A one-topic blog: how is it that the most imminent and lethal implication for humankind - the fact that the doctrine of "Mutually Assured Destruction" will not work with Iran - is not being discussed in our media? Until it is recognized that MAD is dead, the Iranian threat will be treated as a threat only to Israel and not as the global threat which it in fact is.
A blog by Mladen Andrijasevic
Iranian President Hasan Rouhani's recent
U.N. visit was not the first time a top Iranian official succeeded in
hoodwinking the West and especially its leading newspapers and media outlets.
Just before he arrived in Tehran in 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini succeeded
at waging a successful deception campaign from his place of exile at
Neauphle-le-Chateau, just outside of Paris. He completely hid his true
intentions of what he planned to do once he would become the ruler of Iran.
A committee of advisers recommended to him that he refrain from
rhetorically attacking the US or saying anything against women's rights. He
sent his personal representative, Ibrahim Yazdi, who had American citizenship
and would later become his foreign minister, to meet U.S. officials in
Washington as well as many influential academics. This was the first Iranian
The results of this Iranian effort were impressive. There was
the embarrassing case of Professor Richard Falk from Princeton University who
wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, entitled "Trusting Khomeini."
He wrote that the people around Khomeini were "moderate" and even
"progressive." He even added that they had "a notable concern
for human rights." Years later it should be noted, Falk adopted increasing
extremist positions, even accusing the U.S. government in 2004 of complicity in
the 9/11 attacks. Nonetheless, in 2008 the U.N. appointed him as a
"special rapporteur" on Palestinian human rights. In 1979, his
article was typical of many elite attitudes about Khomeini in academia and in
the U.S. government.
In fact, among American experts there was little knowledge about
Khomeini's background, except for information transmitted by his supporters. The one exception to this
trend was the case of Professor Bernard Lewis, who served in the Intelligence Corps of the
British Army in World War II and then became one of the most influential Middle
Eastern historians at British and American universities. One of his assistants
found a written book by Khomeini in the Princeton University Library that
contained the Arabic lectures he had delivered in 1970, while he lived in exile
in Najaf, the Shiite holy city in Iraq. The book was entitled "Islamic
The CIA, as well as other parts of the American government,
apparently did not even know the book existed. But Lewis studied the text,
revealing Khomeini's extremist positions, which he shared with the Washington
Post. These included calls for "armed jihad" and the need to
"take the lead over other Muslims." The book was plainly
anti-Semitic, suggesting that the Jews were seeking "to rule over the
There were American academics who were cultivated by Khomeini's
people and were
prepared to suggest that Lewis had quoted Khomeini "out of context." Henry Precht, who
was head of the Iran desk at the U.S. State Department, went even further and
rejected Lewis' conclusions. He even said that the book that Lewis found was a forgery. He criticized the
Washington Post for publishing excerpts of the book. Precht, who had met with
Khomeini's envoy, argued in internal meetings in Washington that after the fall
of the Shah, Khomeini's government would leave Iran more stable.
Years later, Khomeini admitted that he employed traditional
techniques of deception, specifically referring to the tactic of khod'eh, which
according to his biographer, Amir Taheri, meant "tricking one's enemy into
a misjudgment of one's true position." Thus in 1978, Khomeini told the
British daily, The Guardian, that he was not interested in having "the
power of government in my hand." Many analysts thought he would retire to
the Shiite seminaries of Qom, after he returned to Iran. William Sullivan, the
U.S. ambassador to Tehran, wrote a cable in 1978, in which he envisioned
Khomeini taking up a "Gandhi-like role."
Among his British counterparts, there were those who anticipated
"enlightened Islamic rule." The French intelligence services were
somewhat better since they carefully monitored the speeches that Khomeini
recorded and distributed on cassette tapes, but their recommendations were
ignored by the political eschelons in Paris under the leadership of French
President Valery Giscard d'Estaing. In short, Khomeini's deception campaign
What followed after Khomeini reached Iran was the exact opposite
of what Western experts had predicted. Revolutionary courts were set up which
arbitrarily arrested and executed anyone suspected of opposing the new
government. A bloodbath followed as hundreds were sent before firing squads.
