“The Negro ‘revolt’ is controlled by the white man, the white fox. The Negro ‘revolution’ is controlled by this white government. The leaders of the Negro ‘revolution’ (the civil rights leaders) are all subsidized, influenced and controlled by the white liberals; and all of the demonstrations that are taking place on this country to desegregate lunch counters, theaters, public toilets, etc., are just artificial fires that have been ignited and fanned by the white liberals in the desperate hope that they can use this artificial revolution to fight off the real black revolution that has already swept white supremacy out of Africa, Asia, and is sweeping it out of Latin America…and is even now manifesting itself also right here among the black masses in this country.” -Malcolm X
C.S Lewis believed that the most dangerous autocrats were those who were ruled not by greed, but by their conscience. While a tyrant who merely wants the wealth from oil or weapons deals might be sated as some point, the truly dangerous people are the people who believe they are waging war for peoples’ own good. Such is the case with the “liberals” on the issue of intervening within Iran. The very same liberals which claim to speak for minority groups like Iranians. It is liberals who give their stamp of approval to war and sanctions. It is liberals that focus on the social aspect of Iran’s wedge issues. It is the liberals which prop up the Saudi and Israeli backed human rights organizations to wage propaganda campaigns . When these liberals advocate any kind of engagement with ‘the mullahs’ they are predictable lambasted by their political opposition. Perhaps the opposition is right to do so, but the fact remains that within liberalism there has never been a proper advocate for the Iranian side of the issues.[i]
The entire push against war and sanctions against Iran is entirely controlled by white liberals. Any form of advocacy that Iranians might have is at the behest of white liberals. The few defenders of Iran in the West are of these white liberal sensibilities. The Reza Aslans, the Maz Jobranis, or to an extent the people from NIAC (National Iranian American Council) or PAAIA (Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans). Just follow these liberal leaders and everything will be fine. This is more or less to keep the small yet growing constituency with little more than lip service or plans that barely deviate from what they were going to do anyway. To people like this the solution is simple: oppose racism, vote democrat, and champion progressive causes.
This is a falsehood for many reasons. Let us not forget that interventionism is a bipartisan affair. It was true with Iraq and it is true now with the case for regime change. Even among Iranians there is at least according to anecdotes that there are diaspora Iranians who ‘support Trump on Iran’. In fact even within the country people have thrown up their hands on reform and taken a sip of the metaphorical Kool-Aid[ii]. Democrats have been imposing sanctions on Iran for years. They have the same program when it comes to hoping that Iranians overthrow their government, change their foreign policy, and embrace secular liberal democratic values. While the last part is a sentiment that many share, the issue becomes heightened when quite frankly people do not deviate from the goal even when it runs in the face of the facts on the ground.
Right now the facts on the ground is that the IRGC is in perhaps the most dominant position it has had in years. The protests are also being led by the most vapid concerns of economic problems and headscarves which the nation had to contend with the possibility of ISIS within its borders. Liberals often use the hope that these wedge issues will be resolved as a distraction for the larger problems such as the case of segregation above. They lead the charge on the headscarf issue, whereas conservative elements of the West are so compromised by anti-Iranian interests even as they see the point of traditionalism, they will voice their support of acts they consider degenerate in their own countries. This is however, as I said, a mere distraction from the real issue that Western liberal values are called ‘universal’ and imposed onto the rest of the world.
This brings me to criticism of the weak apologetics of the Iranian Americans’ own liberal leaders. While the diaspora may desire change, they do not do themselves any favors by lying to themselves about the causes of Iran’s revolution, the opinions of actual Iranians, and the West’s ability to impose the changes that would make Iran like the lands they have grown accustomed to. Firstly we have Reza and Maz[iii] These two ‘faces’ of Iranian Americans once again have that issue of harmlessness. Ironically emphasized by Jobrani’s ‘Persian like the cat’ bit. They’re essentially made to not look like the image of a scary brown man. In fact they’re pussycats. One video once compared Reza Aslan to the Cat from the movie Shrek making puppy eyes at an opponent.[iv]
For all their defenses of both Islam and Iranians and the criticism arising from therein, they lack the vigorous defense that such a contentious topic needs right now. Their jabs at their opponents are done lightly which greatly softens the perceived stakes. They join hands for peace with Jewish neoconservatives and join in the siren song that Western liberalism will crawl into Iran. Their indictment of the methods which do it fall on deaf ears however. When push comes to shove they support almost all the same lines as the rest of the American establishment. They have the same goals. The same antipathy to the regime. Their only defenses are ‘well gee isn’t war and racism bad?’. They will not condemn, much less name the people who are slowly killing their people. That would rock the boat too much. After all, rocking the boat tends to scare people.
What of actual political leadership? What is there? I will save you the trouble: Not much. I will discount the NCRI and their fronts as obvious astroturfing operations as well as any of the other ‘resistance’ movements as to me they are worthy of the same amount of thought as the most radical anarcho-communist antifa cells. To my knowledge this leaves the NIAC and the small contingent of Iranian Americans that are running for office these days.
Trita Parsi is an interesting figure who may be worth a discussion on its own; However, I will leave his issue with what I will call his ‘Persian cat’ syndrome with his frequent condemnations of anti-Semitism. Now you might ask what is wrong with that? Is this some kind of racist blog? And you would be fair to ask these questions, however, I would posit that there are dozens of organizations to speak out against anti-Semitism. There are in contrast very few organizations which deal with the issues of Iranian Americans. Not only is this a waste of time and energy, but in standing shoulder to shoulder with Jewish organizations in the United States without being choosy about which ones, Parsi cuckolds himself. When he gave his condolences to the Jewish organizations under threat in the new ‘Trump era’, not only did he spend time and energy that could have been spent indicting those who would tear up the Iran deal, but he actively expressed solidarity with those responsible for crimes against the people he was supposed to protect. These are groups that spread Islamophobia and some of which propped up Trump in the first place.
Parsi expressed condolences to not just any synagogues, but AJC-affiliated synagogues. This was one of the many Jewish organizations who accused him of treason. This was one of the many interest groups that funded Black Cube to spy on him. His capitulation to such forces is a betrayal of everything he should have stood for. It is therefore unsurprising that he stepped down and I hope his successor does not make the same mistakes. In the face of this all he gave a message of how even Israel and Iran could solve their differences. His mistake was believing that it was in any way mostly up to the Iranians—it isn’t. Power disparities make choices for us.
Then we have the handful of Iranians who ran for office under the democratic ticket. There has been little to know success on this front. The cynic in me would say that these are just an attempt to push the ‘progressive’ envelope before capitulating to the regular centrist interest groups just to rile people up to come vote for whoever wins the primary.
I have 2 candidates that were predictably unsuccessful: Shabnam Lofti and Kia Hamadanchy.
The only role that their Iranian-ness played in their campaign or their ideas were a vague claim to being a Person of Color. This term means very little outside of progressive liberal circles and while it may get some constituency it does nothing to differentiate them between other similar candidates. Now onto the substance of what they said:
Kia Hamadacy according to a Huffington Post article decided to run when Donald Trump won. This could hint at a variety of motives. In any case he worked for a ‘Sherrod Brown’ which also hints at the man being somewhat of a tool of Brown. The first mistake he makes there is by making his run about the broader issues of ‘immigrant struggles’. Already there he fails because he panders to a constituency that barely votes, but furthermore propping up these narratives already hints at irreconcilable differences between himself and Iran. In addition it attempts to prop up a pluralistic ‘salad bowl’ image of America while the man seems fairly Americanized. I’ll admit I initially had high hopes when he sold himself by ‘keeping his name’. A struggle that many of us know far too well. After that point, this political novice attempts ‘flipping’ the district meaning red districts voting ‘blue’. This is a formula which is unpredictable and rarely successful. He could have touted his mentor Sherrod Brown as one of the most pro-Iranian senate candidates.[v] Kia’s foreign policy was stated as this:
“I will fight for a smart foreign policy that actually keeps this country safe and secure. I believe that the policies of Donald Trump are dangerous, have empowered hardliners around the world, and represent a complete abdication of moral leadership. I believe we must:
Rebuild and strengthen our relationships with European and NATO allies. Address the role that Russia played in our election and to put together a real plan to combat cyber attacks and influences on our nation. Come up with a plan to fight ISIS, both at home and abroad. Address the Syrian civil war, which is a humanitarian crisis. I do not believe the United States should send ground troops to Syria. Actually try to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as opposed to putting Jared Kushner in charge of the problem. Uphold the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The Iran Deal, which is strongly supported by the Israeli military and intelligence apparatus, represents the best path of stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and preventing a war. End the war in Afghanistan. Implement trade deals that allow our workers to compete on a level playing field and which have enforceable labor and environmental standards. “[vi]
The issues here are part of the liberal platform which seems to say that America’s foreign policy problems started in 2015. His platform seems to be focused more of a distrust in Trump than the actual shapers of this policy. He goes into the false neoliberal narratives of the Syrian Civil War and Russia. These narratives only serve to demonize Iran. His criticisms of US Policy towards Iran are overly trustful of the Democratic establishment. It is only bad because it ‘empowers hardliners’. This phrase is just a way to problematize the fact this simple fact: The Hardliners were right. The nixing of the deal was bad because those Iranians can’t be trusted to not nuke Israel. In fact he even cites Israelis to give the opinion on Iran. Nothing relates to his own knowledge or background. I have heard even worse rumors about the man’s real beliefs. In any case he does not drive his own ideas, rather echoes the other ideas without backing them with any of his own thoughts.
Shabnam Lofti is another candidate who also tries to join with the immigrant issue. Once more this is inherently flawed because not only does it paint the US as a solution rather than the cause of its own problems, but the added element of being a Muslim-descended woman aggravates the Western fixation with the Middle Eastern women just begging for ‘liberation. On the onset we run into these problems. She works with a community that rarely turns out for primaries and has no reason to care about foreign policy issues. Her bio posits: “Born in Tehran, Shabnam and her family left Iran for the U.S. during the Iran-Iraq War. Shabnam cites her experiences in Iran as a major influencing factor in her life, deciding as early as seven years old that she “wanted to be a lawyer so that no one else experienced what my family and I had experienced.”[vii] Given her field is immigration the solution is simple: run away. This is a band-aid to a larger problem that needs to be tackled. Shabnam works for organizations that would attract democrats and nobody else. It is somewhat gratifying to see Iranian Americans run, but they are too ingrained in American society to offer anything new.
They could have condemned the endless wars that the US has involved itself in. No indictment could be too vicious. Instead he focused on popular wedge issues like subsidizing colleges and healthcare. The Middle East hardly came up outside of some limp opposition to the ‘travel ban’, which is a ‘safe’ enough topic for Iranian American activists. The problem is identity politics without the formation of identity.
Many Iranian liberals will try to posit their struggle as part of a larger anti-racist struggle, but there have been few results as the fact is, Iran is a nation. We have a connection with a nation or even the idea of a nation and our tied to a culture that is greater than the sum of squabbling minority communities.[viii] This is why I would choose Malcolm X or Mandela over Martin Luther King. This struggle has an international and anti-colonial nature when there are those who would deny us autonomy.
The issue is that the liberals who would purport to help Iranian Americans are rarely if ever led by those with Iranian blood. They offer weak defenses of Iran, of Islam, and in doing so they distort the past. To make up for this they over-focus on economic issues and the standard liberal tripe that ‘everyone can get behind’. They never challenge the West, much less take it to task for its role in the current political quagmires.
Furthermore, they never espouse any remotely traditional Iranian or even Islamic values publicly all in their quest to be as non-threatening as possible. To do so would upset the white liberals that propped them up. I can’t imagine their reaction would be if an informed and assertive pro-Iranian person were to speak up. I imagine they would be confused. “You don’t really think that secular, liberal, democracy is unimportant right now? No you, and other Iranians clearly want this.” I am beyond being told what I should think is best. By subscribing to the liberal narratives they both prop up naïve ideas about the Middle East and perpetuate the establishment narratives that have run US foreign policy since Vietnam.
Remember as Malcom X said on the white liberals that exerted control over the black community: “Their motives are the same, their appetites are the same, it’s only their mannerisms and methods that differ.”[ix]
[i] Excluding ‘some’ elements of the far left
[ii] Or Sharbat 😉
[iii] I met both of them in real life. They are actually nice people so forgive me if my commentary is not as biting as it should be.
[iv] Who headed NIAC until recently
[v] Admittedly that might be political suicide and the standard of this is low.
[viii] Reminder that Middle Eastern Americans don’t even get a separate racial category