Can we agree that Iran and Syria now constitute a single strategic problem? Surely Ali Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader, thinks so. Otherwise he would not have ordered the Revolutionary Guards to conduct a policy of all-out military, financial, and intelligence support for the Assad regime, combined with the usual deception (various public statements urging Assad to be reasonable and settle his differences with the protesters, a ridiculous fantasy). Khamenei knows that if Assad falls to anything remotely resembling a free, representative government, the consequences for Iran range from severely damaging to fatal.
The Syrian crisis is only one very dark cloud in the terrible storm that has descended upon the Iranian regime.
That is why the current announced policy of the Obama administration — “Assad must go” — is incoherent. First, because once you have declared war on a regime, you are obliged to follow through with real action, as in Libya. Second, because if Assad must go, so must Khamenei. They are fused at the belly button, part and parcel of a strategic alliance that is responsible for thousands of American deaths and tens of thousands of American casualties.
Third, if you’re going to call for the end of Assad, you’ve got to do something to make it happen.
To be sure, this president is not a big believer in telling the world what he is up to, which could be meaningful. He talks like Ganhdi and acts like LBJ (the LBJ who said “if you’ve got them by the balls, the hearts and minds generally follow”). As everybody knows, we are engaged in a very large covert war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in and around Afghanistan and Pakistan. So far, the world has accepted his Gandhian facade, accepting the cover story that the Libyan campaign was waged by NATO (when most of it was us, including the training and logistics provided to the “rebels”), and finessing the hi- and low-tech killing of terrorists, which are so very reminiscent of Israel’s campaign against Hamas. You are not going to find that comparison in the “leading” dead tree media most anywhere in the Western world.
In short, it may well be that Obama has signed the necessary “findings” authorizing our secret armies to support the foes of the Assad and Khamenei regimes. Heaven knows there are lots of foes to support (militarily, financially, and politically), from the peaceful demonstrators in both countries to the not-nearly-so-peaceful Kurds and the “New Syrian Army,” composed of defectors from Assad’s armed forces, now fighting their former cohorts in several cities. If so, and if the opposition forces want our assistance to remain secret, we should respect their wishes. And by “we,” I most certainly include the journalists and politicians who so avidly exposed the secret war conducted by the Bush administration.
Whatever we are, or are not, doing on the ground, we are certainly feckless in denouncing the evils of the Khamenei and Assad regimes, and we are not doing nearly enough to denounce their dreadful excesses. Clandestine operations do not preclude openly speaking the truth about our enemies.
That the announced “Valkyrie” policy is little more than an ideological gimmick is abundantly obvious by the administration’s silence about the Iranian campaign of torture and slaughter against its own citizens (it’s been a bit better about the Syrian mass murder).
If Obama seriously wished to defend innocent civilians against murderous regimes, he would rally to the side of one of the world’s truly heroic figures, the Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi, imprisoned for more than six years and subjected to severe torture. Amazingly, he has continued his campaign from within Tehran’s grim Evin Prison. No charges have ever been brought against him, although it is obvious that he has been singled out for advocating separation of mosque and state, toleration of minority religions, and respect for the civil rights of the Iranian people. In recent days he has suffered a heart attack, but has been denied medical attention. If he dies, perhaps the winged troika of Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power, and their many admirers, will mourn the death of this fine man, whom they have judged unworthy of American support.
Not that it’s personal, mind you; this administration has always shrunk from speaking the truth about the Iranian regime, which is now engaged in a “killing spree” at the expense of the Persian nation. There have been so many executions and arrests of late that it’s very hard to keep track of them all, ranging from movie directors to Baha’is, from Christian converts to peaceful Sufi dervishes, and on to political protesters and those unlucky enough to be in the area when the security forces are unleashed.
This frenzy of repression — more a bloody orgy than a spree — bespeaks enormous insecurity as well as the great evil about which I have been warning for so long.
How about gender apartheid? It is now illegal for those of one gender to be openly nice to members of the opposite sex. Meanwhile, sexual harassment — the infamous practice of “temporary marriage” — is fine.
And it is as corrupt as it is malevolent. Recent stories have highlighted huge financial losses, the true dimensions of which are considerably larger than those reported so far. The corrupt mullacracy has exported a lot of money, and the first glimmerings of their methods are only surfacing now because of the enormous tensions within the regime (which go beyond the Khamanei/Ahmadinejad conflict, dramatic and entertaining though it is). The Islamic Republic is a system of mutual blackmail, and whenever one of the components feels threatened, it typically responds by firing a warning shot across the others’ bows.
The corruption is not just personal graft and fraud, although there is plenty of that to go around. The major part is systemic. Years ago, when the regime’s appetite for cash was insufficiently sated, businessmen in the Iranian diaspora were recruited with fabulous offers. If they “invested” in Iran, they were told, they could borrow multiples of their investments and take their loans out of the country. The banks were authorized to make such loans, thus tying the ribbons on the vast enterprise. Thus, you’ll invariably find bankers accused of malefaction (here’s one, the recently resigned chairman of the board of the country’s biggest bank, who took care to get dual citizenship in Canada, where he seems to own quite a lovely home). It’s a bit unfair to single out Mr Khavari, since he was just a cog in a very large wheel.
If this story ever gets the investigation it deserves, it will likely involve most every major figure in the regime. I mean, if you’re going to authorize this sort of behavior, you’ll want a piece of it for yourself and the family, won’t you?
Which is why you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for the rest of the story. Meanwhile, Iran’s currency continues to crash…
So Khamenei is entitled to be very worried, and we are entitled to give this tottering edifice the little push required to put it out of its misery. The Syrian resistance probably needs material support including weapons and perhaps some training; like the Libyans, they will need to fight it out, at least for a while. In Iran, at least as of now, it need not be a shooting war, but rather a political one. But the longer we dawdle, the more likely armed conflict becomes.
To review the bidding: the future of the Middle East (and perhaps of most of the world) depends on the survival or downfall of the tyrannical regimes in Syria and Iran. We need to do everything possible to ensure their downfall. This is the right policy for all the good reasons:
–Strategic: Iran is our major enemy and the leading killer of our people;
Moral: Iran visits unspeakable horrors on its own people and wants to export this system worldwide;
–Regional: there is no hope for peace in the Middle East so long as this regime remains in power.
And so? What the hell are we waiting for? And why is there not a single candidate who will give voice to it?