Despite warnings from practically everyone, five Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps gunboats tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday. They apparently backed off only when they realized the Brits were serious about defending themselves and had no interest in being held hostage, a standard Iranian tactic. Good for them.
The Iranians have been acting out quite a bit lately, testing the limits of our tolerance for violence and breaking the nuclear strictures (assuming there really were any) of the JCPOA, aka the Iran Deal. That deal was always an extreme head-scratcher, that the agreement prevents entry to Iranian military installations by nuclear inspectors was only the tip of an absurd iceberg. And when the Mossad lifted a ton (!) of nuclear documents from a Tehran warehouse showing that Iran had lied about practically everything, the whole thing seemed ridiculous, even though that should have been obvious from the outset.
Now the mullahs are hurting because of the sanctions instituted by Trump. But that doesn’t seem to be stopping their behavior. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday, Jonathan Spyer writes:
Israel’s evident intelligence domination in Syria is impressive, as is the prowess of its pilots. But while air power is a mighty instrument, it’s applicable only to certain tasks. The Iranian project in Syria is broad, deep and multifaceted. Some of its elements are acutely vulnerable to air power—research facilities, missile sites, convoys. But others are not.
Iran is engaged in a broad effort designed to merge the structures under its command with the Syrian state itself. The objective, as in Lebanon and Iraq, is to remove any identifiable borderline between the Iran-controlled element and the local power structure. Iran intends to implant a kind of “deep state,” under its control, within the existing state machinery.
A “deep Shiite state” running across the Middle East and then who knows where? Spyer goes on to write that even if the Russians wanted to stop this, there’s some question that they would be able to do it.
Is it time to reconsider our attitude toward regime change in Iran? President Trump claims he doesn’t want it and wishes to negotiate with the mullahs, in a manner somewhat similar to the way he is approaching Kim and the North Koreans. But are they the same? Yes, both are totalitarian and seek nuclear weapons, but the NORKs are essentially communists “JUCHE“-style. Like Garbo, they vant to be left alone (to get their nukes and keep their hideous regime). It’s not tremendously likely, but they could be amenable to negotiation with the proper assurances. It worked with Reagan and Gorbachev.
By contrast, the Iranians have an ideology (Khomeinist Islam) that aims to take over the world for their version of Allah and automatically makes them imperialists of the most extreme sort. Who knows how many of their leaders truly believe all the Twelfth Imam, end days mumbo-jumbo, but enough to make it the guiding light of a deranged culture. It’s worth paying attention when they shout “Death to America! Death to Israel!” as they have since most of their populace was alive. And it’s worth remembering what Elie Wiesel said when asked what was the most important thing he learned from the Holocaust (paraphrasing): “If someone says he wants to kill you, believe him.”
Nevertheless, a fair number of Iranian citizens clearly oppose the regime. We have seen them demonstrating against it several times in the last decade, often quite bravely.
One of the saddest moments in American history occurred just a few years ago when the demonstrators in the streets of Iran were shouting “Obama, Obama, are you with us or are you them?” and were met with silence from the American president. We learned later that even before he took office Obama was signaling to the mullahs and Ahmadinejad that he wanted to make a deal with them. We know where that led — billions of dollars, some millions in cold cash, being turned over to the mullahs to kill as many people as possible and fund their own Revolutionary Guard, Assad’s thugs, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis, not to mention, as Spyer indicates, a host of other bloodthirsty Islamic gangs with new names every week. Good job, Barack.
Would Obama having given full-throated verbal support to the demonstrators instead have helped? It’s hard to say but it might have. Ignoring them undoubtedly made them feel isolated. Would it do good now for Trump to jump on the regime change wagon? It’s also difficult to say as well, but what we have been doing is useless. It’s worth a shot, anyway.
And before people start screaming “NEOCON!” and shooting darts in my direction, I am not at all advocating war — “going kinetic” in the parlance — with the Islamic Republic. I’m talking about giving moral support to the Iranian people against a regime of greedy, fascistic religious fanatics that is oppressing them. This can be done in a whole variety of ways, starting with making them know we care about them and have no interest in talking to or negotiating with their oppressors who just want to play for time.
Roger L. Simon — co-founder and CEO emeritus of PJ Media — is a novelist and a screenwriter.