Khamenei Rejects Global IntegrationMICHAEL RUBIN /…
Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP
Since 1992, when German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel launched the ‘critical dialogue’ initiative, Underlying the European approach to Iran has been the assumption that tying Iran into the international system was key to peace. Secretary of State John Kerry embraced the European belief with enthusiasm and set out to unravel almost every sanction in place against the Islamic Republic in substance if not in name. He traveled the Atlantic to act effectively as Iran’s business agent by trying to downplay banking concerns. Kerry, like Obama, views the chief motivator of international conflicts as grievances rather than ideology. This is a comforting notion for diplomats. It suggests that they key to peace is simply figuring the right formula of concession, compromise, and perhaps bribe.
Unfortunately, the assumption that the most intractable conflicts revolve around grievance is largely fantasy. The reason there is no Palestinian-Israel peace has less to do with settlements and more to do with the fact that Hamas embraces a genocidal, rejectionist ideology. Fatah might be more diplomatic, but its media shows that it is not far behind.
The same holds true for Iran: Ideology trumps grievance, To assume that Iranian leaders share the same goals as their Western counterparts is simply arrogant. Before Obama and Kerry seek any further concession to remove obstacles to Iran’s integration into the global economy, they might want to listen to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who, in a meeting yesterday with Iranian “young elites,” had this to say:
Mentioning the issue of “globalization” and the offer by Americans and Europeans to Iran to join the “global community,” as another clear example of efforts made to reproduce the culture of dependence, the Leader noted, “Opposition to joining what the Western side calls the global community is not tantamount to opposing [any form of] foreign communications, but means resistance in the face of the culture imposed by big powers on the economy, politics and security of the country.”
He later addressed the issue of compromise:
Ayatollah Khamenei then recalled the previous remarks he had conveyed to officials in private and public sessions, saying, “I have said time and again that if you retreat in the nuclear [case], then they will raise the issue of [Iran’s] missile [program]; if you further step back, they will raise the issue of [Iran’s] support for the resistance [axis]; if you continue to retreat [in the face of the Western countries’ demands], they will focus on the issue of human rights, [and] then, if you accept their norms, they will try to do away with religious norms in the [Iranian] government.”
So, rather than see the Islamic Republic on a glide path to normalization, Khamenei sees Iran atop a slippery slope in which any compromise—be it on its nuclear ambitions or ballistic missiles—as akin to forfeiting religious principles.
When President Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had their famous kitchen debate in 1959, at issue was not just a discussion of capitalism versus communism but also an assumption that freedom and liberty could best bring prosperity. Khrushchev was far less interested in prosperity, though, than he was in power and furthering Soviet aims. Likewise, In the 1970s, Saudi clerics saw the influx of Western appliances and luxury goods not as evidence that Saudi Arabia was on the verge of modernity but rather as a sign that the West sought to undermine Islam. It was against this milieu that Osama Bin Laden cut his ideological teeth. He, too, sought to expand his millennial Islamist vision across the globe.
That Obama and Kerry cannot see that Khamenei is absolutely committed to his ideology is willful blindness. Tying the Islamic Republic into the international economy isn’t going to bring peace and moderation; it’s simply going to better resource Khamenei and those he controls to wage their destructive campaign globally. Let us hope that the next administration takes Khamenei at his word. Not only is the nuclear accord not going to open the door to further conflict resolution but it is also not going to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambition.