former Iranian president, who's regarded as a moderate clerical-fascist these days!] --- also noted that 5 million Jews would die in an Iranian nuclear strike, while a mere 15 million Iranians would perish in an Israeli retaliation as a small "sacrifice" considering the over one billion Muslims worldwide. 'In February of last year , a fatwa was issued in Qom allowing the use of nuclear weapons in war." ' For the Frontpage source, click here
The series on Iran --- on its nuclear ambitions and what the prospects are likely to be of the US and friendly countries deterring and containing a major terrorist-supporting clerical state once it's armed with nuclear weapons --- continues its casual loafing pace toward the finish line: not quite at tortoise speed, mind you, but not kicking up dust like a skedaddling loose and limber hare either. No matter. Can't be helped. Prof bug busy, you see, on a couple of other writing tasks that have deadlines like billboards flashing madly in front of his eyes.
Today's Overarching Theme
So far, since last summer, the Iranian series has unfolded a good 8 articles . . . all ranging widely, with lots of warning signals posted every so often that writing about a highly secretive regime is bound to be speculative. That was true of the Soviet Union during the cold war; it's no less true of Iran these days. Enter our theme in this 9th article, dealt with, as buggy visitors might recall, in preliminary manner early on in the series and hanging fire ever since: whether, to put it tersely, what we've learned during the cold war about the political and strategic conditions of successful nuclear deterrence and armed containment can apply to a nuclear-armed country like Iran . . . the major state-supporter of Islamic terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere, with little chance that its nuclear arms programs can be halted by diplomacy or economic sanctions.
How the Argument Will Unfold in Three Parts
As largely a jog to your memory, part one stresses anew a key point made several times earlier in this series: the threats and other problems that a nuclear-armed, terrorist-promoting Iran would create for the US, its allies, and friendly Arab countries in the Middle East and elsewhere have only a little to do with the presence in power of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country's current president. Very much the contrary.
(i.) How so?
For one thing, Ahmadinejad has been in power for only 20 months, while the threats and nuclear program are by now decades-old. For another, more important thing, the dominant policymaking power in Iran --- both in foreign and domestic matters --- doesn't reside with the elected president and parliament anyway. Largely a façade for the all-powerful clerical institutions put in place since the Iranian revolution of 1979, these electoral institutions can do nothing whatever that the diehard mullahs and ayatollahs who operate in the murky shadows won't allow. Instead, as in Hitler's Germany, the final say on all issues at home and abroad lies in the hands of the Supreme Leader, period. Currently the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, the successor to the fiery, homicidal Ayatollah Khomeini since 1989 --- a fanatical, infidel-hating ultraist, who publicly espoused endless jihadi terrorism and martyrdom against non-Muslims everywhere --- the Supreme Leader may or may not initially consult the tiny Guardian Council of 12 clerics and Islamic legal specialists before he decides something . . . not that it matters much, when you get down to the nitty gritty, what with all 12 of those members chosen either directly or indirectly by the Supreme Leader. To repeat, the Supreme Leader yields nothing to Hitler in his overpowering right --- ordained by the Koran in the Iranian constitution --- to decide and command on any issue he so wants. Consider it the Hitlerian Fuerher Prinzip in radical Islamist garb, right down to propagating Nazi-like racism as part of the regime's core ideology.
(ii.) Come to that, since a strict application of Sharia, Islamic law, denies that there can be any division between public and private life --- always the hallmark of a totalitarian dictatorship --- the Supreme Leader can dictate his will on any moral, religious, cultural, scientific, athletic, or personal matter he wants . . . right down to ordaining what is or isn't proper dress and decorum for women in public, and the penalties that the Mutaween, the religious police, will enforce on the spot. As in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Taliban Afghanistan --- both extremist Islamist states, with their own rigid application of Sharia law --- the Mutaween has been relentlessly zealous in applying the regime's dogmatic totalitarian controls. Small wonder. Its ranks seem to be filled with Islamist fanatics and misogynists. What's more, to ensure full obedience, the clerical-fascists in control of the regime don't just rely on the religious police --- far from it. Like all mind-controlling, ideologically infested police-states, Iran has an array of other legally recognized coercive forces to terrorize recalcitrant citizens and guarantee their conformity: the ordinary police, the political secret police, the para-military Basij with millions of members, the elite Republican Guard, and Ansar-e-Hezbollah . . . the latter the Iranian equivalent, to clarify, of Hitler's Nazi Party, an ultra-extremist Islamist movement that the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini founded. Like true-believing Nazis --- or, possibly, the fanatics of Hitler's more elite SS corps --- the zealous elite-members of Ansar-e-Hezbollah can do practically anything they want to anyone else, convinced that the clerical legalists in charge of administering Sharia will, if need be, endorse their actions.
(iii.) Given this system of power, what follows?
It's self-evident or should be. The terrorist and nuclear threats that the US, its European allies, and friendly countries in the Middle East and elsewhere have to confront derive directly from Iran's institutionalized clerical-fascist system, and not from this or that elected official. As for Ahmadinejad, to the extent his swaggering motor-mouth diplomacy, macabre Holocaust denial, and non-stop Jew-hating racism have made any difference, it's largely in Iran's diplomatic style, not in the substance of those clerical-inspired ambitions, its nuclear arms program, and its energetic, non-stop support of Islamist terror abroad
(iv.) This point deserves to be clarified. To say what we've just said about Ahmadinejad is not to say that he hasn't had any influence on the challenging threats faced by the US and its allies and friends. He has. More specifically, just to hint at this right now, nothing more, Ahmadinejad's crackpot apocalyptic fantasies, his bursting megalomania, and his large following in the country and in the elite Republican Guard --- through whose ranks he rose to prominence --- all combine to complicate the menacing problems we confront of dealing with a nuclear-armed terror-state. Assume the worst happens: Ahmadinejad manages to outmaneuver his adversaries among the diehard mullahs and ayatollahs in charge of Iran for decades, replacing them over time with his cronies in the key power-holding institutions --- the Guardian Council and the office of the Supreme Leader once Khamenei, an old sick man, joins the angels and his virgins --- all the while remaining in the presidential office itself. What then? In such circumstances, no one can be sure that a frenzied leader with a sense of Heaven-ordained destiny and fanatical, religiously inspired beliefs of brain-jolting theocratic nuttiness can be readily deterred and his country contained the way, say, the Soviet Union was during the cold war. The outcome for deterrent success toward clerical-fascist Iran will largely hinge, then, on whether Ahmadinejad and his idolizing chums who share his hallucinatory Mahdi-Messiah and Armageddon-just-around-the-corner hokum prevail or not. What if they don't? Well, even then, Iran will remain a truculently anti-Western, anti-democratic source of racism, terrorism, and threats to countries near and far, at any rate as long as the clerical-fascist regime --- hated by most Iranians --- remains in place. What follows? In effect, two faintly optimistic inferences.
