Understanding Iran’s Quest for Nuclear Technology: The Importance of Ideology

by Joseph S. Spoerl (January 2018)


ince its completion in July 2015, the Iran Nuclear Deal[1] has been re-shaping the Middle East. An understanding of the Middle East thus requires an understanding of this controversial deal. Moreover, the Trump administration has realized that the deal is easier to criticize than to reverse, enshrined as it is in a UN Security Council Resolution that is protected by the veto-power of pro-Iranian states like China and Russia.[2] As for the European parties to the agreement (France, Britain, and Germany), the New York Times reports that “[t]hey have shown little enthusiasm for revisiting the deal, let alone undercutting it.”[3] The European Union’s top foreign policy official, Federica Mogherini, has stated, “Renegotiating part of the agreement or the entire agreement is not an option.”[4]

The Iran Nuclear Deal places only temporary restrictions on Iran’s ability to enrich uranium.[5] In the meantime, it allows Iran to continue research on a new generation of highly efficient centrifuges in preparation for the day when restrictions are lifted and Iran can build a state-of-the art nuclear industry.[6] When that day comes, Iran’s “break-out time”the time it needs to produce enough enriched uranium for a bombwill be reduced to almost zero. We have this on the authority of Barack Obama himself. In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep in April 2015, then-President Obama made the following statement: “What is a more relevant fear would be that in year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that time the breakout times would have shrunk down almost to zero.”[7] Nuclear arms control expert David Albright makes the same prediction: “. . . at the end of year 15 of the deal, Iran has stated it will have industrial-size enrichment facilities. With this capability . . . breakout times will decrease toward a few days.”[8] The New York Times, which has described the Iran nuclear deal as “one of the Obama administration’s major triumphs,”[9] also concedes that “most of the significant constraints on Tehran’s program lapse after 15 yearsand, after that, Iran is free to produce uranium on an industrial scale.”[10] Former top U.S. diplomat Nicholas Burns, who testified in favor of the Iran deal before Congress, also points out “the deal’s principal weaknessit could permit Iran to emerge stronger 10 to 15 years from now as restrictions on its nuclear program begin to lapse.”[11] Iran expert Ray Takeyh points out that “the nuclear deal is Iran’s legal path to the bomb.”[12]

An underreported aspect of the Iran Deal is the ideology and world-view of the Iranian regime founded in 1979 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and ruled today by his hand-picked successor, Ayatollah Khamenei. If Iran is set to become a nuclear-threshold state, it is of utmost importance to understand the ideology that motivates Iran’s leadership. This paper explores this ideology for the sake of understanding longer-term Iranian motives and goals.

Iran claims that it must have its own domestic uranium enrichment capacity to meet its future energy needs. Yet, among all the nations of the world, Iran sits atop the second largest proven reserves of natural gas[13] and the fourth largest proven reserves of oil.[14] Iran, an arid and sunny country with vast deserts,[15] also has great untapped potential for wind and solar energy. Even if Iran needed nuclear energy, it could import nuclear fuel at less cost than making it for itself, or it could import low-enriched uranium to make its own fuel rods. Iran does not need large arrays of efficient centrifuges capable of manufacturing highly enriched uranium in order to have nuclear energy. Such a capability makes sense only if Iran wishes to enrich uranium to bomb-grade purity.

Why does it matter so much to the Iranians that they should become a nuclear-weapons threshold state? Why have they been willing to sacrifice so much to achieve this aim, when their domestic energy needs clearly do not require them to possess an advanced uranium enrichment capability? To answer this question, we must turn to the worldview of the Iranian regime. The mainstream Western media rarely inform their audiences of the world-view that shapes and motivates Iran’s leaders. Yet understanding that world-view is central to the question of whether Iran can be trusted as a nuclear-threshold state.

In fact, the ideology of the Iranian regime bears all the traits that made Nazi Germany such a lethal threat to humanity: genocidal anti-Semitism, paranoid conspiracy thinking, dehumanization of the “other,” imperialism, totalitarianism, and apocalyptic thinking. Given the world-view of the Iranian regime, it is highly unlikely that they would not seek nuclear weapons. If Iran becomes a nuclear-threshold state, it will almost certainly also become a nuclear-armed state.

Anti-Semitism and Conspiracy Thinking

In his biography of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian journalist and scholar Amir Taheri writes: “The Ayatollah was . . . convinced that the central political theme of contemporary life was an elaborate and highly complex conspiracy by the Jews—‘who controlled everything’to ‘emasculate Islam’ and dominate the world thanks to the natural wealth of the Muslim nations.”[16] Khomeini repeatedly accused the Jews, and Israel, of attempting to destroy the Islamic faith.[17] Khomeini taught his followers that the Jews “would never be satisfied with anything less than world domination.”[18] He was therefore committed to “the cause of physically destroying the Jewish state and forcing its inhabitants out of the Middle East . . .’’[19] Khomeini also taught that “America, dominated by ‘evil Jews,’ is Islam’s arch-enemy . . .”[20] Thus, the chants of “death to Israel” and “death to America,” still heard routinely on Iranian streets and encouraged by top Iranian leaders,[21] are more than mere rhetoric. If the Jews control Israel and America and are plotting to destroy Islam, the most important thing on earth, then destroying Israel and America becomes a clear moral obligation of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Indeed, Khomeini’s anti-Semitic legacy is alive and well in Iran and has become a central component of the Iranian regime’s world-view. Anti-Semitic messages from senior officials and the major Iranian media “typically denounce Jews at large, attribute to them unique negative characteristics, and depict them as an eternal force for evil and the root of evil in the world since ancient times—perceptions which have their theological and psychological roots in early Islamic traditions.”[22] Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010, for example, denied that Israeli Jews are even human, asserting that they “only appear to be human,” and anyway, since they are atheists, they “are not entitled to man’s minimal rights.”[23] Ahmadinejad is joined in this Jew-hatred by so-called “moderates” such as former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who at the annual “Jerusalem Day” in 2007 explained to his audience that the Nazis’ “first objective was to free Europe of the evils of Zionism,” and this was entirely justified, because “the Zionists . . . constituted a strong political party in Europe, causing much disorder there. Since the Zionists had a lot of property and controlled an empire of propaganda, they made the European governments helpless.”[24] Here we see retrospective justification of Nazi persecution of the Jews, the complete obliteration of any distinction between Judaism and Zionism, and the assumption of an all-powerful Jewish conspiracy.

