The Protest Movement Is Reviving an Ancient Tension in Iran’s National Character

Since the Arab conquest of the 7th century CE, Islam has been very much part of Persian culture and national identity. Yet a sense of connection with the pagan and Zoroastrian past has never disappeared, and resurfaces from time to time, according to Ze’ev Maghen. He explains how the current protests hark back to this persistent divide:

When an elderly Iranian wants to take a stand, he is just as likely to shout “Rostam!”—the name of the legendary hero in Iranian-Zoroastrian mythology—as he is to shout “Allah!” The epic poem Shahnameh was written by the Persian poet and devout Muslim Ferdowsi, who derided the Arabs as “lizard eaters” and blamed them for turning Iran into a cultural wasteland. . . .

Despite the widespread claim that their primary motivation is anger over the country’s economic situation—a claim that has been hastily made to explain nearly every outbreak of unrest in Iran, including that of 1979 [which led to the shah’s overthrow and the ayatollahs’ seizure of power]—complaints about the cost of eggs, bread, or apartments are barely heard on the streets of Iran’s cities. What we are hearing, however, similar to the protests in 2009, is criticism from around the country of the regime’s policies: “Stop investing in Syria, start investing in us”; “Death to the Islamic Republic”; “Reza Shah [the anti-Islamist, pro-Western nationalist king who founded the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925], your spirit still lives.” . . . This is a fresh spirit: yes to Iran, no to Islam.

Is this the beginning of the end for the ayatollahs’ regime? Not yet. The Islamic Republic’s apparatuses are vast and sturdy, the machine of oppression is well-oiled and brutal (and has been training incessantly in Syria and Iraq), its regional and international successes are impressive and empowering, and let’s not forget that not all Iranians identify with the protesters. . . . Moreover, it is hard to imagine what type of government would replace the current regime. . . . It is difficult to envision Iranians sacrificing their lives in a revolution to reinstate the monarchy.

And yet the events in Iran are unprecedented. We have never heard these types of slogans before, certainly not on this scope and scale. The Iranian pendulum, which has swung back and forth through the generations between nationalism and religion, perhaps has begun inching its way back toward nationalism and distancing itself from Islam.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Ancient Persia, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship