A Clash of Civilizations

- Amir Taheri (MSNBC/Newsweek International) # Iran is grossly misunderstood in the West. Given headlines in Europe and America, you would think that the crisis in relations is about nuclear weapons. But the real cause is far broader: Iran's determination to reshape the Middle East in its own image — a deliberate "clash of civilizations" with the United States. # This is bound up with a second misconception about Iran, the idea that the regime is divided between "conservatives" who oppose accommodation with America and the West, and "moderates" more inclined to return their country to the community of nations. The real power in Iran, punctuated by the ascent of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president, is now the Revolutionary Guards. # During the past few years, the Guards have in many ways become the government. Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, a former IRGC officer, says this new military-political elite has staged a creeping coup d'etat. The Guards built an impressive grass-roots network throughout Iran and created two political-front organizations: the Usulgara (fundamentalists) and the Itharis (self-sacrificers), each attracting a younger generation of military officers, civil servants, managers and intellectuals. # Ahmadinejad's victory is the beginning of the end of the clerics' dominance. He is the first non-mullah to become president since 1981. The holder of a Ph.D., he is also the best educated of the six Islamic presidents so far. He can be expected to be a far more formidable enemy of the West — and of America in particular. # Recently Ahmadinejad announced one of the most ambitious government mission statements in decades, declaring that the ultimate goal of Iran's foreign policy is nothing less than "a government for the whole world" under the leadership of the Mahdi, the Absent Imam of the Shiites — code for the export of radical Islam. As for the only power capable of challenging this vision, the United States is in its "last throes," an ofuli (sunset) power destined to be superceded by the toluee (sunrise) of the Islamic republic. Geopolitical dominance in the Middle East, the tract unequivocally stated, is "the incontestable right of the Iranian nation."

2005-08-30 00:00:00

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