On November 16, 1933, FDR “normalized” relations with the USSR in spite of overwhelming evidence that USSR was anything but a “normal” state. On the contrary, it was a self-declared revolutionary entity openly (and covertly) dedicated to the subversion and overthrow of non-Communist nations. The US-USSR agreement included Soviet promises not to foment the overthrow of our Constitution, not to support agents attempting to overthrow our Constitution, and the like – all of which was already underway and, after the agreement, would only increase. Maintaining this diplomatic (later military) relationship, then, required looking the other way, the sustained denial of the facts, and even outright lies – a pattern of behavior, I argue in American Betrayal, that ultimately helped subvert our government, and even our nation’s character.
Without a serious re-examination and revision of these events, these patterns just continue. Indeed, as I argue in the book, this same pattern of behavior may be seen in current US dealings with Islam in all of its guises.
In Andrew Bostom's timely and substantive new book, Iran's Final Solution for Israel,* Bostom makes a paradigm-breaking case study of US-led negotiations with Iran, chronicling similar patterns of denial that mask the ideological and religious imperatives that drive Iran's open, frequently declared intentions to destroy Israel. I have asked Andy, to expand on whether the agreement between Iran and “P5 +1” -- the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (US, Britain, France, Russia, China) plus Germany) -- is another iteration of this same denial of reality.
Andrew Bostom replies:
In addition to the foreboding chronological symmetry—the recognition of the Soviet Union on November 16, 1933, and almost precisely 80 years later, the announcement of the “P5 + 1” agreement, November 24, 2013—two essential parallels are immediately striking, and ominous:
- Ignoring, willfully, the former Soviet, and now (albeit, ancient prototype) Islamic totalitarian, hegemonic ideologies and their doctrinal strategies of deception.
- Lying about the intrinsic nature of both the November, 1933 and November, 2013 agreements to deny or conceal their intractable strategic, and moral failures.
President Reagan’s seminal March, 1983 speech to the National Association of Evangelicals included this gimlet-eyed description of the “totalitarian darkness” at Communism’s ideological core:
…they [Communists] preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth.
What Ronald Reagan understood—and articulated—was elaborated more concretely by Robert Conquest, the nonpareil historian of Communist totalitarianism’s ideology, and resultant mass murderous depredations.
The Soviet Union, right up to the eve of its collapse, was committed to the concept of an unappeasable conflict with the Western world and to the doctrine that this could only be resolved by what Foreign Minister Andrey [Andrei] Gromyko described as officially as one could imagine, in his 1975 book The Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union, as world revolution: “The Communist Party of the Soviet Union subordinates all its theoretical and practical activity in the sphere of foreign relations to the task of strengthening the positions of socialism, and the interests of further developing and deepening the world revolutionary process.” One could hardly be franker.
The shared, mainstream Sunni and Shiite doctrine on jihad is the validating context in which Iran’s 1979 Constitutional provision on its self-proclaimed “Ideological Army,” must be evaluated. Iran’s expressed aggressive, hegemonic aspirations in this foundational document— animated by the ideology of jihad—are self-evident. Thus, invoking one of the Koran’s key verses sanctioning jihad war, Koran 8:60, the 1979 Iranian Constitution declares:
In the formation and equipping of the country’s defense forces, due attention must be paid to faith and ideology as the basic criteria. Accordingly, the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are to be organized in conformity with this goal, and they will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of Allah’s law throughout the world (this is in accordance with the Koranic verse “Prepare against them whatever force you are able to muster, and strings of horses, striking fear into the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides them” [8:60]).
Khomeini’s Iran has indeed embraced jihad “as a central pillar of faith and action,” demonstrated notably by the unending campaign of vilification and proxy violence (via Hezbollah, in particular) against the “Zionist entity,” Israel. This struggle epitomized what Khomeini’s Iran viewed as its “sacred struggle to cleanse the region and the world of Muslim and non-Muslim infidel blasphemy.”
A compelling illustration of how well the U.S. Department of State once understood the true nature of jihad as a normative Islamic institution—circa 1880—was provided by Edward A. Van Dyck, then US Consular Clerk at Cairo, Egypt. Van Dyck prepared a detailed report in August, 1880 on the history of the treaty arrangements (so-called “capitulations”) between the Muslim Ottoman Empire, European nations, and the much briefer U.S.-Ottoman experience. Van Dyck’s report—written specifically as a tool for State Department diplomats— opens with an informed, clear, and remarkably concise explanation of jihad and Islamic law:
In all the many works on Mohammedan law no teaching is met with that even hints at those principles of political intercourse between nations, that have been so long known to the peoples of Europe, and which are so universally recognized by them. “Fiqh,” as the science of Moslem jurisprudence is called, knows only one category of relation between those who recognize the apostleship of Mohammed and all others who do not, namely Djehad [jihad[; that is to say, strife, or holy war. Inasmuch as the propagation of Islam was to be the aim of all Moslems, perpetual warfare against the unbelievers, in order to convert them, or subject them to the payment of tribute, came to be held by Moslem doctors [legists] as the most sacred duty of the believer. This right to wage war is the only principle of international law which is taught by Mohammedan jurists;
Confirming that present day Iranian foreign policy remains animated by jihad, less than three weeks after the November 24, 2013 announcement of the P5 +1 interim agreement, during an interview which aired December 11, 2013, Iranian Middle East analyst Mohammad Sadeq al-Hosseini, provided a candid assessment of the negotiations. El-Hosseini, a former political advisor to both Iran’s alleged reformist ex-President Khatami, and the Khatami regime’s erstwhile Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Ata’ollah Mohajerani (also deemed a “moderate”), underscored the ancient Islamic doctrinal bases for the contemporary Iranian theocracy’s geo-politics. Invoking the armistice “Treaty of Hudaybiyya” agreement between Muhammad and the 7th century pagan Quraysh tribe of Mecca, which Islam’s prophet-warrior unilaterally abrogated as soon Muhammad’s jihadist forces achieved the military superiority needed to vanquish his Meccan foes, el-Hosseini declared:
This is the Treaty of Hudaybiyya in Geneva, and it will be followed by a “conquest of Mecca.”
Consistent with Muhammad’s tactical formulation when waging jihad, “War is deceit” (from the canonical hadith “traditions” of the Muslim prophet), the Islamic doctrine of sacralized dissimulation, “takiya,” or “kitman” (“concealment”; “disguise”), and the modern parallel of Soviet Communist deceit and conspiracy (especially during arms control negotiations), el-Hosseini also noted,
Incidentally, for your information, when you conduct political negotiations with Iran, you lose even when you think you have won. The [Iranians] have raised the level of uranium enrichment far beyond the level they really needed, so that when the level would be lowered, they would emerge victorious.
