Iran’s Insane Rhetoric

Iranian officials are once again firing off belligerent rhetoric.


Via the Jerusalem Post:

Hojjat al-Eslam Ali Shirazi, the representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Islamic Republic’s Qods Force, said this week that Iran needed just “24 hours and an excuse” to destroy Israel.

In his first public interview in a year, reported in the Persian-language Jahan News, which is close to the regime, Shirazi said if Israel attacked Iran, the Islamic Republic would be able to turn the conflict into a war of attrition that would lead to Israel’s destruction.

“If such a war does happen, it would not be a long war, and it would benefit the entire Islamic umma the global community of Muslims. We have expertise in fighting wars of attrition and Israel cannot fight a war of attrition,” Shirazi said, referring to Iran’s eight-year war of attrition against Iraq.

Such claims are — more or less — inconsequential rubbish. The fact remains that Israel has nuclear weapons and a nuclear second strike, and Iran has no such thing, and the fact remains that the Iranian leadership knows this and are extremely unlikely to start a war where Iran (as Shimon Peres put it) will be the one wiped off the face of the Earth by Israeli plutonium. Yet the facts of military science will do little to stop the hawks of the West sounding off that Iran is irrational and that Iran is cooking up a plan to destroy Israel, and so must face regime change.

To grasp what is really occurring here we must look at how authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes (or, indeed, authoritarian regimes in general)  function. Authoritarian regimes  must maintain a cloak of authority. Tyrants do not attempt to look or sound weak; they try to project an aura of invincibility and indefatigability. We saw this during the last Gulf War, where Iraq’s information minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf — nicknamed Baghdad Bob in the American media — shot off hundreds of absurd statements during the war about how Iraqi troops were crushing the Americans, quite in contrast to the facts on the ground and right up until American tanks were rolling through the streets of Baghdad.

Baghdad Bob was not deluded. He was merely playing his role, and trying to project an aura of regime invincibility — providing propaganda for domestic consumption to keep the Iraqi population loyal to Saddam Hussein. It was a dog and pony show.

Iran’s belligerent rhetoric in this case is also strictly for domestic consumption — fierce rhetoric to keep the Iranian population fearful of the regime. Just like Baghdad Bob, the Iranian propaganda is far-removed from the real facts of the conflict. Whether the Iranian people really believe the regime’s propaganda — especially as the Iranian economy continues to worsen under sanctions — is dubious.

Yet one group of people — the Western neoconservatives, who are looking for another war — are more than happy to buy into the dog and pony “destroy Israel” bullshit.

As Robert Gates noted this week:

Painting a picture of internal political dysfunction in a dangerous world, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Wednesday night that a U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran would have disastrous consequences.

Neither the United States nor Israel is capable of wiping out Iran’s nuclear capability, he said, and “such an attack would make a nuclear-armed Iran inevitable. They would just bury the program deeper and make it more covert.”

Iran could respond by disrupting world oil traffic and launching a wave of terrorism across the region, Gates said.

“The results of an American or Israeli military strike on Iran could, in my view, prove catastrophic, haunting us for generations in that part of the world.”

And as I wrote last month:

A regional war in the Middle East could result, potentially sucking in the United States and Eurasian powers like China, Pakistan and Russia. China and Pakistan have both hinted that they could defend Iran if Iran were attacked — and for good reason, as Iran supplies significant quantities of energy.

Frustratingly, the Iranian regime keep giving the neoconservatives more rope with which to hang themselves — and the West — on a cross of imperial overstretch, debt and blowback. 

28 thoughts on “Iran’s Insane Rhetoric

  1. I’m not sure what’s insane about the rhetoric, especially given your conclusion. If Iran (and more importantly its allies China and Russia) wants to hang the west then, by your analysis, they are doing everything right.
    But I read this as another self-defense statement, as they consistently are from Iran: If Israel attacks us, we will respond.
    I have yet to see Iran threaten a preemptive or first strike attack against Israel or the west. Perhaps I’ve missed it. But every time a quote surfaces of Iran’s war rhetoric it turns out to be a statement of self-defense. Perhaps they could have peace if they publicly state they will roll over for the invading Zionist armies.

    • Iranian officials have threatened a first strike. .

      I wrote on September 29:

      And just six days ago in September 2012 Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh threatened to attack Israel and trigger World War III, saying that “it is possible that we will make a pre-emptive attack” which would “turn into World War III.” In the same statement, Hajizadeh threatened to attack American bases in the Middle East as well. Hajizadeh said that as a result of this attack, Israel would “sustain heavy damage and that will be a prelude to its obliteration.”

      But given the level of intimidation from the West (many, many threats of a first strike), I am surprised they haven’t done it a lot more.

      This rope may hang the West, but it will also hang Iran’s leadership and many of the Iranian people. If I was running Iran and trying to avoid a war I would cease all talk of destroying Israel — which is giving the neocons exactly what they want — and focus on “we’re not developing a weapon”.

        • Nice:

          There are elements, though, in all three places—in Washington, in Tel Aviv, and in Tehran—that want war. No question about it. The elements in Tehran want war because they see it as solidifying their hold, their revolutionary hold on the government for at least another decade or two, something that’s looking a little precarious at the moment. They see it as a way to get international opinion to shift to them. And they’re probably right, there. Once bombs start falling, people start falling off as our friends and allies when innocent civilians are killed and so forth.

          So there are people in Iran who want war. There are people in Washington who want war. I recognize them. They’re the John Boltons and others of the world that I had to deal with in 2001, ’02, and ’03 with regard to Iraq. They’re marching their own route and trying to push us on to war. The recent delisting of the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq, the so-called MEK, is a case in point. They are the new Iraqi National Congress/Ahmed Chalabi.

  2. Excellent expose’ of authoritarian regimes’* use of propaganda for domestic consumption! But I question repetition of the political mantra “neoconservatives looking for another war”. I haven’t been “in touch” since Nixon’s Watergate wrecked the “Vietnamization” drive by “conservatives”. Have you, John?

    • Read the link. It links to Patrick Clawson — an undeniable neocon — talking about “crisis initiation” and “how to get into a war with Iran”.

      • I have read it, and reject any form of “false flag”. But who the hell is Patrick Clawson — foreign policy adviser to Romney, Ryan, McCain, Lieberman? Does Clawson’s opinion carry any weight?

        • Dan Senor is foreign policy adviser to Romney, and he appears to be in the business of getting America into Iran, too (though nothing like as crudely as Clawson).

    • And what do you think my point of view is? I’m trying to be fair. I’ve criticised every single side in this very heavily, and my heaviest criticisms have been for Netanyahu.

      • I’m sorry I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t taking issue with your point of view. It’s just that my reading of the press in the last few weeks leaves me with a different picture than the one you presented. Sure, opinions like your post could well have been said for many years now, where some might agree more and some less, but right now did not seem like an obvious time for it.

      • John: In your next post you appear to label Netanyahu a neocon. I’m confused — please restate your definition of “neocon”.

        • Neocon means someone who advocates military action in foreign lands for purposes beyond direct self-defence, e.g. including regime change, nation building, etc.

  3. Here in the Seattle area there is a guy named Rick Steves who has made quite a career of encouraging timid Americans to travel to exciting, exotic places – like Europe. Although it is hard not to chuckle sometimes at his gee-whiz approach to travel, he produces some interesting shows, including one a couple years ago where he went to Iran.

    One of his contentions seemed to be that there is something about the Persian or Farsi language that often comes across as crazy when translated to English, with casual use of terms such as “death to” this and that. He was of course, trying to portray the better side of Iran, which does seem to be an interesting place, and as with many travel writers, seeing only the good side.

    Whether or not his point about the Farsi language is true, your point about them handing rope to their enemies couldn’t be more apt, Aziz. It doesn’t take much internet searching to turn up the chilling details on Israel’s nuclear capabilities. I wonder about statements that an Israeli strike would only guarantee an Iranian bomb. Israel seems perfectly capable of erasing Iran from the face of the Earth, several times over. If they do attack, why would they leave them capable of developing their own nuclear weapons? Would they really limit themselves to conventional attack? I have a hard time seeing what China or Russia would gain by jumping into the fray, by then it will be too late to salvage China’s oil supplies. But then, all bets will be off if we see the first use of nuclear arms in combat since 1945.


    • I got slammed in ZH comments for this post, but really that is all I am pointing out. Iran is handing rope to their enemies. I got even more heavily downvoted for saying that it may well be the case that Iran want Israel and America to attack to try and bankrupt the United States (the way bin Laden wanted America to get quagmired in Afghanistan).

      Still true, though.

      • John, I really wouldn’t worry about what people in the comments section of ZH are saying. That site has a cult-like following as most seem to find it difficult to appreciate alternative, alternative thinking.

      • I would not worry about comments on ZeroHedge. I am still waiting on an account! And I used multiple email addresses. The posters on this account are probably on the ZH payroll. How did you get an account!

        This from the 3/8/12


        Thank you for registering at ZeroHedge. Your application for an account is currently pending approval. Once it has been approved, you will receive another e-mail containing information about how to log in, set your password, and other details.

        Approval can take between four (4) and seven (7) days from registration.

        — ZH Staff

  4. The J-Post as reference to anything the Iranians would do, very weak John.

    Always good to have a false flag ready as soon as the Credit Default Swaps raise their heads again.

    The world should be more worried about Israel and their 200+ nukes, US should cut funding to them and then see if they are so war-like.

    • I’m not using it as a reference to anything they “would do” or anything theoretical, I’m using it as a reference to a specific event that actually happened.

      If you’ve bothered to read anything else I’ve read on this subject, you’ll know I’ve been critical of everyone involved, especially Netanyahu.

  5. Pingback: Iran’s Insane Rhetoric |

  6. @ Aziz:

    “To grasp what is really occurring here we must look at how authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes (or, indeed, authoritarian regimes in general) function. Authoritarian regimes must maintain a cloak of authority.”

    This is why I don’t get too alarmed about the issue. I will take notice when a mushroom cloud appears.

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