Optimism in Teheran

Obama administration suasion won't make Khamenei modify his worldview.

iran ayatollah khameini  (photo credit: AP)
iran ayatollah khameini
(photo credit: AP)
It isn't everyday we're given insight into the strategic thinking of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But on Wednesday he addressed the Fourth International Conference for Support of Palestine in Teheran. Among the luminaries rumored to be in attendance was Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah. Iranian presidents come and go; the supreme leader, who sits atop the regime's political, judicial and military hierarchy, rules for life. Khamenei professed to be in an optimistic mood following the "amazing military and political defeats" Israel suffered in the Second Lebanon War and more recently in Gaza. Still, he was bitter about what the "Zionist criminals" did - "impaling of infants" for instance. Fortunately, he noted, "advances in technology" (read al-Jazeera) have exposed "the magnitude" of Israel's atrocities. He denounced Muslim "pragmatists" who, in the mistaken belief that Israel was too strong to destroy, have been willing to temporarily accept its existence. And he had even less patience for those who genuinely "entertained hopes of peaceful coexistence." After 60 years of "occupation" the "illegitimacy" of the Zionist regime stands undiminished. The Holocaust must be denied because it "served as an excuse for the usurpation of Palestine." On the bright side, he noted that Israel's image has never been more tarnished and lauded the "spontaneous" protests conducted by Israel's enemies around the world. Israel was a "fake and counterfeit nation" a "cancerous tumor" that could not be negotiated with - though some Palestinian leaders make the mistake of doing so. The only way for Muslims and Palestinians to achieve victory over the "Zionist usurper" is "resistance." Claiming that "the question of Palestine is the most urgent problem of the Islamic world," Khamenei denounced the Obama administration for its "unconditional commitment to Israel's security." It's a policy that amounts "to the same crooked ways of the Bush administration and nothing else." Khamenei proposed that a referendum be held of "all those who have a legitimate stake in the territory of Palestine, including Muslims, Christians and Jews" wherever they may be. He presumed, however, that just as the West did not honor the genuinely free election of Hamas among Palestinians, so too, it would not allow the future of Palestine to be determined by a worldwide plebiscite of Muslims, Christians and Jews. Typical Western hypocrisy, Khamenei concluded. THE IDEA that Khamenei will modify so perverted, so deep-seated, a worldview as a result of Obama administration suasion, or European economic incentives and political inducements, is risible. For Khamenei, Israel is a cancer alright, but America, Britain and Western values generally are the carcinogens; excising Israel alone will not bring the supreme leader the global caliphate he seeks. Thus the more propitiously President Barack Obama "engages" with Teheran, the quicker Khamenei's creed will come to the fore, and the more transparent it should be that candidate Obama's pledge: "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" deserves to be honored. WE MAY never know what possessed a Palestinian Arab in Jerusalem yesterday to use a construction vehicle as a weapon. We can surmise, however, that like others before him he was socialized within a religio-political milieu which encourages belligerence, victimization and martyrdom - precisely the ideals inculcated into the minds of Khamenei's own Revolutionary Guards. For all its homicidal tendencies, there is no evidence that, at its apex, Iran's regime is suicidal. Yet its most loyal cadre has been whipped-up by a messianic dogma that blends Persian imperialism with Shi'ite embitterment - belligerence, victimization and martyrdom. One shudders to think that if Iran's nuclear ambitions aren't foiled, some overly zealous revolutionary guard might have more than a tractor at his disposal. The Soviet-era template of containment and deterrence simply won't apply. This week, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal urged the Arabs to come together in the face of the "Iranian challenge." Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Iran to stop interfering in Palestinian affairs. While the Arabs fret about the instability wrought by Teheran in Gaza, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan they, like Europeans and Africans, are hedging their bets. So the longer Obama takes to crystallize his policy, the harder it will be to stop the Iranian bomb. No wonder Khamenei feels optimistic.