“There are two Irans – the one in the media, and this one.” The Grand Ayatollah smiled and gestured at the land around us. “When you return to your countries, please tell your people about this, the real Iran.”
We were in Qom, a holy city renowned for its unbroken tradition of Islamic scholarship stretching back across the centuries. Grand Ayatollah Makarem – a source of religious authority and imitation for millions of people – had just finished speaking to us.
Our group included four foreign visitors to Iran: myself; American journalist Gareth Porter; Sergei, the head of Russian public radio’s religious programming; and Katarina, a Finnish security expert. We had come to Iran for a conference on foreign policy and the nuclear issue. (I also participated in an earlier conference on defending the Prophet Muhammad from slander and blasphemy.)
The Grand Ayatollah’s point was well taken. The real Iran is not the place depicted in the mainstream media.
Here are some of the ways Iran differs from its media caricature.
MYTH: Iran is sneakily trying to build nuclear weapons. REALITY: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whose word is law for all 77 million Iranians, has repeatedly and officially declared that nuclear weapons and all other WMD are haram, meaning absolutely forbidden. The CIA affirmed in 2006 and again in 2012 that there is no evidence of any covert Iranian nuclear weapons program. In his new book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, Gareth Porter exposes the Zionist-driven hoax that has bamboozled the world.
MYTH: But as Israeli historian Martin Von Crevald says, Iran would have to be crazy NOT to want nuclear weapons! REALITY: The Iranian leadership doesn’t see it that way. First, the Qur’an clearly bans indiscriminate warfare and the destruction of civilians, women, children, property, animals, crops, trees and so on. Islamic scholars who are not beholden to realpolitik-minded politicians agree that WMD is absolutely forbidden. (Independent Christian scholars agree.) And Iran is the only country on earth in which the religious scholars, rather than the politicians, have the last word.
Some “court muftis” in places like Pakistan, like the “court Christians” of America, have argued that it’s OK to stockpile WMD for deterrence, as long as you don’t use it. But Grand Ayatollah Makarem points out that if you have it, you eventually might have to use it. Developing and stockpiling such weapons entails the possibility of using them, and is therefore forbidden. The Supreme Leader’s fatwas against WMD are absolute, irreversible, and eternal.
The Iranian strategic leadership accepts this ruling. They point out that contrary to Von Crevald’s opinion, nuclear weapons would not really serve Iran’s strategic needs. Even if Iran were to decide to violate the Qur’an and build WMD (God forbid) it could never produce more than a small fraction of the stockpiles held by its enemies. Since using WMD would be both religiously forbidden AND suicidal, stockpiling such weapons would not be a realistic deterrent. By refusing to develop WMD (while insisting on its right to peaceful nuclear energy) Iran is creating a moral deterrent against the potential first use of WMD against it. Additionally, Iran has a wide array of non-WMD options available to deter conflict with potential aggressors: It can shut down the Persian Gulf, rain non-nuclear hellfire on Tel Aviv and/or US bases in the region, and (according to an elaborate war-gaming study published in the Atlantic Monthly) almost certainly win any conventional conflict with the US and/or Israel. Developing nuclear weapons would detract from Iran’s strategic advantage by inviting aggressors to escalate to the nuclear level.
MYTH: But this is all just talk. How do we know their actions will correspond to their words? Reality: We know it from awful experience. During Saddam’s “imposed war” on Iran during the 1980s, Rumsfeld and other Western leaders gave Saddam chemical weapons and urged him to use them against Iran. Saddam complied, raining down horrific substances on Iran that are still ravaging a significant segment of the population. Iran, led by Imam Khomeini, refused to retaliate in kind – though it could have deterred further Iraqi chemical attacks, and even achieved a huge strategic advantage. (Iran had the capacity to out-produce Iraq in chemical weapons had it wanted to). Imam Khomeini’s fatwa against WMD, which has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the current Supreme Leader, is absolute – it even applies when Iran is itself under attack by WMD. History supplies the proof.
MYTH: Iran wants to “wipe Israel off the map.” REALITY: Another hoax. The actual quote from ex-president Ahmadinejad was: “The Imam (Khomeini) said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the pages of time.” This Khomeini quote cited by Ahmadinejad could be interpreted as a call for an end to the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem – a position supported by the entire world through a series of UN resolutions. Or it could be a broader call for an end to the occupation of Palestine and the Zionist apartheid that comes with it. Either way, Khomeini’s quote is not a military threat, but a call for regime change. This quote accurately represents the consensus position of the people of the Middle East. Show me a single non-Zionist in the Middle East who claims to disagree, and I’ll show you a liar, hypocrite, or dissembler.
MYTH: Women are oppressed second-class citizens in Iran. REALITY: Women are about as well-represented in the political, intellectual and cultural leadership of Iran as in the USA; they have certainly made massive gains since the Islamic revolution of 1979. Today, more than two-thirds of Iran’s university students are women. Women were well-represented at the conferences I attended. They are a strong presence in Iranian journalism, as Press TV fans know. The contrast between Iran and US ally/puppet Saudi Arabia, where women are not even allowed to drive, could not be more stark.
