A skirmish over Iran broke out this week between Barack Obama and John McCain. It is a harbinger of the fall campaign and an early display of Obama’s confusion in the foreign policy area.
On Sunday, Obama told the throng at Pendleton, Oregon: “Iran, Cuba, Venezuela — these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, ‘We’re going to wipe you off the planet.'”
On Monday, after the McCain people rushed to distribute the video of Obama’s pronouncement, the Illinois Senator quickly revised his statement somewhat:
“Iran is a grave threat. It has an illicit nuclear program. It supports terrorism across the region and militias in Iraq. It threatens Israel’s existence. It denies the Holocaust,” he said. “The reason Iran is so much more powerful than it was a few years ago is because of the Bush-McCain policy of fighting in Iraq and refusing to pursue direct diplomacy with Iran. They’re the ones who have not dealt with Iran wisely.”
Well, maybe, maybe not. But let’s leave aside the obvious — that Iran and the US have had numerous contacts over the last few years to no avail — and consider some more basic issues around the Iranian Revolution about which Senator Obama, most of whose time has been consumed by running for President since arriving in the Senate, may not be fully aware. These issues have tremendous ramifications regarding the level of Iran’s threat.
To begin with, the Islamic Republic of Iran is not a conventional state in the sense of France or even the former Soviet Union. Since the revolution on 1979, it has been a theocracy based on Ayatollah Khomeini’s vision of a Shiite world under Allah. Wikipedia tells us of Khomeini’s return from exile that year to take over his country after the revolution:
On the airplane on his way to Iran, Khomeini was asked by reporter Peter Jennings: “What do you feel in returning to Iran?” Khomeini answered “Hich ehsâsi nadâram” (I don’t feel a thing). This statement was considered reflective of his mystical or puritanical belief that Dar al-Islam, rather that the motherland, was what mattered, and also a warning to Iranians who hoped he would be a “mainstream nationalist leader” that they were in for disappointment.
In other words, Iran was not really a country per se, but a stepping stone in the eternal mission of global jihad. As demonstration, Khomeini almost immediately allowed millions to die in his 1980s war with Iraq, one of whose goals was to gain control of the holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf (the resting place of Shia’s Imam Ali) for Allah.
This goal was never truly abandoned as the Islamic Republic of Khomeini evolved into today’s IRI of Ayatollah Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I say evolved, but their belief system has remained essentially intact, with some minor diversions, since 1979.
These extreme tenets of Khomeinist Shia Islam can be argued to be more dangerous to our future and those of the West than Marxism-Leninism, which promoted itself as scientific socialism and therefore was governed to some extent by scientific evaluation. The IRI is governed by their version of faith in Allah. No science or fact can ever contradict the justice of their cause, which is to them God’s will. Their eschatology includes a belief under which global chaos will bring forth the “hidden imam” or Mahdi, the Shia messiah, who will bring peace to Earth, unified, of course, under Allah.
Consider the danger of nuclear weapons in the hands of people who actually believe that. It’s unclear how many do, but Ahmadinejad obviously does, as do many others in their leadership, particularly in the Revolutionary Guard and its Quds Brigade.
To accept Obama’s (wavering) position, you must assume that Ahmadinejad and the others are lying about their deeply held religious beliefs. That’s difficult to do, since they have been so consistent in their statements and their actions for decades now. Time, to them, is on their side. Furthermore, Obama’s contention that because the Iranians are not as technically advanced as the Soviets they are not as dangerous would be almost silly were it not so potentially catastrophic. It is more likely the reverse. Nuclear weapons in the hands of religious fanatics with a divine impetus to spread them is terrifying because it is unrestrained by rationality.
For Obama’s followers, at this moment winning appears to be everything. I think it’s time they reconsider. Their own futures and those of their children are at stake.