January 2, 2005
Ayatollah Khamenei in his own wordsBy James Arlandson
Iran is developing a nuclear program, ostensibly for energy, but likely also for acquiring a nuclear weapon. Seyyed Ali Khamenei is the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a life—long office that his predecessor Ayatollah Khomeini created and instituted in the Iranian Constitution. He has held this office since 1990, after the death of Khomeini in 1989. Perched in this position, he gets to appoint members to the unelected institutions.
Iran is a theocratic 'democracy.' It is democratic insofar as the people elect the President (now Muhammad Khatami since 1997) and the deputies of the Majlis or Parliament. However, the word 'democracy' is in quotation marks because an unelected institution, the Guardian Council, has control over legislation, and this Council, made up of six theologians, is conservative and continually blocks reformist measures. This Council makes Iran a theocracy. For a quick overview of the Iranian government, the BBC, has a helpful flow chart of the elected and unelected institutions and offices.
In order to prevent any criticism that this article takes Khamenei's own words out of context, and in order to promote further research into the hot topic of nuclear technology that is getting hotter daily, Khamenei's main homepage can be found here, but it has been too often diluted with summaries. This website has fuller and more numerous speeches, but they too have some edits. However, these two sites provide enough information to last a long time.
This article follows a method. First, an introduction to the excerpt of Khamenei's words is provided, so the reader can know the context and the subject of the excerpt. Second, fifteen excerpts of Khamenei are cited, arranged topically. They represent the same sentiments that are expressed throughout his speeches. The reader should go to the two homepages, because he or she will see for himself or herself that Khamenei comes across as very shrill, very anti—American, very anti—Israel, and very leftist. Finally, an exegesis or detailed analysis is provided right after each excerpt. Sometimes, Khamenei is quite clever with his words—what he says and what he does not say, especially about nuclear weapons.
Khamenei on the US
1. At a speech at Ayatollah Khomeini's Mausoleum on the anniversary of the death of the revolutionary leader of Iran, Khamenei criticizes the US in terms that the American left can understand.
America speaks of war in order to expand its domination and influence in the world. This is arrogance. Any nation and any government that is intimidated with this literature and this way of treatment and surrenders to it, is digging its own grave and acting against itself.
Analysis: Khamenei believes with the American left that the US is rapacious and greedy, so it seeks world domination. The facts, however, say otherwise. Before the start of the Iraq War, outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell rightly asserted that 'the only land we ever asked for was enough land to bury our dead. And that is the kind of nation we are.' This is shown by the thousands of white crosses on the cliffs of Normandy, France. Moreover, it is true that the US seeks to expand its influence in the world, but the world is evil, so the US has to step in. (It would be great if it did not have to because that would mean the world has stopped being so evil.) Were it not for the US in the past sixty years, the world would have sunk down into a hell—hole of misery from Nazism, Soviet and Chinese communism—responsible for the deaths of millions upon millions—and an assortment of other —isms that have plagued the globe. Though the US is far from a sinless utopia, it is, on balance, a force for good and freedom on this planet.
2. Khamenei believes that the US's interest in Iraq is not building a democracy because if the Iraqis voted, they would throw out the occupiers the day after the elections.
The longer they [the US] stay [in Iraq], the worse it will become. This region does not tolerate occupation. They say [they] want to turn the Middle East into a region of democracy. This is a shameless lie. They are opposed to democracy. They know that if they turn to the people's votes in Iraq at this very moment, the decisive majority of the people will take a decision, will take the step, will elect those people who would not allow the Americans to stay in Iraq for a single day. (Crowd chants Allahu Akhbar or God is greatest)
Analysis: Khamenei is wrong on one count, and may he be right on another! On the one hand, the people of Iraq want the US to stay because they need military might to clean out many rat's nests of terrorists (the ones of whom Khamenei must be so proud), so the Iraqis can hold free elections. On the other, may Khamenei prove to be right about the day after the elections! Americans asked to leave? If only that were the case! That would mean that the elections were as successful as they were in Afghanistan. This leads us to the next point.
3. Khamenei makes this misguided assessment of Afghanistan a year before the free elections and the swearing—in ceremony of Hamid Karzai.
In Afghanistan, in the poor and wronged country of Afghanistan, they [the US] entered the arena under the guise of combating a group or even a few individuals. They did not get their hands on those individuals, but they massacred many innocent people, bombarded them, and killed them. They are violent, but this imposition of violence or expression of violence cannot help America achieve its aims and succeed.
Analysis: The US has provided the conditions for free and peaceful elections in 'the poor and wronged country of Afghanistan.' As reported by a free Afghan newspaper, President Karzai was sworn in and Vice President Cheney attended the ceremony and later addressed the troops who have been all but forgotten in their heroism in bringing democracy to the nation.
Khamenei is so far off about Afghanistan, we have the right to question his assessment of world politics in other areas. He seems to be motivated by a metaphysical hatred of the US, which colors his other viewpoints. Why should we take him seriously on those points?
4. The Supreme Leader believes in an American—Zionist plan to take over the Muslim world from the Euphrates River in Iraq to the Nile River in Egypt. He believes Sharon and Bush met to discuss this scheme.
According to reports, at the meeting between the prime minister of the Zionist regime and the American president last week the American president present him with a map of Greater Israel, from the Nile to the Euphrates. What does that mean? How can Islamic countries believe their words? How can they regard America as an arbitrator in the Palestinian issue? That aggressive, bullying, usurping and wrong slogan — from the Nile to the Euphrates — was the cursed and condemned slogan of the Zionists. Recently they have denied it, saying: No, that is a lie, we have no such intentions. Now these American warmongers are advocating it. That has exposed them to the Muslim world.
Analysis: This metaphysical hatred of the US leads Khamenei into irrationality, the same kind to which Osama bin Laden has sunk (as seen in point no. 1 here). The Supreme Leader, like bin Laden, actually believes that the US and Israel want to take over the Islamic world from the Euphrates to the Nile Rivers. This delusion is breathtaking. Nowhere has President Bush ever said this. Apparently, this policy has been simplified into a slogan: 'From the Nile to the Euphrates.' The US press before the elections would have had a field day with this slogan—if only it were true, then the press would have played it 24/7 on an endless loop in order to show Bush as a warmonger of the worst kind. He would not have been reelected. The truth is far simpler, but not easy to pull off, with the loss of young men and women in the military. Bush wants to establish a democracy in Iraq as he has in Afghanistan, so Iraq can exercise its own sovereignty. Iraq gets to control the Euphrates as Egypt controls the Nile. How is this a Jewish—Zionist plot? Surely Jews do not control the media in Iraq, do they? Why do so many leaders in the Islamic world traffic in rumors and lies?
5. But Khamenei's irrationality coming from a metaphysical hatred of the US does not stop at the slogan. After referring to a group of intellectuals who drafted a document justifying the Iraq War and using George Washington as the source of values, Khamenei accuses George Bush of threatening to drop (atomic) bombs:
The American values became a principle for them to justify their warmongering policies and even the application of atom bombs. During the same period George Bush threatened to drop bombs on several countries. See how committed they are to their values.
Analysis: It is difficult to know where to begin with this one. The euphemism 'application' of atomic bombs could be amusing, if world politics right now were not so deadly serious. Khamenei is clever enough to leave the timeframe out of his charge of 'applying' an atomic bomb. Does he mean Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Also, it is unclear what 'during the same period' means in this context. WWII? But that does not make sense because he refers to Bush. Furthermore, Khamenei changes the wording around a little. Bush threatens to drop 'bombs' without the modifier 'atomic.' This ambiguity is diabolical, obliquely linking atomic bombs to Bush without saying it explicitly.
Khamenei on Israel and Martyrdom
6. Khamenei believes that Israel is a contrived and illegal regime. The tiny nation of Israel makes Khamenei's language very shrill.
Brothers and sisters, today the Palestinian people's struggle has fallen into place; it revolves around the axis around which the hope of victory lies. In other words, the nation has come onto the stage. Israel is a contrived regime. It is an illegal regime. It is a usurper regime. They have taken a country from its people by force, through injustice and with ploys. Hence, any kind of negotiations that is based on the acknowledgement of this regime is an illegitimate negotiation and it is a negotiation that will not endure.
