Iran’s Fight is Over True Nationalism: Khamenei & Ahmadinejad Re-Radicalizing the Country


iran violence.jpgAll students of revolutionary change should read Chalmers Johnson’s epic work, Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power.
The book is about so much more than China. It provides one of the best templates ever written to understand that most revolutionary conflict in the modern age is rooted in competing frames of nationalism. I think this applies to Iran today — in which Mousavi, Rafsanjani and their millions of supporters are competing to control the soul of their nation — not to move necessarily towards Western style democracy but rather because their view of nationalism and Iran’s pretensions as a great power differs from that of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.
Another indispensable Chalmers Johnson masterpiece that all should read is An Instance of Treason: Ozaki Hotsumi and the Sorge Spy Ring.
Richard Sorge is acknowledged to be one of the most successful and consequential spies of all time — able to convey to the Russians the exact date of Germany’s “surprise” invasion.
108px-Hotsumi_Ozaki.JPGBut his key partner in crime in pre-WWII Japan was Asahi Shimbun journalist and China scholar Ozaki Hotsumi, who sat as a key advisor — probably was the key adviser — to Prince Konoe’s government on China policy.
If one doesn’t take a deep look a the triple layer chess approach to his objectives, Ozaki appears to be a bag of contradictions — a China-lover who had a heavy hand in pushing Japan to unleash an incredible viciousness in its Occupation of key parts of China and its military assaults in the parts of China and Southeast Asia not under its control.
But Ozaki, who was a China hand fascinated by the country, was a Communist and wanted to achieve “transformative change.” He wanted Japan to drastically radicalize the Chinese public and the whole of Asia so as the emotional and political ecosystem would be susceptible to Communist revolution.
In other words, he used Japan’s military might to radicalize the Chinese public — to lay the groundwork for revolution and change — which he hoped would actually spread into Japan.
Otsumi’s work largely succeeded — and almost even succeeded in Japan.
Today, violence deployed by the machinery of Iran’s state against its public is radicalizing them in ways that the Shah of Iran once did — and in ways in which the American-supported coup against President Mossadegh did in 1953.
Radicalizing a nation is dangerous stuff — and if the protesters win in Iran (which is still in great doubt) — there is no guarantee at all that Iran will move towards a warm and friendly posture.
Khamenei has gambled in incredible ways — pitting his and Ahmadinejad’s version of national interests against other key Iran political stakeholders — and while the security apparatus of the state appears to remain in Khamenei’s hands, the people — who are angry and feel violated — seem to have abandoned the Supreme Leader.
If Khamenei falls in this attempt to further consolidate his power, those that lead Iran may use a new form of nationalism, even a more strident form of nationalism, to legitimate who and what they represent in the eyes of the Iranian people.
But radicalization and nationalism are now key parts of Iran’s turmoil.
— Steve Clemons


12 comments on “Iran’s Fight is Over True Nationalism: Khamenei & Ahmadinejad Re-Radicalizing the Country

  1. Brian B says:

    Another good book is “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire.


  2. David says:

    I was one of those who reacted to the picture. As I said, I would have reacted differently if the post had been about consequences of failed US policies, especially our complicity in the short-lived overthrow of Chavez’s government.
    Chavez obviously has made deals with Ahmadenijad that he and Ahmadenijad think are in the interests of Venezuela and Iran. I think Chavez is making a mistake, just as Reagan made a mistake in the 80s with Hussein via Rumsfeld, but at the time the Reagan administration and Hussein thought that deal was in the interest of Iraq and the US. Making that era truly appalling was the US’s decision to promote the Iran-Iraq War by aiding both sides.
    I just hope Chavez does not stoop to the level the US did in the 80s and find some way to aid and abet a war between Iran and Israel. Bizarre even to contemplate, but that was the level of US foreign policy in the Middle East in the 80s.
    At this point, Chavez is going to oppose what he sees as US intervention in internal Iranian affairs, and apparently US/British/possibly Israeli interventions are not out of the question, especially since Congress appropriated funds for the destabalization of the government of Iran.
    Who’s lying and who’s telling the truth? I don’t know. But I think Chavez is wrong in seeing this as strictly outside meddling in an election Ahmadenijad overwhelmingly won. He is ignoring dynamics in Venezuela that put him in power and back in power and now keeps him in power as he defends who he sees as his ally in Iran.
    I wish Chavez had more wisdom, but then would a “wise” person have led a populist change of government in Venezuela, given the attitude of the United States toward such a thing?
    It’s all pretty ugly, and pretty much business as usual in the world of national interests/international affairs.


