Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Saint and the Devil

The Saint and the Devil
Iran-US on the Verge of War

Ali Asghar Kazemi*
October 17, 2006


Amidst spectacular news about American naval build-up and deployment in the Persian Gulf with skillful and deliberate leakage of Pentagon contingency plans to strike Iran’s major strategic targets, the controversial hard-line president of the Islamic regime made further revelations about his heavenly ties with the outer world. Among other eye-opening contentions, he alluded to his close relations with the Almighty God who motivates him in his political conduct and assures him of His grace, while accusing his adversary (the U.S. President) as being inspired and manipulated by the devil. This reminds the old story of the eternal confrontation between “the Saint and the Devil.”

Politics and the Clash of Faiths

Religion is serving as a medium to politically and spiritually alienated people, to look for a savior, a “saint.” Whereas both American and Iranian new conservative leaders are believed to be faithful to their religious precepts and claim to be guided by reason and moral constraints, they both seem to be prisoners of their dogmas and seized by pure instinct in two distinct political environments: one is an open democratic society whose leaders are supposed to be accountable to their people; and the other is a semi-closed society under a fundamentalist religious rule which is accountable only to God. The truth of the matter is that they both have a tendency to overlook the realities of our time and material world imbued by evil forces of greed, intolerance and conflict.

There is no doubt that all religions have their saints, their martyrs, their mystics and dogmas. The saint is the religious man par excellence.[1] He symbolizes faith, tradition, behavior and values of a religion in its social context. The eternal order is revealed in the mystic experience and vision of the saint. Whereas the natural order of the world is revealed to the intellect and to science.[2] When our perception of the world order is scientific, the frame of reference is nature, and mystic experience is subjective and metaphysics is considered as an illusion. This is the truth presented by atheism, skepticism, and naturalism. [3] But when the frame of reference is the eternal order, then the world and natural order is mere illusion.

Kant believed that there can not be a compromise between these two realms, though man is an inhabitant of both worlds.[4] The argument is not always supported and many believe that there is a mystical side of human nature just as there is a rational side.[5] To what extent these two realms can coexist, and what are the wider implications for our world order?

The New World Disorder

Viewing the disappointing horizon of our international system and the present world order, threatened by the permanent danger of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, intolerance and fanaticism, a query is appropriate at this point. Is this whole disarray a real manifestation of a clash of civilizations, faiths, or merely a conflict of national interests? Are we to believe that the international system is doomed to incomprehension and constant insecurity and dialogue between cultures and societies is closed for ever? What about the revolutionary religious regimes challenging the status quo and the prevailing norms of world order?

Some scholars admit that if the domestic structures, political institutions, social and cultural constraints were viewed out of historical and environmental context in isolation, the answer to the query would be total frustration.[6] But, it is rightly argued that states do not live in a vacuum, and no matter how tall the walls behind which a political unit or a nation can hide, ultimately it is forced to respond to the requirement of the political environment including the established civilized norms of the international system.[7]

It is suggested that science, technology and improved communication in a globalized world may gradually lead to the emergence of a common culture.[8] This is indeed a cheerful picture of an unknown future, but unfortunately, evidences of the past and present do not lead to optimism. In the meantime, the contemporary international order would inevitably be under the pressure or traction of two opposite forces.

The Prophet versus the Statesman

Henry Kissinger has viewed the controversy in contemporary world as the cleavage “between two styles of policy and two philosophical perspectives.”[9] The two styles are defined as the “political” against the “revolutionary” approach to order. When the distinction is viewed from the types of leadership or personalities, it may represent difference between the “statesman” and the “prophet”,[10] with divergent characteristics that bring them into a face to face confrontation.

The statesman manipulates reality, whereas the saint or the prophet creates his own reality.[11] The statesman is conscious of human failure, and will try to avoid certain experiments, not because he would object to the results if they succeeded, but because he would feel himself responsible for the consequences if they failed. The prophet, on the other hand, offers his vision as the test and his good faith as a guarantee.[12]

The statesman’s first and primordial goal is survival; for him gradualism is the essence of stability; he represents an era of average performance, of gradual change and slow construction. Whereas, for the prophet gradualism or liberal approach to problems is like a sin as an unnecessary concession to circumstance. He will risk everything, even his national survival and the very life and existence of his people, because his vision is the sole and primary significant reality to him.[13] Thus, he is much more intolerant to dissention, opposition and political challenge than is the statesman. To him, claiming legitimacy from God and Holy Scriptures, disobedience and opposition mean revolt against the will of Almighty God.

