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The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
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Introduction: first, several friends recently suggested that that I should interview Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi; then I read this most interesting text on Moon of Alabama and I decided to ask Professor Marandi to share his views of the current situation in Iran, the Persian Gulf the rest of the Middle-East who very kindly agreed to reply to my question in spite of his most hectic and busy schedule. I am most grateful to Prof. Marandi for his time and replies. Crucially, Prof. Marandi debunks the silly notion that Russia and Israel are allies or working together. He also debunks that other canard about Russia and Iran having some major differences over Syria. Prof. Marandi, who is currently in Iran, is superbly connected and informed, and I hope that with this interview some of the more outlandish rumors which were recently circulated will finally be seen for what they are: utter, total, nonsense. Enjoy the interview!

The Saker: It is often said that there is an “axis of resistance” which comprises Syrian, Hezbollah, Iran, Russia and China. Sometimes, Venezuela, Cuba or the DPRK are added to this list. Do you believe that there is such an “axis of resistance” and, if yes, how would you characterize the nature of this informal alliance? Do you think that this informal alliance can ever grow into a formal political or military alliance or a collective security treaty?

Professor Marandi: I definitely believe there is an Axis of Resistance that currently includes Iran, Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, parts of Afghanistan, and Yemen. I do not think that we can include the DPRK in any way or form. I believe that Russia could be considered to a certain degree as aligned or affiliated to this resistance, but that this is not something many would feel the need to acknowledge. At certain levels, there is a lot of overlap between Russian and Chinese policy and the policies of the countries and movements in this region that are affiliated to this Axis of Resistance. The same is true with countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba, which I do not consider to be similar to North Korea at all. Just as almost everywhere else, American policy in the Korean Peninsula is ugly, hegemonic and malevolence, but the nature of the DPRK government is fundamentally different from that of Venezuela or Cuba, whether the Americans or Europeans like to acknowledge that or not. Others can interpret the Axis of Resistance to include or exclude certain countries, but it is pretty clear that Iran and Russia have similar policy objectives when it comes to certain key issues. Nevertheless, Russia has a close relationship with the Israeli regime whereas Iran considers it to be an apartheid state, almost identical to that of apartheid South Africa. Or for example the Syrian government position regarding Israel is different from that of Iran’s. The official Syrian position is that the West Bank and Gaza Strip must be returned to the Palestinians, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, and that the occupied Golan Heights have to be handed back to the Syrian people, which are legitimate demands. But the Iranian position is different, Iran firmly believes that Israel is a colonial and apartheid regime and that it is morally unacceptable for it to exist in its present form. Therefore, at least officially, there are substantial differences. So people can interpret the Axis of Resistance in different ways. It is important to keep in mind that despite Syria, Iran, Turkey and Qatar are also moving closer together partially thanks to US, Saudi, and UAE hostility towards the Muslim Brotherhood. What is important is that there is a growing consensus about key issues in this region and what the major problems are, and I think that as time goes on this loose alliance of countries and movements is growing more influential and more powerful. I cannot say whether there will be a formal or open collective security treaty or military alliance created by any of these countries in the near or foreseeable future and I do not see such a necessity. However, I think this convergence of ideas is very important and I think that the formal and informal links that exist between these countries is in many ways more important and more significant than formal political or military alliances or security treaties.

The Saker: In recent months a number of observers have stated that Russia and Israel are working hand in hand and some have gone as far as to say that Putin is basically a pawn of Netanyahu and that Russia is loyal to Israel and Zionists interests. Do you agree with this point of view? How do Iranian officials view the Russian contacts with the Israelis, does that worry them or do they believe that these contacts can be beneficial for the future of the region?

Professor Marandi: That is nonsense. The US and Israeli regimes are culturally and ideologically bound to one another, whereas the Americans have a deep antipathy towards Russia. That is why the Russians have a very different position on Syria than do the Americans and Israelis. The Israelis alongside the US, the EU, the Saudis, and some of Syria’s neighboring countries, supported ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other extremist entities and attempted to tear Syria apart. As explained earlier, the Russian view of Israel is different from Iran. There are many Russian Jewish immigrants in Israel and they constitute a large segment of the colonists in Palestine and they are largely utilized for the further subjugation of the Palestinian people and ethnic cleansing. Generally speaking, Russian interests are in sharp conflict with those of the United States, Israel’s strongest ally. In addition, Russia’s close relationship with Syria dates back to the cold war and the relentless US pressure on China and Russia has also acted as a strong catalyst to quicken their convergence with one another as well as with Iran on key issues. The Chinese and Russians know quite well that the United States, the Europeans, and regional countries have extensively used extremists in Syria to undermine the state and that those forces could later be used to undermine security in Central Asia, Russia, and China. A large number of Russian, Chinese, and Central Asians have been trained to fight in Syria, and this is a major threat to their collective security. The United States could use these and other extremists in an attempt to impede the potential success of the Belt and Road Initiative or other plans for Asian integration. Thus, there is a sharp and growing conflict between the Russians and the Americans.

The Israeli regime constantly tells the Russians and the Chinese that they are the gateway to Washington and that if they maintain strong ties with Israel, the Israelis can help them solve their problems with the United States. I do not think there is much truth to that, because this growing conflict is about the fate of US global dominance and there is nothing the Israelis can do to change that. Nevertheless, this has been used as an incentive for the Russians and the Chinese to maintain better relations with the Israeli regime.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iran, Israel, Middle East, Russia 
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When Zelenskii came to power, there were two fundamental options he could have chosen. These options were, roughly:

Option one or pragmatism above ideology: to make a determined effort to address Ukraine’s most urgent problems. At the very least, Zelenskii could have ordered his forces to stop firing and have them withdraw to a safe distance (Zelenskii had the full authority to do so, as soon as he was inaugurated and he did not need anybody’s help to do so). Obviously, such a move would have to be coordinated with the LDNR forces. And that, in turn, means that at the very least, Zelenskii should have opened a channel of direct communications with the two republics. This option could be described as “beginning to implement at least the very first steps of the Minsk Agreements.”

Option two ideology above pragmatism: to make a determined effort not to address Ukraine’s most urgent problems. The priority here is to declare that the Ukraine will not honor the Minsk Agreements: no talks with the LDNR, no ceasefire, no withdrawal of forces, no amnesty and, most definitely, no discussions about any kind of special status for the Donbass. This option could be described as “more of the same” or “Poroshenko reloaded.”

Prince Otto von Bismarck once famously said that “politics is the art of the possible” and I think that this is an excellent rule to keep in mind when trying to figure out what is going on and what might happen next. There is a lot of hyperbolic rhetoric out there, but no matter how delusional Ukie politicians can be, the reality remains something objective, and that objective reality is what will shape the future, not the empty ideological nonsense spewed by politicians (whether Ukrainian ones or AngloZionists).

Even his own presidential website does not work!
Even his own presidential website does not work!

