Iran’s mullahs and their Democratic allies

Victoria Taft:

Congressman Brian Mast, a Republican from Florida, accused his Democratic colleagues of being cowards for their weak-kneed reaction to the killing of Iranian terror-master Qasem Soleimani. Mast made his comments on the House floor Thursday during the debate over the “war powers act resolution.” The Democrats passed the resolution, arguing Trump didn’t have the authority to order the missile strike taking out Soleimani and another top terrorist in Iraq.

Mast served in an ordnance detail in Afghanistan and lost his legs while trying to clear a roadside bomb. Soleimani’s IRGC and Quds Force orchestrated the building of many of those bombs. They were responsible for killing 603 U.S. troops and wounding hundreds, if not thousands, of others.

The congressman walked forcefully to the podium, his prosthetic legs exposed, took a second to tune his verbal flame-thrower, and then put the Democrats on blast.

I know most in here haven’t seen or smelled or touched that kind of death, but let me tell you about it. They were burned alive inside their Humvees. Their lungs were scorched by the flames of the explosions. The vehicle fragments were blown into their skulls. Some of them were paralyzed. Some of them had their arms blown off. Some of them had their legs blown off. Some of them will never see again. Some of them will never be recognized again by those who knew them previously. Each and every one of them – they are the credible explanation for deleting this terrorist target from our world. And, no doubt, it is dangerous to take out a terrorist target, but a coward is somebody who lacks the courage to endure danger” [Emphasis added]

He wasn’t done yet.

And this is the fundamental difference in voting yes or no here. If you vote no you understand that we would be justified to kill 100 Soleimanis for just one of our heroes, that have been killed by him. And the danger would be worth it. For those who vote yes, they see that he has killed hundreds of our service members but still can no find the justification to kill him because, unlike our fallen heroes, they lack the courage to endure danger” [Emphasis added]

Democrats upset with President Trump for killing Soleimani were called out by Mast for lacking “the courage to endure danger,” which he’d just defined as cowardice.

The war powers resolution was a rebuke to President Trump for what Democrats and a couple of Republicans claimed was overstepping his role of commander in chief.

They claim Soleimani isn’t under the previously approved AUMF, the authorization for the use of military force. But not only was the Iranian terror leader an enemy combatant, he was a leader of enemy combatants on the fields of battle in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He had just overseen the assault of the American Embassy in Baghdad. Baghdad, IRAQ.

President Trump said at his rally in Ohio Thursday night that the Iranian Quds Force leader not only wanted to bomb the American Embassy in Baghdad but other embassies as well.

American embassies are favorite targets of terrorist bad guys. Terrorists targeted the U.S. Mission in Benghazi in 2012. In 1998 two American embassies were destroyed by Al Qaeda in Tanzania and Kenya.

Watch Mast’s speech below, but make sure you’ve got a fire extinguisher to put out the flames.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1215376088639201280

Calling the elimination of a terrorist an assassination is what anti-Americans do, even if they are Americans. That sounds familiar to Jim Geraghty:

Jeane Kirkpatrick accurately declared: “they always blame Americans first.”

Sure, the Iranian air-defense system would not have been on highest alert this week if the United States had not killed Soleimani outside the Baghdad International Airport January 3. But the Iranians made the choice to fire rockets into Iraq that evening, the Iranian government made the choice to permit civilian air traffic in the hours after their rocket attack, and ultimately it was the Iranian military that fired the surface-to-air missile. You really have to squint and stretch to say that this tragedy — which killed 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, eleven Ukrainians (including the crew members), ten Swedish, seven Afghans, and three Germans — is President Trump’s fault.

One question for the military-technology experts: Does this tragedy stem from poor training on the part of the Iranian military, or does Russian air-defense system equipment do a lousy job of differentiating between civilian airliners and military jets?

Whatever the answer to that question is, the fact remains that right now, the Democratic grassroots believe that Trump is the root of all evil, and all bad things that happen lead back to him in one form or another. There’s a Democratic primary and impeachment battle going on simultaneously. No one of any stature in the Democratic party can afford the political risk of publicly arguing or even acknowledging that anything isn’t Trump’s fault. The Democratic presidential candidates, in particular, have to offer the biggest, most vocal, most emphatic, “yes, you’re right, grassroots” that they possibly can.

“Innocent civilians are now dead because they were caught in the middle of an unnecessary and unwanted military tit for tat,” Pete Buttigieg declared. The most common term floating around Thursday night was “crossfire,” even though Tuesday night only one side was firing any weapons. Keep in mind, so far in this conflict, the United States military hasn’t fired anything into or in the direction of Iranian territory.

