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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How the American Left allowed the Islamic revolution to thrive

Asaf Romirowsky reviews a new book called Navigating Iran: From Carter to Obama by Ofira Seliktar. For those of you who, like me, thought that the United States' Iran policy was so ineffective because deep down Jimmy Carter sympathized with the revolution, there's more to it than that.
One of the major phenomena that the author skillfully dissects is how disciples of the late Palestinian advocate Edward Said and the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) at large misunderstood and consequently misguided American policy-makers under the false belief of an "Islamic reformation" or democratization. In contrast, others, like Bernard Lewis, had serious reservations about Khomeini especially after finding a printing of the "Welayat el Faqih," the theory of the Absolute Guardianship of the Jurist notion, which included Khomeini's lectures from the 1970s and now forms the basis for the Iranian constitution.
Lewis alerted the Washington Post of Khomeini's theocratic aspirations, setting out to change the conventional wisdom that was coming out of Washington at the time. Anyone who held views that ran counter to MESA's, including Richard Perle — then an aide to Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson who supplied samples of Khomeini's writings to the CIA — and others, was categorized as "orientalist" (another way of saying conservative or anti-Said).
Moreover, this misreading of Iran was "ratified" by Columbia University professor Gary Sick, whose "October Surprise" conspiracy theory alleged that Ronald Reagan made a deal with the Iranians to delay the release of the hostages to prevent Carter from winning the 1980 presidential elections. Sick wrote an op-ed — later he expanded into a book entitled, "October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan" — in which he characterized the 1980 election as a "covert political coup." This simplistic reading did not consider the internal politics of Iran.
Sorry, but that account absolves a bunch of people who ought not to be absolved. Although Said, who lived until 2003, was a Christian, he was so virulently anti-Israel that he likely promoted the Iranian revolution because it was a threat to Israel's continued existence. As to MESA, it may have been similarly motivated. This is from a 2005 piece by Martin Kramer:
For MESAns, the Palestinians are the chosen people, and more so now than ever. More papers are devoted to Palestine than to any other country. There are ten times as many Egyptians as there are Palestinians, but they get less attention; there are ten times as many Iranians, but Iran gets less than half the attention. Even Iraq, America’s project in the Middle East, still inspires only half the papers that Palestine does. Papers dealing with Israel are only half as numerous as those on Palestine, and only three of these are about Israel per se, apart from the Arab-Israeli conflict. More than half of the Israel-related papers actually overlap the Palestine category. MESA’s Palestine obsession has reached new heights, suggesting this: academe is gearing up for its next intifada.
To appreciate that, you have to go beyond the numbers, to the content of this “scholarship.” There you discover that many of the presentations, if not most of them, are blatant attempts to academize anti-Israel agitprop.
When you add to that the fact that Carter's instinctive sympathies were with the revolutionaries, there is little doubt that the failure of US policy in Iran was orchestrated by those in power.

Read the whole thing.

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