It turns out President Obama isn’t the only world leader who writes books. His counterpart in Iran – Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — has also just published a new book. But while it may not be as introspective as Obama’s Dreams From My Father, it does tell us at least as much about the vision of the person in charge in Tehran (as opposed to Hassan Rouhani, the faux moderate who serves as its president) as the president’s best-selling memoir. As Amir Taheri reports in the New York Post, Palestine is a 416-page diatribe against the existence of the state of Israel and a call to arms for it to be destroyed. Supporters of the nuclear deal the president has struck with Khamenei’s regime may dismiss this book as merely one more example of the Supreme Leader’s unfortunate ideology that must be overlooked. But as the New York Times noted last week, the administration’s real goal here isn’t so much in delaying Iran’s march to a nuclear weapon (which is the most that can be claimed for the agreement) as it is fostering détente with it. Seen in that light, the latest evidence of the malevolence of the Islamist regime should be regarded as yet another inarguable reason for Congress to vote the deal down.
In his interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg on May 21, President Obama was asked directly about the significance of Iran’s anti-Semitism and its commitment to destroying Israel. The president said the anti-Semitism of the Iranian leadership did not mean they weren’t also “interested in survival” or being “rational.” As far as he was concerned, the ideology of the regime was not something that would influence its decisions.
But everything Khamenei says and, even more importantly, everything the regime does, by funding terrorist groups at war with Israel such as Hamas and Hezbollah or by embarking on a ruinously expensive nuclear project that placed it in conflict with the West, speaks to its commitment to policies that Obama may think are irrational but which are completely in synch with what he called its “organizing principle.” Why would a nation so rich in oil need to risk international isolation or war seek nuclear power if not to help Khamenei fulfill his pledge to “liberate” what is now Israel for Muslims?
The president told Goldberg that the American military option would be a sufficient deterrent to ensure that Iran didn’t violate the nuclear pact or behave in an irrational manner. But since the president has ruled out the use of force in a categorical manner, it’s hard to see why the Iranians would fear it once the U.S. and Europe are doing business with them. Even if it was a matter of snapping back sanctions, assuming that such a concept is even possible? Once the restrictions are unraveled, it’s fair to ask why would they work then when the president repeatedly tells us additional sanctions won’t work now and require us to accept the current deal that doesn’t achieve the objectives that the administration set for the negotiations when they began.
The Khamenei Palestine book is important not in and of itself but because the regime’s obsession with Israel is a key to its foreign policy. Iran constitutes a grave threat to Neighboring Arab countries that are at least as angry about the president’s embrace of Tehran as the Israelis since their nuclear status would undermine their security. But as much as Iran is focused on regional hegemony in which Sunni states would be brought to heel, as Khamenei’s Palestine illustrates, it is the fixation on Israel and Zionism that really animates their expansionism and aid for terror groups.
As Taheri notes in his article on the book, Khamenei distinguishes his idée fixe about destroying Israel from European anti-Semitism. Rather, he insists, that his policy derives from “well established Islamic principles.” Chief among them is the idea that any land that was once ruled by Muslims cannot be conceded to non-believers no matter who lives there now. While the Muslim world seems to understand that they’re not getting Spain back, the territory that constitutes the state of Israel is something else. Its central location in the middle of the Muslim and Arab worlds and the fact that Jews, a despised minority people, now rule it makes its existence particularly objectionable to Islamists like Khamenei.
Khamenei’s book shows that not only is he serious about wanting to destroy Israel and uproot its Jewish population, he regards this project as a practical rather than a theoretical idea. The administration ignores this because it wants to believe that Iran is a nation that wants to, as the president put it, “get right with the world.” But what it wants is to do business with the world while pursuing its ideological goals. The nuclear deal is a means to an end for the regime and that end does not involve good relations with the West or cooperation with other states in the region, let alone coexisting peacefully with Israel.
What is curious is that this is the same administration that regarded the announcement of a housing project in Jerusalem by low-level Israeli officials as an “insult” to Vice President Biden. But it chooses to regard the “death to America” chants led by regime functionaries in Iran as well as a book by the country’s leader indicating that Obama’s ideas about its character are fallacious as non-events. The only explanation for this remarkable lack of interest in Iranian behavior is an ideological fixation on détente with Tehran that is every bit as hardcore as any utterances that emanate from the mouth or the pen of the Supreme Leader.
Taken out of the context of a vision of friendship with the Iranian regime, the nuclear deal makes no sense. Yet squaring that vision with Khamenei’s literary effort is impossible. Members of the House and Senate must take note of this conundrum and vote accordingly.