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May 28, 2006
Iran Shifting To War Footing

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made it clear that he sees European opposition to his nuclear program a threat, and returned one in kind. Speaking to the German magazine Der Spiegel, the Iranian president warned Europe that they will "suffer the consequences" if they did not capitulate:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Europe that it should support his country's nuclear program or "suffer the consequences."

In an interview to be published in the German Der Spiegel on Sunday, Ahmadinejad also expressed his doubt regarding the Holocaust, saying that even if it had occurred, the Jewish state should have been established in Europe, not in Palestine.

The article in DS has not yet been released, but the Jerusalem Post blurb indicates that Iran's president has not yet tired of following the playbook of Adolf Hitler in dealing with the West. Alternating between veiled threats and offers of diplomacy, Ahmadinejad has attempted to split the coalition of nations opposing its development of nuclear weapons. In this case, it looks like Ahmadinejad wants to stress the reach of Iranian weapons and the fact that most of Europe falls within their range.

Nor is that the only parallel between Hitler and Ahmadinejad these days. The messianic Shi'ite has conducted a purge of high-level political opponents from national offices, seemingly with the blessing of the Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini. The New York Times reports on the "consolidation" underway in Teheran:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is trying to consolidate power in the office of the presidency in a way never before seen in the 27-year history of the Islamic Republic, apparently with the tacit approval of Iran's supreme leader, according to government officials and political analysts here. ...

Mr. Ahmadinejad is pressing far beyond the boundaries set by other presidents. For the first time since the revolution, a president has overshadowed the nation's chief cleric, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on both domestic and international affairs.

He has evicted the former president, Mohammad Khatami, from his offices, taken control of a crucial research organization away from another former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, challenged high-ranking clerics on the treatment of women and forced prominent academics out of the university system.

"Parliament and government should fight against wealthy officials," Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a speech before Parliament on Saturday that again appeared aimed at upending pillars of the status quo. "Wealthy people should not have influence over senior officials because of their wealth. They should not impose their demands on the needs of the poor people."

In this theocratic system, where appointed religious leaders hold ultimate power, the presidency is a relatively weak position. In the multiple layers of power that obscure the governance of Iran, no one knows for certain where the ultimate decisions are being made. But many of those watching in near disbelief at the speed and aggression with which the president is seeking to accumulate power assume that he is operating with the full support of Ayatollah Khamenei.

The Times notes that the elimination of the fog surrounding the exercise of power in Iran gives the US an opportunity for meaningful direct talks for the first time since the revolution 27 years ago. However, what the Times fails to comprehend is that, much like the Nazi "consolidation" in the early days of their rule, the accumulation of power to one man allows for streamlined internal decisionmaking, not external, where Khameini always held the power. That kind of structure lends itself to one purpose: war.

Ahmadinejad, working under Khameini's approval, is stripping all of the potential elements of opposition to war from his government. Arrests have not yet come, but this is certainly a politicial purge, attempting to guarantee a political purity in the government under Ahmadinejad. Nor is this limited to the secular government. Khameini appears to be using Ahmadinejad to bypass the rest of the Guardian Council and establish himself as the only cleric whose opinion matters. It reduces the amount of time needed for decisions and eliminates any potential for time-wasting dissension.

Why else would all decision-making power get concentrated in the hands of two men, and all mechanisms for dissent eliminated?

Other warning signs exist as well. Iran, like Germany in the late 20s and early 30s, has a restive population wishing for a sharp improvement in their standard of living. Ahmadinejad has to either deliver that or explain why he cannot. For this purpose, he has turned to Islamic anti-Semitism and as the Times reports, he has started to raise up a new intellectual elite that uses Jews as a scapegoat for the domestic woes Iranians suffer. They quote an unnamed political-science professor in Teheran as saying, "He is reshaping the identity of the elite. Being against Jews and Zionists is an essential part of this new identity." He has also started large government-works programs and promised all sorts of welfare to garner a populist following.

We have seen this path before. The world should recognize the signs, and the West had better start looking for Churchills rather than Chamberlains, and quickly.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 28, 2006 7:00 AM

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