Analysis: In 1948 the UN restored the ancient land of Israel to its historical owners. On the UN website, in their children's section, Israel is proclaimed as receiving statehood. That is an historical and legal fact. Millennia of history favors Jewish ownership of Israel, not the late religion of Islam. The Palestinians belong in Jordan. Those are historical facts. Furthermore, they never established an independent Palestinian state under British control, and before that, under Turkish hegemony. Great Britain had enough foresight after WWII (starting after WWI) and hindsight (historical knowledge) to allow Israel to apply to the UN for statehood, which the Palestinians never did. Those are historical facts. It is not far—fetched to believe that the Palestinians are merely jealous that Israel has created a prosperous and free democracy. If the Palestinians would do the same, they would not have time to join, support, or praise Hezbollah, an Iranian—sponsored terrorist group.
7. One would think that the Supreme Leader of a culturally sophisticated nation like Iran would never endorse martyrdom by suicide bombings, but this is not the case with Khamenei.
Let me say to you: these stances [of American administrators on suicide bombings] will not be of any use. This quest for martyrdom is not based on emotions; it is based on belief in Islam and faith in Judgment Day and faith in life after death. Anywhere Islam exists in its true sense, arrogance [the US] faces this threat.
Analysis: This is one of the most serious indictments against Islam. It should no longer be claimed that suicide bombings are supported only in the dark corners of the Islamic world. The Supreme Leader of Iran supports this death—cult. Speaking the truth, he says that homicide bombers do not commit their atrocities out of emotions, but out of the core doctrines of Islam: the Last Day and life after death. In Quran 9:111 and 61:10—13 Allah makes a deadly economic bargain with Muhammad and his Muslims. If Allah's 'submitted ones' or Muslims give up their lives in warfare, he will give them paradise in exchange. Why would not Muslims be inspired by their sacred text? Khamenei is following his Quran, and it leads to death, plainly and bluntly said. This implies that Khamenei's 'truth' is actually delusional—never mind what this says about the Quran and Islam at its root.
8. Khamenei's logic in the next passage says that to fight the Palestinians is to fight Islam, and to fight Islam is to fight the world of Islam. So what is the solution? Palestine must be occupied by Palestinians, not by usurping immigrants—Jewish immigrants.
In order to gain mastery over Palestine, arrogance has to fight Islam and fighting Islam means fighting the world of Islam. This fight will not lead anywhere. The solution to the problem of Palestine does not consist of these imposed, fraudulent solutions. The solution to the problem of Palestine is for the true people of Palestine — not usurper, occupying immigrants — the true people of Palestine, whether the ones who remain inside Palestine or the ones who are outside Palestine, must determine their own country's ruling system. This is the only solution . . . .
Analysis: Clear enough: the true people of Palestine must occupy the entire land, thus destroying the Jewish state. It is disingenuous to assert that the Jews could live peacefully under Islamic rule. Dhimmitude in the shrill and hateful world of Islam today would mean death and annihilation.
9. Khamenei's statement here echoes the same annihilation of a Jewish state.
The Zionists imagine that they have managed to gain mastery over Palestine and that Palestine is theirs forever. No, this is not true. The destiny of Palestine is that the country of Palestine will definitely become Palestinian one day.
Analysis: Is it mere coincidence that the high—level cleric and politician Rafsanjani says that Iran should use a nuclear weapon against Israel? (Fortunately, moderates in Iran condemned this wild claim.) Is that the 'solution' that Khamenei is alluding to? This leads us to the next section of this article.
Khamenei on Nuclear Weapons
10. On August 6, 2003, in a speech delivered to Iranian politicians, Khamenei speaks with pride in his nation getting ready to join the nuclear club because Iran has been able to produce nuclear fuel. Now the latest pronouncement from the Supreme Leader says that Iran "must have two bombs ready to go in January or you are not Muslims."
As for superior technology, the world speaks about this with pride. Despite all their enmity they had to concede that Iran is among the ten countries which has been able to produce the nuclear—fuel cycle. This is not a small matter. Of course, it is only natural that when there is such success they should make a commotion about it. They say 'Yes, they want to do this and do that, they want to build (nuclear) bombs,' and they say other things. But this is not important. This progress has been made as a blessing of the Islamic system.
Analysis: Unidentified nations among the ten make a commotion about Iran's nuclear capabilities: 'Yes, they want to build (nuclear) bombs.' It is interesting that Khamenei never denies that this is the plan. He says simply, 'But this is not important now.' Thus, he waves off any concern. Worse, he believes this capability is a 'blessing' to the 'Islamic system.' The word 'system' is ambiguous, but it seems to mean the Iranian revolutionary government, which Khamenei often extols to the high heavens as representing Islam in its best form because it is ultimately controlled by a committee of theologians in the Guardian Council, who applies the brakes on reform. Whatever the case, nuclear production is seen as a blessing—God is implied here, and national pride is on the line.
