Former Iranian president Mohamad Khatami was under fire from hardliners on Monday after comments interpreted as accusing the country's clerical leaders of supporting insurgents in the Middle East.
The hardline Kayhan newspaper accused the reformist Khatami of tarnishing the Islamic republic's reputation by implying it was carrying out "sabotage" work in other countries through insurgent groups.
In his speech, Khatami referred to the ambition of Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to export the 1979 Islamic revolution around the world, but expressed fear this wish was being distorted.
"What did the imam (Khomeini) mean by exporting the revolution?" he asked in the speech Friday to university students in the northern province of Gilan, according to the Kargozaran newspaper.
"Did he mean that we take up arms, that we blow up places in other nations and we create groups to carry out sabotage in other countries? The imam was vehemently against this and was confronting it," he added.
His speech has been seen by some observers as accusing the Iranian authorities of encouraging militants to destabilize the Middle East, in particular Iraq and Lebanon.
You think?! Now I have no idea whether or not Khomeini meant something else besides literally taking up arms and actually blowing up things when he talked about exporting the revolution. But there is a possibility that what he meant had to do with taking up "spiritual arms" and spreading a spiritual revolution through other means than violence. According to many Islamic scholars, that's supposed to be more in-line with the tenets of main-stream Islam.
But that's not the Iran today and the hard-liners are not pleased:
"It is obvious that Mr Khatami must answer for his anti-patriotic comments and explain why he has taken such a stance," said Kayhan, whose editor-in-chief is appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"Its only consequence has been to tarnish the shining reputation of the Islamic republic and its system, and confirm the baseless accusations of the arrogant powers," Kayhan said.
"Shining reputation" indeed.
One of the things that bothers me about Iran is I think that a good portion of the leadership has come to believe its own propaganda. Call it the little dog syndrome. They don't know they're a little dog and don't seem to understand what a big dog could do to them it if got serious about a fight. So the little dog snaps, snips and prances around barking and nipping to the point that the big dog finally turns around, grabs it by the neck and makes it a quiet little dog - forever.
I've come to think that Iran believes it can handle the US in the Middle East. Not necessarily militarily, but Iran believes it has the upper hand there because of the US involvement/investment in Iraq. To a certain extent they're right. Iran believes that should the US make any untoward moves against it, Iran can upset that applecart altogether if it needs too (and it also believes that US wouldn't dare attack Iran because of that). What Iran doesn't seem to understand or comprehend is how overwhelming a reaction to its doing so might be from the US. So it keeps nipping away.
I'm also coming to the conclusion that Iran believes its shared faith with others in the ME is enough to overcome traditional racial biases within the region because the "Great Satan" is seen as a higher threat. I think Iran believes the other countries will either become allied with Iran or at least remain neutral (with obvious exceptions) should there be a confrontation between the US and Iran. And if the Great Satan isn't enough, Iran further believes that all it has to do is throw the "little Satan" (Israel) into the mix to assure cooperation.
I further believe Iran thinks that an attack by the US on Iran would be the catalyst for an Islamic revolution in which Iran would emerge as the center of that universe. I also think that and at some point (after it gains nukes?) Iran would almost welcome such an attack.
And I think it is those delusional beliefs which concern moderate Iranians like Khatami a great deal. Of course, I'm talking about the current Iranian leadership when I lay out my beliefs about Iran, not necessarily the people as a whole.
I think what Khatami foretells is a serious backlash forming among the Iranian people against the confrontational attitude among the present leadership. Khatami, because he is so well know, speaks for thousands, if not millions, who can't afford to say the things he says.
Frankly, I see Khatami's questioning of the current regime in Iran as a good sign. Hopefully he'll continue to speak out. I have no idea whether doing so will have any practical effect legally - I've seen nothing which indicates that the Iranian hard-liners would ever allow an election process that would unseat them, because I'd guess that would happen very quickly if they did. So I wonder if the only remaining way for the Iranians to moderate the leadership of their country is extralegally?
Rest assured of one thing, though - and many people have a tendency to forget this when talking emotionally about what we ought to do there - The quickest way to turn the dissatisfied and disgruntled with their country into patriots is to have their country attacked by a foreign power. Whenever a country and its leadership can point to an external enemy, you'll rarely, if ever, see them clamoring for change internally.
That makes it a tough row to hoe for us, certainly. So we need to be supporting people like Khatami and other dissident groups and get what they say out for others to see and read. We need to find a way to destabilize Iran as Iran is attempting to destabilize much of the ME. That, as far as I'm concerned is eminently fair. That is the way to wage war against that little dog and shut it up for good.
Iran used to be a big dog. The various Persian Empires sat between the Roman Empire and China, and predated them both (as big dogs, at least). That they still think they should be treated as a big dog, 1300 years later is a problem.
Based on what I’ve seen of Arabs over the years, I think the calculations of the hardliners are fairly accurate. This is not a compliment to the Arabs.
(And I think Khatami’s interpretation of Khomeini is wrong. At the very least, the latter once used a proverb—"Is another man’s blood redder than yours?" to justify killing people in attempting to impose an Islamic state—which stuck in my mind because the same proverb is used in the Talmud in a dramatically different sense (ie, that we have no right to kill another person even if our own life is at stake).)
The quickest way to turn the dissatisfied and disgruntled with their country into patriots is to have their country attacked by a foreign power. Whenever a country and its leadership can point to an external enemy, you’ll rarely, if ever, see them clamoring for change internally.
True. And one of the most telling arguments supporting the Iraq War is that the majority of Iraqis since 2003 have consistently supported the invasion of their own country by a margin of 55%-65%—higher still if the Sunnis (Hussein’s people) are excluded.
It’s quite rare for a people, however brutalized by their rulers, not to turn patriotic in the face of foreign invasion. Consider the Russians in WW II. The only other somewhat similar example in recent history I can think of is the Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge after the Vietnamese invaded. There was a Khmer Rouge insurgency, but they were never successful due to the ex-Khmer Rouge supporting the Vietnam invasion.
BAGHDAD — Followers of rebel cleric Muqtada al Sadr agreed late Friday to allow Iraqi security forces to enter all of Baghdad’s Sadr City and to arrest anyone found with heavy weapons in a surprising capitulation that seemed likely to be hailed as a major victory for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki.
In return, Sadr’s Mahdi Army supporters won the Iraqi government’s agreement not to arrest Mahdi Army members without warrants, unless they were in possession of "medium and heavy weaponry."