Khomeini's regime was brutal. Under international pressure, the Shah had
ordered a halt to the use of torture in Iranian prisons; Khomeini reintroduced
torture when he came to power. He did not retire to Qom, but rather promulgated
a religious doctrine, known as velayat-e faqih (the rule of the head
jurisprudent) that made him the supreme source of authority in Iran.
In foreign affairs, Khomeini's constitution called for "the
continuation of the Revolution at home and abroad." A month after
declaring Iran as an Islamic Republic in 1979 he established the Revolutionary
Guards, which not only protected the regime from internal threats but also took
part in the export of the Islamic Revolution, by undermining the internal
stability of Arab states. U.S. allies in the Arab world were quickly targeted.
For example, Shiite uprisings in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia in 1979
and 1980 were backed by Tehran.
At this time, the Iranians promoted popular Shiite revolts in
Bahrain and Iraq as well. They deployed an expeditionary unit of Revolutionary
Guards in eastern Lebanon which gave orders to Hizbullah after its foundation
in the early 1980s. This included the attacks in 1983 on the U.S. Marine
Barracks in Beirut and the headquarters of the French peacekeeping forces
there. Years later, Iraqi Shiite politicians disclosed that the Revolutionary
Guards also directed an organization known as al-Dawa to undertake attacks in
1983 against the U.S. embassy in Kuwait.
While Iran was invaded by Iraq in 1980, it recovered all its
lost territories by 1982 and yet Khomeini continued his war against Saddam
Hussein for another six years. The Iranians even expanded their war with Iraq
to the waters of the Persian Gulf where it attacked the tankers used by Arab
states to export their oil. By the early 1990s, Revolutionary Guards were also
stationed in Sudan, where Iran sought facilities for a future naval presence in
the Red Sea. Today, using the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, which was
specifically formed for these foreign operations, its commander General Qassem
Sulaimani is active in advancing Iranian hegemony across the Middle East, by
intervening in local wars with weapons, advisers, and even military forces.
It now appears that the community of Middle Eastern experts --
both inside and outside of government -- had absolutely no idea back in 1979
what the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini would mean for the future of the Middle
East. They were charmed into believing that Iran, after the fall of the Shah,
would adopt a moderate course. The consequences of their miscalculation were
disastrous for the Iranian people and the world.
first Iranian charm offensive required two parties to succeed: Iranians who
skillfully employed a campaign of deception and gullible commentators in
who took at face value what the Iranians said. It can only be hoped that this
time, with Rouhani's charm offensive, this dangerous combination will not
reappear, leading the U.S. and its allies to repeat the errors in interpreting
Iranian intentions, that were committed in the earliest days of Khomeini's
Apparently, when it comes to the gullible West - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
Professor Lewis has been here before. As the Iranian revolution
was beginning in the late 1970s, the name of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was
starting to appear in the Western press. "I was at Princeton and I must
confess I never heard of Khomeini. Who had? So I did what one normally does in
this world of mine: I went to the university library and looked up Khomeini
and, sure enough, it was there."
was a short book called "Islamic Government"—now known as Khomeini's
Mein Kampf—available in Persian and Arabic. Mr. Lewis checked out both copies
and began reading. "It became perfectly clear who he was and what his aims
were. And that all of this talk at the time about [him] being a step forward
and a move toward greater freedom was absolute nonsense," recalls Mr.
tried to bring this to the attention of people here. The New York Times
wouldn't touch it. They said 'We don't think this would interest our readers.'
But we got the Washington Post to publish an article quoting this. And they
were immediately summoned by the CIA," he says. "Eventually the
message got through—thanks to Khomeini."