I've become increasingly interested
in the astonishing casualness with which fantasies about Iranian society have been introduced into our national bloodstream.
I'll never forget the shrieking incredulity that ensued when I told a conservative radio host that Iran had dozens of synagogues, where Jews were left alone to worship in relative peace. I felt like Ron Paul trying to explain Sean Hannity that 9/11 might have had something more to do with al-Qaeda "hating our freedom." In fact, he seemed to presume I was making it making it all up.
Iran is a deeply divided country, one whose hard-line leaderhip has a hard time winning that polyglot nation's respect, let alone its martial allegiance. Here's Edward Luttwak, a very serious-minded conservative realist, in the British magazine Prospect:
As for the claim that the "Iranians" are united in patriotic support for the nuclear programme, no such nationality even exists. Out of Iran's population of 70 million or so, 51 percent are ethnically Persian, 24 percent are Turks ("Azeris" is the regime's term), with other minorities comprising the remaining quarter. Many of Iran's 16-17 million Turks are in revolt against Persian cultural imperialism; its 5-6 million Kurds have started a serious insurgency; the Arab minority detonates bombs in Ahvaz; and Baluch tribesmen attack gendarmes and revolutionary guards. If some 40 percent of the British population were engaged in separatist struggles of varying intensity, nobody would claim that it was firmly united around the London government. On top of this, many of the Persian majority oppose the theocratic regime, either because they have become post-Islamic in reaction to its many prohibitions, or because they are Sufis, whom the regime now persecutes almost as much as the small Baha'i minority. So let us have no more reports from Tehran stressing the country's national unity. Persian nationalism is a minority position in a country where half the population is not even Persian. In our times, multinational states either decentralise or break up more or less violently; Iran is not decentralising, so its future seems highly predictable, while in the present not much cohesion under attack is to be expected.
| Thursday, May 17, 2007 10:05 AM