Though clerical-fascist Iran will still loom as a major terrorist threat in the Middle East and elsewhere, at least the shared mind-sets of these entrenched, utterly corrupt, high-living mullahs and ayatollahs are not likely to crackle with swarms of unhinged medieval-infected fantasies that --- if acted on --- would shatter their lavish power and their current orgies of endless money-making in retaliatory knockout blows launched by us, our allies, or Israel.
As a result, the prospects of successful deterrence, containment, and constant pressure by us and others on that dangerous regime --- diplomatic, economic, and military --- will appear more encouraging . . . until, sooner or later, as happened with the Communist Soviet Union, the detested clerical-fascist system in Iran collapses from within by our outside help and resolution.
At this point, the argument shifts to look at the specific threats that a nuclear-armed Iran is likely to pose for the US, its western allies, and friendly Muslim countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Some of the commentary at this point will duplicate what was said in earlier articles in this series, but much of it will be new. One way or another, whoever is the US president in 2009 will have to contend with these Iranian-generated threats. They're not imagined or exaggerated, much as a large part of the political left here and in Europe pretend they are; they're concrete, the real thing, and nuclear weapons will aggravate and multiply their menace. How the next American president will handle them --- assigning priorities, maybe treating the threats as a whole, and the utility of negotiations, counter-threats, and clearly monitored rewards for promised change of behavior by Teheran (if it ever comes to that) --- is another matter, with some room of maneuver here. The same, it goes without saying, is true of using military coercion against the clerical-fascist regime, whether limited or more far-reaching.
Enter the key point mentioned a minute ago: whether what lessons we've learned about deterrence and containment from the cold war era would apply to a nuclear-armed terror-state like Iran. As we just noted, their application will hinge on who's in charge of Iran in the next decade or two. No need to say more at this point. It will all become clear in part three.
For the Future
A Final Part To Appear in the Next Article Will End the Series
In that last buggy article, the argument will draw directly on the first three parts of today's commentary and suggest a few policy alternatives for dealing with a nuclear-armed Iran --- not least, the desirability of undertaking negotiations with Iran on a wide range of issues --- its nuclear program, its high-energy support for jihadi terrorism, its hostility to a negotiated Israeli-Palestinian compromise-solution, its vicious Jew-hating racism, and of course its armed support for Shiite militias in Iraq and for Hezbollah and Hamas as well. A pivotal point will lurk here. Specifically, the value of negotiations will not hinge, please note, on whether Iran's die-hard mullahs are willing to stop their support for terrorism in Iraq, Lebanon, or against Israel. The chief reason? Well, you'll have to wait until that buggy article appears, and it's enough to say right now just this, and move on: diplomatic negotiations among adversaries are almost always motivated by a number of different motives, and not necessarily any realistic hope that the negotiations will mitigate the conflicts that separate such states, let alone resolve them. Effective, skillful negotiating tactics by the US --- carried out by someone of Henry Kissinger's talents and grasp of realities, backed by credible military and economic threats and the prospect of rewards for clearly monitored changes in Iran's behavior abroad --- could generate certain powerful benefits for the US and its closest allies.
IRAN'S FEVERISH JIHADI ENTHUSIASMS
Iran's Clerical-Fascist Regime and Its Promotion of Jihadi Terrorism Are the Threat, Not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Himself
1979: The Year Jihadi Hatred and Terrorism Were Unleashed in the Modern World
Ruled by intransigent clerical Islamists for nearly three decades now, Iran --- headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a religious fanatic whose megalomaniacal bent is matched by his rapid motor-mouth swagger and Nazi-like racism --- has been a truculent foe of a compromise Israeli-Palestinian peace and a hyperkinetic engine of Islamist terrorism in far-flung places . . . with, to boot, evident ambitions to dominate global jihadi Islamist groups and eventually make Iran a great power with marked influence both in and outside of Islam. Not to mention Iranian regional aims --- dominating, eventually, a Shiite-run Iraq and using it as a base for encouraging Shiite terror in the tiny Gulf States and in Saudi Arabia. That doesn't mean that the clerical-fascist regime in Teheran hopes to overthrow those Sunni regimes, a prospect that would no doubt be exploited by al Qaeda and its imitators, rather than by Shiite terrorists. It would be enough to recruit terrorists from among the fairly small Shiite minorities in those countries and browbeat the profligate, fat-cat Sunni regimes into an Iran-led manipulation of global oil markets. In turn, that would extend Iranian influence in Syria and Jordan, and, by means of its and Syria's terrorist proxies in Lebanon and in PA-ruled Palestinian territory, in those areas too, with eventual showdown conflict with Israel then much more likely. The key point to underscore here is this: neither Iran's non-stop terrorist activities nor its covert nuclear arms program started with Ahmadinejad's election in the summer of 2005, just the contrary. Ditto when it comes to its truculent anti-Western stance and its aggressive opposition to any peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not least by arming and supporting Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. All these Islamist-inspired machinations, as it happens, began from the moment the Ayatollah Khomeini --- a manic fire-breathing jihadi-enthusiast par excellent, towering in stature and hatred compared to Ahmadinejad himself --- led the revolutionary upheaval that overthrew the Shah's dictatorial regime in 1979. Nor does Ahmadinejad compare in power-wielding with Khomeini . . . not yet anyway, whatever his personal ambitions might be. Instead, the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini held the same political and spiritual position in Iranian life as Hitler did in Nazi Germany: the Fuehrer Prinzip
, the leader who is above all law, and whose own word on any subject was and is the indisputable final word on it. The same is true of his successor, the Ayatollah Khamenei --- the supreme dictator since Khomeini's death in 1989.
Khomeini's Feverish Jihadi Legacy
Almost two decades after his death, Khomeini remains the most influential cleric in Shiite Islam since the early Middle Ages, and a powerful influence even in radical Sunni circles. A tireless hater of psycho-ward caliber, his animosities enveloped all infidels and timid Muslims, whether Shiite or Sunni, who did not share his brain-jarring obsessions with jihadi terrorism and martyrdom in service of a purified Islam's global expansion. As he reminded his faithful in Iran and abroad not long after his accession to power,
"Islam makes it incumbent on all adult males, provided they are not disabled or incapacitated, to prepare themselves for the conquest of other countries so that the writ of Islam is obeyed in every country in the world.. .. But those who study Islamic Holy \War will understand why Islam wants to conquer the whole world. . . . Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those who say this are witless. "Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them [the non-Muslims], put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]. Does this mean sitting back until [non-Muslims] overcome us? Islam says: Kill in the service of Allah those who may want to kill you! Does this mean that we should surrender [to the enemy]? "Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other [Qur'anic] psalms and Hadiths [sayings of the Prophet] urging Muslims to value war and to fight. "Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim."
Any Ideological Changes Since Khomeini's Death in 1989?
