Will Iran's recent parliamentary elections, which
resulted in a big win for
"the clerics," give the neocons a much-needed shot in the arm, or has an
truly befallen them?
Refusing to bow out quietly after deceitfully mishandling
Iraq, the neocons are now sounding the alarm
regarding Iran's lack of democracy and alleged development of nuclear weapons.
However, Iranian politics' impact on American security isn't actually their real
concern here: the neocons are just using the issue as part of their desperate
bid for political survival.
Now, there are two things that these spoiled, narcissistic chickenhawks
cannot bear: being proven wrong and being ignored. Aware that the first tends to
beget the second, neocon loudmouths such as Richard
Perle are frantically trying to rescue their sinking public image in any way
possible. The most expedient method for them right now is to shriek about some
crisis of democracy and weapons of mass destruction in Evil
We know that the neocons view the majority of the Islamic world as a
festering sore, some swollen boil which, if not immediately lanced, will rapidly
infect the rest of the world's body politic. We know this because they tell us
so themselves; as a new
book by Richard Perle and David Frum prophesies, the vicious cancer of
Radical Islam will soon devour the world, including America, if not excised
quickly with "surgical strikes" on a raft of countries.
Now that Iraq is, ahem, back
on the royal road to democracy, the other Islamic nations must swiftly follow.
Iran has been singled out by the neocons as democracy's next great experiment,
partly because of its long alienation from the West, and partly because Saudi
Arabia is for
now off-limits. As always, their only hope lies in creating an atmosphere of
urgency for intervention.
Reality Intervenes with the Interventionists
However, they just can't seem to make it happen.
Americans, woozily recovering from their brief imperial binge, have lost enthusiasm
for exporting democracy to the far-flung corners of the world. So unless there
is a compelling domestic security concern involved, Americans will take little
interest in Iran's prevailing political system. Even worse for the neocons,
who live and die according to cheap dualist constructs, the country has no Saddam,
no Bin Laden, no visible leader who can easily be turned into a cartoon bogeyman.
This is a distinct disadvantage for warriors out endeavoring against Evil.
The neocons know this. That is why their underlying political motivations
must be cloaked in warnings of nuclear doom threatened by the clerics of Iran.
However, it is clear that the country's new rulers are neither so powerful nor
as united as the neocons would have us believe.
Facing the Facts
Take this recent analysis of the parliamentary
elections. "Hardliners may not get their own way," announces
the Singapore Straits Times. "…Their election victory may end the
reform experiment, but their policies are constrained by social and economic
According to the Times, alienation is increasing between the country's
aging rulers and its masses of Westernized youth. Further, the Iranian economy
is "ailing" and "in desperate need of foreign investment," while a "ubiquitous"
US military presence in the region curtails any military aspirations Iran's
leaders may have. In any case, the growth of that great globalizing force – the
internet – is already resulting in an outspokenness that will only increase with
time. Without much prodding, perhaps, the Iranians will come over to the side of
The Good, sometime in the not too distant future.
As for the fearsome new government, it actually turns out that the oh-so
dangerous conservative bloc is composed of ideological and pragmatic parties who
"…married temporarily for the sake of defeating the reformists": in all
likelihood, a "new conflict could be brewing" between these rival partners, one
that will preclude the realization of any radical policies and simultaneously
play into the hands of the currently thwarted reformers. The ineluctable group
mechanics of internal strife – a simple phenomenon which the neocons seem
unwilling to understand – will negate the need for any American intervention.
That said, one has to wonder whether the neocons naturally despise
peace, or whether they just need to be put on Ritalin. After all, if clerical
rule really is such an unnatural and defective political system, won't it die of
natural causes, as did communism? The neocon obsession with pre-empting the
"biological solution" through violent means (as in Iraq) only reifies and
resuscitates an ideal that was already on life support anyway.
Indeed, as one hip
young Iranian blogger avers about his country's religious leaders, "…it's
very pleasant to have to talk with 18th century people in 2004." The
linked article shows how the government has become something of a joke to young
people. The only thing that could reverse this trend, as happened in Iraq, would
be for the neocons to launch an invasion. For better or for worse, economic
globalization – and not grand military adventures – is the most dramatic factor
changing our world. Even for
Iran, it may only
prove a matter of time:
"…like most young people worldwide, young Iranians want to be part of a
consumer society and have access to international culture, but they are also
politicised. They know that having the right to vote at the age of 15 empowers
them. These children of Khomeini are not yet old enough to take power, but they
have been well educated during the Khatami years and will continue to be so for
the next five years. They can sharpen their ideas and translate them into
political terms, to replace the apolitical, technocratic or Islamic elites
clinging to power."
The Neocons' Great Fear…
Time, however, is what the neocons don't have.
When they close their eyes, they no doubt see the fresh graves being dug for
them somewhere out in the political wilderness. If George W. Bush loses come
November, they will lose also. (Hell, even if he wins they may prove to be past
their sell-by date). What the neocons fear most is a peaceful solution to the
"crisis" in Iran (or anywhere else, for that matter) as such a solution would
repudiate their oafish, belligerent approach to foreign policy.
