By Joseph Cox
Iran (Part I)
In Europe, in the Middle Ages, there was an interesting form of hostage-taking.
A ruler would take the sons of those lords he ruled and raise them in his own territory. If the fathers rebelled, the sons would be killed. It was a very effective political tool.
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We might call it a ‘security guarantee’.
When the President of the United States speaks about security guarantees, he is no longer believed.
He is not believed by Arab rulers, Israeli governments, the Taiwanese, Ukrainians or anybody else. The United States in recent years has abandoned so many red lines and left so many allies out to dry that their words and their threats carry almost no meaning.
This has created a situation of fundamental chaos and fear. Not just in the Middle East, but almost everywhere the Pax Americana had held.
The result is emboldened enemies and fearful allies who have seen their protection – the word of the United States – suddenly evaporated.
There is a solution to this. In our own neighborhood, the Arab states and the Israeli government could demand medieval style hostages. We could demand 30,000 or 50,000 sons of America – soldiers – to be stationed on our territory.
They wouldn’t be there to fight; in the event of a nuclear assault there wouldn’t be much for them to do other than die. Indeed, that would be their job: to die when the bomb is dropped or – if massive assistance isn’t immediately rendered – soon afterwards. They would not be allowed to leave.
That would be a security guarantee.
That might be something Israel or Saudi Arabia could accept.
But whether or not it would or could be offered, it would be an unreasonable request. The United States is not the vassal state of Israel or Saudi Arabia. It does not owe allegiance to Taiwan or Estonia.
Indeed, it is the obligation of all of these states to defend themselves.
This is why it is unacceptable for the President of the United States to insist that they stop doing so. It is why it is unacceptable for him to seek to censure Benjamin Netanyahu or his counterparts throughout the Arab Middle East. It is the obligation of these leaders to defend their people.
And even if the guarantees of the United States were rock solid, it is the obligation of these leaders to ensure their own security.
The only question is, how?
Iran (Part II)
I find myself flummoxed by the misconceptions of Iran and the government that rules it.
Many imagine the Persians to be backward Middle Eastern rubes, or think the President of Iran is somehow a moderate, or find themselves fooled by the debates and tensions that seem to fill the country.
As I see it, the simple truth is that Ayatollah Khomeini was a political genius.
In the early 90s, the Soviet Union fell. In the early 2000s, the Color Revolutions swept numerous states. In 2010, the Arab Spring began to set the Arab world to tinder.
But Iran has remained almost totally unaffected by the tumult. There was a brief Green Revolt, but it was crushed so effectively, it remains only as a memory.
Ayatollah Khomeini designed the defense mechanisms that would enable his theocratic state to survive the many bursts of freedom that have toppled so many other tyrants.
What did he do?
I think of Iran as the Matrix.
If you haven’t seen the movie, people live in a world that seems entirely real. There are troubles and challenges and tribulations. But, in fact, it is all a front. They are actually asleep and hooked up to machines that harvest the heat they generate.
In the Matrix, the challenges presented within the false world are a diversion; they keep the people occupied. And if they get out of line, if they ask too many questions, then there are a series of more aggressive defenses – from anonymous men in black suits to killer robots that seek out those who have escaped their programmed world.
Iran is the same. Iran is a democracy. People can vote for their President and Parliament. There can be factions and debates and arguments. There are many ways to let off steam. There is art and culture. There are Jews. There is at least a semblance of freedom in many aspects of life – enough to keep those who are not fully energized from seeking to escape.
But it is all a farce. You can only vote for those the Council of Guardians has chosen. Half the Council is selected by the Supreme Leader and half by the Parliament. But the Parliament can only choose from those people nominated by an appointee of the Supreme Leader.
In other words, you can only choose from candidates the Supreme Leader has approved. And if that Parliament gets out of hand, the Council of Guardians can veto their laws. Oh, and the Council of Guardians approves all candidates for President and Parliament.
When the Supreme Leader dies, his replacement is chosen by the Assembly of Experts who are – you guessed it – pre-approved by the Council of Guardians.
So if you vote in Iran, you aren’t really voting for possible change. You’re just choosing the face of the next government. The fact remains that G-d’s representative on Earth, the Supreme Leader, governs Iran.
The appearance of freedom is allowed because it dampens and redirects the resistance that might otherwise challenge the regime. It presents a false, but very successful, face of freedom to its own people and to the world.
And it works. We hear talk of the ‘Reformist’ President or the ‘Hardline’ President or of conflicts in government or of struggles for power. But the President is nearly powerless in every area that is really important. He is a figurehead of moderation – presented to his own people and to us as the real deal. He isn’t even moderate, but that’s the word that is proliferated and that is the word we believe.
The reason there was a Green Revolution was because the voting results were so ridiculous that it was clear that even the rigged system had been rigged.
And if things get out of line? If the mass of people decide to try to escape the Matrix? What happens then?
Then, there are a few other features of the government that come into play.
First, there is the secret police.
Like any self-respecting dictatorship, they keep careful tabs on those who might be subversive. But they do more than watch Iranians in Iran, they track the families and activities of Persians who live abroad. The web of threats does not recognize any borders.
And when that preventative system is insufficient, they have another critical round of defense. A small percentage of the population is dedicated to the theocratic regime. They have a little club they’ve formed called the Basij Militia.
Do you remember those people on motorcycles attacking crowds? Basij Militia. Those who throw acid in the face of protestors? Basij Militia.
The great fear of any unfree government is that the people will rise up and the army or police – who are drafted from amongst the people – will eventually refuse to defend the realm. It happened in Russia in 1917, it happened in Romania in 1989 and it happened in Egypt in 2011.
It doesn’t happen everywhere. The Syrian military fired on protestors with abandon. They were of a hated minority sect, Assad’s sect, that faced genocide if they did not suppress the Sunni revolt. Assad’s government did not collapse.
In Iran, the Basij will fire with abandon – they are religious zealots in service of a brilliant but insane regime. One man who belonged to the Basij and escaped afterwards told of raping women who’d been arrested.
Not for fun mind you, but because they were to be executed. You see, under Iranian Shia law, virgin women can’t be executed and so somebody had to remedy the situation. He was so revolted by his own actions that he fled.
Of course, the black boots didn’t end there.
Protestors in the West found that their family in Iran suffered consequences. The regime used face-matching software to identify them and then to punish their families. Some have taken to wearing masks to conceal their identities.
With those measures and others, the Green Revolution was successfully eliminated. With the false face of democracy it will be a long while before it surfaces again.
When we consider the challenge that Iran presents, all of this has to be remembered.
Theirs is a powerful regime. And with the money to be realized with the lifting of sanctions it will only become more powerful.
People with jobs and material well-being are even less likely to cause problems.
Report via The Jewish Press
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