Igor Lukes essay, “Linguistic Deception and U.S.-Soviet Arms Control Treaties,” (from the landmark 1988 Joseph S. Douglass, Jr. essay collection Why the Soviets Violate Arms Control Treaties), noted the striking similarity between Soviet “linguistic maneuvers” and takiya/ kitman, the Islamic doctrine of deception:
It is hard to ignore the existence of clear parallels between the defensive deceptions of Islamic kitman and the more global linguistic maneuvers of the Kremlin decision makers…[D]eception and conspiracy were to become a way of life of all communist movements. Indeed the long careers of Philby et al. [Harold Adrian Russell “Kim” Philby (d. 1988) was a high-ranking member of British intelligence, and Soviet double agent, who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963, having been an operative of the Soviet NKVD/KGB, as part the spy ring now known as the “Cambridge Five”] demonstrate that kitman is as Soviet as it is Middle Eastern.
El-Hosseini, in his December 11, 2013 discussion, further insisted the Geneva deal augured America’s eventual jihad conquest during Iran’s ongoing “fierce war with Americans on all levels.” While this claim appears dubious, at present, El-Hosseini contended, appositely, that the agreement marked near-term U.S. capitulation to Iran’s oft-repeated threat to destroy Israel by jihad—including via nuclear weapons.
Obama had to make a great retreat. He was forced to accept a handshake from President Rohani [Rouhani], whom he considered a kind of Gorbachev or Sadat, so that the day would not come when he would be forced to kiss the hands of [Secretary General of Lebanese Hezbollah]Hassan Nasrallah and [Supreme Leader of Iran] Imam Khamenei, so that they would hold their fire in the great war that was prepared to annihilate Israel.
Eighteen months earlier (on June 6, 2012), Iran’s Fars News agency published an interview with el-Hosseini during which he quoted sura (chapter) 59, verse 14 of the Koran, a reference to Muhammad’s brutal, sanguinary jihad conquests of Arabian (especially Medinan) Jewry, that concluded with the capture of Jews’ final refuge at the Khaybar oasis:
This matter is exactly the meaning of the Koranic verse, “They will not fight against you all together except in fortified cities, or from behind walls.”… The circumstances of Khaybar [are present today as well, because the Jews are fighting] from behind a wall. This means that they have reached the limit of their capabilities and options, and are no longer willing to leave their homes. Consider that Israel is a small and very narrow coastal country and does not have the strategic or geopolitical ability to defend itself, and it could disappear at any moment. These people could flee en masse. As [Yahya Rahim] Safavi said, under circumstances of all-out war, a million Israelis will flee the occupied territories [i.e., Israel] in the first week [of the war]. This is no exaggeration.
Amir Taheri’s pellucid, if trenchant December 16, 2013 analysis exposed how U.S. (and European) diplomacy was easy prey for Iran’s negotiations jihad, “Three Card Monte” tactics:
Having claimed that he had halted Iran’s nuclear project, Secretary of State John Kerry might want to reconsider. He and his European colleagues, like many of their predecessors, may have fallen for the diplomatic version of the Three Card Monte played by the mullahs since they seized power in 1979. Khomeinist diplomacy has never aimed at reaching agreement with anyone. Instead, the regime regards negotiations as just another weapon in the jihad for ensuring the triumph of “true Islam” across the globe. The regime can’t conceive of give-and-take and compromise even with Muslim nations, let alone a bunch of “Infidel” powers. If unable to impose its will on others, the regime will try to buy time through endless negotiations. In Three Card Monte, suckers stay in the game in the hope of getting it right next time. A similar hope ensures outsiders’ participation in Khomeinist diplomacy’s version of the trick.
Taheri’s acid commentary recalls the ignored, but profoundly relevant warnings of Igor Lukes about Cold War era negotiations with the former Soviet Union, written 25 years earlier.
We ought to remember that the Soviets conduct “total” politics. Whenever Kremlin representatives sit down to negotiate, we can assume that they were instructed to insist on superiority for the Soviet side. In order to achieve that objective, a whole scale of techniques (from regular diplomacy talks to walk-outs and threats of the use of force) will be applied. In the negotiating process, the West must demonstrate as much patience as it can muster. Open societies tend to expect instant results. But the issues involved in East-West relations are far too complex to be solved during a few meetings. In any case, summits are not solutions in and of themselves. Poorly prepared summits can seriously destabilize international relations.
Robert Conquest identified a salient feature of the delusive mindset of apologists for Soviet era Communist totalitarianism shared by today’s useful idiots for totalitarian Islam—willing intellectual and ethical blindness.
[A] con job needs a con man and a sucker. In their case many suckers even managed not to take in what they saw with their own eyes, or rather somehow to process unpleasantness mentally into something acceptable…Mindset seems too strong a word: these were minds like jelly, ready for the master’s imprint…[T]his was an intellectual and moral disgrace on a massive scale.
Pronouncements of (and behaviors by) Obama administration officials, and the President himself, exhibit, vis-à-vis the Iran deal, what Conquest appositely characterized during the Soviet era, as “intellectual and moral disgrace on a massive scale.”
During 1988, while the Iran-Iraq war still raged, draining Iran’s military and financial resources, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini wrote a letter reproducing a written request by then commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Mohsen Rezaii (via Rezaii’s letter, dated 6/23/1988) for the development of “a substantial number of laser and atomic weapons.” (Rezaii, as per Khomeini’s rendition of his 6/23/1988 letter, also advised that the U.S. be evicted from the Persian Gulf.) Khomeini’s letter expressed no opposition to the idea of procuring or developing atomic weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but rather understandable concerns about Iran’s capability to purchase or produce such an arsenal. Furthermore, Khomeini apparently never issued any subsequent written (or oral) fatwa prohibiting either the development or usage of nuclear (and other) WMD.
Twenty-five years later, two statements were issued the same day the “P5 +1” deal with Iran was made public (11/24/13) regarding the purported fatwa banning nuclear weapons by Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s current Supreme Leader, who succeeded Khomeini in 1989, one by a senior Obama administration official, and the other by Secretary of State Kerry:
[Senior Obama administration official] “The supreme leader of Iran has said that there is a fatwa to development of a nuclear weapon.”
[Secretary Kerry] “So I close by saying to all of you that the singular objective that brought us to Geneva remains our singular objective as we leave Geneva, and that is to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. In that singular object, we are resolute. Foreign Minister (Mohammad Javad) Zarif emphasized that they don’t intend to do this, and the supreme leader has indicated there is a fatwa, which forbids them to do this.”
Notwithstanding these Obama administration claims, as well as the earlier the verbatim statement of President Obama himself, on 9/27/13, “Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons”—all of which simply regurgitate mendacious Iranian government propaganda, in the absence of any textual evidence—no such fatwa has ever been produced. As the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler observed, even “the slick new Iranian government website on its nuclear program,” which asserts Khamenei’s ostensible 2003 fatwa banning nuclear weapons was a juristic extension of the (non-existent) fatwa of his predecessor, Khomeini, allegedly proscribing chemical weapons production,
… does not provide the text of the original fatwa — and then mostly cites Western news reports as evidence that Khamenei has reiterated it on several occasions.
Providing original documentary substantiation (i.e., a confidential 2004 U.S. State Department cable released via Wikileaks), Kessler also exposed Khamenei’s mendacious statements denying Iran’s history of chemical weapons production. Moreover, Khamenei’s utterances on nuclear weapons have “evolved.” Initially, during the mid-1990s, Khamenei denied accusations that Iran was attempting to produce WMD. Subsequently, between 2003 to 2006, Khamenei’s pronouncements shifted from negating the practical utility of such weapons, to an emphasis on claims that “Islam” forbade both their production and usage. However, by 2010, Khamenei’s position morphed again into simply proscribing the use of atomic weapons, without mentioning prohibitions on their production, or stockpiling. During an address on Iranian television, February 17, 2014, Ayatollah Khamenei, insisted it would be “impossible” to resolve the “nuclear issue,” per “U.S. expectations.” He claimed Iran had been insulted by a U.S. Senator who “takes money from Zionists in order to go to the Senate and curse the Iranian nation.” Khamenei reminded his audience, “the Americans are the enemies of the Islamic Revolution and of Iran. They are the enemies of the flag that you hold high, and these [negotiations] will not bring an end to this enmity.”
Yet despite this countervailing evidence that no such written fatwa proscribing nuclear weapons has ever been produced, and Ayatollah Khamenei’s defiant, bellicose February 17, 2014 statement, Secretary of State Kerry remained a steadfast champion of the fatwa’s existence, and beneficent motivations. During a March 22, 2014 Voice of America interview marking Norooz, the Persian New Year, Kerry still asserted both he and President Obama were “grateful” that Khamenei had issued the chimerical fatwa banning the possession, development, and use of nuclear weapons. The Secretary of State stated,
President Obama and I both are extremely welcoming and grateful for the fact that the supreme leader has [allegedly] issued a fatwa declaring that [i.e., “that”= allegedly banning possession, development, and use of nuclear weapons]. That’s an important statement.
Interviewed on Wednesday, January 22, 2013, Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif implored CNN Chief National Security correspondent Jim Sciutto to read the actual text of the (P5 + 1) agreement, to dispel false claims by the Obama Administration it compels Iran to “dismantle” (any of) its nuclear infrastructure:
The White House tries to portray it as basically a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. That is the word they use time and again. If you find a single, a single word, that even closely resembles dismantling or could be defined as dismantling in the entire text, then I would take back my comment.
Just hours before President Obama delivered his State of the Union address (1/28/14), which included remarks lauding how the P5 +1 agreement “halted” Iran’s nuclear weapons development program, a joint Congressional hearing demonstrated otherwise. Gregory S. Jones, a Senior Researcher at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center testified that “the great flaw in the deal” was “it permits Iran to retain centrifuge enrichment.” He added, pointedly,
This fact has been denied by Secretary of State Kerry but the Joint Plan of Action says in two separate places that the follow-on Comprehensive Solution would “involve a mutually defined enrichment programme….” Note that the text says “would,” not “might” or “could.” That the Comprehensive Solution will permit Iranian centrifuge enrichment was later confirmed by the Obama administration national security spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan who said, “We are prepared to negotiate a strictly limited enrichment program.”
Jones’ written testimony concluded,
The only reasonable negotiating position is for the U.S. and the P5+1 to insist that Iran stops all uranium enrichment and dismantles its centrifuge enrichment facilities. President Obama and others have recognized that this would be the best outcome from the negotiations with Iran but have said that it is an unrealistic demand since Iran would never agree.
The hearings also revealed that the White House was refusing to release the full written text of the agreement with Iran. House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) complained,
Why is it that members of Congress have to go to a super secret location, a cone of silence … to look at the deal?... It’s a very easy to read document; one doesn’t have to be an expert. If this is such a great deal and so good for peace and diplomacy in our time why is it held in secret?...If the administration is proud of it, I think they should highlight it.
Jones concurred, stating “It does bother me,” that the deal has been kept secret, adding,
It appears to me the administration has negotiated an agreement it does not fully understand and I don’t understand how that can happen…I don’t see how there’s going to be an agreement.
Pressed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, during hearings on February 4, 2014, U.S. chief negotiator with Iran Wendy Sherman conceded that the P5 + 1 agreement, failed to “shut down” Iran’s continuing development of ballistic missiles. These weapons, which have long range capabilities, are the preferred devices for delivering a nuclear payload. Senator Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), the committee’s ranking member, raised the appropriate questions, interspersed with relevant commentary:
Why did you all not in this agreement in any way address the delivery mechanisms, the militarizing of nuclear arms, why was that left off since they [Iran] breached a threshold everyone acknowledges.? They can build a bomb. We know that. They know that. They have advanced centrifuges. We have a major loophole in the research and development area that everyone acknowledges. We are going to allow them over this next year to continue to perfect the other piece of this, which is the [nuclear] delivery mechanism. Why did we do that?
Despite all these developments, President Obama’s January 28, 2014, State of the Union speech not only claimed “American diplomacy” had somehow “halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program,” he peevishly threatened,
[L]et me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it.
Earlier on Friday January 10, 2014 Bernadette Meehan, President Obama’s National Security Council spokeswoman, hectored Congressional advocates of continued economic sanctions against Iran (i.e., S. 1881: “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013”), which target (albeit with dubious “success”) Iran’s relentless development of nuclear weapons-related materials and technology. Meehan accused these lawmakers of being “warmongers,” deliberately sabotaging the Obama administration’s demonstrably feckless—and dangerous—“diplomacy”:
If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so. Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.
Sunday January 12, 2014, Meehan’s diatribe was cited approvingly in a Fars News Agency report, which also quoted senior Iranian Parliamentarian Esmayeel Jalili’s defiant pronouncement made that same day:
If the US congress doesn’t abide by the policies of the [Obama] administration and approves new sanctions, the parliament will be ready to declare Iran’s exit from the nuclear negotiations with the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany)
The Fars News Agency report also included comments made in December 2013 about S. 1881 by the Iranian Parliament Speaker’s top advisor for international affairs, Hossein Sheikholeslam. These “relevant remarks,” in the Fars News Agency’s characterization, were redolent with Iran’s pervasive, conspiratorial Jew-hatred.
