“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Commentary: A Weapon Against The Ayatollahs

Commentary: A Weapon Against The Ayatollahs

By: Joseph Puder, The Bulletin

It was flattering to read Edward Luttwak's piece in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 27) titled "Persian Shrug." In the opinion piece, Luttwak repeated this writer's argument, expressed a year ago on the pages of the Philadelphia Bulletin, that U.S. strategy with regard to Iran must involve the various ethnic minorities in Iran that account for almost 50 percent of Iran's population.

The idea of utilizing the Iranian ethnic minorities was strengthened last year at the Intelligence Summit in Alexandria, Va., where I discussed the idea of mobilizing the non-Persian ethnics to bring down the mullah's regime with exiled Iranian expatriates. I then offered the idea to Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney (Ret. Deputy Chief of USAF), one of the keynote presenters dealing with Iran.

The minority non-Persian ethnic groups have little love for the ayatollah's regime in Tehran. The Kurds in northwestern Iran, adjacent to Iraqi Kurdistan, comprise 7 percent of the Iranian population. The Kurds have had previous insurrections against Tehran, and now, with their ethnic brothers in Iraqi Kurdistan enjoying virtual independence, the urge for autonomy is greater than ever.

But, it is not only the Kurds who are resentful of the Persians "cultural imperialism."

The Arabs (many of them Sunni Muslims) have been in open rebellion against the Shiite regime. Based in the oil rich province of Khuzestan in the Gulf region of Iran, the Arabs account for 3 percent of the population, generating 100 percent hatred for the ayatollahs who have been practicing ethnic cleansing in the region by displacing Arabs with ethnic Persians.

The Baluch (2 percent of Iran's population) in Iranian Baluchistan represent another ethnic group with long and simmering grievances toward Tehran. Located in southeastern Iran, the Baluch have more in common with their Baluch brothers in Afghanistan and Pakistan, than with the Iranian regime. They too seek cultural autonomy and dream of a free Baluchistan that would incorporate all Baluchis.
Turkman Sunni Muslims (2 percent of the population) are another disaffected group in Iran.

And then, of course, there are the Azeris who count for 24 percent of Iran's people. They speak a Turkic language and strive for an Azeri nation that would join them with their brothers and sisters in neighboring Azerbaijan - a country that not only speaks their language but is freer, more secular, and growing ever more prosperous.

I pointed out to Lt. Gen. McInerney that, simultaneous with any military action against Iran to destroy its capacity to weaponize its potential nuclear arsenal, there must be an effort made to remove the current Tehran regime. To eliminate the regime, the U.S. and its allies must use the non-Persian ethnic minorities as a weapon against the ayatollahs.

Lt. Gen. McInerney, to his credit, understood that military action must coincide with regime change. He asserted, moreover, that with a fatwa by a leading ayatollah, which declared the use of nuclear weapons against the West permissible, the Iranian regime had crossed the Rubicon. He accepted the premise of using the disaffected minorities as a weapon. Whether the Bush administration has given weighted consideration to this idea is still unclear.

Aside from minority grievances in Iran, the extremism of the Iranian theocracy and the treatment of its own people have created deep internal divisions. Students, women, and liberal thinkers and writers are harassed and imprisoned. The Iranian economy is in shambles. In spite of Iran being an oil-exporting nation, it has to import gas from Turkey, and, with an inflation rate of 30 percent a year and unemployment at over 20 percent, life has become much more difficult for the average Iranian.

Religious persecution of non-Shiites in Iran is the least talked about story out of Iran. The Jewish community, what is left of an ancient and once-thriving society, is held hostage by the regime. The Bahais fled Iran following their bloody persecution. Bahai temples can now be found in suburban Chicago and in Haifa, Israel but are absent in Iran. Zoroastrians too have been persecuted, as well as Christians. In more recent years, the ayatollahs have dealt harshly with the Muslim Sufi movement as well. The most striking fact however, is the presence of more than a million Sunni Muslims in Tehran without a single Sunni mosque. Both the "Big Satan" America and the "Little Satan" Israel have numerous Sunni mosques while Shiite MUSLIM Tehran has none.
Even among the ruling elite, a so-called anti-fascist front has begun to emerge. A younger generation of activists led by reformers such as Muhammad Reza Khatami, the brother of the former president of Iran, and Gholam Hussein Karbaschi, a former mayor of Tehran and a protégé of former Iranian President Rafsanjani, oppose the current regime's extremism. They too are seeking change.

These two, and other like-minded liberal and pragmatic thinkers and activists, are seeking to restore the original draft of the Islamic Republics constitution, which calls for the separation of powers, a strong presidency and defined responsibilities for the elected institutions. They seek to reclaim the promises of the Iranian revolution and bring democracy to the people of Iran and, to relegate the self-proclaimed Supreme ruler (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) to matters of faith.

A much better alternative to bombing Iran, as Lt. General McInerney advocates, is to consider bringing down the regime from within. Rather, As Edward Luttwak suggests, instead of seeking a "détente with the repulsive regime ... it is to be true to the Wilsonian tradition of American foreign policy by encouraging the forces of national liberation within Iran."

Joseph Puder can be reached at


  1. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

    Day late, dollar short.

    If only Seymour had been correct, he or Son of Shah.

    Deniable proxies, should have been burning the Iranians for the past four years.


    Mr. Pruder obviously has not read the EB.

    Iran is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped.

    Doesn't he know from EB that his "master plan" scheming is utter nonsense.

    The Shias (and Sunnis for that matter) are much too intelligent to be manipulated or pitted one against the other.

    Please...someone write Joseph and inform him to stop the scheming and realize that we are doomed


  3. elijah,

    I thought that was, "Doomed! Doomed!, I tell you."

  4. One the other hand, utilizing the wisdom from previous posts at EB, and applying them to Pruder's Iranian paradigm -

    Are the Iranians doomed?

    "Dashing in, guns a blazing and bombs bursting does not address the problems - it exacerbates them."

    "Is it worth the cost? Especially considering what gives rise to more jihadi."

    ...Therefore, Iran cannot defend itself as this would exacerbate the situation and create more ethnic tension within Iran.

    Or does this model only apply to Anglos and Hebrews?

    "how does one identify the "assholes" so that we can kill them"

    Applying this perspective to the Iranians, how can they even identify the different ethnic groups and individuals to eliminate them?

    Could some pragmatic thinkers please enlighten me?

  5. As in Somalia, having others than US do the lifting, or shall we say, "intervention" is the preferable option.

    The Kurds, Arabs, Baluchi, Azeris & Turkmen all ethnic minorities we could exploit in the Cause, as well as transportation workers and students.

    That there is no democratic Iranian insurection is one of the failures of the Democracy Project. One of the reasons, perhaps it has stalled out across the Region, not enough forward momenteum.

    Those posters you quote elijah, they just echo the US Administrations' position.

    There is no military solution, as per General P.

  6. elijah,

    re: pragmatism (pragmaticism) and Ash

    I miss the relationship.

    Pragmatism requires that a phenomenum be defined or understood within the confines of its "observed" practical consequences. "Practical" is just a way of saying empiric.

    Of course, one must ask if a blind man's empirical experience of a sunrise or sunset is normative; which, of course, brings us back to Ash.

  7. To avoid the semantic vagaries of the use of "intervention", was the United States the efficient cause of the fall of the Islamists in Somalia, may be the better question.

    I would argue that absent the financial, logistic, military, and political support (not to mention the flashing, neon green light) Ethiopia would not have moved with resolute, efficient forcefulness.

  8. re: But second time's a charm, right?

    Actually, this would be closer to the fourth time since 2001.

    Pragmatically, does practice make perfect?

  9. 1) Perhaps this administration (like others) lies and deceives when it suits their purposes. We have previously spoken about deception and warfare.

    2) "There is no military solution, as per General P."

    Wasn't he referring to Iraq in that statement?

    Regardless, some believe that disintegration of both Iraq and Iran may be in the interest of the U.S.

    For example, Ralph Peters in Armed Forces Journal - Blood borders:
    How a better Middle East would look

    ...The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa's borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East — to borrow from Churchill — generate more trouble than can be consumed locally.

    As for those who refuse to "think the unthinkable," declaring that boundaries must not change and that's that, it pays to remember that boundaries have never stopped changing through the centuries. Borders have never been static, and many frontiers, from Congo through Kosovo to the Caucasus, are changing even now (as ambassadors and special representatives avert their eyes to study the shine on their wingtips).

    Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history...Ethnic cleansing works.

    Iran - a state with madcap boundaries, would lose a great deal of territory to Unified Azerbaijan, Free Kurdistan, the Arab Shia State and Free Baluchistan, but would gain the provinces around Herat in today's Afghanistan — a region with a historical and linguistic affinity for Persia. Iran would, in effect, become an ethnic Persian state again, with the most difficult question being whether or not it should keep the port of Bandar Abbas or surrender it to the Arab Shia State.
    BC - 3/06/2007 09:50:00 PM

    3) Also, as per General P...

    Other U.S. Generals state that China is NOT viewed as a strategic advesary in the decades ahead.

    Is this the truth or do U.S. Generals also endeavor in deception?

  10. That is why, allen, the Team gets an "atta boy".

    As to what truly motivated Girma Woldegiorgis to move his Army against the Jihadi in Somalia is unknown. One hopes US influence was one of the factors.

  11. Deception or perjury, depends on where things are said.

    If it's deception perhaps that is why the US public no longer supports the Program, they realized they've been decieved.

    More decieved than the Iranians or aQ, both of those groups seem to have a grasp on the reality of the war.

  12. Yes, Islamists remain a problem in Somalia; but the Islamists will ever be with us - Chapel Hill and Nashville come immediately to mind.

    Iran is Iran and Somalia is Somalia, and that's a fact. However, lessons learned in Somalia may be instructive to future operations against Iran, through the use of proxies.

    As to direct action against Iran, why do I have to break the eggs to enjoy the omelet?

  13. DR,

    It is not "unknown". It is unrecognized. Hmm...It could also be unacknowledged.

  14. re: accomodation

    Certainly, the Baker school would welcome such an eventuality. Unfortunately for Mr. Baker, his protégés cannot resist whizzing in the Cheerios.

    Yesterday, I was mildly amused watching Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Murtha confidently declare that a "deployment" plan was on the way. All that is lacking in this formula for "deployment" is the Muslim factor.

  15. From the non-accommodationist side (Gateway Pundit)

    “Reagan would have long ago seriously insisted fighting the mullahs in Iran by now. The military action would not be a popular one.”

    Blogger Conference Call: Author John O'Sullivan on Reagan & War

  16. Well, CAIR is onboard.

    ”With hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of taxpayer dollars lost on a misguided war in Iraq, the timing and positioning of this superfluous campaign raises plenty of questions. If prosecuting charity-givers is our government’s idea of homeland security, time and again, then we are all in trouble."
    Islamic Charity Operators Charged, CAIR Seethes

  17. Trish,

    If you was in my car driving thru the desert at night for some fun in vegas, you'd be the first one I'd turn to, to lead the way back home. Of course, you'd be walking. Alone.

  18. “Reagan would have long ago seriously insisted fighting the mullahs in Iran by now."


    What was his response to the
    marine barracks bombing in Lebanon that killed 241 American servicemen in 1983?

    It was "beyond question" that Hezbollah and its agents "received massive material and technical support from the Iranian Government".

  19. Before Reagan, Thatcher, and the Pope could press the dagger, the CCCP survived the administrations of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter.

    Relatively, the time is 1951; and despite the fall of mainland China and the invasion of Korea, accommodationists abound. In various guises, they would proliferate throughout the Cold War - inflicting abuse on Reagan, Thatcher, and the Pope, in due course.

    Because nothing recommends them outside the struggle for dominance, the Islamists, as the Fascists before them, must fight or die. Accommodation and hudna are synonymous ploys; ruses used to prepare for the next bout. Eventually, as with the Fascism, Islam will appear to all reasonable men to be what it self-evidently is: an absolute, unmitigated evil, wholly incompatible with liberty.

  20. elijah,

    re: Marine barracks, Beirut

    Indeed. David had his Bathsheba and Reagan his Beirut. The Devil bedevils the best of us.

  21. Why make it too complicated? Work towards an end to Arab and Persian Bismarckianism. That's all we need to do.

  22. rufus,

    If you are out there, read the Rottweiler. Shoot ‘em if you got ‘em.

    “To summarize, we conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad).”
    Dammit, This Could be HUGE!

  23. ..."This had great impact on Marxist world...It will never be a war on Islam."