If we really want to extend blame beyond the Iranian military, there is a long list of individuals and institutions who should be standing in line ahead of President Trump. Let’s start with Iranian aviation authorities who kept their local civilian aircraft flying, and the airlines who chose to keep flights taking off shortly after Iranian military action — when no one could know for sure whether the military action had concluded.

About 2 1/2 hours before the Ukraine International Airlines jet with 176 people on board took off, the Federal Aviation Administration issued emergency orders prohibiting American pilots and airlines from flying over Iran, the Persian Gulf or the Gulf of Oman.

The notices warned that heightened military activity and political tension in the Middle East posed “an inadvertent risk” to U.S. aircraft “due to the potential for miscalculation or mis-identification.”

Foreign airlines aren’t bound by FAA directives, but they often follow them. In this case, however, several large international carriers — including Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and Aeroflot — continued to fly in and out of Tehran after Iran fired missiles at military bases inside Iraq that house U.S. troops. They still were flying after the FAA warning, and after the Ukrainian jetliner crashed, according to data from Flightradar24, which tracks flights around the world.

“It was awfully peculiar and awfully risky,” said Peter Goelz, a former managing director of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. “That’s a theater of war and these guys were acting like there was nothing going on.”

Goelz said airlines should have canceled all flights when Iran fired the missiles.

That Kirkpatrick speech from the 1984 Republican National Convention, linked above, is always worth rereading, because while the particular issues change, the philosophy doesn’t. (Although note one section of her speech dealt with Iranian-backed terrorism: “When our Marines, sent to Lebanon on a multinational peacekeeping mission with the consent of the United States Congress, were murdered in their sleep, the “blame America first crowd” didn’t blame the terrorists who murdered the Marines, they blamed the United States.”)

Kirkpatrick concluded: “The American people know that it’s dangerous to blame ourselves for terrible problems that we did not cause. They understand just as the distinguished French writer, Jean Francois Revel, understands the dangers of endless self-criticism and self-denigration. He wrote: ‘Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.’”

A certain kind of U.S. foreign-policy thinker or lawmaker believes that if we just apply the right combination of incentives, every problem beyond our shores can be fixed. If some foreign leader takes action against us, it’s because we didn’t do something we should have or because we did do something we shouldn’t. It’s as if they don’t really see foreign leaders and peoples as having independent wills and agencies, just instinctive responses to our actions, and that all of their acts, no matter how malevolent, are entirely rational responses to our failures to meet their expectations.

A couple people griped that Monday’s piece assessed the behavior of the Iranian government starting in 1979 — you know, when the revolution and current regime took over — and didn’t go back to the coup in 1953 or the formation of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1914. (At least this is a refreshing change from the folks who believe Iranian history began when Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal.)

I’m a big fan of studying history, but the past can’t be changed. When trying to figure out how to deal with the threat of this regime, declarations like, “well, we never should have opposed Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq 67 years ago!” don’t really get us anywhere.</blockquote?Fortunately, the Iranian people seem to be getting the idea, even if American Democrats are not, that their government is failing them. Brian Stewart:

Iran, said President Carter on New Year’s Eve in 1977, “is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.” It didn’t take long for this confident avowal to prove erroneous. Just over a year later, Iran’s shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, would be forced into exile, with a clutch of hysterical mullahs led by Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini taking his place. Iran’s vaunted stability turned out to be a mirage, and the Islamic revolution has been a source of trouble in the region ever since.

A little more than 40 years later a similar conviction has taken hold regarding the staying power of the regime seated in Tehran. This fashionable fatalism claims that, whatever its problems or the designs of its enemies, the Islamic republic is here to stay.

But there is ground for skepticism about this reigning complacency, and not only because the stability of an autocratic government is fiendishly difficult to gauge. There are unmistakable signs of fatigue and fragility roiling the Islamic republic today. For starters, the paralysis gripping the economy as a result of chronic mismanagement, the diversion of resources, and onerous sanctions is causing acute distress among average Iranians. The tenacious political demonstrations that have been rising in the face of lethal violence from the authorities reveals both the determination of the opposition and the cruelty of Iran’s rulers. Even in the aftermath of the targeted U.S. strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s extraterritorial Quds Force and adjutant to the Supreme Leader, the people have not significantly rallied behind the clerics. To the contrary, they have been given fresh occasion to see clearly the nature of a regime whose Revolutionary Guard incites aggression, recklessly shoots down a civilian airliner, and then literally attempts to bulldoze the evidence.

All of this suggests that the affairs of Iran are drawing rapidly to an eventful crisis. Observers reconciled to the endurance of the Islamic republic might want to reconsider their determinism before history passes them by.

In the turbulent life of the Islamic republic, it has not been foreign meddling by outside powers but domestic insurrection that has posed the greatest threat to its rule. Recalling the revolt across Iran in June 2009 may be instructive here. Here was more proof that it was not a “regime change war” (with apologies to Tulsi Gabbard) that nearly felled the Islamic republic, but the vox populi. No less a figure than Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei later admitted that during the Green revolution the regime suffered a near-death experience.

Back then, pro-democracy protests had engulfed the country after the regime in Tehran engineered a crude voting exercise that flouted the elementary standards of a “free and fair” contest. (No one with the faintest understanding of Iran’s government—and its totalitarian doctrine of clerical control known as velayat-e faqui—could bring himself to credit this charade, or the alternately credulous and cynical response of the Obama White House that treated the “result” with deference.) The peaceful uprising was viciously suppressed by the regime’s Revolutionary Guard units, including the fearsome Basij paramilitary force, but not before a bravura display of people power by Iranians chafing under theocratic rule.

One decade later, it seems that the 2009 Green movement was a dress rehearsal for a larger and more lingering confrontation between Iranians and the mullahs who oppressed them for four decades.

This past November, protests erupted in several cities across the country in response to abrupt government increases in fuel prices. The demonstrations called for a swift end to the Islamic republic, and were vigorously put down by rulers accustomed to meting out violence to peaceful protesters. According to credible accounts, hundreds and perhaps more than a thousand Iranians were killed for the offense of raising their voices against the regime. Thousands more have been detained and tortured.

At first, this ferocious crackdown gave every appearance of having worked as intended. The demonstrations disappeared and the regime’s security apparatus came off high alert by mid-December. It seemed as if the status quo had survived intact. Then, in January, many stories appeared in the Western media suggesting that the Iranian people were broadly united behind the mullahs—a supposedly monolithic nation in mourning for Soleimani. Press coverage of the mass funeral procession for the fallen commander offered little skepticism about the meaning of such a highly orchestrated event in an authoritarian state.

So imagine the surprise when Iran’s protests reignited last week. The backward and brutal regime has imposed martial law to thwart memorial services for the victims of the recent repression. For the ayatollahs, all this domestic turbulence has come at an inauspicious time when popular discontent with the Islamic republic—and its corrupt and violent proxy and surrogate political forces—has reached a boil from Baghdad to Beirut. This tense domestic situation will not be allayed by the show of force from China, Russia, and Iran, all holding joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. Nor does it seem that, after the death of Soleimani, the Iranian street has been fooled by the regime’s “face-saving” gesture of lobbing rockets toward coalition bases in Iraq without harming any U.S. or Iraqi forces.

The persistent nature of this inchoate anti-regime movement—this revolution against the revolution—suggests something other than a revolt rooted solely in severe economic hardship. Whatever the misery inflicted by the combined weight of excessive government debt (ballistic missile development doesn’t come cheap) and punitive U.S. sanctions, the scale and resilience of the demonstrations gripping Iran suggest a more thorough repudiation of a regime characterized by superstition, reaction, and transnational violence. The Islamic revolution of 1979 finds itself under siege today by would-be revolutionaries who have not only challenged its economic mismanagement but also its very political legitimacy.


The late scholar Bernard Lewis liked to note a curious phenomenon in the Middle East: Pro-American regimes that were dictatorial often had anti-American populations, but anti-American regimes like Iran had pro-American populations. This certainly looked true in 2009 when the Iranian masses cried out for the explicit support of the American president, to no avail. How the U.S. government responds to the new protests and the likely crackdown against them may be even more consequential than its recent action in the skies over Baghdad.

The observers who consider Iran’s regime resilient beyond measure believe a revolution against it holds so little hope that its potential scarcely deserves mentioning, let alone supporting. These fatalists contend that the Iranian regime, like a cornered animal, is most dangerous when cornered, and therefore the wisest course is almost endless conciliation. The alternative, this argument runs, is a policy of mutual confrontation in which Iran’s Revolutionary Guard lashes out and turns the region into a cauldron of violence and terror.

The trouble with this argument is that it does not account for the violence and terror the regime has already inflicted across the region, and will continue to inflict. But with sanctions beginning to bite down hard and the Iranian masses inflamed against their bellicose but exposed regime, now may be the time for those who blithely assume the stability of the Islamic republic to ask themselves the breathless question: What if they are wrong?

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