No, the Iranian Shah Didn’t Rename His Country to Please Hitler

In a recent book, the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy claims that Reza Shah Pahlavi, the founder of Iran’s last dynasty, changed his country’s official name from Persia to Iran to make a good impression on Nazi Germany. The latter name is related to the word “Aryan,” which was used by the ancient people of the area stretching from Iraq to India to describe themselves, as well as by such Western writers as Herodotus. In the late-19th century, it began to be used by European historians and was eventually adopted by German race theorists. But, writes Amir Taheri, Lévy not only gets the story wrong but also unwittingly repeats a piece of propaganda that originated with Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers:

Trying to justify their [own] anti-Semitism, expressed through anti-Israel rhetoric, the ruling mullahs claim that they are continuing an old national tradition. To back that claim they trace their policy to Reza Shah, the man who founded the Pahlavi dynasty, [which was later overthrown by the self-styled Islamic revolution]. FARS, the news agency run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, ran a long feature detailing what it claims are Reza Shah’s misdeeds, including his promotion of “Aryanism,” allegedly under Nazi influence, [in order to discredit him]. . . .

All that isn’t surprising; Reza Shah and his promotion of patriotism was the polar opposite of Khomeini [and his worldview, which emphasizes religion over nationalism]. . . .

Consciousness of Iran and Iranian-ness [as opposed to a narrower sense of Persian identity] has been a theme of hundreds of poets writing in modern Persian, the lingua franca of Iranian peoples, for over 1100 years. Many of them were born and lived in lands that are not part of present-day Iran and had as their mother tongues other languages of the Iranic or Indo-Iranian linguistic family; but all saw themselves as Iranians. . . .

[I]n 1936, Hitler’s government tried to classify Iranian Jews as “Semites” and thus sub-humans. Iran protested and argued that as far as Iranian Jews were concerned, Judaism was a religion, not a racial category, and that Iranian Jews should be regarded as Aryans. Iranians insisted that Cyrus the Great had liberated the Jews from bondage in Babylon 25 centuries earlier and that Iranian Jews had been Iranian long enough not to be divested of their identity. Hitler set up a committee . . . to arbitrate. . . . The committee recommended that Iranian Jews be exempted from Nazi racial profiling, and Hitler agreed. . . .

[This was] the reality of the situation under Reza Shah who abolished many of the last remaining restrictions against Jews and other religious minorities, a process that had started 50 years earlier under Nassereddin Shah.

Read more at Kayhan London

More about: Adolf Hitler, Anti-Semitism, Ayatollah Khomeini, History & Ideas, Iran

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen