Iranian political policy has been through a history of difficult times of a character unfamiliar to the United States. Eventually I will write a little on the kind of cleric that the Ayatollah Khomeini was and how his change of Mohammedan political theory led to the present state of affairs, yet I should first write on the history of the twelfth Emam.
This is only a sketch of course. Recently I read a History of Iran by Axworthy from 2008 that had many good ideas. I am not an Iranian history expert.The salient ideas of this essay arise from a variety of sources that will serve to express the intention that a better U.S. understanding of Iranian politics should arise.
The eleven Emams of history that led along the Shi'a line ended about a.d. 1000 or so give or take a few hundred years when number eleven died without an heir. Bloodlines are important to the Shi'a--those related to Mohammad get to wear a black turban if they are a mullah.
There was a legend that a hidden son or twelfth Emam was born and raised in secrecy to prevent assassination by the Sunni perhaps. The twelfth Emam is supposed to return one day to lead a worldly paradise. The Ayatollah Khomeini's excellent ideas was to create a regency whereby the clerics would rule until the return of the twelfth Emam applying Shari'a law.
Iran has a long and bloody history of invasions including many of its own along with inter-tribal strife. Getting a pluralistic government in power was a long and difficult often aborted struggle. In about 1951 the U.S..A. helped to abort a populist democratic leaning government and restore and absolute monarch who ruled with cruelty until the revolution of 1979-80 that brought the clerics to power.
The clerics or ulema are one of three somewhat traditional divisions of social power tendencies in Iran. The other two are the people and the secular ruler who could be a Shah. The Clerics were the main force enabling a popular revolution to succeed, yet of course Khomeini's idea of clerical rule until the arrival of the twelfth Emam required a little repression to enforce. Traditional purging of political opponents occurred, and U.S. rhetoric has tended to lump all Iranians together. Even Aminidinijab though a modest raving sort of guy is not a mullah as were all others in the post-Khomeini era leading Iran as Prime Minister--that in itself is something of a liberalizing direction.
During the era of the Shah the United States was heavily invested in the oil business and arms sails and a little bribery it appeared. Tens of thousands of Americans worked in Iran in a mostly insular lifestyle living much better than the Iranian people as we supplied military and other skills such as oil field development in support of the non-popular neo-dictator. The United States was not liked much then. Earlier in the 20th century we had something of a better reputation.
Our Iraq investment reminds some people of the era of the U.s. and the Shah. Because Iran's history is such a quickly changing one with much blood, coups, revolutions and foreign intrigue from 'the great game' era in during the Napoleonic wars in which treaties were made and broken several times as European powers required Iran as an ally. The people have reason to be skeptical about U.S. policy.
When the United States betrayed the Shi'a of Iraq after encouraging them to revolt at the end of the first gulf war (1991) and Saddam Hussein slaughtered many we reinforced the perception that our interest is narrow self-interest seeking perhaps oil and income for a military industrial complex. Perhaps they are right. Our globalist policy interests have made the United States since 1989 a little unstable economically plundering world labor and economic resources more than a little without a stable domestic development policy at home. Itâ€™s easier to skim what is out there including mortgages of our own people, flood the nation with cheap foreign labor ever repressing wages for the poor and middle class than to develop our own economy.
While the United States may be a cold-blooded broadcast sort of power loudly extolling its virtues in pursuit of quick profits from wherever it also advocated what many traditional communities consider to be depraved behavior in homosexual conduct. That does not make it easier to persuade the mullahs to retreat a little back in to the ulema and let a popular secularist government of Iran form.
The twelfth Eman is a somewhat silly concept to most Americans--this is a kind of Great Pumpkin story that borrows from that of Barbarossa or Jesus Christ perhaps. That is the real political-theological situation though. Mohammedanism is a political system except where it is rolled back into the bottle by secular forces. If Iran is not to have another Shah or dictator of some sort, but a popular government eventually then the United States needs to scale down its rhetoric and just whack the terrorists if they really need it, but otherwise be a reliable and patient, understanding democracy not trying to elbow in and exploit the locals like the dirty kind of predatory capitalists such as has been known to occur.
Restoring trust may take a long time. The United States should forget about the hostage taking at the embassy and the Iranians forget about our C.I.A. support of the Mossadegh coup and the Shah's secret police.
Iran may develop nuclear or other weapons or not. U.S. security experts can determine if its necessary to pre-empt aggression against the United States. Iran though is becoming a populous nation in an historically strategic place. Plain calm and willingness to work the Iranians as they ask, as well as a willingness to let the ordinary people prosper without significant economic sanctions would be required for America to become considered a friend in the long run.
There may be risk in the choice not to be belligerent yet ineffective foes of Iran. Our wish that the Mohammedan community not care about pornography, homosexuality and exploiting the poor as if such were required of liberalism along with radio and financial networks dominating political power and social wealth may not play well in Iran or help persuade the Mullahs to back off. Neither do we wish for a violent revolution in Iran since they have suffered quite enough even in recent times--recall the Iran-Iraq war.
Theodore Roosevelt's policy of walking softly and carrying a big stick would serve well for the United States today in several areas of international relations. If one cannot cast out the moat from one's own eye the beam in thy brother's eye may blind thee. If the United States is to hope that it would become trusted as a friendly and useful nation to do business with, it must actually be one and not simply reinforce a military industrial complex cycle of clash and spend, borrow and burn.
The proposed mosque in New York City is a political and security attack on U.S. culture acting to expand the realm of the dar al Islam in the dar al Harb. It could be a Wahhabist Sunni shrine or a Shi'st expression of the Twelvers, yet it is certainly an effort to dump a world of new troubles and concerns on the people of the United States. It is a perfect example of the sort of crass cultral insensitivity the United States should not express in the future toward Iran.
Sept 2. 2010....
Two-thirds of New Yorker's polled want the Ground Zero mosque located elsewhere.