07 February 2017

War of Tweets

If an old fart like President Trump seems an unlikely Twitter junky, what about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the heir to Ayatollah Khomeini and "Supreme Leader" of the Islamic Republic of Iran? Proving again that Islamists only want to take certain things back to the 7th century, Khamenei is waging a Twitter war with the President. Trump recently put Iran "on notice" after the Shiite state conducted a missile test, and joked that the Iranians should be grateful to President Obama for going easy on them, as Trump presumably won't. Khamenei retorted that Trump has shown the world the "real face" of the U.S. with his travel ban. Like Trump, Khamenei is loose with the facts, citing a photo of a handcuffed 5 year old as proof of Trump's cruelty, when the photo in question reportedly predates the Trump administration. But it's in his discussion of the so-called Islamic State, presumably the mutual enemy of the U.S. and Iran, that Khamenei gets really demented. His tweets are taken from a speech he gave to a group of Iranian Air Force commanders, in which the Supreme Leader asks what, exactly, Iran should thank Obama for? It's an understandable question if you, like the Ayatollah, blame Obama for the existence, or at least the flourishing of the IS. Since Trump also blames Obama for these phenomena, you'd think there might be grounds for agreement between the two leaders. Each claims to want to crush the IS, which by Churchillian standards would seem to make each a practical ally for the other in a common fight. Neither man, however, has the really tough pragmatism of a Churchill, a Stalin or an FDR.

Israel gets in the way. Follow the link on Khamenei's web page when he mentions ISIS in his speech and you'll see a video in which he supposedly proves that the takfiri fanatics "serve" Israel, either unwittingly or by design, by dividing the Muslim world and discrediting Islam with its unlawful beheadings and other atrocities. Donald Trump isn't that crazy, but you might almost wonder whether Khamenei has a point when the President continues to threaten a country that arguably has done as much as anyone to fight Sunni extremism in the Middle East, and for no other reason than that he perceives Iran as a threat to Israel. He's not exactly wrong about that -- among Khamenei's grievances against the IS is that is has distracted Islam from the struggle against the Zionist Entity while doing nothing to help Palestinians --  but what happened to America First, Mr. President?

I'll grant that Trump, being an old fart, probably still wants to settle scores from 1979, and it's probably true that many Americans will never forgive Iran for the hostage crisis -- after all, some really old people here still haven't forgiven Japan for Pearl Harbor. For that matter, many Iranians probably still won't forgive the U.S. for never turning over the Shah, or for inflicting him on them after they'd rejected him in the 1950s. Both sides need to keep their eyes on the prize here and now. Failing to find a way to work together against the IS would be like Churchill telling Stalin to go die when Hitler attacked him because he was a Bolshevik, or Stalin refusing British help because Churchill was an imperialist capitalist. History may determine that the feud between the U.S. and Iran is itself a principal cause of the rise of the IS, for which Khamenei also deserves a personal share of blame for trying to force Shiite hegemony down Iraqi throats after the fall of Saddam. It's hard to imagine the IS lasting much longer if the U.S. and Iran (as well as Syria, Iraq and Russia) got on the same page for however long it will take to whack the takfirs. I'm not sure how much pragmatism we can expect from the Ayatollah, but if it took Nixon to go to China, maybe it'll take Trump to go to Tehran. But what will it take to get him there?


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't support any "union" between us and the muslim world. Frankly, I'd rather just turn the entire middle east into a radioactive pit.

Samuel Wilson said...

So that's what an amoral foreign policy looks like!...