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The Emergence of a New Axis: Los Angeles/Tel Aviv/Tehran

By Dr. Mohammad Sahimi

I am not a fan of President George W. Bush. He took the United States to an illegal war in Iraq. Do not get me wrong: I, like almost everybody else, am thrilled that the criminal Saddam Hussein and his regime are gone. But overthrowing the government of a sovereign country without a United Nations mandate is against all the international treaties. President Bush claims that a coalition of "willing nations" helped him invade Iraq, but he could not put together even a coalition of "bribed and coerced" nations: Mexico, which is totally dependent on the US for its trade and its army of illegal workers constantly crossing into the US, and Turkey, the US ally for the past 50 years, refused to support the US. Even poor African countries - Cameroon and Angola - did not go along! Mr. Bush claims that he wanted to get rid of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before it gave them to terrorists. Not only none has been found so far, but also, if getting rid of WMP was the true motivation for invading Iraq, President Bush should first have taken care of, (1) Pakistan, a country that does have WMP and the inclination to use them; a nation that has been involved in numerous terrorist acts, and a state that has been giving refuge to Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and their criminal gangs, and (2) Israel which has a full arsenal of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Mr. Bush talks about establishing a democratic system in Iraq, but bemoaned Turkish parliament's rejection of US troops in Turkey, and without waiting for the emergence of such a democratic government, has been giving huge contracts to US companies to "reconstruct" Iraq!

President Bush has stated again and again that his war is not against Islam and the people of the Middle East, but his White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives has been busy handing out funds to some of the most reactionary christian groups that have been involved in the most vicious and racist attacks on Islam and muslims. Let us see what some of these supposedly "men of God" have been saying. Jerry Falwell has called Prophet Mohammad a terrorist; Franklin Graham has declared that Islam is an "evil and wicked faith," and Pat Robertson, a man who at one point aspired to be the US President, has been saying the most scurrilous things about Islam, which give shivers to people like me. President Bush has also nominated Daniel Pipes, one of the most bigotted foes of Islam and muslims, to the Board of the United States Institute for Peace! I will come back to Daniel Pipes later in this article.

Yet, despite my major differences with President Bush, I must admit that he has been right about one thing: There is indeed in this world an Axis of whatever we like to call it, Evil or otherwise. His campaign against Iraq, that he started over a year ago, has helped the emergence of this Axis, although this Axis has existed for quite some time. However, President Bush is only half right, because while it is true that an Axis does exist, it does not, in my opinion, consist of Iraq, Iran and North Korea (Iraq is off the axis anyway!). Rather, it consists of the supporters of the Pahlavi dynasty, mainly in Los Angeles; Ariel Sharon and company in Tel Aviv, and the right-wing reactionaries in Tehran. Strange bedfellows? Not really, if we just consider for a moment what these people wish for our beloved Iran.

Let us start with our so-called royalists. I used to refer to them as the Shahollaahies, because I thought that what they want is restoring the monarchy in Iran, but it is now clear that they should simply be called the die-hard royalists, or the chest-beating royalists (or, in Farsi, Pahlavi-chee-haa), because what they want is not the return to Iran of monarchy per se, rather the return of the defunct Pahlavi dynasty, so that the special priviledges that they enjoyed under the Shah can be restored. This also explains why they have created such a terror environment - an almost fascist state of affairs - everywhere that they are, and in particular here in Los Angeles, their symbolic "Capital," and have been constantly threatening our people in Iran with revenge, while their screams for "democracy" have been deafening.

The die-hard royalists are nothing but a small fringe group, yet they control the agenda in Los Angeles. They try to silence anybody who wishes to speak up against them, and have no shame in admitting as much; in fact, they are proud of it! They lie, fabricate any "truth" that suites their interests, and have no mercy on anybody who does not follow their line, not even on a Iranian singer who, due to the obligations that he had in his contract, had refused to sing a song about the Persian Gulf in an Arab country of the Gulf. Our die-hard royalists have called for his boycott. As usual, our die-hard royalists have a very short memory. Otherwise, while they scream for the Persian gulf, they should also remember that it was the Shah who gave away Bahrain to the British Empire, the same Bahrain that we had been told for decades, by the Pahlavies themselves, to be Iran's fourteenth province!

The leaders and opinion makers of our die-hard royalists belong to one of the following two groups.

(1) In one group are some of the most politically- and socially-illiterate people around. One (whose name aptly rhymes with Israel), from the comfort of his home in the Los Angeles area, constantly invites our people in Iran to start a bloody revolution, so that he can triumphantly go back to Tehran! Another one was instrumental in establishing the fascist Rastaakhiz Party in Iran during the last years of the Shah, has been advocating US military strikes on Iran for at least a decade, while admitting freely that he has been on the CIA's payroll since the 1970s, the same CIA that overthrew the government of one of our true national heroes, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh.

(2) In the second group are some intellectuals that have dedicated themselves to the cause of restoring to power the defunct Pahlavi dynasty. One of them opined from Paris several months ago that the US should first take care of Iran (the code words for invading Iran), rather than Iraq, and now, watching the human catastrophe that has been unfolding in Iraq, and the suffering of innocent Iraqi people, he has called invasion of Iraq "a courageous act in face of all obstacles." Indeed, there were, and there still are, obstacles to invading and occupying Iraq; it is called world opposition! Yes, the Iraqi people have been liberated from the bloody dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, but their country is now occupied by their liberators who prefer to protect the oil fields rather than the cultural heritage of Iraq, the land of Mesopotamia, the cradle of human civilization. They prefer to protect Iraq's Oil Ministry rather than the Health or Education Ministry, with Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon chief, declaring that looting of cultural heritage of Iraq, "is the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase..." The Iraqi people are supposed to form a democratic government, but it has already been decided for them that Halliburton and Bechtel, two US corporations, should "reconstruct" Iraq. Judging by the reaction of this leader of our die-hard royalists to invasion of Iraq and its aftermath, it is clear what this Iranian "patriot" wishes for Iran!

Another of such leaders issued an "Atlanta manifesto" in which he wondered aloud why what he called the "true Iranian intellectuals" are silent and do not support Mr. Reza Pahlavi, which is of course not surprising given the special privileges that he enjoyed under the Shah, while other intellectuals were either imprisoned or murdered. He and the rest of our die-hard royalists want us to simply forget about the 25 years of the Shah's bloody and dark dictatorship. This dark list of the leaders and opinion makers of the die-hard royalists can go on and on and on.

Our die-hard royalists are propped up and supported by the US far right and the Israeli lobby in the US. Let us see who these people are and what they have in mind for the Middle East, including our beloved Iran.

Michael A. Ledeen is one of the leading thinkers of the US far right, and a strong supporter of Israel and our die-hard royalists. Writing in National Review Online, Mr. Ledeen advocates "creative destruction," proclaiming that,

"We should have no misgivings about our ability to destroy tyranies. It is what we do best. It comes naturally to us, for we are the one truly revolutionary country in the world, as we have been for more than 200 years. Creative destruction is our middle name..."

Mr. Ledeen also believes in "total war" as opposed to "limited war" in which only armed forces are used. According to him,

"Total war not only destroys the enemy's military forces, but also brings the enemy society to an extremely personal point of decision, so that they are willing to accept a reversal of the cultural trends ... The sparing of civilian lives cannot be the total war's first priority ... The purpose of total war is to permanently force your will onto another people."

What about the casualties of the war in Iraq (and presumably anywhere else in the Middle East)? Here is what Mr. Ledeen said recently:

"I think the level of casualties is secondary. I mean, it may sound like an odd thing to say, but all the great scholars who have studied American character have come to the conclusion that we are a warlike people and that we love war..."

What is the nature of the current US campaign in the Middle East? Right before the US invaded Iraq, Mr. Ledeen declared that,

"God willing, Judgment Day is coming to the Middle East and the long-suffering people of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia will get their chance to be free,"

and therefore this war, in Mr. Ledeen's view (and that of his like-minded allies) is nothing but continuation of the Crusade against the Islamic world.

Mr. Ledeen constantly sheds tears for democracy in Iran (but never ever for Palestinians who have been suffering for nearly 36 years under the Israeli occupation of their land). He has consistently stated that the US should "take care" of Iran. I guess he first wants to have his creative destructions in Iran, and then carry out his total war by imposing on us his hand-picked leader - a Pahlavi or die-hard royalist. This is the same person who, when he was a member of, or a consultant to, President Reagan's National Security Council in the 1980s, was deeply involved in the Iran-Contra affair in which the US secretly sold weapons to Iran and used the profits to arm the Nicaraguan thugs! Mr. Ledeen was in fact the first person representing the NSC to contact Mr. Manouchehr Ghorbani, the Iranian arms dealer and the liaison with Iran! He was also indicted for being involved in the Iran-Contra affair, as were many people who are now working for the Bush Administration, including Elliot Abrams, who at that time was Assistant Secretary of State for inter American affairs, and now is in charge of the Middle East affairs in President Bush's National Security Council. The involvement with the Iran-Contra affairs does not, of course, bother Mr. Ledeen!

