Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, Iran’s President Rouhani, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, all concur on this critical outcome of the interim agreement struck between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers, announced early Sunday morning, 11/24/13: Iran’s nuclear enrichment program will continue apace.
United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a not-for-profit, non-partisan, advocacy group which seeks to thwart Iran’s ambition to obtain nuclear weapons, issued a press release highlighting the fundamental strategic failures of the interim 6-month pact:
By not agreeing to dismantle a single centrifuge, Iran has not rolled back its nuclear infrastructure and with the many centrifuges that it is currently operating, Iran retains the ability to breakout and produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in as little as 2 months. At the same time, the carefully constructed sanctions architecture developed over decades has been significantly rolled back.
UANI argued further that the Geneva agreement provided Iran disproportionate sanctions relief, which would enable the Iranian economy (as gauged by the value of its currency, the rial) to recover to an extent that Iran’s nuclear weapons development (i.e., nuclear enrichment, and plutonium generation) programs, would be abetted by this reduction in economic pressures.
Six months from now we believe that the Iranian rial will have regained significant lost value and there will be far less economic pressure on the Iranian economy. And accordingly there will be far less pressure for Iran to actually dismantle a material number of centrifuges, much less end its nuclear enrichment and plutonium programs for which it has no practical purpose except to produce a nuclear weapon. If Iran’s industrial-size nuclear program is not rolled back, Tehran will inherently maintain the breakout capacity to build such a weapon.
While a number of equally sobering assessments (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) have reiterated UANI’s tocsin of looming geo-strategic calamity regarding the so-called “P5 + 1” agreement just brokered with Iran, the ideology animating Iran’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons—apocalyptic, annihilationist Islamic Jew-hatred—was uniformly ignored.
For the past decade, in essays (here, and in a three part series, 1, 2, & 3), and my lengthy compendium, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, I have elucidated Shiite Iran’s half millennial history of Jew-hatred—its canonical Islamic origins, and the brutally oppressive, intermittently murderous impact of this doctrine on Iranian Jewry.
E. G. Browne, a Persianophilic British scholar, wrote the following words in the 1920s about the entire period of Shiite theocratic rule, from the ascension of the first Safavid shah, Ismail I, at the outset of the 16th century, through Reza Shah Pahlavi’s installation in 1925, marking the end of the Qajar dynasty (and punctuated by dramatic secular reforms):
The Mujtahids [authoritative interpreters of Islamic law] and Mulla are a great force in Persia and concern themselves with every department of human activity from the minutest detail of personal purification to the largest issues of politics.
These Shiite clerics emphasized the notion of the ritual uncleanliness (najis) of Jews in particular, but also of Christians, Zoroastrians, and others, as the cornerstone of relations toward non-Muslims. The impact of this najis conception was already apparent to European visitors to Persia during the reign Ismail I. The Portuguese traveler Tome Pires observed (between 1512 and 1515) that “Sheikh Ismail . . . never spares the life of any Jew,” while another European travelogue notes “the great hatred [Ismail I] bears against the Jews.”
Mohammad Baqer al-Majlisi (d. 1699) was perhaps the most influential cleric of the Safavid Shiite theocracy in Persia. For six years at the end of the 17th century, he functioned as the de facto ruler of Iran, making him the Ayatollah Khomeini of his era. By design, he wrote many works in Persian to disseminate key aspects of the Shia ethos among ordinary persons. In his Persian treatise “Lightning Bolts Against the Jews,” Al-Majlisi describes the standard humiliating requisites for non-Muslims living under sharia, first and foremost the blood-ransom jizya, or poll-tax, based on Koran 9:29.
He then enumerates six other restrictions relating to worship, housing, dress, transportation, and weapons, before outlining the unique Shiite impurity or najis regulations. It is these latter najis prohibitions which lead anthropology professor Laurence Loeb — who studied and lived within the Jewish community of Southern Iran in the early 1970s — to observe, “Fear of pollution by Jews led to great excesses and peculiar behavior by Muslims.” According to Al-Majlisi:
And, that they should not enter the pool while a Muslim is bathing at the public baths . . . If something can be purified, such as clothes, if they are dry, they can be accepted, they are clean. But if they [the dhimmis] had come into contact with those cloths in moisture they should be rinsed with water after being obtained. . . . It would also be better if the ruler of the Muslims would establish that all infidels could not move out of their homes on days when it rains or snows because they would make Muslims impure.
Walter Fischel, the preeminent modern historian of Iranian Jewry, has described, in addition, the severe hardships imposed upon Iranian Jews because of their image as sorcerers and practitioners of black magic, which was “as deeply embedded in the minds of the [Muslim] masses as it had been in medieval Europe” [emphasis added]. The consequences of these bigoted superstitions were predictable:
It was therefore easy to arouse their [the Muslim masses] fears and suspicions at the slightest provocation, and to accuse them [the Jews] of possessing cabalistic Hebrew writings, amulets, talismans, segulot, goralot, and refu’ot, which they [the Jews] were using against the Islamic authorities.
This hateful brew of dehumanizing “impurity” regulations, and the popular conception that Jews engaged in “sorcery,” fomented recurring Muslim anti-Jewish violence, including pogroms and forced conversions throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, which rendered areas of Iran Judenrein — free of Jews.
The so-called “Khomeini revolution,” which in 1979 deposed the secular, Western-oriented regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, was in reality a mere return in full (including najis regulations, etc.) to oppressive Shiite theocratic rule, the predominant form of Iranian governance during four centuries. Conditions for all non-Muslim religious minorities, particularly Jews, rapidly deteriorated. Although the demographic decline of Iranian Jewry after the creation of Israel was significant even before the revolution — from nearly 120,000 in 1948 to roughly 70,000 in 1978— the Jewish population dropped precipitously after Khomeini’s ascent to less than 9000 at present.