Contra Iran

Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz conducts an interesting interview with “a longtime Iranian-born opposition activist who, among other efforts, is a member of the National Union for Democracy in Iran, a three-year-old, US-based opposition group…” Horovitz’s introduction and the interview itself are interesting in their entirety. Here is an exchange toward the end of the interview:

How worried should the West be by the nuclear drive and horrible rhetoric?

Extremely worried. They should not be sleeping at night. If they are sleeping at night they are fools. They should take Ahmadinejad at face value. This is no rhetoric for political consumption, or domestic consumption, or international consumption. He means what he says and says what he means. And when I say “he” I mean “they” – the regime.

If they had a nuclear capability would they use it?

I would say so, yes.

Unprovoked?

They would make good use of it, in their aim to defeat the West.

How does Hamas fit into this mind-set?

As an operational arm of the Islamist regime – financially, politically.

Where does this desire to take over the world come from? Retreating from modernity is one thing, but taking over the world? Why the effort to defeat the West? Is this a religious imperative?

Judaism is more conducive to modernity. It does not close the mind. It encourages debate. I am Muslim-born, but Islam is the most rigid faith. Islam paralyzes the brain.

Today’s Washington Post Book World carries a useful review of Mark Bowden’s new book on the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

iranhostages.jpg

The photo above appears opposite the first page of text in the book. It is a potent reminder that those in Iran who yesterday tormented the hostages and humiliated the United States are the country’s political leaders today. The Post review opens:

In the winter of 2005, Massoumeh Ebtekar stood before the world’s political and business elite in Davos, Switzerland, and gave them a tongue-lashing. Before a startled crowd at the annual powwow of global movers and shakers, the senior Iranian official blasted the West for cultural decadence, proclaiming the values of the Islamic Republic of Iran to be superior — and far more benevolent to women. She dismissed concerns about human rights abuses with a flick of her heavily veiled arm.

In 2005, her listeners could simply walk out on the harangue. In 1979, John W. Limbert Jr. was not so lucky; he was, literally, Ebtekar’s captive audience. Limbert, an erudite diplomat and scholar of Persian poetry, was one of the 52 American hostages who suffered through 444 days of captivity in revolutionary Iran, and he remembers Ebtekar with contempt. Back then, she was known as “Screaming Mary,” the young spokesperson for the student hostage-takers — a smug radical who regularly berated the Americans with finger-waving, ill-informed lectures about the evils of their country.

At one point in Mark Bowden’s riveting new book, Guests of the Ayatollah, Ebtekar browbeats a CIA agent named William J. Daugherty over “the inhuman, racist decision” to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After Daugherty shoots back that the Japanese started the war at Pearl Harbor, Ebtekar looks confused. “Pearl Harbor? Where’s Pearl Harbor?” she asks. Hawaii, she is told. Her reply, after a moment of confused silence: “The Japanese bombed Hawaii?”

The Post reviewer only tentatively acknowledges the role played by the current Iranian president in the events of 1979:

[T]he spirit of the hostage-takers still haunts Iran today. They acted without the prior knowledge of Ayatollah Khomeini, Bowden notes. The embassy seizure was not a well thought-out ploy vetted by senior officials; it was a rashly planned tactical move designed to win a short-term public relations victory, burnish the students’ anti-imperialist credentials and drive a wedge between Tehran’s moderates and radicals. The hostage-takers presented the new Khomeini regime with a fait accompli — with fateful consequences.

Decades later, Iranian politics still contains something similar — an element of surprise, along with confusion. Long after the Babel of the hostage crisis, many voices still speak in Tehran; the president says that Israel should be wiped off the map, and other political leaders scramble — some belatedly endorsing his rant, some distancing themselves, all while the analysts scratch their heads, looking for explanations.

Indeed, that president is himself a former student radical. Some former hostages allege that Ahmadinejad was one of their interrogators. Some hostage-takers — several of whom are reformist politicians today — deny this, saying that he wanted to take over the Soviet embassy instead. “Without any doubt,” Bowden writes, “Ahmadinejad was one of the central players in the group that seized the embassy and held hostages.” Whatever the case may be, the president clearly still has much of the hard-line student radical left in him.

Meanwhile, last month, Massoumeh Ebtekar, “Screaming Mary,” was awarded a prestigious prize by the United Nations for her work on environmental issues. The shadow of the student radicals has not yet receded, and this chapter in Iranian history has not yet played itself out.

The reviewer’s observation that the “shadow of the student radicals has not yet receded” seems to me to understate matters considerably. Bowden’s book establishes beyond a reasonable doubt, consistent with the photo above, that Ahmadinejad was the ringleader of the students who initiated hostilities against the United States in 1979. From student ringleader in 1979 he has progressed to the presidency of Iran. He threatens annihilation in the name of Allah and provokes Carterite handwringing among his adversaries in the West. What now?

Responses

Books to read from Power Line