An extremely important aspect of contemporary Iranian anti-Semitism is the role of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a forgery produced by the Tsarist Russian secret police in the early twentieth century in which the Jews are portrayed as conspiring to take over the world and destroy all non-Jewish religions.[25] “The Islamic Revolution [of 1979] was accompanied by a continuous wave of Protocols editions, alongside other anti-Israel and anti-Jewish texts.”[26] The Iranian state promotes the Protocols as part of its official propaganda: “ . . . since the revolution, they have been issued by government publishing houses such as that of the Revolutionary Guards, the department of Translation and Publication, the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, and the Propaganda Department.”[27] Moreover, “ . . . state-run Iranian television regularly broadcasts documentaries and drama shows based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Such programs claim that the State of Israel was founded on the basis of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which exposed the Jewish plot to take over the world.”[28]

In his classic study of the Protocols, historian Norman Cohn summed up the significance of this toxic forgery as follows:


As I see it, the deadliest kind of antisemitism, the kind that results in massacre and attempted genocide, has little to do with real conflicts of interest between living people or even with racial prejudice as such. At its heart lies the belief that Jewsall Jews everywhereform a conspiratorial body set on ruining and then dominating the rest of mankind.[29]


This is precisely the type of anti-Semitism that was a central aspect of Adolf Hitler’s world-view[30] and which has now become a central component of the ideology of the Iranian state.

A vivid example of this Nazi-style anti-Semitic conspiracy thinking is provided by Mehdi Taeb (also spelled Mahdi Tayeb), head of the Ammar Base think tank and advisor to Supreme Leader Khamenei, who delivered a public address in Iran in 2013 in which he said:


The one thing the Jews want is to take over the entire world . . . They have divided the world into three classes: first-class people, second-class people, and third-class people. The Jews, or the Israelite race, are the first class people. God created the world for them . . . He told them to take over the world. The second-class people are people who do not belong to the Israelite race . . . but who accept the Jews to be first class people . . . They have the right to live, but they must serve the Israelites . . . Who are the third-class people? They are the ones who do not belong to the Israelite people, and do not accept Jewish supremacy . . . What do they deserve? They deserve [to be buried] one meter underground. Therefore, all the Muslims must be killed because they do not accept Jewish supremacy. They must all be killed . . . The only ones who need an atomic bomb in order to become global are the Jews. … In order to become global the Jews must kill Muslims en masse. In other words, they have to kill 1.4 billion people . . . So they need means of mass killing . . . Do you know who invented the atomic bomb? Einstein . . . [In] the history of world politics, he was one of the most despicable figures. He was a Zionist, a Jew, one of the founders of the state of Israel.[31]


In 2014, Mehdi Taeb also gave a Friday mosque sermon, posted online several times since, in which he said that the Jews are working to block the return of the Hidden Imam, the apocalyptic figure who will usher in the end times according to Shiite doctrine.[32]

Iran’s ally, Hezbollah, espouses the same ideology as the Iranian regime. Hezbollah (literally, “The Party of God”) is an armed Lebanese Shiite political movement founded in 1982 that has “assimilated the doctrine of the Islamic Republic of Iran totally and pledged allegiance to its leader, Ayatollah Khomeyni [or Khomeini], and his heir, ‘Ali Khamaneh’i [or Khamenei].”[33] For Hezbollah, “The struggle with Israel and the Jews is a total life-or-death war,” a modern continuation of the historical struggle between Judaism and Islam dating back to the founding of Islam.[34] According to Hezbollah leaders, “either we destroy Israel or Israel destroys us,”[35] “the Jews are the enemy of the entire human race,”[36] and “the struggle with the Jews is a struggle for Islamic survival.”[37] Hezbollah alludes to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion repeatedly in its propaganda.[38] Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has repeatedly denied Israel’s right to exist, threatened to wipe out Israel, and stated in 2002 that “If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”[39]

Holocaust denial is another important aspect of the anti-Semitism of the Iranian regime.[40] Matthias Küntzel explains the significance of Holocaust denial:


To claim that ‘Auschwitz’ is a myth is to accuse ‘the Jews’ of deceiving humanity for the past 60 years in pursuit of filthy lucre. To talk of the ‘so-called Holocaust’ is to imply that over 90% of the world’s academic posts and media are controlled by ‘the Jews’ and are hermetically protected from the ‘real’ truth. Every denial of the Holocaust therefore implicitly contains within it the demand for its repetition.[41]


The repeated threats of Iranian leaders to obliterate the state of Israel and its people must be understood as natural expressions and logical implications of the demonizing Jew-hatred that is an integral part of the regime’s world-view. For example, on December 31, 1999, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated before tens of thousands at a Jerusalem Day rally in Tehran, “There is only one solution to the Middle East Problem, namely the annihilation and destruction of the Zionist state.”[42] Another example is the statement by the so-called “moderate” Rafsanjani, who on December 14, 2001 said, “the use of an atomic bomb against Israel would destroy Israel, while [the same] against the Islamic world would only cause damage. Such a scenario is not inconceivable.”[43] A recent study of Iranian educational materials found explicit calls for the destruction of Israel in textbooks used in the academic year 2016-17.[44] Dozens more examples of explicit Iranian threats to destroy Israel can be found in this footnote.[45]

Islamic Imperialism

Like the Nazis, the Iranians are driven by an expansionist, imperialistic ideology. In 1980, the Ayatollah Khomeini announced, “We will export our revolution to the whole world because it is an Islamic revolution . . . The struggle will continue until the calls ‘there is no god but God’ and ‘Muhammad is the messenger of God’ are heard all over the world.”[46] Some strains of Twelver Shiite theology hold that offensive war to spread Islamic rule is an exclusive right of the infallible Twelfth Imam, who went into hiding in the 9th century and will emerge at the end of time, but the Ayatollah Khomeini did not subscribe to this position. Instead, he held that “the Shiite jurist has all the authorities of the Imam . . .” His successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, agrees, holding that “offensive jihad can be ordered by a qualified jurist . . . ”[47] In fact, Mehdi Khalaji, a scholar of Shiite theology, writes that Khamenei holds that “waging war against infidels is completely legitimate.” (However, what we would call an offensive war by Muslims against infidels is to Ayatollah Khamenei also a defensive war “because by conquering non-Islamic territories, the ruler of the Islamic country defends the principle of God’s unity and Islam.”[48])

The current Supreme Leader of Iran is thus an unabashed defender of aggressive Islamic imperialism. In a typical expression of this imperialism, on February 26, 2015, Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative in the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, responsible for the IRGC’s foreign military and intelligence operations, stated: “We will not rest until we have raised the banner of Islam over the White House.”[49] On March 11, 2017, the Commander of the IRGC Ali Ja’fari said, “We are on the path that leads to the rule of Islam worldwide.”[50]