More to the point --- considering that Iran has only had one more Supreme Leader since then --- the question can be put more precisely: has the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei displayed a different mind-set? The answer: apparently not. True, he lacks Khomeini's charisma, and he's had to govern a country that wasn't at war as Iran's was throughout Khomeini's rule, which meant sharing power with other inner-circle clerics along with a few grandees in the military, the Republican Guard, and the secret police. True too, Iran since 1989 has been busy courting diplomatic influence abroad, especially with Russia and the EU countries while jerking around and stonewalling the EU in a futile series of strung-out "engagement negotiations." For that matter, the same can be said for Khamenei's chicaneries and deception with the International Atomic Agency. In short, like virtually all post-revolutionary leaders who survived for two or three decades --- whether the revolutionaries are Communist, Fascist, Jihadi-Islamists, or what have you --- Khamenei and his closest clerical associate have had to share some power at home and conduct policies in the world as it is; and that makes him something of a power-realist, and not just a puppet-master of Hezbollah and Hamas for terrorist ends alone. When all is said and done, though, the Supreme Leader still has the decisive say on any issue that divides his associates . . . which is precisely why Ahmadinejad has been maneuvering the last 20 months or so to place a crony cleric of his from the same heretical Shiite sect, the Hojatieh, that he belongs to. For all these changes in style and some power-sharing, though, Khamenei's public pronouncements don't differ much from Khomeini's in basic Islamist convictions . . . including the value of mass-murdering jihadi warfare in combating Iran's infidel enemies and spreading its influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian areas. Consider just one brain-jolting instance. Speaking at Ayatollah Khomeini's Mausoleum, June 4, 2002, for instance, Khamenei ballyhooed in a solemn love-of-death tone the duty of Muslims to wage jihad and suicide terrorism.
Let me say to you: these stances [of American administrators on suicide bombings] will not be of any use. This quest for martyrdom is not based on emotions; it is based on belief in Islam and faith in [the] Judgment Day and faith in life after death. Anywhere Islam exists in its true sense, arrogance faces this threat.
Look at the pronouncement again. About all you can say in favor of Khamenei's slaughter-thy-enemy and his praise of martyrdom's glories is that it lacks the raging screw-loose fanaticism of Khomeini's malign, mass-murdering viciousness and brain-jolting hatred. Substantively, though --- when you get down to it --- what's left to distinguish? Surely not the Khamenei reference to "arrogant threats." Manic, homicidal dictators of every stripe always justify the need to exterminate their real and fantasized enemies at home and abroad because they're crackling threats. At a minimum, all of them are half-crazed sociopaths; most seem hallucinating paranoids; all slaughter without conscience or hesitation unless --- in some cases --- they respect superior power. Stalin saw counter-revolutionaries and later American agents everywhere in Russia; Ever since the days of Mohammed, the use of violence and terror against infidels has always been justified by the threats to Allah's promise of Islam's triumph world-wide, and the unwillingness of any infidel population to convert to Islam or, alternatively, to accept a humiliating and costly subservient dhimmi status has always been their death-warrant where Muslims ruled.
Terrorist Activities Galore in the Middle East and Elsewhere
Iran, the Pioneer Promoter of Contemporary Jihadi Terrorism
Keep Khamenei's jihadi zeal in mind. If it's not shared to one degree or another by all
the key elite mullahs and ayatollahs who dominate the clerical-fascist regime the last three decades, what would explain Iran's lavish and very costly support for Hezbollah and Hamas abroad? Yes, not just in the Khomeini revolutionary era between 1979 and 1989, but ever since; and for that matter, at much greater cost than ever . . . considering that Iran's economy is itself a ramshackle affair, with unemployment and poverty hovering stubbornly at horrendous levels. The conclusion that follows? Like it or not, whatever else might be said about these all-powerful die-hard mullahs and ayatollahs, they're not hypocrites; they practice what they preach. One and all, they're jihadi enthusiasts who have made Islamist Iran the pace-setter world-wide for mass-murdering Islamist terror, with al Qaeda and its spin-offs the only active terrorist rivals from the late 1990s on. If anything, though, al Qaeda and its imitators are second-string types. Iran, after all, is an oil-rich state, whose leaders seem utterly indifferent to the country's rife poverty and unemployment, and who are harder to identify and retaliate against because they always use terrorist proxies abroad. Al Qaeda and its allies and spin-offs lack access to such vast finance and territorial refuge. Bin Laden and his associates are living in caves somewhere in the wilds of Pakistan --- maybe hard to get at, given the double-game of the Musharraf government; but in caves anyway. Not so the Shiite terrorist masterminds in Teheran. There the Supreme Leader and the rest of the cock-of-the-walk mullahs and ayatollahs are living in luxury and obtaining weapons and nuclear technology from abroad without much trouble . . . come to that, shipping these weapons in turn to Shiite militias in Iraq, to Hezbollah and Hamas further a-field, and to Syria in droves and largely without fear of punishment as well. Bin Laden and his al Qaeda cronies, by contrast, are actively hunted and occasionally caught or killed. The opulent money-bags ruling Iran enjoy impunity, free to continue their debauch of money-making and power-aggrandizement, hoping against hope to complete their nuclear arms program some time soon. At which point a question arises: are there any state
rivals elsewhere in Islam to such feverish jihadi devotion as Iran's clerical-fascists have displayed since 1979?
Just One: Guess Who?
In reality, only Saudi Arabia's kleptocratic wastrels leap to mind here, at any rate since the destruction of the murderous Taliban regime in 2001 . . . the latter supported energetically, moreover, by the Saudi kleptos almost to the very end of its brutally homicidal existence. Small wonder. As in Iran, the gaudy, incorrigibly prehensile Saudi rulers and princes have vast oil resources at their disposal --- far more than the Iranians, in fact, and for a much smaller population (24 million compared to 70 million Iranians); and not surprisingly, the two states, one Shiite and the other Sunni, have competed with each other as the global pace-setters of jihadi Islamist pieties, grudges, hatreds, and terror. Something else that's not surprising: thanks in part to the much greater Sunni population world-wide and to their country's vast oil income, these Sunni profligates have outdone and out-maneuvered the Teheran clerical-fascists in spreading feverish Islamist dogmas, jihad-crackling, animosities, and Nazi-like racism in Muslim communities all over the globe . . . not least, come to think of it, in West Europe and North America. Still, the comparison with clerical Iran shouldn't be pushed too hard. On all the evidence, the Saudi royal-debauchees haven't themselves been dedicated to jihadi mania and risk-taking adventures the way their Shiite rivals in Teheran have been. Feverishly dedicated to their flamboyant, extravagantly self-indulgent life-styles, they've been unlikely to take any risks that might jeopardize their hold on power and hence on the vast oil-income that feeds their greed and opulence. This point can be taken a step further. Some of these garishly avaricious royals, including King Abdullah himself, have apparently backed off the last few years from their lavish financial support for Sunni terrorism. Not out of conviction, mind you; rather because the protection money sent to al Qaeda didn't ward off suicidal terror attacks on Saudi soil itself starting in 2003. As for anti-Western urges out of Riyadh's palaces, they seem mainly for show --- a strained, hard-to-believe effort to give their totalitarian rule a gloss of religious legitimacy. Search these luxury-loving profligates' minds, and you'd likely find hypocrisy galore, nothing else. One and all, these greedy high-rollers have proved to be the earth's biggest devotees of Western temptations and vices. . . squandering, in the last 35 years, over two trillion dollars of oil-riches in one orgy of gaudy consumerism after another, right down to the use of gold-plated roofs on their palaces, to drug- and alcohol-binging on a heroic scale, and to rampant gambling wherever casinos, 5-star hotels, and high-priced prostitutes can be found. Nor is that all. All the while this raunchy whore-mongering has gone on, these rapacious debauchees have found other whores of a less sexual sort to use for their narcissistic purposes, buying influence within and outside the petroleum industry all over the globe. In the US, the money-grasping whores at their beck-and-call can be found in a sprawling network of well-financed PR specialists, in Middle East Studies Centers, in Wahabbi-supported mosques, in Muslim community centers galore, in CAIR mouthpieces, and in Muslim Students Associations on US campuses . . . not to forget numerous sycophantic journalists, even more sycophantic lobbyists, a fair number of Congressmen and ex-ambassadors, and personal ties with the Bush family that go back decades. Ex-president Jimmy Carter, it turns out, seems to be no exception here. He has received millions of dollars for his Carter Center in Georgia from some of these parasitic princes back in Riyadh --- not that Carter, who seems to relish the company of dictators around the world, has been influenced by these bribes, you see. No, no! Not possible!. The parasites' donations were made strictly out of love for disinterested learning and for the advancement of Carter-like morality in the world.