As of right now, the overwhelming majority of experts have agreed that Zelenskii is not going for Option #1. This strongly suggests that the Ukraine is going for Option #2. But, as I have indicated above, Zelenskii’s Option #2 is nothing more than, well, “more of the same.” And this makes sense, especially if we consider that:

1) the same causes produce the same outcomes (after all “insanity is repeating the same thing over and over expecting a different result) and

2) the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior

So what really happened? Why is Zelenskii apparently dead set on repeating all the same mistakes Poroshenko made?

As I have indicated in a recent article, the Ukraine is not a democracy but an oligarchy: ever since 1991 the most prosperous Soviet republic was mercilessly plundered by an entire class (in the Marxist sense of the word) of oligarchs whose biggest fear has always been that the same “horror” (from their point of view) which befell Russia with Putin, would eventually arrive at the Ukraine.

Here we need to make something clear: this is NOT, repeat, NOT about nationality or nationalism. The Ukrainian oligarchs are just like any other oligarchs: their loyalty is to their money and nothing else. If you want to characterize these oligarchs, you could think of them as culturally “post-Soviet” meaning that they don’t care about nationality, and even though their prime language is Russian, they don’t give a damn about Russia or Russians (or anybody else, for that matter!). Since many of them are Jews, they have a network of supporters/accomplices in Israel of course, but also in the West and even in Russia. In truth, these guys are the ultimate “internationalists” in their own, toxic, kind of way.

Some fine specimens of “ochlocrats”
Some fine specimens of “ochlocrats”

The other significant force in the Ukraine is the West Ukrainian (Galician) Nazi death-squads and mobs. Their power is not a democracy either, but an ochlocracy. These guys are a minority, a pretty small one even, but they have enough muscle and even firepower to threaten any nominal Ukrainian leader. Furthermore, these folks have profoundly infiltrated all the police and security forces which, in theory, would have been able to control or disarm them (the SBU, especially, is chock full of Urkonazi thugs).

Now let’s begin by looking at the oligarchs: their number 1 priority is to continue to plunder the Ukraine. For that, you need the opposite of “law and order”: you need lawlessness, chaos, violence and, most importantly, you need the tiny figleaf of “the Moskal aggression” to hide behind. In other words, while these oligarchs probably do not want an open a full-scale war with the LDNR (or, even less with Russia herself), they simply cannot allow peace to break-out.

The Ukronazis don’t want peace to break out either, lest their influence and power shrink back to something roughly proportional to their share of the population of the Ukraine. Besides, since their entire ideology and worldview is all about hating Russia and being anti-Russia, any peace with Russia is literally unthinkable for them. They and their Polish supporters want Russia to break apart in numerous small state-lets which they (or, in their delusional dreams, the Chinese) could dominate. These folks will always perceive Russia as an existential threat. In their own way, they are absolutely right: Russia will always remain the reality check on their delusions. This was as true in the distant 13th century as it is nowadays.

Finally, let’s keep in mind that neither the oligarchs nor the Ukronazis genuinely want the people of Crimea and the Donbass to be part of “their” Ukraine since the overwhelming majority of these people would categorically oppose both the oligarchs and the Ukronazis. Yes, for prestige and ideological reasons, all these Galician Nazis will always declare that “Crimea is forever Ukrainian” and “we shall reconquer the Donbass,” but what they are genuinely fantasizing about is the territory, and only the territory. As for the 2 million-plus virulently anti-Nazi people currently living on these lands, they simply want them either dead or expelled).

So, while about 70% or so of the people of the Ukraine want peace to return and the horrors of the civil war to finally stop, the only two groups who have real power want the civil war in the East to continue. There are even quite a few Zelenskii nominees who have declared that war with the LDNR is the only way to solve the crisis. Some even want war with Russia!

Reality, however, is a pesky thing and, as the expression goes, if your head is in the sand, your butt is in the air and the collective Ukronazi “butt” has been exposed in the air for several years now. This is also true for the supposed “reforms” of the Ukronazi forces.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Zelensky 
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“Missing the forest for the trees” is an apt metaphor if we take a look at most commentary describing the past twenty years or so. This period has been remarkable in the number of genuinely tectonic changes the international system has undergone. It all began during what I think of as the “Kristallnacht of international law,” 30 August September 1995, when the Empire attacked the Bosnian-Serbs in a direct and total violation of all the most fundamental principles of international law. Then there was 9/11, which gave the Neocons the “right” (or so they claimed) to threaten, attack, bomb, kill, maim, kidnap, assassinate, torture, blackmail and otherwise mistreat any person, group or nation on the planet simply because “we are the indispensable nation” and “you either are with the terrorists or with us“. During these same years, we saw Europe become a third-rate US colony incapable of defending even fundamental European geopolitical interests while the US became a third-rate colony of Israel equally incapable of defending even fundamental US geopolitical interests. Most interestingly looking back, while the US and the EU were collapsing under the weight of their own mistakes, Russia and China were clearly on the ascend; Russia mostly in military terms (see here and here) and China mostly economically. Most crucially, Russia and China gradually agreed to become symbionts which, I would argue, is even stronger and more meaningful than if these two countries were united by some kind of formal alliance: alliances can be broken (especially when a western nation is involved), but symbiotic relationships usually last forever (well, nothing lasts forever, of course, but when a lifespan is measured in decades, it is the functional equivalent of “forever”, at least in geostrategic analytical terms). The Chinese have now developed an official, special, and unique expression to characterize that relationship with Russia. They speak of a “Strategic, comprehensive partnership of coordination for the new era.”

This is the AngloZionists’ worst nightmare, and their legacy ziomedia goes to great lengths to conceal the fact that Russia and China are, for all practical purposes, strategic allies. They also try hard to convince the Russian people that China is a threat to Russia (using bogus arguments, but never-mind that). It won’t work, while some Russians have fears about China, the Kremlin knows the truth of the matter and will continue to deepen Russia’s symbiotic relationship with China further. Not only that, it now appears that Iran is gradually being let in to this alliance. We have the most official confirmation possible of that fact in words spoken by General Patrushev in Israel after his meeting with US and Israeli officials: “Iran has always been and remains our ally and partner.”

I could go on listing various signs of the collapse of the AngloZionist Empire along with signs that a new, parallel, international world order is in the process of being built before our eyes. I have done that many times in the past, and I will not repeat it all here (those interested can click here and here). I will submit that the AngloZionists have reached a terminal stage of decay in which the question of “if” is replaced by “when.” But even more interesting would be to look at the “what”: what does the collapse of the AngloZionist Empire really mean?

I rarely see this issue discussed and when it is, it is usually to provide all sorts of reassurances that the Empire will not really collapse, that it is too powerful, too rich and too big to fail and that the current political crises in the US and Europe will simply result in a reactive transformation of the Empire once the specific problems plaguing it have been addressed. That kind of delusional nonsense is entirely out of touch with reality. And the reality of what is taking place before our eyes is much, much more dramatic and seminal than just fixing a few problems here and there and merrily keep going on.

One of the factors which lures us into a sense of complacency is that we have seen so many other empires in history collapse only to be replaced pretty quickly by some other, that we can’t even imagine that what is taking place right now is a much more dramatic phenomenon: the passage into gradual irrelevance of an entire civilization!

But first, let’s define our terms. For all the self-aggrandizing nonsense taught in western schools, Western civilization does not have its roots in ancient Rome or, even less so, in ancient Greece. The reality is that the Western civilization was born from the Middle-Ages in general and, especially, the 11th century which, not coincidentally, saw the following succession of moves by the Papacy:

These three closely related events are of absolutely crucial importance to the history of the West. The first step the West needed was to free itself from the influence and authority of the rest of the Christian world. Once the ties between Rome and the Christian world were severed, it was only logical for Rome to decree that the Pope now has the most extravagant super-powers no other bishop before him had ever dared contemplate. Finally, this new autonomy and desire for absolute control over our planet resulted in what could be called “the first European imperialist war”: the First Crusade.

To put it succinctly: the 11th century Franks were the real progenitors of modern “Western” Europe and the 11th century marked the first imperialist “foreign war” (to use a modern term). The name of the Empire of the Franks has changed over the centuries, but not its nature, essence, or purpose. Today the true heirs of the Franks are the AngloZionists (for a truly superb discussion of the Frankish role in desotrying the true, ancient, Christian Roman civilization of the West, see here).

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, China, Neocons, Russia 
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The recent elections to the Ukrainian Rada have yielded two most interesting results:

First, almost all the nationalist parties failed to get even one representative elected to the Rada (Poroshenko’s and Timoshenko’s parties did get some seats, but only 25 each)

Second, for the first time since the independence of the Ukraine, the country’s President will have an absolute majority in the Rada.

These are the results as reported by the Unian information agency:

The Servant of the People Party with 43.17% remains in the lead. The Opposition Platform – For Life Party ranks second with 13.01%, Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party ranks third with 8.18%, Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity Party has 8.11%, and Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s Holos (Voice) Party has 5.83%. All the other parties failed to get a representative into the Rada.

Also of interest is the score of the “Opposition Platform – for Life” party (Rabinovich, Boyko, Medvedchuk) which got a total of 44 seats.

In plain English what this means is that the war parties have suffered a crushing electoral defeat.

One might be forgiven in thinking that this is fantastic news for Zelenskii, but in fact it is quite the opposite: this election result creates an extremely dangerous situation for him.

Why the outcome of elections is extremely dangerous for the Ukraine

The first thing that we need to remember is while the neo-Nazis suffered two crushing defeats in a row (in the Presidential election and in the Parliamentary elections), they have not somehow magically disappeared. Here is the key factoid which we must never forget:

The Nazi-occupied Ukraine is not a democracy, but a plutocracy combined with an ochlocracy.

In plain English this means that the Ukraine is ruled by oligarchs, mobs and death squads.

The entire Euromaidan is nothing more than the overthrow of one oligarchic gang by a combination of other oligarchic gangs which used neo-Nazi mobs to seize power. The fact that the USA and the EU backed this typical neo-Nazi coup really means very little: the West has always sided with anybody and everybody who is in some way against Russia. This has been true since the Middle-Ages and it is still true today (I would even argue that Hitler’s rise to power was yet another operation by the Anglosphere to try to control the European continent and the fact that eventually the Nazi golem turned on its intended masters, does not change that).

The oligarchs are still there, as are the neo-Nazis mobs and death squads. And that creates an immense problem for Zelenskii: this new Rada might well represent the views of a majority of the Ukrainian people, but the real power in the country is not concentrated in the Rada at all: it is in the streets.

Legally speaking, Zelenskii does have the tools to crack down on the oligarchs and the neo-Nazis, but in practical terms he has nothing. Okay, maybe not quite “nothing”, but whatever power he has is rooted much more in the fact that he has the backing of the ultimate Uber-oligarch Kolomoiskii (whom many consider to be the real “president” of the Ukraine, Zelenskii being nothing more than a puppet). Not only that, but Kolomoiskii has many scores to settle with Poroshenko’s gang, and we can be pretty sure that he will want to his enemies to pay for what they did to him under the previous regime.

So let’s sum it up.

The people of the Ukraine desperately want peace. For the time being, the Rada reflects this overwhelmingly important fact. I say “for the time being” because what will happen next is that the various forces and individuals who currently support Zelenskii have done so just to gain power. They do not, however, have a common ideological platform or even a common program. As soon as things go south (which they will inevitably do) many (most?) of these folks will turn against Zelenskii and side with whoever can muster the biggest crowds and mete out the most violence.

In theory, Zelenskii could “go Putin” and crush the oligarchs. But Zelenskii is no Putin, to put it mildly. Furthermore, the true reason why the Ukrainian oligarchs hate and fear Russia is not because of some supposed Grand-Russian nationalism or imperialism, but because they want to keep the Ukraine in the same dysfunctional and very profitable condition in which this poor country has been kept since 1991. When Putin came to power and cracked down on the Russian oligarchs, the Ukrainian oligarchs looked in absolute horror at what was happening in Russia, and they decided to do whatever it takes to prevent that from ever happening in the Ukraine.

There is a well-known slogan in the Ukraine “Путин прыйдэ – порядок навэдэ” which can be translated as “Putin came and restored order”. This is the Ukie oligarch’s ultimate nightmare. As it so happens, it is also the AngloZionist Empire’s ultimate nightmare. Hence the apparently bizarre alliance between Anglos, Zionists and Nazis: they all fear that Putin will come and restore order to the Ukraine. Add to this the hallucinations of Hillary (“Putin wants to restore the USSR”) and Brzezinski (“Russia needs the Ukraine to be a superpower”) and you have a simple and all-encompassing explanation for what we have seen taking place in the Ukraine since the Euromaidan.

Interestingly, there are even indicators that Putin is very popular with a majority of the Ukrainian people (see here, here, here or here). This might, in part at least, explain why Poroshenko’s campaign was centered on the “either me or Putin” concept which, considering the crushing defeat suffered by Poroshenko, could suggest that Putin was the real winner of the last election or, alternatively, that folks only voted for Zelenskii as the least pro-war and the most anti-Poroshenko candidate: a kind of anti-anti-Putin candidate, at least while campaigning. Now that he got elected, Zelenskii quasi-instantly switched to the exact same rhetoric as what got Poroshenko so severely defeated. Why?

Because Zelenskiii is afraid that the neo-Nazi mobs and death squads will be unleashed against him at the very first opportunity. In fact, the neo-Nazis have already begun promising a new Maidan (see here or here).

Conclusion: Zelenskii has two options, both very dangerous

The truth is that Zelenskii has to choose between acting on the will of the people and face the wrath of the neo-Nazis or do the will of the neo-Nazis and face the wrath of the people: tertium non datur!

And if that was not bad enough, there is another factor making this even worse for Zelenskii: nobody can meaningfully help him.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Russia, Ukraine 
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First things first: let get the obvious out of the way

Homosexuality is a phenomenon which has probably always existed and which has often polarized society into two camps: those who believe that there is something inherently bad/wrong/pathological/abnormal with homosexuality (probably most/all major religions) and those who emphatically disagree. This is normal. After all, the issue of homosexuality deals not only with sex as such, but also with societal norms, reproduction, children and family issues and, most importantly, with love. What could be more mysterious, more fascinating and more controversial than love?

I am beginning this article with these self-evident truisms not because I find them particularly interesting, but because we live in a weird time when only one of these two views gets objectively and calmly discussed, while the other point of view is immediately censored, denounced and condemned as some kind of phobia. Now, the word “phobia” can mean one of two things: aversion/hatred or fear/anxiety.

Does this make sense to you?

Why is it that an opinion, a point of view, can only be explained away and dismissed as being in itself pathological/irrational?

Let me ask you this: can you imagine that somebody might be critical of homosexuality as such (or of homosexual behavior/practices) without suffering from any kind of phobias or without hating anybody?

If not, please stop reading and turn the TV back on.

For everybody else, I submit that this phobia-canard (along with the no less stupid “closet homosexual in denial” label) is not conducive to an intelligent discussion. It is, however, great to shut down any critical analyses and “ad homineming” anybody who dares to ask the wrong questions.

Next, I also submit that there are those existing out there who do indeed feel an aversion/hatred/fear/anxiety towards homosexuals. These are the folks who feel their masculinity tremendously boosted when they get the chance to beat up (preferably in a group against one), humiliate or otherwise assault a homosexual. In my (admittedly entirely subjective) experience these are a minority. True, some homosexuals do elicit a strong sense of disgust from male heterosexuals, but these are typically those homosexuals who, far from being sequestered in some societal “closet” do the opposite: they ostentatiously flaunt their homosexuality with provocative make-up, dress or behavior. Again, in my (no less subjective) experience, these are also a minority among homosexuals. I think that there is a very natural explanation for the aversion these “in your face” homosexuals trigger in male heteros, and I will discuss it later below.

But for the time being, I would rather stay away from these circumstance-specific minority phenomena.

Next, let’s define the issue

In its entry for “homosexuality” Wikipedia writesThe longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental health professions is that homosexuality per se is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation, and therefore not a mental disorder”.

This sentence deserves to be parsed very carefully, especially since it uses a lot of frankly vague terms.

For starters, what does “longstanding consensus” refer to? In 1973 the US American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the DSM-II. The US American Psychological Association followed suit in 1975. This leads me to conclude that by “longstanding” Wikipedia means either 46 years or 44 years. In terms of human history, 44/46 years is close to instantaneous and hardly “longstanding”. There is also the issue of HOW and WHY these two associations decided to “de-pathologize” homosexuality. I will touch upon that later, and for the time being I will simply state that declaring a pathology that is henceforth to be considered as “normal” by means of a vote is hardly scientific.

Next, the statement above begs the question of what “homosexuality per se” is (as opposed to homosexuality “not per se” I suppose?). The intent here is clear: to decree that whatever co-morbidity (depression, suicide, substance abuse, violence, etc.) can be identified in homosexuality will always get explained away because it is not inherent to homosexuality per se. This is just another crude word-trick to suppress any discussion of homosexuality in the real world (as opposed to DSM-like manuals).

Then there is the notion of “normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation” which, of course, begs the question of what would qualify as an “abnormal and negative variation of human sexuality”. And to those who would say that I am being silly here, I would point out that while in the 1970s the issue was “just” homosexuality, we nowadays live in the society of LGBTQIAPK and that some even add an ominous + sign at the end of this abbreviation (LGBTQIAPK +) just to be truly and totally “inclusive”. And here is the obvious fallacy: since homosexuality is a “normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation” then it must also be true for the entire LGBTQIAPK+ “constellation”. I submit that unless your IQ is way below room temperature you surely must realize that what we are dealing with here is a free for all in which any variation of human sexuality is declared “normal and positive”. QED (technically, this would be a syllogisic fallacy).

By the way – do you ever wonder what that small “+” sign at the end of LGBTQIAPK + really stands for? The answer depends on who you ask, of course, but if you ask Facebook in the UK, it’s no less that 71 (SEVENY ONE!!) genders (not sure if FB believes that UK users need more options than non-UK users…?). Turns out that this one small “+” is much bigger than the rest official acronym 🙂 And, just for giggles, here is what the full acronym (the original 10 plus the new 71 should look something like this:

AAAAAABBCCCCCCCCCCFFFFFFGGGGGGGHIIIIIKLMMMMMMMNNNOPPPQTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTW+ (yes, I still added the obligatory “+” at the end so as to be truly “inclusive” should this list grow in the future (which, no doubt, it will!).

And anybody not buying into that fallacy is, again by definition, a “hater” and, as you well know, “haters will hate,” right? And if not a hater, then at the very least a repressed closet homosexual.

So far, how do you like that intellectual environment?

I sure don’t. In fact, I loathe it, primarily because it is freedom-crushing.

So I will proceed to discuss this topic with no regard whatsoever for the politically correct doxa that seems to have take over the entire western world. If you think that this makes me a “hater” (or a homosexual in deep denial) you can stop reading here, since everything below could be summarized by the one word “crimethink”, which would make me a thought-criminal.

 
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This Spring saw a sudden increase in the volume of articles in the so-called “alternative media and blogosphere” about Putin “selling out” Syria or Iran to the Israelis and their US patrons, or both. What was particularly interesting about this campaign is that it was not triggered by any kind of event or statement by Putin or any other senior Russian decision-makers. True, Israeli politicians made numerous trips to Russia, but each time they walked away without anything tangible to show for their efforts. As for their Russian counterparts, they limited themselves to vague and well-intentioned statements. Nonetheless, the “Putin sold out to Netanyahu” campaign did not stop. Every meeting was systematically interpreted as The Clear Proof that the Zionists control the Kremlin and that Putin was doing Netanyahu’s bidding. The fact that this campaign began ex nihilo did not seem to bother most observers. Soon I started getting steady streams of emails asking me to react to these articles. My reply was always the same one: let’s do the opposite of what these supposed “specialists” are doing and wait for the facts to come out and only then form an opinion.