Endeavor toward material progress and economic efficiency for improvement of earthly needs of man is subordinated to spiritual and moral achievement for after life and outer-world rewards and recompenses. Whether these heavenly objectives are attainable or not, whether the prophetic appearance of a leader is true or mere pretension for acquisition of supreme political power in a religiously loyal society, the implications for world order look frustrating.

According to Kissinger, the prophet type of leader in the present international system “represents an era of exaltation, of great upheavals, of vast accomplishments, but also of enormous disasters.”[14]

When the prophet and the statesman come to a face to face confrontation, the statesman will seek to reduce the prophet’s vision and intuition to the existing realities of the world structure, balance of power, accepted norms of international law, customs, practice and behavior. While for the prophet such an approach is almost sacrilegious, because it means the triumph of expediency over what he believes to be the truth and universal principles. To the prophet, negotiation and dialogue, as necessary mechanism of stability for the maintenance of the world order and settlement of international disputes, mean nothing but manipulation by the opponent, since truth, by definition, cannot be compromised.[15]

The Perpetual Conflict

History of mankind bears good witness to this perennial conflict between the two approaches. The political approach dominated European foreign policy between the end of religious wars and the French Revolution and again between the Congress of Vienna (1815) and the outbreak of World War I.[16] The prophetic mode was in the ascendant during the great upheavals of the religious struggles and the period of the French Revolution, and in the contemporary uprisings in major parts of the world.[17]

The Islamic revolution in Iran and its subsequent development, both internal and external, provides a unique case in which the above argument finds a thorough relevance. In fact, in no other historical occasion we can find so many similarities between the model explained above and the factual events; i.e. perpetual confrontations between “the political” or statesman and the “revolutionary” prophet.

The war between Iraq and Iran, which after a series of bloody push-and-pulls transformed into a contest between the leaders of the two Moslem neighboring states, is an example of confrontation between the traditional statesman, the “Devil”, and the prophet or the “Saint”. The statesman- Iraq’s deposed president Saddam Hussein-an opportunist, despotic and ambitious ruler of the Arab world, who invaded on 22 September 1980, the newly-born Islamic regime of Iran with the hope of crushing the revolution and preventing its expansion toward neighboring Iraq. At the same time he pursued other aims, including the leadership of the divided Arab World,[18] with a calculated risk.[19] The statesman failed to achieve his objectives and soon sought for a peaceful settlement of conflict which never came about.

The prophet, on the other hand, took the opportunity of war as a blessing of God which destined not only to strengthen the Islamic revolution but also the vision of Islamic “Ummat”.[20] In effect, the war proved to be a blessing for national cohesion, reorganization of the torn-up armed forces, seriously damaged during the revolution, and last but not least the “ export” of the revolution. The expectation of a new confrontation in the region may well repeat the experience of recent history.

The New Challenge

With the passing away of the architect of the 1979 revolution, the main thrust of revolutionary fervor gradually faded out and the consecutive ascendance into power of pragmatists and reformists’ figures induced new identity to the Islamic regime more attuned to the prevailing norms of international order. However, with the coming into power of the new-conservative hard-liners in 2005, the whole endeavor collapsed and failed to achieve the expected results.

The political victory of the new junta, emerging from the core of the revolutionary guards Passdaran and Bassij (the devoted conscripts), ushered a new era in Iran’s political configuration. A new “saint” was born amid the nuclear crisis and negotiation stalemate. The newly elected president, claiming to be in close relations with the outer world and God, took bold and risky course of actions with respect to domestic as well as foreign policies[21].

The nuclear obsession and intransigence to surrender to the demand of the U.N. Security Council to halt the presumed suspicious nuclear activities further pressed the hardliners to opt for controversial positions which resulted to further radicalism and consequently further isolation and confrontation with the West.

