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The Media’s Magical Thinking About Iran

Why do Western elites act like credulous children when it comes to the Islamic Republic?

10:01 AM, Oct 3, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
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As it turns out, there are moderates in all sorts of places throughout the clerical regime—moderates driven to extremism by American hardliners. Consider for instance Qassem Suleimani, head of the Revolutionary Guards external operations unit, the Qods Force. To be sure, as Dexter Filkins shows in his excellent profile, Suleimani is responsible for all sorts of terrorism targeting Americans and U.S. allies, but according to retired American diplomat Ryan Crocker, Suleimani also cooperated with the United States—until George W. Bush ruined it by including Iran in his January 2002 “Axis of Evil” speech. One of Suleimani’s men told Crocker that the Qods Force chief was “in a tearing rage” after Bush’s speech. Why the Iranian should have been so upset by the rhetorical flourish is unclear, especially given the fact that his regime colleagues have led chants of Death to America (and made their words reality by killing Americans) since 1979, but Crocker sees this as a real missed opportunity. “We were just that close,” he told Filkins. “One word in one speech changed history.”

Indeed, history is a chronicle of the United States misunderstanding the nature of Iran’s clerical regime. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said he is against nuclear weapons—he even wrote a fatwa against them! American hardliners and their hardline Israeli allies say they can find no evidence that the fatwa really exists, but they of course have a vested interest in claiming that the regime is using diversionary tactics to keep the White House on the hook. Obama sees the fatwa as a hopeful sign, just as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did.

Sure, it’s confusing, because if there’s really a fatwa then it’s not obvious why the president of the United States is making such a big deal out of negotiations over a nuclear program that Khamenei’s fatwa supposedly says Iran can’t have in the first place. If there’s a fatwa, then that solves everything. If Iran doesn’t really want a weapon of mass destruction, then folks like Christiane Amanpour can rest easy because there’s not going to be a war launched by the U.S. and/or Israel, over Iran’s nuclear program—because the guy who is the Supreme Leader said Iran can’t have a nuclear weapons program. If Khamenei is to be taken at his word that a nuclear bomb is un-Islamic, then there’s no more need to negotiate about anything. Poor Rouhani—just when we were getting to know and love him, it turns out he’s totally superfluous.

Rouhani says of the Islamic Republic that, “We have never chosen deceit as a path.” But what if Western elites in the press and academy have? What if Rouhani Fever, the fatwa, and all the rest are just parts of an informal campaign managed by a cadre of Western elites who, because they have anointed themselves stewards of peace, lied to their own societies on behalf of a gang of obscurantist thugs, anti-Semites, rapists, torturers, and murderers who have targeted Americans since 1979? If only we had such hardliners as our moderates fear, hardliners intent on protecting and defending the United States from the depredations of moderates such as Iran’s. 

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