Deception as Diplomacy


Can Iran be trusted? Its track record on honesty is decidedly poor. Even fellow Muslim countries don’t trust it, unless they are already in bed with the Shi’a theocracy. One major reason for this is that from the 7th C onward, the world of Islam has been split by a strong division between two major sects, the Sunnis (comprising roughly 85% of Muslims worldwide, and the Shi’ites making up the bulk of the rest). Politically, the Sunnis are decentralized, with no universally accepted leader or council. The Shi’ites, on the other hand, accede all spiritual, political, military, economic and social power to one leader, whom they believe to have been divinely appointed as Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, presently the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (not to be confused with Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s first theocratic leader who passed away in 1989).

Iran’s Supreme Leader has the final say on any and every matter considered by the government of Iran, including all military, defense and foreign policy decisions. He has full veto power over rulings of the president, the cabinet, the parliament and the guardian council. His appointment is for life, unless he becomes so disabled or senile as to be unable to function.

It is important to know that the Supreme Leader is first and foremost an Islamic legal scholar. His worldview has been irrevocably shaped by decades of immersion in Islamic scriptural, traditional and juristic study. He is, in essence, a seminary professor who was later thrust into political and military spheres after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when Iran’s clerics under Khomeini took control of the government after ousting the Shah.

This is a crucial fact to consider when determining whether Iran can be trusted to honor any international agreements, especially with non-Muslim powers. One doctrine of Shi’ite Islam, disputed by some Sunni jurists, but embraced by Shi’ites as a whole, is that of taqiyya. Its literal meaning in Arabic is “guarding [oneself],” and it justifies deception or deceit under certain circumstances — if one’s life, or the lives of loved ones, or the viability of the Islamic community is under imminent or future threat because of allegiance to Muhammad/Allah, one may deceive the enemy until the threat has passed.

This doctrine is often supported by the following tradition:

The nonbelievers arrested ‘Ammar Ibn Yasir and (tortured him until) he uttered foul words about the Prophet, and praised their gods (idols); and when they released him, he went straight to the Prophet. The Prophet said: “Is there something on your mind?” ‘Ammar Ibn Yasir said: “Bad (news)! They would not release me until I defamed you and praised their gods!” The Prophet said: “How do you find your heart to be?” ‘Ammar answered: “Comfortable with faith.” So the Prophet said: “Then if they come back for you, then do the same thing all over again.” Allah at that moment revealed the verse: “….except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in faith…(16:106)”

The full Quranic text reads, “Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters unbelief, except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in faith — but such as open their breast to unbelief, — on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Chastisement.”

It is not a stretch to wonder whether Khamenei and his negotiating team consider the USA (the Great Satan, as we’ve been reminded by many of his recent speeches) such an imminent and great threat to the Islamic Republic of Iran (which they consider the bastion of Allah’s theocratic Kingdom) that in their own minds they can justify the use of taqiyya in their negotiations with the P5 +1 nations. This would ultimately mean that though they negotiate for the best deal they can get, they nevertheless “guard” their true intentions until they have neutralized what they perceive to be the  overarching threat to their future — America’s vast superiority militarily and economically. Once they have bought enough time to develop a nuclear arsenal of their own, they will have changed the equation, at which time they will discard the “agreement” and freely pursue their ultimate agenda, which is the overthrow or subjugation of all non-Islamic governments, particularly the Great Satan (USA) and the Little Satan (Israel). Until then, they will lie about their intentions to protect their future, smugly justifying their dissimulation under the doctrine of taqiyya.

I can’t imagine that our present federal administration lacks well-schooled advisors who  understand the Shi’ite mind and have shared this important consideration with our political leaders and negotiators, so it seems that the administration has chosen to disbelieve this perspective and move ahead anyway. Perhaps they are confident that we have the capacity to identify and stop any clandestine efforts by Iran to ignore the agreement. Perhaps they have discovered some overwhelming reason to trust Iranian leadership in spite of the theology and past track record. Certainly they have access to boatloads of pertinent information that I will never see. But I am hoping beyond hope that our Congress refuses to endorse this agreement, not only on the basis that it was poorly negotiated by the West, but because the theocratic leadership of Iran considers itself justified in lying for the sake of the future supremacy of Shi’ite Islam.

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4 Responses to Deception as Diplomacy

  1. Jay Norton says:

    I think the only good that might come of this deal is if it can delay the Iranians for a few months while we come up with a better solution. Still, it seems unlikely the deal will pass Senate ratification, so the point may be moot (unless the entire process is a delaying tactic). The economists and other policy experts I have been reading seem to think it’s not the end of the world, but I don’t think they are looking at the religious details you are bringing up, Mateen.

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  2. mateenelass says:

    Jay, as I understand it, the Administration does not believe this agreement needs Senate ratification. They would like both houses to affirm the deal, but what they fear is that both the House and Senate will vote to disapprove the agreement. If so, the President will use his veto power over their legislation, confident that either the House or Senate will not have sufficient votes among the Democratic legislators to overcome his veto, and so the deal will go through because Congress did not finally stand against it.

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    • Jay Norton says:

      A hallmark of (not only this, but especially this) Administration is its conviction it needs no Congressional approval for much of anything. (I have a pen and a phone). If the Administration argues this is not a formal treaty, but what amounts to a “trade deal” it really would be up to Congress to find the intestinal fortitude to deny funding where appropriate to enforce its will. I’m continually amazed at how a “Constitutional law professor” can be so cavalier about the document he purports to know so much about.

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  3. Pat Dickinson says:

    And I am stunned and puzzled. I cannot believe that the president and company are naive as they appear to be. What on earth is their agenda since they are solidly for this — Obama and Carey and company. To think that we will have any power over whether Iran gets a nuclear bomb is, I believe, arrogant and ignorant. I am with you, Mateen — very much hoping and praying that the congress will act in a more intelligent, alert manner. It is almost like there are forces at work that are escalating our demise. I pray not!!

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