Friday, January 30, 2009


Dr Karim Sadjadpour (Oh yeah! He got game! ) over at Carnegie scores big with a hit in the Gulf State's The National site

"The Iranian government’s feeling towards the state of Israel is straightforward. In times of peace it is utter contempt; in times of war it is visceral hatred.

The question is, why?

After all, Iran is not an Arab country, has no direct land disputes with Israel, has no Palestinian refugee problem, has a long history of contentious relations with the Arab world and is home to the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside Israel itself.

The devastating images of innocent Palestinian women and children killed in Gaza are heart-wrenching. But why should Iran be a more strident enemy of Israel than, say, Lebanon, Egypt or even Syria — Arab nations that have lost hundreds of their sons in wars fought against the Jewish state?

Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought. One says that Iran and Israel are natural rivals for primacy in the Middle East, and so the hostility between them is really a strategic joust cloaked in ideological garb. “One country cannot have two kings,” is how Amir Mohebian, one of Iran’s top political thinkers, once put it

As the Iranian political analyst Saeed Leylaz observes: “Hamas is a very practical and useful tool for Iran, not an ideological one at all. It is a very good tool for Iran, especially in its dealings with the US. What is happening right now in Gaza has made it easier for Iran to promote anti-US feelings among Muslims.”

The other school of thought contends that opposition to Israel is a deeply held ideological tenet of Iran’s 1979 revolution. Tehran is not simply “playing the Palestinian card” as a means of garnering popular support in the region; the Palestinian cause is a glorious end in itself. The rhetoric of the Iranian regime is taken at face value: nothing less than the dissolution — ie, the political dissolution, not physical annihilation — of the Jewish state would satisfy Tehran’s hardline leadership.

Tune out the rantings of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and focus on the most powerful man in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei, whose writings and speeches are the most accurate reflection of Iranian domestic and foreign policy aims and practices.

A study I did on Mr Khamenei, based on three decades’ worth of his speeches, confirmed for me the Supreme Leader’s cynical, conspiratorial disposition. What surprised me, however, was how consistent and disciplined his message was. In thousands of pages of material there were few, if any, contradictions.

And, remarkably, the issue that has featured most prominently in his political discourse during his tenure as leader has been his opposition to Israel’s existence. Whether his audience is Iranian students or foreign dignitaries, or the topic of his speech is foreign policy, education or agriculture, he rarely misses an opportunity to invoke the professed virtues of the 1979 revolution — justice, independence, self-sufficiency and Islam — and to express his deep disdain for “the Zionist entity”.

For many close observers of US–Iranian relations, the Islamic Republic’s uncompromising stance on Israel presents the greatest impediment to US–Iranian entente. Not only is Khamenei well aware of this argument, he also agrees with it. Yet it is a bargain he appears unwilling to make.

Mr Khameini says: “The ridiculous accusations such as human rights violations or seeking weapons of mass destruction are only empty claims aimed at exerting pressure on the Islamic Republic, and if Iran stops its support of the Lebanese and Palestinian people, the United States will also change its hostile attitude toward the Islamic Republic. But we consider supporting the Palestinian and Lebanese people one of our major Islamic duties. This is why Washington is applying every pressure lever against the Islamic Republic in order to stop this support.”

Two important caveats should be entered. First, Iran has grudgingly said that it will accept any Palestinian-Israeli peace resolution that the Palestinians themselves sign off on. Second, if ever the regime’s existence is at stake, survival trumps ideology. In the near term, however, both of these appear unlikely prospects.

Nonetheless, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we have to deal with the Iranian leaders we’ve got, not the ones we wish we had. A continued US-Israel-Iran proxy war for power and influence in the Middle East will continue to produce the same horrendous results witnessed in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza today: no clear winners, unnecessary and excessive civilian casualties, and more fertile ground for radicals more interested in continuing the fight than in ending it."


Skunkfeathers said...

Just as the Persians sought to overrun Greece and lands north and west therefrom, Iran seeks to become the central power over the Persian Gulf, and hating Israel is a rally point for both Islamofascists AND Arabs. Arabs have never been too bright, and those who tacitly lend support to Iran's plans are being the fools they've been for generations. Iran wants control, and gives a damn not about Arabs.

Arabs would be wise to unify against Iran, but they're too stupid to get it.

Tracy Miller Quinn said...

"Iran has grudgingly said that it will accept any Palestinian-Israeli peace resolution that the Palestinians themselves sign off on."

They know there is no way this will happen because the Palestinians are, in fact, ideologues.

BTW, you are freaking ninja smart. You have got to be doing more than just writing this blog. I freaking love it though.

Rob Taylor said...

Does survival really trump ideology though. I'm not sure on Iran because it's a combination of both Islamist and Marxist ideology. Shia Islam is apocalyptic in a way Christians haven't been since the Enlightenment, so with out a great religious upheaval we can''t assume the devout Shia would flinch from their own annihilation if it would bring back the Mahdi of legend. The zeal with which the Mullahs put down any youth movement or protest for modernization makes me think the government is at least religiously backward looking.

On the other hand the Iranian people had true Western style freedom within many of their lifetimes, so reformist sentiments can never be truly destroyed. But would that work to push sane policy or make the rulers want to hurry up and kick off the new age?

I don't know but I'm not hopeful.

DWMF said...

As I have said before in other places, Ahmadinejad is like a monkey dancing on a barrel organ, rattling a tin cup. It is Khamenei that is turning the handle.