Capitalism, and not democracy, has the last say in the US and the US congressmen should also pursue the goals and words of the US capitalists which are mostly Zionists. The Zionist lobbies are highly powerful in the US Congress, hence we always witness the US Congress moves against Iran. And there are many cases in which the American nation’s interests are sacrificed for the sake of the Zionist regime’s goals.
National Security Council spokeswoman Meehan’s deliberate misrepresentation of S. 1881, her vicious attack on its Senate sponsors, and the endorsement of these views by “senior” Iranian Parliamentarians, epitomizes Obama Administration policy toward Iran.
DW: Your book argues that a “delusive policy-making mentality” exists across the political spectrum, even among conservatives Iran experts who are alarmed by Iran’s nuclear potential. Explain the pitfalls of policy-making without taking into consideration Iran’s “animating Islamic ideologies,” and relate it also to the book’s ground-breaking arguments against seeking “regime change” (along the lines of the “Green Movement”) as the West’s preferred solution.
Andrew Bostom replies:
United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), the centrist, non-partisan (and eponymous) advocacy group, weighed in immediately about the gravely negative implications of the November 24, 2013 “P5 +1” deal with Iran. A number of simultaneous assessments by avowed conservative analysts reiterated UANI’s tocsin of looming geo-strategic calamity, regarding this interim agreement. By December 17, 2013, the bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), issued a mammoth 228 pp. report entitled, “The US and Iran: Sanctions, Energy, Arms Control, and Regime Change.” Despite its equivocations (and inaccurate characterization of the current Rouhani regime in Iran), the CSIS assessment shared many of the overriding concerns expressed by UANI and the politically conservative analysts.
All these assessments from the center-right, expressed valid strategic concerns, at times punctuated by alarm, over the “P5 + 1” agreement. However, uniformly omitted were any serious discussions of the Islamic ideology which animates Iran’s relentless efforts to obtain nuclear weapons for the stated purpose of destroying Israel, and in pursuit of its larger regional, and global hegemonic aspirations. For example, one may or may not believe that a wave of actionable messianism (“Mahdism”)—central to which, in either classical Sunni, or the more ill-defined (and much less historically significant) modern Shiite variant of Islamic eschatology, is the destruction of the “Jewish Dajjal” (Muslim Anti-Christ) and/or his Jewish (or, for Shiites, Sunni) minions—truly grips the Iranian regime, and its supporters. But certainly the oft-repeated apocalyptic rhetoric of Jew-annihilation, or, more importantly, the boilerplate, corporeal world Islamic Jew-hatred Iran churns out on a continual basis, should have been acknowledged, and examined, in such analyses. Even this material was not discussed.
Sharia supremacism—in its Twelver Shiite guise—was the fervent motivation for the Shiite theocracy established by Iran’s first Safavid Shah Ismail I, at the outset of the 16th century. This belief system—which was always redolent with Islamic Jew-hatred in Safavid Iran, and across a 500-year continuum, ever since— remains the guiding ideology in the “Khomeini revival” (and post-Khomeini) era, at present.
Intentionally obfuscating apologetics, aside, Sharia, Islamic law, whether Sunni or Shiite, is not merely holistic, in the general sense of all-encompassing, but totalitarian, regulating everything from the ritual aspects of religion, to personal hygiene, to the governance of a Muslim minority community, Islamic state, bloc of states, or global Islamic order. Clearly, this latter political aspect is the most troubling, being an ancient antecedent of more familiar modern totalitarian systems. Specifically, Sharia’s liberty-crushing and dehumanizing political aspects feature: open-ended jihadism to subjugate the world to a totalitarian Islamic order; rejection of bedrock Western liberties—including freedom of conscience and speech—enforced by imprisonment, beating, or death; discriminatory relegation of non-Muslims to outcast, vulnerable pariahs, and even Muslim women to subservient chattel; and barbaric punishments which violate human dignity, such as amputation for theft, stoning for adultery, and lashing for alcohol consumption. Regarding post-Khomeini Revolution Iran, and its “Guardianship of the Jurist” application of the Sharia, Yale Professor Abbas Amanat acknowledged that,
The doctrine of the “Guardianship of the Jurist” was informed above all by a Shi’i legal mindset that was essentially alien to modern notions of plurality and democratic leadership.
Moreover, during interactions with non-Muslims, Shiites add strict doctrinal adherence to the odious concept of “najis,” the physical as well spiritual “impurity” of the infidel, which results in a series of dehumanizing practices directed toward these “infidels.” The British scholar, E.G. Browne provided this eyewitness account of how najis regulations impacted non-Muslims—mirroring centuries of their continuous application—through the end of the 19th century:
While I was in Yezd [a center of Zoroastrian culture, 170 miles southeast of Isfahan] a Zoroastrian was bastinadoed [beaten with a cudgel on the soles of the feet] for accidentally touching with his garment some fruit exposed for sale in the bazaar, and thereby, in the eyes of the Musulmans [Muslims], rendering it unclean and unfit for consumption by true believers [i.e., the Muslims]
The contemporary Iranian Shiite theocracy has revitalized the ugly doctrine—and practice—of najis.
What follows is a small, yet representative series of examples which demonstrate the failure of center-right policymakers and analysts to consider Iran’s Sharia supremacism and intrinsically-related jihadism and Islamic Jew-hatred. These consistent analytical lacunae—born of equal parts ignorance, doctrinaire cultural relativism, and magical thinking—help perpetuate ineffectual, and ultimately dangerous policies.
The CSIS’s expansive December 17, 2013 analysis includes no mention of “jihad,” “Jews,” or “antisemitism”—not a single reference to the individual words throughout its entire 228 pp.127 Absent any discussion of Iran’s virulent jihadism and canonical antisemitism directed at Israel, which is intermingled with unequivocal calls for the Jewish State’s destruction, the CSIS authors nevertheless advocate that the U.S. prevent any Israeli attempt at preemptively delaying (or destroying) Iran’s nuclear weapons program, because, they allege, “that would probably end any chance of negotiations succeeding.” 128 On p. 140, the CSIS analysis makes its sole, anodyne reference to “Sharia,” citing President Rouhani’s theological training, as follows: “his background in theology and Sharia comforts religious Iranians.” Rouhani (continuing the discussion on p. 140) is described as embodying a “measured pragmatism,” as purportedly evidenced by appointments to his cabinet, which, “further reflected this commitment to a technocratic over ideological government.” The CSIS authors, noting former President Rafsanjani’s so-called moderation, add: “Many key appointees served under former moderate [emphasis added] President, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.”
