Iran’s real crime: refusing to venerate the West’s holy cows

In the months since the inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the USA in January, the hype that characterised his campaign has all but disappeared. Only his most ardent fans continue to expect much from him, although they are disproportionately represented in the world’s westoxicated media; commentators in the US are already talking of him as a likely one-term president. Elsewhere too, the realisation has long since dawned that in most significant ways his policies are little different to those of George W. Bush; only the tone and style of his presidency are different.

This has been most obvious in his policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and other issues in the Muslim world. For all his conciliatory words on Islam and Muslims, his policies are essentially similar to those of the Bush administration. It is hardly surprising therefore that his attention should turn to Iran last month, as he prepared for his first attendance at the General–ˆAssembly of the United Nations at the end of the month. After his speech to the UN, Obama was accused by some US commentators for apologising for America. The following day, at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, he reassured them. How?–ˆBy taking a familiarly tough stance against the one constant bogeyman in American foreign policy over the last three decades: Iran. Other players in the global game –” Saddam Hussain, the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, Moscow, Colonel Qaddafi, even France –” may wax and wane in the US consciousness, moving from friend to rival to enemy, as suits the US agenda, but Iran has been a constant enemy throughout.

It is easy to say that that is because it is the only Islamic state, or the only modern state that genuinely aspires to be Islamic. The question is what that means in real terms. The answer is that Iran simply refuses to accept its allotted place in the US-centric international order, established by the Western powers to ensure their continued dominance in all spheres of the world’s affairs. This is what the West demands, and provided other states understand this, they are permitted their limited freedom of action, evn dissent, within the system, however authoritarian, brutal and repressive they may be.

Many ask why Iran’s constant criticism of Zionism and Israel, and in particular its refusal to accept the mythology created around the “Holocaust” –” long since brilliantly exposed by an American Jew, Norman Finkelstein –”causes such ructions in the West. The answer is not really that anyone fears a repetition of Hitler’s genocide; only the most paranoid can take that accusation seriously. The real reason is that Ahmedinejad’s questioning of Israel’s right to exist, and the grounds given for it, has come to symbolise Iran’s rejection of virtually all the West’s holy cows; the foundational myths it uses not only to justify its global dominance, but to claim moral legitimacy for it.

Central to these is the historicist idea that the West represents universal values of freedom, democracy, liberalism and progress for all people. It is this claim that Western democracies use to justify imposing their will on the rest of the world, and which Americans believe gives them the right (even the onerous duty) to dominate the world because they are supposedly the free-est, most democratic people in the world. In institutional terms, this translates to the right to dominate the UN, supposedly the global representative of the world’s people, with legitimate authority over the rest of the world. The fact that the West usually works through the UN, its associated bodies, such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and similar bodies such as the EU and NAFTA, to formalise and/or implement the decisions taken by Western elites in forums such as the G8 and the G20, is supposed to legitimise those decisions. That much of the rest of the world sees the UN as having little more standing than the Iraqi parliament under Saddam Hussain (for example) is irrelevant provided that key institutional players –” states in particular –” opt to work within the system rather than challenge it.

In the West, and in the Westernised elites of the rest of the world, even those who criticise the policies of Western powers, and the working of international institutions, seldom question the myths on which they are based. Iran’s real crime is that it does precisely that. Its refusal to allow the Western powers to dictate its energy policy, through the spurious authority of the UN and the IAEA, is bad enough. The fact is it is doing so not only on grounds of its interests, but because it rejects the mythical moral foundations of that authority (the same foundations that supposedly legitimise the Zionist state) makes it not just an outlaw, but a revolutionary threat. And the fact that it is doing so in the name of Islam, with the potential to inspire up to a quarter of the world’s population, is what renders it so very dangerous.

It is this that explains the West’s intense and inevitable enmity, which Iran has faced for 30 years, faces now, and will continue to face for many years to come, insha’Allah.