As the international community stands by, Tehran comes closer to unveiling its nukes.

A wartime lexicon.
May 17 2010 11:42 AM

Don't Let Iran Blackmail the World

As the international community stands by, Tehran comes closer to unveiling its nukes.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Click image to expand.

Two events last week make the Obama administration's gradualist approach to Iran seem rather too leisurely. They also put us on notice of two possible future developments, one of them extremely menacing, the other somewhat encouraging.

Christopher Hitchens Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.

On May 15, we were subjected to a tirade by Ayatollah Mohammad Bagher Kharrazi, leader of Iran's Hezbollah party and proprietor of the newspaper of the same name, which carried his incendiary article. The need of the hour, intoned the ayatollah, was for a "Greater Iran" that would assume hegemonic control over much of the Middle East and Central Asia (stretching from Afghanistan to Palestine, according to the broad-brush ambitions disclosed by his polemic). This new imperialism would, he urged, possess two very attractive attributes. It would abolish the Jewish state, and it would assist in the arrival of the long-awaited Mahdi, or hidden imam, whose promised reign of perfection has been on hold since his abrupt disappearance in the ninth century.

Advertisement

The second development took place in the material world and in the here and now. Iran's Kurdish population managed to bring off a well-organized general strike in all the major cities of their long-oppressed region. Schools and shops and bazaars were closed, and the claim that the strike was pretty solid seems to be well-supported by the evidence. The occasion for the strike was the brutal execution of five anti-regime activists, four of them Kurdish. This is the only tactic that the Islamic Republic of Iran seems to have left at its disposal, as the anniversary of last year's military coup by the Revolutionary Guards approaches.

Just as those guards are actually the embodiment of a vicious counterrevolution and an unstable dictatorial status quo, so is Ayatollah Kharrazi's call for a Shiite imperialism profoundly reactionary. (Nothing, however, will stop our media from referring to him, and to people like him, as "radical.") His call for the abolition of Israel is of what one might call a routine nature—as is his ardent wish for the advent of the Mahdi—but what's of more immediate interest is his railing against the "cancerous tumors" of Sunni Islam, especially as represented by Iran's Arab neighbors in the Gulf.

Nor is this a new noise, or something to be explained away by mere crowd-pleasing demagogy. It isn't very long since the quasiofficial Tehran newspaper Kayhan declared that the nearby island state of Bahrain was in reality a province of Iran, a position more or less openly held by several members of the hard-line wing of the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime. It is true that a large proportion of Bahrain's population is ethnically Persian or Shiite, or both. But it is also true that a large proportion of Iran's Kurdish population is Sunni and by definition not Persian.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 9:19 PM The Phone Call Is Twenty Minutes of Pitch-Perfect, Wrenching Cinema
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.