  3. Paul Norheim says:

    Some regular commenters at TWN reacted when Steve recently published a picture of Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chaves
    embracing each other.
    Here is an excerpt from The Guardian`s daily blog:
    “Mousavi cannot count on the support of Hugo Chavez, the populist Venezuelan leader. In his weekly radio and TV
    address, Chavez said the world must respect the “triumph” of Ahmadinejad, as reported by the state-funded Press TV.
    “Ahmadinejad’s triumph was a triumph all the way. They are trying to stain Ahmadinejad’s triumph and through that
    weaken the government and the Islamic revolution. I know they will not succeed,” Chavez said.”


  4. ... says:

    pahlavan, if more american politicians were like ron paul, i think you’d be okay… check out what he has to say from a link poa left on the above thread..
    and, i wouldn’t frame ideas around patriotism.. i think patriotism is a refuge for scoundrels politicians being sometimes the biggest ones on both accounts..


  5. pahlavan says:

    …, If you are correct, then our senior political statesmen must be more stahle than they are given credit for. With all due respect, one would think by now we’ve learned that todays political climate requires more smarts than our political leadership currently posses, specially obvious when it comes to starting and managing wars. To be a good American do we put our heads down and be a yes man for the sake of political correctness? or will it be patriotic for America to question why the table at the party is so round?


  6. ... says:

    pahlavan – no amount of comment on your part is going to alter the successful brainwashing of the recent past to convince others of otherwise…besides it makes for good ammo when a country wants to go to war with another country, and you can’t expect those who are eager for war to let go of a deep attachment they have to fiction, but more that they will get enraged with you for suggesting such… all a part of the aggression that continues to feed war and more war…


  7. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I hope others in Iran’s elite find a way to replace these two men, because it now seems impossible to imagine that, even if they can somehow re-consolidate their control over Iran, they will ever be in a position to conduct the foreign relations of their country in a way that advances Iran’s national interest. At best, they are facing isolation and growing international weakness”
    Which are EXACTLY the motives that would propel a joint CIA/Mossad effort to incite and foment what has just occurred in Iran. To think these two intelligence agencies did not have a hand in current Iranian events is asinine and naive. I imagine both agencies were hoping for a more violent reaction from the Ahmadinejad camp, and rue the relatively minor amount of citizen casualties. But the event is still ongoing, so perhaps we may yet see the bloodbath that so perfectly serves the agenda of the anti-Iranian factions in Israel and the United States.
    And Dan, in “ignoring Israel”, you have missed some epic developments. Tell me, can you remember ever seeing a foreign dignitary, imediately on the heels of a meeting with an American Secretary of State, stand right next to that SOS and declare that his nation has NO INTENTION of respecting American wishes in regards to policy? Thats exactly what Lieberman did, in what, to my recollection, is unprecedented arrogance in the presence of an American Secretary of State.
    And now this mewling cowardly piece of shit Harry Reid has written a letter to Obama, telling him to tone down his criticism of Israel, and amp it up towards the Palestinians.
    And if you are into nuance, our beloved Secretary of State, the witch Clinton, is fond of describing “Obama’s” wishes in regards to the settlements, instead of describing our demands in a national context. The insinuation, and I’ve noticed it in a few of her public comments, are that she is not on board with some of Obama’s policy desires in regards to the Israel/Palestine issues. Buttressing my gut feeling is seeing Lieberman standing right next to her after a meeting with her, feeling empowered enough to arrogantly diss the President of The United States and his demands in regards to the illegal expansion of the settlements. It is truly amazing watching Reid and very likely Clinton, undermining the policy advocations of the President of the United States. I have absolutely NO respect for Reid after he so cowardly backed down on his Phase Two demands, but this letter to Obama is an all time low for the slimey little bastard. He oughta be tarred and feathered OUT of the Democratic camp immediately. But with most of Congress owing fealty to their Israeli benefactors and pimps, Reid will undoubtedly be lauded for his cowardice.