Sometimes leftists in America and the West generally assert that the US has nuclear weapons, so Iran should have them too. It is arrogant for Westerners to see themselves above Iranians and to stop them. However, this implies that the US and Iran are morally equal in their governments, but they are not. It is true that US foreign policy over the past sixty years has blundered here and there (we can know this a priori, for we as individuals have blundered); but the US government is a true democracy without plans to impose a religion on any part of the world and without threatening to deploy a nuclear weapon, as Rafsanjani said he would against Israel. On balance, the US has been a force for good in the world—think about WWI, WWII, and the Korean War. (Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, says he keeps a night—time satellite photo of the Korean peninsula, and the South glows with prosperity, but the North is dark.) Also, the leaders in the US and the West are not delusional, but too many leaders in the Islamic world are—as this article has shown and will show. Therefore, comparing the US government with the Iranian government is like comparing a sane, rational human with an irrational, deranged lunatic.
11. In the same speech Khamenei piles on the ambiguities, yet he seems to deny that making nuclear weapons is a goal of Iran.
What are we to do with this challenge [from the warmongering neo—conservatives in the US]? As far as I can see we have to strengthen ourselves and engage in legitimate defence. This is the dictate of reason, and of political and diplomatic logic. Of course, domestic strength, is not in the sense that they imagine, i.e. obtaining a certain sort of weapon. No. Nuclear weapons don't solve any problems, as Mr. President [Khatami] pointed out. Furthermore, we don't agree, logically and principally, with weapons of mass destruction in this form. We are opposed to them. At that time (of war against Iraq), in the discourse on Jihad we argued against biological and chemical weapons, and we banned them. Our government announced this at the time. This is not the case. Domestic strength has another definition. I will briefly refer to this later. However, any form of withdrawal from an arrogant and bullying power is a unilateral act. Any form of withdrawal is an invitation to further aggression. We have learnt this from experience. We have experienced this in the past years and in various fields.
Analysis: No matter how many times one reads this excerpt, it gets more ambiguous. It goes from 'Nuclear weapons don't solve any problems' to 'We banned [biological and chemical weapons] to 'this is not the case.' What is not the case? Did they ban them or not? Does this ban include nuclear weapons or not? How does this square with Rafsanjani's desire to use a nuclear weapon against Israel? Moreover, Khamenei says that 'any form of withdrawal is a unilateral act.' So does this mean that he will not withdraw? And withdraw from what? From seeking nuclear weapons? Ambiguities multiply.
12. Khamenei delivers a speech on May 11, 2004 during Friday prayers, a date that coincided with the martyrdom of Ali (Muhammad's cousin and son—in—law who was assassinated by hardliners). However, the following is only a summary from his website.
Ayatollah Khamenei further noted that the success of young Iranian scientists in getting access to nuclear fuel production technology, causing Iran to rank among the 10 countries that possess this important technology, is what has mostly angered the United States and other enemies of the Iranian nation. He added that the enemies are trying to detract from this achievement by accusing Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons.
Expounding on Iran's strategy on nuclear weapons, the Leader stressed that the Islamic Republic is not seeking to produce, stockpile or use nuclear weapons. 'We believe that a country that has a united nation and so many devoted youngsters does not basically need nuclear arms,' he noted.
Analysis: Here Khamenei clarifies that a unified nation does not need a nuclear weapon. But is this a lie? Is Iran seeking a weapon? More recently (November 5, 2004), Khamenei again denies that Iran is in search of a nuclear bomb. But it is most likely that Iran is and that Khamenei is lying. We have already determined that he is shrill in his speeches and excessive in his beliefs. George Bush (apparently) threatened to drop atomic bombs on nations. Bush and Sharon want a Greater Israel from the Euphrates to the Nile. How can we trust him on a nuclear weapon?
Khamenei on Worldwide Islamic Revival and Dissemination
13. On January 28, 2004, during pilgrimage season, Khamenei says that after Iran shook off the shackles of the US in the 1970 Revolution, Khamenei believes that Islamic worldwide revival is what threatens the US.
