Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Iran--Looking for the Next Great Satan?

After writing the blog below, I've had second thoughts.  Was I too quick to accept the government's story?  To wit, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the plot was

“conceived, directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government and, specifically, senior members of the Quds Force. High-up officials in those agencies, which is an integral part of the Iranian government, were responsible for this plot,”

The real issue is whether to implicate high levels of the Iranian government in this botched assassination attempt.  Initially I accepted the US government's assertion that this affair had support at very high levels of the Iranian government.   If so, this inescapable conclusion would be that Iran was seeking to instigate a major conflict.  World War I, it might be pointed out, was started by a similar assassination. 

But at the end of the day, what we really know is that the alleged plotter, a used car salesman named Mansur Arbabsiar, had a cousin in Iran who was able to wire $50,000 to the US.  

That doesn't necessarily mean that the cousin was involved at the highest levels of the Iranian government.  So the question is whether Attorney General Holder was justified in his accusations that the Iranian government directed this operation, or whether it might have been a single criminal. 

We'll have to wait and see.  But the information presented to date does not show the involvement of the Iranian government. 

     I am not shocked that Iran would do something bad to the United States.  
     I am shocked that Iran would do something this stupid.  It sounds like an Austin Powers comedy movie, with Dr. Evil naively trying to take over the world by assassinating a foreign dignitary and blaming on the US.
     I am also amazed that this story is not the lead story in the news.  Instead, the media is following the Nigerian Underwear Bomber and the Occupy Wall Street party (oops I mean protest movement, sorry).  
     But what is actually happening here is that a renegade nation was trying to start World War III. 
     Unfortunately for the Iranians, they got caught red-handed.  Kudos to the FBI and the CIA and the rest of our intelligence services, because this time it looks like they caught everyone red-handed.  
      It is hardly possible that overzealous underlings could seek to assassinate and bomb the Saudis and Israelis, but who is at the head of it all.  The obvious choice is that it is President Ahmadinejad, but it is not quite as cut and dried as it seems.  Since Iran is a theocracy, it is not really run by the President as would be the case with a western democracy.  The most powerful person in Iran is actually the religious leader, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who was selected by the Assembly of Experts, which in turn is made up of 86 Mujtahids, or Islamic Scholars.  
     It is barely possible that this wild scheme might have been hatched by a religious leader, based on motives that make no sense to us in the West.  Perhaps the purpose of the assassination attempt is to try to associate the US with the Great Satan, which could be used to unify the Iranian people, or maybe even the entire Muslim world.

      The only thing I could compare this to is a friend of mine, who is a really nice guy and seems to be normal enough.  But, he holds the view that Jesus will return in the Second Coming to side with loyal Christians in a nuclear war in the Middle East, and thus he looks forward to the day when nuclear missiles are launched there.  Could it be that persons in power in Iran are equally twisted?  

      I would say that the answer is yes.   And, unlike my friend who is just an ordinary guy, the Iranian leaders may actually have the power to develop nuclear warheads and to try to use them against other countries in the region.  All this to further some kind of objective that makes no rational sense. 

     Hence, one of the jobs in the future for our intelligence specialists will be to try to get in the mindset of Iranian leaders, to try to figure out their warped thinking.  One might only guess that somehow the Muslim world was supposed to link Saudi Arabia with Israel, thus catapulting the Shi'ite faction to supremacy within the Muslim world.  

     In the US, many of us (including some Congressional Representatives and Cabinet secretaries) tend to think of the Muslim World as united, and the Middle East as a region that has only Arabs, with the exception of Israel which is populated mainly by Jews.
     Not so.
     Iranians are not Arabs. Iran has its own language and its own history, quite distinct from the Arabs.  Iran consists not only of Iranians, but also Kurds, Azeris, Baluchis, Turkmen, Armenians, Assyrians, Jews and Georgians.
     Nor is the region split neatly along religious lines. The Shi'ite faction is a religious majority in Iran, Bahrain, Azerbaijan and Iraq, but everywhere else they are a minority, with the Sunni's a majority in other countries.  In many cases, they are at each others' throats.

       Shi'ites and Sunnis are more than willing to blow each other's heads off to settle just who has the more peaceful religion.  But they would rather kill Americans or better yet Israelis.  Perhaps then, hatred of Americans, Israelis and Sunnis could be used as a unifying force in Iran.  Or to be more precise, an Iranian leader might think that that is a possibility.

     Perhaps then this wacky assassination plot is intended to link Israel to the Saudis in some way.  Iran might then be seen as the defender of the true Islam, thus resolving the centuries old dispute between Islamic factions in favor of the Shi'ites. 

    If that sounds nuts, that is exactly my point.  The objective may not make any sense from a Western perspective.  It may be totally steeped in religious beliefs shaped over the course of centuries in a world which is much different from our own. 
     It may also be that the Iranian leaders have freaked out at the disastrous showing of other Muslim leaders in the Middle East. The Arab Spring resulted in overthrowing governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.  Massive riots have occurred in Bahrain, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries including Iran.   Now Obama (foolishly I believe) is ordering Assad out of Syria, too.  
    Although the Iranian authorities seem so cocky on the outside, perhaps they are actually frightened out of their minds.  Iran has also had problems with young people rioting in the streets.  We don't know exactly how chaotic it is because there is no free press in Iran.  Hence the Iranian leaders might feel that their situation is so desperate that they need to try to use something dramatic--like an assassination, coupled with fear of the US and Israel (the main entities that Iranians hate more than their leadership.  This might be the means of shoring up their corrupt government. 
     But ultimately, these are just guesses. 
     It's very difficult to tell right now, but presumably additional details will surface in the weeks to come.  
     Right now we are only dimly becoming aware that a powerful foreign nation may be trying to start World War III in support of some religious cause that we can scarcely even comprehend. 


  1. Elliot, I also am not shocked and am a big fan of the stuxnet worm and any other method that keeps "Dr Evil" from developing capabilities for armed nukes. Ultimately, I fear that Israel will be compelled (feel compelled) to attack Iran. That is going to end badly no matter the outcome.
    Love the title of your blog. I can't help feeling that some village is missing it's Elliot (sorry, couldn't resist)

  2. The AM Radio talk shows here in SoCal had a field day with this story today...Austin Powers indeed! I guess he's never heard the saying "if you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch." I think Ahmadinejad is scared to death...and rightfully so. Let's just hope he doesn't get any stupider.

  3. Hi Don, yes I think all rational persons, whether Jew or Muslim or Christian or whatever realize that war would be the worst of all possible situations. Yet not all the important persons in this drama are indeed rational.

  4. Hi Cindy,
    It so unbelievable that now a number of analysts are choosing not to believe it. I hope, hope, hope that the Feds did the complete job, and did not jump the gun and make an accusation that goes beyond what the evidence really allows. I think we'll have to wait and see, but I believe the right questions are being asked all the way around.