Truth be told, I had already tackled that canard in my article “Why is Putin “allowing” Israel to bomb Syria.” I also had tried to debunk some of the most persistent and toxic falsehoods about Russia and Israel in my article “Putin and Israel: A Complex and Multi-Layered Relationship.” I also wrote an article entitled “Is Putin Really Ready to “Ditch” Iran?” trying to debunk that stupid theory. Finally, I even tried to compare and contrast the Russian approach towards Israel (which I qualified as “self-interest”) with the attitude of the “collective West” (which I qualified as “prostitution”) in an article entitled “Russia, Israel and the Values of “Western Civilization” – Where Is the Truth?”.

I was naïve to think that any of my arguments would elicit any doubts amongst the “Putin is a traitor” crowd. After all, if being wrong for years could not convince them otherwise, no rational argument would.

Then, news agencies began to report that General Nikolai Patrushev, the Director of the Russian Federal Security Service and the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, would travel to Israel to meet with John Bolton and Bibi Netanyahu. At this point, the steady stream of concerned emails suddenly turned into a deluge! After all, why would such a high-ranking (and rather secretive) Russian official travel to Israel to meet two of the worst and most evil politicians of the Anglo-Zionist Empire? Surely, he had something important to say, no? The consensus (of sorts) was that Patrushev would sell out Iran and Syria in exchange for some (entirely theoretical, quite unlikely and inevitably vague) “concessions” on the Ukraine, Crimea or sanctions.

My reply remained the same. Let’s wait until these folks actually meet and let’s see if their meeting brings about something significant (as a rule, I find getting facts an essential first step before engaging in any analysis; apparently, my detractors feel otherwise).

So, again, I decided to wait.

Then something weird happened: the meeting took place, it was even reported (albeit mostly in general terms), the participants issued their statements and… …nothing. The outcome of the “Jerusalem summit” was greeted by a deafening silence and a few vapid commentaries. My first hunch was that, as the Russian saying goes, the “mountain had given birth to a mouse” and that nothing of importance came out of the summit. Boy, was I ever wrong!

The official Russian position on Iran

The summit did indeed produce something of vital significance, but for some reason, the most senior-official statement on Iran that any Russian decision-maker ever made received very little attention. Unless you happened to be a Saker blog reader, you would never find out about it.

See for yourself and click here: http://thesaker.is/russias-patrushev-holds-press-conference-following-russia-us-israeli-talks/ for both the video and the transcript.

To my knowledge, this is the only full-length English language transcript of Patrushev’s statement. (Ruptly posted a video dubbed in English, but it was hardly noticed. As for the transcript, to my knowledge it was never reposted in full).

Which is too bad, since the following words have now been spoken by one of the most authorized and high-ranking Russian officials to date: (emphasis added)

“We have emphasized an importance of easing of the tensions for the country (Syria) between Israel and Iran, by the way of implementation the mutual approaching steps. We have made an emphasis that Syria must not be turned into an arena for geopolitical confrontation. We have also highlighted the need for the international community to help Syria to rebuild its national economy. Among other things, Syria should be free of illegal trade restrictions, unilateral sanctions, as well as sanctions on economic operators that help Syria to rebuild. They also have to be free from all sanctions.

We also turned everyone’s attention to the relations of Syria and other Arab states that should be normalized again. Syria is once again should be a full-fledged member of the Arab League. Also, we pointed out an importance of establishing the contacts of Syrian government with its Kurdish ethnic minority. We stated of importance to unite the efforts to eliminate all remaining in Syria terrorists. We called for immediate disruption of all channels through which terrorists might be able to obtain weapon grade chemical materials and their precursors.

Russia, the United States and Israel should join their efforts to help peace to return to Syria.

In the context of the statements made by our partners with regard to a major regional power, namely Iran, I would like to say the following: Iran has always been and remains our ally and partner, with which we are consistently developing relations both on bilateral basis and within multilateral formats,

This is why we believe that it is inadmissible to describe Iran as the major threat to the regional security and, moreover, to put it on par with the Islamic State or any other terrorist organization, Especially, since Iran contributes substantial efforts to bring peace to Syria and to stabilize the situation in Syria.

We have called on our partners to show restraint and readiness for reciprocal steps, which must serve as the basis for the consistent advancement towards the easing of tensions in the Israeli-Iranian relations”

To my knowledge, this is the very first time that Russia has officially declared Iran not only as a partner but as an ally! A few days later, President Putin confirmed that this was an official position which had his imprimatur when he stated in his interview to the FT that:

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Iran, Israel, Russia, Syria 
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I recently received a copy of a most interesting book, A.B. Abrams’ “Power and Primacy: the history of western intervention in Asia” and as soon as I started reading it I decided that I wanted to interview the author and ask him about what is taking place in Asia in our times. This was especially interesting to me since Putin has embarked on the Russian version of Obama’s “pivot to Asia“, with the big difference that Putin’s pivot has already proven to be a fantastic success, whereas Obama’s was a dismal failure. I am most grateful to A.B. Abrams for his time and expertise.

The Saker: Please introduce yourself and your past and present political activities (books, articles, memberships, etc.)

A.B. Abrams: I am an expert on the international relations, recent history and geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region. I have published widely on defense and politics related subjects under various pseudonyms. I am proficient in Chinese, Korean and other regional languages.

I wrote this book with the purpose of elucidating the nature of Western intervention in the region over the past 75 years, and analyzing prominent trends in the West’s involvement in the Asia-Pacific from the Pacific War with Imperial Japan to the current conflicts with China and North Korea. I attempt to show that Western conduct towards populations in the region, the designs of the Western powers for the region, and the means by which these have been pursued, have remained consistent over these past decades. This context is critical to understanding the present and future nature of Western intervention in the Asia-Pacific.

ORDER IT NOW

The Saker: You have recently published a most interesting book Power and Primacy: the history of western interventions in Asia which is a “must read” for anybody interested in Asia-western relations. You included a chapter on “The Russian Factor in the Asia-Pacific”. Historically, there is no doubt that pre-1917 Russia was seen in Asia as a “Western” power. But is that still true today? Many observers speak of a Russian “pivot” to Asia. What is your take on that? Is Russia still perceived as a “Western power” in Asia or is that changing?

A.B. Abrams: In the introduction to this work I highlight that a fundamental shift in world order was facilitated by the modernization and industrialization of two Eastern nations – Japan under the Meiji Restoration and the USSR under the Stalinist industrialization program. Before these two events the West had retained an effective monopoly on the modern industrial economy and on modern military force. Russia’s image is still affected by the legacy of the Soviet Union – in particular the way Soviet proliferation of both modern industries and modern weapons across much of the region was key to containing Western ambitions in the Cold War. Post-Soviet Russia has a somewhat unique position – with a cultural heritage influenced by Mongolia and Central Asia as well as by Europe. Politically Russia remains distinct from the Western Bloc, and perceptions of the country in East Asia have been heavily influenced by this. Perhaps today one the greatest distinctions is Russia’s eschewing of the principle of sovereignty under international law and its adherence to a non-interventionist foreign policy. Where for example the U.S., Europe and Canada will attempt to intervene in the internal affairs of other parties – whether by cutting off parts for armaments, imposing economic sanctions or even launching military interventions under humanitarian pretexts – Russia lacks a history of such behavior which has made it a welcome presence even for traditionally Western aligned nations such as the Philippines, Indonesia and South Korea.

