Optimism in Teheran

Mar. 5, 2009
It isn't everyday we're given insight into the strategic thinking of Iran's 
supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But on Wednesday he addressed the Fourth 
International Conference for Support of Palestine in Teheran. Among the 
luminaries rumored to be in attendance was Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah. 

Iranian presidents come and go; the supreme leader, who sits atop the regime's 
political, judicial and military hierarchy, rules for life. 

Khamenei professed to be in an optimistic mood following the "amazing military 
and political defeats" Israel suffered in the Second Lebanon War and more 
recently in Gaza. Still, he was bitter about what the "Zionist criminals" did - 
"impaling of infants" for instance. Fortunately, he noted, "advances in 
technology" (read al-Jazeera) have exposed "the magnitude" of Israel's 

He denounced Muslim "pragmatists" who, in the mistaken belief that Israel was 
too strong to destroy, have been willing to temporarily accept its existence. 
And he had even less patience for those who genuinely "entertained hopes of 
peaceful coexistence." 

After 60 years of "occupation" the "illegitimacy" of the Zionist regime stands 
undiminished. The Holocaust must be denied because it "served as an excuse for 
the usurpation of Palestine." On the bright side, he noted that Israel's image 
has never been more tarnished and lauded the "spontaneous" protests conducted 
by Israel's enemies around the world. Israel was a "fake and counterfeit 
nation" a "cancerous tumor" that could not be negotiated with - though some 
Palestinian leaders make the mistake of doing so. The only way for Muslims and 
Palestinians to achieve victory over the "Zionist usurper" is "resistance." 

Claiming that "the question of Palestine is the most urgent problem of the 
Islamic world," Khamenei denounced the Obama administration for its 
"unconditional commitment to Israel's security." It's a policy that amounts "to 
the same crooked ways of the Bush administration and nothing else." 

Khamenei proposed that a referendum be held of "all those who have a legitimate 
stake in the territory of Palestine, including Muslims, Christians and Jews" 
wherever they may be. He presumed, however, that just as the West did not honor 
the genuinely free election of Hamas among Palestinians, so too, it would not 
allow the future of Palestine to be determined by a worldwide plebiscite of 
Muslims, Christians and Jews. 

Typical Western hypocrisy, Khamenei concluded. 

THE IDEA that Khamenei will modify so perverted, so deep-seated, a worldview as 
a result of Obama administration suasion, or European economic incentives and 
political inducements, is risible. 

For Khamenei, Israel is a cancer alright, but America, Britain and Western 
values generally are the carcinogens; excising Israel alone will not bring the 
supreme leader the global caliphate he seeks. 

Thus the more propitiously President Barack Obama "engages" with Teheran, the 
quicker Khamenei's creed will come to the fore, and the more transparent it 
should be that candidate Obama's pledge: "I will do everything in my power to 
prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" deserves to be honored. 

WE MAY never know what possessed a Palestinian Arab in Jerusalem yesterday to 
use a construction vehicle as a weapon. We can surmise, however, that like 
others before him he was socialized within a religio-political milieu which 
encourages belligerence, victimization and martyrdom - precisely the ideals 
inculcated into the minds of Khamenei's own Revolutionary Guards. 

For all its homicidal tendencies, there is no evidence that, at its apex, 
Iran's regime is suicidal. Yet its most loyal cadre has been whipped-up by a 
messianic dogma that blends Persian imperialism with Shi'ite embitterment - 
belligerence, victimization and martyrdom. One shudders to think that if Iran's 
nuclear ambitions aren't foiled, some overly zealous revolutionary guard might 
have more than a tractor at his disposal. The Soviet-era template of 
containment and deterrence simply won't apply. 

This week, Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal urged the 
Arabs to come together in the face of the "Iranian challenge." Palestinian 
leader Mahmoud Abbas told Iran to stop interfering in Palestinian affairs. 
While the Arabs fret about the instability wrought by Teheran in Gaza, Iraq, 
Lebanon and Afghanistan they, like Europeans and Africans, are hedging their 

So the longer Obama takes to crystallize his policy, the harder it will be to 
stop the Iranian bomb. 

No wonder Khamenei feels optimistic.

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