Rouhani’s Weltanschauung and key utterances will be elaborated in the discussion below. But contra the CSIS characterization of Rafsanjani’s ostensible “moderation,” the former Iranian President made this bigoted and bellicose proclamation, televised on April 17, 2005:
The biggest problem of the Islamic world today is global Zionism and the Great Satan, America. They are our enemies ... they have no religion and they do not accept Allah. ... Some are called Christians and some Jews ... every passing day the people’s hatred festers, especially among the youth in Islamic countries. This hatred of the Great Satan and global Zionism constantly intensifies ...
Pace the CSIS analysts’ assessment, the “measured pragmatist” Rouhani (as reported in Kayhan, the Iranian regime’s house media organ, Saturday June 22, 2013) attributed his June, 2013 electoral victory to the influence of the 12th Shiite Imam, whose “occultation” dates from the end of the 9th century (~874 C.E.):
This victory and the epic saga is without a doubt due to the special kindness of the Imam Zaman (Mahdi) and the measures taken by the supreme leader, especially his guidance and words. … Without his management then it was not clear if the people of Iran would witness such a day filled with joy
Possible messianic allusions, and their significance, aside, The New York Times published a story on August 2, 2013 (that was briefly revised later), which included this ominous (and ugly) real world observation by Rouhani:
Ahead of his inauguration, Iran’s new president on Friday called Israel an “old wound” that should be removed, while tens of thousands of Iranians marched in support of Muslim claims to the holy city of Jerusalem. Hassan Rouhani’s remarks about Israel — his country’s archenemy — echoed longstanding views of other Iranian leaders. “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by the semi-official [Iranian State News Agency] ISNA news agency.
ISNA claimed later that they (and not Western editors) had mistranslated Rouhani’s quote and then issued corrections claiming he had merely called Israel a “sore” and had not said it should be removed–though one wonders what he thinks should be done with sores if they are not to be made to disappear. The original Times story was then replaced with a piece containing revised language, albeit based on the most dubious of claims. But the argument that the alleged mistranslation should not be used to debunk Rouhani’s reputation as a moderate was undermined by the fact that, as even the revised Times story said, he had denounced Israel “in several books.” None of the material from this prominent New York Times story about Rouhani, reported just 4-months earlier, appeared in the December, 2013 CSIS analysis.
Hassan Rouhani has a lengthy history in Iranian politics, having served as the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council for more than 16 years. He was also a former deputy speaker of the parliament. During Mohammad Khatami’s Presidency, in 2003, Rouhani became Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. Rouhani maintained the post for two years before being replaced by Ali Larijani when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assumed the presidency in 2005. He is also a member of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council, an advisory body to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as the Assembly of Experts, a body vested with the power to elect and remove the Supreme Leader. Rouhani is reputed to be close to both Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Chairman of Expediency Discernment Council.
Until his election to the presidency, Hassan Rouhani headed the Tehran-based think tank, the Center for Strategic Research. Rouhani, in a 2009 monograph published by the Center for Strategic Research, “Islamic Political Thought, Volume I: Theory,” extolled Iranian theocrat Ayatollah Khomeini’s alleged enlightened “vision” for Islamic governance, as follows:
It appears distancing from any fundamental ideals of the Islamic Revolution, would only mean to be held in the prison of western politics, “politics without ethics” or a medieval European dungeon, “backward religious thoughts”…And we all have witnessed and taken notes of the warning of great architect of the Islamic government, Ayatollah Khomeini, that we avoid falling over that cliff…[T]he Islamic Revolution and its theorists, and above all, Imam Khomeini, were exemplary leaders who were the first projected, defined and implemented a superb divine Islamic model for all humans and all times. (translation kindly provided by Amil Imani)
The CSIS analysis did not include these 2009 observations by Rouhani which capture, unequivocally, his ongoing reverence for Khomeini’s ideology.
Not surprisingly, and entirely consistent with policies of the Iranian regime since Khomeini’s retrograde “revolution,” Rouhani is a strong proponent of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, regardless of Western, or international objections, as evidenced by these multiple statements from 2004—none of which were included in the CSIS analysis:
We will go ahead with confidence-building and will endeavor to build up our [nuclear] technical capability to restore our national rights in the context of the international conventions. This is our diplomacy: to proceed [in] both directions simultaneously.
We only agreed to suspend activities in those areas where we did not have technical problems. This is what they are saying now in their negotiations. We completed the Isfahan project, which is the UCF [uranium concentration facility] where yellowcake [uranium ore concentrate, or UOC] is converted into UF4 [uranium tetrafluoride] and UF6 [uranium hexafluoride] during suspension. While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan, but we still had a long way to go to complete the project. In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan. Today, we can convert yellowcake into UF4 and UF6, and this is a very important matter. In fact, UF6 is what the centrifuges feed on; it is the feed material for centrifuges. Therefore, it was important for us to conclude that process.
I think we should not be in a great rush to deal with this issue. We should be patient and find the most suitable time to do away with the suspension. If we decide to start enrichment in the face of opposition by the West, we must find the best time and the most favorable conditions, and if we decide to work with the West, we must utilize all our capabilities and everything that is in our power to achieve our objectives. We should not rush into this. We must move very carefully, in a very calculated manner.
If one day we are able to complete the fuel cycle and the world sees that it has no choice, that we do possess the technology, then the situation will be different. The world did not want Pakistan to have an atomic bomb or Brazil to have the fuel cycle, but Pakistan built its bomb and Brazil has its fuel cycle, and the world started to work with them. Our problem is that we have not achieved either one, but we are standing at the threshold.
One of the members indicated here that all this should have been done in secret. This was the intention; this never was supposed to be in the open. But in any case, the spies exposed it. We did not want to declare all this.
Rouhani’s sentiments are apparently shared by the majority of Iranians. According to Gallup polling data from February, 2013, almost 2/3 were willing to pay the high price of sanctions. Sixty-three (63%) percent claimed that Iran should continue to develop its nuclear program, even given the scale of sanctions imposed on their country because of such efforts. No wonder Iranian public reaction was effusively positive now that the feckless Obama administration has proven willing to abandon even this tame disincentive to the popular sentiment for Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It is also noteworthy how center-right analysts routinely ignore the broad-based Iranian public support for Iran’s nuclear program. (Polling data reveal a seemingly perverse “show of support” for Iran’s nuclear weapons program which transcends the Sunni-Shiite divide, amongst Palestinian Muslims. Sixty percent, whether living in the disputed territories, or within Israel’s “Green Line,” favor Iran’s procurement of nuclear technology—despite the existential threat nuclear weapons deployed against Israel might pose to them!)
During the summer of 2009, much ink was spilled over the “secular” revolution allegedly occurring in Iran. Indeed, President Obama has been excoriated ever since by conservatives for his failure to unabashedly support the so-called “Green revolution,” which I argued at the
time—and still maintain—was not a mass movement of true Western freedom aspirants against Sharia totalitarians (i.e., in their Shiite incarnation), but merely a power struggle between rival Sharia supremacist factions.