The most terrifying prospect for the neocons is that their fellow Westerners
may choose to heed the wisdom of the market rather than their own shrill,
pedantic call to ideological alienation. According to the San
Francisco Chronicle, "…although U.S. sanctions on Iran remain, many U.S.
allies are eager to do business there." In fact,
"…the [Iranian] stock market has agreed on rules for individual foreigners to
invest in Iranian firms. Last week, Turkcell, a Turkish firm listed on the New
York Stock Exchange, won the contract to build a mobile phone network. Japan has
agreed to invest $2 billion in developing oil fields. The French car
manufacturer Renault has signed a deal to invest $750 million in Iran over the
next few years."
Iran has long been blamed, often correctly, for isolating itself from the
West. At least economically, however, the Iranians are now seeking
rapprochement. This policy has now been confirmed by the election's biggest
winners, the Abadgaran (Association of Advancement of Islamic Iran):
"…Our goal is to solve economic problems," said Emad Ghetassi, who works in
Abadgaran's public relations office. "The last parliament ignored economic
problems. We've promised to solve unemployment. We've promised to increase
people's purchasing power and solve the inflation problem."
According to the same article, these oh-so-evil Islamists are planning to
trample on human rights, by "…vowing not to crack down on women with hair
showing beneath their headscarves or young people listening to pop
…And Their Solution
What to do? Weighted down by the onerous burden
of reality, which concludes that Iran is politically unthreatening and even
economically friendly, the only thing left for the neocons is to decry the dangers
of a hypothetical Iranian nuclear weapons program.
In August 2002, evidence of an alleged Iranian nuclear program was
by the NCRI, a politically-enterprising, terrorist-linked
group for which Richard Perle has developed a certain fondness.
Since then the neocons have turned up the heat, repeatedly calling on the US
take action through either sanctions or war. Quite understandably, the rest
of the world grew very anxious to prevent the realization of neocon
Now, tensions seem to have eased somewhat, thanks
to cool-headed European diplomacy. Although irritated, the neocons still
hope any Iranian rapprochement can be pre-empted by force, as recent comments from the man who feeds Colin Powell's
"…US undersecretary of state for non-proliferation issues John Bolton had
said earlier this month: 'There's no doubt that Iran continues a nuclear
'There is no doubt we think that the case of Iran should be referred in the
(United Nations) Security Council,' Bolton said."
Now, with the International Atomic Energy Agency set to meet next Monday in
Vienna, the neocons are running out of time. They have just under a week to
unearth evidence for Iran's top-secret, 45-minutes-to-deployment nuclear
arsenal. No doubt they will be helped in this quest by Perle's boys in the NCRI,
who may yet prove almost as trustworthy as his man in Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi.
They're also getting help from their media amen corner, including those creepy
pseudo-conservatives at the Washington Times. According to
"…In early December, Mr. Bolton said that Iran has 'deliberately and
repeatedly lied to the IAEA' about its nuclear weapons programs.
…the problem, as Mr. Bolton has pointed out, is a systematic campaign of lies
by Iran. It's time for the issue to be referred to the Security Council for
Iran: Dropping the O-Bomb?
Nevertheless, Iran's rulers must feel confident
that they'll win this round, if recent
strong statements are indicative of anything. On Friday, Iran declared that
no further nuclear inspections are needed, because it has
complied sufficiently with the IAEA's requests. At the same time, the government
that it has received nuclear materials from Pakistan.
final fascinating detail here involves Iranian
state radio's sensational claim that Osama bin Laden was captured "a long
time ago" on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Citing new information from a "very
reliable source" in Peshawar, the Iranian report declared on Friday that OBL has
been kept in deep freeze and saved for a pre-election boost.
However, the Iranian Foreign Ministry officially dismissed this claim, and
flat-out denied the story as being just "another piece of stray voltage
that's passing around out there." A Pakistani official reacted with indecision
when asked by reporters, before also denying it. But who knows? What if it's
true? At this stage in the game, no one would put it past the Bush
Administration to save one big stunt for November's grand finale. And if the
Iranians are really in cahoots with al Qaeda, as US
ambassador-at-large J. Cofer Black charged on Sunday, wouldn't they be the
ones who should know?
Media all over the world are awaiting further details on this disappointingly
slim story. As the US and Pakistan step up efforts against
suspected al Qaeda militants on the Afghanistan-Pakistan
border this week, maybe we will get some. It would be nice to know whether
the Iranian insinuations are true, especially considering that so much remains unclear regarding
the "capture" of
Saddam Hussein, only weeks before the president's State of the Union
address in January.
So Iran did not officially approve of the OBL capture tale. But it did
allow state radio to waft it out there into the breeze. Considering the
massive pressure being exerted on it by Perle, Bolton, and Co., could we not
interpret Iran's usage of the OBL story as a gesture of self-defense? For if
Iran really does know something about any secret arrest of Osama bin
Laden, Richard Perle and the neocons won't have to worry about Teheran's nuclear
projects; they, with the whole senior administration, will have to worry about
an atomic bomb of white-hot public fury going off underneath them. These may
prove to be interesting days indeed.