Thus far, with the diplomatic stalemate to manage the nuclear crisis, neither the statesman nor the prophet has come to a mutually satisfactory settlement and both sides continue to accuse the other for uncompromising positions. The prophet seems assured of his vision, the victory of Islam, and sees nothing but the triumph of his perception of the attainable truth. He cares more for the fate of Islam than the destiny of a whole nation. The statesman on the other hand is confused about the Saint’s version of reality and has lost vision while trying to manipulate facts by resorting to gunboat diplomacy and coercive measures. His ego for political survival is still dominant, since, bitterly he claims, the credibility of the whole free world is at stake!

The statesman of our time, guided by the zeal of national interests and self-preservation, has gone beyond the moral requisites in his political behavior. By so doing, he has unconsciously invited the prophet with his illusion of faith and reality. But, whether the prophet can satisfy the demands of our new societies; and whether the statesman can resist the challenge of the saint, the answer is not yet clear, though the confrontation seems unavoidable.

The statesman, helpless and demoralizing is faced the prophet, ruthless and uncompromising. Indeed the truth shall prevail, but whose truth? History will answer to the question. But even history is said to be written by the victorious. Whether the statesman will later be called as chevalier liberator of the free world, or whether the prophet will be remembered as a deceiving “demagogue” or a savior of Islam, is a matter beyond historical accounts but a duty of a sane human judgment.

“Let us leave to others with more talent for illusions the privilege of speculating on the conclusion of the adventure, and let us try not to fail either of the obligations ordained for each of us: not to shy away from a belligerent history, not to betray the ideal…”[22] our duty is to subdue the irrational by shedding light onto the evil side of the world of willful insanity. /[23]



* Ali Asghar Kazemi is Professor of Law and International Relations at IAU, Science & Research Branch, Tehran, Iran. For detail see:

[1]. CF. W. T. Stace, Religion and Modern Mind (London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd. 1953) p. 239.
[2]. Ibid. p. 257.
[3]. CF. Idem.
[4]. Ibid. p.255.
[5]. Ibid. p. 256.
[6]. CF. Kissinger, Ibid. P. 45.
[7].Cf.: Idem.
[8]. Cf.: Jaguaribe, “World Order, Rationality and Socioeconomic Development,” Daedalus, vol. XCV (Spring 1966) pp. 607-626. Quoted in Kissinger, Ibid. p. 46.
[9]. “Domestic Structure and Foreign Policy” op. cit., p. 46.
[10]. Idem.
[11]. Ibid. pp. 46-47.
[12]. Here we are reminded of Hostage taking of the American Diplomats in Iran (1981) where both the statesman and the prophet failed to attain their intended goals. The statesman’s experiment failed in Tabas during the rescue operation and he (U.S. President Carter) admitted the fact seconds after the incident. The prophet’s vision in Iran failed through Algiers accord, but he never admitted the fiasco.
[13]. I have found this portion of Professor Henry Kissinger’s outstanding essay on “Domestic structure and Foreign Policy” op. cit. precisely fitting into my analysis. Therefore, I have used the argument and in some instances have developed some of its allusions in order to align them with my own synthesis.
[14]. Kissinger, Ibid. p. 47.
[15]. Ibid. p. 48.
[16]. Idem.
[17]. Idem.
[18]. The world of Arab was seriously divided after the Camp David accords in 1977.
[19]. See e.g. Adeed Dawisha, “Iraq: the West’s Opportunity”, in 41 Foreign Policy (Winter 1980-81), pp. 134-153.
[20]. Islamic Ummat (Ummah) represents the union of all Moslem nations of the world without consideration of color, language, territory, ethnic and similar characteristics gathered under the rule of Islam.
[21] See my various papers on the matter on nuclear crisis in:
[22]. Raymond Aron, Peace and War, A Theory of International Relations, op.cit.p.458.
[23] . Some portions of this paper have been taken from my book: Ali Asghar Kazemi, Religion and Politics, Monograph, 1995.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

North Korea: Blackmailing the World

Blackmailing the World
North Korea on the Loose!

Ali Asghar Kazemi
October 9, 2006

Finally the North Korean junta surrendered to the foolish obsession of becoming a nuclear power by detonating its first nuke amidst global denunciation. This was done despite all the appeals made at different levels by world leaders, organizations and institutions. Indeed, North Korea has deceived the entire international community by crossing the red-line and jumping beyond the threshold of world tolerance. Few countries have praised and justified the North Korean undertaking as legitimate act on the ground that it was threatened by foreign powers.

We don’t intend to delve into the legal aspect of this venture here but we want to make a few comments on the rationale of such a perception that by possessing a few nuclear bombs an authoritarian rule can continue to survive and subjugate its people.

The Nuclear Obsession

There is no doubt that the North Korean leaders have a good knowledge and feeling about what is going on in the world and in their neighboring states, especially South Korea and Japan. But apparently they prefer to close their eyes to the bitter facts about the somber and deplorable conditions of their people. God knows how much money and national resources have been devoted to the nuclear project; while the poor North Koreans are in dire need to acquire their daily subsistence.

I had the opportunity to meet and discuss with North Korean diplomats in several occasions at the United Nations. They were really behaving like a robot with limited intelligence and initiative. We were among the very few delegates they would approach and talk through an interpret. They were always erring in complete confusion around the UN hallways looking for the conference room they wanted to attend. They were always silent at the sessions and their main preoccupation was to watch closely South Korean smart diplomats and delegates. They are indeed the typical product of a closed society whose rulers are still blindly attached to the obsolete ideology of communism.

Assuming that now North Korea has the nuclear capability, including a dozen warheads and the necessary vehicles or long range missiles to carry them to the North American continent, then so what? Is this going to solve any problem of the poor North Korean People? Is this really the true manifestation of national sovereignty and political independence? Or would their arrogant leaders use this leverage to blackmail the others to give them assistance to continue their dictatorship?

The Limits to Nuclear Power

Realistically looking at the matter, acquiring a handful of nuclear weapons has no operational or deterrent values. On the contrary, such a venture would turn a nation’s friends into foes and increase its vulnerability vis-à-vis its potential adversaries. The truth that the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons NPT of July 1, 1968, is not necessarily for the sake of saving mankind from the danger of devastation and annihilation but merely to preserve the monopoly of a handful powers to nuclear technology, does not make any change in our argument.

To be sure, the old Soviet Union had the capacity to destroy the whole world thousand times, but we witnessed how the “Evil Empire” collapsed by the wind of change and democratic awareness like a rotten tree. World public opinion is well aware of the nature and intentions of the remaining totalitarian rules around the world. Those who wish to follow the suit of North Korean tyrants should wake up from their sweet dream that they can continue to deceive the world by hiding behind the subjugated peoples who have no mean to make their voice heard or rise against the dictators.

The main objective of nuclear weapons during the cold war has been their deterrent power as leverage in political and strategic dealings. India and Pakistan crossed the red-line without much reprimand and political consequences but, after September 11, the situation has changed drastically. The new configuration of the world does not leave any room to compromise on the risk of nuclear proliferation. Now there is a global consensus against a nuclear capability in the hands of undemocratic and irresponsible regimes.

How to Deal with the Curse?

The world, and the United States in particular, main strategic dilemma now is how to deal with countries such as North Korea and those who potentially want to follow its path. The idea “axis of evil” which came into political jargon, including Iran along with North Korea and Iraq, was to deter any intention of acquiring a nuclear capability. But, there seem to be some loopholes in this strategy. Indeed, the desire to eradicate terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, despotism, poverty and disease, and thereby makes the world a safer place to live, is commendable and wonderful ideals. But all these could run against the belief that they can be fulfilled by military means.

Military power alone does not enhance national security and national interests. It may even lead to insecurity and provoke fear. It has become more and more clear that no single nation, no matter how powerful, can be safely entrusted with the responsibility of bringing about peaceful change or interpreting and making international security. Thus, unilateral assumption of shaping world order by a single state is likely to jeopardize international peace and security.

The ways and means that statesmen and generals in Washington are using to promote American security against terror and intolerance do more on the whole to promote world disorder and insecurity. Therefore, national security and national interests need to be rigorously redefined and reexamined in current world affairs. This is especially true for regimes such as North Korea which feel insecure and vulnerable in the new world strategic environment.

