ISIS Attacks Tehran: What Comes Next
In the shadow of gunmenStringer / Getty Politics Features Iran
Terrorists struck Iran’s capital today, killing 12 twelve people and injuring 42. ISIS, the Wahhabist Sunni paramilitary organization, claimed credit.
The attacks occurred at two sites Wednesday morning: The Mausoleum and the Parliament building in Tehran. Gunmen dressed as women entered Parliament in mid-session and detonated an explosive. Members of the Iranian legislature recorded the event on their cameras. Shortly after, the Khomeini tomb was hit, ten miles south of the capital complex. Another suicide bomber struck. Iranian security forces were quick to respond.
The attacks horrified the Shiite country. The Times noted that “When the Islamic State loses territory, it often creates a distraction by staging attacks abroad.”
The Los Angeles Times noted that ISIS “has clashed with Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, but Wednesday’s attack marked the first time the group has struck deep in the heart of the world’s most powerful Shiite state.” Iran’s military-industrial segment, the Revolutionary Guards, accused Saudi Arabia of backing the attacks.
What happens next? Iran has been attacked. So have we. We can learn from this tragedy. It doesn’t have to be the same carousel of reprise and counter-reprise between us and the Middle East. We don’t have to fight terrorism separately. As strange as it will sound to Western ears, Iran can be our ally in this moment. The government of Saudi Arabia makes noises about opposing ISIS, but they will never be able to adequately cut the root of the Islamic State. Their own authoritarian rule is the headwater of the pox.
Here’s the background. Iran just re-elected their President, the reforming Hassan Rouhani. He will mount his second term with the mandate of election, the frank love of the people, and the seething hatred of the mullahs. Although part of the establishment, Rouhani is the best hope for change inside the Islamic Republic. “Our nation’s message in the election was clear,” Rahani said, “Iran’s nation chose the path of interaction with the world, away from violence and extremism.” The Iranian President helped secure the American-Iranian treaty with Obama. This would be the same agreement that Trump has threatened to dismantle during his free moments when he isn’t teetering on the edge of indictment.
Forming a broad, anti-ISIS front with Iran is counterintuitive in Washington these days. The Beltway Establishment specifically, and the Western Establishment generally, has never forgiven Iran for ejecting Old Man Shah. Every blood-lusted moron in Washington, from Bill Kristol on down to the war-liberals, has been baying at the moon since 1979 for us to kill a lot of Iranians. They’ve been aching for a war with Tehran since forever.
The rage of the Beltway has nothing to do with Iran’s Islamic government. Why? Because we tolerate the Saudis, who are thousand times more religious and conservative, than anything practiced in Tehran. We endorse the depredations of that reprehensible slave-lording conclave of crowned reptiles whenever we scorn Iran. We wink at tyrants while we threaten to bomb the preachers. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is a hideous outgrowth of a dead revolution, but even men in bedlam can read a map. ISIS is at the root of the attacks, Wahhabism is at the heart of ISIS, and Wahhabism comes from Saudi Arabia. This doesn’t mean assaulting Riyadh, but it does mean understanding who ISIS affects, and its ultimate source.
Saudi Arabia is not the immediate cause of ISIS, but it’s the center of the system: it’s the housefire that keeps ejecting tinders to the roof of every roof in the neighborhood. Saudi Arabia is a colonial power that became a global oil vendor. It went from brutalized serf to brutal master, in one generation. The Kingdom loves power and wealth, and fears the religion of its own people. To buy off their own extremists, the Saudis ship Wahhabism in every direction, spinning a rumor mill on a drowning ship.
We all know Iran’s faults. At the end of the day, Iran is an ancient culture of decent people bossed over by a dreary, reactionary group of repulsive clerics and their noxious henchmen. The Iranian public want to be part of the world. The government of Iran are not made of the milk of human kindness, but they are not our biggest problem.
There will always be bloodthirsty murderers, like the gunmen today. What we can stop is them being in league with one another, under semi-state apparatus. The West will not stop terror attacks until we see the world clearly, and seeing the world clearly means looking at our repressive allies, and how our country, the United States, aids and abets them. Why does the new President make one of his first state visits to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where homosexuals are killed by the secret police? Why does Britain send its weapons to the House of Saud, to be used in its reprehensible war against Yemen?
If I had to pick two countries and design an alliance between them, with the deliberate purpose of showing the moral hollowness of both, I don’t think I could do a better job than Saudi Arabia and the United States. It is dazzlingly unique in the history of the globe. Looking over the past, we can see vampire tyrannies like Saudi Arabia are as common as big trucks at a rest stop. But the American experiment was founded on explicit principles, and was rededicated during the Civil War on those lines.
Our marriage to the Saudis violates every single one of those ideals. Our civil union with the absolutist monarchy is a mighty mockery of all we stand for and ever claimed to stand for, and a nicely vile reminder that raw capitalism, not democracy—and certainly not freedom or human rights—is the governing principle of Washington. But our helpmeet status to the Kingdom is merely a habit of time and cold-bloodedness. No terrorist can bring down our system, but moral failure can. It can discredit the dream, and loss of faith is the deepest cut of all. We can change the course of events—we can all unite against ISIS—we can shame and block the source of ISIS, if we but will it. The world can be changed by moral awareness, if we will confront it.
Today’s strike in Tehran was the latest in a series of terrorist attacks of a truly global scale. There have been ricochets everywhere. Manchester. London. Now Tehran. The massacres of ISIS hurt all of us. Including Iran. We cannot turn a blind eye to the complexities of the world. An attack on one city is an attack against all.