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Tuesday, November 20, 2007


those wacky mullahs!

posted by Aziz P. at Tuesday, November 20, 2007 permalink View blog reactions
The Economist reveals that the Ayatollah apocalyptic quote that Norman Podhoretz is throwing around doesn't actually seem to exist.

Norman Podhoretz, when pressed for a source, says it was Amir Taheri. And that the quote was from 1980. And that the dog ate the quote in subsequent compilations of the Ayatollah's speeches. thus spake the Tool:

The quote, along with many other passages, disappeared from several subsequent editions as the Islamic Republic tried to mobilize nationalistic feelings against Iraq, which had invaded Iran in 1980.

The practice of editing and even censoring Khomeini to suit the circumstances is widely known by Iranian scholars. This is how Professor Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, the Director of the Center for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland and a specialist in Islamic censorship, states the problem: “Khumayni’s [sic] speeches are regularly published in fresh editions wherein new selections are made, certain references deleted, and various adjustments introduced depending on the state’s current preoccupation” (Persian Studies in North America, 1994).

First of all, Amir Taheri is not exactly a reliable source. He essentially invented - or at best was spoon-fed - the story about jews wearing yellow ribbons in Iran. The National Post issued a retraction, but Taheri stood by his "facts".

But let us take Taheri at his word. Suppose that the Ayatollaah catually did utter those words in 1980. Is this even remotely relevant to the question of whether Iran can be deterred? Julian Sanchez says it succinctly:

the broader question is whether Iran should be treated as a potentially suicidal nation run by apocalyptic madmen, or as an aggressive but ultimately familiar sort of antagonist, motivated by raison d'État and therefore deterrable. And if we're looking for insight into that question, then the fact that Khomenei may have uttered the quotation given above in revolutionary days strikes me as far, far less significant than the fact that Iran's "Khomeinist" government has since seen fit to toss it down the memory hole.

In other words, the very act of censorship which Taheri claims is occurring to sanitize the Ayatollah's utterances in the revolutionary era nearly three decades ago, actually demonstrates rather clearly that the modern ruling elite of Iran is eminently deterrable, and not wacky insane at all.

And the bottom line is that Iran is totally outmatched, and knows it. Blake Hounshell, writing at Foreign Policy Magazine, does the tally:

Let's take the case of Israel, which would theoretically be the country most threatened by an Iran with nuclear weapons. Israel reportedly has upwards of 200 nuclear bombs and/or warheads and second-strike capability. Notably, Israel has three nuclear-armed submarines; Iran has no technology that can detect them.

In the extremely unlikely event that the mullahs are foolish enough to launch their unreliable missiles on Tel Aviv and/or Jerusalem (most likely killing tens of thousands of Muslims and destroying several major Islamic holy sites in the process), Israel will annihilate Iran. With their submarines, the Israelis can do so even if their entire country is destroyed first. Boom. That's deterrence.

For all Anne Applebaum's hand-wringing about the only option being "fingers crossed", the simple truth is that a nuclear Iran is far less a threat to Israel's existence, let alone ours, than the Soviets were during the Cold War. And recall the rhetoric of that age:

At some point amidst the amiability and the inability to reach every agreement, Khrushchev broke out in one of his flights of rocket rhetoric. "Technicians make me laugh," he said, "when they argue over the question of whether five or maybe six rockets armed with thermonuclear warheads might be needed to demolish Great Britain. We have at least twelve already pointed at that target." And then, looking at his guest, Khrushchev remarked that Italy, with its allied missile bases, could expect its share. "This is not a threat," he added with a straight face, "just a warning."

Deter that! oh wait, we did. We buried them.



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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.