Pictured: The port of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates. (Image source: Rizwan Ullah Wazir/Wikimedia Commons)
One of the problems with a dispassionate discussion of matters related to Iran today is that the issue has become too ideological to allow rational, not to say clinical, examination. Taking part in a televised panel the other evening to discuss the "sabotage" of four ships in the UAE port of Fujairah, I noted that there was as yet no evidence to show who had been behind the operation. At the same time, I noted that a leading daily in Tehran had urged the launching of precisely such operations just a day before the Fujairah attack.
Needless to say, I was attacked on all sides. Some claimed that by suggesting there was no evidence regarding the authorship of the attack, I was trying to whitewash the mullahs. Others claimed that by reminding people that such an operation had been urged in the daily Kayhan, representing the views of "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenei, meant that I wished to incriminate Tehran to please "American warmongers."
In a series of subsequent media programs, a range of personalities, including two former British ambassadors to Tehran, appeared as apologists for the mullahs while two former British defense and foreign secretaries spoke as if they had solid evidence that Tehran was involved.
On the one had we have those who, not always without reason, are suspicious of anything remotely connected with Islam, even if that connection is spurious. On the other, there are those who see the Khomeinists on the side of angels simply because they are, or pretend to be, anti-American, even if their anti-Americanism is little more than a pose.
In his twisted carpet-merchant's style, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has acknowledged that. He says that if anyone notices the Islamic Republic it is because its leaders are or pretend to be anti-American. In other words, anti-Americanism upgrades a ramshackle and incompetent regime that is visibly incapable of running a kebab-shop let alone a modern developing society. Zarif says that without anti-Americanism we would, at best, "be something like Pakistan". And, he adds, who cares about Pakistan?
I am inclined to think that the British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed to work for the Revolutionary Guard television not only for money but mainly because Iran is anti-American, exactly the same reason that turned him into a mouthpiece for the Venezuelan regime.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have France's Marine Le Pen who, her dislike of all things Islamic notwithstanding, acts as an apologist for the mullahs because they are anti-American and, as a bonus, also hate the Jews.
In the United States, the whole thing is more complicated. The Islamic Republic has become the cause célèbre of the Democrat Party and the bête-noire of the Republicans.
At a private dinner in London the other night, we listened to one of the US Democrat Party's grand seigneurs repeating almost word-by-word the nonsense that the mullahs mouth every day in justifying their weird behavior. What mattered to the grand seigneur was that the mullahs were challenging Donald J Trump, the common foe.
Not surprisingly, all Iran-controlled and financed lobbies in the US have been reorganized as campaigning tools to help drive Trump out of the White House.
Where preferring the mullahs to the Americans seems difficult, the trick is to cast the former as peace-lovers and the latter as warmongers. Thus Trump, his National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Brian Hook, the man supervising the Iran dossier, are depicted as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse while Khamenei and his cohorts are portrayed as messengers of peace and harmony.
Federica Mogherini, the lady who acts as the European Union's foreign policy spokesperson, whatever that means, never tires of pretending that the mullahs' aggressive behavior is due to American "bullying."
Well, let's go back to Fujairah. I still don't know for sure who did the sabotage. But here is what Kayhan advised before the event:
"Our solution is clear. In response to the cost of economic sanctions imposed on us we have to impose costs on the other side so that this war is no longer one-sided.... We have a free hand in striking economic blows at the enemy. America's allies in the region, that is to say Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, are heavily dependent on two things: oil and the glass towers they have built around the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea... We must absolutely, hit the vital vein of those two countries, that is to say their oil exports. And we can do this in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Such an operation will, without a doubt, force Saudi and Emirati leaders to seek peace with Iran."
And here is how the Revolutionary Guards news agency Tasnim's news director Amin Arabshahi jubilated about the Fujairah attack immediately after the incident:
"The port of Fujairah, the only vital route for exporting Saudi and Emirati oil, has been set on fire. Only a few steps away from the Strait of Hurmuz, the sons of Resistance have opened fire. Those who trade in fear should know that the war has been going on for years and we are heading for its final phase."
Corbyn, Mogherini, John Kerry and other apologists for the mullahs should consider this. It is not enough to be anti-American or even anti-Trump to be automatically classed on the side of the angels. It is possible to be anti-American and anti-Trump and yet be a thoroughly obnoxious oppressor of the people and warmonger.
Apologists for the Tehran's antediluvian regime do not necessarily do it a service. By justifying its destructive behavior, they encourage the continuation of policies that have led the Islamic Republic into a deadly impasse which, if not breached, could lead to something worse. True friends of the Islamic Republic, if not of Iran as a nation, should tell the mullahs to dismount their high horses and understand that they cannot gallop around imitating Saddam Hussein without suffering consequences.
Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987.
This article was originally published by Asharq al-Awsat and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.