The “Domino Effect”

Now that North Korea has detonated its first nuke, the global attempt would be to contain the action to go on the loose in a “domino effect.” Perhaps the very immediate repercussion will show up in the current debate of 5+1 powers about Iran’s nuclear case. Despite varying speculations on the matter, it is expected that the United States and EU will harden their position vis-à-vis Iran in the coming days and weeks. This would eventually be manifested in the Security Council where Iran’s nuclear dossier is being handled for application of sanctions under article 41 of the UN Charter.

Apparently, thus far preventive diplomacy did not bring its intended results because Iran’s intransigence. Let’s hope that the neo-conservative hawks will not embark on pre-emptive strike on the foolish ground of self-defense or any other justification of this kind; since such an action is susceptible to put the whole Middle East region on fire.

We shall discuss on this important topic in the coming days.

La Corée du Nord et le Chantage Nucléaire

La Corée du Nord et le Chantage Nucléaire

Ali Asghar Kazemi
9 octobre 2006


Enfin la Corée du nord s'est rendue à l'obsession idiote de devenir une puissance nucléaire en détonant sa première bombe nucléaire parmi la dénonciation globale. Ceci a été fait en dépit de tous appels faits à différents niveaux par des chefs d’états, des organismes et des établissements mondiaux. En effet, la Corée du Nord a déçu la communauté internationale entière en croisant la ligne rouge et en sautant au delà du seuil de la tolérance de la communauté internationale. Peu de pays ont félicité en justifiant l'action de la Corée du nord en tant qu'acte légitime pour la raison qu'elle a été menacée par des puissances étrangères.

Nous n'avons pas l'intention de fouiller dans l'aspect légal de cette affaire ici mais nous voulons faire quelques commentaires sur le raisonnement d'une telle perception qu'en possédant quelques bombes nucléaires un régime autoritaire peut continuer survivre et subjuguer son peuple.

L'Obsession Nucléaire

Il n'y a aucun doute que les chefs coréens du nord ont une bons connaissance et sentiment au sujet de ce qui se passe dans le monde et leurs états voisins, particulièrement Corée du Sud et Japon. Mais apparemment ils préfèrent fermer leurs yeux aux faits amers sur les conditions sombres et déplorables de leur peuple. Dieu sait combien d'argent et de ressources nationales ont été consacrées au projet nucléaire ; tandis que les pauvres Coréens du nord sont dans le grand besoin d'acquérir leur subsistance quotidienne.

J'ai eu l'occasion de rencontrer et discuter avec les diplomates coréens du nord dans plusieurs occasions aux Nations Unies. Ils se comportaient vraiment comme un robot avec l'intelligence et l'initiative très limitées. Nous étions parmi les peu de délégués qu'ils s'approcheraient et parleraient par le moyen d’un interprète. Ils erraient toujours dans la confusion complète autour des vestibules de l'ONU recherchant la salle de conférence qu'ils voulaient trouver. Ils étaient toujours silencieux aux sessions et leur préoccupation principale était d'observer étroitement les délégués habiles de la Corée du sud. En effet, ils sont le produit typique d’un régime qui encore suit aveuglement l’idéologie obsolète du communisme.

Supposant que maintenant la Corée du Nord a les capacité nucléaire, y compris une douzaine de bombes nucléaires et les véhicule ou missiles nécessaires de longue portée pour les amener au continent nord-américain, et puis quoi ? Est-ce cela va résoudre les problèmes des pauvres coréens du nord ? Est cela franchement la manifestation véritable de la souveraineté nationale et de l'indépendance politique ? Ou bien il va permettre aux chefs arrogants de la Corée du Nord de faire chantage aux autres pour leur donner l'aide afin de continuer leur dictature?

Les limites de Puissance nucléaire

Si on considère la question d’un point de vue réale, acquérant une poignée d'armes nucléaires n'a aucune valeur opérationnelle ou préventive. Au contraire, une telle tentative augmenterait la vulnérabilité d'une nation vis-à-vis de ses adversaires potentiels. La vérité que le Traité sur la non-prolifération des armes nucléaires NPT du 1er juillet 1968, est simplement pour préserver le monopole des grandes puissances à la technologie nucléaire et pas nécessairement pour protéger l'humanité du danger de la dévastation et de l'annihilation, ne réduit point de la force de notre argument.

Pour être sûre, le défunt Union Soviétique a eu la capacité de détruire le monde entier mille fois, mais nous étions témoin comment « l'empire rouge » s'est effondré par le vent du changement et de la conscience démocratique comme un arbre putréfié. L'opinion publique du monde se rend bien compte de la nature et des intentions de régimes totalitaires encore régnant autour du monde. Ceux qui souhaitent suivre le chemin des tyrans de la Corée du nord devraient se réveiller de leur rêve doux qu'elles peuvent continuer à tromper le monde en se cachant derrière les peuples subjugués qui n'ont aucun moyen de faire leur voix entendue ou de se lever contre les dictateurs.

L'objectif principal des armes nucléaires pendant la guerre froide a été leur puissance préventive en tant qu'un moyen de négociation dans les affaires politiques et stratégiques. L'Inde et le Pakistan ont croisé la ligne rouge sans beaucoup de réprimande et de conséquences politiques mais, après le 11 Septembre, la situation a changé rigoureusement. La nouvelle configuration du monde n’accepte aucun risque de compromettre sur la prolifération nucléaire. Il y a maintenant un consensus global contre la capacité nucléaire dans les mains des régimes antidémocratiques et irresponsables.

Comment Traiter la Crise?

Le dilemme stratégique du monde entier, et les Etats-Unis en particulière, est maintenant comment traiter les pays tels que la Corée du Nord et ceux qui veulent potentiellement suivre son chemin ? L'idée du « l’axe du mal » qui s’est introduit dans le jargon politique, comprenant l'Iran avec la Corée du Nord et l'Irak, était de décourager n'importe quelle intention d'acquérir des potentialités nucléaires. Mais, il semble y avoir quelques échappatoires dans cette stratégie. En effet, le désir de supprimer le terrorisme, les armes de la destruction de masse, le despotisme, la pauvreté et la maladie, et rendre le monde un endroit plus sûr pour vivre, est un idéal louables et merveilleux. Mais tout ceux-ci pourraient fonctionner contre la croyance qu'elles peuvent être accomplies par des moyens militaires.

Il faut dire que seule la puissance militaire n'augmente pas la sécurité nationale et les intérêts nationaux. Elle peut même mener à l'insécurité et provoquer la crainte. Il est apparu de plus en plus clairement qu'aucune nation, n'importe comment puissante, ne peut être confiée sans risque la responsabilité de soutenir le changement paisible ou d'interpréter et de faire la sécurité internationale. Ainsi, l'acceptation unilatérale de former l'ordre du monde par un seul état est susceptible de compromettre la paix et la sécurité internationales.

Les moyens que les hommes d'État et les généraux à Washington emploient pour protéger la sécurité américaine contre la terreur et l'intolérance font plus dans l'ensemble pour favoriser le désordre et l'insécurité du monde. Par conséquent, la sécurité internationale et les intérêts nationaux doivent être rigoureusement redéfinis et réexaminés dans des affaires courantes du monde.

L’ « Effet de Domino »

Maintenant que la Corée du Nord a détoné sa première bombe nucléaire, la tentative globale serait de contenir l'action pour se déchaîner dans un « effet de domino. » Peut-être la répercussion très immédiate apparaîtra au cours de la discussion courante de 5+1 puissances au sujet de la crise nucléaire de l'Iran. En dépit des spéculations variables sur la matière, on s'attend à ce que les Etats-Unis et l'UE durcissent leur position vis-à-vis de l'Iran en prochains jours et semaines. Ceci serait par la suite manifesté au Conseil de sécurité où le dossier nucléaire de l'Iran va être décidé pour l'application des sanctions sous l'article 41 de la charte des Nations Unies.

Apparemment, jusqu'ici la diplomatie préventive n'a pas apporté ses résultats prévus à cause de l'intransigeance de l'Iran. Espérons que les faucons néo—conservateurs américains ne s'embarqueront pas sur la décision tragique de préemption avec justification idiote de défense légitime; puisqu'elle mettrait la région entière de Moyen-Orient en feu.

Nous discuterons sur cette matière importante en prochains jours. /