October 1, 2022

Jonathan Tobin is an intelligent, informed commentator on political issues, but he consistently underestimates the dangers and wrongs presented by the world’s evildoers. In this vein, he was pleased to state in a recent article “Still, when National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan confessed last weekend that the Obama administration — in which he, Biden, and most of the current foreign-policy team served — erred by standing aloof from the struggles of the Iranian people in 2009, it was something of a breakthrough.” The idea that the turbaned murderers that rule in Iran can be replaced by something like a liberal democracy is more of a Rodney King fantasy that we can all “just get along” if only the USA just takes the side of some street protestors.  

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Iranian culture, although based upon Shiite Muslim theology rather than Sunni theology is, like most of the Middle Eastern Muslim world, intrinsically regressive. Values of equality and liberty do not exist.  Further, the norms of competency and thoroughness that govern our commercial operations do not apply. 

This writer taught at a private school in Iran, the Iranzamin school, for children of the Iranian elite under the Shah, and for the children of wealthy executives of other nationalities who were living in Iran. When the present regime of murderous fanatics took over in 1979, the school hoped to continue and work with the ayatollahs and mullahs, but those good intentions were rewarded by the clerics having all the books in the school library moved to the courtyard where they were all burned.

Americans working with Iranians to build missiles under the Shah joked frequently about how Iranians could not follow simple technical procedures. An expert who installed air conditioning on missiles so they do not overheat when fired said that Iranian technicians could not grasp that if the parts for Step #9 of an eleven-step test were not available, they could not just skip Step #9 and go to Step #10 but had to wait for the part to do Step #9.

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When this writer needed surgery for a growth on my scalp, I was sitting on the surgical table with part of my head being shaved and prepped for surgery when the surgeon came in, looked at the growth he was going to remove, and told me that it looked okay and that I did not need surgery after all!  Another time, I was becoming so anxious from the disorganized lifestyle, the lack of female presence in public places, and amoebic dysentery contracted from the lack of sanitation that I went to a pharmacy to buy some Xanax tranquilizer.  The pharmacist said I needed a prescription, and when I said I did not have one, he told me to go outside the business, write a prescription on a blank piece of paper he handed me, and then bring the paper “prescription” back into the store.  I did as he instructed, and he gave me the Xanax. 

That country has no tradition of liberty or rights, but has been ruled by cruel and undemocratic leadership since the 1500s when the Safavid dynasty came to power.  The protests by women in Iran against the wearing of the head/face covering (called the “chador,” not the hijab, in that country) is not the tip of a deeply democratic surge, but is, this writer would contend, merely a marginal issue to attract the attention of westerners to support regime change advocates. The U.S., at best, should be working against the present regime, but not expect that women in Iran will suddenly flourish if the present maniacs were to be overthrown. 

Under the previous leader of Iran, the Shah Reza Pahlavi, all women were not compelled to wear the chador, but the overwhelming majority still did so.  If a woman — Iranian or Western — were to go to certain parts of Teheran without wearing the chador or was simply wearing a skirt, she could expect to be spit on or punched by other women, and men would be putting their hands up their skirts.  If one went to a movie theater, there might be at most four or six women in the theater, and 300-500 men. If there should be a kissing scene in the film, the temperature in the theater would go up about 15 degrees!

In the West, there are child labor laws and compulsory education laws.  When this writer lived in Teheran, ten-year-olds were standing next to carts all day selling cigarettes.  Young men in their teens would sleep on mats outside neighborhood grocery stores where, during the day, they would run errands or make deliveries.

A typical place to grab a snack in Iran would only have male customers, and the snacks were limited to bowls of yogurt and cows’ brains. Street traffic was so poorly managed that sometimes it would take city buses an hour or more to go two blocks. Drivers of cars in frustration would literally go onto sidewalks in an attempt to circumvent traffic jams, and attempts to drive around traffic by going to the other side of the road were common.

Murder, mayhem, sexism, and despotic rule are built into the fabric of Iranian governance and culture. Equality and liberty are simply not developed in any way in Iran over the past 500 years.  An enlightened despot or dictator who is pro-Western is the best they can do — like the Shah or like the pseudo-benevolent Al-Sisi who now rules Egypt.  Supporting factions who are demonstrating in the streets of Teheran will not lead to a democratically enlightened governance.  Instead of negotiating with Iran, we should be negotiating with high-level Iranians who supported the Shah’s despotism and engineer a coup of the present government and install Iranians who, like the Shah, are more pro-Western and willing to play ball more with our interests. That is realpolitik.