While the Western Bloc attempted to isolate the USSR from East and Southeast Asia by supporting the spread of anticommunist thought, this pretext for shunning Russia collapsed in 1991. Today the West has had to resort to other means to attempt to contain and demonize the country – whether labelling it a human rights abuser or threatening its economic and defense partners with sanctions and other repercussions. The success of these measures in the Asia-Pacific has varied – but as regional economies have come to rely less on the West for trade and grown increasingly interdependent Western leverage over them and their foreign policies has diminished.

Even when considered as a Western nation, the type of conservative Western civilization which Russia may be seen to represent today differs starkly from that of Western Europe and North America. Regarding a Russia Pivot to Asia, support for such a plan appears to have increased from 2014 when relations with the Western Bloc effectively broke down. Indeed, the Russia’s future as a pacific power could be a very bright one – and as part of the up and coming northeast Asian region it borders many of the economies which appear set to dominate in the 21st century – namely China, Japan and the Koreas. Peter the Great is known to have issued in a new era of Russian prosperity by recognizing the importance of Europe’s rise and redefining Russia as a European power – moving the capital to St Petersburg. Today a similar though perhaps less extreme pivot Eastwards towards friendlier and more prosperous nations may be key to Russia’s future.

The Saker: We hear many observers speak of an informal but very profound and even game-changing partnership between Putin’s Russia and Xi’s China. The Chinese even speak of a “strategic comprehensive partnership of coordination for the new era“. How would you characterize the current relationship between these two countries and what prospects do you see for a future Russian-Chinese partnership?

A.B. Abrams: A Sino-Russian alliance has long been seen in both the U.S. and in Europe as one of the greatest threats to the West’s global primacy and to Western-led world order. As early as 1951 U.S. negotiators meeting with Chinese delegations to end the Korean War were instructed to focus on the differences in the positions of Moscow and Beijing in an attempt to form a rift between the two. Close Sino-Soviet cooperation seriously stifled Western designs for the Korean Peninsula and the wider region during that period, and it was repeatedly emphasized that the key to a Western victory was to bring about a Sino-Soviet split. Achieving this goal by the early 1960s and bringing the two powers very near to a total conflict significantly increased prospects for a Western victory in the Cold War, with the end of the previously united front seriously undermining nationalist and leftist movements opposing Western designs from Africa and the Middle East to Vietnam and Korea. Both states learned the true consequences of this in the late 1980s and early 1990s when there was a real risk of total collapse under Western pressure. Attempts to bring an end to China’s national revolution through destabilization failed in 1989, although the USSR was less fortunate and the results for the Russian population in the following decade were grave indeed.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: American Military, Asia, China, Islam, Russia 
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The first thing to say here is that we have no means to know what really happened. At the very least, there are two possible hypotheses which could explain what took place:

1) a US provocation: it is quite possible that somebody in the US chain of command decided that Iran should be put under pressure and that having US UAV fly right next to, or even just inside, the international border of Iran would be a great way to show Iran that the US is ready to attack. If that is the case, this was a semi-success (the Iranians had to switch on their radars and attack the UAV which is very good for US intelligence gathering) and a semi-failure (since the Iranians were clearly unimpressed by the US show of resolve).

2) an Iranian provocation: yup, that is a theoretical possibility which cannot reject prima facie: in this scenario it was indeed the Iranians who blew up the two tankers last week and they also deliberately shot down the US UAV over international waters. The goal? Simple: to show that the Iranians are willing and ready to escalate and that they are confident that they will prevail.

Now, in the real world, there are many more options, including even mixes of various options. What matters is now not this, as much as Trump’s reaction:

Now, whether this was a US provocation or an Iranian one – Trump’s reaction was the only correct one. Why? Because the risks involved in any US “more than symbolic strike” would be so great as to void any rationale for such a strike in the first place. Think of it: we can be very confident that the Iranian military installations along the Persian Gulf and the southern border of Iran are highly redundant and that no matter how successful any limited US missile strike would have been, the actual military capabilities of Iran would not have been affected. The only way for the US to effectively degrade Iranian capabilities would be to have a sustained, multi-day, attack on the entire southern periphery of Iran. In other words, a real war. Anything short of that would simply be meaningless. The consequences of such an attack, however, would be, in Putin’s words “catastrophic” for the entire region.

If this was an Iranian provocation, then it was one designed to impress upon the Empire that Iran is also very much “locked, cocked and ready to rock”. But if that is the case, there is zero change that any limited strike would achieve anything. In fact, any symbolic US attack would only signal to the Iranians that the US has cold feet and that all the US sabre-rattling is totally useless.

I have not said such a thing in many months, but in this case I can only admit that Trump did the right thing. No limited attack also makes sense even if we assume that the Empire has made the decision to attack Iran and is just waiting for the perfect time. Why? Because the longer the Iranian feel that an attack is possible, the more time, energy and money they need to spend remaining on very high alert.

The basic theory of attack and defense clearly states that the attacking side can gain as a major advantage if it can leave the other side in the dark about its plans and if the costs of being ready for a surprise attack are lower than the costs of being on high alert (those interested in the role and importance of surprise attack in the theory of deterrence can read Richard Betts’ excellent book “Surprise Attack: lessons for defense planning“).

How true is this story about Trump canceling a US attack at the last minute? It is impossible to know, but it appears to me that it is certain that the nutcase Neocons around Trump wanted the strike. But it is also plausible (if by no means certain) that at least two groups could have opposed such a strike:

1) The planners at CENTCOM and/or the Pentagon.

2) The planners for Trump’s reelection campaign.

The first ones would lobby against such a strike simply on the sound military grounds mentioned above. As for the second group, they probably decided (correctly) that if Trump starts a war with Iran which nobody has an “exit strategy” for – this could result in a huge blowback for the entire region and kill Trump’s reelection chances.

In this case, whether Trump listened to either group or simply followed his gut instincts, it appears likely that Trump (maybe a “collective Trump”) said “no, I don’t authorize this”. In this case, he does deserve our sincere praise and gratitude (irrespective of this past actions and inactions).

In conclusion, I want to show the kind of fantastically stupid, mindbogglingly ignorant and criminally irresponsible war propaganda the so-called “conservative” US media outlets have been spewing. Check out this one:

Hannity’s flagwaving logorrhea is exactly the kind of total nonsense which will sooner or later result in a major military disaster followed by a collapse of the Empire itself (for a detailed outline of how this is likely to happen, please read John Michael Greer superb book “Twilight’s Last Gleaming“). The sheer number of counter-factual and plainly stupid things Hannity manages to squeeze into just under 7 minutes is, by itself, a remarkable feat.

