Our Thoughts on Iran – Part the First

January 13, 2006 at 1:33 am (From old blog, Iran, Military, War)

Regarding Iran, We remain quite concerned. The most concerning aspect is the utter lack of knowledge anyone has as to what Iran genuinely intends. After what the world has seen with Hitler and Pakistan, We refuse to accept that Iran is interested in nuclear reactors solely for the sake of energy. Having said that, what does Iran want to do with its nuclear capability?

Iran can use its nuclear capability as a bargaining chip, as North Korea does. Or it can use it to increase its prestige, respect, and influence amongst Muslim states – in an attempt to turn them away from the West. Or Iran can use them to destroy Israel and the Great Satan. In any case, an Iran with nuclear weapons will not bode well for regional security. We may even say that such a situation would cause greater instability.

The Middle East, however one defines it, is not monolithic. Each state therein has a national identity, and a desire to prevail over its neighbors. Each state’s neighbors are its friends and its enemies and competitors. There are, in addition, several significant ethnic groups, each seeking to further its own interests. The Arab states do not like Iran for a variety of reasons, the primary ones being that Iran is Persian and Shiite. Most Arab states are Arab and Sunni. Even Shiite groups do not necessarily like Iran.

Within Shiism there are two major groups: the activists and the quietists. The dominant group in Iran is of the activist Shiites. Indeed, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the Revolution with activist Shiites, who remained in power. These Shiites not only wanted to overthrow the Shah, whom they saw as a Western agent, but they also wanted to erect an Islamic state and prepare for the Reappearance of the Hidden Imam (al-Imaam al-Ghayb). They believed their acts would spur the Hidden Imam to reappear. Many participated in the Revolution for the sake of the Hidden Imam. Furthermore, activist Shiites believe in the active involvement of clerics in government. Grand Ayatollah Khomeyni publicized his “brilliant” theory – “Velaayat-e Faqeh” or “Government of/by the Cleric,” wherein the government would be supervised by, the law guarded by, and the Islamic Revolution furthered by unelected and omnipotent clerics. These clerics would function under the Supreme Leader, or Vali. The first Vali was, not surprisingly, Grand Ayatollah Khomeyni. After his death, his successor, Grand Ayatollah Khamene’i, became the Vali. He remains in his position to this day.
However, the quietists prevail. And there’s a reason for this. Activists could have only been successful in a state wherein they were the majority. Sunnis will not consent to Shiite dreams, goals, acts, or dominance. One of the Hidden Imam’s acts will be to convert Sunnis into Shiites, and to destroy those Shiites who oppose or block the Shiites. The quietists believe that the Hidden Imam will appear at his own time and in his own way. Shiites cannot do anything without him, so they must remain in devotion and keep praying for the imminent Reappearance. Rather than fighting with swords, they are expected to fight with prayer and proselytizing. Quietists believe that all activities regarding government, military, politics, and the world cannot be transformed to the true Islamic way unless it is done under the guidance and leadership of the Hidden Imam. Any effort would prove to be futile.

In Iraq, the leading cleric is Grand Ayatollah as-Sistani. This position is unofficial, bestowed by peer acclaim. Not only is Grand Ayatollah as-Sistani a significant figure in Iraq, he is a significant figure throughout the world. With the possible exception of activist Shiites, most Shiites refer to and follow Grand Ayatollah as-Sistani. (Activist Shiites refer to and follow Grand Ayatollah Khamene’i.) One cannot be entirely sure what Grand Ayatollah as-Sistani believes about Velaayat-e Faqeh. Some say he rejects it entirely, others say he accepts it but in a modified fashion. In any case, the Shiism he practices and teaches is a far cry from that of the activist Shiites in Iran.

The clerics are always interested in maintaining some form of influence on politics. In Iraq, this is done by people voting for those whom their clerics recommend. Clerics also determine whether the people should cooperate with or resist the government. Grand Ayatollah as-Sistani has been accused of being complacent with Saddam Hussein’s rule, but through his actions during and after the liberation of Iraq, we can see that his non-opposition to the government is his default policy. So it was not surprising when he told the Shiites to cooperate with the liberating forces. Nevertheless, the fact he accorded this cooperation to what was thought to be an occupying, non-Muslim power speaks volumes regarding how far Grand Ayatollah as-Sistani will go to ensure the continuity of the Shiite people and their quietist tendencies. Never has Grand Ayatollah as-Sistani sought an official position in the Iraqi government: indeed, no quietist cleric would. They are supposed to remain separated and aloof from the government.
This is a stark contrast to Iran, where recently the theocratic regime under Grand Ayatollah Khamene’i basically orchestrated a coup, throwing the reformists out and ushering their supporters in. (We are as yet unsure what label to ally to the new government. They can be called conservative and traditional, although radical is increasingly becoming accurate. For now, We shall use “hard-line.”) By exercising their authority, the clerics in the government effectually threw out the reformists and then orchestrated for Amadinezhaad to win. As a hard-liner, Ahmadinezhaad would listen to the clerics and implement their desires rather than opposing the clerics, as Hojjatollah Khatami did. In effect, the clerics regained control over Iran. Grand Ayatollah Khamene’i, who was not taken seriously before, was now the undisputed ruler of Iran.

This activist/quietist split is affecting affairs amongst Shiites in Iraq. Activist groups, such as Shiite militias and Muqtada as-Sadr’s group, are supported and funded by Iran. These groups, in their own way, oppose and are frustrated by the quietists. On the other hand, the quietists want security, stability, and autonomy, which are all threatened by the activists. No one will publicly oppose Grand Ayatollah as-Sistani; it remains to be seen whether Grand Ayatollah as-Sistani will command the same amount of respect and prestige.

Today’s issues with Iran, then, seem less to do with Shiism and more to do with the type of Shiism in Iran.

More next time.

wa inna naHnu aa’lamuun.

7 Comments

  1. Anonymous said,

    Unfortunately for the iranian people, their government led by these religious fanatics could very well end their existance on mother earth. My question is whether or not the lunatics in power there are willing to take that final step to meet their maker. If after all they are devote, isn’t that the ultimate goal? They are a case study in why church and state should be separated.

  2. Beth Kaiman said,

    It’s funny how the bully on the block always gets pissed off when the little kids learn how to fight back.

    Iran has as much right to nuclear weaponry as we do.

    It’s about time someone stood up to our nazi ways.

  3. Muslihoon said,

    Our next post is a response to some comments hereon. Enjoy!

  4. Anonymous said,

    ” Beth Kaiman said…
    It’s funny how the bully on the block always gets pissed off when the little kids learn how to fight back.

    Iran has as much right to nuclear weaponry as we do.

    It’s about time someone stood up to our nazi ways.”

    You obviously haven’t a clue about the nazis or you wouldn’t have made the comparison. I haven’t seen any evidence that the US has opened death camps and is burning people in ovens or starving them to death. Or burying people in mass graves after shooting them. And if the US is a bully, then it’s been awful weak in protecting itself and forcing others to its will. Do you have any idea how much of the American tax dollar goes to countries in aid to help them. Which then gets used to kill innocent people? The iranian and north korean governments need to be exterminated. The people of those countries have suffered long enough under their brutal regimes. If you think the US is bad, go to those countries and talk to the people. You obviously live in a country where you can spew stupidity based on no facts and not have the thought police show up at your door and make you disappear. The iranian government will launch nukes against Israel. It’s only a matter of time. Then, the US and Israel will have to retaliate. Is that what you want beth? Ever seen the pictures of Nagasaki or Hiroshima and what happened to those people in the aftermath of the bombs dropping? And please don’t go on how the US used nukes on an innocent country. The Japanese of that era were brutal and evil; just ask the Koreans, Chamorrans (people of Guam), Filipino’s, and other surrounding countries the Japanese invaded and brutalized. The Japanese were just like the iranian and north korean governments are today. May they suffer the same fate. beth, you are an idiot.

    Theresa

  5. Beth Kaiman said,

    Hitler didn’t start right up firing gas ovens, honey.

    We’re following his time schedule, though. I’d say it’s right around 1938. (except that we’ve already “liberated” Poland.)

    If the Democrats (God, I never thought I’d be rooting for the Libs) don’t take back the Congress this fall, there will be nothing to stand in the neocon/neonazi agenda.

    Trust me, by 2008 they will rounding up anyone speaking out. Anyone opposed to their agenda will be deemed “Enemy of the State,” and/or “Terrorist.”

    Don’t forget, one of the first things Hitler did was to criminalize the Jews.

  6. Muslihoon said,

    We honestly don’t see how anyone can make the claim that the “Neocon” government is in any way oppressing its opponents. As far as We can see, dissent is quite easy to express. No one has been arrested or in any way persecuted for dissenting or disagreeing. If this were so, why have not Michael Moore, John Kerry, Cindy Sheehan, and others been locked up?

    We have lived in places where freedom of expression and speech did not exist – America is in no way anywhere near such a state.

  7. Red A said,

    Beth,

    Iran signed a treaty specifically saying they would not develop nuclear weapons, so, no, they don’t have that right. They voluntarily got rid of it.

    Please note that Israel did not sign that treaty, so they could have nukes.

    Please note that Syria did not sign a similar treaty on chemical weapons, so they also can have those.

    But since the international community is not a small town, but a collection of sovereigns, Iran should worry about other countries deciding to make sure Iran doesn’t get nukes.

    BTW Beth, one of the best arguments (and probably the initial reason) that Iran wanted nukes was Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Now that we have helpfully removed this threat to Iran shouldn’t they stop developing nukes?–>

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