« Home | I Am Speechless... » | Rummy responds » | Heckuvajob Rummy » | The Halifax Xplosion » | Idealistic Pragmatist: Tories 1, environment 0 » | Asking for the truth = irresponsible reporting » | Far and Wide: Weak Reasoning On Afghanistan » | DNAnarchy » | The things we do for love... » | The dilemmas that ruin sleep »

Billmon on Iran

Billmon, who writes what is perhaps my favourite blog Whiskey Bar, takes a guess at some of the motivations behind Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his current game of chicken with the ruling global powers. He suggests, as I've suggested here in the past, that Ahmadinejad may be playing a purely political game to maintain power within Iran using hardline tactics with the west to unite his base and silence dissent at home. Unlike me, Billmon goes on to provide a reasoned analysis as to why this is so, suggesting that there is an economic crisis brewing in Iran that is about to bubble over and for which there is no easy non-structural solution. He opines (emphasis mine):

Under the circumstances, Ahmadinejad and his fellow hardliners might see confrontation — up to and even including war — as just what the doctor ordered, both to rally public opinion behind the regime, and to purge it of the corrupt old guard. As one analyst recently put it, for Iran a U.S. air blitz would be the emotional equivalent of 9/11. It could turn a radical crackdown into a patriotic mass movement. It could even make Ahmadinejad the unchallenged dictator of Iran. Such a scenario might seem worth the potential damage to Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

It's also possible that Iran's hardliners are suffering from the same hubris that swept through the Cheney administration after the fall of Baghdad. American failure in Iraq — and the insurgency's success – may have led them to overestimate their own ability to cope with a U.S. attack. Soaring oil prices may have led them to believe the Cheney administration will never risk the energy chaos a full-scale ground invasion ("real men want to go go Tehran") inevitably would cause.

In other words, there is real risk that key players in the crisis — Iranian as well as American — are fundamentally misreading the situation. They may not understand that their counterparts on the other side are perfectly willing to escalate, because they actually want war, or at least are pulled in that direction by their own political and/or strategic dilemmas.

I have yet to read as sensible an analysis of the situation as this. Why are you here - go read the rest of it! And for heaven's sake, make sure you check him out daily.

One troublesome interpretation of the motivations behind Ahmadinejad's actions and rhetoric refers to his talk of bringing about the return of the 12th Imam. This is an event described in the Koran that is similar to the Second Coming in the Bible. When the world is on the brink of total disorder/disaster, the 12th Imam will appear to assure a place in Heaven for the righteous. Sounds Apocalyptic, doesn't it?

Islamic scholars believe that the events that would bring about the appearance of the 12th Imam must not be created, for this would be blasphemic in the extreme, but Ahmadinejad has mentioned this in his speeches frequently. This may be part of the reason for the split between Ahmadinejad and the religious leaders in Iran.

The thought of nuclear weapons in the hands of someone who has a Messianic belief in bringing about an apocalypse is too terrifying to contemplate. It reminds one of the
religious right in the U.S. believing that the environment doesn't matter because when the Rapture comes, the righteous will have a ticket straight to Heaven and earthly matters will be of no consequence.

I don't mean to discount the realpolitik aspect of the situation. Political motivations can obviously never be discounted in this kind of situation, but the possible religious dimension must be added to the mix.

Political motivations can obviously never be discounted in this kind of situation, but the possible religious dimension must be added to the mix.

You're absolutely right, Alex. Thank you for outlining this - I had read a bit about this "12th Imam" but wasn't sure how seriously Ahmadinejad actually takes it. That's all we really need - two opposing nutcases with nukes both believing that the Apocalypse is a good thing!

Post a Comment

Links to this post

Create a Link