The Victims of Iran's Terrorist Policies Since 1979
The casualties that the mullahs' terrorist proxies have caused over the decades --- whether Hezbollah or Hamas or other local bomb-throwing murderers --- number in the several thousands. No exaggeration; thousands, many of them American. They include hundreds of American and nearly 60 French peacekeepers killed in Lebanon in the early 1980s; over two dozen US soldiers who were slain in more terrorists bombings in 1995 and 1996 in Saudi Arabia, with hundreds of American wounded to boot in those attacks; and since 2003, countless Iraqi civilians who have been slaughtered through Iran's arms and money slated to certain extremist Shiite militias, not to forget the dozens or maybe hundreds of American soldiers killed by sophisticated Iranian weapons in the last two years or so. Then there're Israel and Jews and Christians elsewhere. Both Hamas and Hezbollah have joined with Islamic Jihad and Fatah to kaboom hundreds of Israeli citizens in the last six years alone; and simultaneously, both these Iranian proxies --- aided in the endeavor by the Baathist dictatorship of Syria, itself ruled by a small Shiite heretical group of Alawites --- have been also been busy killing Muslims and Christians in Lebanon and the Palestinian areas who favor either a Israeli-Palestinian settlement or secular rule in either place. These terrorist activities haven't been confined to the Middle East either. As if to underscore its Jew-hatred --- set out in its repeated pronouncements --- Hezbollah unleashed two terrorist attacks against the Israeli embassy and a Jewish center in Buenos Ares that killed over a hundred Argentines in the early 1990s and injured several hundred more. The current head of that mass-murdering group, Sheik Nasrallah, has repeatedly vented his Jew-hating racism of a Hitlerian sort, as when he told an audience at a graduation ceremony earlier in the decade that . . .
"If they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide." The New York Times qualifies this as "genocidal thinking", whereas the New York Sun likens it to the 1992 Hezbollah statement, which vowed, "It is an open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jew on earth." Michael Rubin qualifies his goal as genocide too, quoting Nasrallah ruling out "co-existence with" the Jews or "peace", as "they are a cancer which is liable to spread again at any moment." "If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli. (New Yorker, Oct. 14, 2002)
Don't Forget Iraq Either
Some of the extremist militias in Iraq, like the fiery al Sadr's Mahdi militia, are led by religious maniacs fully equal in fervor and kill-crazy enthusiasm to President Ahmadinejad himself. Take al Sadr. Scurrying for his life once the new American-Iraqi offensive began in Baghdad, he has been living as a well-heeled refuge in Teheran since early February. Is that a surprise? Did he move post-haste to Azerbaijan, another Shiite country that borders Iran, or to the exposed Shiite regions of southern Lebanon? Obviously not. Teheran has been more to his liking. Note, too, how the leaders of suicide terrorist groups and other jihadi Islamist organizations ballyhoo to beat the band when it comes to energizing their followers to soar directly to Paradise in mass homicidal attacks against infidels and the wrong kind of Muslims, but never manage to go on a suicide terrorist rampage themselves . . . or, come to that, send their own family members out on such a divinely sanctioned mission either. Instead, like Ahmadinejad or the pioneer revolutionary jihadist of modern times --- Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran's first supreme leader --- their kill-crazy enthusiasms and rampant megalomania always manage to stop short of harming their own person. That instinct for self-preservation, observe quickly, isn't a Shiite tick. It characterizes bin Laden and most of the other heads of al Qaeda as well, not to mention Hamas and Islamic Jihad . . . Sunni terrorist groups whose leaders never don suicide belts themselves even while they sanctify the indoctrinated or the gullible and send them off toward instant martyrdom of a kabooming sort.
Enter Iran's Stepped-up Nuclear Arms Program
Our final point should be self-evident by how: this deception-entangled program started decades ago, and its hectic pace of the last few years preceded Ahmadinejad's arrival in the presidency, an event that occurred in mid-2005.
And So If We Draw the Various Strands of the Argument Together, What Emerges?
Quite simply, this: since 1979, clerical-fascist Iran has been at war with the West, with moderate Islam, and with any Israeli-Palestinian settlement for nearly 30 years. There's no way around this, any more than it was possible to overlook Soviet anti-Western hostility and aggressive actions in Africa, the Middle East, or parts of Asia until Gorbachev arrived in power in the mid-1980s and tried to reform that derelict quasi-totalitarian state, with ultimately disastrous results for Communist rule and Soviet unity.
That doesn't mean that a nuclear-armed Iran couldn't be deterred and contained the way the Soviet Union was during the cold war --- a point taken up later on in part three. Mind you, Iran might not be deterred in any reliable ways, what with the use of reckless terrorist proxies and vast oil-income to carry out its dreams of dominating Islamist extremism on a global scale and making Iran into a re-run of the Persian Empire. We can only speculate here. In the end, it probably hinges on whether a nuclear-armed Iran would turn out to be more like the Communist Soviet Union than Nazi Germany. Even Stalin, a mass-murderer on a vast scale, wasn't --- for all his crackling paranoia and homicidal instincts --- turned out to be anything but a fanatical ideologue. Hitler and his immediate entourage, not to mention millions of other Nazis, were fanatics, and Hitler's own megalomanical delusions led him into reckless ultra-risky adventurism on the global scene that never marked the long blood-drenched rule of Stalin himself in foreign policy . . . or so we'll see later on today. Instead, if there's any political leader loose these days whose frenzied egomaniacal hallucinations remind you of Hitler, it's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's screw-loose mental world that has been on vivid display world-wide since his arrival in power 19 months ago. Convinced, among other things, that the Messianic Mahdi is about to return and usher in a showdown Apocalyptic struggle with the infidel world, President Ahmadinejad --- who claims to have regular telepathic chitchats with the Hidden Mahdi Savior in dark shadowy areas of his palace --- is also convinced that he's the Mahdi's chosen vassal, and that, in consequence, his heavenly designated purpose of being in power is to hasten the Hidden Imam's reincarnation and the final Armageddon that will ensue. With, of course, Islam destined to triumph amid all the chaos, violence, and warfare that will the Armageddon will unleash. Followed, of course, by the President-Vassal ascending to the very top layer of Islamic hagiography, right below the ranks of Mohammed and the Mahdi himself.