Michael Rubin, another right-wing idealogue, a strong supporter of our die-hard royalists and Israel, and the Pentagon's special advisor on Iran and Iraq, has bemoaned for years the fact that the Iranian Revolution overthrew the Pahlavies and displaced our die-hard royalists. He has declared that,

"It is no surprise that Reza Pahlavi, son of the late Shah, has arisen seemingly out of nowhere to become the leading opposition figure."

It is no surprise, indeed! We should thank the likes of Mr. Ledeen and Mr. Rubin, and the Israeli lobby in the US, for resurrecting the Pahlavies and their supporters from their political graves. As part of their "total war" on Iran, they have picked our future leader too, for whom we should vote if they grant us the "privilege" of voting!

The third guru of the US far right is Mr. Richard Perle who, until March 27, was Chairman of Defence Advisory Board that provides advice to the Pentagon. He resigned from the Chairmanship of the Advisory Board after the storm over his business dealings and lobbying. He is known in Washington circles as the "Prince of Darkness." He was a leading figure in the report that was submitted to the Pentagon last year in which the US was urged to apply huge pressure on Saudi Arabia, and threaten it with disintegration. It was revealed recently that, at the same time that he was advocating this, he was acting as a business consultant for some Saudi billionaire! Mr. Perle is also one of the leading hawks when it comes to Iran. He has advocated "regime change" for Iran by whatever means necessary.

Many of us have wondered how our die-hard royalists have managed to be so much in the public eyes, in the Op-Ed pages, and on various TV and radio programs, ever since the criminal and tragic terrorist attacks of September 11 took place. The facts may now be emerging: The activities of our die-hard royalists might be handled by an agency called the Benador Associates, which arranges their TV appearances and speaking engagements, and helps to place their articles in newspapers. The agency is run by Eleana Benador. The Benador Associates has also been granted a contract to develop educational books for children of Afghanistan (just imagine the contents of those books!). According to Brian Whitaker of the Guardian, the website of Robert Guzzardi, a Pennsylvania wealthy man and a strong supporter of Israel, exhibits photographs of a fun party attended by Ms. Benador, Senator Joseph Lieberman (Al Gore's running mate in the 2000 elections), Daniel Pipes, and Mr. Reza Pahlavi! In addition to Daniel Pipes, both Michael Ledeen and Michael Rubin are also Ms. Benador's clients. So, our future leader, if the dreams of our die-hard royalists come true, is in great company!

Who is Daniel Pipes, that keeps Mr. Reza Pahlavi's company? He is the leading American Islamophob. Here are some of the positions that he has taken regarding the Middle East and muslims. In an article in the Jerusalem Post, Mr. Pipes wrote:

"There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military, and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism, as do Muslim chaplains in prisons and the armed forces. Muslim visitors and immigrants must undergo additional background checks. Mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches, synagogues and temples. Muslim schools require increased oversight to ascertain what is being taught to children."

In other words, in Mr. Pipes opinion, muslims cannot even be second-class citizens of the US, let alone first-class. They should be watched all the time, and Pipes and company should be able to dictate to muslims what they should teach to their children! Needless to say, We Iranians are, of course, in the same boat, if for no reason other than the fact that most of us have muslim names and are originally from an Islamic country.

Mr. Pipes has founded Campus Watch, an organization that collects complaints against professors and academic institutions deemed to be biased in favor of Islam, muslims and Palestinians. He has also been quoted (in Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2001) as saying:

"The Palestinians are a miserable people...and they deserve to be."

This is the first time that somebody condemns an entire nation to misery! If this is not racism, then I do not know what is!

Mr. Pipes has also declared that:

"10 to 15 percent of all muslims are potential killers."

This one needs no explanation or interpretation!

If, after reading all of the above, you still doubt that the US far right, the supporter and ally of our die-hard royalists, is after imposing its will on the people of the Middle East (including, eventually, Iran), consider the following. The same Franklin Graham, who called Islam a "very evil and wicked" religion, has declared that his organization is "poised and ready" with supplies and medicine for suffering Iraqis. Mr. Graham, in an interview published on Beliefnet, a multifaith Web site, said, "the purpose is to love and save them in the name of Jesus Christ. God will always give us opportunities," and so ivasion of Iraq is Mr. Graham's lucky break! The Southern Baptists, of which President Bush is a member, are also doing the same. What these groups will be trying to do is "liberating" the Iraqi people, at their most vulerenable moments, from their culture and religion! In addition, here is what Ann Coulter, a leading right wing, the person who has accused in her recent book the US media of having liberal bias (most of which actually supported invasion of Iraq!), has said about the people of the Middle East:

"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

Therefore, similar to Mr. Ledeen's "total war," this is a "total liberation!" Overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime, which is what all reasonable people also wished for (though not by invading Iraq), is not enough for Mr. Ledeen and the US far right; rather, they would be satisfied only if their will is also imposed on the Iraqi people and their way of life, and to achieve this goal, "the level of casualties is secondary!" So, our die-hard royalists, who profess their hatred for Iran's fundamentalists, have made a pact with the Christian right and their jewish allies in order to grab power. So much for secular democracy and separation of church and state!