Despite the overwrought hyperbole of some conservative analysts, a very staid assessment (published June 29, 2009) by A. Savyon, Director the Middle East Media Research Institute’s Iranian Media Project, noted that the “Green” protest movement’s leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammad Khatami, were “not interested in a change of regime in Iran, and have never called to topple Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.” Furthermore, Savyon reported that Khatami and Rafsanjani, who operated behind the scenes of the protests, proved unable “to recruit the support of any senior ayatollah against Khamenei.” Savyon added, that former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, at that time, the second most powerful figure in the regime, who then headed two of its most important bodies (the Experts Assembly and Expediency Council), never,
... purported to lead a movement presenting an alternative to the regime. Despite his blatant disagreements with the Supreme Leader, he hasn’t openly challenged the latter’s decision to accept the  election results, though, according to reports, he has sought to recruit senior ayatollahs to join his camp within the regime.
Savyon’s June 29th, 2009 report concluded, “...the protest movement leaders never advocated a regime change in Iran; their campaign is part of a struggle between two streams within the regime.”
Politically expedient hypocrisy compounds the deliberate intellectual blindness of conservative/ neoconservative analysts who persist in their misrepresentations of the 2009 Iranian “Green Movement,” while continuing to chastise President Obama for his refusal to assist this alleged “freedom movement.” These same conservative “experts” conveniently ignore the George W. Bush Administration’s abject failure to eliminate Iran’s nuclear threat while the U.S. had more than one hundred thousand troops (and all forms of supportive military air, sea, and land firepower) strategically positioned in neighboring Iraq, for the five years between 2003 and 2008. Specifically, conservative Obama Administration critics of this ilk are silent about the following:
- The George W. Bush Administration negotiated a November, 2008 “SOFA” (status of forces agreement) with our “Iraqi allies” which, as per Article 27, paragraph 4 (“Iraqi land, sea and air shall not be used as a launching or transit point for attacks against other countries.”) prohibited the US from attacking, for example, Iranian nuclear production facilities, from Iraqi bases and airspace.
- Revelations from former Bush and Obama Administration Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ recently published memoir (as reported by the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus), about President Bush being convinced by Gates to forestall a pre-emptive Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, and the (absurd) “geo-strategic rationale” for this executive decision—“Gates writes that his most effective argument was that an Israeli attack on Iran that overflew Iraq would endanger what the surge had achieved with Baghdad. Bush then ‘emphatically said he would not put our gains in Iraq at risk,’ according to Gates.”
Iran’s backward “revolution” in 1978-1979 simply returned Iranian society to its longstanding status as a Shiite theocracy (i.e., from 1501/1502, to 1925; interrupted between from 1722-1795, after an Afghan invasion in 1719, subsequent Ottoman and Russian forays, and internecine struggle, combined with Nadir Shah’s [(r. 1734-1747] religious “experimentation”), following a relatively brief flirtation with Westernization and secularization under Pahlavi rule from 1925 to 1979. In addition, as my colleague, journalist Alyssa Lappen and I discovered in early July of 2009, upon interviewing the leader of a genuine Western-oriented, secular (and non-Communist) Iranian political party, Roozbeh Farahanipour, this courageous man and his followers unfortunately represent only a small minority of Iran’s overwhelmingly traditionalist Shiite Muslim masses
Yet after more than three decades of strict re-application of the Sharia in Iran (which has included stoning to death for adultery, execution for homosexuality, abrogation of freedom of conscience and religious minority rights, etc.), and notwithstanding wishful arguments that these phenomena had spawned mass public rejection of Islamic Law, Pew polling data released June 11, 2013 (from face-to-face interviews with 1,522 adults, ages 18 years of age and older), revealed a sobering reality. When asked, “Do you favor or oppose the implementation of Sharia law, or Islamic law in our country?”, 83% favored its application. A largely concordant finding demonstrated that only 28% of Iranians were at all concerned (i.e., 9% “very,” and 19% “somewhat” concerned) about “extremist religious groups” in the nation.
These data provided the context in which the June, 2013 Presidential election of Hasan Rouhani—an unabashed Ayatollah Khomeini-supporting Shiite cleric, and long term political apparatchik of the theocratic regime—must be viewed. Simply put, Rouhani is not “moderate” by any objective, Sharia non-compliant standard. The conundrum is that while center to left U.S. (and other Western) policymaking elites insist upon Rouhani’s “moderation,” their conservative counterparts rigidly uphold the equally destructive fantasy that this modern avatar of traditionalist Shiite Sharia supremacism is somehow unrepresentative of the Iranian populace’s abiding beliefs, and mores.
Another disturbing manifestation of the abject denial of Iranian Sharia supremacism by American conservatives came to light in October, 2013. A confluence of news stories the week of October 20, 2013, including, prominently, the release of a report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, highlighted the plight of Iranian Christians. The salient findings from Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed’s report (issued online Tuesday 10/22/13), were as follows:
Sources communicate that at least 20 Christians were in custody in July 2013. In addition, violations of the rights of Christians, particularly those belonging to evangelical Protestant groups, many of whom are converts, who proselytize to and serve Iranian Christians of Muslim background, continue to be reported. Authorities continue to compel licensed Protestant churches to restrict Persian-speaking and Muslim-born Iranians from participating in services, and raids and forced closures of house churches are ongoing. According to sources, more than 300 Christians have been arrested since 2010, and dozens of church leaders and active community members have reportedly been convicted of national security crimes in connection with church activities, such as organizing prayer groups, proselytizing and attending Christian seminars abroad.
His report further noted allegations of additional abuses, including “various forms of legal discrimination…in employment and education,” as well as frequent cases of “arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment.”
Monday, 10/21/13, a day before the Special Rapporteur’s report was issued, Eddie Romero, a retired California pastor, who managed to enter Iran surreptitiously, staged a protest before Iran’s infamous Evin prison. Repeatedly proclaiming, “Let my people go,” in Farsi, Romero attempted to draw attention to the predicament of at least four Iranians, incarcerated for converting from Islam to Christianity—Farshid Fathi, Saeed Abedini, Mostafa Bordbar, and Alireza Seyyedian. (Detained for 24-hours in Iran, Romero was released and returned safely to the U.S. by mid-week.)
Shahrokh Afshar, a pastor for the Iranian Church On The Way in Los Angeles, maintained Christian converts in Iran were imprisoned simply because they practiced their new faith. “Their greatest sin was leaving Islam to follow Christ,” he stated. One of the four imprisoned Christians, whose plight Pastor Romero was protesting, is Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen who has been incarcerated for over a year in Iran. His wife, Naghmeh, wrote a poignant depiction (published 9/25/13) of her husband’s ordeal on the bitter one year anniversary of his imprisonment.