In most countries of the world, a megalomaniac who claims to have heart-to-heart palavers with a spook and is a schizophrenic paranoid to boot ---a firm believer that tiny Israel with its 5 million Jews in connivance with world Jewry (15 million in number) is responsible for Islam's backward, weak, and frustrated conditions in dozens of countries and threatens to extinguish Israel from the map --- would be locked up in a padded cell and put under close guard for the security of everyone else . . . especially if he's busy arming himself with devastating weapons. Not so these days in Iran, historically a country generally renown for its tolerant treatment of most minorities. What gives? Brainwashed by the ruling clerics for nearly three decades now, have the Iranian people lost their bearings and their sense of tolerance to elect such a frenzied nutcase fanatic to their country's presidency?
Well, Fortunately, Not All of Them . . .
On the contrary, the results of the December 2006 elections for municipalities and to a key power-wielding institution --- the Assembly of Experts, where a few dozen ayatollahs operating in secrecy will select the Supreme Ruler once the current Supreme Ayatollah kicks off --- indicate that lots of Iranians realize what a whacko is their elected leader and that, to boot, Ahmadinejad has been unable to halt the plunging fortunes of their country's dismal economy and surging levels of unemployment and poverty. These conditions are far worse now than they were 38 years ago at the start of the Shiite Revolution. Not, you understand, worse for all Iranians. The ruling mullahs, ayatollahs, and heads of the secret police, army, and Republican Guard --- along with a few oil in-betweens with contacts abroad in the global oil industry --- have, in typical Middle Eastern manner, siphoned off most of Iran's oil-income. The rest of Iran's people --- save for some middle class types in the big cities who have been splurging on consumption for a few years ever since oil prices world-wide climbed from $12 a barrel in the last 1990s to around $60 today --- are the victims of the ruling clerics shameless incompetence and systematic corruption on a vast kleptocratic. And the results of the December 2006 elections have, additionally, one more benefit: they have emboldened Ahmadinejad's opponents within the extra-electoral power-holding institutions and in Iranian society itself to begin asserting themselves against their president's motor-mouth diplomacy and raucous Jew-hating racism full of nuclear showdown implications. Small wonder for the backlash. To date, all of Ahmadinejad's freaked-out showmanship, diplomatic intransigence, and vicious, Nazi-like anti-Semitism . . . whose results, to date, have led to further Iranian diplomatic and economic isolation, all at a time of dilapidated oil facilities and pipelines badly in need of foreign investment and know-how.
THE LIKELY THREATS POSED BY A NUCLEAR-ARMED IRAN
We originally set out and analyzed these threats in the first three articles in the current series, but that was back in the half-forgotten faraway days of July and August 2006, and so it seems desirable to mention them here again --- only in greater detail.,
1. Most ambitiously, a nuclear-armed Iran --- especially if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a religious fanatic whose mind seems to whir with megalomaniacal fantasies and apocalyptic visions of a Mahdi-led Global Showdown with the infidel world --- is very likely to try putting itself at the head of extremist Islam and terrorist groups world-wide, whether Sunni or Shiite. Those who think that such an alliance is improbable, what with the long history of Shiite-Sunni conflicts (and Persian-Arab ones as well), might reflect on how, then, Nazi Germany and Bolshevik Russia concluded an alliance on the eve of World War II to partition Poland and launch all of Europe into war. Or for that matter, they might reflect on how Britain --- led by Winston Churchill, long considered the major enemy in British politics of the Communist Soviet Union --- offered an immediate alliance to Stalin's Russia the day that the Germans invaded it in late June 1941. As Churchill explained to the House of Commons, he would offer a similar alliance to the Devil if Hitlerian Germany ever invaded Hell. For that matter, in the Nixon-Kissinger era, the US and Maoist China surprised the world by negotiating an informal alliance aimed at the common enemy of the Soviet Union.
2. Whether or not Iran's clerical-fascist leadership succeeds in forging a global alliance of rabid Islamic jihadists, it will very likely seek to dominate a Shiite-led Iraqi government and through it and various terrorist groups try to extend its diplomatic dominance over the oil-rich Persian Gulf states and Saudi Arabia. All of these countries have Shiite minorities, long isolated, despised, and not even considered true Muslims by most Sunnis. In Saudi Arabia, about 15% of the 27 million population is Shiite, and these Shias predominate in the oil-rich southeast of the country. In the tiny Gulf States, Shias average about 20% of the population; they are a plurality in Lebanon and monopolize Hezbollah; they are also the dominant Muslim group in oil-rich Azerbaijan on Iran's northern border. Recall something here that we said earlier. To dominate the oil policies and diplomacy of an independent oil-rich Iraq, Shiite Azerbaijan, and the tiny Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, a confident, nuclear-armed Iran that dominates oil-rich Iraq and Azerbaijan would not have to invade the tiny Gulf states or Saudi Arabia; it would probably be enough to combine threats of unleashing terrorism with a variety of promises to leave their corrupt, aggrandizing Sunni governments and elites in place . . . especially if the US were to do what the political left in this country wants, to cut and run from Iraq in the next year or so. (There are, it's true, alternative Democratic proposals that would have US forces remain in Iraq, but in remote places far from the urban areas. No matter. What if a Shiite-dominated, Iran-friendly government in Baghdad demands that the US forces leave the country --- yes, what then?) If, on the other hand, Iran's clerical government did achieve an alliance with al Qaeda and other Sunni terrorist groups, it would be able to remain the state-leader only if it used these terrorist proxies as a way to try overthrowing them . . . their replacements more pliable Islamist extremists even if Sunni in nature. What would the US do in that case?
3. Simultaneously, a nuclear-armed Iran would have every incentive to tighten its alliance with the Baathist secular-fascist regime in Syria. Don't be misled by loose-speaking in the media about Syria being Sunni --- roughly 75% of the country's 19 million people. For decades now, the dictatorship in Damascus has been led by the Baathist party and the Assad family . . . both overwhelmingly Alawite, a heretical Shiite sect even if Teheran's Shiite guardians regard it as verging on non-Islamic practices. There's no reason whatsoever to think that the Sunni population would oppose a closer Syrian-Iranian link, particularly since Syria's bedraggled economy --- with little in the way of oil or natural gas --- has been propped up by both Iranian financial and military aid and by its previous informal rule over the much richer, much smaller Lebanon next door. The biggest reward Iran's leaders could offer the current Assad dictatorship in Damascus? Quite clearly, it would be the use of nuclear intimidation of Israel --- maybe even the prospect of a nuclear strike out-of-the-blue on that country --- along with a provoked three-front war set off by its terrorist allies like Hezbollah in south Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian areas. Whether such a nuclear threat would be credible to the Israelis is another matter: it would depend on whether the Israelis would be ready to undertake a huge three-front war on the Golan Heights and against Syria, Hamas, and Hezbollah while putting its nuclear weaponry on ready alert and in turn threaten credibly, even as a huge war on Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese territories was unfolding, to destroy Iran as a viable society. At a minimum, a conventional and terrorist war on such a scale isn't likely to remain isolated in the Middle East.
