Commentary Magazine


Contentions

The Ironic Ayatollah

According to an AFP newsflash, a prominent Iranian cleric has condemned China’s “handling” of the ethnic unrest in Xinjiang. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi was quoted as saying that “It is true that the Chinese government and its people have close economic and political ties with us and other Islamic countries, but this is no reason for them to horribly suppress our Muslim brothers and sisters.” Shirazi went on to say that “We strongly condemn this suppression and urge all Muslims of the world to demand in one voice that the Chinese government end this situation and punish the criminals.” AFP reported that “Shirazi also took a dig at Iranian officials for remaining ‘silent’ over the unrest in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.”

So let’s play name change.

Put “Western leaders” in place of “Grand Ayatollah Shirazi”; put “Iran” in place of “Chinese Government” and you see why the above is ironic. Iran, ever so sensitive to others meddling in its own internal affairs, does not seem so sensitive of other ruthless dictators’ complaints over foreign nations meddling in their affairs. And truth be told, while Western leaders bend over backwards not to be seen as “meddling” in internal Iranian affairs — as if such meddling were flat wrong — Iran has been meddling in the internal affairs of other nations for a very long time. Not exactly in a constructive fashion either.

Whether it’s Lebanon or Gaza, Iraq or Afghanistan, Latin America or North African countries, Iran is acting like an imperial power, bent on expanding its influence while undermining others. We should meddle more, not less, especially given Iran’s aggressive behavior in meddling into affairs that bear on Western strategic interests.

And then there is the issue of commercial ties. Ayatollah Shirazi does not seem particularly deterred by Iran’s thriving economic relation with China in his criticism of China. Can Western countries do the same — criticize Iran without fear for their commercial interests?