    Today's Marxists disagree with the above, they believe that the U.S. is engaging in a war with Islam.

    ...There is the beginning of a permanent global war to cement the domination of the U.S. Government and its allies...Islam is being demonized, while racism and xenopobia are deliberately propagated...Opposition to the war is at the heart of our movement
    - Social Movements Manifesto, World Social Forum, 2000

    ...In fact, Khomeini introduced into radical Islamic thought the Marxist concept of a world separated into oppressors and oppressed.

    "It will always be a "war" seeking ...accomodation."

    Again, this Marxist author disagrees -

    ...The Pentagon's ever-expanding secret armies are deeply enmeshed in such efforts as well. As Sy Hersh has reported ("The Coming Wars," New Yorker, Jan. 24, 2005), after his re-election in 2004, George W. Bush signed a series of secret presidential directives that authorized the Pentagon to run virtually unrestricted covert operations, including a reprise of the American-backed, American-trained death squads employed by authoritarian regimes in Central and South America during the Reagan Administration, where so many of the Bush faction cut their teeth.

    Bush's formal green-lighting of the death-squad option built upon an already securely-established base, part of a larger effort to turn the world into a "global free-fire zone" for covert operatives, as one top Pentagon official told Hersh. For example, in November 2002 a Pentagon plan to infiltrate terrorist groups and "stimulate" them into action was uncovered by William Arkin, then writing for the Los Angeles Times. The new unit, the "Proactive, Pre-emptive Operations Group," was described in the Pentagon documents as "a super-Intelligence Support Activity" that brings "together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence and cover and deception."

    Later, in August 2004, then deputy Pentagon chief Paul Wolfowitz appeared before Congress to ask for $500 million to arm and train non-governmental "local militias" to serve as U.S. proxies for "counter-insurgency and "counterterrorist" operations in "ungoverned areas" and hot spots around the world, Agence France Presse (and virtually no one else) reported at the time. These hired paramilitaries were to be employed in what Wolfowitz called an "arc of crisis" that just happened to stretch across the oil-bearing lands and strategic pipeline routes of Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America.

  24. trish,

    Prior to becoming the "Butcher", Uncle Joe was our friend. We maintained that fiction because we needed tens of millions of Russians to die fighting the "Beast". When the Hun became our friend, we used Germany to check the expansionist designs of the Butcher.

    What can I say?

    How about this: "Life isn't fair." ___JFK

  25. More profoundly, the appearance of the "overnight" alliance brought an era to a close. That is,
    the age of fixed-form alliances which had begun with the signing of the military alliance between
    Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1879. Following the Cold War, the period in which alliances
    were formed on the basis of ideology faded away, while the approach in which alliances are built on interests rose to primacy. Under the general banner of realpolitik, in which national interests are paramount, any alliance can only be focused more nakedly on interests, and at times they don't even feel like raising the banner of morality. Without a doubt, the alliance phenomenon
    will continue to exist, but in more cases they will be loose and short-term interest coalitions.
    Which is also to say that there will no longer be any alliances where only morality, not interests,
    are involved. Different periods have different interests and goals, and that will be what
    determines whether there are alliances or not. Increasingly pragmatic and unconstrained by any
    moral fetters, this is the characteristic feature of modern alliances. All forces are united by a network of interests, and they may be very short-lived but extremely effective. The interest
    relationships of modern states, as well as among trans-national organizations and even among
    regional forces have thus begun to be increasingly transitory. As the rock and roll singer Cui Jian
    sings, "It's not that I don't understand, it is that this world is rapidly changing." Today's mode of ever-changing combinations of force, along with the age of ever-changing technological
    integration and globalization, has given rise to certain tacit alliances which are by no means
    fortuitous. Therefore, the
    "overnight" alliance that was formed by the Gulf War formally opened the curtain to a new alliance era.

    - Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui

  26. Good post, Elijah.

    The complicating factors are oil, demographics, Leftist ideologues, cold war politicking, Eurabian economic and political vulnerabilities, but these complicating factors are certainly not insurmountable.

  27. Trish,

    Knowledge is illusory and deceitful. More often than not, only exploration is real, honest. But curiosity as a state of mind is hard to maintain. The mind welcomes any excuse to conclude that it has reached the endpoint, that it is no longer necessary to learn and explore.

  28. Exploration in the pursuit of what?