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Why it is Ill-advised to “Deal” with Iran under the Mullahs

As a result of the “Nuclear Deal” signed between P5+1 and the regime in Iran that is supposedly an indication of that regime’s willingness to “deal” with the international community on the basis of “goodwill” and “negotiation” rather than “coercion” and “terrorism”, many eyes in the United States have yet again been turned toward and fixed on Iran as a potential place for “investment”, both politically and financially. However, in my o pinion, this euphoria is an illusion the product of a gross misunderstanding of the “psychology” of politics in contemporary Iran.

To make a long story short, in Iran we are faced with a strongly articulated “regime of truth”. This means by engaging a considerable portion of its subjects on a highly psychological level, the ruling system presupposes and perpetuates a tough line against any form of “Western Encroachment”, and specifically “American Encroachment”. My aim in this article is to show how that dominant psychological factor in the contemporary Iranian sociopolitical sphere would practically render any hope for a stable investment in Iran null and void.

John F. Kennedy said while granting honourary U.S. citizenship to Winston Churchill, “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”1For better or for worse, this fact to a great extent holds true about the way the Islamic Republic handles the “American Case”: it mobilizes first and foremost “highly biased” language (its military and paramilitary forces) against any US presence in Iran and the Middle East. In other words, the Islamic Republic has been waging a “cultural war” against the United States all along.

In the discourse of the Islamic Republic, almost everything boils down to a confrontation between the “Good” that is the Islamic Republic and the “Evil” that is the United States. In this discourse, the US, no matter whatever it does, is always the “Great Satan”. As a result, the totality of the Islamic Republic defines its existence against the existence of the USA, which makes fighting the Great Satan “substantial” rather than “secondary” to the nature of the regime in Iran. Consequent to that warlike attitude, the Islamic Republic stigmatizes any form of American approach to Iran as a manifestation of “Cultural Invasion” that is meant to eventually overthrow the regime.

The Supreme Leader’s special envoy to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Ali Saeidi, has most cogently articulated that phobia. According to Saeidi, “The foremost goal the United States is after in Iran is to penetrate the country through a ‘soft war’, that is, without anybody being conscious of it.” He continues, “The United States did not dismantle the Soviet Union by the force of military invasion, but through creating cultural metamorphosis by starting McDonald’s branches in that country”. As a result, “We must be extremely on the alert against any form of penetration. We should not allow the United States to lay the foundation of its penetration through its agents who try to beautify its face by misleading the public mind.”2

It is exactly in gross disregard of that psychological antipathy and its practical implications that some lobbies, media outlets and businessmen have recently attempted to push the US commercial sector to go into business with Iran while the regime of the mullahs is still in power in that country and keeps mobilizing bias to the detriment of US investment.

Since the Nuclear Deal was signed last July, the Supreme Leader and the IRGC have been taking an extremely tough line against the United States. This is while the “implementation process” of the Nuclear Deal has not even begun in Iran as it seems that no authority in the regime is willing to put their signature under its instrument of implementation.3 In the meantime, in addition to escalating the civil war in Syria,4 which the regime in Iran considers a mandatory measure for curbing American influence in the Middle East, the Supreme Leader and his IRGC commanders have been openly challenging the US to war.5 Towards that goal and in defiance of what he regards as the Rouhani Government’s “Western-backed sedition”, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, has recently declared6 that the Islamic Republic is forming a “single Islamic nation” in Iraq, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

Moreover, the Supreme Leader and his IRGC commanders and Friday Prayer Imams have been issuing tough proclamations against importing US consumer goods to Iran.  As USA News states,7 “Khamenei, as well as hard-liners in the Iranian government, remain deeply suspicious of the United States despite the nuclear deal, and view Western cultural imports as a threat to public morality.” Consequently, Rouhani’s Government immediately banned the import of American consumer goods. The Iranian Minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade issued a directive8 to his deputies to implement the ban on the goods as “a symbolic presence of the US in Iran”. More recently, in view of the Supreme Leader’s proclamation, the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran has put a ban9 on the importation of 227 specific American articles.

For example, the aKFcuthorities have made sure that the presence of any US-based chain stores or fast-food chains be strictly prohibited in Iran. In early November a KFC branch was shut down in Tehran10by the security forces one day after its opening. Although the KFC Management later claimed11 that the branch was a “knock-off” without any legal connections to the real KFC, the fact that a KFC-like restaurant with a décor similar to the US flag was immediately shut down in Tehran attests to the verity that any kind of American investment in Iran will be in genuine danger.

For further proof, Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, who was incidentally one of the main architects of the Nuclear Deal with the Iranian regime, was recently arrested 12 after taking a trip to Tehran. A Dubai-based magnate, Namazi, according to Michael Rubin of The American Enterprise Institute, “was intimately involved with the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group that he supported and which lobbied for a diplomatic posture that might win Namazi a windfall.”13 Following Namazi’s arrest, it has been rumoured that Rouhani’s nephew, reportedly an oil-trade middleman, has also been arrested by the IGC under the charges of being connected with Namazi.

Following a binding directive by the Supreme Leader warning against American attempts to penetrate the country after the Nuclear Deal, the IRGC initiated a security measure titled the “Penetration Project”.14 It is meant to identify and to curb any attempt by US “agents” to penetrate the socio-cultural sphere in Iran which could undermine the regime’s anti-American stance. As a result of that measure, a number of dailies and other publications have been shut down, and a considerable number of writers, journalists and activists, under the charge of being “American agents”, arrested.15

Clearly, the end of the Islamic Republic’s ideological enmity towards the West/US is least likely to come through a process of “internal struggle”. For that to happen, a much more realistic, serious and consistent effort is needed. Businesswise, it can be said that as almost all the cards are on the table now, one may foresee the doom of any American “deal” with Iran under the mullahs, if not yet the doom of the Nuclear Deal itself.

References


  1. See Humes, James. C. The Wit & Wisdom of Winston Churchill. New York: HarperCollins ebooks, p 18.
  2. http://farsi.alarabiya.net/fa/iran/2015/11/23
  3. http://english.aawsat.com/2015/11/article55345608/in-tehran-a-hot-potato-nobody-wants-to-touch
  4. http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/10/the_historic_roots_of_russian_expansionism_in_the_middle_east.html
  5. http://www.timesofisrael.com/khamenei-threatens-criminal-america-in-new-video/
  6. http://eaworldview.com/2015/11/iran-daily-we-are-forming-a-single-islamic-nation-in-iran-syria-iraq-yemen/

  7. http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2015/11/01/irans-supreme-leader-warns-against-importing-us-goods

  8. http://eaworldview.com/2015/11/iran-daily-we-must-build-walls-to-prevent-western-influence-and-mcdonalds-diplomacy/
  9. http://www.thetower.org/2690-iran-bans-import-of-over-200-american-goods/

  10. http://www.thedailymeal.com/eat/kfc-knock-restaurant-opened-iran-and-shut-down-1-day-later

  11. http://english.alarabiya.net/en/business/markets/2015/11/04/KFC-seeking-legal-action-over-knock-off-chicken-outlet-in-Iran-.html
  12. https://www.commentarymagazine.com/foreign-policy/middle-east/iran/spies-and-business-in-iran/

  13. https://www.commentarymagazine.com/foreign-policy/middle-east/iran/spies-and-business-in-iran/

  14. http://eaworldview.com/2015/11/iran-daily-supreme-leader-renews-attack-on-foreign-infiltration/

  15. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/iranian-crackdown-ensnares-journalists-activists-and-poets/2015/11/13/60fc8a5c-895f-11e5-be8b-1ae2e4f50f76_story.html
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Reza Parchizadeh
Reza Parchizadeh is an Iranian-born political theorist and activist. He is the co-editor-in-chief of TahlilRooz, a Persian-language think thank. Reza has authored five books and many articles, both in English and Persian. At the moment, he is a doctoral candidate in English Literature and Criticism program of Indiana University of Pennsylvania.