Today, the issue of the Islamic revival has spread from east, or at least from Pakistan, to the west and North Africa. The people are demanding Islam. The people are openly demanding support for Islam. This is a great threat to America. They admit that their interests are threatened and they are correct. Of course, their interests are illegitimate. Yes, the Islamic reawakening is threatening their illegitimate and odious interests. They are therefore seriously opposed to our Islamic state.
Analysis: I have already written about the spread and dominance of Islam here. The new twist is that America is threatened by it. The Administration and State Department is indifferent to religion. However, personally, this is accurate only if Islamic rule includes sharia and anti—Semitic bigotry of the worst kind. Islamic rule does include them, so it is accurate. It is diabolically ironic to say that any part of Africa is demanding Islam, because people in the Sudan are being slaughtered by Muslims. Sudan, incidentally, is not located in the North Africa. Khamenei's omission of this nation is conspicuous and (unintentionally?) too clever by half.
14. During the same speech Khamenei says that Islam has slumbered long enough. It is now waking up.
The world of Islam, after its long weakness and slumber, which ultimately caused the political and cultural preponderance of foreign powers and led to the submission of its material and human resources to its enemies' growth and dominance, has now re—discovered its identity and has opened a front against wrongdoers and invaders. A new breeze of Islamic awakening has blown to the world of Islam, and the actualization of Islam has become a very serious demand.
Analysis: From Khamenei's point of view, Islam is God's greatest gift to humankind, so the spread of his religion is good news. To us Christians who have lived in a real democracy and under the true grace of God, a grace that does not adapt an Old Law in a worse direction like stoning or lashing (an Iranian young man dies from it), this is bad news. The reawakening of Islam presumably includes the core doctrine of death—cult against Jews—a core doctrine according to Khamenei's own words (no. 7, above)—and the imposition of sharia everywhere. Again, this is bad news for freedom—loving humans. Iran has executed 4,000 homosexuals since 1980, and in 1992 about 100 homosexuals were executed following a raid on a party, says one website. In short, true Islam, following the spirit and the letter of sharia is not good for society.
Khamenei on his and Islam's worldwide objectives
15. In the same pilgrimage speech on January 28, 2004, Khamenei outlines his and Islam's clear goals.
Today, the main interests of the Islamic Ummah [community] are: evicting the occupiers of Iraq and stabilizing its national sovereignty; evicting the foreign military troops from Afghanistan and emphasizing Afghanistan's being an Islamic and independent country; helping the oppressed Palestinians and providing material and spiritual support for the people who are struggling to defend their lives, property, honor and independence against the occupiers; expanding religious rites and beliefs throughout the world; strengthening the ties among Muslim governments and resolving their disputes; activating the Islamic Conference Organization (OIC) and pursuing its veto right in the United Nations Security Council. Therefore, all of these should be incorporated in the policies and efforts of all Islamic governments. The peoples and the elites should claim these from their governments.
Analysis: The goals are not complicated. (1) Resist and evict the US and its allies from Iraq. (2) Resist and evict the US and its allies from Afghanistan. (Khamenei is on the wrong side of these two issues, as is clear now in Afghanistan.) (3) Resist and evict the 'oppressors' of the Palestinians, with material and spiritual support. (The material and the spiritual is likely best converged in a human body and soul as a suicide bomber.) (4) Expanding Islam around the globe (see comment on no. 14, above). (5) Strengthening Islamic governments around the globe. (This is frightening, given the shrill language and excessive beliefs widely held in Islamic nations. Islamic Enlightenment, where are you?) (6) Pursuing veto power on the Security Council in the UN (Khamenei can have that corrupt leftist institution, for it will not stop US foreign policy, thankfully.)
The hottest topic right now is Iran and a nuclear weapon, but this topic must be seen in a wider context. Everyone knows that the Supreme Leader (and many in the government of Iran) is (1) anti—American and (2) hysterically anti—Israel. Some have long suspected, without evidence, that he is (3) delusional; but perhaps many did not know that he is (4) pro—Islam in its worst elements, enforced everywhere. He neither preaches nor practices the religion of peace. This article has attempted to confirm with hard evidence that these four facts are true.
These four facts plus the deadliest weapon equal the most dangerous and lethal combination in human history.
Jim Arlandson (Ph.D.) teaches introductory and world religions at a college in southern California. He has written a book Women, Class, and Society in Early Christianity (Hendrickson, 1997).