The Iranian regime’s commitment to an imperialistic foreign policy is enshrined in the Iranian Constitution, which states that “ . . . the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps … will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world . . . ” The Iranian Constitution also commits Iran “to prepare the way for the formation of a single world community,” looks forward to “the establishment of a universal holy government and the downfall of all others,” and commits Iran to exporting its Islamic revolution beyond its own borders.[51] The Iranian educational system inculcates this imperialistic mentality in Iranian youth.[52]

Islamic Ethics and Nuclear Weapons

The Shiite Islam of the Iranian regime does not place any serious restrictions on the types of weapons that can be used in the waging of war, nor does it offer much protection to the lives of non-Muslim enemy civilians. Mehdi Khalaji points out: “It is very difficult to find a law in Islam that forbids Muslims from using any kind of weapon against the ‘enemies of God.’”[53] Moreover, “in Islamic jurisprudence, the distinction between civilians and combatants is very obscure when it comes to infidels.”[54] For example, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of both the powerful Guardian Council and the Assembly of Experts[55] and a close advisor to Supreme Leader Khamenei, said in 2005 that “human beings, apart from Muslims, are animals who roam the earth and engage in corruption.”[56] Ayatollah Khomeini taught that “The corrupt in every society should be liquidated . . . The Qur’an teaches us to treat as brothers only those who are Muslims and believe in Allah. [It] teaches us to treat those who are not thus differently; teaches us to hit them, throw them in jail and kill them . . .”[57] (Yet perhaps even Muslim lives did not have great value in Khomeini’s eyes, for he taught that martyrdom is “preferable to this miserable life”[58] and he sacrificed over 100,000 children as young as 12 in minefield-clearing operations during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988.[59])

Moreover, Khomeini often invoked the dictum that “the end justifies the means,” which, Amir Taheri points out, “in Shiite theology is more than a mere motto and can at times be taken as a principle of faith. Once convinced of the rightness of your objective, you are allowed to use practically any means, including murder, to obtain it.”[60] (In Sunni Islamic law also one finds the principle that “necessity excuses one from any rule whatever.”[61]) In the most careful study done to date of the status of enemy non-combatants in the Islamic law of war, the scholar of Islamic law and history Ella Landau Tasseron shows that classical Islamic law gives only very weak and easily overridden protection to the lives of non-Muslim enemy civilians in wartime.[62] Iranian educational materials nowhere teach the impermissibility of nuclear weapons, but on the contrary stress that “Islamic learning [ma’aref-e eslam] is such that religious experts can extract from it new laws concerning . . . procurement and use of new weapons, in accordance with the new needs of society . . . ”[63] Eldad Pardo draws the obvious inference: “. . . this description rules out the possibility of an all-encompassing binding fatwa (religious edict) in matters of weapons[64]

For propaganda purposes, the Iranian leadership has publicly stated that Islamic law does not permit nuclear weapons, but Mehdi Khalaji is surely right to assert that “there is serious reason to doubt that claim.”[65] The Iranian regime has spread a false rumor of a fatwa or authoritative religious ruling by Ayatollah Khamenei forbidding the possession or use of nuclear weapons, but no one has ever been able to locate this fictitious fatwa.[66] President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry nonetheless appear to have been fooled by this transparently insincere and discredited obfuscation.[67]

Apocalyptic Thinking

We next address the rationality or potential deterrability of a nuclear Iran. Would the threat of “mutual assured destruction” be enough to deter Iran from using nuclear weapons against Israel or the U.S., both of which could retaliate with nuclear weapons of their own? To answer this question, we must delve deeper into the world-view of the Iranian regime.

As mentioned earlier, the doctrine of Twelver Shiite Islam attributes great importance to the twelfth Imam, a descendant of Muhammad and the rightful leader of the Islamic community who was born in 868 AD and then went into “occultation” or hiding in 873 AD, from which he will emerge at the end of time. The Twelfth Imam will return as the Mahdi or messiah amidst great bloodshed, which will claim two-thirds of the world’s population. The Mahdi will cleanse the earth of non-believers, killing anyone who does not believe in Islam. In particular, the Mahdi will kill all the Jews.[68] But the death and destruction will actually begin before the Imam’s return, because the Hidden Imam will come out of occultation “when death, destruction, greed, and injustice have all but engulfed the world.”[69]

Most Twelver Shiites do not believe that human beings can do anything to hasten the return of the Hidden Imam, beyond prayer and obedience.[70] However, the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) brought to public attention the existence of a new strain of apocalyptic thinking in Iran, especially in powerful parts of the regime such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. In his biography of Ahmadinejad, Kasra Naji writes that Ahmadinejad expects the imminent return of the Mahdi, and he even expected to hand over the reins of the Iranian government to the Mahdi before the end of his presidency. Ahmadinejad stated publicly, “Our revolution’s main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the Mahdi.”[71] Ahmadinejad chose many of his cabinet ministers based on their sharing this view of the Mahdi’s imminent return.[72] Ahmadinejad even accused Western governments of actively seeking out the Mahdi so they could assassinate him and prevent his return.[73] In a conversation at which the French Foreign Minister, Phillipe Douste-Blazy, was present, Ahmadinejad suddenly interrupted the discussion. “He asked those present . . . whether they know why disorder and chaos are necessary in the world. He answered himself, adding: disorder, chaos, and injustice are the preconditions for the return of the hidden Twelfth Imam, the Mahdi.”[74]

Some important theologians in Iran have come to link the killing of Jews to the preconditions needed for the return of the Mahdi. For example, Grand Ayatollah Nuri-e-Hamedani said in 2005 that “One should fight the Jews and vanquish them so that the conditions for the advent of the Hidden Imam are met.”[75] Reza Khalili, a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps who defected to the U.S., reports that in the IRGC there are many who share Ahmadinejad’s belief in the imminent return of the Mahdi.[76] Referring to the conditions that will portend the return of the Hidden Imam, Khalili states, “People like Ahmadinejad so completely believed that these conditions would hasten the return of the twelfth Imam that they were willing to foment universal war, chaos, and famine to bring it about.”[77] For people who think this way, the threat of nuclear retaliation will be less a deterrent than an inducement to launching a first strike.

Mehdi Khalaji, the expert in Shiite theology, draws a distinction between Ayatollah Khamenei and people like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Khamenei, he says, “is not an apocalypticist who believes that the Hidden Imam’s appearance is imminent. Instead, his views on the Shiite Messiah seem to follow the traditional view that no one can predict the exact time of his return and no one can hasten his reappearance by a particular action.”[78] In contrast, Ahmadinejad “believes that human action is necessary to prepare for the Hidden Imam’s return, if not to accelerate it.”[79] There is evidence that Khalaji may be wrong about Khamenei.[80] In any case, Khamenei is elderly and there is no telling what his successor will believe. Moreover, Ahmedinejad is a product of the Iranian system; he was president for eight years, and he apparently has many followers in Iran. There is no telling who may have access to nuclear weapons when Iran finally acquires them, and even if Khamenei has different ideas about the return of the Hidden Imam, his worldview and that of his entire regime is disturbing enough anyway, especially when “moderates” like Rafsanjani justify the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews and call openly for the nuclear annihilation of Israel.