What Messrs Ledeen, Rubin, Perle, Pipes, and other US rightwingers want for Iran is not even an Iranian version of Hamid Karzai, a seemingly moderate and reasonable puppet of the US who, along with Zalmay Khalilzad, President's Bush special envoy to the Middle East, had lobbied hard for oil contracts with the Taliban! Rather, they US far right is searching for an Iranian version of Ahmad Chalabi, one of Iraq's future "leaders" who is wanted in Jordan for embezzlement and is not trusted even by the US State Department. The US far right would also not mind an Iranian version of Nizar Al-Khazraji, the Iraqi General who murdered thousands of innocent Kurds and then fled Iraq.

There is, however, one important difference between Mr. Chalabi and Mr. Reza Pahlavi: While Mr. Chalabi left Iraq in 1958 when he was very young, and has since made his millions (legally or illegally!) himself, Mr. Pahlavi, who also left Iran when he was very young, inherited his hundreds of millions from his father who had stolen them from our people.

It is then easy to see why our die-hard royalists are propped up and supported by the US far-right: True to their form and loyal to their "idealogy," the die-hard royalists have an abundance of the Chalabies and Khazrajies (but not even the Karzais)! So, this is an alliance "made in heaven": Our die-hard royalists are dreaming that, through their alliance with the US far-right, and Ariel Sharon and company (see below), will go to Tehran, either riding in the US tanks, or flying there in the US C-17 transport planes, just like Ahmad Chalabi! This will then usher in the era of "democracy" that our die-hard royalists envision for Iran!

With the exception of our die-hard royalists, most of us Iranians were surprised and even shocked when President Bush declared Iran a pillar of the Axis of Evil. After all, Iran had consistently opposed the Taliban and Al-Qaeda (Shiites are hated by the Taliban and Al Qaeda), and almost went to war with them in 1998, after nine Iranian diplomats were murdered by the Taliban. Moreover, 2.5 million Afghan refugees have lived in Iran for the last two decades. Iran played a crucial role in the emergence of the Karzai government in Afghanistan by, (1) allowing the US to use its air space for attacking the Taliban positions; (2) providing crucial intelligence on the Taliban and military aid to the Northern Alliance, the dominant anti-Taliban force; (3) opening its ports on the Persian Gulf and its roads to the humanitarian aids sent to the Afghan people; (4) using its strong influence over the Northern Alliance to help avert the failure of the conference in Germany that brought to power the interim government in Kabul, and (5) pledging (and now actually delivering) $560 million in aid for Afghanistan's reconstruction.

Given these facts, why was Iran made a pillar of the Axis of Evil? This brings us to the second pillar of the Axis that I am describing, namely, Ariel Sharon and the right-wing Israelis who are opposed to normalization of the relation between the US and Iran. Sharon has made it clear that he wants the US to attack Iran, a position which is also advocated covertly or overtly by most, if not all, of our die-hard royalists. He called on the US and Britain to attack Iran "the day after they finish off Saddam Hussein," the same line that is advocated by Israel's lobby in the United States. In a recent meeting with the US congressmen (right before the US invaded Iraq), Sharon "nominated" three countries to be tackled by the US after Iraq, namely, Iran, Libya and Syria. He also met with John Bolton, the US assistant Secretary of State, who apparently told him that the US will deal with Syria, Iran and North Korea after conquering Iraq.

Sharon's supporters in the US justify, and provide a rationale for, what he advocates. For example, Ranan Lurie, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, rationalizes Sharon's suggestion the following way (I am quoting here from Professor Mansoor Farhang's recent article in the March 17 issue of the magazine The Nation):

"It is inconceivable that [the US] will attack Iraq, destroy its unconventional laboratories and arsenal, come home for a ticker-tape parade on Wilshire Boulevard and go to the beaches while Iran is still there. Imagine a brain surgeon penetrating the skull of a patient who has two malignant tumors and yet extracting only one of them. Logic says that, as long as you are in that skull, the same incision should serve for the removal of the second tumor."