MYTH: The Iranian government is a totalitarian theocracy. REALITY: Theocracy, yes; totalitarian, no. All Muslims are in agreement that God is the only sovereign. Therefore any country with a strong Muslim majority must either be a theocracy or a colony of the non-Muslim imperialists. Unlike most Muslim countries, which are under de facto non-Muslim occupation, Iran has managed to integrate the Islamic tradition with participatory democratic institutions. That makes it a “participatory theocracy.” In many ways Iran is far more democratic than the USA. Current President Rouhani, for example, was elected fairly, using hand-counted paper ballots, despite the fact that he is at least as far outside Iran’s ruling consensus as, say, Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader is outside the USA’s ruling consensus. Such people could not be elected in the USA. But Iran’s people, unlike America’s, actually have a significant choice when they go to the polls. And there are many competing power centers in Iran, both inside and outside of the clerical establishment, creating a working system of checks and balances.
MYTH: Iran’s Shi’ites are crazy religious fundamentalists. REALITY: The word “fundamentalist” applies to Christian Protestants. There is no real Islamic equivalent. But if what you really mean is “bonehead literalist obscurantists” then you’re talking about Iran’s wahhabi-takfiri enemies, not the Iranians. The wahhabis and takfiris insist on literal, simplistic, sometimes grossly misleading interpretations of scripture. They are the ones who (like al-Zawahiri) claim that WMD is licit. Iran’s Shi’as (like many traditional Sunni Muslims) are led by sophisticated scholars who include allegorical and mystical readings of scripture, which they read thoughtfully with an eye to both the letter and the spirit, the “zahir” and the “batin.” Imam Khomeini, for example, was a devoted scholar and fan of the great Sufi theosophist Ibn ‘Arabi, the bane of all boneheaded literalists.
MYTH: Iranians hate Americans; they call the US the Great Satan and scream “Death to America!” Reality: Iranians love Americans. But they also love justice and hate oppression. It’s part of their Shi’a tradition. Since the US government has acted as an unjust oppressor to Iran at least since the CIA coup of 1953 – and is a global oppressor in the large scheme of things – Iranians have indeed been peeved at the US government…but not the American people.
Last year I was in the middle of a demonstration of millions in Tehran celebrating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Many were carrying signs or chanting “Death to America!” When they found out I was American, the people carrying “Death to America” signs gave me big smiles, expressed affection for Americans in general and me in particular, and told me how happy they were that I was joining them in their celebration. Real Iranians, even at pro-revolution demonstrations, are the exact opposite of the snarling, murderous Hollywood Iranians of Argo.
Ben Affleck’s Argo, like the film-within-a-film of the same name, was a covert operation disguised as a movie. It used coercion, the world’s most powerful brainwashing technology short of datura, to subconsciously implant anti-Iran hostility in its audience. In his book Coercion Douglas Rushkoff explains: “In whatever milieu coercion is practiced, the routine follows the same basic steps: Generate disorientation, induce regression, and then become the target’s transferred parent figure.” Hard-sell car salesmen, CIA interrogators and psychwar ops, and cult leaders have long used this technique…(For example) The salesman then takes the mark on a test drive and, at the right moment, asks “Is this the type of vehicle you would like to own?” Rushoff quotes a car-salesman-turned-whistleblower: “And anyone will tell you this, the vacuum cleaner salesman, the car salesman—the customer has a split-second of insanity. The mind goes blank, the body paralyzes, the eyes get glassy, dilated. And you’d be surprised how many people have an accident at just that moment! Ask any car dealer. We always joke about it.” The car salesman’s question, like the well-timed words of a good hypnotist, triggers a sudden intensification of the customer’s dissociated, suggestible state. Rushkoff explains: “The customer is already in a vehicle, being asked to imagine himself owning the same type of vehicle. It’s the same as if I asked you if this is the kind of book you can imagine yourself reading. Your current situation is reframed in fantasy. It creates a momentary confusion, or dissociation, from the activity you’re involved in. That’s why so many drivers crash.”
Argo does the same thing by featuring a film-within-the-film also named Argo. The fake Argo inside Argo asks the viewer: “Is this the kind of (fake) film you could imagine yourself watching?” Suddenly the viewer is disoriented and dissociated. The imaginary Argo within Argo convinces the viewer that the real Argo he is watching is REAL. It destroys the reality-framing process. The viewer becomes just as fearful and confused as the poor Americans held hostage in Tehran. Under coercion, the viewer is regressed to a powerless infantile state as he identifies with those powerless hostages. He surrenders to the filmmaker (Affleck) and the CIA rescuer (played by Affleck) who has become the substitute parent figure and who implant subconscious images of evil, bearded, screaming, angry, murderous Iranians deep in the mind of the viewer…who will emerge from the theater innoculated with Iranophobia without the slightest idea of what has been done to him.