Setting aside Ahmedinejad’s particular strain of apocalyptic thinking, the mainstream views of Khamenei are a cause for concern. As Eldad Pardo has recently demonstrated, apocalyptic thinking is embedded in the curriculum of the Iranian public school system: “The curriculum goes a long way toward clarifying whether the Iranian regime has or does not have millenarian-apocalyptic tendencies; it undoubtedly has. Waiting and preparing for the Mahdi-savior means constant training and participating in conflicts and wars between Iran and the ‘arrogant ones’ (i.e. the West) . . .”[81] As an Iranian textbook puts it, “The ‘waiting society’ does not accept un-Godly, idolatrous governments but stands against them and creates ‘resistance’ against them.”[82] As Pardo clarifies, “resistance” here “does not mean defense, but rather incessant offensive operations aimed at the destruction of one’s rival through continuous struggle.”[83] The overall message of the Iranian school curriculum is that “Everything is being prepared for the arrival of the Mahdi [Qa’im, Imam] and the apocalyptic ‘horrifying battle of the Imam’s army against the oppressors of the world.’”[84] There is thus a close link between Iran’s Islamic imperialism and its specific brand of Twelver Shiite apocalyptic millenarianism.


The totalitarian nature of the Iranian regime is important to understand, since it makes it highly unlikely that any effective dissent can emerge from within the regime or even within Iranian society at large. The Iranian regime is organized so as to prevent any change in the fundamental ideology of the regime, short of wholesale revolution. Those who argued in support of the Iran nuclear deal on the grounds that it will “empower the moderates” ignore this fact.

Freedom House ranks Iran as one of the most unfree countries on earth,[85] and Misagh Parsa writes, “Despite some democratic features of Iran’s constitution, the Islamic Republic evolved into one of the most antidemocratic political systems of the world.”[86] Iran experts Sanam Vakil and Hossein Rassam write, “The supreme leader is the most powerful person in Iran, with absolute authority over all parts of the state.”[87] Misagh Parsa makes the same point: “The Supreme Leader controls all three branches of government by virtue of his position at the apex of an elaborate network of councils and assemblies that reinforce theocratic, authoritarian decision making and leave no room for democratic checks and balances.”[88]

The dictatorial and totalitarian nature of the Iranian state is guaranteed by its constitution.[89] According to Article 110, the Supreme Leader, currently Ayatollah Khamenei, holds supreme command of the Armed Forces and has the sole right to declare war; controls the appointments of the judiciary, the heads of Iran’s radio and television networks, and the commanders of the Armed Forces and Revolutionary Guards Corps; and has veto power over who can be a candidate for President of the Republic. The Supreme Leader controls membership on the Guardian Council (Article 91) by directly appointing six of its twelve members; the other six are nominated by the head of the judiciary, who is appointed by the Supreme Leader (Article 157). The Guardian Council in turn has the power to veto laws passed by the legislature (Articles 72, 94, 96), which is thus really only a “Consultative Assembly” (its formal title), not a sovereign law-making body; indeed, members of the Guardian Council may attend the Assembly’s meetings (Article 97) to ensure compliance with its will. The Guardian Council also has the authority to interpret the Constitution of Iran (Article 98).

An Assembly of Experts has sole authority to appoint or dismiss the Supreme Leader (Article 107); this Assembly of Experts was initially appointed by the Guardian Council and then became self-regulating (Article 108); its members are elected “by the people” (Article 107), but only from pre-approved lists of candidates. As a recent U.S. State Department report puts it, “The Guardian Council also reviews all candidates for the body selecting the supreme leader, and all candidates for elective office.”[90] The New York Times reports that the Guardian Council is “dominated by hard-liners.”[91] As mentioned above, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati is currently head of both the Guardian Council and the Assembly of Experts and a close advisor to Supreme Leader Khamenei; we noted above his statement that “human beings, apart from Muslims, are animals who roam the earth and engage in corruption.”[92]

Iran is thus not a true democracy: “Voters choose, but only among candidates whom the ruling oligarchy has extensively prescreened and preselected.”[93] This oligarchy has complete control not only over elections and legislation, but also over the process of amending the constitution, the “Islamic” character of which is in any case deemed by the constitution to be “unalterable” (Article 177).

According to its Preamble, “The Constitution of the Islamic republic of Iran advances the cultural, social, political, and economic institutions of Iranian society based on Islamic principles and norms.” Article 12 adds that “the official religion of Iran is Islam and the Twelver Jafari school,” and Article 13 states that the only legally recognized religious minorities are Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (note that this means there are no legal protections for other religious minorities, e.g. Bahais, Hindus, Sikhs, Mormons, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, etc.). The Preamble espouses utopianism, the concomitant of totalitarianism, expressing the intention “to establish an ideal and model society on the basis of Islamic norms” and to promote “human development towards perfection,” and Article 3 commits the state to “the struggle against all forms of vice and corruption.” The pursuit of perfection depends on the perfect implementation of God’s word: “Legislation setting forth regulations for the administration of society will revolve around the Koran and Sunnah. Accordingly, the exercise of meticulous and earnest supervision by just, pious, and committed scholars of Islam is an absolute necessity.” The Preamble charges the judiciary with “the prevention of deviations within the Islamic nation” and notes “the need for full ideological conformity.” It also insists that “The mass-communication media, radio and television, must serve the diffusion of Islamic culture” and “must strictly refrain from the diffusion and propagation of destructive and anti-Islamic practices.” Article 24 affirms freedom of the press, “except when it is detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the rights of the public,” a point reiterated in Article 175.