Along the same lines, Ha'aretz, the Israeli newspaper, reported on March 26 that,

"After the war in Iraq, Israel will try to convince the US to direct its war on terror at Iran, Damascus and Beirut. Senior defense establishment officials say that initial contacts in this direction have already been made in recent months, and that there is a good chance that America will be swayed by the Israeli argument..."

What about the third pillar of our Axis? It consists of the right-wing reactionaries in Tehran, those who are supported by 5% of the population, but hold 80% of power; those who have invented their own vocabulary in which "people" means "them" and "Islam" means "their wealth and power," very similar to the vocabulary of our die-hard royalists in which "people" again means "them" and "democracy" means "monarchy!" We all know what the reactionaries have done. They have a natural alliance with our die-hard royalists, and Ariel Sharon and company. But, whereas the alliance between Israel and our die-hard royalists is organic, the one between the Tehran reactionaries, our die-hard royalists, and the Sharon group, is due to the common goals and views that they hold, some of which are:

(1) Our die-hard royalists view the Iranian Revolution, one of the greatest revolutions of the twentieth century, as a "catastrophy." Similarly, Israel, from its own perspective, has the same view. The die-hard royalists also believe that this "catastrophy" was imposed on Iran by foreign powers. The Tehran reactionaries have exactly the same views of Iran's democratic movement, which is the natural continuation of the Revolution.

(2) When the Rastaakhiz Party was founded by the Shah, he declared that, "anybody who does not like the one-party system can get his passport and leave Iran." Similarly, our die-hard royalists constantly threaten us that if we do not support them here in the US, they will throw us "to the other side of the ocean." One of the leading Tehran reactionaries has also declared that, "those who do not like the Islamic government should leave Iran."

(3) The Tehran reactionaries have closed independent newspapers, and control most means of mass communications. Similarly, our die-hard royalists, with the funding that they receive from the Israeli lobby in the US, own almost all means of mass communications in the Iranian community (except, of course, the internet), and, taking a page from their Israeli allies, threaten everybody with economic boycott, if they deviate from their line (while they themselves are at each other's throats!). We must keep in mind that the economic boycott imposed on Iran in 1995 is one of the greatest successes of the Israeli lobby in the US.

(4) The Tehran reactionaries do not want people to vote, unless the candidates have been selected by them! Our die-hard royalists do not even believe in voting, unless we vote, and only once, to restore the Pahlavies to power! Both groups do not recognize that voting is people's right that they have earned, not something that is granted to, or taken away from, them. Similarly, the Sharon group does not want democracy to take roots in Iran, because that would be the best shield for Iran: Nothing protects a country better than the acceptance of its government and leaders by its people.

(5) Our die-hard royalists love to see the US attack Iran. After all, they believe that this might give them their only chance to grab power in Iran. The Sharon group has been lobbying the US for the same, and the Tehran reactionaries itch for the US attack, because they believe that would be the end of Iran's reform and democracy movement.

(6) Our die-hard royalists bitterly oppose better relations between the US and Iran, as do Sharon and company, unless, of course, the US first attacks Iran! Similarly, the Tehran reactionaries oppose better relations between Iran and the US, unless the US first carries out a limited attack on Iran, so that they can finish off Iran's reform and democracy movement which they believe would then force the US to directly deal with them and recognize them as Iran's rulers.

(7) Our die-hard royalists have said repeatedly that if they come to power, they would jail the leaders of reform and democracy in Iran (if they do not kill them!). The Tehran reactionaries have been doing exactly that for our die-hard royalists.

(8) All the three pillars of our Axis believe that, you are either with them or with their enemies!!

This list can go on and on, but I believe that the point has been made.

Some of our compatriots, in whose sincerity and love for Iran I have no doubt, have advocated formation of a broad united front, or a coalition, for advancing the cause of democracy in Iran, and have called for inclusion of our die-hard royalists in this front or coalition. But, a united front with our die-hard royalists? These people are committing high treason, not because they want to put the Pahlavies back in power, as they are entitled to the freedom for advocating the political system that they envision for Iran, but because they have made a pact with Iran's enemies who want to dominate it.

In my opinion, the main task of those of us who care about Iran and its future is giving support to the democratic movement in Iran, and becoming the voice of those whose voices have been supressed, from the Ganjies and Abdies to the Batebies. Our people have shown repeatedly, by voting or NOT voting, what they want, and our task is giving them the support that they need so that Iran can make a peaceful transition to a democratic system without outside interference.

About the author:
Mohammad Sahimi is Professor and Chairman of Chemical Engineering at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. In addition to his teaching and research work, that has resulted in more than 200 scientific papers, six published books, and several awards, his political articles have appeared as book chapters, in the Los Angeles Times, and on the Iranian websites.

... Payvand News - 4/29/03 ... --

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