MYTH: Iran is a very dangerous place. REALITY: If you’re a top-notch Iranian scientist, maybe so. I met students at Iran’s leading technical schools who told me that every graduate is assigned a team of professional bodyguards to stop Israeli assassins. Other than that – and occasional terrorist outrages from the lunatic ultra-communists of the MEK – the only thing dangerous about Iran is the Tehran traffic. In terms of crime, Americans (and Iranians) are far safer in Tehran than in any big American city. Outside of Tehran, it’s even safer. With its various safety nets, including family solidarity, alms, ultra-cheap medical care, and other traditional means of taking care of the weak and indigent, there are no starving people, and virtually no homeless people, in Iran. And Iran’s religious culture also puts a damper on crime. Unfortunately, these things may change if the Western cultural invasion via satellite TV continues its assault on Iran’s traditional religious values.
MYTH: Iran is one of the world’s top human rights abusers. FACT: Nothing in Iran remotely compares to the institutionalized torture of at least 2.3 million victims of America’s prison-industrial complex; the mass murder of roughly 55 million people by the US government since World War II; the ongoing destruction of human liberty by all of America’s major institutions including the NSA and Hollywood (see my discussion of Argo above) ; and a long list of other American abuses well known to the audience of my radio shows and the rest of the independent media. Anyone who lives in America, yet worries about human rights in Iran, is clinically insane.
In fact, Iran has a different view of human rights from that of the mainstream US media and the Western-dominated foundation-funded human rights NGOs. The “rights” to defame religion, undermine the religiously-grounded social order, engage in the display of public sexuality, and promulgate pornography and other degrading materials do not exist in Iran. In the Islamic Republic, the right of people to be free from such soul-killing assaults trumps the rights of the soul-killers. You may not agree with these values…in which case you might be better off living somewhere on the 99% of the earth’s surface that more closely reflects your worldview, rather than on the 1% known as the Islamic Republic of Iran.
MYTH: Iran persecutes religious minorities, including Jews and Bahais. REALITY: Jews and other traditional religions, no. Bahais, yes. Regarding Jews, it is well known that despite the utmost efforts of Israel and its agents, the Iranian Jewish community is proudly Iranian and has no intention of relocating to Occupied Palestine. There are Jewish representatives in the Iranian government, and the Jewish community of Tehran is thriving.
Some claim Iran persecutes Sunni Muslims. In fact, the US and Israel have sponsored Takfiri-Wahhabi terrorist groups that randomly kill Shi’a Muslims (and other “religious deviants”) as a matter of policy. Iran defends itself against these assaults; it is likely that some innocent people get caught up in the dragnet. But apart from this, Sunni Muslims, and members of other traditional religious groups, are doing fine in Iran. In fact, as a Sunni Muslim, I can tell you that there is no other country on earth where genuine Sunni Muslims ought to feel more comfortable.
As for the Bahai, Iranian leaders view their “persecution” of that group as a form of necessary self-defense. The Bahai faith – or cult, as most Muslims would have it – appears to have been, like Wahhabism, invented by freemasonic imperialist forces as a weapon against Islam. (If it wasn’t, it might as well have been.) Bahaism is just massively-watered-down pseudo-Islam designed to turn Muslims into Western-style secularists. It begins with the blasphemous (to Muslims) assertion that new prophets known as The Bab, Baha’u’llah, etc. have come to release Muslims from their religious obligations. Since Islam conceives of itself as the Final Revelation, the idea of a “new prophet” of any kind is the most destructively subversive idea imaginable – a notion that no Muslim society could ever possibly tolerate. On top of all that, the fact that Bahai headquarters is in the genocidal “state” of Rothschild-occupied Palestine spits in the face of the world’s Muslims. So if you are Bahai (may God forgive you) you obviously should make your home somewhere on that vast portion of the earth’s surface where the social order is non-Islamic.
MYTH: The Islamic Republic is a failure, and regime change is just around the corner. FACT: Politically, economically, and technologically, Iran is by far the most successful country in the Middle East. The only economically comparable Middle Eastern country, Turkey, has no technological breakthroughs comparable to Iran’s space program and nuclear energy program – much less the ability to hijack US drones – and is still struggling to free itself from its NATO overlords. Despite the crushing effect of Western sanctions, Iran has soldiered on and learned to be self-reliant in manufacturing, R&D, technology, and so on. Iran looks live a thriving, booming country, not a basket case. It seems like just about everyone has a car (for better or worse). There is a huge construction boom, with construction cranes and tall buildings rising against the skyline. Compared to Iran, Morocco – the Muslim country I am most familiar with – is a poverty-stricken backwater, despite (or because of) its economy receiving vast sums of Western investment.
As for the notion that most Iranians want to get rid of their Islamic Republic, this is a ridiculous propaganda meme, spread by psychological warfare operatives, that bears no relation to discernible reality. Yes, a minority of Iranians, almost all concentrated in the privileged classes of places like North Tehran, is drunk on Westoxicants and yearning for the “freedom” to be New World Order consumer-culture mind-control slaves. Sorry, it ain’t gonna happen. For a detailed and convincing explanation of why the Islamic Republic is here to stay, and why the West had better get used to it, read Flynt and Hillary Leverett’s Going to Tehran.