With all of the interest and attention to the Democratic primaries, it is possible to imagine that various serious problems around the world are ameliorating. We see headlines about food inflation and oil prices are hitting record highs on a daily basis, but Iraq, despite the recent upsurge in violence (which is what tends to happen when religious militias are disarmed) recedes from the headlines, and developments in Iran disappear from the news. Nonetheless, Iran is not sitting still waiting for the American elections. Beyond their support for Hamas, still implacably opposed to Israel's existence despite Jimmy Carter's best efforts, Hezbollah, now re-armed far beyond what they had prior to the summer war, and Syria, chastened by Israel's destruction of their nuclear power plant but in no way ready to commit regime suicide in the interest of breaking their alliance with Iran, Iran at home faces continuing and mounting problems. The Iranian economy is failing, with inflation and unemployment both reaching frightening levels. Gateway Pundit notes Iran's response; it is instructive:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that the way to beat the growing economic crisis in Iran is through a "culture of martyrdom."
Iran Focus reported:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the country's economic woes can be solved by the "culture of martyrdom, the Mehr news agency reported.
"If we want to build the country, maintain our dignity and solve economic problems, we need the culture of martyrdom," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in a speech on Wednesday in the western city of Hamedan.
He described martyrdom, dying or being killed for one's religious beliefs, as "a quick and shortcut way to reach the summit of salvation."
Ahmadinejad has been criticised for pumping excessive liquidity into the economy to fund infrastructure projects, causing huge money supply growth and triggering Iran's current inflation of around 18 percent.
However, critics believe the real inflation rate exceeds 25 percent, and have accused Ahmadinejad of making unscientific decisions in economic matters.
The news gets worse, and the implications of the news are troubling:
The Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution and Commander-in Chief of the Armed Forces Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei decreed on Wednesday the appointment of Hojjatoleslam Jamaleddin Mirmohammadi as head of the Ideological-Political Organization of the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics. The decree urges Mirmohammadi to concentrate on upgrading spiritual qualifications of the ministry personnel. [Emphasis mine-SW]
We can all apparently rest easy that Iran has peaceful goals since it has reached an agreement with he IAEA to examine the "alleged" charges that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons:
Iran has already answered all the UN atomic agency's questions over its nuclear program, the Iranian foreign minister said on Wednesday, after the watchdog announced Tehran had agreed to respond to claims it was studying how to develop a nuclear weapon.
"In the past year there has been a friendly cooperation between Iran and the IAEA," Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said. "We have responded to all questions and ambiguities that the agency had."About the alleged studies -- within that period of cooperation we responded to the issues that they had pointed out and our responses were completely clear, legal and logical," he said at a news conference alongside Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem. [Emphasis mine-SW]
Many of those who are comfortable with Iran's ascension to nuclear power believe that we can be somewhat sanguine about their potential misbehavior because the leaders of Iran are rational men motivated by self-interest. I have questioned this assumption. The Iranian Mullahs may not all be "true believers" but a significant fraction of them are. For the true believer, their belief system is inseparable from themselves. The epitome of this kind of thinking was seen in last century's tyrants, many of whom acted out Louis XIV's famous mot, "L'etat, c'est moi." The inability to separate the interests of the state and its people from one's own interests is the hall mark of the Malignant Narcissist; I have discussed this in numerous posts. This is from Hovering in the Background: Part II, which discussed the question of Iran's deterrability in some detail:
Last weekend, Tom Barnett, one of our smartest strategists, made the point that Iran's possession of a nuclear weapon should not be cause for alarm. Nuclear weapons lead to moderation and two enemies with nuclear weapons tend to find ways to ensure they are never used. This worked during the Cold War (after the initial demonstrations of nuclear weapons over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended WWII) and is likely to eventually moderate the passions at play in the Middle East:
There are two questions that are left unanswered in this; the reasoning behind the belief that the logic of deterrence will hold is asserted rather than explored.
The first issue is the nature of the Iranian Mullahs. Adolph Hitler is generally thought by Psychoanalysts to have been a Malignant Narcissist. Narcissistic pathology is a complex character deformation which leaves the Narcissist with little internal resources to bolster a damaged sense of self. As a result, they rely on others to bolster their self-esteem; the more damaged they are, the more demanding they are of adulation. The Malignant Narcissist carries this to an extreme. Other people exist primarily to support their grandiose conception of themselves, something I described in more detail in Narcissism, Malignant Narcissism, and Paranoia: Part III:
For the Malignant Narcissist, other people are mere props in the pageantry of their lives. A tyrant can throw someone into a shredding machine without a second thought because the victim only matters in relation to how he can support the grandiosity of the tyrant; beyond that, he is faceless, nameless, worthless. It was no accident that Saddam Hussein was surrounded by sycophants who all grew mustaches to look just like him.
Because the Malignant Narcissist does not credit other people with their own desires and independent existence, he is unable to separate his self from the state which he controls. Thus, Adolph Hitler was willing to fight to the last German and few doubt that had he possessed nuclear weapons he would have used them. (I will not here discuss the difference between the American goals in the use of nuclear weapons to end WWII and the different post-war goals to which Hitler aspired in the use of such weapons; this might be a worthwhile discussion at some point but I suspect those who wish to engage in such a discussion would not be motivated by a desire to enhance the discourse.)
I have described some of the reasons I believe the Iranian Mullahs are by and large Malignant Narcissist in Iran and the Core. I also suggested that the intersection of Malignant Narcissism and Millennialist religiosity creates a particularly dangerous and toxic combination:
The Malignant Narcissist and the Millenialist true believer both cannot conceive of the state existing without them.
[Please note, there are significant differences between Christian Millennialists who believe they need to be ready for the end times which will arrive on G-d's schedule and the Persian Shia Millennialists, often referred to as Twelvers, who see it as their mission to enable the apocalypse in order to hasten the 12th Imam's return.]
It then follows that they believe that if they are threatened, it is the equivalent of a threat to the state. Such people cannot give up power voluntarily. For some of the Mullahs and for Ahmadinejad, martyrdom may well be an acceptable outcome for themselves, but they have also shown that they are willing to martyr their children and countrymen for their religious beliefs. A failing economy ratchets up the stakes. There are important and powerful constituencies in Iran for war with the unbelievers if that is the only remaining option to preserve either their power or their religious beliefs.
For the true believers the existence of the West and its obvious success on almost every measure that counts over the Arab/Persian Muslims, is a direct attack upon Islam itself. When Russians saw that their system could not compete with capitalism, they did not love their system more than their material desires and their lives; this is not going to be true for a large proportion of the Arab/Persian Muslim world. In such a situation, once Islam itself (or their version of it) is threatened, martyrdom is the only recourse; if Iran has nuclear weapons, there is very little reason to believe that in extremis they will foreswear their use.