Yes, it is a sad day when one has to rejoice that the US President is marginally less stupid and less ignorant than one of the big talking heads on the US idiot box, but these are truly tragic and extremely dangerous times. And in such times, we have to be grateful for anything, no matter how minimal, which pushes back the inevitable war in the Middle-East (or even the world).

This being said, where do we go from here?

Location of the attacks on tankers
Location of the attacks on tankers

My personal guesstimate and almost baseless speculation is that the attack on the two tankers was probably an Israeli false flag operation which failed to achieve its intended results. Notice that the attack itself did not take place inside Strait of Hormuz, but south of it, in comparatively more open waters were an Israeli submarine or specialized surface vessel had less changes to be spotted by the Iranians and a much better chance of escape (for example, take a look at the 2nd map shown below and see for yourself how the depth gradient rapidly drops in the Gulf of Oman).

When this attacked failed to achieve the desired effect, the Israelis and their Neocon agents decided to engage into another provocation, this time using a US drone. I find it likely that in terms of location, the drone was flying inside Iranian airspace, but probably still over water allowing the Empire do claims it’s usual (and CIA-created) cop-out of “plausible deniability” in case of shootdown.

When the Iranians shot down the US UAV, a lot of folks in the US probably wanted to find out exactly where this UAV was flying at the moment of intercept and since the Iranians probably have a lot of radar and EW data to prove that the UAV was inside the Iranian airspace the only safe course of action would have been to express all forms of protest but not to take unilateral (and, therefore illegal) action.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Iran, Neocons 
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The topic of religion in Russia is a most interesting one, yet the majority of articles on this topic typically focus on Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Judaism and, sometimes, Buddhism. Yet there are other religions in Russia and, in fact, there have always been. When I learned that an active member of the Saker community, Edik (pseudonym), was a Quaker I asked him for an interview. I was curious, how does a member of a relatively small denomination view modern Russia and the role of religion in the Russian society. I am very grateful to Edik for this replies.

The Saker

The Saker: please explain what a Quaker is and how you became one?

Edik: “Quaker” is a member of the Religious Society of Friends, a small Protestant movement which was founded in England in the 1640s. Our formal name comes from John 15:15, in which Jesus says “Henceforth I do not call you servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does; but I have called you friends…”. Initially, “Quaker” was a derisive nickname used by outsiders because many early members of the movement used to tremble during worship, from the intensity of their emotions. The name has, however, now ended up in common usage, including by us.

Quaker belief is based on direct experience of Jesus Christ, often described as an “inward light” who illuminates our sin and brings us through it to salvation. We believe that every person has the capacity to experience the light of Christ. Quakers try to do so through silent, or “unprogrammed”, worship. This involves silently and patiently waiting upon the Holy Spirit, without hymns, sermons or other ceremonies. On occasion, a person may feel led by the Holy Spirit to offer a verbal testimony which the meeting will listen to and consider in silence. The reason that Quaker worship does not involve creeds, hymns, liturgies and rituals is that we feel these might distract us from the Inward Light (although, since the 19th century, some Quaker meetings do set aside part of the meeting for the singing of hymns, separately from the unprogrammed worship). As we emphasise direct experience of God, we do not have clergy or churches (our attitude is that any gathering of the faithful is the church, rather than a man-made structure).

The unstructured nature of the Quaker organisation and belief system has resulted in a great diversity of practice among Quakers. However, we all subscribe to the core principles of equality, integrity, simplicity and peace. These principles call on us to treat every person with respect; be truthful and honest; lead a simple life that avoids wasteful or frivolous consumption; and to reject all forms of violence. Quakers have put these principles into practice by, for example, being early opponents of slavery; dealing fairly with the Native American nations in the US (unlike many of the other European colonists); and, more recently, actively opposing militarism and the arms trade, and promoting non-violent ways to resolve disputes.

As to how I came to Quakerism, like many others, this happened through a period of inner conflict. I’d actually had a fairly religious (Protestant) upbringing with regular attendance at services and Bible study, but having religion forced on me turned me into a determined atheist. After school I was focused on my career, making money, owning things, friends, relationships, travel. I practically never thought about religion and when I did it was usually in a negative context. By the time I was in my mid-40s though, I did feel a vague dissatisfaction with life – in particular work, career and money no longer held the same interest. On the contrary, I’d seen a lot of politics, insincerity and dishonesty in the corporate world and it disillusioned me. But I just continued what I was doing, although it was largely going through the motions. It took a tragedy that befell a close friend of mine to shock me into thinking that there had to be something more in life than material things that could disappear on the turn of a coin. One night shortly after, when I couldn’t sleep, I decided to surf the internet. I don’t know what prompted me to google “Quakers” but I did this and started reading about Quakerism on Wikipedia. What I read about the Quakers and their beliefs stirred something in me so I decided to find the nearest Quaker meeting. Not sure about whether there would be Quakers in Russia, I decided to try attending a Quaker meeting for worship in London. I had never experienced anything like it, I felt as though the silent worship brought me close to the presence of God yet at the same time I was in room with other worshippers who were also sharing in that Presence. Totally different from the sort of religion that I had grown up with. I’ve been attending Quaker meetings for almost 4 years now.

The Saker: Russia has 5 “traditional religions” Russian Orthodoxy, several other Christian denominations, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism. Quakers are not on the list. Has that been a problem for you?

Edik: It has not been a problem for me (nor have I heard of other Quakers facing issues because of this). My personal view is that because Quakers have always been outside the mainstream – even in England, where we were persecuted for almost 200 years – we do not consider it relevant to our spiritual life to be part of a “traditional religion” in any country. The number of Quakers in Russia has never been substantial so it would be rather presumptuous of us to try and claim the same status as Orthodox Christianity, Judaism or Islam!

Today, there are probably fewer than 100 Quakers in Russia, mostly in and around Moscow. Not being recognised as a “traditional religion” of Russia doesn’t really affect us in practice. We don’t engage in proselytising and our meetings for worship are very low-key. Therefore, we don’t need to have a large organisation or to own real estate here in Russia. We do raise money for a couple of Russian charities but otherwise, individual Quakers volunteer their personal time to engage in activities that are close to the ideals of Quaker faith – helping children with disabilities or refugees, and running workshops on alternatives to violence. I’m sure the authorities are aware that we exist – we are open about our meetings and activities – but I suspect that we’re just too low profile and unimportant for them to really care.

The Saker: What is your personal observation about the degree of religiosity of most Russians? What percentage would you say is really religious and what percentage are just superficially “culturally” religious?