4. Back to Iran's terrorist proxies. Instead of launching a showdown war with Israel, Hezbollah or Hamas might be encouraged by Teheran to adopt a less risky but still dangerous tactic: the use of crude radioactive suitcase nuclear bombs in four or five major Israeli cities . . . with a predictable response elsewhere: much of Israeli-hostile Europe and part of the left in this country would undoubtedly catcall against any efforts by Israel to retaliate against Iran itself. What proof, the catcallers could be counted on to voice, would Jerusalem have to prove that Iran was the provocative puppet-master here? And even if there were evidence, why should Israel --- or what remains of it --- have a right to retaliate against a country of 70 million people? The UN Security Council --- packed with anti-Israeli members --- would no doubt echo these moralizing gestures. And doubly so, observe swiftly, because Teheran --- like the Soviets in the cold war --- would most likely be mounting a major peace-loving PR-offensive that Europe's and America's gullible would easily endorse, never mind the brainwashed Muslim masses elsewhere world-wide. How again the Israelis would react isn't clear. True, any nuclear weapons --- even crude suitcase-size ones --- would almost certainly initiate an Israeli retaliation against Iran irrespective of European, Middle Eastern, Russian, and UN pressures. What, however, to do with Hezbollah and Hamas, whether or not their leaders claim they have more nuclear weapons and will in turn use more of them against Israel in the event of an Israeli retaliation against Iran? Once more, we're back to the scenario of a huge devastating war in the Middle East that would likely not remain limited --- either in the number of participating countries or the scale of destruction.
5. Enter the United States. In all likelihood, the main worry that would weigh on any American administration about a nuclear-armed Iran isn't that the Iranian clerics would be reckless enough to use nuclear weapons against the US or even to begin nuclear attacks on American forces in the Persian Gulf or Middle East areas. That would be suicidal, plain and simple. Even Ahmadinejad, fanatical and full of megalomanical delusions, couldn't be that far gone mentally to risk either initiative. No, a credible nuclear threat from Teheran would lie elsewhere: to put this tersely, assume that a US administration sought to contain a major war instigated directly or indirectly by Iran ---whether against Israel or American allies in the Middle East, by blockading Iran's access to the Persian Gulf and attacking its conventional and nuclear-armed forces with air-power and sea- and land-launched conventional precision-guided missiles. In using force directly against Iran's territory this way, the President in such an administration would have to take seriously the prospect of Iranian nuclear retaliation against American bases and ships. Nor is that all. The President, to sharpen this point, would have to take the prospect all the more seriously because the widely hated clerical-fascist regime in Teheran --- once deprived of its secret police, Republican Guards, and military thanks to precise American attacks --- would probably collapse within a few days or weeks, and the US President would have to reckon with a particularly desperate group of clerics, generals, and other kleptocrats who would have their backs to a crumbling wall. In such desperate, teeth-clenching circumstances, the use of nuclear weapons --- directly against American forces or by terrorist proxies --- might suddenly seem more promising to these die-hard kleptocrats than sure-fire execution by successful rebels. Knowing all this beforehand, how a US President and his advisers would react in the crunch just isn't clear, not now anyway. And come to that, maybe not until a crunch-crisis materialized. Most likely, though, their decision would hinge largely on the quality of American anti-missile defenses in the region. Right now, advanced Patriot anti-missiles and other, higher-altitude anti-missiles like the Arrow system --- developed jointly by Israel and the US and already in production --- have proved to be increasingly effective, though not against nuclear-armed missiles themselves. True, no defensive anti-missile system would be foolproof in any near future. That might not matter though. As things stand, US anti-missile forces are deployed on Iran's borders to the west in the Gulf states and Turkey and possibly to the east in Afghanistan, never mind at sea; and these nearby forces wouldn't be facing a large, sophisticated system of nuclear-armed missiles and decoys of the sort the Soviets had during the cold war. Something else too. With sophisticated satellite reconnaissance, American anti-missiles in the region could be immediately unleashed against Iranian offensive missiles in their slow launch phase . . . which would last, it seems from the little we know publicly about the Iranian missiles, from at least several dozen seconds up to two minutes or so, all depending on the kinds of missiles the Iranians chose to use. (How long the launch phase would last would depend on whether the Iranians were using short-range or mid-range missiles. Most likely, mid-range ones: the built-in ability to fly, say, up to 600 miles. Placing short-range missiles near the Iraqi or Afghan or Turkish borders, never mind near any sea-access, would expose such missiles to a pre-emptive American strike without any warning. Note too that these Iranian missiles are all North Korean off-shoots: they aren't crude, but they aren't sophisticated either, and the Iranians almost certainly lack qualified people, materials, and R&D to keep them in ready-to-use condition, never mind improve them over time very much.)
6. Whatever the US would do diplomatically, economically, and militarily to counter Iran's nuclear ambitions --- now or in the future --- it's almost a sure bet that Saudi Arabia and Egypt would seek nuclear arms of their own, and Pakistan to Iran's east would no doubt step up the numbers of its own nuclear arms. What would likely follow? Almost certainly, a nuclear arms race in the most turbulent and unstable region of the world, with frightening prospects galore: accidental nuclear war or, no less likely, deliberate preventive or pre-emptive nuclear war . . . not to forget the spooky possibility that terrorist groups might seize locally deployed nuclear weapons and use them at their will. It would be neither in our interest nor that of the world for such a nightmarish scenario to emerge. A related point is worth underscoring here: the astonishing hypocrisy and manipulative machinations of the Sunni Arab dictators in exploiting rabid anti-Israeli and Jew-hating superstitions and fantasies of revenge among their half-illiterate, half semi-literate populations, all for their own narrow self-aggrandizing purposes. After all, if the Sunni police-state rulers really believed their own propaganda on these scores, then why haven't they sought to acquire nuclear weapons to counter the Israeli demons? Israel has had a large nuclear force, which is deployed on a variety of platforms --- including submarines --- for decades now, yet no one in the Middle East except Saddam Hussein strove to acquire nuclear weapons for whatever reason. By contrast, the anxieties of the Persian Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and further a field in Egypt, have clearly been stoked by the Iranian nuclear arms program, and probably no elites anywhere would be more elated to learn that the Israelis had pre-empted and drastically set back Iran's R&D . . . just as the Israelis did to Saddam's nuclear program in 1981.