  8. Pahlavan says:

    Not to veer the discussion away from your topic, but I think this is a fundamental fact that’s neglected here in the west. It’s important to clarify that if you speak Persian, you know that Ahmadinejad has never denied the rights of Jews, the holocaust or the existence of homosexuals in Iran. In fact even Iran’s government has categorically disputed the translation of his talks.
    What’s incredibly profound is that Microphones here in the west continue to insist on something they like to believe they’ve heard, and refuse to give the benefit of the doubt to a government by siding with the translation of automated machine or a person.


  9. DonS says:

    Dan, your righteous indignation is well placed. While it is expected that all countries will calculate how they can profit from the unrest in Iran, it is unseemly and out of touch for Netanyahu to do so. The canker that is the Israeli right wing should indeed keep low with it’s mouth shut. Does Netanyahu not think that the images from Gaza — to the extent that the carnage was not covered up — evoke exactly the revulsion that one feels on witnessing the supression and violence against Iranian citizens . . . regardless of the underlying elections ‘issues’? Netanyahu perhaps overestimates where the chips may fall after things settle down, albeit AIPAC has his back at every turn.


  10. Dan Kervick says:

    And speaking of miscalculating right-wing governments, did anyone catch the disgusting exploitation of Iran by Netanyahu on Meet the Press today?
    In my opinion, Netanyahu would do well to keep his head down and his mouth shut. He is wildly mistaken if he thinks his odious government is going to sail to greater credibility and influence on the wind of the Iranian reform movement. In fact, I had been ignoring Israel almost completely for the past week until I saw Netanyahu’s repulsive mug on the video intertubes today. Doesn’t he realize that the events in Iran are likely to spark renewed popular resentment throughout the region of *all* the heavily armed, jackbooted tyrannies in the Middle East, including the one that oversees the prison lockdown of Gaza and backstops the reviled campaign of ethnic cleaning and colonization in the West Bank?
    Netanyahu talks about the unmasking of the regime in Iran, and that may be true. But the nature of the Israeli regime was unmasked long ago, and the world has received several recent glimpses of that ugly unmasked visage with the Gaza massacre, outrages by illegal colonists in the West Bank and the election of a far right, racist government.
    Some of you may have seen this video posted at BBC’s Persian service:
    Almost everyone in the Middle East watching this video must have been reminded of the stone-throwing first Palestinian intifada, and will now be rekindling their dreams of the day that the Palestinians are able to drive the Israelis from the West Bank with stones in the same way these Iranians just drove state security forces from their street.
    The Iranians have a rightist government headed by an ignorant holocaust denier. The Israelis have a rightist government that represents those who have long denied the rights and *very existence* of the Palestinians whose land they never stop taking. The Israelis just sent a brutish racist bouncer to the United States, in the role of their *foreign minister*! And Netanyahu wants to speak to us of unmasking?
    But maybe the Middle East right-wingers truly are in retreat after all.


  11. Bill R. says:

    As an undergrad in Pol. Sci. in the 60s I was schooled in Chalmers Johnson. One of my profs was Jim Davies, who taught a course in Political Revolution. He was the originator of the famed J-Curve of revolution and rising expectations. I believe the Iran situation fits the J curve analysis well.


  12. Dan Kervick says:

    Apparently Ozaki Hotsumi was a left radical, as Steve recounts it, who wanted to promote long-term pro-communist radicalization of China, and revolutionary violence, by supporting in the near term the vicious military subjugation of China by Japan. That’s diabolical. But it also helped lead to the downfall of imperial Japan. Steve’s unspoken subtext is that there might be people in the United States, given to sly Machiavellian stratagems, who are dangerously encouraging the radicalization of Iran in the pursuit of some crackpot scheme or other.
    But of course Ahmadinejad and Khamenei have no such clever agendas. They are just run-of-the-mill authoritarians who appear to have miscalculated their power and ability to subjugate their populations through deception and force.
    I hope others in Iran’s elite find a way to replace these two men, because it now seems impossible to imagine that, even if they can somehow re-consolidate their control over Iran, they will ever be in a position to conduct the foreign relations of their country in a way that advances Iran’s national interest. At best, they are facing isolation and growing international weakness.
    And I’m not just thinking of any plans among Iran’s rulers to improve relations with the United States. Even if they were so inclined as to eschew an opening to the US and tilt toward China and Russia, as Ahmadinejad seemed to be aiming toward with his visit to the Shanghai Cooperation Council after the election, China and Russia must now be fully aware of how internally week the conservatives are, at both the elite level and the popular level.


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