Edik: In general, I think that most Russians are more concerned with the issues of day-to-day living (as I was for many years of my life) and don’t think about spiritual issues very much. I would say that a large majority (perhaps as many as 80%) of ethnic Russians identify with Orthodox Christianity. Within this group, I estimate that three quarters treat Orthodoxy primarily as a cultural affiliation – ie., part of being a “Russian” – and are only occasional practitioners (eg., they baptise their children, observe religious funeral rites, wear a crucifix and perhaps attend a church service two or three times a year but not much more than that). My impression, just by speaking to people (not very scientific, I know!) is that many believe in God in an abstract way; that is, if asked, they would say that He probably exists but are otherwise not very interested in His nature or our relationship with Him.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy, Ideology • Tags: Christianity, Russia 
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Introduction by the Saker:

For a while now we have been lucky enough to have a wonderful Iranian member of the Saker community writing analyses for the Saker Blog: Aram Mirzaei has brought a wealth of expertise and priceless insights into Iran and everything Iran-related. Clearly, after the DPRK, Syria and Venezuela – Iran is now the target of Trump’s ignorant hubris and threats and it is therefore extremely important to debunk AngloZionist propaganda about Iran and its role and actions in the Middle-East. This interview with Aram Mirzaei is just the first step of a major effort by the Saker community to report more often about Iran. Expect much more in the near future. In the meantime, I will let Aram introduce himself and then reply to my questions.

The Saker

My name is Aram Mirzaei, I’m 30 years old and live somewhere in Europe. Originally, I hail from western Iran, a place that is deeply rooted in my heart. Ever since my teenage years, I’ve had a passion for history and politics, a trait I inherited from my mother who was an Iranian revolutionary. Naturally, this passion made me choose to study political science all the way up to my Master’s degree. Having supported my country against foreign threats my entire adult life, I became an activist for the Resistance Axis when the Syrian War broke out in 2011 and have combined my passion for writing and politics, to contribute to the propaganda fight that runs in parallel with the fighting on the ground. Thus, I have endulged myself in anything related to Iran, in an effort to have a complete understanding of the land that I was born in and where my forefathers once dwelled in. Aside from these interests, I also love philosophy, sociology, religion, football (soccer) and trading, with a specific focus on crypto currencies.

The Saker: Please explain what an “Islamic Republic” is and how it is different from any other republic? What makes the Iranian political system unique? How democratic (vs theocratic) is it? Do you consider Iran to be a democratic country (in the sense that the will of the people is the highest, sovereign, authority)?

Aram Mirzaei: These are very relevant questions as this issue is something most outsiders have a hard time understanding. Growing up in the West, I myself had a hard time understanding this system until I read Imam Khomeini’s manifesto: Islamic Governance – rule of the jurisprudence. Here, Khomeini offers a very unique viewpoint and insight into his ideas of a modern Islamic form of government. Khomeini views the Western democratic system as a foreign way of governance, not suited for Muslim countries, while he also correctly identifies the deep flaws within the contemporary Islamic forms of governance, that they are outdated monarchies prone to corruption and decadence.

Simply put, Khomeini offers a compromise between Western Democracy and Islamic Sharia law. To understand this form of government, one must understand the background of Shia Islamic scholarship and the theological debate regarding Islamic government. As many already know, modern Twelver Shia faith rest on the pillar of the Occultation, the belief that the messianic figure, also known as Mahdi, who in Shia theology is the last (Twelfth) infallible male descendant (Imam) of the prophet Mohammad, was born but disappeared, and will one day return and fill the world with justice and peace. In this time of post-Occultation the theory of Velayat-e Faqih (Rule of the Jurisprudence), holds that Islam shall give a Faqih (Islamic jurist) custodianship over the people, in the absence of the Hidden Imam.

The doctrine of Velayat-e Faqih has been an issue that has divided the Shia Islamic scholars between the ideas of a so called Limited Guardianship and an Absolute Guardianship of the jurisprudence. Traditionally, Limited Guardianship has been the dominant interpretation where Mujtahids (Islamic scholars) have left secular power to the monarchs while the Ulema’s (clerical class) role has been limited to non-litigious affairs. This interpretation holds that the Ulema should only assume an advisory role to the monarch who is responsible for the task of protecting the country. For centuries, especially during the time of the Safavid Shahs, Iran was ruled this way, with the Ulema assuming an advisory role in the royal court of the Shahs. Only during the Pahlavi dynasty of the 20th century did this begin to change as Reza Shah Pahlavi, initiated radical secular changes to the Iranian society as a whole.

The idea of Absolute Guardianship hails from the belief that collective affairs fall under the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist. Before Khomeini, there had been a few scholars arguing for Absolute Guardianship, yet none of them gained the amount of influence as Khomeini did. He presented the concept as necessary to protect and preserve Islam during the Occultation of the Imam. According to Khomeini, a society should be governed by those who are the most knowledgeable about Islamic law, this is his main argument in what an Islamic Government actually is. In his manifesto, Khomeini argues that monarchy is un-Islamic. In a true Islamic state, those holding government posts should have knowledge of Sharia, as well as having intelligence and administrative ability. Thus the monarchy becomes redundant in such a governing system, paving the way for a Republic to take its place instead. Specifically Khomeini argued that the un-Islamic government “though it may be made up of elected representatives does not truly belong to the people” in the case of Muslim countries.

Where Shia Mujtahids have tended to remain outside the active political sphere, Khomeini argues that leading Mujtahids also have inherited the Prophet’s political authority by explicating several ahadiths of the Shia Imams. An example is his analysis of a saying attributed to the first Imam, Ali who in addressing a judge said:

The seat you are occupying is filled by someone who is a prophet, the legatee of a prophet, or else a sinful wretch.”

Khomeini reasons that the term judges must refer to trained fuqaha (jurists) as they are “by definition learned in matters pertaining to the function of judge” , and since trained jurists are neither sinful wretches nor prophets, by process of elimination “we deduce from the tradition quoted above that the fuqaha are the legatees.” He explains that legatees of the prophet have the same power to command Muslims as the Prophet Muhammad and (in Shia belief) the Imams. Thus, the saying, `The seat you are occupying is filled by someone who is a prophet, the legatee of a prophet, or else a sinful wretch,` demonstrates that Islamic jurists have the power to rule Muslims.

According to the constitution of Iran, an Islamic republic is defined as a state ruled by the Fuqaha. In accordance with Qur’an and on the basis of two principles of the trusteeship and the permanent Imamate (bloodline of the Prophet), it is counted as a function of the jurists. Also it is explained that only the jurists that are upright, pious and committed experts on Islam are entitled to rule . Also those who are informed of the demands of the times and known as God-fearing, brave and qualified for leadership. In addition they must hold the religious office of Marja (the highest rank in the Shia clerical establishment) and be permitted to deliver independent judgments on general principles (fatwas). The Marja has only the right to rule the Islamic Republic for as long as the Twelfth and final Imam remains in Occultation.

In this sense, the Islamic Republic of Iran is unique in comparison to other so called “Islamic Republics” such as Pakistan and Afghanistan as they are governed by secular constitutions and are only Islamic Republics by name rather than in practice.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Iran, Islam 
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