Above all, as noted above, the constitution of Iran vests power in the hands of a single “Just Holy Person,” the Supreme Leader: “the Constitution provides for the establishment of leadership by a holy person possessing the necessary qualifications…” Article 5 drives the point home: “During the occultation of the Wali al-Asr [hidden imam] (may God hasten his reappearance) the leadership of the Ummah [Muslim community] devolves upon the just and pious person [i.e. the Supreme Leader].” Thus, the duty to obey the Supreme Leader is as much a religious duty as a political one. Iranian educational materials consistently inculcate an attitude of blind obedience to the Supreme Leader, whom they portray as having infallibility based on a close mystical bond to God.[94]

For details on how this totalitarian blueprint works in practice, we can turn to the annual “International Religious Freedom Report” compiled by the U.S. State Department.[95] The 2015 report notes, “Since 1999, Iran has been designated as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom” (p. 2). Here are a few telling details gleaned from this report, indicating how serious the regime is about enforcing its ideology:

  • “The penal code stipulates the death sentence for moharebeh (‘enmity against God’) and sabb al-nabi (‘insulting the prophets’).” (p. 4) The report documents several individual cases of prosecutions under these laws. (pp. 7-11)
  • “. . . apostasy [from Islam] is a crime punishable by death under sharia law, which judges may also apply [in addition to the Iranian penal code] . . .” (p. 3)
  • “By law, non-Muslims may not engage in public religious expression, persuasion, or conversion by Muslims.  Such activities are considered proselytizing and are punishable by death.” (p. 3)
  • Islamic law forbids any religions founded after Muhammad, which includes the Bahai faith (founded in the 19th century). Consequently, in Iran, “According to law, Bahai blood may be spilled with impunity, and Bahai families are not entitled to restitution” (p. 7); “. . .the government’s continuing seizure of Bahai personal property and its denial of access to education and employment eroded the Bahai community’s economic base and threatened its survival.” (p. 19)
  • “The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security monitor religious activity, while churches are monitored by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). All churchgoers must register with the authorities . . . Failure of churchgoers to register and attendance at churches by unregistered individuals may subject a church to closure and arrest of its leaders by authorities.” (p. 4) “Security officials remained posted outside congregation centers to perform identity checks on worshippers. Christians of all denominations reported the presence of security cameras outside their churches to confirm non-Christians did not participate in services.” (p. 13)
  • “The religious curriculum of public schools is determined by the Ministry of Education. All school curricula must include a course on Shia Muslim teachings and all pupils must pass this course in order to advance to the next educational level through university. Sunni students and students from recognized minority religious groups must also take and pass the courses on Shiism . . .” (p. 4)
  • “By law, non-Muslims may not serve in the judiciary, the security services . . . or as public school principals. Officials screen candidates for elected offices and applicants for public sector employment based on their adherence to and knowledge of Islam, although members of recognized religious minorities, with the exception of Bahais, may serve in the lower ranks of the government. Government workers who do not observe Islamic principles and rules are subject to penalties and may be barred from work.” (p. 6)
  • The government flogged hundreds of people “for not observing fasting requirements” during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims are obliged to fast from dawn till dusk. (p. 8)
  • “The government continued to enforce gender segregation throughout the country without regard to religious affiliation.” (p. 16) “The government continued to require women of all religious groups to adhere to ‘Islamic dress’ standards in public . . . it also punished ‘un-Islamic dress’ with arrests, lashings, fines, and dismissal from employment.” (p. 14)
  • “Government officials frequently confiscated Bibles and pressured publishing houses printing Bibles or unsanctioned non-Muslim materials to cease operations.” (p. 14)

The totalitarian nature of the Iranian regime is also well-documented by groups such as Freedom House,[96] Human Rights Watch,[97] and Amnesty International.[98] Consider a few observations from the most recent Freedom House report on Iran:

  • “Only political parties and factions loyal to the establishment and the state ideology are permitted to operate.”
  • “Freedom of expression and access to information remain severely limited both online and offline. The state broadcasting company is tightly controlled by hard-liners and influenced by the security apparatus.”
  • “In practice, only state-sanctioned demonstrations are typically permitted, while other gatherings have in recent years been forcibly dispersed by security personnel, who detain participants.”
  • “Iran does not permit the creation of labor unions; only state-sponsored labor councils are allowed.”
  • “Iran, after China, carries out the largest number of executions in the world each year, and the annual total has increased under Larijani [current head of the judiciary, appointed by Supreme Leader Khamenei].”
  • “The penal code criminalizes all sexual relations outside of traditional marriage, and Iran is among the few countries where individuals can be put to death for consensual same-sex conduct.”
  • “Freedom of movement is restricted, particularly for women and perceived opponents of the regime.”
  • “The government interferes in most aspects of citizens’ private lives. Home parties are often raided and citizens detained or fined for drinking alcohol or mingling with members of the opposite sex.”[99]

Misagh Parsa sums up: “The [Iranian] Islamic state regulated virtually all aspects of culture and society, including the arts and intellectual activities, to ensure that they were compatible with Islamic principles. The state severely restricted personal freedom and liberties by legislating morality and regulating dress, appearance, dancing, drinking alcohol, listening to music, and even walking dogs in public spaces.”[100]

In his authoritative diplomatic history of the Iran nuclear deal, Jay Solomon, chief foreign affairs correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, writes that Barack Obama was convinced that the Iran deal would “strengthen moderate leaders such as President Rouhani” and “offer a window for more responsible political actors to gain power in Tehran.”[101] Indeed, the deal makes no sense except on this assumption.[102] It is, however, an unjustified hope. As we have seen, the Iranian constitution is written, and the country is run, so as to preclude the emergence of genuine ideological diversity within the Iranian state. Moreover, the world-view of the ruling oligarchy does not allow for permanent peaceful co-existence with Israel, the United States, or the non-Muslim world generally.

Leon Panetta, who served as secretary of defense and head of the CIA under President Obama, was asked by David Samuels of the New York Times in May 2016, “whether it was ever a salient feature of the C.I.A.’s analysis that the Iranian regime was meaningfully divided between ‘hard-line’ and ‘moderate’ camps.” Panetta’s answer: “No . . . there was not much question that the Quds force and the supreme leader ran the country with a strong arm, and there was not much question that this kind of opposing view could gain much traction.”[103] Iran experts Sanam Vakil and Hossein Rassam make the same point:


But those hoping for a kinder, gentler Iran are likely to be disappointed. Since he took power in 1989, Khamenei has steadily built an intricate security, intelligence, and economic superstructure composed of underlings who are fiercely loyal to him and his definition of the Islamic Republic, a network that can be called Iran’s ‘deep state.’ When Khamenei dies, the deep state will ensure that whoever replaces him shares its hard-line views . . .[104]


Finally, in what one reviewer calls “easily the most important work in English on the Islamic Republic since the revolution,”[105] Dartmouth University sociologist Misagh Parsa argues cogently that the repressive, totalitarian nature of the Iranian state means “that a route to Iran’s democratization through reform is not available.”[106] The history of Iran since 1979 has been one of growing repression that has quashed all efforts at reform.[107] Parsa predicts that “the ruling clergy will have no interest in democratic transformation. They have little to gain and much to lose by agreeing to democratize the political system and broadening the polity. Democratization would undermine their economic position and political power.”[108]

The Iranian regime is openly imperialistic; subscribes to a genocidal form of Jew-hatred; calls for the destruction of Israel and the U.S.; is structurally incapable of reforming itself; and may not be susceptible to conventional nuclear deterrence. The center-piece of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, the Iran nuclear deal, virtually guarantees that this regime will become a nuclear-threshold state by 2030. Given its paranoid world-view, its genocidal hatred and fear of its enemies, and its imperialistic ambitions, it is a virtual certainty that, having reached the nuclear threshold, Iran will step over it and become a nuclear-armed state.


[1] Dated 14 July 2015 and formally known as the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” its text can be found at https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2165388/iran-deal-text.pdf.

[2] United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, adopted on 20 July 2015, available at http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2231(2015).

[3] Peter Baker, “Reluctantly, Trump Recertifies Iran’s Compliance With Nuclear Agreement,” The New York Times, July 18, 2017, p. A7.

[4] Gardiner Harris, “Top E.U. Diplomat Rejects Trump’s Call for New Iran Nuclear Deal,” The New York Times, November 7, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/07/us/politics/europe-trump-iran-nuclear-deal.html.

[5] The “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” or JCPA states that “Iran will not produce, seek, or acquire separated plutonium, highly enriched uranium…., or uranium-233, or neptunium-237… for 15 years” (p. 26). It also states that, as of ten years after the adoption of the JCPA, the UN Security Council “would no longer be seized of the Iran nuclear issue” (p. 158; cf. p. 5).

[6] JCPA, pp. 6-7, 37. After the JCPA expires, “the Iranian nuclear programme will be treated in the same manner as that of any other non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty]” (p. 3); that is, Iran will have the same right to develop an advanced nuclear industry as Germany, Canada, Japan, or South Korea, etc. The JCPA also commits the US, China, Russia, and Europe to helping Iran improve its nuclear research and production capacities: pp. 5, 17, 31, 135, 139.

[7] “Transcript: President Obama’s Full NPR Interview On Iran Nuclear Deal,” April 7, 2015, http://www.npr.org/2015/04/07/397933577/transcript-president-obamas-full-npr-interview-on-iran-nuclear-deal.

[8] “Testimony of David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and International Security, before the House Subcommittee on National Security,” April 5, 2017, http://isis-online.org/uploads/conferences/documents/Albright_House_Oversight_Subcommittee_5Apr2017_Final.pdf

[9] The Editorial Board, “Asking for Trouble on Iran,” The New York Times, April 24, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/24/opinion/asking-for-trouble-on-iran.html?ref=opinion&_r=0.

[10] David E. Sanger and Michael R. Gordon, “Future Risks of an Iran Nuclear Deal,” The New York Times, Aug. 23, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/24/world/middleeast/in-pushing-for-the-iran-nuclear-deal-obamas-rationale-shows-flaws.html.

[11] Nicholas Burns, “What Should Obama Do Next On Iran?”, The New York Times, Sept. 1, 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/02/opinion/what-should-obama-do-next-on-iran.html.

[12] Ray Takeyh, “The Nuclear Deal Is Iran’s Legal Path to the Bomb,” Politico, September 22, 2017, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/09/22/iran-nuclear-deal-bomb-215636.

[13] http://www.gasandoil.com/news/2015/08/11-countries-with-highest-natural-gas-reserves

[14] http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-world-s-largest-oil-reserves-by-country.html

[15] https://www.britannica.com/place/Iran

[16] Amir Taheri, The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution (Bethesda, MD: Adler and Adler, 1985), p. 159.

[17] Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, pp. 131-2, 139, 149, 152. See also Hamid Algar trans., Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini (1941-1980) (N.P.: Mizan Press, 1981), pp. 27, 89, 109, 127, 142, 175-6, 193, 197, 201, 210, 243, 276.

[18] Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, p. 167.

[19] Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, p. 297; cf. p. 270.

[20] Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, p. 299.

[21] “Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei Reaffirms ‘Death to America’ Slogan, Calls to Bring U.S. Leaders to Trial,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 5011, July 18, 2015, http://www.memri.org/clip_transcript/en/5011.htm.

[22] E. Zigron and A. Savyon, “The Image of the Jew In The Eyes of Iran’s Islamic Regime – Part I: Theological Roots,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series Report No. 922, January 27, 2013, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/51/6956.htmhttp://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/51/7050.htmhttp://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/51/7161.htm.

[23] “Antisemitic Statements, Publications by Iranian Regime,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 4445, January 25, 2012, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print6024.htm.

[24] Meir Litvak, “Iranian Antisemitism: Continuity and Change,” in Charles Asher Small ed., Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity, Volume IV, Islamism and the Arab World (New York: ISGAP, 2013), pp. 55-65 at p. 64.

[25] Sergyei A. Nilus, World Conquest through World Government: The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, Victor E. Marsden trans. (London: Britons Publishing Company, 1963). The Jews are portrayed here as seeking “the killing out of the goyim [i.e. non-Jews]” (p. 30, Protocol III) and as stating, “it will be undesirable for us that there should exist any other religion than ours…We must therefore sweep away all other forms of belief” (p. 67, Protocol XIV).

[26] Orly R. Rahimiyan, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Iranian political and cultural discourse,” in Esther Webman ed., The Global Impact of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (London and New York: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2011), p. 200.

[27] Rahimiyan, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Iranian political and cultural discourse,” p. 204.

[28] Meir Livak, “Iranian Antisemitism: Continuity and Change,” p. 62. On the role of the Protocols in Iranian state propaganda, see also Matthias Küntzel, “Tehran’s Efforts to Mobilize Antisemitism: The Global Impact,” in Alvin H. Rosenfeld ed., Deciphering the New Antisemitism (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2015), pp. 508-532.

[29] Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The myth of the Jewish world-conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (New York and Evanston: Harper Torchbooks/Harper and Row, 1969), p. 16.

[30] Cohn, Warrant for Genocide, pp. 169-215; Robert Wistrich, Hitler’s Apocalypse: Jews and the Nazi Legacy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985); Jeffrey Herf, The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust (Cambridge, MA and London, UK: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006).

[31] “Head of Iranian Think-Tank Advising Supreme Leader Khamenei: The Jews Want Nuclear Bomb To Kill Muslims And Achieve World Domination,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 5537, November 26, 2013, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print7593.htm. Mehdi Taeb has also accused the Jews of using sorcery against Iran: “Iranian Official: The Jews Use Sorcery Against Iran,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 5288, April 28, 2013, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print7154.htm. See also “’The Secret of Armageddon’ — An Iranian TV ‘Documentary’ Claims That ‘a Jewish Plan for the Genocide of Humanity,’ Includes a Conspiracy for the Takeover of Iran by Local Jewish and Bahai Communities,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 1802, May-June 2008, http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/1802.htm. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, has accused the United States (under then-President Obama!) of seeking to destroy Islamic civilization: “Leader: US Seeking to Destroy Islamic Civilization through Fomenting Sectarian Strife,” Fars News Agency, December 29, 2015, http://en.farsnews.com/print.aspx?nn=13941008000545.

[32] “Khamenei Associate Mehdi Taeb: ‘The Jews … Are The Only Ones Who Need Weapons of Mass Destruction In Order to Rule the World – Because There Are 1.4 Billion Muslims And None Of Them Agree To Jewish Supremacy,” The Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 6759, January 27, 2017, https://www.memri.org/reports/khamenei-associate-mehdi-taeb-jews-are-only-ones-who-need-weapons-mass-destruction-order.

[33] Esther Webman, Anti-Semitic Motifs in the Ideology of Hizbollah and Hamas (Tel Aviv: The Project for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Tel Aviv University, 1994), p. 6. The Hezbollah leadership has embraced the Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei as its marja or their ultimate authority on Islamic law: Augustus Richard Norton, Hezbollah: A Short History (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007), p. 100.

[34] Webman, Anti-Semitic Motifs in the Ideology of Hizbollah and Hamas, pp. 7-8.

[35] Webman, Anti-Semitic Motifs in the Ideology of Hizbollah and Hamas p. 7

[36] Webman, Anti-Semitic Motifs in the Ideology of Hizbollah and Hamas p. 10.

[37] Webman, Anti-Semitic Motifs in the Ideology of Hizbollah and Hamas p. 13.

[38] Esther Webman, “Adoption of the Protocols in the Arab discourse on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Zionism, and the Jews.” In Esther Webman ed., The Global Impact of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: A Century-Old Myth (London and New York: Routledge, 2011), p. 177. See also Thanassis Cambanis, A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and their Endless War Against Israel (New York: Free Press, 2010), pp. 194-5.

[39] Anti-Defamation League, “Hezbollah,” February 6, 2013, http://www.adl.org/assets/pdf/combating-hate/Hezbollah-backgrounder-2013-1-10-v1.pdf.

[40] Meir Litvak, “Iranian Antisemitism: Continuity and Change,” pp. 63-65.

[41] Matthias Küntzel, Germany and Iran: From the Aryan Axis to the Nuclear Threshold, trans. Colin Meade (Candor, NY: Telos Publishing, 2014), p. 181. See also “Iran’s President Clarifies His Stand On Holocaust: It’s A European Myth,” The New York Times, December 15, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/15/world/middleeast/irans-president-clarifies-stand-on-holocaust-its-a-european-myth.html?_r=0.

[42] Patrick Devenny, “Hezbollah’s Strategic Threat to Israel,” Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2006, http://www.meforum.org/806/hezbollahs-strategic-threat-to-israel.

[43] Patrick Devenny, “Hezbollah’s Strategic Threat to Israel,” Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2006, http://www.meforum.org/806/hezbollahs-strategic-threat-to-israelhttp://www.memri.org/report/en/print582.htm, and Küntzel, Germany and Iran, p. 111.

[44] Eldad Pardo, Iranian Education: The Continuous Revolution (Jerusalem:  IMACT-SE/Hebrew University, 2016), pp. 26, 30; http://www.impact-se.org/wp-content/uploads/Iranian-Education_The-Continuous-Revolution-2016.pdf

[45] [in reverse chronological order:] “IRGC General Kawthari: Israel Will Be Wiped Off Planet Earth in 25 Years or Less,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Clip No. 6256, September 27, 2017, https://www.memri.org/tv/irgc-general-kawthari-israel-wiped-off-planet-earth-less-than-25-years/transcripthttp:// Post, June 22, 2017, http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran-News/Irans-Khamenei-There-is-no-doubt-well-witness-Israels-demise-497623http://en.mehrnews.com/news/125575/Global-Arrogance-seeks-seizure-of-Holy-QudsThe Daily Mail, April 18, 2017, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4421410/Iran-vows-Death-Israel-unveils-latest-missiles.htmlThe New York Times, Feb. 21, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/21/world/middleeast/at-tehran-fete-cakes-fruit-and-anti-israeli-slogans.html?_r=0https://www.memri.org/reports/khamenei-speech-irans-sixth-international-conference-support-palestinian-intifada-we-standhttp://jcpa.org/article/iranian-official-social-media-call-destruction-israel-after-jcpoa/https://www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2016/12/14/1268107/leader-israel-won-t-exist-in-25-years-if-palestinian-resistance-continuesThe New York Post, Aug. 1, 2015, http://nypost.com/2015/08/01/iran-publishes-book-on-how-to-outwit-us-and-destroy-israel/http://www.tasnimnews.com/english/Home/Single/793950http://www.investigativeproject.org/4809/as-nuclear-talks-continue-iran-issues-latesthttp://www.memri.org/report/en/print8487.htm, January 5, 2015, http://dailycaller.com/2015/01/05/iran-general-our-ultimate-goal-is-the-destruction-of-america-and-israel/http://www.memri.org/report/en/print8337.htmhttp://www.memri.org/report/en/print8140.htmhttp://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/4398.htmhttp://www.memri.org/report/en/print8090.htmThe Jerusalem Post, November 20, 2013, http://www.jpost.com/Iranian-Threat/News/Khamenei-Israeli-regime-is-doomed-to-failure-annihilation-332403http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/7335.htmhttp://www.memri.org/report/en/print7062.htmhttp://www.memri.org/report/en/print6600.htmhttp://www.momentmag.com/khameneis-sacred-word-destroy-israel/The Wall Street Journal, August 6, 2012, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443687504577567051040668984The New York Times, October 27, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/27/world/middleeast/irans-new-president-says-israel-must-be-wiped-off-the-map.html?_r=0The Iranian Leadership’s Continuing Declarations of Intent to Destroy Israel, 2009-2012 (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2012), http://jcpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/IransIntent2012b.pdf.

[46] Küntzel, Germany and Iran, p.  92.

[47] Mehdi Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics: On the Rationality of Iranian Policy (Washington DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2008), p. 30, cf. p. viii; http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/uploads/Documents/pubs/PolicyFocus79Final.pdf.

[48] Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics, p. viii.

[49] “Iranian Leader Khamenei: A Society Steeped in the Spirit of Martyrdom Is Unstoppable; Khamenei’s Representative in IRGC Qods Force: We Shall Not Rest Until We Raise Flag of Islam Over the White House,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 5996, March 17, 2015, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print8481.htm.

[50] “IRGC Commanders: Our Main Aim Is Global Islamic Rule,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch No. 6966, June 19, 2017, https://www.memri.org/reports/irgc-commanders-our-main-aim-global-islamic-rule.

[51] Iran – Constitution, Preamble, Article 154, http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ir00000_.html.

[52] Eldad Pardo, Iranian Education, pp. 1-2, 16-21, 38-52, 70-71.

[53] Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics, p. 29.

[54] Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics, p. 29.

[55] BBC News, 24 May 2016, “Iran Hardliner Jannati Elected Head of Assembly of Experts,” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36366595.

[56] Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics, p. 30.

[57] Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, p. 298.

[58] Küntzel, Germany and Iran, p. 83; cf. pp. 71, 103.

[59] Küntzel, Germany and Iran, pp. 97-111.

[60] Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, p. 116; cf. p. 195.

[61] Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law, trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller, revised ed. (Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 1994), pp. 37, 765.

[62] Ella Landau Tasseron, “’Non-Combatants’ in Muslim Legal Thought,” Research Monographs on the Muslim World, Series No. 1, Paper No. 3, December 2006, The Hudson Institute, http://www.hudson.org/content/researchattachments/attachment/1136/20061226_noncombatantsfinal.pdf.

[63] Pardo, Iranian Education, p. 70-71.

[64] Pardo, Iranian Education, p. 70.

[65] Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics, p. 29.

[66] “Iranian Regime Continues Its Lies and Fabrications About Supreme Leader Khamenei’s Nonexistent Fatwa Banning Nuclear Weapons,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series report No. 1151, April 6, 2015, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print8508.htm

[67] “U.S. Secretary of State Kerry In New And Unprecedented Statement: ‘President Obama and I Are Both Extremely Welcoming and Grateful For the Fact that [Iranian] Supreme Leader [Khamenei] Has Issued A [Nonexistent] Fatwa Banning Nuclear Weapons,” Middle East Media Research Institute, Inquiry and Analysis Series report No. 1080, April 1, 2014, http://www.memri.org/report/en/print7919.htm

[68] Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics, p. 4.

[69] Kasra Naji, Ahmadinejad: The Secret History of Iran’s Radical Leader (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), p. 92.

[70] Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics, p. 5.

[71] Naji, Ahmadinejad, p. 92; cf. p. 210

[72] Naji, Ahmadinejad, p. 93.

[73] Naji, Ahmadinejad, pp. 93-4.

[74] Küntzel, Germany and Iran, p. 175.

[75] Küntzel, Germany and Iran, p. 175.  See also Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics, p. 24.

[76] Reza Khalili, A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran (New York: Threshold Editions/Simon and Shuster, 2010), pp. 193-4.

[77] Khalili, A Time to Betray, p. 334.

[78] Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics, p. 32.

[79] Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics, p. 32.

[80] Saeed Ghasseminejad, “Iran’s apocalyptic policy makers,” The Times of Israel, June 10, 2013, http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-military-strategy-for-apocalypse-soon/.

[81] Pardo, Iranian Education, p. 2; also pp. 18-22.

[82] Pardo, Iranian Education, p. 18.

[83] Pardo, Iranian Education, p. 19.

[84] Pardo, Iranian Education, p. 20.

[85] https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/iran 

[86] Misagh Parsa, Democracy in Iran: Why it Failed and How It Might Succeed (Cambridge, MA and London, UK: Harvard University Press, 2016), p. 298.

[87] Sanam Vakil and Hossein Rassam, “Iran’s Next Supreme Leader: The Islamic Republic After Khamenei,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2017, p. 76.

[88] Parsa, Democracy in Iran, p. 83.

[89] Iran – Constitution, http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ir00000_.html.

[90] U. S. State Department, “Iran 2015 International Religious Freedom Report,” Permalink: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm?year=2015&dlid=256265.

[91] Thomas Erdbrink, “Vote Panel In Iran Bars Ex-President From a Run,” The New York Times, April 21, 2017, p. A10; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/20/world/middleeast/iran-president-ahmadinejad-disqualified.html?_r=0.

[92] Khalaji, Apocalyptic Politics, p. 30.

[93] Ladan Boroumand, “Iran’s Resilient Civil Society: The Untold Story of the Fight for Human Rights,” Journal of Democracy 18:4 (2007), p. 67. Freedom House makes the same point: “The Islamic Republic of Iran holds elections regularly, but they fall short of democratic standards due to the role of the hard-line Guardian Council, which disqualifies all candidates deemed insufficiently loyal to the clerical establishment. Ultimate power rests in the hands of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the unelected institutions under his control.” https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/iran. See also Parsa, Democracy in Iran, p. 144.

[94] Pardo, Iranian Education, pp. 12, 63-70.

[95] United States Department of State, “Iran 2015 International Religious Freedom Report,” Permalink: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm?year=2015&dlid=256265.  Note that this report was compiled and published under Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama.


[97] https://www.hrw.org/middle-east/n-africa/iran

[98] https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/iran/

[99] https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/iran.

[100] Parsa, Democracy in Iran, p. 301.

[101] Jay Solomon, The Iran Wars, pp. 296-297. See also Asa Fitch and Aresu Eqbali, “Iranian Hard-Liner Challenges Rouhani,” The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2017, p. A8: “The Obama administration pushed the nuclear deal, in part, because it believed the lifting of sanctions would allow Iran to eventually moderate its domestic and foreign policies, according to current and former U.S. officials.” The New York Times makes the same point: see Ben Hubbard and Thomas Erdbrink, “Siding with the Saudis,” The New York Times, May 22, 2017, pp. A1, A9: “Proponents of [the Iran Deal] hoped that engagement with Iran would lead to greater moderation among its leaders, paving the way for its eventual reintegration into the world system.”

[102] “At its core, the Iran deal is a bet that by the time the nuclear limitations end, Iran, the region, or both will have changed so much that Iran will no longer seek nuclear weapons.” “Testimony of David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and International Security, before the House Subcommittee on National Security,” April 5, 2017, http://isis-online.org/uploads/conferences/documents/Albright_House_Oversight_Subcommittee_5Apr2017_Final.pdf

[103] David Samuels, “The Storyteller and the President: How an aspiring fiction writer became one of the central figures reshaping American foreign policy in the Obama age,” The New York Times Magazine, May 8, 2016, p. 54; https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/08/magazine/the-aspiring-novelist-who-became-obamas-foreign-policy-guru.html?_r=0

[104] Sanam Vakil and Hossein Rassam, “Iran’s Next Supreme Leader: The Islamic Republic After Khamenei,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2017, p. 76-7.

[105] Reuel Marc Gerecht, “Tehran’s Own Worst Enemy,” The Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2017, p. A15.

[106] Parsa, Democracy in Iran, p. 316.

[107] Parsa, Democracy in Iran, pp. 140-179, 206-246.

[108] Parsa, Democracy in Iran, p. 311.


Joseph S. Spoerl is Professor of Philosophy and Chairman of Philosophy at Saint Anselm College.  His research interests include Ethics, Business Ethics, Modern Philosophy, Critical Thinking, Formal Logic, and more, and teaches classes in those subjects.

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