MISUSED ANALOGIES BETWEEN A NUCLEAR-ARMED TERROR-STATE LIKE IRAN AND HOW DETERRENCE AND CONTAINMENT OF THE SOVIET UNION IN THE COLD WAR WORKED
"Being Iranian is defined by a state of mind, not by a place of residence. The barbaric Islamist mullahs and their mercenaries presently ruling Iran are not Iranians. They are Islamofascists who have betrayed their magnificent heritage and have enlisted themselves in the service of a most oppressive, discriminating and demeaning ideology. Iranians are proud spiritual descendants of King Cyrus the Great, the author of the first charter of the human rights. Some of Cyrus' children live in the patch of land called Iran. The overwhelming majority-free humans with human beliefs-live in every country, city, and village of the earth . . . "What makes people different is not their biology, but the "software" that runs them. "There is ample proof to support the above assertion. A case in point is the present menace posed by the people whose life is programmed by the software of radical orthodox Islam: an ideology that is anathema to the Cyrus Charter. And the results are self-evident. Hate, superstition, violence, and a raft of other inhuman beliefs drives these religious fascists. These captive followers of the primitive Islamic Charter are both the perpetrators and the victims of much suffering. The result is backward Islamic societies that are intent at dragging the rest of the world into the same sorry state. Misery likes company, it is said. "We recognize that the dysfunctional Islamic software is deeply engrained in the minds of many Muslims who opt to remain in mental bondage rather than purge their minds of the misogyny and other oppressive aspects of the faith touted by radicals, and join the rest of the human family with a new emancipating program for life and liberty. . . . " --- Amir Taheri, an Iranian exile and impressive commentator on Iran, the Middle East, and Islamist extremism.
Why Cold War Analogies Might Be Very Misleading and Dangerous in the Iranian Case?
The Answer Divides Into a Handful of Reasons, All Related.
(i.) As earlier buggy articles in this series tried to show, any comparison with how deterrence and containment worked with the Soviet Union in the cold war is likely to be misleading in the Iranian case. If nuclear deterrence and containment worked in those days, it's because at no point after WWII did the Soviet Union --- however ruthless and mass-murdering it happened to be --- pursue reckless, ideologically fanatic foreign policies after WWII . . . no, not even in the period down to Stalin's death in 1953, let alone afterwards. All its rulers, Stalin no exception, were calculating, hardboiled power-realists who were carefully respectful of American and Western power. Yes, Stalin and later his major successor Nikita Khrushchev --- the latter Stalin's chief agent for slaughtering millions of Ukrainians in the early 1930s --- were monstrous mass-murderers, but they weren't caught up in ideological frenzies when it came to dealing with the powerful outside world. If anything, different versions of Communism --- Maoist, Tito's, Castro's, the North Vietnamese's --- brought challenges to Soviet leadership of the international communist movement, something that further enhanced the hardboiled view of the Soviet empire and the rest of the world, Communist or otherwise, that prevailed in Russia by the late 1950s. The result? After the initial absorption of East Germany and the rest of East Europe in the late 1940s --- where the Red Army had ended up after Nazi Germany's collapse --- Soviet policy was generally cautious and avoided outright aggression, preferring to spread Communism by means of supporting local Communist movements in Asia, Africa, Latin America, or elsewhere, causing trouble for the US there as in Korea or Indochina and exploiting divisions within the Atlantic Alliance.
(ii.) Khrushchev, to clarify briefly, met with no domestic opposition, military or otherwise, when he announced in 1957 that official Soviet ideology on the root-causes of warfare --- viewed until then as inevitable as long as there were "imperialist capitalist states" in the world --- had to be radically adapted to the nuclear era, with showdown wars between the "socialist bloc" and "imperialist capitalism" no longer considered unavoidable and a basic tenet of Marxist Leninism, otherwise invoked by the Soviet leaders to legitimize their monopoly of all power and authority in the totalitarian Soviet Union. The reason is self-evident: even as a vague slogan, a belief in inevitable war with a nuclear super-power would likely prove suicidal to the Soviet Union as a viable country. No hedging or equivocation was even possible here. Khrushchev, an adept until then of loud-mouthed but carefully vague brinksmanship rhetoric, even ceased his rhetorical outbursts. And so both before 1957 and afterwards, the last thing the Soviet leaders ever tried with one blatant exception: Khrushchev's effort in 1962 to sneak in long-range nuclear missiles into Castro's Cuba. As it happened, that foolish impetuosity that brought the world close to nuclear war cost and humiliated the Soviet Union cost him his job as the Soviet leader, and he spent the rest of his life at a Siberian power station, with his successors down to 1990 and the cold war's end never attempting a similar blunder toward the apocalypse.
(iii.) By the mid-1980s, when Gorbachev came to power, the Soviet Empire was mainly a typical Russian Empire --- economically and technologically backward compared to the dynamic West, increasingly stagnant, and full of alienated masses, whether Russian, non-Russian Soviet peoples, or East Europeans. Despite occasional alarms that America's extended deterrence to West Europe might be eroded by Soviet arms developments and diplomacy, the Western alliance held together, American military and economic power continued to outpace the Soviet Union's by ever wider margins, and both deterrence and containment of Soviet aggression worked.
(iv.) They worked, moreover, more or less as the great power-realist theorist of international relations who formulated our containment policy had predicted back in 1947 --- George Kennan, the first head of the State Department's policy-planning staff, and later a prize-winning diplomatic historian at Princeton. As his famous Foreign Affairs article of 1947 foresaw, the internal contradictions of a totalitarian top-down system of Russian imperialism, monopolistic political power, and an irrational state-owned, state-planned economy would eventually erode the system from within and lead to its self-destruction. Gorbachev's efforts to salvage this derelict system by gradual reforms backfired. As soon as some room for political freedom and maneuver were introduced by him in the late 1980s, his democratic and nationalist opponents in Russia, in the non-Russian Soviet Republics, and in East Europe quickly brought the system down . . . the Soviet empire, along with Soviet Communism, relegated to the trash-heap of failed great powers and backward empires throughout history. If the US could successfully deter and contain Iran's clerical-fascist leaders --- "could successfully" do so the operative words here --- then, in the next few decades, that system would no doubt collapse under all the weight of its festering conflicts between Farsi-speaking and other nationalities in Iran, as well as the country's bankrupt economic system. Nearly half of the Iranian population lives in poverty, a level much higher than even in the days of the Shah, and the Farsi-speaking national minorities would no doubt be happy to opt out as quickly as they could if the chance permitted: the Azers joining oil-rich Azerbaijan, the Baluchis joining their brethren in Afghanistan or Pakistan, the Kurds merging with an increasingly independent and democratic Kurdish nation in north Iraq, and the Arabs . . . well, who knows? But here's the rub: we aren't dealing with a hardboiled, power-calculating set of ruthless realists in Teheran, but with clerical-fascists --- especially those on a surging rise who share Ahmadinejad's extremist hocus-pocus fantasies, and unlike the far larger and far more complex Soviet economy that ground to a halt by the mid-1980s in a morass of backwardness and bankruptcy, Iran's leaders, its 200,000 clerics, its secret police, its Republic Guard, and other key officials are easily able to keep afloat by huge oil revenues . . . at any rate, until the oil spigots run dry in three or four decades or, alternatively, in a decade or two the Western countries have switched to different high-tech energies.