Without warning, members of the Revolutionary Guard pulled him off of a bus and put him under house arrest in his parents’ home in Tehran. On September 26, 2012, members of the Guard came to the home and took him away — in chains — to Evin Prison, where he has remained ever since.
The following day, Wednesday 9/23/13, Christian Solidarity International published a report about a “verdict” an Iranian court issued on October 6th, which the named defendants received October 20th. Four members of the Church of Iran—Behzad Taalipasand, Mehdi Reza Omidi (Youhan), Mehdi Dadkhah (Danial) and Amir Hatemi (Youhanna)—were charged with drinking alcohol during a communion service, and possession of a receiver and satellite antenna. The court sentenced them to receive 80 lashes each, for these alleged “offenses.” Two of the “suspects,” Behzad Taalipasand and Mehdi Reza Omidi (Youhan), had been detained December 31, 2012, during an Iranian government crackdown on house churches. Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Mervyn Thomas, declared forthrightly,
The sentences handed down to these members of the Church of Iran effectively criminalize the Christian sacrament of sharing in the Lord’s Supper and constitute an unacceptable infringement on the right to practice faith freely and peaceably. We urge the Iranian authorities to ensure that the nation’s legal practices and procedures do not contradict its international obligation under the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to guarantee the full enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief by all of its religious communities.
With depressing predictability, the Sharia-based dynamic which underpins such blatant—and grotesque—religious persecution, was ignored by the mainstream media, including conservative outlets. Even the following specific (if merely allusive) statement contained within the Special Rapporteur’s analysis itself, did not get repeated.
…the [Iranian] Government…states that its Constitution recognizes only Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Judaism as minority religions and that adherents to those religions are entitled to manifest their beliefs, “within the limits of the law”, which is governed by Islamic sharia. [emphasis added]
For example, neither Benjamin Weinthal’s blog at National Review Online (“Iran’s Continued War on Christians,” 10/25/13), nor his lengthier Fox News piece (“Iran gives Christians 80 lashes for communion wine as UN blasts human rights record,” 10/24/13)—despite the fact that both accounts referenced Special Rapporteur Shaheed’s report—mentioned, let alone honestly elaborated upon, Shaheed’s allusion to Sharia.
Although Weinthal should not be singled out, per se, his omission—pathognomonic of this consistent lacuna in contemporary “reportage” on Iran’s abuse of its vulnerable non-Muslim minority populations—was egregious, and unacceptable. Willful blindness to this reality by our media and policymaking elites—including conservatives—is a moral perversion that assures such Sharia-sanctioned oppression will continue indefinitely. Worse still, this tendency also augurs continued American policymaking failure vis-à-vis Iran, regardless of whether or not a “conservative” U.S. administration is elected. Reactions to the passing of Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri by U.S. conservative “Iran specialists,” illustrate the latter point, starkly.
Photo of Ayatollah Montazeri, (Soylent) Green Movement “Inspiration,” Refusing to Shake the Hand of a Najis Jew (Translation of Farsi caption, beneath image):“This is Iran’s deceased Ayatollah Montazeri (d. December, 2009) in the photograph where he rejected shaking the hand of a fellow Jewish Iranian. He declined the handshake because he did not want to become dirty (najis) and his cleanliness despoiled for his “Salaat” preparation (for prayer, as a Muslim), by contacting the (najis, infidel) Jew.”
Decidedly hagiographic post-mortems written by American conservatives appeared immediately after the announcement of Montazeri’s death at age 87, on December 20, 2009. Neoconservative Michael Ledeen opined,
Some of us who have long fought against the terrible regime in Tehran were fortunate to have received wise observations from Montazeri over the years, and I am confident that, with the passage of time and the changes that will take place in Iran, scholars will marvel at the international dimensions of the Grand Ayatollah’s understanding and the range of his activities.
But perhaps the most curious of these early assessments includes a contention by Michael Rubin that “…the real Achilles Heel to the Iranian regime is Shi’ism.” Reuel Marc Gerecht, writing in October, 2010, ten months after Montazeri’s death, dubbed the Ayatollah, simultaneously, “the spiritual father of Iran’s Green Movement,” and the erstwhile “nemesis of Ali Khamenei, Iran’s ruler,” whom Gerecht derided (in contrast to Montazeri), as “a very mediocre student of the Sharia.”
These odd viewpoints were (and remain) merely the extension of a profoundly flawed, ahistorical mindset which denies the living legacy of Shiite Islamic doctrine and its authentic, oppressive application in Iran, particularly, since the advent of the Safavid theocratic state at the very beginning of the 16th century. A gimlet-eyed evaluation of Montazeri’s recorded views—entirely consistent with traditionalist Shi’ism—does not comport with the conservative eulogies of the late Ayatollah by Ledeen, Rubin, Gerecht, and their ilk.
Consistent with the institutionalized codifications of Islam’s classical Sunni and Shiite legists (to be elaborated in the next section), Montazeri’s written views (from his Islamic Law Codes [Resaleh-ye Tozih al-masael]) on jihad war reiterate the doctrine of open-ended aggression to establish global Islamic suzerainty, and the universal application of Sharia:
[T]he offensive jihad is a war that an Imam wages in order to invite infidels and non-monotheists to Islam or to prevent the violation of treaty of Ahl-e Zemmah [Ahl-al-Dhimma, the humiliating pact of submission binding non-Muslim “dhimmis” vanquished by jihad]. In fact, the goal of offensive jihad is not the conquest of other countries, but the defense of the inherent rights of nations that are deprived of power by the infidels, non-monotheists, and rebels from the worship of Allah, monotheism, and justice. “And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world].,” (Koran 8:39) 168a…This verse includes defensive as well as offensive jihad. Jihad, like prayer, is for all times and is not limited to an early period of Islam, such as Muhammad, Ali, or the other Imams. Jihad is intended to defend truth and justice, help oppressed people, and correct Islam. In the Mahdi’s occultation period, jihad is not to be abandoned; even if occultation lasts for a hundred thousand years, Muslims have to defend and fight for the expansion of Islam. Certainly, if in early Islam the goodness was in the sword, in our time the goodness is in artillery, tanks, automatic guns and missiles. . . in principle, jihad in Islam is for defense; whether defense of truth or justice, or the struggle with infidels in order to make them return to monotheism and the divine nature. This is the defense of truth, because the denial of Allah is the denial of truth.
How would non-Muslims fare under the Shiite Islamic order—forcibly imposed by jihad—as envisioned by Montazeri?
