01/06/2009 (11:38 am)
Michael Ledeen, long-standing expert on terrorism and Middle East affairs and leading proponent of American interventionism, published a meaningful analysis of Iran’s regime on Sunday, describing the tyrannical regime as panicky and alarmed. What’s got them worried? According to Ledeen, they’re strapped for cash, their strategy of jihad-by-proxy is not going so well, and their own people are restless. Read (emphases mine):
First of all, the dramatic drop in oil prices is devastating to the mullahs, who had planned to be able to fund terrorist proxies throughout the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. Suddenly their bottom line is tinged with red, and this carries over onto their domestic balance sheets, which were already demonstrably shaky (they were forced to cancel proposed new taxes when the merchant class staged nation-wide protests). No wonder they seize on any international event to call for petroleum export reductions. Just today they called for a drastic reduction of oil shipments to all countries that supported the Israeli military incursion into Gaza.
No doubt, the Iranians believe the fall in oil prices is the result of satanic will, rather than the shock to demand produced by the runup to $140/barrel. Not for them the subtleties of the free market; given the way they view the world, they must be convinced that the same strategy that beggared the Soviet Union–Saudi cooperation with America to hold down prices–is now deployed against them. This belief was no doubt reinforced when the recent official cut in petroleum production did not lead to markedly higher prices.
Second, their terror strategy has not been working as well as they wished and expected. Most American and European analysts have not appreciated the effect of the defeat of al Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards in Iraq, but you can be sure that the high and mighty in Arab capitals have taken full notice. The Iranians not only lost a considerable number of skilled and experienced terror leaders–Imad Mughnieh, the long-time operational chieftain of Hezbollah is the most important, and Abu Musab al Zarqawi was close behind, having created al Qaeda in Iraq alongside a network throughout Europe–but also several of their own Revolutionary Guards officers. Some of these were captured, others have defected, and most all have provided details of the Iranian network. This sort of thing is bad for operations, bad for recruiting, and weakens the Iranians’ efforts to bully their neighbors into appeasement or more active cooperation.
Third, despite all their efforts to crush any sign of internal rebellion, many Iranians continue to publicly oppose the mullahs. A few weeks ago, students at universities all over the country demonstrated in significant numbers, and as one Iranian now living in Europe put it to me, “they were surprised that the regime was unable to stop the protests, even though everyone knew they were planned.” This is the background for the new wave of repression, accompanied by an intensification of jamming on the Internet, and an ongoing reshuffle of the instruments of repression; Khamanei and Ahmadinejad have no confidence in the efficacy or blind loyalty of the army or of large segments of the Revolutionary Guards. Most public actions are carried out by the Basij, who are judged more reliable, and repression is less in the hands of the traditional ministries than in new groups freshly minted in the Supreme Leader’s office.
In short, we are dealing with a regime that is very concerned about its future, and is not very comfortable with its friends, allies, and proxies.
It’s become widely recognized that much of the violence in the Middle East, particularly the organized resistance to international forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and the continual harassment of Israel, is planned, financed, and controlled from Tehran, a fact that is not lost on other leaders in the Middle East. Capitols around the Middle East may sound the horn of Muslim solidarity, but these mostly-Arabic leaders are looking fearfully and suspiciously at the pugnacious Persians and their disruptive influence. Arabic support for anti-Israeli aggression has been a lot less fervent in the 21st century than it was in the 20th, and whatever the goal was when the Arab states surrounding Israel refused to let Palestinians become citizens, what motivates them now is simply that they neither like nor trust them — the more so since they’re financed and controlled by the Iranians. If the Iranians get their teeth pulled, objections from the rest of the Middle East will be pro forma, while they quietly applaud with the doors closed.
Iran may be grateful for the current hostilities in Gaza, in that oil futures are headed upward as a result of them. Along with the problems Ledeen observes, this may also explain Tehran’s tepid response to the crisis. They threatened to send shiploads of humanitarian aid, and possibly to ship an army of martyrs, but there don’t seem to be many volunteers for either venture.
Meanwhile, the Ayatollah Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, is trying to stir Iraq’s President Maliki against the occupying Americans, with very little success. The wisdom of Bush’s Iraq venture is becoming clearer as the years wear on. Removing Iraq as a source of terrorism support and disturbance in the Middle East has clarified the situation considerably. Iraq stands as a possibly reliable force for moderation in the region, and a foil to the expansiveness of the Iranians. Moreover, defeating Iran’s proxies in Iraq has severely damaged their credibility. The war against international Wahabi violence is far from over, but so far, the West is making good progress.
Meanwhile, the Iranian regime is illustrating a fact of international politics that we must always keep in mind: every tyranny carries within it the seeds of its own destruction. God so constructed humankind that no collaborative evil enterprise can sustain itself indefinitely; evil eventually collapses of its own weight. The tyranny controlling Iran is hollow, and must eventually fall. As Ledeen titles his article, “Faster, please.”
Hat tip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, who wisely emphasizes the low oil prices.
(Map of the Middle East from a site I refuse to link to, oilempire.us, a cave haunted by conspiracy bats. Nice map, though.)