Two More Points
. . . unlike in the Soviet Union even in Stalin's time after 1945, the country is led by a manic, true-believing religious fanatic, whose padded-cell beliefs in the fast-approaching return of the Mahdi-Messiah and the immediate Apocalypse Now with the infidel world --- both made imminent because Ahmadinejad has been chosen by Allah to be the Mahdi's earthly instrument --- can't be doubted. He acted upon them as the recent mayor of Teheran, and almost his first statement to the Iranian government after his election as president last year was to order all ministries and their members to concentrate on facilitating the Mahdi's sky-hooting out of some dank dark well at nearby Qam, followed by a jubilant parade in downtown Teheran and the at-hand Global Showdown with the Jews, Israel, and all infidels who refuse to convert to Islam. Granted: Ahmadinejad's theocratic mumbo-jumbo and extremism might not be embraced by more cautious mullahs and ayatollahs who have been ruling Iran for the last 27 years, amid an orgy of self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement. And similarly, we know from the elections in December 2006 for local government and for the Assembly of Experts --- the latter group, a few dozen ayatollahs, responsible for choosing the next Supreme Leader of the country once the current leader, Ali Khamenei, dies --- that Ahmadinejad's popularity has probably peaked and may be on the wane. Not because of the country's nuclear-weapons program, you understand. Rather, because Ahmadinejad --- elected on a populist program that promised jobs for Iran's unemployed workers (about 40 to 50% of the total) and relief for the poor --- has failed to deliver on that promise. He's been too busy, apparently, assailing Israel, hyping the real Islamist-Neo Nazi version of the Holocaust, and threatening Israeli extinction while antagonizing even quasi-allies of Iran like Russia and China, to busy himself with the country's overwhelmingly pressing problems --- not that this is the only reason. Far from it, he has no doubt discovered two other things since being in power: he's much closer to the center of the public trough, which has afforded him vast opportunities for personal aggrandizement on a vast scale; and simultaneously, he has probably found that there isn't a ghost of a chance --- even if he wanted to divert a oil-income from the self-aggrandizing mullahs, ayatollahs, top civil servants, and military and police heads and direct it toward the increasingly impoverished, out-of-work population.
beyond this line of speculation, we still have no hard evidence as to who is really in control in Teheran these days . . . at any rate, when it comes to foreign and military policies. We aren't be sure, to get down to brass tacks, who Ahmadinejad's major allies are in the elite Republican Guards, in the nation-wide militia, in the secret police, and in the ranks of the rank-and-file mullahs who haven't been able to do more than lap up some droplets of Iran's oil-income since the Islamist revolution of 1979. As for the Assembly of Experts, it is encouraging that the candidates favorable to Ahmadinejad were outvoted in last December's elections, but the Assembly is a secretive organization, full of money-grubbing clerics, and we really don't know what the exact line-up of pro-Ahmadinejad and anti-Ahmadinejad ayatollahs in it happens to be.
Quite Apart From the Aptness or Not of Cold War Analogies with Deterring Iran,
Note Another Problem with Cold War Lessons:
The Cold War, As It Happens, Was Anything But a Peaceful Period for the US and Others
In particular, to contain and deter Soviet adventurism and the expansion of other Communist countries, Democratic and Republican administrations had to fight two lengthy, bloody wars with Soviet proxies: in Korea between 1950 and 1953 and in Vietnam for almost two decades after 1955. The same administrations created massively entangling alliances all over the non-Communist world, while stationing millions of American soldiers abroad. American dead in the Korea war numbered some 36,000; in the Vietnam war, the number was close to 60,000. So far, by contrast, nearly four years of warfare and occupation in Iran have entailed around 2900 dead. In Afghanistan, US military deaths have been kept to 350. (For a vividly set out table of American deaths in our previous wars, click here
Can we expect that we will be fighting more wars with Islamist fanatics, as we have so far in Iraq and Afghanistan . . . not to mention 9/11 unprovoked attacks on 3,000 American citizens in New York and Washington DC, and American training and support for moderate Muslim and non-Muslim regimes facing jihadi terrorism on their soil, whether in East Africa, the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, and parts of Asia? Almost certainly.
Most Likely, the Armed Struggle Against Islamic Jihadi Terrorism --- Whether Shiite or Sunni --- Will Go On for Decades
It will fizzle out only when enough of the jihadis and their enthusiasts have been killed off, their terrorist networks shut down, their financial sources dried up, and the terror-supporting states --- above all Iran and Syria --- have been either defeated in war or intimidated into stopping their support, as seems to have been the case for Saudi Arabia since 2003 (though nobody can be sure here). The same goes for the efforts of the jihadis and other terror-states actively pursuing WMD programs --- including North Korea, a major supplier of Iran's nuclear know-how and missile capabilities. When all of them have either been killed off, destroyed, or intimidated into major changes in their behavior, the war on terror will grind to a halt. Not spectacularly no doubt --- not the way WWII ended. But to a halt over time all the same, by which time those Muslims full of rancor and hatred of Jews and the West will have found it way too dangerous to support the extremist jihadis and their terror-state patrons, let alone to join them. Needless to add, noticeable success on these scores won't happen easily or overnight. It will take several years to achieve some of these goals, and several decades to achieve them all. In the end, as a few keen-sighted, knowledgeable specialists have noted, a final victory will emerge when Muslim moderates have found ways to reform, update, and convince the vast majority of Muslims worldwide that they have inherited some dangerous ideas about infidels and --- no less important --- learn to concentrate on improving their economies, their technological know-how, their secular knowledge, and their political and administrative systems (including equal rights before the law for all the inhabitants of their countries) instead of scapegoating and blaming others for their poverty, backwardness, and autocratic dictatorships.
What Does This Mean?
Concretely put, it means an end to the astonishingly obsessive and rabid Jew-hatred and Jew-demonizing that flourish everywhere in the Islamic world these days, none of it easily distinguishable from genocidal Nazi racism. As with Nazi racism, all the evils that befell the Germans that Hitler and the Nazis believed could be traced to a world-wide Jewish plot --- Jews controlling both Bolshevik Russia and capitalist Britain and America --- are now seen by Muslim believers around the globe as the cause of all their trouble. Yes, even by so-called sophisticated, educated Muslims. For instance, the content-czar of Al Jazeera, who was recently interviewed by a German weekly and traced all the problems besetting the 21 Arab countries totaling 340 million people --- economic and technological backwardness, despotism, secret-police rule, pervasive corruption, sectarian hatreds, rampant violence, and the like --- back to Jews and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In an interview with the Swiss weekly Here is an excerpt:">Die Weltwoche
, Al-Jazeera´s editor-in-chief Ahmed Sheikh --- considered a moderate Arab --- was asked the following question:
". . . Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?"
"I think so."
"Can you please explain to me what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to do with these problems? "
"The Palestinian cause is central for Arab thinking."
"In the end, is it a matter of feelings of self-esteem?"
"Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West's problem is that it does not understand this. [emphasis added]"