Sorour Soroudi and Eliz Sanasarian have analyzed Montazeri’s views on najis (“impurity”, a concept to be discussed at length subsequently), Sanasarian noting:
Montazeri saw nejasat [najis] in twelve items including blood, dogs, pigs, wine, and kafirs [i.e., primarily, non-Muslims]…A kafir’s body, including hair, nails, and body fluids was to be avoided. The purchase, sale, or receiving of meat and fat from either non-Muslim countries or a kafir were forbidden.
Montazeri further argued that a non-Muslim’s (kafir’s) impurity was, “a political order from Islam and must be adhered to by the followers of Islam, and the goal [was] to promote general hatred toward those who are outside Muslim circles.” This “hatred” was to assure that Muslims would not succumb to corrupt, i.e., non-Islamic thoughts. Montazeri’s Shiite Islamic political Weltanschauung was articulated in his 4 volume treatise on the “Vilayat al-Faqih” [Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists], a key rationale for the post-1979 Iranian Shiite theocracy. These views—openly antithetical to Western conceptions of individual liberty, religious freedom, and democracy—were aptly summarized by Montazeri’s student, Iranian Sociology Professor Mahmood Davari, in 2005:
According to Montazeri, Islamic rule differs from Western democracy in two matters. While the people in a democratic system are supposedly free to elect any person as their ruler, in a Shi’i society Muslims may not choose any other ruler except a just faqih. In a democratic society, people are free to legislate any law according to their collective wishes, whereas in an Islamic regime the legislation must be in accord with Islamic laws and ordinances. Therefore, according to Montazeri, Islamic rule is essentially different from democracy in the West.
Montazeri also adhered—quite rigorously—to the traditionalist Shiite dogma regarding punishment for the offense of “sabb,” or blasphemy. Kamran Hashemi’s 2008 study summarized the relevant Shiite jurisprudence:
… according to the majority of Shiite jurists, in cases of sabb, instant punishment [i.e., killing] of the offender, either Muslim or non-Muslim, is not only permissible, but also a religious obligation for any Muslim who realizes the offense, or any who comes to know about it. In this sense, as soon as the offense takes place, the offender must be killed immediately by any one who does not fear for his own life to be endangered.
Hashemi goes on to illustrate the “consensus among contemporary Shiite jurists on the instant punishment of an offender in cases of sabb,” by referring to Montazeri’s opinion,
For example, in response to a question Ayatollah Montazeri [d. 2009] makes a reference to this issue: “In cases of sabb al-Nabi [blasphemy against a prophet, in particular Islam’s prophet, Muhammad]…if the witness does not have fear of his or her life and also there is no fear of mischief [mafsadeh] it is obligatory for him or her to kill the insulter.”
The practical consequences of Montazeri’s bigoted Shiite Islamic authoritarianism—which Ledeen, Rubin, and Gerecht all ignored—were highlighted by Iranian Studies Professor Jamsheed Choksy. In an essay (written with Nina Shea), published July 22, 2009, Choksy observed,
Iran’s constitution requires that laws and regulations be based on Islamic criteria, which mandate inferior status for three non-Muslim faiths, while withholding all rights and protections from all other faiths. Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian (specifically, Assyrian and Armenian) live in a modern version of dhimmi status — the…subjugated condition of “people of the Book” dating back to medieval times. While these three groups are allotted seats in the legislative assembly (a total of five out of 290 seats), they are barred from seeking high public office in any of the three branches of government….
Non-Muslim communities collectively have diminished to no more than 2 percent of Iran’s 71 million people. Forty years ago, under the Shah, a visitor would have seen a relatively tolerant society. Iran now appears to be in the final stages of religious cleansing. Pervasive discrimination, intimidation, and harassment have prompted non-Muslims to flee in disproportionately high numbers.
Choksy concluded with a reminder especially apposite for those who share the opinions of Ledeen, Rubin, and Gerecht:
Iran’s political dissidents are defended by the West. Its diverse non-Muslim minorities ask why they’ve been forgotten.
And following Montazeri’s death, Choksy made this sobering observation:
[T]he religious minorities in Iran see little theological difference and only a marginal pragmatism among the various Shiite views. Montazeri's opinion was characterized by one Iranian Christian clergyman as “…rubbing salt into our wounds.” Ultimately, Montazeri's tolerance of differences, especially religious ones, was far from acceptance.
During an online symposium published October 9, 2012, Ze’ev Maghen, Professor of Persian Language and Islamic History, made this trenchant reference to Montazeri’s alleged “moderation,” in the context of Iran’s dogged quest for nuclear weapons capability:
Now the Jewish state is facing a regime the most moderate elements of which regularly threaten to wipe Israel off the map and repeat citations of the following sort: “His Excellency [the sixth Shi‘ite Imam Ja’far] al-Sadiq affirmed thrice that those who will ultimately exterminate the Jews will be the clerics of [the Iranian Shiite shrine city of] Qom” (cited approvingly in a public forum by supporter of the “Green Movement” Ayatollah Ali Hosayn Montazeri, Memoirs). Now those clerics are enriching uranium at a dizzying pace just outside of Qom at Fordu [Fordow].[Emphases added]
Finally, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Deputy Commander Brigadier-General Hossein Salami made the following comments at a conference held in Tehran, which aired on Al-Alam TV on March 11, 2014:
Despite the geographical distance, we are attached to the hearts of the Palestinians. How is it that our slogans and goals are identical to the slogans and causes of the Palestinians? Why do we strive to become martyrs and risk our lives for the Palestinian cause? The answer is that the religion of Islam has designated this for us – this goal, this motivation, this belief, this energy – so that we, here, can muster all our energies in order to annihilate the Zionist entity, more than 1,400 kilometers away. We are ready for that moment in the future.
The Left says either the good general Salami doesn’t mean any of this, i.e., it is just “cultural bluster”—which of course shouldn’t be criticized at any rate, because that would be “racist.” The openly antisemitic hard Leftists admit they just don’t care if Israel is annihilated in a nuclear jihad.
Conservative “Iran shenasans”—(alleged) “Iran experts”—say he’s simply “distorting” Shiite Islam and we must be patient, support the Soylent Green Movement of Iranian Jeffersonian Democrats, and “regime replacement” will solve the Iranian nuke and all other such problems engendered by the “distortion of Shiite Islam.” Ignore the hard data that show 83% support for Sharia in Iran—that too is “racist”—or if not racist, “Islamophobic”
Till now, those are your Iran policy options from the ones who control such discourse—and current or planned actions—on the Left and Right.
*Note from DW: Iran's Final Solution for Israel is published by Bravura Books, which is edited by a family member, and which also published my book, Defending American Betrayal from the Book-Burners.